Dear Tahu Stars,
I must regretfully inform you that my hypothesis regarding the deaths of Pohatu Mata and Kopaka Mata was… incorrect. Lewa Mata has assured me of that.
That said, I am not weary in the slightest. Yes, the Hero Factory capture did not work as planned. However, I do not think it is of much concern. I’m not certain how much attention you pay to your army, but the words fly to me that you and your army waste time in the Kitchen of all locations – and that you spend your days foolishly eating jellybeans. Never mind that, we’ll see in the end.
While your army spends its days eating candy – I don’t think I really want to ask how you’re eating in the first place – those sets I trust the most even now undertake a massive project with the Vezons, and when it is complete… you will never know where we came from. I do bid you good luck.
Hero Factory has fallen back as of late. It worries me, when they have pressed the advantage for so long. I don’t believe they have fallen back by chance… no, something is coming. I would advise you to prepare yourself, but you’re probably too busy eating jellybeans to even notice.
You really are a fool.
Chapter 3 – Only a Name
“Where… where are we?”
It was three weeks since the snowstorm. Not a second went by that Nex didn’t remember the encounter that had taken place during it.
Watch yourself, kid. You still haven’t mastered that glazed look you get when we talk.
Perhaps he was simply crazy. After all, it wasn’t like he could be provided with any proof that other sets heard weird voices inside of their heads. Then again, Nex 2.0 wasn’t weird so much as… mysterious.
I said watch yourself, you dope. Pay attention, this is going to be VERY important.
“Hey, Takanuva Stars.” Nex said, reaching forward and grabbing the Toa on his shoulder. “Where are we?”
“I’ll be able to answer that for you in a moment.”
Nex nodded, gulping nervously as he stared around the massive room – if he was correct, it was even larger than the Basement, the largest room in the house. There were no windows to be seen anywhere, but the room was pleasantly warm. He spotted Rocka and Evo by one of the walls, speaking with a Titan he didn’t recognize.
“Hey Nex, I’ll be back in a second. Stay here, will you? I just need to introduce you to someone.”
“Yeah, sure, whatever.”
He turned and watched Takanuva Stars as he entered the crowd of sets. The Stars Toa stopped next to two sets that Nex 2.0 silently identified as the Glatorian Strakk and Kiina – and it was immediately apparent that Nex’s phantom ally felt an animosity to both sets.
Which was strange, because as far as Nex remembered, Kiina had never factored into anything at all. Within seconds, Nex felt the familiar feeling as though a warm wave of water had washed over him, and he drifted away.
He discovered himself face to face with Nex 2.0 in the same all black space as before – presumably his brain, but Nex didn’t quite care to find out.
“Yes kid, I did.”
“What for? Is it about the Glatorian?”
“If you know what’s good for you here, keep your mouth shut.” For the first time since he’d met him, Nex 2.0 looked anxious. Almost as if –
“You’re hiding something.”
“You figure stuff out fast, kid. But you don’t need to know what I’m hiding just yet… just trust me. When the time is appropriate – and I believe that time will be coming soon – you’ll be told everything.”
“And what if I refuse? What if I make you tell me now?”
For a split second, Nex detected a glint in the eye of Nex 2.0, a shadow that flitted across the older hero’s face. He took an involuntary step back, but Nex 2.0 appeared normal once more. He appeared satisfied.
“Kid, I’m just going to tell you this once – and that is… you have no idea what you’re dealing with.”
Nex returned to consiousness as Takanuva Stars slapped him; he was still standing (thankfully – the first several times, he’d collapsed outright), and he’d obviously been completely out of it.
“Nex, are you alright?” the Toa asked.
“Yeah, I’m fine.” Nex said, shaking the fuzzy feeling out of his head. “Sorry about that, I just dozed off a little. What’s up?”
“Nex… can you keep a secret?”
Of course I can keep a secret, he thought. It’s not like Nex 2.0 isn’t in here or anything.
Shut up! Respond!
“Of course I can. I’m already keeping one for Rocka, Evo, Avak and Ehlek.”
Takanuva Stars nodded, appearing relieved as he glanced knowingly at the two Glatorian, and the Titan he’d seen earlier with Rocka and Evo.
“So who’re these wackjobs? I suppose they’re the ones throwing the party?” Nex asked.
Takanuva Stars winced and the blue Glatorian, Kiina, raised her trident threateningly. However, Strakk held her back with a calm hand, and the Titan chuckled.
“He has spirit. I like that.” the Titan said. “Let’s hear him out.”
“Nex… I’d like you to meet Kiina, Strakk, and Makuta.” Takanuva Stars said.
“Nice to meet you.” said Strakk.
“Put the attitude away rookie, or I put it away for you.” Kiina ordered, passing over greetings. “If you tell anybody up above about what you’ve seen here, I will personally see to it that you are publicly dismantled.”
Apparently having nothing else of importance to say, Kiina immediately turned around and vanished into the crowd of sets, leaving behind a very perplexed Nex.
“Eh, don’t mind her.” said Strakk. “She’s always a grump. It comes from being in charge of all this. It’s a rather stressful job.”
“What is all of this? What is she in charge of?”
“Nex…” Takanuva Stars said with a slight smile. “If you’ll allow me… I’d like to welcome you to the Resistance.”
Ooh… now this is going to be fun indeed.
Nex wasn’t quite sure he was entirely okay with the emotions attached to what Nex 2.0 had just told him, but he didn’t have time to worry about that – Takanuva Stars was already whisking him away from Strakk and Makuta, towards Rocka and Evo. The gold and yellow heroes stared at them as the two approached them, their faces carefully neutral.
“I’m not quite sure I want to meet these two just yet.” whispered Nex.
“Nex, you have an apology to make. And they have an apology to accept.” said the Toa. “Besides, I had to, and you were just gonna break the rules and free them anyway. So you’re already sort of even.”
“Well, have it your way, numb nuts.”
“Numb – what? I don’t understand anything about anything right now.”
“You’re not supposed to. Well, technically you are, but we don’t care enough to fill you in.”
“That’s splendid, Takanuva. I feel really appreciated.”
“You’re not supposed to be appreciated. You’re supposed to be valuable.”
See what I mean, kid? You’ll never be worth more than a penny to these people. And none of your stupid remarks about a penny being worth something, because it isn’t worth anything!
“I’m worth something.” Nex mumbled.
Shut your mouth, you’re gonna blow it.
“You’re what?” Takanuva Stars asked.
They had reached Rocka and Evo. As far as Nex was concerned, the rest of the sets in the room had all stopped talking, because it sounded as if, well, there were no sounds. The four stared awkwardly at each other for several minutes. Evo coughed and Takanuva Stars scratched his head, before nudging Nex with his elbow.
“Say it!” the Toa hissed.
Nex stood straight and cleared his throat importantly. He tried to ignore the fact that Evo had just rolled his eyes at him.
“I would like to formally apologize for my previous behaviour, should it have in any way offended you.”
Rocka snorted and looked away. The other three glanced at him and Rocka waved them off, turning around and doubling over as he began to silently laugh.
“Are you alright?” Takanuva asked.
Evo, watching Rocka with a confused expression, began to chuckle. He glanced over to Nex, and then Nex began to laugh as well. A befuddled expression remained firmly on the face of Takanuva Stars as the three heroes began to laugh outright, Nex clutching his stomach as he doubled over and Rocka falling to his knees as he shrieked, while Evo bent with his hands on his knees, trying to remain upright. The sets gathered around them began to watch as the three heroes lost it completely, forming a circle.
Nex froze, the last laugh stuck on his face for a split second before it was gone and he jerked up, standing straight and at attention.
Enough of this humiliation! You are disgracing us!
To the sets around, Nex’s eyes went strangely blank as he was sucked down into himself.
Nex landed on the firm black floor and fell to one knee to balance himself on the landing, inadvertently kneeling before Nex 2.0 in the process. The older set smirked as Nex scrambled to his feet.
“I’m not humiliating anyone!” Nex said. “I was just laughing with my friends!”
“They aren’t your friends. You have no friends. Even I’m not your friend.”
“Well, you’re stupid, so you don’t count.”
“I’m stupid? Kid, you’re the stupid one. You have no idea what you’ve walked into. You’re nothing but a stepping stone for me, you hear?”
“I’m a what?”
“A stepping stone, you fool. You’re just a transition phase. Soon I’ll be able to take over you completely – and then after that, I’ll be strong enough to return to myself again.”
“And… and what happens to me?”
“Who cares? If you perish, I don’t mind, because it means I live.”
“But… I’m like… an advancement of you.”
“Oh are you?”
“Prove it, kid. We’re gonna fight right here, right now. If you beat me, fine, you’ve proven your point for now. If I win… well… let’s just say things might get nasty.”
“No. I don’t need to prove anything to you.”
Nex turned his back on the older hero and began to walk away. A second later he heard a little whoosh of air, and he sidestepped just in time for Nex 2.0 to crash in the ground where he’d been. Then, ignoring a rather strange desire to remain where he was, Nex leapt back into conscious thought.
Nex came to still standing as rigid as he’d left, with Strakk, Rocka, Kiina and Takanuva Stars all examining him. Strakk started as Nex suddenly came to life, flexing his arm to stretch it.
“He’s back!” the Glatorian said. “Or… well… were you gone?”
“In a way, yeah… I suppose you could say that.”
“If he’s going to do that in the middle of a battle, then we can’t trust him.” Kiina said, her eyes narrowed as she glared at Nex.
Nex stared right back. However, Kiina’s glare was too fierce, and he looked away a moment later. The female Glatorian snorted derisively and turned away.
“Figure him out.” she ordered to Strakk. “If he can’t fix himself, he can always be used as spare parts.”
A deep fury rose up from within Nex, aided with a mighty push by the inwardly smirking Nex 2.0. Nex snarled and lunged forward, grabbing Kiina by the shoulder and hauling her back towards him to give her a piece of his mind. However, the Glatorian swept his hand away and within seconds had him pinned against the wall, with the point of her trident at his throat.
“I’m warning you, Nex.” she whispered in a voice so quiet it was deadly. “One wrong move and I will remove you. Do you hear? You’re just like Nex 2.0… uncannily so. Something isn’t right with you, and I intend to figure out what it is.”
With that, she wrenched her trident back, spared Nex one last disgusted look, and then stalked away. The crowd of sets obediently cleared a path for her, stumbling over each other in their haste to back up. Nex glared after her silently, until Takanuva Stars nervously approached him.
“So… shall we continue on?” the Toa asked. “There’s uh… there’s a lot more to show you.”
“Very well then.”
As Nex followed the Toa through the crowd, he could’ve sworn he heard one last remark from Nex 2.0 echo in his mind.
Don’t you worry, kid. Revenge is on the way.
Kopaka Nuva frowned as he sat in his shadowy perch above Pohatu Nuva, watching as the Toa Nuva of Stone was approached by both Gali Nuva and Onua Nuva.
“You wanted to talk with us, Pohatu Nuva?” Onua Nuva asked.
“I did… I do. I’ve just been wondering how you two are faring with how Lewa Mata is running things.”
“It’s not mightily different, is it?” Onua Nuva responded. “There’s just less fighting.”
“What about you, Gali?”
“The same for me. It’s certainly a more relaxing life right now.”
“So… you two don’t think anything seems… off?”
“What’s off about it?” asked Onua Nuva.
“Kopaka Nuva barely even talks to any of us anymore, and when he does, he’s angry – not to mention that more than half the time he’s missing. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s listening right now, but ALMIGHTY knows I’m not gonna find him if I look.”
“Now that you mention it, things do seem odd.” said Onua Nuva thoughtfully. “The Piraka and Barraki are always flitting from place to place, and several sets have vanished altogether.”
“It’s too quiet. There’s no resistance, yet there seem to be an awful lot of sets unhappy with Lewa Mata in charge.” said the Toa Nuva of Water.
“That’s what I’m afraid of.” Pohatu Nuva said. “I feel like we’re walking right into some sort of ambush, but Lewa Mata refuses to believe it and even if he did, we can’t tell where it’s coming from.”
The three Toa Nuva began to walk away as they continued to converse about the issues at hand, and a few moments later their voices were indistinguishable to the white Toa Nuva hiding above. Frowning even more than he had before, for the suspicions of Pohatu Nuva were far closer to the mark than he’d realized, Kopaka Nuva slid into the shadows to report back to Kiina and Strakk.
To Be Continued.