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Enigma


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#1 Offline Karzhani the Utahraptor

Karzhani the Utahraptor
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Posted Nov 19 2012 - 03:00 AM

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Review (including list of characters) 

 

 

Summary

 

Taking place in the post-war Spherus Magna world, Enigma is a story that centers around Toa Synheith, a lonesome Toa of Fire, and a troubling incident from his past that he tries to rectify. In pursuit of an old enemy, with a loosely assembled team of heroes behind him, Synheith discovers himself - and his team - at the heart of an ancient plan that slowly and horrifyingly wheels into place. 

 

Contents

Chapter titles will be added as they are posted 

 

Prologue 

Chapter I - Scorched Earth

Chapter II - Fortitude

Chapter III - Parting

Chapter IV - Surel's Tale

Chapter V - Rising 

Chapter VI - The Enigma Signal 

Chapter VII - Black to Move 

Chapter VIII - War

Chapter IX - Pawns 

Chapter X - The Road That Time Forgot 

Chapter XI - Shadows

Chapter XII - Going Solo 

Chapter XIII - Phantoms 

 

Prologue

Toa Synheith, Toa of Fire, stood, shrouded in shadows in his new residence. The only light source in the room was a single window to his left, and now the twilight rays of Spherus Magna's sun were dimming, and whatever light was left glinted off the surface of his armor. Once smooth, his armor was now encrusted with the scorch marks of a hundred battles, as if they were souvenirs from the conflicts he had endured.

Yet despite all that he had seen in the past year, from Teridax's abrupt takeover of the entire Matoran Universe, to the gargantuan fight that had ensued above Spherus Magna, Synheith still was haunted by a singular incident, that, although comparatively inconsequential to all that had happened, left him with a single loose end he had failed to tie up. And he hated that.

1 Year Ago
Destral, Headquarters of the Brotherhood of Makuta

Synheith's head hurt. He had been running through what seemed like thousands upon thousands of corridors, even as the sounds of combat outside the fortress had begun to intensify.

He had been dropped off half an hour earlier covertly outside the south gate of the fortress, just as the Order of Mata Nui had initiated their siege of the fortress. He had been sent on a mission assigned specifically by Helryx: find an artifact within the fortress called the Decryption Crystal, and acquire it before the fortress crumbled or the siege collapsed, or if acquisition was impossible, to destroy it. Normally, a Toa would never be enlisted by the Order to help in their efforts, let alone conduct a task of such importance, but it was clear at this point in time that the Order was running out of fighters. Furthermore, Synheith never had a Toa team - he always operated alone, defending the citizens of a Southern Continent city from threats. So when the Order had turned that city into a garrison against the Brotherhood, he had been recruited into their ranks - his absence from the city deprived no one of support now that the Order was defending it.

His briefing, had been, ironically and fittingly, brief, and all he had to work with was a mere description of the artifact, without knowing what its importance was. He had also been told the artifact's rough location within the fortress. But the halls of Destral were a labyrinth, and he quickly found himself lost in the many corridors and chambers in the interior of the structure. He wondered what would happen to him if the Order's siege failed. Would he be able to find escape from this monstrous place, perhaps even with the Crystal in hand? Or would he be doomed to die running through its winding passageways, where the patrols of the Brotherhood would inevitably find him?

Time to find out, he mused as he stepped out from the cramped confines of the corridor into a large rectangular chamber. On the far end of the room a dark, red symbol was engraved on the wall - a circular shape with eight symmetrical interconnected lines. The room itself had eight hallways leading away from it, he noted, but what occupied his attention were the stasis tubes around him: within each was a sample of a creature the Brotherhood had experimented upon. In one tube he saw a Nui Jaga, warped beyond recognition, and in the adjacent tube he saw...what could have once been a Matoran, or a Kavinika, or some intensely disturbing amalgamation of both. On a table nearby was an assortment of biomechanical parts and what looked like a scalpel.

He had no time to ponder the origins of these experiments, though, as a Rahkshi appeared on his right flank from behind a row of stasis tubes. Swinging abruptly around, he fired two laser bursts at it with his Pulse Staff. The creature roared, shrugging off the projectiles, the Kraata within baring its ugly "jaws". He fired again, this time squarely at the Kraata's head as it exposed itself. The Rahkshi staggered backwards, the Kraata letting out a dying scream, and fell.

Momentarily shaken by this incident, he lost his bearings, and realized that he no longer remembered which door he had come from, or which direction he should proceed to find the artifact. He was too far within the fortress to hear the sounds of combat coming from the outside as well - which had been reassuring. Now he had no way of knowing if the Order had been driven back, something which would leave him alone in the fortress to face his death. Reaching into his pack, he grabbed a compass and attempted to get a rough gauge of the way forward. The device, however, was behaving unusually - the needle jumped back and forth, not giving a consistent direction for his North.

Puzzling he thought to himself, something nearby must be interfering with the magnetic fields in the air. 

As those thoughts ran through his mind, a sudden loud thud snapped his attention back to his surroundings. To his alarm, the corridors that led away from the chamber were beginning to slide shut, with hidden grilles of dark energy snapping into place. In mere moments, only a single corridor remained open - the one directly underneath the red symbol he had noticed earlier.

He fought the rising panic within him. This was most definitely an ambush, and he might fare better if he stayed in the current room, which was a good position to hold off any attempts by Rahkshi to eliminate him. However, a dissenting thought floated into his mind - what if the eighth door would eventually seal itself as well, locking him in the chamber with no way out? What if he became one of their monstrous experiments?

Taking a few tentative footsteps forward, he stepped into the sole remaining open corridor, and once inside, he crept slowly through the winding passageway, wary of an ambush at every turn, until he turned around a corner and saw that the corridor widened into a dark, musty chamber. On the other side of the chamber, through the thick smoke that seemed to be the Makuta's preferred environment, Synheith could see a raised dais. And floating a meter or so above the platform he saw a single bright blue, glowing, reflective, opaque stone, which matched the description of the Decryption Crystal!

Now almost certain this was an ambush, Synheith exited the hallway with caution, Pulse Staff primed and ready, yet no foes materialized. He crept, on his knees, slowly to the other end of the chamber. It was then he noticed that the wall behind the dais also was engraved with the same red, glowing symbol he had seen earlier. This made him feel strangely uneasy.

The Brotherhood would never leave such an object unguarded, he thought, something's wrong

"Indeed, something is"

Synheith spun around, but in the split second it took him to turn and face the voice, he was already floating half a meter in the air, bound by chains of what looked like pure shadow. A shape slowly faded into view - an armored dark being roughly twice his height, whose shoulders were adorned with emerald plating and whose breastplate had the same red symbol carved onto it. The being wore a black cloak, as if the shadows of the room were not enough to conceal him.

From the fact that the being had clearly read his thoughts, as well as its command over shadow, Synheith made a mental note this was probably a Makuta.

"That would be correct," the being said , demonstrating his mind-reading capabilities once again, probably just for his own amusement. "To pay respect to a simple formality, my name is Makuta Treperath. What might yours be?"

Synheith fought to maintain his composure as the chains of darknesss tightened around him. He ignored the Makuta's mocking question. "In hours, this fortress will be overrun by the Order. You will surely fail in defending this Crystal from our hands"

Treperath strode over to the dais, and grabbed the Crystal, then hid it within the folds of his cloak.

"Whoever said I was trying to defend it?"

"Oh, now you're trying to run away from us? And to think I used to believe you Makuta were brave fighters!"

Treperath's eyes narrowed. "You do not know what is about to happen, Toa. A storm is coming to this universe, and both you and I are helpless to prevent it. We can only wait it out, find shelter under a rock, or beneath the ground, hoping for it to pass...or we can escape this world altogether."

Synheith, unsure what the Makuta was alluding to, prodded further. "And this Crystal will help you escape?"

Treperath laughed. "More than just that - this Crystal will allow me to bring the world to its knees, once the storm has passed."

"How? its just a piece of stone."

"Oh, So Helryx never told you what this is? Or what it does? Listen little Toa - this is no mere trinket. But I suppose there are secrets you were never meant to find out, and there are places in this world your superiors don't want you to discover. Its a huge universe out there - and the world of the Matoran isn't the only world. So - how can you be sure your Order is telling you everything?"

Before Synheith could think of a reply, the Makuta, with the Crystal safely tucked within his cloak, vanished, teleporting out of the chamber. The darkness chains binding Synheith immediately disappeared, and he fell on the ground.

Later, he would proceed out of the chamber and rendezvous with Order forces. As the night wore on, Destral would eventually fall, and all its occupants either fled or were killed. Synheith eventually would report his mission as a failure to the commander-in-chief of the assault, Tobduk.

"I was unable to find the Crystal," he would say, "I searched the specified wing of the fortress unopposed, except for a single Rahkshi."

Of the dark room and of Makuta Treperath, he made no mention. Yet Treperath's words continued to resound in his mind - haunting his dreams, until a month later, Teridax gained control of the universe, and the words that the Makuta had laid out to him in the chamber became far more consequential than he had ever imagined. The storm did indeed come.

***

Present Day
Spherus Magna

Synheith's memory of this particular mission bothered him for a number of reasons - firstly, it was possibly the only mission he had ever failed in, and failure was something that he could not stand. Back in the Southern Continent, failure to defend his city meant certain death for many unfortunate Matoran, and this cold instinct to succeed was what drove him to perform as a Toa. Secondly, he had the uncomfortable feeling that the Treperath had managed to escape the Matoran Universe before Teridax's takeover and the prompt execution of all the Makuta still alive within the universe. If so, Treperath had almost certainly "escaped this world" to Spherus Magna.

Lastly, what disturbed him the most was the significance of the Crystal - he could not escape the nagging feeling that its powers were still relevant, and somewhere out there, Treperath or someone else was using it for his own ends, to "bring the world to its knees". There was also the revelation of a possible Order conspiracy, as Treperath had hinted to him, that Helryx had not told him everything about what the Crystal was or the extent of its power.

Normally, Synheith was not an inquisitive Toa. But a line is drawn when something is done out of curiousity, and when something is done out of the possible urgency and exigency of the situation. Synheith decided the line had been crossed.

And so, he turned around, exited his room, and went to search for Helryx.


Edited by Karzhani the Utahraptor, Dec 12 2013 - 02:10 AM.

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Internment - Ask Makuta Returns


#2 Offline Karzhani the Utahraptor

Karzhani the Utahraptor
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Posted Nov 22 2012 - 02:52 AM

Chapter IScorched Earth

The arid sands of Bara Magna burned in the midday heat. Despite what both Matoran and Agori geologists had predicted, the melding and lowering of average global temperatures had done little to alleviate the painful heat of the desert. Every now and then, a diminutive Zesk would appear from beneath the surface, scan the area for prey, and disappear back into the ground. The barren landscape continued as far as the eye could see, broken occasionally by a patch of trees or an oasis, until the flat ground gave way to massive sand dunes in the distance.

Synheith, on the back of a Kikanalo, slowly made progress across this dry landscape. As he traveled, he regretted his decision to build his home on a mountain ridge a few clicks west of the main settlement of Matoran. The location of his home meant that if he wanted to contact anyone at all, he had to travel for up to half an hour before he would enter the nearest Matoran outpost. Yet he liked the isolation: if he had no dependents, he preferred to be alone.

The few Glatorian he had spoken to claimed that the desert was much safer than it had been one year ago; outside of the occasional Vorox, attacks by the Bone Hunters had drastically decreased, and the entire Skrall population seemed to have retreated back to the north, within the forbidding Black Spike Mountains. Synheith, however, did not particularly trust the Glatorian, or any inhabitants of this strange new world.

Trust, he reasoned, has to be earned. 

Soon, he could spot familiar structures up ahead: Matoran village settlements; giving away to larger buildings and partially constructed towers. Behind that, he could see the enormous remains of what had once been Mata Nui’s robot body, now lying like a huge pile of scrap metal in the desert. It had been more than a month since Turaga Vakama had stated his intention for the Matoran to build "A New City of the Great Spirit" on Spherus Magna. Already, he could see that the Matoran had been working hard.

Dismounting his Kikanalo at the outskirts of the city, he quickly made his way past crowds of Matoran and Agori to the central structure, a commanding building that served as the Order's new headquarters. Passing through multiple layers of security clearance, he entered the office at the highest floor of the structure, only to find Helryx, characteristically, missing. At her table set Tobduk, the assassin-turned-commander of the War against the Brotherhood in the final days of the Matoran universe.

Tobduk laughed upon seeing him, as if he were a jolly fellow welcoming his old friend, or simply mocking his presence. With Tobduk it was hard to tell.

"Where is she?" Synheith ventured.

"Where is who? Where is Helryx? She hasn't been seen since Teridax took over the universe. Perhaps if you didn't spend your time living in the middle of nowhere you would know."

Synheith sighed. He pondered for a moment if he should ask Tobduk whether he knew any secrets about the Decryption Crystal, or about Makuta Treperath, then decided against it. Even if he knew, Tobduk was a vehement adherent to the protocol on secrecy, and would probably give him some sarcastic and/or sardonic reply.

"You came just in time though," the large armored warrior continued, "I was planning to summon you for a task."

"And what might that be?"

"There's a disturbance along the Northern Frontier. I've received reports that a Northern Matoran Settlement called, ironically, the Village of Fortitude is under attack, although we're not sure from who or what. Investigate."

Tobduk retrieved a map of Spherus Magna from his drawer and pointed to a village about ten miles north of where they currently were.

Synheith sighed. The predominant objective in his mind now was to pursue a rogue Makuta, not to scout out unconfirmed reports of attacks from a few scared Matoran. This was a job for a novice Toa training to fight, not a battle hardened veteran like himself.

"Why not?" Synheith replied, making no effort to hide the irritation and disappointment in his voice. "I could use a walk". He picked up the map, folded it, and tucked it into his pack.

Before he could turn, Tobduk spoke again.

"The Order is experimenting with combat teams that incorporate both Toa and Glatorian. We would like to assign a Glatorian to this mission with you to test the effectiveness of such units."

He can't be serious, thought Synheith, who disliked the company of other Toa, let alone these strange Glatorian, This is just adding insult to my injury.

Tobduk smiled, a smile that could reveal genuine encouragement or just simply sadism. Again, it was hard to tell. "You will find a Thornatus in the vehicle bay on level onehe said. "Your Glatorian partner should be there already."

***

"Head northeast. Through that canyon."

Synheith was not happy. His Glatorian partner, who was driving the Thornatus, seemed to be a novice at best, despite the many medals he had earned in helping defeat the Skrall a year ago. Worse, he talked too much. His dislike of Glatorian, he believed, wasn't just limited to him - even though the Toa and Glatorian species had coexisted for a few months, he was sure that many Toa still weren't trusting of the Glatorian, and vice versa.

"I never liked canyons," the Glatorian said, "always an ideal spot for an ambush."

Silence.

"You don't talk much, do you?" he ventured.

"Maybe if you spent less time talking, we could avoid something like, I don't know, an ambush." Synheith replied.

"Hey, we haven't even formally introduced ourselves yet," said the Glatorian. "My name is Gresh."

Synheith reluctantly stretched out a hand, and then suddenly recoiled. The last time he had a "formal introduction" with anyone was a year ago. At Destral. With Makuta Treperath. This made him space out for a moment, remembering what his primary personal objective was, and cursed Tobduk silently for giving him this insignificant mission.

"Are...you okay?" Gresh asked

"Yeah. I'm fine. My name is Synheith", he said, shaking Gresh's hand.

***

As their Thornatus turned into the canyon, Synheith saw five figures in the distance, next to what appeared to be an Agori trading caravan. Two of them stood with their back against the caravan, and the other three were mounted atop Rock Steeds, circling around the vehicle menacingly.

"That looks like a bandit raid on an Agori transport," said Gresh. "Looks like we have a job to do"

Synheith stayed silent, training his vision on the three attackers. As the drove closer, two of them appeared to be Bone Hunters, the feared nomadic thieves of the Bara Magna wasteland, and the third looked like a Skakdi, a violent, brutal race that lived as outcasts in the Matoran universe.

As they came within range, Gresh trained the dual mounted cannons of the Thornatus on the three bandits. The Skakdi, however, noticing their presence, turned and targeted both cannons with his laser vision, cleanly slicing through both arnaments, and rendering them useless. Gresh swore and ground the vehicle to a halt, then jumped out and unlimbered both his blades. Meanwhile, Synheith leapt out of the passenger seat of the vehicle, conjuring up a ball of fire in his hands.

Now they stood only twenty feet away from the caravan, and Synhieth could see that its defenders were a single Toa of Water, and a Fire Tribe Agori. Typical. Since the melding, Toa had often served as volunteer escorts for Agori trade shipments.

Both Synheith and Gresh used their elemental powers at the same time - Gresh unleashed a mini-hurricane and Synheith a fire bolt. Yet this led to an unexpected problem - Gresh's hurricane blew the fire bolt off course, and instead of hitting the Skakdi its trajectory instead curved slowly to the left, and hit the trading caravan, setting it ablaze.

"Oops," said Gresh, as Synheith gave him an annoyed glance.

"Let me handle this," Synheith said, "you stay back and watch."

Gresh's elemental attack, however, had done its job, and now the Skakdi had fallen off his mount and was attempting to get back on.

Synheith seized this opportunity and fired at the Skakdi twice with his Pulse Staff. One of the projectiles hit the creature squarely in the face and it collapsed to the ground, unconscious.

Meanwhile, the Toa of Water he had spotted earlier was desperately trying to use her powers to douse the fires that were consuming the caravan, but to no avail. From the intensity of the burning, Synheith guessed that they were transporting oil.

Gresh, not heeding Synheith’s warning to stay put, ran forward and leaped, tackling one of the Bone Hunters off his Rock Steed. They fell in a heap on the ground, struggling, but before the Bone Hunter could reach for his weapon, the Glatorian managed to take him out with a quick swipe from his blade. The last bandit, having seen both of his comrades fall in moments, turned his Rock Steed around, and fled into the endless desert of Bara Magna.

Synheith and Gresh strode over to the burning caravan. The Toa of Water had given up her attempts to extinguish the flames, looking away from the vehicle in resignation. The Fire Agori sat next to her on the ground, staring blankly ahead.

“I owe you my thanks,” said the Toa of Water, “although I probably would’ve managed to fend them off anyway.” She smiled.

Gresh immediately started to apologize for accidentally setting the caravan ablaze, but Synheith cut him off.

“We’ve got no time for this. We need to proceed to the settlement of Fortitude as soon as possible.”

“Fortitude? We’re headed there too,” the Toa of Water gestured towards the Agori she was escorting. “This is Kyry, a trader from the Fire Tribe. And I am Likara.”

Gresh nodded. “We can accommodate two more passengers, I guess. Right, Synheith?”

There was no response to his question. Turning around, he saw the Toa of Fire already making his way back to the Thornatus, alone.


Edited by Karzhani the Utahraptor, Dec 12 2013 - 02:11 AM.

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Internment - Ask Makuta Returns


#3 Offline Karzhani the Utahraptor

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Posted Nov 26 2012 - 09:46 AM

Chapter II: Fortitude

Unity. Duty Destiny.

Travelling through the seemingly endless, unchanging landscape of the desert, cramped next to the other two passengers and one driver of the Thornatus, Synheith pondered the renowned mantra of the Toa.

Why do beings like ourselves need to have a predetermined future, or a duty codified for us? My duties depend on exigencies, and my destiny on my own successes or mistakes. And most importantly, why unity? Why must we work with others to succeed? I defended my village for more years than I can remember; yet never needed the help of another warrior. 

He glanced at Gresh. Other warriors also tend to be annoying and slow things down. 

Fittingly, his thoughts were interrupted by Gresh, who seemed to enjoy talking just for the sake of it.

"Synheith and I were sent on a mission to investigate a frontier disturbance on an obscure Matoran settlement called Fortitude." He gestured towards Likara. "Nice too have an extra hand on board, we could use another pair of blades."

Suddenly Gresh seemed to notice Kyry's presence.

"...and of course having an Agori familiar with the region will be helpful to us too!"

"No problem," replied Kyry, "I should show up at the village even without my goods, just to let my trading station there know that I am safe."

***

Based on Tobduk's map, Fortitude was one of the satellite Matoran villagers, built recently by settlers seeking to colonize the mostly unexplored northern regions of Spherus Magna. Such villages were normally characterized by their small size and low population density, and were inhabited mostly by Matoran (the Agori population were busy repairing their own villages in the wake of the successive attacks by Teridax and Skrall, and had little time to explore their planet).

This particular village, Fortitude, was the northernmost of a wider cluster of settlements, made out of pioneers seeking to explore the great temperate forests and grasslands that had once been part of Bota Magna. They had been spurred on by Turaga Matau, who had given a speech shortly after the exodus onto Spherus Magna, before a massive crowd of settlers.

"These are the first few tentative steps Matoran will take in adapting to this new world," Matau had said, "and no one, not even the Agori, know what wonders or monstrosities you might find."

***

Synheith was the first to see the smoke. Being a quiet, reserved Toa of Fire made him more attuned to his surroundings, and he had already sensed the minute disturbances in temperature from up north, before he espied the billowing column of smoke that confirmed his fears.

"Looks like we've found our village," he quietly uttered. They had traveled into an area of sparse vegetation, which would eventually thicken into a forest what looked like a few short kilometers ahead.

"We better get there fast!" said Gresh, stepping hard on the accelerator of the Thornatus. Meanwhile, Likara shifted herself closer to Synheith, and put a hand on his shoulder.

"You only talk when something or someone is in danger, don't you?" she said, smiling. "You seem more like a Toa of Ice."

Opposite from them, Kyry sat alone, near the wheels of the vehicle, and with his head supported by his hands, his woeful gaze fixated on the cloud of smoke on the horizon.

As the vehicle approached the source of the fire, presumably the village of Fortitude, it was clear that this was no mere "disturbance". The blaze was huge, and parts of the surrounding forest were burning, too. They found the village itself behind a grove of tall evergreens: it was a small cluster of huts and tents with several larger concrete-and-brick structures to its rear, surrounded by a trio of sentry towers. Most of the buildings were burning, and some of the smaller wooden structures had been evidently consumed completely by the flames, leaving nothing but their charred foundations to mark their passing. There was no sign of what had happened to the Matoran in the village, but the Sand Stalker pens were wide open and empty, and one could only hope that they had escaped whatever was causing the flames.

Gresh ground the vehicle to a halt and he disembarked immediately, followed shortly by Synheith and Likara. Kyry rose to get off, but Synheith motioned for him to stay put.

"Wait here," Likara said nonchalantly, although her voice carried a subtle condescending element of you're-just-a-helpless-Agori-don't-get-yourself-hurt. 

The trio of warriors ran towards the blazing village, Likara firing a jet of water to extinguish the flames in their path. They were momentarily blocked by the subsequent thick smoke, and when it cleared a bestial creature, clad in shining silver armor, stepped out from the shadows and into view.

All three of them recognized the beast at once. "Rahkshi!" cried Gresh, reaching for his blades. Before he could use his powers though, the creature had hurled a chain lightning bolt at him, knocking him backwards on the floor. The Rahkshi charged forward to finish him off with its staff, but Synheith fired a well aimed shot from his Pulse weapon that hit it squarely in the knee. Enraged, the creature spun around, limping, and roared, conjuring up another lightning bolt.

A burst of water from Likara's sword impacted the left face-plate of the Rahkshi. The beast staggered to the left, stunned, then lost its balance and collapsed, its damaged knee preventing it from getting back up.

"Looks like we make a pretty good team, huh?" said Likara, and gave Synheith a wink. He said nothing.

Two more Rahkshi, wearing yellow armor, emerged from the flames, flanking them. Likara leaped at the one on their right before it had a chance to summon its powers, using her sword to slash a huge hole in its side, then knocking it out with a kick. Synheith charged at the other Rahkshi with his pulse staff, knocking it off its feet into a burning building behind it. The flames engulfed the creature before it could so much as screech.

Synheith and Likara stood, about a dozen feet from each other, and momentarily paused, catching their breath.

"Gresh!" cried Likara, running towards where the green armored warrior lay. Gresh's eyes were shut, and he was breathing heavily.

At least he's still breathing, thought Synheith.

"He seems to be unconscious," he said, "lightning charge might have shocked his systems, maybe you can cool him down."

As Likara summoned a mist to lower the Glatorian's body temperature, she speculated wildly about the nature of the situation, making no effort to hide the alarm in her voice.

"I don't know why there would be Rahkshi here! I mean - Teridax is defeated, and whatever of these creatures that are left shouldn't be under any centralized control! To be able to attack and destroy a village, with more than one Rahkshi involved in the attack, implies a certain degree of coordination! One of the Makuta's servants certainly has to be commanding them!"

"Or perhaps even a Makuta himself," said Synheith quietly, and I think I know exactly which Makuta this is. Thanks Tobduk, your mission wasn't as pointless as I thought.

Likara opened her mouth to reply, but she was quickly cut off by Gresh, who suddenly started coughing and sat up.

"What....?! Likara! Synheith! Is the creature gone? I just had a vision! And a remarkable one!"

Synheith rolled his eyes. I'd love to hear this. Maybe he had some wonderful dream about himself and Kiina. 

"I saw myself flying, as if in third person, to that mountain!" he pointed towards the north, towards a tall mountain which summit was obscured by clouds "there, I saw myself enter a cave, near the top. The cave was dark, humid - and almost endless. And at the end, I saw a large coffin, and suddenly a force possessed my hand to open it - and lying within was an entity who I know. somehow, is a Great Being. He told me to free him, so that he may bring peace and the perpetual existence of Spherus Magna through his inventions. This isn't a mere dream, I'm certain the Being was communicating to me through a vision. We must look for him!"

Uh oh, thought Synheith, we're not going on this madman's quest to find a cave whose existence is questionable, to free a being from a species whose existence, too, is questionable. 

"Sounds mighty dubious to me, you sure?" said Likara, echoing his thoughts. She continued mischievously: "you sure the lightning didn't fry your brain for a while?"

Gresh's eyes narrowed, and Synheith could see the steely resolve in them. This troubled him.

"This is no joking matter," said the green armored warrior, "I am beyond certain he is there, and waiting. This is a matter of duty."

Gresh got to his feet, and fixed his eyes on Synheith, "do you believe in duty? Or in destiny?"

The correct answer would be no, thought Synheith, but that isn't going to change his mind. 

He focused instead on a more pragmatic concern. "We need to report the results of this scouting mission to Tobduk. We have no time for sightseeing."

"Sure," said Gresh, "you can escort Kyry back to the Matoran City, while me and Likara proceed to the mountain to find the Great Being."

"Worth a shot," said Likara, with a hint of curiosity in her voice, "who knows what we'll find?"

Synheith sighed. "Whatever suits you," he replied, and turned and headed back towards the Thornatus.

I'm not going to let this distract me from my task. Once I'm done reporting to Tobduk, I will find you, Treperath. And I will stop you. I know you did this - sent your creatures here to raze this village to the ground. I will defeat you. It's about time. 

***

As the group parted ways, a figure, concealed by the thick blazing fires in the village, watched them intently. His illusion had worked, and the green one seemed convinced of the need to head to the mountain. Satisfied, he turned, his black cloak rustling in the wind, and vanished into the flames. It was about time.


Edited by Karzhani the Utahraptor, Dec 12 2013 - 02:11 AM.

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#4 Offline Karzhani the Utahraptor

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Posted Nov 30 2012 - 02:21 AM

Chapter III: Parting

 

Synheith carefully maneuvered the Thornatus around a cluster of rocks jutting oddly out from the ground, one of many such formations in the uneven desert terrain. This wasn't his first try piloting such a vehicle, but it certainly felt like it was. For the first time since he had departed from the village of Fortitude three hours ago, he was starting to wish that Gresh was here, not because he enjoyed his company, of course, but because the Glatorian's driving skills were competent at the very least. 

 

They had opted to take a faster, but more dangerous route, in order to return to the Order Headquarters before sunset. They had traveled through a winding, narrow mountain pathway, frequented by bandits, but had fortunately not encountered any. The whole time, Synheith was trying to make sure he didn't steer the vehicle off the steep 300-foot rock face to his right. After arriving at the base of the mountain, they drove through a large, flat, valley seemingly devoid of any wildlife, except for the occasional Vorox they could spot on the horizon. Strangely, the ground here was littered with craters, as well as pieces of metal debris of all sizes, looking like they belonged to what once were large vehicles or piles of equipment, now lying half-submerged in the desert sands.

 

"Around here, they call these the remnants of the Great Beings," said Kyry, the unassuming Agori speaking up for the first time since they had left Fortitude. "I'm not sure how true this is, but I've heard legends about this place, and others like it, all over Bara Magna. These are stories I heard from traders, or from people like the innkeepers I met on my travels. They say that long before I was born, or before anyone we know was born, the Great Beings fought their own wars. They clashed on timescales and battlegrounds too big for us to even imagine." 

 

His voice dropped to a whisper. "In those days they say the Glatorian didn't just fight for their tribe - a mere color of one's armor, but defended powers and principles greater than us all, and fought for battles that would determine the fate of the universe."

 

Then the Agori straightened himself and smiled. "Nothing like an dusty old legend to brighten up your day." 

 

The sun was dimming, and Synheith had to strike a careful balance between avoiding the various obstacles in his path and maintaining the vehicle's speed. He scarcely acknowledged Kyry's presence, let alone the fact that he had spoken. 

 

"Hey, maybe I can drive," said the Agori. "I have some experience"

 

Synheith shook his head. This isn't the time to test the skills of a driver who I doubt can even reach the steering wheel.

 

Passing by one of the larger black craters in the soil, Synheith turned his head and peered into the hole, casually wondering how deep it was. He saw something at the bottom of the crater that had him recoil in shock, almost losing control of the vehicle. For engraved in the blackened charred earth at the very bottom of that depression was a single, jagged symbol, with eight interconnected lines. This jolted him to remember what he was fighting for, and who his ultimate adversary was. 

 

Treperath. I don't know what you have to do with that symbol, but I'm sure by stopping you I will see it no longer.

 

"Woah, woah, careful!" cried Kyry as Synheith, for a moment disoriented by the sight of the symbol, swerved and narrowly avoided a grove of trees in the middle of the valley. The sky was darkening now, and storm clouds were gathering behind them. It rarely rained in the Bara Magna desert, sometimes only once a year, and to Synheith the storm clouds seemed pretty ominous. 

 

"That's weird," Kyry remarked, "what are a bunch of trees doing alone in the middle of a desert wasteland?" 

 

His answer came as something quick, sharp and powerful tore through the back wheel of the vehicle, which skidded and ground to a halt as the tyre deflated. Turning around, they saw that the trees were no longer there, and rapidly forming a circle around the vehicle were four large black-armored, insect-like creatures, chittering and clawing at them, with formidable looking claws fixed at the end of their arms. 

 

"Baterra!" shouted Kyry. Synheith tensed. He had heard stories from the Glatorian he had talked to about the Baterra. They were fully mechanical beings, designed by the Great Beings to stop the Core War 100,000 Years ago. Yet in the wake of the struggle, some had remained operational and wandered the Black Spike Mountains in the north, killing thousands of Skrall. 

 

And if an army of crack Skrall warriors couldn't destroy a single Baterra, thought Synheith, what chance do a Toa and an Agori have? 

 

Synheith aimed his pulse staff at the nearest Baterra, but it rushed forward and headbutted him, knocking him off his feet. The robot raised its right claw, preparing for a deadly strike to the neck, when all of a sudden the armor on its back exploded, producing a loud thud characteristic of projectiles fired out of a Thornax blaster. 

 

Synheith pushed the automaton off him and stabbed his staff into its "head". This caused the machinery within the Baterra to go haywire, and a small explosion in its torso signaled its demise. 

 

He turned to identify the source  of the Thornax. Standing on a ridge about a hundred feet away was a single, lone Glatorian, who seemed to have emerged out of the desert from nowhere. His back was hunched, and he carried a walking stick in one hand, resting his weight on it, and a Thornax launcher in the other. The Glatorian's armor could have been white at some point, but was now dirty and caked with sand and dust. 

 

The three remaining Baterra charged. Kyry took cover behind a piece of debris, as if waiting for the inevitable. Suddenly, concealed behind a large pile of rocks, a trio of Iron Wolves, stalkers of the Bara Magna desert, appeared and pounced on the mechanical beings, pinning them to the ground. The warrior on the ridge reloaded his Thornax, aimed, and shot each of the Baterra in the head as they were pinned, one by one. Synheith struggled to recall if he had ever seen any Glatorian ever fire so accurately from such a distance. 

 

Then he spun his weapon around his finger and placed it back into his pack, then carefully stepped down from the ridge and approached Synheith and Kyry.

 

"Nice target practice, huh?" said the mysterious Glatorian, "beginning to think I no longer had it in me. Don't bother with those wolves, son, they're friendly with me."  

 

He walked over and petted on of the Iron Wolves on the head. The beast responded cheerily, wagging its tail, as if acknowledging its master. 

 

Then his expression turned serious. "Never seen Baterra so far south before, lad. This could mean something dreadful is going to happen. Got time to listen?" 

 

"No," said Synheith, turning. Getting back to Tobduk and then stopping Treperath is all that matters to me. 

 

The unknown Glatorian gestured towards the Thornatus, its back tyre deflated and useless. "Well, you ain't going anywhere, not tonight, and certainly not with that storm approaching. I've got a nice cave, its not too far away, and there you two can sit in for the night and hear a good 'ol story from me. What do you say?" 

 

Kyry looked at Synheith. Synheith looked away and sighed. 

 

*** 

 

Gresh and Likara stepped into the mouth of a large cavern, hidden by the thick forest that grew out of the side of the mountain. 

 

"Well, looks like your vision was right," said Likara. "At least there's a cave here." 

 

"A storm is gathering to the south. Hope Synheith and Kyry managed to stay ahead of it," said Gresh, looking behind him at the marvelous view of the Bara Magna desert that their vantage point on the mountain offered. 

 

Gresh stepped into the cave first. "Come, follow closely," he said. It was dark, and he wished that Synheith, or any other Toa of Fire, was here to illuminate the way ahead. 

 

It turned out his fears were misplaced. As they walked deeper into the cave, dim lightstones were positioned on the walls, providing some form of illumination. This cave had definitely been visited before by someone.

 

Soon, the passage became increasingly narrower, until there was not even space for Likara and Gresh to walk abreast. The ceiling seemed to be closing in on them too, until they came to a point where the roof of the cave scratched against their helmets. Up ahead, Gresh could make out what seemed like an opening, hopefully into a chamber. 

 

"This gives me the feeling we're being eaten by some massive mountain-monster" remarked Gresh, trying to lighten the mood. Likara shrugged. 

 

Finally approaching the opening, Gresh, followed shortly by Likara, stepped into a small perfectly cubical chamber, that seemed to have been carved meticulously into the mountain rock. Its walls were perfectly smooth, and it was of sufficient size for both warriors to pace a few steps without walking into each other. Multiple lightstones provided a distinct light source. Its walls were full of symbols, in straight, consistent rings across all four walls. The symbols seemed carved into the wall - at the top, whoever had wrote this had obviously taken care in studiously chipping away the stone to form neat, angular, shapes, but as Gresh's gaze wandered towards the bottom, the symbols were carved in a more haphazard and rushed fashion, as if the writer was struggling to finish the engravings on time.

 

But neither the symbols nor the room was what captured their attention. For at the other end of this small chamber, propped up against the wall and with a number of ornaments lying at its base, was a single, large, black sarcophagus. The surface of the sarcophagus was adorned with engraved lines, that curved to form aesthetically pleasing patterns. All the lines converged on a single, glowing red symbol at the center of the design.

 

Gresh was immediately enthralled by what he saw, and stepped over to the coffin. 

 

"This...this is what I saw in my vision!" he proclaimed, making no attempt to hide the excitement in his voice. 

 

Likara frowned and stared at the many symbols on the wall. "This looks like Matoran Universe writing to me, but it certainly isn't the vernacular form I'm familiar with. You?"

 

"Nope, don't understand it," said Gresh, "saw similar writing one year ago when I and Mata Nui and some friends found a big laboratory underground that belonged to the Great Beings. Maybe this place was made by them, too. Why is the writing important?"

 

Likara shrugged. "Maybe it has instructions on how to open the coffin" 

 

"Doubt it. I don't think there's any special procedure to do that. You just, you know, open it."

 

Without another word, Gresh lifted the lid of the sarcophagus. The interior of the coffin was painted black as well, and he could dimly make out a figure resting within it, slightly larger than a Glatorian, wearing a sleek jet-black full-body armor suit. As his vision adjusted to the darkness, he realized that this being's armor was unlike anything he had ever seen - at least in contemporary designs. The armor was elaborate and intricate, and the closest thing Gresh had ever seen to it were the combat suits worn by ancient Glatorian he had seen in old depictions of mythical battle scenes.

 

Whatever being rested within that armor was clearly deceased; there were no sounds of breathing or movement, and if not for several patches of exposed muscle tissue and skin, Gresh would probably have thought it was an empty suit of armor. 

 

"This is creepy," commented Likara, her voice piercing the sudden silence that seemed to engulf the room. 

 

Gresh did not answer. He was suddenly overcome with a strange urge to touch the surface of the being's armor, to feel the texture of the material. He reached out and brushed his fingers against the armor protecting its shoulders. 

 

Without warning, two red eyes suddenly sprang to life behind the armor's helmet. 

 

A flash of light. 

 

***

 

Synheith sat next to Kyry, against the wall of the cave that the Glatorian they had met called "home". They had learned the mysterious Glatorian's name was Surel, and that he was a former trainer of Iron Wolves for the Ice Tribe during the ancient Core War. After the War and the cataclysmic events that followed, he had fled Glatorian society and spent the rest of his life wandering the desert, cared for by his pack of wolves. 

 

As the last rays of the sun vanished into the harsh, cold, desert night, Surel limped towards them, carrying a pile of firewood, and dropped it on the hard rock floor. He grabbed two stones and started grinding them together to produce a spark. 

 

Synheith sighed a summoned a small ball of flame, immediately setting the firewood ablaze. 

 

"Looks like 'ya beat me to it," said Surel, laughing. The old Glatorian put down his walking stick and sat on the other side of the fire from them. 

 

"So what is this...'story' you were going to tell us?" Synheith inquired. 

 

Surel's expression turned suddenly serious again, and started speaking. The fire seemed to burn brighter, as if it too were listening to Surel. 

 

"I've been around for longer than anyone else alive on this planet, probably, and I've seen things I'd prefer not to say, until now, when the Baterra finally come down from the north, and I see the completion of a grand plot that started more than a hundred thousand years ago." 


Edited by Karzhani the Utahraptor, Dec 24 2012 - 08:18 AM.

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#5 Offline Karzhani the Utahraptor

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Posted Dec 06 2012 - 03:52 AM

Chapter IV: Surel's Tale

 

Long before the Core War, long before the creation of the Mata Nui robot and the dire circumstances that led to its launch, Spherus Magna was a world of relative peace. Agori wandered freely through the different regions and climates of the vast planet, and the six tribes led a harmonious coexistence. The Agori were governed by the Element Lords, who in turn paid tribute to the Great Beings, an advanced society whose capital was stationed somewhere in the northern mountains. Great Being society was vibrant and complex, but at the top was a Council of Elders, who carried executive as well as legislative responsibilities. They were supposed to do so in accordance with "the Code", a set of abstract principles at the heart of Great Being culture.  At any point in time, only six members could ever sit on the Council, and a replacement was only elected in the event of the death or resignation of one of the current members. Their responsibilities ranged from addressing pertinent concerns by fellow Great Beings, as well as Agori, to examining proposals presented before them by various other governmental committees. The projects they initiated, as well as the laws they passed, had universal effect; each of the Element Lords was expected to administer the laws they passed. There was hence no greater power, nor will, alive on the planet, outside of these six Councillors. 

 

On any given day, the Councillors were expected to be present at their office, addressing concerns seated across each other on six thrones arranged in a circular pattern. Although often most of the issues they discussed were mundane, being of little importance to anyone except a disgruntled Agori, occasionally they were forced to confront issues of much gravity, to the point where the destiny of Spherus Magna would rest solely and directly in their hands.

 

***

 

110,000 Years Ago

The Council Chamber, Spherus Magna 

 

Verectorian Illumus slowly walked towards his throne, and took a seat, draped in pure, radiant white robes. Directly across him, sitting on an identical throne, he could see his old friend, Zanthua Prydan, otherwise known as the Pedagogue, busying himself with some report, typing furiously on his personal data pad. Both of them had their respective symbols woven into their robes; Verectorian's was a blue hexagon with two sharply angled crescents facing each other in the center, the Pedagogue's was a dark red sphere with eight interconnected lines. 

 

Verectorian and the Pedagogue had been the longest-serving members of the council; they had been elected more centuries ago than he could remember. In their service, they had seen many batches of fellow Councillors come and go, most resigning after a period of work because of its taxing and demanding nature. But the two of them never contemplated leaving their post, staying on as silent sentinels to guard the Council. In each other's eyes, they were not just colleagues, but brothers. There were whispers among some of the Agori that they were gods, while others had rumored that the two of them were sinister dictators plotting to subvert the government under their control. In truth, it was neither. Verectorian came from a wealthy background, having been born as the Lord of his family clan of Illumus. Zanthua was born as a nobleman in the clan of Prydan, and earned a reputation for educating younger Great Beings about the history and possible future of their race, earning him the moniker of "Pedagogue". The Pedagogue was renowned for his patience, calm, and wisdom. 

 

Verectorian sat and started answering queries from his personal data pad, waiting for the four other Councillors to arrive. When they did, Verectorian cleared his throat, then stood. Sensing he was about to make an announcement, all the other Councillors looked up from their work, showing him their full respect. 

 

"I have an innovation I would like to present to all of you," he announced, in perfect diction characteristic of nobility. "The researchers at my family household of Illumus have come up with this little invention." 

 

From within his robes, Verectorian retrieved a silver ring, small enough to fit nicely in his palm. 

 

"This is the Ring of Vitality," he said, "and it has the ability to achieve an end we have always desired - bestow sentience upon inanimate beings."

 

There was a murmur of excitement. Great Beings had always tinkered with machinery, but never had they really been able to create sentient robotic entities.

 

The Pedagogue's red eyes lit up at this prospect. Verectorian glanced into the eyes of his companion, and saw, briefly, a kind of steely ambition that he was not sure he had ever encountered in his friend before. 

 

*** 

 

100,500 Years Ago

New Council Chamber, Valley of the Maze, Spherus Magna 

 

9,000 years had passed since Verectorian had introduced the Ring of Vitality to the Council. Although that was well within the lifespan of a Great Being, Verectorian had obviously aged in that period, and so had the Pedagogue. Yet both of them still sat on the Council, refusing to give up their position. They were seated in a newly constructed headquarters, made closely to resemble their old council chamber, hidden within the dangerous Valley of the Maze. This was done as a protective and defensive measure, to prevent the escalating war on Spherus Magna from disrupting their council proceedings. 

 

Verectorian sighed heavily and sank deeper into his throne. He had not slept the night before. He and all his fellow Councillors were dressed not in their ceremonial robes, but in advanced Combat Suits, which were sleek lightweight black full-body metallic armor suits the Great Beings used when fighting. Wearing a Combat Suit at all times was standard procedure during a military crisis, even for Councillors. 

 

"Councillors, these are the most powerful artifacts our race has yet to create. Please tell you see a solution to this war in one of them." 

 

Laid on the table before the six Councillors were the Ring of Vitality, the Kanohi Ignika, or Mask of Life, pieces of Golden Armor, and other assorted objects of great significance. 

 

"As we know, a war has broken out between the six feudal Element Lords over the Energized Protodermis found deep within Spherus Magna. Hopefully, one of these objects can contain the war." 

 

The Pedagogue, seated across from him, stared at the objects contemplatively. Over the years, his hair had slowly whitened, and his expression had hardened. Not making a sound, he slowly raised his finger and pointed at the Ring of Vitality. 

 

"That," said the Pedagogue softly, "the Ring." 

 

"What do you propose we do with it?" Verectorian ventured, although he already had a disturbing idea of what his friend was thinking. 

 

"The Baterra," the Pedagogue continued, "they operate, but are not sentient. They cannot think or plan for themselves, They are but machines. Use this Ring on them, and they will become the most formidable warriors on the planet."

 

"And then...?" Verectorian was worried where this would lead. 

 

"We use it to quell the unrest," the Pedagogue nonchalantly intoned, "by killing the Element Lords and their armies, toppling the feudal system, and bringing the authority of all the local tribal governments on Spherus Magna directly under this Council."

 

There was an uproar, as all five remaining Councillors shook their heads to protest. Verectorian silenced them. 

 

"Your strategy will only murder more lives, and I foresee it result in more instability. I shall veto this proposal."

 

The Pedagogue leaned forward, "listen, Verectorian, this plan won't just change the government, or who the Agori pay taxes to. Once they are under our control, we can pass policies to streamline industrial production and agriculture, and our laws will be enforced by our new Baterra warriors. Once prosperity has been guaranteed, once the concerns of our world are taken care of, we can command the Agori and Glatorian to go beyond this world - to seek other planets out there with life, just waiting for our colonization." 

 

Verectorian remained unswayed. "You dishonor the Code of the Great Beings," he growled, "what you are advocating is an imperialist, conquering, and repressive dictatorship." 

 

"And that," said the Pedagogue, "is the best and only form of government there is." 

 

"Again, I will not allow this."

 

"Who said I need your consent?" 

 

In sudden violation of Council protocol, the Pedagogue lifted his hand, the gauntlet of his Combat Suit trembling, as his suit's built-in telekinetic powers slowly drew the Ring of Vitality from the table into his hands. 

 

Verectorian was stunned. He unsheathed his sword, tied to the belt of his Combat Suit. "Is that a challenge to the legitimacy of the rest of us?" he shouted. 

 

The Pedagogue stared at him cold and hard for a long time, as if thinking. 

 

"Yes," he said. In a single, quick motion, he pressed a button on the gauntlet of his combat suit, and vanished in a bright flash of light. 

 

***

 

100, 400 Years Ago 

Illumus Family Stronghold, Black Spike Mountains 

 

Verectorian woke up with a start. It was just morning, and the rays of the Spherus Magna sun began to filter in through his window. Verectorian had been unable to sleep the night before, and when he finally did, he had experienced nightmares so terrifying they had jolted him back to wakefulness. In the hundred years since the Pedagogue's betrayal of the Council, Verectorian had worked hard to protect the warring Element Lords, and most importantly, the Agori, from the threat that imminently loomed over them, a threat they were oblivious to. The Pedagogue and a group of Glatorian and Great Beings loyal to him had managed to assassinate or imprison all other members of the former Council of Elders, until only he and Verectorian were left. 

 

The Pedagogue's forces had also set up a large factory in the east, churning out mechanical Baterra at an incredible rate. The stolen Ring of Vitality had been used to empower them with sentience, and the warriors that resulted had been every bit as terrifying as the Pedagogue had envisioned them to be. 

 

That is, until last night, where a covert operation staged by troops loyal to Verectorian had managed to break into the Pedagogue's fortress and return with the Ring of Vitality. Verectorian planned to hide that Ring, in a location far, far away, a place where the Pedagogue would never find, but not before it performed its last responsibility. 

 

The Baterra produced by the Pedagogue had been stationed principally in two areas: in various bases located across the Northern forested latitudes of Spherus Magna, where the main Baterra factory was located, and in various oceanic submarines in the planet's large ocean. On the Pedagogue orders, these forces were ready to mobilize at any time, and tear apart Agori society. Verectorian would not let that happen, even if it meant tearing apart the planet first. 

 

And so, when news of the Fire Tribe's rapid removal of Spherus Magna's Energized Protodermis reserves reached Verectorian, he immediately realized this would mean geological instability on Spherus Magna, and ordered his scientists to begin calculating the fault lines by which the planet would be split. To his delight, both the large forested area and the Great Ocean of Spherus Magna were the areas of the planet farthest from the core, and hence most likely to separate. It was then that he ordered his soldiers to defend the work of the Fire Tribe, rendering them military aid and assistance, as they unwittingly tore the planet apart. It was only because of his help that they managed to fend off attacks from all the other tribes. In short, Verectorian was entirely responsible for tipping the scales of power between the six tribes and staging the Shattering. 

 

Now that the main bases of the Pedagogue's Baterra armies were literally too far away to do much harm, Verectorian initiated the next stage of his plan: to find a solution to his own problem. It came in the form of a massive robot, built by laborers from his Illumus Stronghold, that he called the Mata Nui robot. Soon, he would use the Mask of Life to bring it to life, and use the stolen Ring of Vitality to grant it sentience - and he would send this robot off to the two newly formed moons of Spherus Magna, with the goal of neutralizing the Pedagogue's Baterra armies. Once the armies were neutralized, the Mata Nui robot could work on pulling Spherus Magna back together. 

 

There was a knock on the door. Verectorian got up slowly and pulled it open. Outside was the chamberlain and majordomo of the Household of Illumus, who went by the name of Arkalogus. Short but fast on his feet, he had been a presence in the household since Verectorian was young. 

 

"My Lord," Arkalogus bowed, "preliminary tests show the Mata Nui Robot is almost ready for launch. Our technicians have been working hard and tell me to assure you not to worry."

 

Verectorian nodded. "Great," he said, "tell them I send my regards."

 

Arkalogus nodded, then turned, but slowly and reluctantly turned back. He was not just a servant, but a friend, and often confided his fears for the future of the household in Verectorian. 

 

"Lord," he whispered quietly, "this sanguine war probably isn't going to end any time soon. Not to be offensive, but what if something happens to you? We need an heir, Verectorian." 

 

Verectorian sighed, refusing to meet Arkalogus' gaze. He was not married, and it was true that in the event of his death, no one would be left to succeed his clan of Illumus. He had no siblings, and he had no children. 

Arkalogus gestured towards a carving on the wall. The carving was an inscription of the three virtues, the creed of the Illumus clan.

 

"Unity. Duty. Destiny. After you are gone, who will be left to preserve these principles?" 

 

"The day the Pedagogue is defeated," said Verectorian cryptically, "is the day an heir will appear." 

 

***

 

One Year Later

 

Verectorian Illumus stood alone, in his full body Combat Suit, on top a large Plateau in the middle of the desert of what was now called Bara Magna. To his front, he could see a long canyon, nestled between a huge mountain range that stretched around him as far as the eye could see. It was an unusual day in this desert - storm clouds had gathered on the horizon, and every now and then Verectorian could hear the sound of thunder and a flash of lightning from far away. It was twilight, and the coming darkness made the atmosphere particularly portentous, as if heralding a disaster to come. 

 

Gusts of wind swept up the dust from the ground around Verectorian, swirling around him as if the elements themselves were honored to be in his presence. Down below in the canyon, he could see his troops patiently waiting in ambush for the inevitable attack. 

 

In the year since he had the conversation with Arkalogus, Verectorian had armed and launched the Mata Nui robot, and had hidden the Ring of Vitality far from the Pedagogue's grasp. Although the Pedagogue's armies had been tremendously weakened by the Shattering, he still had some troops at his disposal. The forces of Verectorian and the Pedagogue had fought on multiple occasions, with colossal battles that lasted sometimes for weeks, ending in losses numbering in the ten thousands. Tonight would be the final, decisive match. 

 

Verectorian had then made a duplicate of the Ring, exactly the same in appearance but lacking the original's powers, and had used it to lure the Pedagogue into a pursuit of him and his armies through the deserts of Bara Magna until they had reached this canyon, which seemed like a good location for a final confrontation between himself and his former friend. 

 

Verectorian had to face the very grim prospect that now, he and his battered, exhausted soldiers in the canyon below were the only thing protecting the six tribes of Bara Magna from enslavement. His was the only campaign that mattered anymore. 

 

A flash of lightning.

 

In the split second it took for the lightning bolt to flash, the Pedagogue had suddenly materialized in front of him, also wearing a Combat Suit. Verectorian betrayed no surprise in his expression, his only visible emotion being the resentment in his eyes.

 

He heard the sounds of combat in the canyon below. Both their huge armies had began to clash as well.

 

"Verectorian, Member of the Council of Elders, Lord of the Clan of Illumus, Guardian of the Ascendancy, Protector of the Code," proclaimed the Pedagogue, raising his sword and pointing it at Verectorian. 

 

"The Pedagogue, thief and deceiver," said Verectorian, raising his own sword. Both warriors activated the helmets on the armor. The visors quickly concealed their faces and the emotions they betrayed. 

 

The Pedagogue lunged with his blade without warning, only to be parried by Verectorian's own weapon. They clashed and fought, the destiny of Spherus Magna depending on every blow, every move. Meanwhile, their armies below in the canyon mirrored their duel, the battle lines moving back and forth between both factions. 

 

The battle drew on for hours, or at least it seemed that way to Verectorian, until he sensed that the Pedagogue was beginning to tire. With their swords locked, Verectorian drew on his last ounce of strength and pushed, sending the Pedagogue falling backwards into the dirt. When he tried to rise, Verectorian slashed him across the chest with his sword, puncturing his combat suit and wounding him, then grabbed him by the neck and flung his former friend to the ground face-first again.

 

The Pedagogue stayed still and did not move, breathing heavily. 

 

"I shall let you live this time," Verectorian said, turning slowly. "go back to whatever foul place you came from. I have won." 

 

As he turned his back on the Pedagogue, Verectorian heard his opponent rise behind him. 

 

"No, Verectorian. Looks like this time I win." 

 

He turned only to see the Pedagogue, standing, pointing a previously hidden energy pistol at his face, its safeties off. The Pedagogue's dark red eyes stared at him from behind his visor, showing no emotion whatsoever. 

 

"Brother..." Verectorian tried to make a plea. 

 

Click.

 

Those red eyes were the last thing Verectorian ever saw. 


Edited by Karzhani the Utahraptor, Dec 23 2012 - 11:52 PM.

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#6 Offline Karzhani the Utahraptor

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Posted Dec 10 2012 - 03:19 AM

Chapter V: Rising

 

As he finished his tale, Surel sighed, and refused to meet Synheith or Kyry's eyes. The flame from their pile of firewood had grown weaker, and the faint light cast eerie shadows of the three of them on the walls of the cave. Outside, the rain continued to fall steadily from the heavens, pelting against the side of the mountain in an unceasing manner, as the howling winds of the desert night reminded Synheith of the inhospitable environment they were in. Near the mouth of the cave, a trio of Surel's iron wolves lay asleep, their unnerving presence also guaranteeing the safety of Surel and his guests. 

 

"...what happened to the Pedagogue?" asked Synheith, breaking the silence that seemed to have descended upon them, and voicing a question that had burned in his mind since Surel had started speaking. 

 

"After the battle with Verectorian, the Pedagogue was mortally and severely wounded," replied Surel, "no one knows what happened to him, all I have is rumors, y'know? I've heard that he went into a kind of dormancy after that, hiding in a coffin somewhere in the mountains, not quite dead, not quite alive. He is waiting for the one day when Spherus Magna is whole again, where he can be reawakened to finish his plan. Sounds mighty dang bizarre to me, though." 

 

A coffin. In the mountains. Those words rang in Synheith's mind harder than anything he had heard so far from Surel. 

 

Kyry turned over and whispered to him, "we have to return to the village of Fortitude to find Gresh and Likara before its too late!" 

 

Synheith nodded, already deep in thought. There was no way they could go anywhere in this weather, and travel the great distance without any form of transport. Even though the fate of the Spherus Magna now rested, in a way, on their shoulders, and even though inaction meant that Likara and Gresh might inadvertently awake the biggest threat the planet had ever known, they could do nothing. Synheith hated this. 

 

"What about the Pedagogue's armies?" asked Synheith, prodding further, "are they in a position to do much harm?" 

 

Surel stared into space for a while, then firmly concluded, "no. His original armies of sentient Baterra were mostly expelled onto Bara Magna's two moons, after that Shattering thing, and if your Mata Nui robot is back, it means that he succeeded in his mission to destroy the armies." 

 

"What about the Baterra armies he still controlled on Bara Magna?" 

 

"After the Pedagogue hid himself into that dormant state, they were mostly disbanded, y'know what I mean? Although they did manage to run the Illumus family stronghold into the ground. The Baterra have been holding out in the Black Spike mountains ever since, occasionally attacking the Skrall. Verectorian's troops meanwhile just, kind of, drifted apart." 

 

"One last question - how do you know all this?" asked Synheith, skeptically, gripping on to the last hope that somehow that Surel was just acting on rumors or assumptions, and there really was no Pedagogue, no Verectorian. 

 

"I fought for Verectorian, and was there at his last battle," Surel's voice lowered, "saw his body tumble off the side of the mountain into the canyon, a huge hole through his helmet.  Poor chap never saw it coming." 

 

Surel slowly lifted his gaze to the bleak canyon outside the cave, as dim moonlight from behind the storm clouds partially illuminated the shapes of the huge craters in the ground, the huge piles of ruined machinery, signs of a war fought long ago. The unspoken realization that Verectorian's final stand had happened here, at this very canyon, suddenly popped into Synheith's mind. 

 

*** 

 

14 Hours Later

 

Synheith steered the Thornatus through the shrubbery and stepped on the accelerator until they came into view of the village of Fortitude. They had spent the night in Surel's cave, although Synheith had been unable to sleep, worrying about the fate of Gresh, Likara, and by extension, Spherus Magna. At dawn, the rain had stopped, and Surel had managed to rummage through a huge pile of rust metal lying in the canyon, which he claimed were the wrecks of a much larger vehicle. Within the pile, he had managed to find a tire of the same size as the one used on their Thornatus, and they managed to replace the deflated tire  Either the Glatorian had inherited the Great Being's standardized measure of tire sizes, or they had just been extremely lucky. Kyry had asked Surel if he wanted to accompany them on their trip back, but Surel had declined, saying that he did not wish to be once again entangled in the troubles of Spherus Magna society. 

 

The rain had apparently extinguished the fires that burned the village of Fortitude to the ground, and he could only hope that Likara and Gresh were still there. Driving the vehicle within thirty feet of what had once been the city's perimeter, Synheith disembarked and told Kyry to stay put. The Agori grumbled but complied. 

 

"Likara! Gresh!" Synheith shouted, walking towards the ruins. No reply. 

 

Something blue stepped out from behind a charred wall. Synheith quickly primed his Pulse Staff. 

 

"Woah, easy, its just me," said Likara. The Toa of Water was clearly exhausted, and Synheith could tell she was trying hard to maintain the characteristic spunk in her voice. 

 

"Where's Gresh? What happened?" asked Synheith, a rare undertone of anxiety seeping into his voice, "did you find the coffin?" 

 

Likara nodded and lowered her head, "we found a sarcophagus, hidden deep in one of the mountain caves. Some being in dark armor was inside, seemingly dead. Gresh touched the being's arm, then there was a flash of light, and after my vision cleared he lay prone on the ground, and the being was standing straight in front of me, staring at me with these cold, hollow, eyes. Then there was another flash of light, as the being in black armor pressed something on his gauntlet, and he vanished." 

 

"What happened to Gresh? Where is he?" For someone who had scarcely cared about the Glatorian's existence a day before, Synheith realized that he was, unwittingly, demonstrating remarkable concern for the green-armored warrior. 

 

"I think he was subject to a power transfer," said Likara hurriedly, leading Synheith towards a hut that remained relatively undamaged, "I've seen the Makuta's black Rahkshi do that before, although not quite so fast. Basically, the armored being was very weak and near-death, so he sapped Gresh's strength, somehow, and used it to complement his own, until he managed to revive himself. Gresh is alive, thank goodness, but barely breathing, unconscious, and very weak. I carried him back to this village from the mouth of the cavern. Found some medical supplies in the hut ahead, and decided to wait until help arrived from there." 

 

They stepped into view of the hut, and found Gresh lying on a bed, peacefully as if sound asleep, an assortment of first aid equipment lying on a small table beside him. 

 

"We need to get him back onto the Thornatus, and drive him back to the Matoran City as soon as possible," said Likara, saying the obvious. 

 

As Synheith lifted Gresh gently off the bed, he realized he was carrying more than a green-armored Glatorian, but perhaps the hopes and dreams of Spherus Magna and the continuity of free civilization. He had a sinking feeling that his hidden secret, about his failure to stop Treperath and possess Decryption Crystal, meant more than he could ever imagine. And he knew that Gresh, if revived, and Likara, would always be on his back, helping him fulfill this mission.

 

Is this my source of unity then, he reasoned, my team? And is my duty this - to protect Spherus Magna? And, most importantly, what is my destiny? And can I reject it? 

 

*** 

 

Elsewhere in the vast desert of the planet, the sun had reached its full midday heat, and the hunting cries of Vorox could be heard from far away on the horizon. Makuta Treperath stood in the shade of a large monolith stone, put into place a month ago by the new Matoran population. The stone served a navigational purpose - it informed the viewer of the current location, as well as the distance to the Matoran City and the direction to proceed in. 

 

A flash of light. 

 

A black armored being suddenly materialized before him, red eyes glowing from behind a helmet. Without speaking, Treperath reached within his cloak and retrieved the Decryption Crystal he had fled with from Destral a year ago. 

 

"Good," remarked the being, scrutinizing the object intently. "Now all that is left is to find the Ring, and with the Ring, bring down this strange new civilization." 

 

The being gestured to the bottom of the huge stone in front of them. Carved below the directions was the emblem of the new Matoran society, which was the Mata Nui symbol. The three virtues were inscribed below that. Unity, Duty, Destiny. 

 

"Ah, my old friend Verectorian," the black armored being said, as if to empty air, "even in death, it looks like some people still respect the virtues of your family. I will make sure those people are no more." 

 

The black armored being reached forward with sudden violence and, with the claws on his armor, scratched off the carving of the three virtues, the claw marks warping the words beyond recognition. 

 

The Pedagogue had made his first claim on Matoran civilization. 

 

***

 

Posted Image

 

*** 

 

100, 400 Years Ago

Meeting Quarters, Illumus Family Stronghold 

 

Verectorian sat at the end of a long oak table, and sighed heavily. He had spent many sleepless nights pondering about the next step to take in the war with the Pedagogue, even as the six tribes of Spherus Magna had started engaging in their own conflicts. 

 

He had been spending increasing amounts of time in this room since the crisis had began. It was part of the oldest structure of the entire Illumus Family Stronghold, a huge room with a marble floor, solid rock walls, and a ceiling high above. The table at the center of the room was where the family elders and noblemen would gather once a year to discuss affairs. Most of the time, the room was quiet and empty, and made a conducive thinking environment. 

 

On the other side of the room, a huge mural depicting the emblem of the Illumus family was displayed - a blue hexagon with two angled crescents. Underneath it there was a carving of the words that made up the creed of his family. Unity, Duty, Destiny. 

 

Below that still, were the names of the Lords that had gone before, Verectorian's own ancestors. Filling two columns, almost from the ceiling to the ground, the list of names was massive, testimony to the longevity and continuity of their family. 

 

I wonder how my ancestors would judge me if they were here, Verectorian pondered, will they applaud or condemn me, for putting the interests of the planet above those of the Code, and the family? 

 

There was a knock on the large wooden door to his right. 

 

"Come in," he uttered, mildly annoyed. 

 

Arkalogus, the chamberlain of his household, cautiously peered into the room. 

 

"Ah, My Lord, sorry to disturb your pondering," he said, "I would just like to inform you that the Mata Nui robot is almost complete, and rests now in the north sea. Our laborers, both mechanical and biological, are adding their finishing touches. It is constructed on your specifications - 40 million feet high, total internal volume 12 billion cubic feet. The Ring of Vitality has been used to animate the mind of the huge robot, after which we can dispose of its temporary caretaker, Tren Krom. "

 

"Good," said Verectorian, "what about the mechanical inhabitants of the robot? Are they functional?" 

 

"Yes," said Arkalogus, "although there appears to be a slight problem. These newly created 'Matoran' are aimless - they wander, purposelessly, and the only productive thing they do is to carry out their work, which they put little effort in. I think the sentience we bestowed upon the Mata Nui robot permeated to its mechanical inhabitants, and they realize the pointlessness of their work." 

 

"What do you suggest we do?" asked Verectorian. 

 

"Give them a set of principles, or a code, to live by and adhere to," said Arkalogus, "that way, they will work with an end in mind. But what motto or goal could possibly sum up the goals and aspirations of two hundred thousand sentient Matoran in a huge robot?" 

 

Verectorian's gaze wandered onto the mural on the wall, and the carving beneath it.  

"Make their ethos the creed of Illumus," Verectorian proclaimed, "from now on, they will live by the virtues of Unity, Duty and Destiny." 


Edited by Karzhani the Utahraptor, Dec 24 2012 - 08:19 AM.

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#7 Offline Karzhani the Utahraptor

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Posted Dec 17 2012 - 10:09 AM

Chapter VI: The Enigma Signal 

 

Tobduk sank back into his chair, deep in thought. Slightly less than forty eight hours ago, he had dispatched Toa Synheith, paired with the Glatorian Gresh, on a mission to investigate what had been described as a "frontier disturbance" at the northern settlement called Fortitude. They had yet to return. He feared that they might have been captured, or worse - and that whatever had caused their disappearance would soon attack more Matoran settlements.  

 

I have to know what happened, he thought, because I cannot stand not knowing things. 

 

Right now, however, his office seemed relatively peaceful. Messengers walked purposefully to and from Order agents sitting at their various desks, collecting reports, sending notes, and writing records for future use. It seemed like a normal and uneventful day, but it seemed like at any moment, this delicate facade of calmness and orderliness would break apart in the face of some looming threat.

 

Tobduk had once been on a boat in the ocean around Metru Nui with a few other Order agents, and they had seen a Rahi Shark briefly emerge from beneath the waves, only to disappear back into the water. Rahi Sharks had a notorious reputation for biting large chunks out of the bottom of vessels, and the next few minutes had been quiet and suspenseful, as he stared at the momentarily still surface of the water, waiting for the inevitable attack. Tobduk felt the same feeling now, as if there was an imminent threat just waiting unveil itself and wreak havoc on the tenuous calmness that surrounded him. 

 

"Tobduk! I have news!" A voice cried out to his left. 

 

Looks like the attack has come, he thought.

 

He spun his chair around to see Toa Krakua, a novice Toa of Sonics, dressed in full armor, standing at his desk. 

 

"What might it be, Toa?"

 

"I've been working on that little radio device the Glatorian passed to us last week. Its now in basement room B1-03. It takes up the entire far wall. I've managed to increase the sensitivity of its signal reception, and what its picking up is amazing - I can literally eavesdrop on every non-encrypted signal all Spherus Magn-" 

 

"Get to your point," said Tobudk, suppressing a sigh of relief. The threat had not come, after all. 

 

"Anyway, there hasn't been anything of much interest, except for a single lower-band frequency channel I accidentally picked up. The signal is heavily attenuated, and I have to strain to decipher anything at all." 

 

"Still not at the point," Tobduk remarked impatiently. 

 

"The signal contains of a garbled series of what appears to be random acoustic notes, occurring in no particular order, repeating once every two minutes. This is either a heavily coded signal, or just pure rubbish." 

 

"And its not the latter because...?" 

 

"Get this - the villagers of Tajun, who rented us this device, kept a comprehensive archive of anything unusual it picked up since the machine has been put into service. And I have found records, in those very archives, documenting an 'eerie unexplained signal' on the exact same frequency. That means that someone out there, somewhere, has been transmitting the exact same tune over and over again, at two minute intervals, since the entry was written."

 

"How long ago was the entry dated?" 

 

"About ten thousand years."

 

Tobduk leaned forward, interest aroused. 

 

"Our researchers are calling this The Enigma Signal, and they are hoping it might help unravel the mysteries of this new world. We are trying to isolate its source, until then -" 

 

"Sir, urgent report!" A voice interrupted Krakua from behind. 

 

An order messenger stepped into view. 

 

"Go ahead," replied Tobduk. 

 

"The outskirts of our city are under attack! Buildings have come under fire in the northwest. Attackers unknown. Glatorian and Toa in the vicinity requesting permission to open fire on attackers." 

 

"Permission granted," said Tobduk, fearing the worst. 

 

***

 

Synheith steered the Thornatus at maximum speed, travelling through large flat patches of desert, until the outline of the Matoran City quickly came into view - a huge sprawling metropolis reclining in the shadow of the Mata Nui robot. 

 

"Careful, you almost drove us into a boulder," said Kyry, "you know, you should let me drive. You might fight well, but that doesn't mean you-" 

 

"Quiet, Agori," replied Synheith coldly, "unless you want me to crash into the next boulder." 

 

"Can you two stop squabbling," appealed Likara, "we need to get Gresh back to the Matoran City, and warn them, before the Pedagogue decides to act!" 

 

"Looks like he already has" 

 

Synheith pointed to a narrow plume of smoke, rising slowly but surely from one of the buildings in the outlying districts. 

 

"We need to get there, help the local Toa," said Synheith, already steering the vehicle in another direction. "Gresh can wait. Right now, the city needs our help." 

 

*** 

 

Kiina ducked behind a pile of debris, recharged her elemental powers, then re-emerged and shot another steady stream of water at her attackers. The insect-like, chattering robots looked nothing like she had ever seen before, although they matched Skrall descriptions of Baterra. The various plasma and ballistic weapons their foes evidently employed were quickly burning away their cover. 

 

"We might need to fall back to the next sector," Toa Nuparu, crouched nearby. shouted above the din of battle. 

 

There were five other Toa and Glatorian positioned strategically nearby, facing what seemed like a hundred Baterra, which had suddenly appeared, disguised as cargo shipments, on the outskirts of the Matoran city. Already, they seemed overwhelmed. The Baterra had succeeded in wrecking several buildings, and seemed poised to advance further down the street, closer to the heart of the Matoran city. Tobduk had given them the permission to return fire, and they were doing their best to hold their position. 

 

Something struck Toa Nuparu in the shoulder. He fell back into cover and clutched his wound. Turning, Kiina saw a single Baterra sniper positioned on the second story of a ruined building, recharging his weapon. She fired a single Thornax from her launcher and struck the creature squarely in the head. 

 

Suddenly, Kiina was knocked off her feet by a large concussive force. She had not known that the Baterra employed the use of explosives, but evidently they did. When her vision cleared and the ringing in her ears subsided, she got to her knees and looked around. She saw Nuparu lying dazed in a pile of debris nearby. The dust from the explosion obscured her view of the attackers, and she readied reached for her weapon in case they chose to advance. 

 

A being dressed in sleek black armor emerged from the dust. 

 

Kiina raised her Thornax Launcher and took aim. 

 

"Identify yourself," she growled, as Nuparu got to his feet. Baterra were closing in around them. Nuparu lifted his shield in defense. 

 

"Put that down first," the being said. A sudden, powerful force took hold of Kiina's hand, as if an invisible chain was weighing it to the ground. She dropped the Thornax Launcher in surprise, and the force disappeared. 

 

"That's great," the being replied, then retracted its helmet. Kiina saw that the helmet concealed an aged face, rugged, with graying hair. There was a disturbing and frightening familiarity to this face, as if she had seen it, somewhere long long ago, and had subconsciously associated it with pain and destruction. 

 

"You're someone from the time before time, aren't you?" she said, cautiously, "before the Core War, long before Glatorian Civilization"

 

"That would be correct," he said, "I am the Pedagogue, member of the council of elders. I am, legally, the lord of this civilization, by virtue of my authority. Yield." 

 

That name resounded in Kiina's mind, as if from a half-forgotten dream. 

 

"Even if I wanted to, I couldn't," said Kiina, "I owe my allegiance to other authorities." 

 

The Pedagogue laughed. "You Glatorian are all pawns, aren't you? Pawns in a grand game that is beyond the scope of your comprehension. Oh well, it seems like I will have to have a talk with someone who actually matters, then." 

 

The Pedagogue waved his hand, and a burst of telekinetic energy impacted Kiina and Nuparu, knocking them down again. He casually strolled past them, his Baterra army trailing closely behind, taking no notice of the two downed warriors.  

 

 

 

 


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#8 Offline Karzhani the Utahraptor

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Posted Dec 23 2012 - 09:28 AM

Chapter VII - Black To Move

 

By the time Synheith and Likara got to the site where they spotted the attack, the Baterra army had already moved on, following the Pedagogue further into the interior of the city. Gresh had been left on the parked Thornatus in Kyry's care; there was no way they could risk bringing an unconscious Glatorian, or an unarmed Agori, into the middle of a firefight. 

 

"Why would the Pedagogue send forces here?" said Likara, the thought suddenly crossing her mind. 

 

"Spite? Vengance?" Synheith suggested, not really listening, as the duo made their way down a street filled with rubble and debris. The Baterra had definitely passed this way. 

 

"But assuming his primary objective is to raise his army of Baterra and enslave us all, one would expect that he would be busy producing them, or trying to acquire the Ring of Vitality thing that Verectorian hid. This is an incredibly bad strategic maneuver from his perspective, made all the more worse by the fact that there is strong opposition here in the Matoran City. Right, Synheith? What do you think?" 

 

Synheith looked as though he were in a mood to respond to her speculations, for once. Such a possibility, however, was cut short by the sighting of a piece of blue armor, jutting out from beneath a pile of rubble. Both warriors rushed forward, gently pushing aside the rubble, only to reveal Kiina, the renowned Glatorian Warrior, lying prone on the ground. 

 

"Is she..?" Likara ventured. 

 

"She's alive," Synheith cut her off, bending closer to the downed Glatorian's face. 

 

"There are more Glatorian - and Toa - in the area, all out cold!" Likara cried, suddenly alarmed.

 

Synheith glanced around and slowly took in the magnitude of the threat. Lying in various poses on the ground in their immediate vicinity, hidden partially by rubble, were six more Toa and Glatorian, all looking battered and helpless. Among them was Nuparu, a firm and skillful Toa whom Synheith had worked with before. Synheith surveyed the area for signs of downed Baterra, and found none, except for a single wrecked machine lying in pieces on the exposed second floor of a nearby building. 

 

Either they are good at concealing or repairing their dead, thought Synheith, or we're severely, completely, outmatched. 

 

Kiina stirred. 

 

"Easy," said Likara softly, kneeling beside her. In the wake of the migration, the Water Tribe and Ga-Matoran, including their Toa of Water, had got along surprisingly well, despite the heavy tensions that existed between other groups. 

 

"Where are they?" Kiina sprung to her feet, suddenly animated. "We need to go after them!"

 

"Are you hurt?" Likara asked softly, "who took you out?" 

 

"A black armored thing calling himself the 'Pedagogue' incapacitated us somehow," Kiina muttered, "don't think we've suffered serious physical injuries, though. Its almost as if he didn't mean to kill us." 

 

Well, I guess if his plan is to use us as slaves, then killing us is a philosophical gray area for him,  thought Synheith. Still, why does he need us? Why can't his Baterra be his slave army? If he ever has time for a chat, I'll need to ask him this. 

 

"Any idea which way he went?" asked Likara, as if the trail of rubble was not clear enough already. 

 

"He said he wanted to meet an authority, someone in charge," said Kiina. "My guess is he'd be heading there right now." She pointed to the large, central, commanding structure that was the new headquarters of the Order of Mata Nui. If any building sent a message of 'in charge', it was that one. 

 

Synheith nodded. "Better get moving, then. We can call for medical help for the rest of these Toa and Glatorian from the Order Headquarters too. As for the three of us, we've got a Great Being to take out." 

 

"If that's what this...Pedagogue is, then things might get mighty interesting," said Kiina, as the trio quickly made their way to the Order headquarters. 

 

*** 

 

The titanium - and - steel gate of the Order Headquarters wasn't just meant to look imposing, but it could really soak up a devastating amount of damage. 

 

Synheith crouched behind a wrecked Thornatus, joined quickly by Kiina and Likara, watching as a dozen Baterra fired at it continuously with an assortment of weapons. The metal shuddered but did not buckle. Their efforts were countered by multiple sentry turrets positioned on the sides of the building, raining down a barrage of projectiles on the Baterra, but the robots concentrated their fire solely on the gate. 

 

Synheith turned slightly to give himself a better view of the situation. There was no sign of the Pedagogue, but crouching atop a nearby three-story building was another figure, a shadowy being dressed in a dark cloak, someone he knew all too well. 

 

Treperath, his eyes narrowed. I was wondering when you were going to show up. 

 

Treperath was busy overseeing the Baterra, using his staff to direct them towards tearing down the gate. 

 

So you are linked to the Pedagogue, thought Synheith, and I am now more convinced than ever that the Decryption Crystal is linked to his plan of world domination. You practically gave it all away when you said it would help you "bring the world to its knees", the day I met you on Destral. 

 

Synheith fought down the growing urge within him to emerge from cover and engage the Makuta. To do so would be suicide, he assured himself. 

 

One of the Baterra had transformed into a large blunt metallic cylinder, and its colleagues lifted it on their shoulders and rammed it with crushing force against the gate. The huge door surrendered to the blow, and quickly collapsed into the compound behind. The Baterra rushed inside, eager to obliterate whoever stood in their path.

 

 

"There's a back gate to the south end of the structure," whispered Kiina, "if we can get in there, we can warn Tobduk about the nature of the threat." 

 

***

 

"I see that you are quite the ladies' man, Synheith. I send you out with a male Jungle Glatorian, and you return to me with a Toa of Water and a woman Glatorian from the Water Tribe." 

 

"This is no time to joke, Tobduk. The Baterra have entered your building." 

 

They stood at the door to Tobduk's office, with Order agents running around hurriedly to get an accurate assessment of the threat. The office was on the twentieth floor, at the very top of the building. The entire structure was in a pyramid shape, with each successive level having less floor area than the last. There was no lift, only two flights of stairs, and the upper levels were heavily guarded by elite Order warriors, so Tobduk's office was not in direct danger even though the Baterra had already entered the building. 

 

Tobduk frowned. "So it seems, but my defense teams can't seem to see any intruders. Baterra, from what the Skrall tell us, seem notorious for their capability to shapeshift. I've asked my staff to look out for objects that weren't there before." 

 

"Tobduk, we need to bring you up to speed on a few things," said Synheith, "but before that, I need to ask you - what is the Decryption Crystal? And what is it for? I have a feeling it might be linked to what the Baterra are after."

 

He wasn't sure, at this moment, if he was putting his own selfish desire for knowledge in front of the security of the entire Matoran City, or if it was in reality the other way around. 

 

"Never heard of it," said Tobduk dismissively, "don't know what its for." 

 

"You do know what its for," Synheith started speaking in a more hurried tone, "you sent me to Destral to look for it!"

 

"Helryx's orders, not mine. Its highly classified material, which I don't have access to." 

 

Synheith walked up to Tobduk and looked him straight in the eye, a task that required him to crane his neck up.

 

"You know what it is, and what its for. Helryx can't keep everything to herself. You're her top agent, and the day she goes, you'll be running this show. So don't tell me that you don't know something because its classified, especially if I know it is linked to what's going on around us. The Order can't keep its secrets forever." 

 

Tobduk seemed caught off guard. Then he regained his composure and laughed. 

 

"Very well, Toa, if you really do believe it so important - all I know is the Decryption Crystal was an artifact given to the Brotherhood by  a Great Being, presumably the same one who designed and sent off the Mata Nui robot. It is not an object of power in itself - but a means to power, it is said. All we know, even now, is that it is important, and of some relevance to Spherus Magna." 

 

Verectorian seems to have a complex mind, mused Synheith. 

 

"Now that I have revealed this, you should feel more than obliged to tell me what you know, isn't that the case, Toa?" 

 

"I was going to do so anyway, Tobduk." 

 

Synheith then proceeded to relate Surel's entire tale - from the Great Being's council to Verectorian's abrupt demise, and finally explained how Gresh and Likara had accidentally awakened the Pedagogue once more. Throughout his explanation, Tobduk remained still and showed little emotion or reaction. 

 

As he closed his story, sounds of combat started echoing through the building. The Baterra had revealed themselves. 

 

Tobduk, now satisfied, grabbed his weapon, and adjusted his armor. 

 

"A nice story, Toa," he said in his usual confident tone, "if its true, then it looks like the Pedagogue is back, and he's made the first move." 

 

"A devastating one indeed, it seems." 

 

Tobduk laughed. "Whoever makes the first move doesn't always win the game, Toa. If that were true, chess would be a lot easier." 

 

*** 

 

80,000 Years Ago 

Treperath's Quarters, Destral (currently floating in unspecified location in the Southern Ocean) 

 
Makuta Treperath was unhappy. As a Makuta, his primary responsibility was to create Rahi beasts to populate the Matoran Universe, yet on this particular day his efforts at creation had met with failure. He had attempted to create a winged Rahi serpent, but it was proving to be an unstable hybrid, and had died soon after coming into contact with the air. 
 
Sighing, he slowly exited his laboratory and returned to his private chamber. His room was large, with cold, rock, walls and lightstones dangling from the ceiling. His desk, situated to his right, was littered with artifacts from what had recently become a time-consuming interest for him - archaeology. He had collected an assortment of small items and remnants from old Matoran cities, which now rested on his table or hung from his wall. Miserix had once chided him for being "stuck in the past", but to him Matoran history was fascinating, and even more engrossing was the idea of the Great Beings - ancient omnipotent entities who sent Mata Nui from the heavens, then mysteriously vanished. He hoped that somewhere along the way, while doing research, he would stumble upon something they had left behind. 
 
Today, the focus of his attention was a trio of dull gray crates stacked up against the far wall. This had been a delivery from Antroz earlier that day. Antroz had been supervising a Matoran mining operation on some faraway continent when his miners had stumbled upon these crates, and, thinking Treperath would be interested, had ordered them delivered back to Destral.
 
Antroz has such a sense of thoughtfulness, thought Treperath, even if we Makuta have violent tendencies, I'm sure he'd never amount to anything bad. 
 
Approaching the crates, Treperath did a quick mental scan - his powers analyzing the debris, dust, and carbon fragments that coated them, trying to determine, among other things, the date of their creation. 
 
This is twenty thousand years old, he realized, meaning that it predates not just the Brotherhood, but the establishment of Metru Nui and possibly all of Matoran Civilization! This has to be from the Great Beings. 
 
Treperath soon found out the containers were welded shut really tightly, and spent a considerable amount of time trying to open one of them. Whoever designed this clearly wanted its contents to be protected. In the end, he had to pry it open by burning off the hinges of the lid with plasma.
 
The sight that greeted him was puzzling, and he struggled to make sense of what it was. Lying in the container was what seemed like a random assortment of black mechanical parts - cogs, levers, and gears. 
 
No, he realized, as he began to visualize it as a single mass, its a robot, coiled up inside this container. 
 
The robot flinched, then stopped abruptly. It seemed weak, as if it desperately needed to replenish its energy, yet Treperath could see no clear place on its body to plug in the power. 
 
Two lights flared up faintly on both sides of the robot's 'head'. This illuminated a faded symbol painted between its 'eyes' - a single red circle with eight interconnected lines. 
 
Resisting his instinct to do otherwise, Treperath reached out and touched the symbol, hoping it would activate the robot and bring it to operational capacity. Perhaps it could yield valuable historical information about the Great Beings. 
 
His fingers made contact with the robot. For a moment, nothing happened. Treperath lowered his arm, disappointed. 
 
Nothing much here, he reasoned, although the symbol might mean something. 
 
A second after he withdrew his arm, a sudden sense of nausea overcame him. Treperath staggered backwards, disoriented. The world around him started spinning, and the familiar hues and outlines of his room melted away, his field of view replaced by blurry new shapes that were slowly coming into focus. 
 
Although a distressing experience, it was not an alarming one. He was simply experiencing a vision, something he was accustomed to imposing upon others but not quite prepared to undergo himself. Figuring that another Makuta was using illusion powers to play some sort of prank on him, he fought back with his own mental abilities, seeking to overpower whatever mind that was enforcing this vision. Perhaps, if the other Makuta's willpower was weak enough, he could fight back and place his attacker in another illusion. 
 
He sensed something quite different, however. As his eyes slowly cleared, he detected that a being whose power far surpassed his own was behind this trick. He could not frame the scale or nature of his attacker's mind, so he surrendered himself to the vision and whatever it would present him. 
 
He was flying, above a lush green forest, as if guided by an imaginary force. The air smelled different, and the sky looked unlike those of the Matoran's domes. He seemed to be in another universe entirely. Ahead of him was a mountain, and he was still flying, at full speed, on an impact trajectory with it.
 
But at the last moment, the invisible force lowered him to a cave in the cliff face, and it propelled him down a dimly lit, narrow passageway, into a single, cramped chamber. There were symbols scrawled along the walls of the chamber, but he was unable to turn his head to look at them. Instead, his view was focused on a single, tall, black, sarcophagus in front of him.
 
I am what was and what is to come. 
 
Treperath didn't hear those words as much as he felt them, resounding through his mind. Whoever was giving him this vision didn't just have the power to engulf a Makuta in a convincing illusion, but had the power to enter his thoughts, too.
 
Who are you? What are you? 
 
A dark red symbol - eight interconnected lines in a circle, the same symbol he had seen on the container - flared up on the sarcophagus. 
 
 It matters not what I am, or who I am. All you need to know is that I exist, and I will return. 
 
Treperath realized he wasn't getting anywhere. How are you related to those...robots, that I uncovered?
 
 
Those are my servants. Verectorian must have placed those specimens, weakened and harmless, in Mata Nui's robot body, so that it would learn to develop some kind of....immunity to them, through its Toa warriors. Think of it as cosmic vaccination. 
 
Questions flooded Treperath's thoughts. What do you mean, 'Mata Nui robot'? And who is 'Verectorian'? 
 
Your questions are unimportant. What matters is that you protect the Decryption Crystal. 
 
I know what that is. Its the trinket that Miserix keeps in the corner of the storehouse. 
 
Excellent. Someday, when I am free to torment the world once more, it will lead me - and you - to great things. But you need to protect it. Other forces might wish to acquire it, at some point in the future. 
 
Why is it so important? 
 
You will find out soon enough. Verectorian trusted your species with the Crystal, in hopes that when I am defeated, it would be put to good use. But I am never defeated.
 
What are you?! 
 
Treperath received no answer to that question. In an instant, he found himself standing in front of the container again, gazing at the dormant robot within, the illusion he was in collapsing. 
 
He looked around - nothing had changed. But as he examined himself, he realized that something had been engraved into his chestplate. Something that was not there before.
 
Somehow, a dark red symbol - a circle with eight interconnected lines - had been freshly carved into his armor.
 
***
 
As the years passed, Treperath would have more of such visions. He learnt that the entity he had spoken to was no mere power - but in fact a Great Being. Although his real name had been lost to time, Treperath learnt to call him the Pedagogue. Treperath's interest in the past - and the Great Beings - fueled him, to discover more about the Pedagogue's origins, goals, and purposes. He learnt that the Pedagogue was trapped in a world, far away, and hence unable to fully communicate, but if he were to ever step on that world, his first task would be to free him and bring the Decryption Crystal to him. In a way, the symbol that had been mysteriously burned onto his armor was a mere reflection of a change that took place within his mind - his allegiance now belonged to the Pedagogue, not the Brotherhood. He grew increasingly detached from the rest of the Makuta, even as Teridax tried to involve all of them with his plan to overthrow Mata Nui. He was spending more and more time in quiet meditation in his private quarters, trying to summon the presence of the Pedagogue. 
 
The Pedagogue taught him to reach for higher things, to have an ambition beyond what the Brotherhood - or Teridax - mandated for him. It was in this way he cemented his destiny. 

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#9 Offline Karzhani the Utahraptor

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Posted Jan 05 2013 - 11:52 PM

Chapter VIII: War

 

"Threat assessment and situation update, please." 

 

Tobduk spoke those words as he walked past Jerbraz hurriedly, down the long white corridor, without so much as lifting his head to acknowledge the presence of the senior Order staff member. 

 

"Baterra have appeared on the lower levels, sir," replied Jerbraz, "and they have overrun the ground floor and basement level 1. I have suspended the transport of any goods and equipment from the lower floors to the upper offices to prevent an intrusion." 

 

"Good," said Tobduk, walking towards a large set of double blast doors at the end of the corridor. Synheith, Likara, and Kiina trailed closely behind him, struggling to keep up with the tall warrior's massive stride. They had offered to help the Order forces repel the invasion, at least until reinforcements could arrive.

 

Reaching the doors, Tobduk paused and pressed his palm on a concealed button in the wall. A single pinpoint laser - a cutting edge retinal scanner - projected itself from a hidden panel seven feet above the ground. Tobduk lowered his face in front of the device so that it could scan his eye. In a split second, the doors slid open with a quiet hiss and revealed the large central stairwell that was built into the interior of the structure. From far below, Synheith could hear the sounds of many pairs of armored feet emanating from far below, as Order agents from various floors armed themselves and made their way quickly to the lower levels to deal with the intruders.

 

Likara nudged Synheith and a quiet sentence to him. 

 

"Don't forget Gresh! He's still passed out on the Thornatus." 

 

"One thing at a time," Synheith sighed, although he secretly wondered if they would get out of this next challenge alive. 

 

The three fighters quickly followed Tobduk down the stairs, the latter sometimes taking three of four steps at a time. Somewhere on the way down, Tobduk stopped and flicked another veiled switch on one of the walls, and a concealed armory promptly slid out from behind the facade. He grabbed a large, imposing, rifle-like weapon, something that Synheith recognized as an experimental Nui Blaster, a weapon that the Order had developed recently in tandem with Glatorian scientists. The Blaster could seamlessly integrate and launch the elemental powers of Air, Fire and Water, devastating any opponents in its path. Despite the fact that it had never been used in a combat scenario before, and Synheith wasn't quite sure how Fire and Water could be used in the same weapon, Tobduk seemed assured that it would be a useful tool in fighting the Baterra further down. 

 

After joining up with a team of a dozen Order fighters making their way to the ground floor from a lower level, they finally arrived at the entrance that led to the ground level from the stairwell. It contained another set of the seemingly invincible blast doors. Despite their efforts, the Baterra had not managed to enter the stairwell. Synheith, standing at the front of the party, felt obliged to be the one that opened the door.

 

On the other side of this door, he thought, twenty Baterra are probably pushing themselves against it, trying to enter. Its time we get to meet them. 

 

Leaning forward, he moved his palm along the wall until he found the hidden button, then applied pressure to it, gently, surely. The retinal scanner appeared, and he moved his face towards it. In a microsecond, the machine cross-checked his eye against the hundreds of others it had approved in its records. As if in slow motion, the door made a loud grinding noise, and slid open, every moment revealing more of what was beyond it. 

 

Synheith took a tentative step out, instinctively tensing up for the possibility of an ambush. Looking around, he saw the lobby of the Order of Mata Nui Headquarters, strewn with debris, a stark contrast to its usual pristine condition. It was chaotic; there were overturned tables all over the place, and shattered pieces of concrete, wood, and metal armor littered the floor. Nearby, he could see the bodies of four guards who had attempted to stop the overwhelming assault by the Baterra. 

 

"Stop," signaled Tobduk, coming to the front of the party. "This looks like a more-than-ideal site for an ambush, even if our enemies weren't cunning shape-shifters." 

 

Every piece of debris, or of shattered furniture, suddenly became a possible foe. Synheith edged backwards into the stairwell, suddenly extremely conscious of their predicament. 

 

"Show yourself, mighty Baterra!" Tobduk's sonorous voice echoed around the large lobby chamber. There was no response. 

 

One of the Order Members behind them, carrying what looked like a rapid-fire laser, crept slowly into the room, and fired twenty blasts from his weapon, systematically in a broad sweeping fashion, so as to land on every exposed surface in the chamber. 

 

Nothing moved. If there were any hidden Baterra, masquerading as pieces of debris or objects, then shock of the lasers would have jolted them back to their preferred form. 

 

"All clear," the member said, tentatively. Some of the Order members behind them proceeded to rush to help their four downed comrades, checking if they were still alive. Tobduk strode to the center of the room to get a better assessment of what had happened. 

 

"It appears our guests didn't stay," he said. 

 

"Or perhaps they went further into the structure," Kiina interjected, pointing at a broken set of doors at the far end of the lobby. This one led to a second stairwell, which provided access to the multiple sprawling basement levels of the structure. Perhaps as a reflection of their operational philosophy, a large part of the space in the Order's headquarters was underground. 

 

"What could they possibly want in our basement?" Tobduk questioned, "and, come to think of it, what do they want here? Why not attack the central government building where Raanu and Vakama reside? I believe they're after something here. And whatever it is, we're going to stop them from getting it." 

 

Tobduk motioned the rest of the party to enter the ruined doors, into the stairwell, and emerged onto a wide corridor on the first basement level. Synheith found himself staring down a long passageway, with doors on both sides, and supply crates stacked in a rather haphazard fashion against the walls. There was no sign of any struggle or any evidence that the Baterra had come this way. Unlike the whitewashed corridors of the upper offices, the basement corridors were more recently built, and some walls and sections of flooring had yet to be painted. But above all, it was bare, made out of mostly empty rooms containing some storage material and not much else. He remembered Tobduk had told him that he was struggling to find a use for most of these rooms, and that the upper floors were perfectly capable of holding all the resources the Order needed, making the basement, in a sense, redundant. 

 

This also meant, Synehith slowly reasoned, that the supply crates they were seeing were not supply crates. 

 

Tobduk seemed to have come to a similar realization. 

 

"It appears," he said, in his usual calm and composed manner, "that we have some...packages that are unaccounted for." 

 

Without saying another word, he unlimbered his Nui Blaster, aimed it down the corridor, and pulled the trigger once. The weapon slowly hummed, vibrating in his hands, as it gathered energy from the environment around it. What followed was an awe-inspiring combination of a powerful gale-force wind, an infernal jet of flame, and a huge wave of water, that swept down the narrow corridor as a singular projectile, slamming the ground with terrifying force a meter away from Tobduk, and splitting up into smaller projectiles that swept, unstoppable, down the corridor, crashing with shuddering strength into the supply crates and tossing them against the walls like toys.

 

When the steam and smoke caused by the blast had cleared, Synheith squinted to make a sense of the damage the weapon had caused. The Baterra, formerly disguised as supply crates, were now struggling to their feet, disoriented, some missing parts, some with huge gaping holes in their armor, and some rolling around trying to extinguish the flames that were consuming them. 

 

He, and the rest of the Order forces, charged forth as one, tackling the confused Baterra to the ground and preventing them from transforming into something else, and quickly dispatching them.

 

Once all of the robotic intruders were eliminated, Synheith looked around again, checking his surroundings. He now realized something odd - all the steel doors to the rooms in the corridor were wide open, except for the one labelled "B1-03", which was sealed shut. 

 

"What's in that room?" asked Synheith, pointing to the door, "anything important?" 

 

"A radio we recovered from the citizens of Tajun," said Tobduk passively, "I believe Krakua went back to attending to it, just before the Baterra attacked. Knowing him, perhaps he closed the door so he could sleep on duty, and has simply slept through all of this." 

 

Synheith pulled the handle of the door. 

 

"It's locked," he said, turning around to face the other members of the group. 

 

"Now it isn't." 

 

Before Synheith could turn to face the source of that all-too-familiar voice, the door had swung open with deadly speed, and the huge half-ton steel fixture slammed into him from behind, sending him reeling forward in shock. 

 

Makuta Treperath, wielding the Decryption Crystal in one hand, and the limp body of Toa Krakua in the other, emerged from behind the door. He held Krakua's body over his, using him as a shield to possible projectile fire. 

 

"Put the Toa down and hand us the Crystal," said Tobduk slowly, as if giving instructions to a child, "we have you outgunned. Or would you prefer to experience what I did to your old friend Tridax?" 

 

Treperath gave an amused expression, then pointed down the corridor. 

 

"Now they have you outgunned." 

 

Turning, Synheith realized that amid the confusion, a sizable force of Baterra had managed to sneak in the corridor. He could not see the full extent of their numbers, since their ranks extended back into the stairwell, but he estimated there to be more than a hundred. 

 

"Now, you let me go, unfettered, and in return, you can have your Toa back," Treperath stated. 

 

Tobduk checked his Nui Blaster. If it were fully charged, he could possibly eliminate all the Baterra in the narrow corridor in a single blast, while the others would handle the Makuta. However, it was busy re-cycling itself and would not be ready to fire in the next two minutes. 

 

He dropped his weapon. The others followed suit quickly. They were, at this moment, truly overpowered. 

 

"Good," said the Makuta. He flung Krakua to the ground, with a sudden violence, then pushed Synheith aside and strode back to his Baterra Army. They followed him back up the stairs, and, presumably, out of the building. When he could no longer hear their footsteps, Synheith let out a long breath and retrieved his weapon. 

 

"Why did they spare us?" Likara ventured, "they could have killed us right here." 

 

Tobduk shook his head, and crouched over the Krakua, lying prone on the ground. "He did this so he could strike fear, and respect, perhaps for the day the Pedagogue will come to assume power over our society." 

 

Krakua coughed. He was alive, but severely drained and heavily injured. 

 

"The Makuta...and some other, dark-armored thing, came in here, pushed me against the wall...choked me...demanded I switch to the frequency with that signal..." 

 

Tobduk wandered into the room B1-03, trying to figure out what exactly Krakua was talking about. The Tajun radio was positioned against the far wall, a massive device with numerous mechanical parts and functions. It was tuned in to a single channel, and was playing, at a low volume, a series of what seemed to be random acoustic notes, arranged in no particular order.

 

The Engima Signal. 

 

*** 

5 Hours Later 

 

Synheith sank to the ground, back against the wall, out of sheer despair, frustration, and exhaustion. The sun had set, and the darkness around him echoed the dark mood in his heart. 

 

In the intervening hours, Tobduk had managed to draw several missing links. An Agori, named Berix, had evidently been attacked and held down by Baterra on the street during their initial assault on the Matoran City. Makuta Treperath had evidently confronted him, asking for the location of any device capable of picking up radio frequencies. Since Berix was a former member of the village of Tajun, he knew of the radio device and its whereabouts. The Baterra had then proceeded to storm the Order headquarters, and locate the radio device. What Treperath and the Pedagogue were planning to do with it, however, was still a mystery. What puzzled them the most, however, was the fact that after the confrontation within the Order Headquarters, all Baterra troops had withdrawn from the city, as if regrouping for a more important objective elsewhere.

 

Now, Synheith was seated in a medical chamber, watching Turaga Nokama and Toa Gaaki attend to Gresh, who lay unconcious on a makeshift bed. Kyry and Likara were present nearby too, and Kiina stood across from him, pacing around in obvious concern, not taking her eyes off Gresh for one moment. 

 

Treperath, he fumed, I could have killed you. I could have fired my pulse laser, right at your face, shattered your armor, and Tobduk would've finished you off. Then the Baterra would have killed us all, but it would have been a price to pay for your life. 

 

An Agori courier arrived, carrying a large box, flanked by two Toa escorts. 

 

"Here it is," said Nokama, retrieving the box from the Agori. Opening it, she revealed the fabled Mask of Life - the Kanohi Ignika, once worn by Mata Nui, the being who had helped save all of Bara Magna a year ago from the Skrall, and the former protector and Great Spirit of the Matoran. Even now, his soul was said to reside in the Ignika, his thoughts and dreams locked up within it. 

 

So you're Mata Nui, thought Synheith. It was certainly strange to come face-to-face, in a sense, with the Spirit whom he had once been told watched over him, when he still lived in the old Matoran Universe.

 

You were the guardian of Unity, Duty, Destiny, those three virtues they taught us to guard to the death. I wonder if you knew those were programmed into you by Verectorian. I wonder if you knew that you were just a pawn used in a larger game between two opposing forces.  

 

"Anything wrong?" Likara put a hand on his shoulder. It was as if she could sense his confusion and his mood. Synheith shook his head.

 

"Whatever life force that has been drained out of him, this Mask can restore," said Nokama. Gently, with a pair of pincers, she took hold of the Ignika, then brushed it against the side of Gresh's helmet. 

 

Almost immediately, the green-armored warrior's muscles seemed to relax, and in a few suspenseful moments, his eyes flashed wide open. 

 

"Where am I? What happened! What happened to the cave - and the sarcophagus!" 

 

"We'll have time to fill you in later," said Likara, standing. "A lot has happened."

 

***

 

An hour later, Synheith found himself standing guard at the gate of the central city square, where Turaga Vakama and the head of the Agori villages, Raanu, had organized a public address about the events that had happened earlier that day. Frenzied Matoran and Agori quickly packed in to listen to their talk. Synheith had been called to stand guard outside the square on short notice, in case the Baterra returned. Gresh was still recuperating with the others back in the medical chamber.

 

"I have just returned from negotiations with the Skrall," Raanu announced, in his usual histrionic manner, "and their leader, Stronius, has agreed to certain conditions of mutual peace and amity. The Skrall and peace with them is a reminder that we have endured much as a society, and, in light of this new threat, we will continue to endure and survive." 

 

Raanu sat down, and Vakama rose to the podium. Synheith had heard the Turaga speak once before, and his voice was nothing short of charismatic and commanding, radiating  an aura of a wise old sage. 

 

"Citizens of the Matoran City, my old friends, as Raanu has said, I applaud all of you for your endurance. But, it is with a sorrowful heart, that I must announce this - we are entering another instance of what we Matoran as a whole have become too accustomed too in the past few hundred years. We are at war again." 


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Internment - Ask Makuta Returns


#10 Offline Karzhani the Utahraptor

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Posted Jan 11 2013 - 05:56 AM

Chapter IX: Pawns 

 

Synheith squirmed uneasily in his seat. Around him, seated in the neatly ordered rows of chairs in the briefing room, were more than a hundred Toa and Glatorian, who constituted the majority of the city's primary defense forces. The only warriors absent were those who had been redeployed elsewhere to preserve public security and comfort the population. The chamber was large, with an uncharacteristically high ceiling, and the typical whitewashed walls that seemed to be the Order's preferred background. Behind him was a large set of blast doors, with two heavily armed Order agents standing on each side. In front of him was a prominent central stage, with a podium positioned to its right. Gresh was seated directly in front of him, looking surprisingly energetic for someone who had just been revived from a deep coma. 

 

Tobduk slowly got up from the first row of seats, walking up the steps to the stage, and approached the podium. His posture, gait, and constant fidgeting with his armor betrayed what appeared to be a feeling of anxiety, or edginess, and Synheith was mildly troubled to see the normally relaxed Order leader in such a state. Tobduk cleared his throat, and spoke. 

 

"My fellow guardians of the will of Mata Nui, and the protectors of the unity of Spherus Magna, to those of you who have been sleeping through the preceding combat, you might be interested to know that we are at war again." 

 

His voice boomed and resounded off the walls of the room. The words we are at war again echoed several times, then faded to silence. But in Synheith's mind, those words kept sounding, a truth that he was still as of yet unwilling to accept. 

 

We have just emerged from the greatest war I have ever known, he thought, and here we are, facing another challenge, of equal magnitude, against a being, who, like the last one, plans to tear our society to shreds. 

 

Tobduk continued speaking. "Our adversary appears to have taken some interest in a signal we found on our basement radio wave receptor. It consists of a series of auditory notes, recurring every two minutes in a seemingly random fashion, that has been repeating itself since at least ten thousand years ago. We have dubbed it the Enigma Signal."  

 

A murmur passed through the crowd of assembled Toa and Glatorian as Tobduk described the nature of the signal. 

 

"The interest our foes have in this makes it an imperative for us to track down the origin, and find out the purpose, of that signal. Perhaps that way we can better understand their motives. Our auditory expert Toa Krakua has managed to pin down the source of the signal to a set of coordinates nine thousand kilometers northwest of the Matoran City. That is an almost completely unexplored region on what was once the Northern part of Bara Magna, and aerial surveys have shown thus far that it consists of a series of massive rugged mountain ranges, stretching for hundreds of kilometers in all directions, with heavy cloud cover that shrouds much of its surface. If anyone is still broadcasting the signal, they will be there." 

 

Tobduk paused for a moment, then looked up from his notes and gazed squarely at the audience, particularly the back row where Synheith was seated.

 

"And I want you to find them." 

 

Oh, so now I'm being addressed to personally? Synheith rolled his eyes. 

 

"I will be accepting a team of four volunteers," Tobduk said, "the rest of you are needed to guard the city against further attacks. You will be given a single Thornatus, supplies for ten days, and weapons. So, who is up for some....adventure?" 

 

Kiina, seated somewhere to his front, almost immediately hopped to her feet. 

 

"I'm not going to pass up a chance to help discover more about the threat looming over us," she said firmly, with a trace of anticipation in her voice. 

 

"Neither am I," said Gresh, getting to his feet slowly but surely. 

 

Likara stood up too, saying nothing, then stared at Synheith. 

 

Go on, her expression read, after all, you've worked with us before. And I know you can't stand leaving the problem unresolved. 

 

Tobduk shifted his head subtly, so that he too seemed to be looking at Synheith in the eye. 

 

Go on, his features hinted as well, do the right thing. 

 

Why should I volunteer to go on some inconsequential quest with this motley crew, leaving the Matoran City behind? Isn't Tobduk inducing me to breach my duty? he thought. 

 

But what is my duty? Do I even have one now? With Mata Nui gone? Is my obligation still to help the Matoran? Or is it to pursue my own end - that of stopping Treperath? 

 

Treperath. I will restore the honor you took from me, Makuta. 

 

And so, silently, for the sake of stopping his greatest foe, for the sake of solving his greatest personal challenge, Synheith stood up, in an instant connecting his fate with those of the other three. 

 

*** 

 

The elite Skrall warrior Stronius laughed rudely and pounded the table in front of him. 

 

"Military aid? Skrall have never negotiated such a treaty. We fight for no one. To do so would be deeply....not honorable." 

 

Ackar stared at the warrior before him, incredulous, enraged, and disappointed. A year before, he and Stronius would have never thought they would be sitting down across from each other at a table. If they ever came within arm's length of one another, their first thought would have been to strangle or shoot at the other party. But these were different circumstances, and times had changed. 

 

"Firstly, Stronius, I think you meant 'dishonorable'. But next - you have men and troops to spare. Can't you have a heart for once, and help a fellow member of Spherus Magna?" 

 

Stronius stared at him and frowned, as if seriously considering his proposal. Ackar was aware that he had come to the Skrall base alone, and that at any point in time this tenuous pretense of peace could break apart and Stronius could order his massacre. The Matoran and Agori had only just negotiated a peace treaty and ceasefire with the Skrall a month ago. After their defeat at Roxtus, the Skrall warriors had set up camp further downriver, and had managed to survive there and rebuild their society. With Tuma deposed, Stronius had assumed command of both military and civil affairs. 

 

Ackar decided to press further. 

 

"Your people, more than anyone else on this planet, know of the sheer destruction and terror that the Baterra can bring. Would you not pass up a chance to defeat them, once and for all?" 

 

Stronius' expression seemed to change slightly. Then he turned and barked an order through the open doorway behind him. 

 

"Major Branar! Come!" 

 

Moments later, a tall, muscular. warrior class Skrall, with atypical green armor, strolled into the chamber casually, as if unfazed by Stronius' shouting. Ackar almost immediately recognized this as the Skrall who had commanded the haphazard defense of Roxtus a year earlier: he had tried to rally the Skrall troops to resist the huge being made out of a amalgamation of Scarabax Beetles, but quickly lost control of the situation. If he had not been demoted, this would make him one of the highest ranked officers in the Skrall military, on par with an Elite class Skrall. 

 

"Yes?" Branar said, his voice carrying a hint of insubordination. 

 

"This Glatorian suggests we help his people fight the Baterra, and their leader," Stronius said, making a conscious effort not to spit when he pronounced the word 'Glatorian'. "Do we have enough soldiers?" 

"We are never short of men, sir."  

 

"Good. If I were to ask you to lead, would you want to?" 

 

"I suppose so." 

 

Ackar looked at Stronius, then slowly turned to Branar. Both warriors seemed to be in a state of indecision, a critical choice resting on their shoulders. 

 

"We'll think about it," replied Stronius finally, "and send you a messenger informing you of our reply within three days." 

 

*** 

5 hours later

Order of Mata Nui Headquarters Vehicle Bay 

 

Instead of the usual dull brown and black coloration, this particular Thornatus was painted a dark blue, with streaks of grey. That was not the only thing unusual about the vehicle: it also contained four passenger seats, eliminating the need for the dangerous practice of riding on the hood of the vehicle. Beyond that, it was outfitted with four state-of-the-art Midak Skyblaster cannon pods, which could be turned 180 degrees if required, on command of the driver. 

 

Synheith, Kiina, Likara and Gresh stood in front of the vehicle, scrutinizing it for a while, before Gresh spoke up. 

 

"So...who's going to drive?" 

 

"I can drive!" A somewhat high-pitched, enthusiastic voice sounded from behind the vehicle. Kyry slowly emerged from behind the back wheel, staring expectantly at the four tall warriors before him.

 

"Who are you?" said Kiina, "and how'd you get in here?" 

 

"His name is Kyry," said Likara, "and he should not be here." 

 

"Hey, I can speak for myself!" Kyry replied, indignant. "And I got in through there." 

 

He jerked his thumb at a small open hatch behind him that led to the ventilation shaft. 

 

"Good thing the Baterra didn't manage to find that," Gresh shrugged, "would've saved them a lot of gate-pounding."

 

"Guys, this is serious," Likara said, "Kyry, why are you here?" 

 

"I want to join you," Kyry said, his voice cautious, "the Makuta, with his Rahkshi destroyed my village, Fortitude. I want to him get his payback." 

 

"This isn't the time!" Likara exclaimed, "we're on a high-priority task that Tobduk needs us to complete! You're just an Agori, and we can't have you along. Just because you spent a night in a desert cave listening to Surel doesn't make you qualified to come!" 

 

Kyry crossed his arms over his chest. "I've had enough of this 'You're just an Agori' nonsense. Need I remind you that I helped repel the Raid on Vulcanus? And also, we have a contract, Likara. You protect me and let me go wherever I want so I can trade, and I pay you." 

 

"I'm pretty sure the Order's orders override our contact, Kyry. And no matter how good you think you are, Tobduk won't condone an extra passenger." 

 

"Well, clear it with him then." 

 

"We don't have the time for this, Likara," Kiina said. Synheith could tell that she was eager for more exploration, to discover new territories in this brave new world. "If he wants to come along, we can...make accommodations. This thing has five seats, after all." 

 

She turned to Gresh. "What do you think?"

"He seems like a fine Agori," the green-armored warrior shrugged.

 

Everyone now turned to Synheith. 

 

Not again. 

 

 "What do you say?" Likara asked. 

 

Synheith pondered long and hard. 

 

"Yes, so long as he's not driving." 

 


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#11 Offline Karzhani the Utahraptor

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Posted Jan 13 2013 - 08:41 AM

Chapter X: The Road that Time Forgot 

 

Synheith leaned back in his seat and stared up at the stars. It was approaching midnight now, and the sky above him was littered with millions of minute pinpricks of light, each of them gleaming in their individual majesty.

 

Am I a star, then? he wondered casually, do I exist on my own, in this unfair boundless world, a singularity among many others, free of any true burdens or responsibilities? Am I free to pursue my own ends, regardless of whether it fulfills the tenets of Unity, Duty and Destiny? 

 

They had been driving continuously for three days now, the modified Thornatus running on a seemingly inexhaustible fuel supply. Likara, Gresh, Synheith, and Kiina had taken turns driving the vehicle while the others rested, ensuring that they would arrive at their destination coordinates as soon as possible. Kyry, for the most part, had been silent, sulking in the back seat and occasionally voicing out his concerns, which were mostly brushed aside. 

 

Already, they had passed beyond the northernmost fringes of Agori and Matoran civilization, travelling past the vast deserts of Bara Magna, taking a right turn at the Black Spike Mountains. In the preceding twelve hours, they had maneuvered their way through a dense forest, driving on a narrow path that seemed as though it had been laid in place by an ancient civilization eons ago. Emerging from the forest, they had found a similar path that took them through a lush ravine. The forests, however, eventually thinned and gave way to another desert area, one that appeared to be uncharted. 

 

Currently, they were driving through a massive salt pan, flat ground stretching out in all directions as far as the eye could see, save for a mesa to their right. The air was cool, although not chillingly cold like the desert nights on the Bara Magna wasteland. Every minute they drove took them one step closer to finding the source of the Enigma Signal, and, with that, hopefully finding out what their foe was after. 

 

Likara was presently at the wheel, looking as though she was doing her best to stay awake. Kiina and Gresh had gotten off their seats and were sitting together above the rear wheel of the vehicle, talking to each other quietly; Synheith had noticed that the pair was getting along particularly well. Kyry sat asleep in the seat next to him, his head resting on his arms. 

 

Synheith felt a marvelous sense of exhilaration, travelling in an unknown desert a vehicle at nearly a hundred kilometers per hour, with a crew he could trust (sort of), the air blowing in his face, the stars above him. There was no sign of a society anywhere near them, no sign of anything that would constrain him, or give him orders or duties he would have to follow. 

 

The monotony of the situation seemed to get to him, and he found himself slowly drifting off into exhaustion-induced slumber.

 

One moment he was sitting at the back seat of the Thornatus, and the next moment, he found himself standing, back in the room at Destral, more than a year ago, locked in the shadowy grip of the power of Makuta Treperath. He struggled against the bonds, even as the Makuta slowly stepped towards him. Everything seemed to be happening in slow motion. 

 

"To pay respect to a simple formality, my name is Makuta Treperath. What might yours be?"

The words sounded distant, detached, as if he were viewing the entire event through a muffled glass window. With a sudden strength that surprised even himself, Synheith suddenly managed to tear through the chains of shadow, landing on his feet, and spun to face the Makuta. Before his adversary could react, he had already taken aim with his pulse laser and fired three blasts squarely at the Makuta's head. 

 

Trepearth seemed unfazed by this, and countered with his own weapon. Synheith rolled to the side, charged forward, and thrust the sharp tip of his staff slowly into the Makuta's armor. This time, however, instead of fighting back, Treperath seemed to be asking him questions, inducing him to doubt his loyalty to Mata Nui. 

 

"Who says you must live by Unity Duty and Destiny?" 

 

Synheith pulled his weapon back and slammed the sharp end of it against the Makuta's shoulder armor again. There was a sharp crack and the inner substance - the greenish gaseous Antidermis - of the Makuta began to slowly began to leak out. Even then, Treperath was constantly launching a barrage of questions, all of which Synheith ignored. As the Makuta's substance finally fully leaked out of his armor, however, there came one final, startling question. Synheith didn't hear this in the Makuta's voice - he heard it in his own. 

 

"Why serve the virtues of Mata Nui when Mata Nui is no more?" 

 

*** 

 

7 Hours Later

 

Synheith awoke with a start. The dream had shaken him badly - not just because it reminded him of his defeat at Destral  - but because it had also reminded him that he lacked a purpose, and he lacked a higher principle or entity to defend or honor.  

Likara had retired to sleep already; Gresh was now at the wheel, Kiina still sitting beside him, an impatient look on her face. The veteran Glatorian had hardly been able to conceal her excitement once they had veered east of the Black Spike Mountains. To her, every inch of new ground they were covering was another component of the grand new world that had never been explored. 

 

They were nearing the mountain range which Tobduk had directed them to; the rays of the rising sun illuminated the outline of gargantuan peaks in the distance. 

 

"Funny we haven't run into any of those Baterra yet," Gresh voiced out loud, "perhaps they don't come this far north." 

 

Synheith shrugged. "Let's hope it stays that way." 

 

"Keep driving and focus on the target," Kiina gave Gresh a friendly nudge, "we're almost there." 

 

By midday, they had reached the end of the massive salt pan expanse, and found themselves in the shadow of one of the huge mountains. Driving up an incline that appeared to lead to a natural path between two mountains, the crew soon found themselves surrounded by a thick, heavy, fog, that limited their vision and forced them to continue to rely on their instinctual sense of direction and push on. They soon came to a narrow rock path between both mountains, with a hundred-foot drop to a gorge far below on either side. 

 

"Looks like we'll have to cross this to get to the designated coordinates," Kiina shrugged, "be careful." 

 

Cautious driving eventually led them across the bridge, which was possibly a natural formation, onto a road carved into the dark brown cliff face of the nearest mountain, a road which was definitely not a natural formation. 

 

"Looks like someone built this," said Gresh, "but who, and for what? And do you think whoever constructed this route is behind the Enigma Signal?" 

 

"Keep your eyes on the road," Kiina muttered, "I'll do the questioning." 

 

There was a deep valley to their left, shrouded in fog. Synheith wondered whether it was natural for such mist to form in the middle of a rugged mountain-and-desert terrain.

 

This entire place gives off the feel of being unbelievably mysterious, he thought, who could ever live so far away from the rest of civilization? 

 

His thoughts were interrupted by the sight of what appeared to be a figure lying in the middle of the road ahead. 

 

"Wait, stop," he said, "what's that?" 

 

Nearing the object, they found that it was what appeared to be a gray suit of armor, lying face-up, with strange symbols and signs engraved all around it. It seemed to be built of a similar material as the Pedagogue's combat suit, and there was a large hole puncturing its abdomen. Gresh ground the vehicle to a halt, and Synheith got off to examine the armor. Peering inside the hole, Synheith could see the bones of whoever had once occupied the suit. But that did not interest him. What made him fascinated was that the designs on the armor looked incredibly familiar, as if he had seen them before, in his dreams. 

 

"Whatever this is," Synheith concluded after a while, "its dead. Keep going." 

 

*** 

 

The hour after they had discovered the armor, they had continued their uneventful drive through the mountain path, until they came to a point where the road seemed to reach a summit, with an apparent sharp downward incline on the other side. Likara had awoken by then, and she noticed that there was something jutting out of the ground near the summit.

 

"That seems to be a sign," she said, "let's go check it out."

 

Gresh stopped the vehicle near the sign so they could get a good look at it. The writing was similar to the one they had seen in the Pedagogue's coffin room - a more smooth, antiquated form of Matoran writing that Synheith was unable to read.

 

"Oh, that writing again," muttered Gresh.

 

"Hey!" Kiina suddenly exclaimed, "I think I can read it!"

She turned to Gresh. "Remember when we found the Great Being Laboratory under the Bara Magna desert? I've been spending some time there studying the words, and I think I can figure out the script. Its pretty simple actually, it works phonetically and reads like Matoran."

 

She squinted at the sign.

 

"K-E-E-P A-H-E-A-D" she read aloud. Then she focused on the single word carved beneath that, and as she deciphered it, her eyes grew wide. 

 

"It reads 'I-L-L-U-M-U-S'. Up ahead is the Illumus stronghold." 


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#12 Offline Karzhani the Utahraptor

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Posted Feb 01 2013 - 04:12 AM

Chapter XI: Shadows

 

Synheith stood on the edge of the cliff, scrutinizing the massive valley laid out before him. He could, with some degree of certainty, make out the shapes of what appeared to be large structures built into the ground - imposing fortresses with towering keeps and high walls. The fog that shrouded the valley began to clear, slowly, as if anticipating their arrival. Synheith could now see, definitively, the outlines of multiple buildings, some in severe states of disrepair, tilting to the side at odd angles. The entire scene looked as like a still picture of an old-fashioned Matoran City in the midst of an earthquake - buildings lying shattered, half-sunk into the soil, as if a terrible force had obliterated this place, and driven out those who inhabited it. Within a cluster of the structures, he could make out the shape of a long, thin tower, noticeably taller than all everything else, leaning to the right at an almost 45-degree angle. On the opposing side of the valley, the vertical facade of the mountain range stretched up towards infinity. The entire area gave an insurmountable sense of desolation, as if nothing was ever meant to inhabit this place, and nature had rushed to claim the occupants of whoever had built the structures below. 

 

"This must be Illumus," Likara appeared beside him, interrupting his thoughts. 

 

"It would have made sense for them to set up their fortress in this place," Gresh chipped in, casually strolling to his side. Kiina and Kyry soon followed suit, eager to catch a glimpse of what lay in the valley. 

 

Synheith pointed at the tall tower he had noticed earlier. 

 

"See that place?" he said, to no one in particular, "that must be where the signal's originating from." 

 

Kiina gasped. "This means there could be someone still alive down there, transmitting! We could even come face-to-face with a real life Great Being!" 

 

Gresh pointed to a winding mountain trail that led down into the valley. "Looks like we can get down there from that path," he said, "but its not wide enough for us to drive the Thornatus; we will need to leave the vehicle here." 

 

"Its a risk worth taking," Kiina shrugged. 

 

"We don't know what we'll find down there, and whether it will be hostile," Likara said, with a hint of doubt in her voice, "maybe I should stay here with Kyry, to protect both him and the Thornatus." 

 

"Aren't we in this together?" Kyry retorted, "if Kiina goes down there, then we all go!" 

 

Likara rolled her eyes and was about to come up with a response, when Gresh pointed at the rock path he had spotted earlier. Everyone turned their heads to see that Synheith was already heading down into the valley. 

 

*** 

 

1 Hour Later

Amid the Ruins of the Illumus Family Stronghold

 

Synheith slowly pushed the gate open, and peered inside. There was no discernible movement beyond the gate, only a large open area, flanked on all sides by walls, with a few withered trees and pieces of rubble within. There was what seemed to be an outline of another gate at the other side of the courtyard, but the thick fog limited the range of his vision. 

 

"All clear," he whispered. Gresh, Kiina, Likara, and finally Kyry followed him through the gate. Kyry had come despite some protest from Likara, and Kiina, in the interests of time, had to insist that everyone go into the valley. 

 

Stepping into the courtyard, Synheith noted that there were gates built into the walls on their left and right as well. The most forbidding doorway, however, was the one he had spotted earlier on the other end of the courtyard, a massive monolith gate made of what seemed like solid rock. 

 

"We must be inside the fortress compound," Kiina said, "looks like there are multiple places to search. Let's split up and find out if anyone's left here. We'll meet back in this courtyard in half an hour."

 

Likara opened her mouth as if to disagree, but decided against it. 

 

"If they're no objections, I'm going with Kiina, we'll search for what's beyond the door on the left." Gresh said this while inching closer to Kiina, then putting his arm around her. 

 

"In that case, I'll protect Kyry while searching for what's beyond the door on the right," Likara said. 

Everyone looked at Synheith, suddenly realizing they had left him out. 

 

"Well," he said quietly, "looks like I'm on my own. Just the way I like it." 

 

***

 

A couple of minutes later, Synheith found himself standing alone, still in the courtyard, blasting away with his pulse staff at the metal lock to the huge stone door, trying to find a way to open it. The others had found that their respective gateways were not locked. With a final, frustrated bolt of fire, he managed to soften the metal on the lock such that a single blast from his pulse weapon shattered it. Triumphantly, he pushed open the door, which groaned open, inch by inch, to reveal a dark space beyond. 

 

Synheith's eyes took a while to adjust to the sudden absence of light, so, leaving the door ajar, he took a tentative step into the room. The floor was made of polished marble, the kind highly valued by Matoran. The light from the open door illuminated a single important feature of the room - a long oak table at its center, with chairs positioned on either side. As his eyes grew accustomed to the darkness, Synheith noticed a few more things - a faded carving of a blue hexagon on the wall, with two opposing crescents within it, and a piece of parchment that lay on one end of the oak table. Everything was covered in a thick layer of dust - no one had stepped into this place for millennia, it seemed. 

 

He walked over and examined the parchment. On it was a sequence of multiple lines of characters, the frustratingly familiar ones that were used by the Great Beings and resembled, but was distinct from, contemporary Matoran writing.

 

 Kiina would know how to read this, he thought, better save it for her. It might crumble to dust if I try to pick it up, so its best to leave it where it is. 

 

Searching the rest of the room, Synheith did not find anything worthy of note. One of the walls was decorated from floor-to-ceiling with brief groups of the same unreadable letters, which might have been names of some kind, but did not seem to be of much significance. He found a drawer beneath the oak table, but it was empty. 

 

Returning to the courtyard soon after, Synheith was quickly joined by Gresh and Kiina. 

 

"We didn't find anything important, much less anything alive," Kiina said, her voice dripping with disappointment, "we did, however, find a passage to the section of the fortress with the tall broadcasting tower-thing you saw earlier. A few notices pasted nearby do confirm that it is the transmitter of an automatic signal, made to repeat itself every few seconds, and is powered by geothermal energy. This would be the source of the Enigma Signal." 

 

"That, of course, raises the question of what happened to the Great Beings who lived here," Gresh cut in, "perhaps the automated Enigma Signal was intended as a call for help, like a mayday or S.O.S signal, sent out by the members of Illumus to seek aid when their fortress came under threat."

 

"Did you find any hint that the Baterra invaded this place? Any shattered pieces of armor or bodies?" Synheith inquired. 

 

Kiina shook her head. "As far as I can tell, it looks like whoever lived here fled long before its invaders arrived. Besides the structural destruction, are no signs, as far as I can tell, of a two-sided struggle. Its almost as if the Baterra came here, found an abandoned fortress, partially ravaged it, and moved on."

 

"We did find some hastily scribbled phrases on tablets, perhaps used as records or announcements," Gresh said, "they don't seem to make much us, though."

 

Kiina nodded in agreement. "The few I translated just yield mysterious phrases, such as "TO THE KEEPER BELONGS THE ASCENSION" or "THE BACKUP LIES BELOW THE SEA". Either my translation is flawed, or we do not have the...context, to decipher these notes."  

 

This prompted Synheith to remember the parchment he had spotted earlier. 

 

"Kiina," he said, "there's a piece of paper with what looks like a few lines of text on it, in the room I searched beyond that door. I believe it might be of some significance." 

 

*** 

 

Leaning forward with her hands on the oak table, Kiina squinted at the parchment in the dim light provided by Synheith's flame. Gresh had stayed out in the courtyard, waiting for Kyry and Likara to return. Muttering to herself, Kiina abruptly stood up and faced Synheith. 

 

"This is a poem," she said, "written by someone named Arkalogus, who was the housekeeper of Illumus, apparently. It reads: 

 

Standing still, I lift my cup, drink my wine; 

its blood-red hue betrays our final fate

a fate my late master could not divine - 

a condemnation to warfare and hate 

 

My Lord has fallen to the deceiver; 

yet his parting wish remains intact - 

despite the actions of this false teacher

his construct, his plan, are ours to enact. 

 

Across the azure carpet, a bird flies

alone, it will reach the north harbor 

and at the hills, it will arrive 

to glimpse at the product of our labor 

 

And I write this in the security

despite the worries my soul begets 

although I may be dashed against the facade of obscurity - 

I will have no regrets." 

 

Synheith stood still, pondering. This was obviously written after Verectorian's death, but what was its subject - the enigmatic "construct" and "plan" that had been completed? And how was it linked to the Decryption Crystal, the Enigma Signal, and most of all, the Ring of Vitality? Was it a separate matter entirely? 

 

Distracted by his thoughts, Synheith leaned back against the wall behind him. The moment his back brushed against the blank rock surface, there was a sudden movement - and a section of the wall pulled away to reveal a hidden compartment behind it. Synheith immediately recoiled, then turned around and aimed his weapon at a possible concealed threat. 

 

From within the compartment, an empty suit of armor - sleek and gray, stared back at him. He relaxed. This was probably just an emergency combat suit, hidden from view to be used in the event of an attack. There was a small plague, inscribed with the same unreadable characters, lying at the feet of the armor. A single, detail, however, above all others, caught his eye - one of monumental implication. 

 

The helmet of the armor suit had been punctured - a projectile had shattered the front of visor, and made an exit hole at the back. Whoever had worn this had suffered a fatal wound to the face. 

 

Kiina translated the plague, which confirmed his suspicions about the identity of the armor's former owner. 

 

"Here rests the armor of our Lord and Master Verectorian Illumus, 57th Lord of the Honorable Succession To Illumus,  Member of the Council of Elders, Guardian of the Ascendancy, Protector of the Code. Retrieved during the Battle of Winding Canyon, before total defeat by Baterra Forces. His body has been cremated."

 

Synheith reached out, his hand brushing against the armor, wiping away a layer of dust on its chestplate to reveal what he now realized was the Symbol of Illumus - a blue hexagon, with two crescents inscribed within it. 

 

"Kiina! Synheith!" Gresh's voice interrupted the reverential silence of the situation. "Kyry and Likara have found something important." 

 

Likara stepped into the room, and blurted out, "Kyry and I found a hidden chamber, a room which perhaps served as a military headquarters. On the table, there was a map of Illumus and the surrounding area, and a single point is circled in red - just a few klicks north of here, in the mountains, there is what is labelled as a "Baterra Factory". 

 

Synheith struggled to remember Surel's explanation of how the Baterra were produced. 

 

"Surel told us that Verectorian broke up our planet to separate the fortresses and factories of the Baterra, which were in the north, from civilization, so that they could be neutralized," he said, slowly. "Now that our world has been merged again, the Pedagogue is probably going to need to repopulate the ranks of his army. This means that he'd be headed for that factory first. We need to get there before he does. Shut that place down." 

 

"Our duty," Likara said firmly, "was to investigate the Enigma Signal, and report back to Tobduk. If that thing is really a factory, the five of us don't stand a chance against an army of Baterra." 

 

"You're always too scared to go find new things and explore new places, aren't you?" Kyry said, wagging a finger at her. 

 

"No, I'm trying to protect what matters!" Likara began to raise her voice, "that's why I'm so insistent that you always stay put. Because you're an Agori, and I need to protect you." 

 

"Maybe Agori aren't as weak as you - " 

 

"Quiet!" Synheith announced authoritatively. "I will go, find the Baterra Factory, and take necessary action." 

 

"That's disobeying an order!" Likara protested, "Tobduk wanted us to report back to him! And its our duty that we be back at the city, to protect the Matoran in case the Pedagogue returns!"

 

"My duty?" Synheith could feel a strange anger rising within him, "to what!"

 

Likara seemed caught off guard. "Your duty to Mata Nui!"  

 

Synheith frowned. "Why serve the virtues of Mata Nui when Mata Nui is no more?" 

 

Likara stepped back, as if Synheith had uttered a great blasphemy. Kiina and Gresh shifted uncomfortably. 

 

"Fine," she said, her voice full of emotion, "risk your life disobeying an order! Go ahead!"

 

"Hey, I'll come with you too!" Kyry said, stepping forward, but Synheith held out his hand. 

 

"I will go alone," Synheith said, more calmly this time. "You are right. All of you have a duty to protect the Matoran. Return to the city, report to Tobduk. I will investigate this matter by myself." 

 

Kiina put a hand on his shoulder. 

 

"This is suicide, and you know it. As a friend, and a fellow living being, I can't let you go in yourself." 

 

As if in response to Kiina's statement, the helmet of Verectorian's combat suit behind them suddenly fell off its hook, inexplicably, fell to the ground, and rolled to Synheith feet. He bent over, picked up the helmet, and put it on. Staring at his teammates through the shattered visor, Synheith spoke. 

 

"I'm not going in alone. The ghost of Verectorian - and all those whom the Baterra have killed over the years - will be with me." 


Edited by Karzhani the Utahraptor, Nov 28 2013 - 09:27 AM.

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#13 Offline Karzhani the Utahraptor

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Posted May 19 2013 - 11:58 PM

Chapter XII: Going Solo 

 

Synheith, alone, slowly walked towards the rim of the valley, leaving the devastated ruin of Illumus far behind him. Prior to splitting up, Synheith had agreed that he would travel to the supposed location of the Baterra factory on foot, holding on to the map of the region Kyry had found inside the Illumus fortress. Kiina, Gresh, and Kyry would drive back to the Matoran City with their Thornatus and report their findings to Tobduk. "You'll be fine," Kiina had said. 

 

Before leaving, Synheith had decided to don the suit of armor they had found inside the central room, the armor that had apparently belonged to Verectorian. It seemed well-designed, and aside from the hole in its helmet, was pretty sturdy, probably having capacity to soak up a lot of damage before giving way. He had discovered, to his pleasant surprise, that unlike conventional modern Toa or Glatorian armor, which was made out of heavy chunks of metal that required great strength to operate, this suit was sleek and lightweight, made of several interlocking gray pieces that completely covered his body. Beyond that, the armor seemed to possess advanced, seemingly mystical capabilities - when he consciously made the decision to lift his arm, for example, the armor would somehow predict his action even before he had moved the limb, and the arm piece of the suit would lift itself, mechanically, in tandem with his actual movement. This made motion in the armor suit almost effortless. The gauntlet of the suit concealed several buttons, hidden by a retractable surface layer, but Synheith had not discovered their function yet. 

 

Even though he did not openly admit it, Synheith felt a great sense of unbridled power and freedom, perhaps amplified by the fact that he was, once again, on his own. More than that, however, was the aura of strength the suit seemed to radiate- and the way it seemed to, subtly, invigorate and empower him as the successor to a powerful force of good. It was almost as if the soul of Verectorian resided in the suit, giving Synheith his divine stamp of approval, spurring him on towards his destiny. 

 

Or maybe I'm just slowly going insane, thought Synheith, after all, rationally, there's nothing to prove that the Baterra Factory still exists, or this suit of armor has any worth beyond a piece of metal once worn by someone important. 

 

Synheith caught himself. He couldn't afford to have such thoughts, not now when the nature of his mission was so critical. Instead, he focused on gathering his thoughts on sieving through the massive, confusing amounts of information that he had been presented with in the past few days. Slowly, the links began to form in his mind. 

 

After being freed, the Pedagogue and Treperath first headed towards the Matoran City, carrying the Crystal, and were found in a radio chamber in the Order Headquarters, tuned in to the Enigma Signal. 

 

Tobduk said the purpose of the Crystal was a "means to a power". 

 

The origin of the Enigma Signal is the keep of Illumus, Verectorian's home. 

 

Could it be that the Decryption Crystal, as its name suggests, decrypts and reveals a code embedded in the Enigma Signal? 

 

This was not a sudden realization that hit him, but rather a slow, sinking conclusion that he realized he needed to communicate to someone. Then he internalized the fact that he was, once again, truly alone. 

 

*** 

 

Kiina silently piloted the Thornatus through the vast salt lake, Likara, Gresh, and Kyry seated behind her. Their passage had been uncharacteristically silent. No one voiced out the irony that perhaps it was the lonesome Toa of Fire's absence, that had caused them to be quieter, for some reason. 

 

"Are you sure Synheith is going to be okay?" Gresh spoke what was on everyone's mind. 

 

"He'll do fine," replied Likara, "he's been through worse before. Trust me." 

 

As an afterthought, she added with a smile: "you seem oddly concerned by someone who can't seem to tolerate you". 

 

Gresh shrugged. "I don't know, but in the short time we've worked together, we've been like teammates. I'm new to this whole concept of 'Toa Teams' that I keep hearing about, but one thing I constantly hear is this that Toa teams are supposed to stick together, help each other out." 

 

***

 

Tobduk's Office was consumed in a flurry of messengers, secretaries, and workers, scurrying around delivering and coordinating reports and intelligence regarding their opponents, as well as coordinating their own military operations. Everyone in the office seemed to pause for   moment, however, as a single Rock Agori, normally a feared enemy of the Glatorian, strode into the office, carrying a folded letter, escorted by a tall Order member. The odd pair approached Tobduk's table, and the Order agent spoke. Tobduk raised his head, appearing mildly disinterested at the fact that one of his sworn opponents had just materialized in his office carrying a letter. 

 

"He's from the Skrall," the Order agent said, "carrying important news." 

 

His interest aroused, Tobduk leaned forward, and the Agori wordlessly handed him the paper. Tobduk hastily unfolded the letter and voraciously read its contents. 

 

To the Leaders of Matoran and Agori Civilization, 

 

After much deliberation, our decision to fight on your side is final. The Skrall will honor their promise to stand by you to the end, until either the Baterra or all our cities are turned to dust. Supreme Commander Stronius is mobilizing his soldiers right now, to help you crush the Baterra beneath our heel. I expect to hear from you soon. 

 

Skrall Major Branar

 

Tobduk put the letter down, and slowly looked up, a contemplative look on his face. He turned to the Order Agent, still standing attentively at his table. 

 

"Go and escort this Agori back to his transport," he said, "in the meantime - help me congratulate Ackar for his diplomacy - now, with this new ally, we have the power to make a move back at our opponent - and we no longer stand alone."

 

*** 

 

 

Author's Note: Sorry for the short length, I fell asleep while writing this and actually dreamt of being attacked by Baterra. 

 

 


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#14 Offline Karzhani the Utahraptor

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Posted Nov 28 2013 - 10:45 AM

Chapter XIII: Phantoms 

 

Synheith quickened his pace. It was late in the evening, and he had walked a considerable distance in the preceding few hours, crossing the outer edge of the valley and emerging into a large barren plain flanked on all sides by cliffs. To his north, a dry riverbed snaked across the landscape, and beyond that was a cluster of vegetation, growing at the base of a large mountain. From Gresh's description of the surrounding terrain based on the map he had seen in the Illumus fortress, the Baterra Factory would be either within, or close to, the mountain before him. That was, of course, if there was any factory left to find.  

 

He could see storm clouds gathering to the east, obscuring the the setting sun. 

 

Got to move faster, he thought, I might be able to find shelter in the trees up ahead. 

 

By nightfall he had reached the bank of the dry river, and managed to cross it without much difficulty. Conjuring a small flame as a source of light, he moved cautiously into the sparse forest.

 

Something did not feel right - he had the uneasy feeling that something was wrong with this place. Something innately unnatural. 

Then it struck him. Most forests, even the most uninhabited, or the most inhospitable places, have some form of ambient noise. There is always the sound of crickets chirping, always the sound of an animal scurrying across the leaf litter. This forest was completely silent. This place was seemingly devoid of natural life, as though someone or something had purged every living being from the area. In fact, Synheith had not seen a single other living thing since he exited the Illumus Keep. 

 

He kept on walking, trying to convince himself that there was a logical explanation for the conspicuous lack of wildlife, one that did not involve Baterra or the Pedagogue. The highly advanced armor he was wearing seemed to sense his apprehension, if that were possible, and appeared to tighten a little bit over his body. 

 

He gradually became aware of the sound of someone else, another pair of feet, walking almost in unison with him, although quite a distance away. 

 

Crunch. Crunch. Crunch. 

 

He stopped. The other set of footfalls stopped too. 

 

Synheith shrugged. Probably it was just his weary mind fooling him. At worst, it was probably an overenthusiastic Zesk trying to stalk him. 

 

Crunch. Crunch. Crunch. 

 

Synheith stopped again. There was an eerie silence. 

 

"Who is there?" he declared, loud and clear, waving his flame around to scan the surroundings. 

 

There was no one. Far to his left, he thought he saw a shape flit out of the light from behind a tree and into the shadows. He looked again, and it was gone. 

 

He saw a flash of lightning in the distance, followed by the ominous, rumbling, sound of thunder. Rain began to fall - starting out with light intermittent drops, but slowly increasing its intensity until Synheith found himself in a steady downpour. The sound of the rain drowned out the sound of the footfalls he might have heard. However, being stalked was now the least of his concerns. The water kept dousing his flame, which was his only source of illumination. He took cover behind a large tree with a sprawling canopy, and conjured up another flame to assess his surroundings and re-orient himself. 

 

The attack came from the left. 

 

Something massive, strong, and agile slammed into him from the side, knocking him off his feet and into the mud. He landed on his arm, suddenly dazed, and slowly looked down in horror to see a huge tear on the left side of his armor suit. He glanced up, conscious of his surroundings again, and only caught a fleeting gaze of his attacker - a sizable mechanical being with black armor - as it disappeared into the trees. But he saw enough of his assailant to confirm that it was a Baterra, albeit a very large specimen. 

 

He struggled to get on his feet again. He then saw the most peculiar process unfold before his eyes - a silver, viscous liquid flowed from what seemed like within his armor suit, and poured into the rupture on its left side. Within seconds of its exposure to air, the liquid had hardened into metal, and the gap had been seamlessly sealed. 

 

There was no time to marvel at the technology, however, as the Baterra appeared from behind a nearby tree and charged at him again. This time, however, he was ready. He took his pulse staff, thrust it at the robot's torso, and impaled it as it approached him. He then triggered the staff, firing a pulse laser inside the Baterra's chest and causing the being's abdomen to explode. He retracted his staff and the robot's body collapsed lifeless into the mud before him. 

 

He rapidly became aware of two other shapes moving closer towards him from the surrounding foliage - perhaps the helmet he was wearing had enhanced his peripheral vision. He fired his pulse laser at one of the shapes as it neared his position, causing a startled Baterra to stumble out of the shadows. Synheith lunged at it with his staff and swung the weapon at its head, resounding with a large clang and throwing the creature off its feet. 

 

The second Baterra tried to ambush him from behind, but he was ready. Synheith turned and tackled it to the ground, and in the process dropping his pulse staff. Both beings clawed at each other vigorously, while at the same time trying to grab the dropped weapon. 

 

Synheith became aware of the sound of loud, booming laughter, over the roaring of the rain. Rolling over to retrieve his staff and quickly using it to dispatch the second Baterra, he raised his head in frustration and shouted: "Show yourself! Or are you too much of a coward?" 

 

"No, no, I am not." The familiar voice of Makuta Treperath seemed to come from everywhere at once. "Its just that I prefer to have minions do the dirty work for me." 

 

"Yes," said Synheith, making a sweep of his surroundings, "basically a coward." 

 

"No, Synheith, you are mistaken." Synheith spun around to come face to face with his cloaked nemesis, who had somehow materialized behind him. In the split second it took him to acknowledge his foe's presence, the Makuta's powerful telekinetic abilities had send him sprawling backwards, his body sinking into the mud.

 

"I am not a coward," Treperath continued, not moving a muscle. "I am not a coward because I defend what I believe in. You, on the other hand, pretend to defend a Mata Nui, a ruler, whose mandate to rule has expired."

 

Synheith shuddered a little, surprised at how easily the Makuta had read his thoughts.

 

"I know you - your fears, your insecurities, and your lack of faith in Mata Nui," Treperath continued, as lightning flashed overhead the rain intensified. "I have studied your mind, for my amusement, in much detail."

 

"And?" Synheith said, trying to buy time, hoping to distract his opponent until the ringing in his ears stopped and his armor could repair the damage inflicted by the fall. 

 

"The Pedagogue has a greater plan, and vision, for us all, more than your little Mata Nui ever did," Treperath pronounced, "and it might save you a lot of hurt if you stopped resisting it. After all, when it comes to the age-old question of which sovereign a hero should serve, there are no right answers." 

 

With much effort, Synheith struggled to his feet, adjusted his helmet, and stared deep into his opponent's eyes. 

 

"Sure," he said. "But there are wrong ones." 


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#15 Offline Karzhani the Utahraptor

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Posted Dec 12 2013 - 03:40 AM

Chapter XIV: The Skrall Return 

 

0600 Hours 
Skrall Base Camp, next to Skrall River 

 

Skrall Major Branar quietly rose from his bed, put on his uniform and boots, and ventured outside his tent. It was still the early hours of dawn; he could see a faint glimmer of orange light on the horizon in the east. He sighed. He had scarcely gotten three hours of sleep the night before, having retired to his tent after midnight, due to a meeting with other Skrall military leaders to draft war plans. He had spent the next couple of hours lying awake in bed, worrying about the future of the Skrall tribe, before finally drifting off into sleep at around three in the morning. Ever since his appointment as a military leader by Tuma a year earlier, he had found himself plagued by acute insomnia, due to the magnitude of his responsibilities and the anxieties that came with them. It did not help that following the collapse of the old Skrall regime and hierarchy, his illustrious military career had elevated him to the de facto second-in-command of the remaining Skrall forces, after Stronius. 

 

He paced over to the officer's mess hall, housed in a larger tent adjacent to his. A diminutive Rock Agori, who served as the cook for this particular camp, greeted him. 

 

"Good morning Major," he said, "early as always, I see." 

 

Branar nodded, noting that he was the first officer to arrive; the hall was completely empty except for the Agori cook. He took a seat at the table farthest from the entrance to the tent. The Agori promptly walked over to his seat to serve his breakfast. As he ate, Branar brooded over the challenges that were currently facing the Skrall and contemplated a possible course of action. 

 

We know the Baterra have come back, he thought, and we have an alliance with the Matoran and Agori. Our new allies have told us that the Baterra are more organized, more vicious, and seem to be lead by a powerful malicious entity. What could all this mean? And more importantly, how do we strengthen the Skrall military to face their old enemy, one that many of them are still terrified of, with renewed strength and tenacity? 

 

His thoughts were interrupted by the presence of a junior officer, one he had conferred with the day before and tasked with the job of evaluating and reporting on current Skrall operational readiness. 

 

"Major Branar," he said anxiously, "I have ordered the necessary inspections to be done on our soldiers. From preliminary reports, it appears that the two divisions of the Skrall military - about twenty thousand units in all, are ready to mobilize." 

 

Branar nodded. The night before, during their protracted meeting, he had convinced Stronius that he would need to bring such a large force to bear if there was any hope of defeating the Baterra. The truth was, many elites within the Skrall establishment, himself included, remained doubtful of the strength of Matoran and Agori forces, and whether there assistance would make any discernible difference in the coming war.

 

Branar waited as the officers gradually streamed in, and quickly ate their meals, making conversation along the way. When he was certain that most of them had finished eating, he rose from his seat and cleared his throat. Everyone suddenly fell silent. Satisfied that he had their attention, Branar began speaking. 

 

"Skrall warriors, it is time to tell your battle-weary soldiers the harsh truth - that we are at war again. We cannot let morale slip, neither can we slacken the discipline of our armies. Our old foes - the Baterra - refuse to leave civilization alone. It is in this light that we shall aid the Matoran and Agori in dispersing and annihilating them. Of course we do not forget the treachery of the Glatorian and their Agori friends. But they can be controlled - and they can be awed to submission by our military prowess. The Baterra cannot. It is time to give these robotic creatures a wake-up call, one that will make the name of the Skrall a symbol of fear and terror in their barbaric robot minds. And we shall burn all those that still choose to defy us!"

 

His speech was received with roars of approval from the assembled Skrall officers. After a brief pause, he walked back towards his seat, and went back to contemplating his worries. He could not let his anxieties show, however - no matter how insecure or doubtful he felt, he, as a Skrall leader, had to project an outward image of confidence and resolve. That was how Skrall warriors were supposed to live - fearless, unyielding, and above all, merciless. 

 

*** 

 

2 Hours Later

Tobduk's Office, Order of Mata Nui Headquarters, Matoran City

 

"Sir, Baterra attacks have increased in their intensity along the borders of the city. Throughout the night, our patrols had seven separate skirmishes with small groups of Baterra. We have a total of 31 casualties: 12 killed, 18 wounded, 1 missing. As far as we know, we successfully destroyed a single Baterra, and damaged 7." 

 

Tobduk frowned as the Matoran messenger verbally delivered his report. The numbers were worrying. Clearly, the battles fought last night were one-sided in favor of their opponents. He knew the Baterra could be vicious fighters, but he never thought that they were able to so easily decimate Matoran and Agori defenses. 

 

"Alright," he said, "acknowledged. Tell Trinuma to strengthen defenses along the borders by deploying Glatorian - Toa mixed teams as frequently as possible. Tell him to rotate shifts. Thanks." 

 

Troubled, he sat back in his chair, and turned his head to gaze out of the window at the new Matoran city. Even though they were technically in a state of war, there was no sign of panic or alarm in the streets. Matoran went about their daily work - travelling, trading, building, and so on, albeit with more frequent checks by security patrols.

 

And I certainly do hope, he thought, that it stays this way. I wonder how many of the Matoran below are really aware that their lives are hanging by a thread. 

 

His mind wandered to the team he had deployed to investigate the source of the Enigma signal, a whole four days ago. It was possible that they were on their way back, but then again, it was also possible that they had been attacked, ambushed, stranded - or worse. Somehow, despite the irrationality of it, he was convinced that the signal was of critical importance to their campaign against the Baterra - why else would the Pedagogue be so interested in it? 

 

The normally cynical and emotionless Tobduk suddenly found himself wishing that Synheith and his team were okay. 


Edited by Karzhani the Utahraptor, Dec 12 2013 - 03:46 AM.

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