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The Spectral Mask

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  1. Ah, dimensional gates fold in on themselves and create the Zone of Darkness, I presume... an excellent origin story for one of the lore's most mysterious places. What is that crafty Makuta up to...
  2. Here's the review I promised you, Luro. Your style here is very terse and to-the-point. Luroka himself is fascinating in the pre-Brotherhood role you've cast him. He acts as an agent of destiny, yet he only has goals, no step-by-step instructions, which makes him a fascinating blend of omniscient deity and dogged errand boy. I'll give you the obligatory warning: no character should be without personal challenges, that is, they should make mistakes based on their own flaws, for a story about a character who never does anything wrong is hard to get invested in. Your world building and intrigue is compelling, though, and you clearly know how to tell a mystery, which could probably carry this whole story my itself. As others have said, I'll be interested to see how, if at all, Hydanus' voice differs from Luroka's. I would encourage you to try to differentiate their respective perspectives, especially by adding more detail, although I also respect how much you leave to the reader's imagination. Needless you say, I'll be following you.
  3. Here's my entry: Achonia. She might be Lady of the Skull Spiders or somesuch, but perhaps she exists in an alternate continuity. I'll have to decide once we're well into 2015. I heard that points would be awarded for creative part use, so I went out of my way to make things difficult for myself. hence, the Galidor torsos, masks used in-construction, and eight identical (with some necessary color variation) legs. The legs were also inspired by Legend of Metru Nui's Nidhiki. It always bothered me that those were clearly Rahkshi spines, and yet none came in the actual set. Click for the full gallery. I don't know much about the new BIONICLE lore so I don't know if Achonia is a resident of Okoto, but I do know that she's a large and dominating presence in her arae of antagonists. She's probably not their queen, but she is a potent and poisonous force. None can hope to outscheme her; she stoops to the lowest of the low levels, and plans to dispose of everyone she meets. You cannot hope that she is your ally; you can only hope that her byzantine scheme will last long enough that you can reach your own unsavory goals. She is a mistress of poisons and alchemy, and she is familiar with various forms of witchcraft and curses, which facilitate her bilious brooding. Good luck to all of our other entries! There's lots of talent and creativity in this contest. I'm especially pleased to see that this is the first contest entry and/or first model shared online for many of our users. I myself have entered contests on other sites before, just never BZP.
  4. The creepy ghost girl, on Onryo, is a Japanese stock horror character as common in their folk tales as ax murders in the backwoods of America, or cutthroats in the streets of London. They were popularized in the West when The Ring borrowed heavily from their imagery. She's definitely my favorite in the batch, although, ironically, I've never seen a single horror movie! I much prefer the spooky to the scary, and had actually tried to make an Onryo using Lady Vampyre's head and Madam Hooch's torso. I never picked up any of the dino sets, so I could also use that lime green syringe for another spooky minifigure I'm working on, a plague doctor. I'll certainly use this guide to try to pick those two up, but even if I fail and get one of the others, I think it won't be any real loss - they all look pretty neat!
  5. @ ~The 1st Shadow, go ahead, I don't mind at all. @ Regitnui and Iblis616, I expect to see something akin to Lord Garmadon's reformation wherein Makuta is awakened and reformed. Perhaps he will even be resurrected before Ekimu is, in which case he might be able to act as an elder and adviser to the Toa. In fact, who is to say that Makuta is not responsible for summoning the Toa? I admit that he's a less likely candidate than the Protectors, but it's possible that he, or some part of him, is awake, and acting to mend the damage he caused. Or our assumptions are correct and he's still corrupted by the Mask of Ultimate Power, in which case he might summon the Toa so that he can dispose of them before taking over the island, or so that they can lead him to one of the Great Masks. Another possibility occurs to me: what if the Toa were summoned by the fallout between the two brothers? What indicator do we have that Ekimu and Makuta fell asleep recently? It could be that the loss of the Mask Makers triggered a failsafe that summoned the Toa immediately after. Or it might be a reaction to something the Lord of the Skull Spiders did. Has he found the Mask of Creation? Or could the Toa have been summoned when the Lord of the Skull Spiders seized the golden Skull Mask included in his set? Endless possibilities...
  6. Ah, that's right. And mind-control was overpowered to begin with - makes translation seem a little pathetic in comparison, even among Turaga. Where did you hear about enhancing masks? I was under the assumption that the masks are what grant the Toa their elemental powers to begin with. At first I assumed we were going to have the 2003 Takanuva story arc times six, with a group of villagers seeking out or stumbling across or being given the six great masks. But if they crashed onto Okoto, did they already have their masks to begin with? And if so, how did masks presumably made by Ekimu wind up in space, only to crash back down again? The legend of the maskmakers sounds like it took place before any other major events in the new storyline...
  7. I'm definitely in the camp that would prefer no ties to the original story. The first BIONICLE Universe got a little to crowded for my taste - too many characters, alternate universes, and ongoing story arcs of which to keep track. On the other hand, I love the imagination and theorizing going on in this thread and elsewhere, so I also hope that we'll get another complex story with a web of interlocking clues to keep us occupied in the stretches between story updates. I went to the con and got several of these little leaflets with the possibly misspelled island name and the information that the Toa crashed there. But I also have a foggy recollection of being under the impression that the Protectors "choosing" the Toa from the villagers. It raises the question, what made these characters Toa? Their elemental powers aren't innate anymore, but rather, those are their mask powers. Could any of the other villagers pick up the Mask of Fire and become the Toa of Fire? Ekimu and Makuta made many masks for the villagers, which I assume means more than six. How many Toa and Masters of the Elements are running around this island? And how is it spelled? I wonder if the Protectors will have mask powers, then. I liked the old great mask/noble mask hierarchy, and I wish that the Toa Metru's masks had been more markedly different from the Turaga's. Matau was the only one whose mask was noticeable more powerful as a Toa, which is how I think it should be.
  8. I didn't notice that Kari mentioned a game until Gizmodo mentioned it in their first paragraph... and Zdenko said during the panel that the MNOLG had influenced the art style of the entire reboot. 2001 again... vector graphics... rumors of a game played on tablets... could another first-person adventure game be on the horizon? I'll try not to get my hopes up... ... and I will fail. I want it so much!
  9. Snakes Krakua, Nidhiki, Krika, and Telluris pressed on through the winding airship hallways. As they had moved away from their landing by the elevator, which had been illuminated by starlight, they had been plunged into total darkness. Telluris had produced a flashlight he had woken up with. Otherwise, there was no source of light. They approached a long corridor of white-paneled walls. Interestingly, this entire section of the airship seemed unscathed by the crash, excepting the slanted floor beneath their feet. “Sturdy walls,” Krika acknowledged, “And expensive. Whoever designed the ship wanted to protect this part,” Despite the stable architecture, however, Krakua could sense the panic that the crash had caused there. The hallway was broken up by heavy metal doors, which looked better reinforced than the elevator had been. These doors were locked by electronic panels to their right, opening only to those with enough clearance. Without power from the engines, though, they couldn’t be opened. Experimentally, Krakua directed a sonic blast at the obstacle; this time, the others knew to cover their ears. As he expected, the door remained firm. “Let me try,” Telluris offered. Krakua was about to remind him that there wasn’t any electricity, but he supposed the Glatorian hadn’t forgotten. Telluris kneeled by the panel and shed his black overcoat. Beneath it, he wore an orange engineer’s uniform, which just so happened to have come with a tool belt. He removed a small black utensil about the size of a pencil, and began to pry open the keypad. Krika, meanwhile, decided to stroll around the area. So far as he could tell, the white-walled facility continued in both directions until it reached a corner, and probably went on beyond that. The only object of interest he could see was a metal box which jutted out of the wall ahead. He approached the box, examining it. It appeared to be some sort of air filter, judging by the vents which ran along its side. Naturally, it wasn’t operable at the moment, and anyway, Krika couldn’t see any buttons or controls that would render it useful. Shrugging, he turned back to the rest of the party. Telluris seemed to be having luck. Krika knew very little about electronics, but the bundles of wires hanging out from the panel looked impressive. He appeared to be rigging everything up to one of the batteries he had shown him earlier, when they had picked through his utility belt the first time. Once everything had been connected to a source of power, they heard low hum of a motor. With a whine, the door opened. “Brawn, and brains,” Telluris grinned at the Toa. With a nod to the Iron Glatorian, Krakua headed inside. “Good show!” Krika laughed, reaching Telluris. The electrician finished packing up his things, his ego basking in this moment to repair itself, and the two followed the Toa into the lab. The Makuta turned his attention to the next room with excitement of his own. He had never been disappointed by a laboratory, much less a laboratory in a crisis; whether the experiments were going very well or horribly wrong, things were always interesting. The party was still dependant on Telluris for light. He shined his beam around, surveying their surroundings. The room was supported by pillars and filled with rows of tables for experimentation. Despite the reinforced walls, all of the equipment had fallen across the floor. All of the beakers and burners one expects to find in a laboratory had been knocked out of their resting places, and pools of unidentifiable liquids had collected on the floor. Some large machinery, perhaps, Krika suspected, to be used for analysis. “Grrrff!” Nidhiki let out. Telluris shined his light in his direction; blinded by shadow, the Toa of Air had walked right into one of the pillars. Indeed, Krika realized that the darkness would be a problem. It was impossible know what was going on around you, and as it is well known, you shouldn’t be in a laboratory if you don’t know what you’re doing. There seemed to be some sort of luminescence coming from up ahead, however. They were standing in one room in the network of labs, some separated by the metal doors, others connected by doorless frames. Ahead of them was one such doorway, and beyond it, Krakua could pick up the thoughts of a lone scientist, a scientist with a light source. “Hey!” he called out, beginning to move in that direction. Whoever it was, they were using their light to search for something urgently. The foursome walked into a lab area which, based on Telluris’ sweeping light, looked almost identical to the previous room. The most striking differences were the two metal doors, like those outside, on two of the walls. One of the doors was wide open, leading further into the darkness. The scientist was in full gear, wearing bulky goggles outfitted with a narrow, piercing headlight, a surgical mask over his mouth, a long black apron, and thick black gloves. He had been bent over, peering beneath one of the tables, when the Toa entered. As soon as he saw them, his panic worsened. “Oh, this is bad, I...” the scientist hesitated, “Cover your faces!” he shouted, “All of you!” Telluris held out his palm defensively, while Krika hid his face behind his boney hands. The best Krakua could think to do was to cover his mouth and nose with his elbow. “Why?” he asked, although he was already piecing together the answer from the scientist’s thoughts. “They’ve escaped...” the goggled figure started, pausing as he struggled to explain, “You can’t let them touch your -” He was interrupted by a sharp, hissing shriek, which was swiftly followed by a scream from Nidhiki, and an even louder scream from Telluris as his flashlight clattered to the floor. “Nidhiki! Telluris!” Krakua let out. He heard no response from the former; from the latter, he received only stammering. “Telluris, are you injured, or just startled?” Krika inquired, skeptical. “I… I was taken by surprise… I’m uninjured…” Telluris breathed. “The light, man!” Krika groaned, shaking Telluris’ shoulder. “I’m sorry, I…” Telluris practically whimpered, his confidence having shattered again. He hadn’t been doing very well so far. With a gulp, he grabbed at the flickering flashlight on the ground, telling himself this was the last time he’d be taken by surprise. Again, Telluris cast his light on the injured Toa of Air. As he took in the sight, however, he wondered if it would have been better left in the dark. Nidhiki had been knocked on his back. Clinging to his face was a long, yellowish snake, thrashing its tale about. The fallen Toa tried to grab a hold of his assailant to pull it off, but its grip was strong, and its muscular body was able to wrench itself from his grip. “This is bad, this is bad ... Help him ... Help me hold it still!” the scientist stammered. He moved towards the fallen Toa, albeit reluctantly, and Krakua followed suit. “Keep the light on him!” Krakua ordered Telluris. The Glatorian of Iron obeyed, staring at the parasite with a mix of curiosity and revulsion, fighting the urge to scream and drop the light again. He resolved himself and tried to get a better look at it; its mouth was open like a four-pointed starfish, clinging to Nidhiki’s face. As Krakua and the stranger came over, though, Telluris’ light began to loose its power. “It’s dying on me!” he called. The Toa of Sonics looked up at Telluris, who was shaking his flashlight desperately. Krakua grimly noted that the scientist’s headlamp was going out, too. “Darkness,” Krika realized, “It has elemental power over darkness,” The scientist didn’t seem to be discouraged. Krakua could see the outline of his form struggling to hold on to the serpent. The blinded Toa reached out, his fingers probing. He felt warm, thick slime brush against his fingertips. Not only was the creature strong, but it was slippery, making it all the more difficult to hold on to. None the less, Krakua tried to keep a grip on it, straining his arms, which were already tired from his ride up the elevator shaft. Even as he gained some control, his hands began to itch wherever they touched the vile slime. He gritted his teeth and tried not to focus on it. As they finally seemed to have a hold on it, they were greeted with a sickly sucking sound. The serpent was prying itself off of Nidhiki, allowing it to focus on escaping. The harsh hissing noise began again, and its movements became even more violent. “It’s off him!” the stranger declared, “Don’t let it get away!” Gasping for breath, Nidhiki hastily crawled out from under the twisting snake. Krika moved to offer his hand to the Toa, but Nidhiki rose to his feet on his own. “That’s good,” the serpent-holder whispered, “That’s good,” Krakua felt the serpent’s struggling subside. The scientist had punctured its skin with a syringe, and injected it with a sedative. Gradually, it stopped moving entirely, and as grew weak, its darkness went with it. Their lights glowed again, as though they had never gone out. Gently, the scientist eased the snake from Krakua’s arms, and held it limply in his own. “It’s not over,” the scientist cautioned, “Watch him!” he pointed with one snake-cradling arm at Nidhiki, “This is bad ... he’s probably Infected,” “I don’t think so,” Nidhiki panted. The scientist was doubtful, and studied the Toa’s face intently. Krakua could follow his thought process; this creature could Infect the local species, Homo sapiens, or ‘human beings’, by coming in contact with their mouth, eyes, or nose. Once Infected, the victim became animalistic, losing most of their higher brain functions. Although he knew that the process took several minutes, the timid scientist fully expected slime to begin dripping from Nidhiki’s face any moment now. But just as the mind-reader was learning this, he was also catching up with Nidhiki’s experience. Krakua dismissed the scientist’s concerns, saying, “It’s okay. It didn’t get to his face,” Grinning, Nidhiki held something into the scientist’s beam of light. Dangling from his hand by its strap was the gas mask the Toa of Air had been wearing as he had first awakened in this new world, which he had donned as soon as he had been instructed to cover his face. From contact with the snake, the mask had been badly damaged; its slime had caused its surface to appear worn and rusted, and so a vaguely four-pointed pattern on the gas mask was now grossly disfigured. The expert nodded in approval, causing the light he cast to bob up and down. “This is ... good,” he sighed in relief. Still, there was a feeling of disappointment as he considered his situation, something which caught Krakua’s interest. He had seen Nidhiki’s uniform, and he had judged the Toa of Air to be from the Convention. The mind-reader couldn’t work out what exactly the Convention was, but he had a nagging suspicion the outfit Nidhiki had been given hadn’t been chosen randomly. Unsure if he was welcome, Krika slowly stepped into the area of light. “May I?” he asked, holding out his arms. The other scientist studied him for a moment. Krakua sensed a feeling of reluctance, followed by exhausted submission. Krika took the snake into his arms with even greater care than the scientist had demonstrated. “Kraata,” he whispered, confirming Krakua’s suspicion, “Kraata in disguise, but I still recognize you,” “Familiar with the specimen?” the scientist inquired, “I wouldn’t have thought the news would spread so fast,” “Oh, I was working with these before it was cool,” Krika threw out off-handedly, fixated on the slug in his arms. The others were speechless for the time being, taking in the sight of the strange, slouching scientist cradling the Kraata like a baby. Krika finally broke from his trance, holding up the Kraata in his arms as he referred to it. “How many did you have?” he asked. “Six,” the refugee confessed, “Three unaccounted for,” “‘Always six,’” Nidhiki grumbled, “Norik’d better not be right this often,” “And what sort of experiments were you performing?” Krika pressed. “Well, they aren’t - they weren’t -” the scientist flinched, and Krakua sensed a turmoil of grief and panic brewing inside of him. “They weren’t my experiment,” He weakly gestured for the others to follow. He led them into the room adjoined by the open door. As soon as they crowded in the doorway, he stopped, shining his headlamp on the floor. Krakua winced, even though he knew what had been coming. As Nidhiki saw the disfigurement, he lightly touched his face, appalled by what could so easily have happened to him. Telluris nodded in understanding; Krika, now at the lead, bent down get a closer look. Lying on the floor was a body, wearing an apron just like the first scientist they had met. His soot-black hair was matted on his forehead, stuck there by the seeping green goo. Slime was dripping from his nose and drizzling from his mouth, and his light coughs as he pushed it out of his throat were the only visible sign that he was alive. “Sedated?” Krika guessed. The scientist nodded absently, lost in remorse for his fallen friend. “What was his name?” Krakua whispered. “Vican,” he whispered. Krika was startled. “Strange,” he thought aloud, “I knew a creature called Vican who worked in a laboratory,” He felt two beams of curious light fall upon him. He held up his arms, as though to prove he had no hand in this. “I didn’t know him well. He was just a lab assistant. A colleague’s lab assistant,” he added. “Maybe they were one and the same. He served his time as an assistant,” the mourning survivor went on, “But he worked his way up, a full-fledged genetic engineer. The Kraata were his pet project. I had my own work, but I would collaborate with him every so often. More than most,” he choked up for a moment, “He was always so far away from us, absorbed in his own world,” Once more, there was silence in the darkness. After he had gathered himself, the refugee turned to face Krakua and Nidhiki, whom he presumed were in charge. “And I’m Tehutti. Roburonan, Genetic Engineer. I worked in cell differentiation, tested some fruit flies and that sort of thing. I don’t know how much use I’ll be, but I’m willing to work,” He gazed at Nidhiki curiously. “I ... expected more soldiers,” Krakua was beginning to understand. The airship had crashed on enemy territory, and whatever unseen hand had brought the Toa there had seen it fit to dress Nidhiki in that enemy’s uniform. This miserable survivor, Tehutti, understood that they were here to rescue him; but he assumed that he was to work in his former enemies’ laboratory now, and help make weapons to kill those he once called allies. Both sides in this conflict were building up weapons to destroy the other, and the scientists on either side prepared themselves to be kidnapped and put to work, a practice which was only becoming more widespread as the war went on. Tehutti had never been through the process himself, but he had heard stories from the other scientists – including Vican, the tragic figure lying Infected by his own pets and sedated by his colleagues, who had been transferred between the sides several times. Now it appeared the fighting had caught him in crossfire. And that meant wherever Tehutti had come from, Kraata, and who knew what else, were being repurposed, perhaps reengineered, to Infect the other faction. Krakua did not approve. Meanwhile, although Telluris’ path into the room was blocked by the others, he shined his light over their heads so he could get a better view. He noticed two counters in the left-hand corner, each supporting three containers. The tubs were barely taller than they were short, composed of a thick, angled, copper- or bronze-colored metal frame, outlining a teal-blue plane of glass. Each appeared to be plugged into some other equipment. Four of the three tanks had been broken during the crash, and they had just captured the former contents of the third. If the remaining Kraata were nearby, they weren’t making themselves apparent. “Do you want to carry them out now, or come back for them?” Tehutti asked, pointing towards the two Kraata still in captivity. “Oh, I think it’s best to keep these in sight,” Krika exhaled, “What do we have in the line of transport?” “I’ll get a cart,” Tehutti offered, and moved deeper into the room. The Makuta turned to Krakua. “I think the two of us can take them down. You three should press on,” he suggested. “I suppose so...” he mused, “And, Vican?” “Ah,” Krika nodded, “I forgot. Toa don’t leave failed experiments to die,” “Krika,” Krakua snapped. “Sorry, sorry,” the Makuta retreated, “A joke in poor taste. I would have forgotten him, I’m afraid, but I concede that it’s only noble to do what we can to help him. Once I have a laboratory less ... post-apocalyptic, you have my word that whatever can be done, will be done,” The Makuta turned towards Tehutti, who was brushing spilled liquids and shattered glass off of a cart, and began walking over. “Krika,” Krakua called, and, once he had his attention, whispered, “Don’t mention where we come from,” For a moment, there was silence. “Krika?” Krakua prompted. “What?” “Will you?” the Toa of Sonics reiterated. Krika chuckled again. “Sorry, sorry, I nodded,” It had slipped his mind that Toa became quite useless in the darkness. He realized with some amusement that he’d better start getting his facts straight if he was going to keep playing hero – and to get the Toa to trust him. While he was still piecing an agenda of his own together, he already knew trust would be essential. “And,” Krakua cautioned, “For Mata Nui’s sake, find another way, besides the elevator!” Krika chuckled, and turned his attention back to Tehutti. “It’s still wet,” the genetic engineer cautioned, “I suppose the elevator’s not working, so we’ll have to carry it down the stairs,” “Not these stairs, closest to us. They’re blocked,” “That is ... bad,” Tehutti acknowledged, “I guess we can try the other side...” The two scientists got to work loading the Kraata. Krakua motioned for Telluris and Nidhiki to follow him. “Can you get us through the next door?” he asked the Glatorian. Telluris held the light to his face so that the Toa could see him grin. Krakua scrutinized the Iron Tribesman for a moment, and then turned away without smiling back, perhaps not realizing how much that would have meant. The two groups began heading off in opposite directions. Under the guidance of Tehutti’s headlamp, Krika steered the cart out towards the hall, while the strong Roburonan carried Vican’s slumbering body. Telluris kept his light trained on the door they approached, leaving Nidhiki to step forward tentatively, not wanting to bump into anything else. As he reached forward, feeling for obstacles in the darkness, his hand met Krakua’s outstretched arm. “Stop,” the mind reader whispered, bringing the trio to a halt almost as soon as they started. They remained in silence for a few moments, on edge, half-expecting another Kraata to leap out. “I was poking around for other stairways,” Krakua explained at last, “And I picked up another survivor,” “Nearby?” Nidhiki inquired. “Back where we came from, in the blocked-off stairwell,” “Will Krika run into them, then?” the Toa of Air pressed. “Tehutti’s leading him in a different direction, but it wouldn’t have mattered,” Krakua shook his head, “He’s not trying to go down. He tried to come up. He was looking for the labs. But when he saw the rubble, he turned around. He wanted access to the labs, but he was hoping the stairs would be fine. He doesn’t have time to go up the other way, he’s ... late for something else,” “I don’t understand,” Telluris put in, “He has to be somewhere?” Krakua groaned, bringing up his hand to massage his head. “He’s far away, but...” he trailed off, straining his range of telepathy. “...I think he knew we were going to crash,” ~ The soldier was dressed in a milk-chocolate brown uniform differing completely from that which Norik or Nidhiki had been provided. The reason for this was straightforward enough for Norik to guess it, even with so few clues and so little time; they belonged to different militaries. The airship had crashed on enemy land, and Norik, in a high-ranking officers’ dress, was expected to call for their surrender. The crew, if this first member was anything to go by, understood the bleakness of their situation, but they were determined not to go quietly. Hahli and Norik followed the guard’s instructions without much hesitation, and slowly traded places with him, their hands over their heads. He wanted to walk behind them, so that he could guide them with his flashlight, and see if they started to draw a weapon. “Where are you taking us?” Hahli wanted to know. “Taiki will know what to make of you,” he dismissed. When he spoke, it became apparent that he was suppressing panic. He was doing his best to act hardy and confident, but the edge in his voice made him sound insane. “We don’t to make trades,” Norik complained, “We want to rescue you from a burning shipwreck,” “Naw, the engines got the worst of it,” their captor dismissed, “We’re fine, this far up front,” And although that might be true, they were walking towards the back, towards the inferno. Norik did not approve. The progression was silent for a few moments, as all three considered their situation. The soldier was reminding himself why he was walking towards the fire, suppressing those parts of him which were yearning to find an escape. Norik, of course, was wondering how much of this treatment he should put up with. The self-appointed guide was armed, but they had elemental powers, so he was confident that they could disarm him with relative ease. The soldier interrupted his thoughts with a quick jab on his back. “That’s no reason not to hurry,” he scolded his prisoners, still referring to their perceived safety, “Hup! Hup! Hup!” The Toa picked up their pace, following directions from the rear, accompanied by his short barks of “Hup! Hup!” They soon ran across rubble blocking their path, but they climbed around it without a word. After they had progressed through a corridor or two, they spied light at the end of the tunnel. “Welcome to Security and Detainment,” the soldier announced. Security and Detainment didn’t take up a large portion of the ship. They passed two more hallways containing, based on glimpses Norik caught in the flashlight, security office space. In a time of crisis, however, true leaders are not found in offices. This, Norik understood. They arrived in the ship’s brig, a compact network of rooms lined with barred doors, illuminated by ten or so flashlights. Not all of the cells had been emptied; some prisoners remained behind bars, while others stood talking nervously with their former guards. “Who goes there?” one soldier demanded, as a dozen flashlights were trained on them. “It’s me!” the scout called, “Epena!” One of the crewmembers stepped forward. Norik noted his bitter and battered appearance and judged him to be an old veteran, probably asserting his authority in the panic. “What do we have here?” the leering cynic asked, although he had already taken note of Norik’s uniform. “I’ve come to report and deliver prisoners, Taiki, sir,” the sentry named Epena explained, shifting from foot to foot with nervous energy, “One Tommy Major and one other, found guilty of trespassing-” “Skip all that,” Taiki interrupted, shining his light in Norik’s eyes. The Toa Hagah had learned to turn away as the beam shone in his face. “A Major, Epena, I’m impressed,” he realized, patting the young sentry on the back. “I guess I just got lucky, sir,” Epena grinned, still nervous, but growing proud. Taiki nodded thoughtfully, and returned his attention to the Toa, his old eyes darting over them, his thoughts accelerating. “Here to demand our surrender, then? Didn’t pick a very impressive army,” the soldier chuckled, turning his flashlight onto Hahli. “I did my best to explain to your scout, sir,” Norik defended, “I have no army. A few of my companions and I were on the beach when we saw your craft come down, we’re only interested in your safety,” “Is that so?” Taiki pressed, “We’ll all feel much safer when we’re home, Major…” Norik sighed, “Precisely. Why don’t we-” “Your name, sir!” Taiki barked. The Toa of Fire was taken aback, before he realized the way that the crewman had trailed off after “Major” had been a prompt for him to give his name. “My name is Norik, Toa of Fire,” Taiki was silent for a moment. “Quite the hollow title, you have there,” he said at length, “War was confusing enough without Keahi giving out meaningless positions,” Norik was clueless what the soldier was talking about, but Hahli was beginning to see things from the crewmen’s point of view. “Have you… never heard of a Toa?” she asked. “Might have, at some point,” the soldier scratched his cheek, “You boys keep up with that stuff?” None of the other soldiers, or their prisoners, seemed to know what a Toa was, either. “It means, ‘hero’,” Norik explained halfheartedly, looking around at the strange, sorry inhabitants of this new world, glumly realizing that he was one of them, now. “‘Hero’?” Taiki grinned spitefully, “Ain’t that sweet?” “This entire airship is unsound,” Norik protested, “We have to get out of here, now!” In response, Taiki jumped into the air, landing with a dramatic shudder. The whole room seemed to shake, but no one lost their balance entirely. “Seems fine to me,” the veteran shrugged. “What do you want from me, then?” Norik asked, his frustration mounting. His anger was soon replaced by concern again, however, as he noticed the intent on Taiki’s face under Epena’s shaking light beam, and slowly realized what he had in mind. “You’re gonna get us home, Major Norik,” he revealed, rubbing his hands together. With a nod, he signaled for Epena and some of the other guards to converge around the Toa, and the sound of moving chains rang out of the darkness. “You’re going to hold us hostage,” Hahli gulped. “Prisoners of war,” Taiki confirmed as the handcuffs were applied, “We’ll keep you locked up until the real soldiers arrive, see what we can barter for,” he shined his light over them again, inspecting his catch, “Even you two ought to be worth something,” “You’ll have more trouble holding us than you might expect,” Norik whispered, coldly. It wasn’t an empty threat – simple metal constraints would be no match for his elemental powers, or even his Pehkui. Still, he was hesitant to use those powers, especially if no one in this place had seen the likes of them before, and he wasn’t certain they would be necessary. Taiki continued his low, bitter chuckle as the guards led the Toa to a cell. “I betcha think you can give us a run for our money, especially if those friends of yours show,” he reasoned, making Norik give a start – the Toa of Fire hadn’t realized that he had hinted at having a larger team. “Whatcha don’t know,” Taiki continued, “Is that we happen to have the greatest security engineer outside of Audako. No one’s ever gotten by him, or his little traps,” the soldier furrowed his brow, looking around the chamber, as his earlier distress caught up to him. “That is, no one’s ever gotten by him, when he isn’t slacking off,” Taiki groaned. ~ “The whole stairway’s out, I had to turn back,” the security engineer and engine saboteur tried to explain, pressing the weak microphone to his ear. The Hunters usually gave out such quality equipment, but the sound quality of his radio was probably compromised for size. It had to be easily hidden, after all, or else he would have been discovered at the first metal detector. That, or the Hunters’ gadgeteer was still harboring that grudge against him. The voice on the other line wasn’t particularly pleased. “You could have waited for us to get there, Trigger. Now all you’ve done is wasted time,” “I’m headed back to my post now,” the Hunter codenamed Trigger tried to justify. “Keep it up at least until we get there,” his correspondent sighed, dropping the subject, “Then, the armory, and then the laboratory, in that order – as though you’d even be able to move those bleeding tanks of slugs on your own,” “I was hoping I’d get a head start,” Trigger smirked. “I was hoping you’d get a head, Trigger!” the Hunter on the line snapped, “But I stay in line, and so you’re still alive. Don’t disappoint me!” “Thanks much, Lurker,” Trigger grinned, his confidence preventing the Hunter’s threats from hitting home, “I’ll do the best I can. Trigger out,” With his arm free again, the traitor picked up his pace as he jogged towards Security and Detainment. Taiki was probably arming whatever guards still had a stomach, which would make the Hunters’ strike on the airship’s main armory more difficult. Still, if he could have grabbed the first of the Kraata and dashed out, there was a chance that Lurker and the rest of the infiltrators would have been caught up behind him – and he might have made it back to Teneboro in one piece, with one of the greatest biological weapons Roburo had managed to vomit up yet. Avak grinned, thinking of the glory which awaited him, with or without his team. Tonight, the Hunters of Teneboro would win another leg of the arms race, and Geniko would have to reel from another blow to their pride. Everything was coming together.
  10. Darkness Even as Norik ran, his mind was racing as he contemplated the task before him. As a Toa of Fire, he was able to suppress the flames which licked the burning airship, while Hahli possessed the power to douse them, and Nidhiki had some ability to help weaken them. Krakua, meanwhile, was better suited to clearing whatever rubble with his power over sound, and his Suletu could help him find the survivors. Now that he thought was thinking it, Hahli’s Kanohi Elda could serve the same purpose. Two guides meant two groups, then. He and Hahli should probably head into those portions of the ship that were still burning, while he could send Krakua and Nidhiki where they could work with the fallen debris...Just as he had worked that out, his thoughts were interrupted by a telepathic message from Krakua. The mind reader wanted him to know that he approved of the plan, although he didn’t recommend heading straight into the fires. There were many more survivors in the front of the ship, which, due to their distance from the engines, and the pilots’ last-ditch landing effort, had suffered much less damage. Norik made no effort to hide his discomfort, knowing that his thoughts could be read or interrupted at any time. Krakua was poised to be a valuable strategist, but, Norik feared, a challenge to his authority and experience. If Krakua himself heard this and had any thoughts on the matter, he didn’t make them known.The Toa arrived a few dozen meters ahead of the other two, taking in the sight of the carnage, the heat from the fires rippling the air in front of them. They saw an outer hallway, part of the lower decks, half-burrowed into the ground, all of the bullet-proof windows shattered into glass dust on the ground, the metal frames fractured. Above it, the smoldering skeleton of the airship blocked out the sky.There was reason to hope, however. The helm of the ship looked battered, and the insides had been badly shaking, but structurally it had held together. It was the rear, where the engines had gone up in flames, which had suffered the most, but even those fires were dying down. The wreckage could still be navigated, and although they had been shaken, Krakua could detect an impressive number of survivors.Norik scanned their area for a door, and, seeing none, walked up to a buried window. He grabbed hold of the top of the rim, and used his power to superheat the metal above him. It melted into an orange glob of magma, allowing him to push the window sill upward and duck into the hallway. The magma, however, resting on the tilted hallway roof, began seeping above the doorway, red-hot drops falling in the Toa’s path.Seeing the problem, Norik called, “Hahli! Can you cool it down?”Terror struck the new Toa of Water’s heart. She tried to summon water in the hot, dry air, but the only drops that appeared were the sweat and tears on her cheeks. Norik was quick to realize that the Toa of Water had some work to do before she could be of much help, and felt his frustration rising. Krakua, sensing Norik’s angst, started to speak in her defense, when Krika and Telluris caught up.The Makuta Lord took in the scene, and stretched out his arm as though to help. “Allow me,” he offered. Norik blinked, having not even considered that Krika would be feeling helpful. Although he still made Norik uneasy, the Toa Hagah was well acquainted with the power of a Makuta and recognized that Krika could be a valuable ally.As a Makuta, Krika possessed dozens of powers, from Ice Resistance to Weather Control to Vacuum. Even without a conductive tool to focus his power through, he was highly versatile, able to apply his diverse range of abilities to solve almost any problem. Indeed, when a Makuta determines to get something done, it is rarely a question of whether or not they will succeed; it is a question of how they will apply their array of abilities to do it. He channeled energy along his arm and directed it at the leak.Nothing happened. Krika studied his hand with detached curiosity, wondering why his Plasma Control hadn’t caused the magma to evaporate.“Hahli!” Norik shouted urgently.“She can’t do it!” Krakua snapped back.“But she can speak for herself!” Norik retorted.“I’m sorry,” Hahli whimpered.“Ah!” Krika announced, his efforts a success. Using his Kanohi Crast, he repelled the magma back into the ship, into the room above the hallway. Norik noted that the ceiling above him started to sag ever so slightly, and an orange glow started to form. Still, it had cleared the path for the time being.Nidhiki dashed through, followed by Krakua. The mind-reader looked back at Hahli, concerned. “Can you make it?” he called.Tears still streaming down her cheeks, Hahli nodded and forced herself into the fallen sky-fortress.Krika glanced back at Telluris. The Glatorian stood, shifting uncomfortably. Unlike the Toa, the crash hadn’t been enough to snap him out of his confusion. Seeing his distress, Krika headed towards the makeshift entrance, beckoning for him to follow.Telluris watched him go. While he respected his Krika’s confidence, it also troubled him. The distant look in his eyes, the cynicism in his voice, reminded Telluris of somebody lost, someone who didn’t know what they wanted, not even if they wanted to keep on living. In contrast, the others, who called themselves Toa, risked their lives not out of neglect, but for the safety of the innocent. That was true courage, which Telluris recognized.And, Telluris realized, he hadn’t been acting very courageous. He was a Glatorian of the Iron Tribe, or what was left of it, and he had seen devastation much worse than this. A wave of shame came over him, causing his back to stiffen and his fingers to clench. A part of him rationalized his behavior, reminding him what he had been through the past few hours. Had these Toa seen what he had seen, that nightmare no mortal should have to see, that which could barely be described? Had they prepared to face certain death, hoping that their enemy would at least let them die with dignity, only to suffer a humiliating defeat?However, the Glatorian’s pride won out over these excuses. Embarrassment from his reaction to the airships filled him. He took a deep breath and followed Krika into the burning craft.The Makuta sauntered in casually, glancing around as though surveying a park, taking in the sagging wall, which had been crunched by the pressure on the hallway. It was hot and smoky, although without a Toa of Fire siphoning the blaze and a Toa of Air pushing back the ash, he supposed it would have been hotter and smokier.“So, what’s the plan?” he inquired.Norik was muttering something to himself, calculating how Krika should be worked into his plan. He took a moment to survey his team, and noticed the towering Glatorian, Telluris.“I didn’t even think -” Norik sputtered, “You didn’t have to come with us!”“I am no coward!” Telluris insisted, “You have only seen me take my first steps in a new world. I am regaining my footing!”“What can you do?” Norik asked, incredulous.“I am a Glatorian, and an inventor!” Telluris declared, “An engineer!”“But,” Norik clarified, “You don’t have any powers?”Telluris stood his ground, proclaiming, “Long ago, I lived among many beings with powers; I fought alongside them, I fought against them. Then, after the Shattering, they disappeared, faded into memories, and for centuries I have been satisfied that they no longer exist. Such tricks did not intimidate me then, and do not now!”“You’re a civilian,” Norik interpreted, shaking his head, “I don’t want -”“Pardon me!” Krika called, “I must have missed something! Why is this your decision?”“I don’t want the responsibility!” Norik reiterated, turning to the Makuta.“Then he’s my responsibility,” Krika shrugged. He acknowledged that the Toa’s ethical code was necessary to keep things running smoothly, but he wished they could see the times when exceptions were so obviously warranted.Norik exhaled, working Telluris into his thinking. It was time for him to give orders, and he had some idea of how their impromptu rescue was going to have to go.“Alright, Krakua...” Norik began, about to relay his plan to the Toa of Sonics, before a telepathic prompt from the mind-reader politely reminded him that Krakua had learned his plan as he had thought if it.“Almost nobody was on the lower decks to begin with, although there’s a pretty big cluster towards the middle of the ship. Most of the space right in front of us is nearly empty,” Krakua began, probing throughout the hull, “If you start that way and keep going, there are some people regrouping, a little too close to the fire. You’d better head over there. And then there are some clusters of people above us, trying to get through broken doors, rubble, that sort of thing,” he squinted as he concentrated, “Some sort of lab?”“A laboratory?” Krika asked for confirmation, the word catching his interest. Like all Makuta, he had begun as a simple scientist, and even though his role had evolved to demand less and less time in his laboratory, and he had long since given up on routine experimentation, a part of him still felt most comfortable surrounded by test tubes.Norik nodded along, wiping the sweat off of his human brow and into his hair. He’d best stay on this floor, and take Hahli along to find the passengers near the center. That would free Krakua to blast through the ruined hallways above with his sonic power. If Krika wanted to go along, he might as well, but...“Nidhiki should probably go with you...” Norik said cautiously. If he sent Krakua up there alone, Krika could easily overpower him, and he was far from certain that he could trust the Makuta. Of course, that would mean that he and Hahli would be finding the survivors on this floor alone, and the groups would be uneven...“I hardly think the teams need to be even,” chipped in the mind-reader, making Norik flinch, “It’s more important that we go where our skillsets are needed,”Norik sighed, determining that he would need to find a way to limit Krakua’s telepathy when he had a chance to think. “Alright, Hahli, you’re with me. Everyone else, follow Krakua,” He took off, jogging deeper into the crashed airship.Hahli looked to Krakua for reassurance; the Toa of Sonics nodded curtly, and Hahli headed after the Hagah Team Leader.The Toa of Fire and Water headed to the left, towards the bow of the ship. The others started off to the back, the mind-reader in the lead. ~ Almost immediately, the party of four had been plunged into total darkness. The fire was far off and had been reduced to flickers, and the windows didn’t offer much illumination. Telluris produced a flashlight from a tool belt he had woken up with; most of the utensils were unfamiliar to him, but he had fiddled around with some of them earlier and picked up the basics.Following Krakua’s vague impressions of the craft’s layout, they reached a stairwell, hoping to ascend to the upper reaches of the crashed airship and the locked-down lab. As soon as they had arrived, however, Krakua detected frustration above them. Upstairs, the doorway to the stairwell was blocked by rubble; the entire uppermost hallway was open to the sky, for the ceiling had come down. Krakua could sense a small party of crewmembers, having made it so far, staring at their blocked exit, numb.“It’s blocked further up,” Krakua reported, catching his hand in midair; he had been about to open the stairwell door.“Great!” Nidhiki spat.Krika looked around them thoughtfully. The closed door of an elevator stood next to the stairwell. He moved over to it, testing the control panel.“That won’t be running,” Krakua sighed.“Sturdier than a stairwell,” he observed, and looked back to see if anyone was catching on. Krakua’s gaze remained fixed on the Makuta, still trying to break through the Crast’s protective power. Krika gestured to the elevator, continuing, “It’s thick, sturdy metal. It the exit blocked upstairs?”“No, but it’s not working,” Krakua dismissed.The Toa of Air, however, was used to thinking in three dimensions. “He’s a Makuta,” Nidhiki realized, “He has power over gravity. We can float up through the shaft!”In response, Krika furrowed his brow and stretched his hand towards Nidhiki. He motioned as though he was struggling to lift something, but his hand was empty.“...What are you doing?” Nidhiki asked, his newfound respect for the Makuta shredded as soon as it had appeared.“Using my power over gravity,” Krika answered, speaking as though he was under heavy strain. He dropped the charade, laughing, “I seem to have lost about fifty of my powers!”For a moment, no one spoke.“I’m ... sorry?” Telluris tried to console him, concerned, but confused.“Oh, this makes things far more interesting, my good man!” Krika chuckled.Out of nowhere, Nidhiki began laughing too. The sight was so abnormal, Krakua could only gawk. He hadn’t known the Toa of Air for long, but he hadn’t judged him to be in good humor.“Don’t you see?” Nidhiki asked, “He’s powerless! He just has his precious Crast - he’s weaker than a Toa!”As he spoke, the shadows cast by the wall darkened and lengthened. Like a black mist, they reached his feet and began climbing, pure shadow energy pulling at his legs. They didn’t climb very far, but they soon put enough pressure on his shins that he was slammed on to his knees before the Makuta Lord.“Firstly,” Krika hissed, “The knowledge and experience of any Makuta is itself an incredible asset. Even if I was Bitil, I would be useful, and I’m considerably better versed than he ever was. Furthermore, shadow still works,” Krika paused, pondering his situation, “I suppose that’s because it’s elemental, and not tertiary. Actually,” he continued thoughtfully, “With elemental powers and a Great Mask of Power, I suppose I’m right on-par with a Toa...” he grinned, inspecting the Toa of Air struggling to get off the ground, “Well, a more-intelligent-than-average Toa, at any rate,” He chuckled and let the bitter Nidhiki free.As the shadows dispersed, Nidhiki rose from the ground, exerting all his willpower not to pull the wind from the Makuta’s lungs. “How,” he said, the intensity in his voice rising, “Do you propose we get up there?”“We’ll just have to use my Crast,” Krika shrugged, “I can repel myself from the shaft floor,”Nodding along to Krika’s proposal, Krakua turned to the self-proclaimed engineer. “Telluris! Can you open the door?” he asked.“With electricity, all it would take is a few seconds to cross some wires,” Telluris grinned, “But without electricity, all it takes is some leverage,”Telluris started walking towards the door, intending to pry it open. Before he got very far, however, he was stopped in his tracks by a brain-rattling screech. The door flew out of its slot and clanged its way to the bottom of the shaft. Krakua inspected his work; along the edge of the doorframe, metal had been bent and snapped by the power of pure sound. The Glatorian was a bit put off – he had missed his first chance to prove himself.Krika grinned, stepping backwards into the doorway, stretching out his hands. Telluris and Krakua grabbed hold, while Nidhiki, both doubtful by disposition and resentful of Krika’s shadow attack, glared at the Makuta in silence. Reluctantly, he snatched onto Krakua and Telluris, forming a ring.“My good sirs,” Krika breathed, “Onward, and upward!”He pushed off diagonally, getting them into the shaft. Immediately, he slammed into the metal wall, and the foursome began ricocheting. Krika was repelling himself from both walls simultaneously, hoping that the opposite forces would sandwich them in the center. Instead, they wobbled back and forth as they ascended. As Toa and Glatorian, they had strong arms and firm grips, but Krika was accelerating, and while his repulsion completely counteracted the force of gravity acting on him, it did not extend to the others. Their shoulders ached, as though their arms were being ripped from their sockets.Nidhiki gritted his teeth, keeping his grasps firm, when at length he felt the strain on his arms grow lighter. He realized that they had stopped moving; they were hanging from their ally’s grip, and he was hovering in midair. And as Nidhiki looked around, he saw why.Krika had finally succeeded in balancing between the two walls. The wall opposite them, however, was the elevator door, a door which was significantly weaker than the rest of the shaft. The Makuta was pushing against it with the Crast, hoping that it would burst open. Nidhiki was confident he would succeed, as the metal was already bending under his power, but he also knew enough about physics to guess what would happen when the door was gone.And so, the circle broke, and the four would-be rescuers were scattered across the tiled floor.Nidhiki pushed himself off of the ground. Krakua’s description had been just about accurate; a massive hole had been torn out of the wall, exposing them to the night sky. Girders hung limply all about them. The stairs were blocked by a fallen beam, but the survivors the mind-reader had sensed earlier had apparently moved on. Luckily, that meant that no one had seen them spewed out of an empty elevator shaft.His eyes fell on the curled-up figure of Krika. The Makuta’s hands covered his face as though he was crying, but, as Nidhiki realized with disgust, he was suppressing laughter.Venom dripped from Nidhiki’s voice. “You knew,” he accused.“I suspected,” said Krika, looking up, “That it would be a bumpy ride,”Krakua tensed, fearing that he would have to intervene between the two. Nidhiki, however, directed his anger to some of the rubble, and tried to blow it aside with his power over wind. Of course, the heavy metal scraps remained in place, but some of the dust and smaller fragments were pushed aside, making their path a little clearer.“Let’s just keep moving,” he exhaled. He was quickly growing impatient.“Wait!” cautioned Krakua. Nidhiki pivoted to face him, annoyed by the further delay.“Someone ahead,” Krakua explained warily, “Was just killed,”“All the more reason for us to hurry,” Nidhiki insisted, although he picked up on the worry in Krakua’s voice.“‘Was killed,’” Krika pointed out, “He didn’t say that someone ‘died’. They were ‘killed’. Implying that it wasn’t an accident,”“I don’t know what killed him,” Krakua said, “But it was thinking. A living, thinking creature ... and the signal is weak. Weaker than it should be,” he furrowed his eyebrows in concentration, “It has a different sort of brain than we have, like some kind of ... animal,” he winced, “It’s angry,”Nidhiki nodded as the revelation soaked in. “Lead the way,” he offered.The mind-reader obliged, his Suletu sensing survivors ahead. ~ “You should probably stay in front,” Norik realized, noting that he was ahead of his companion.The Chronicler obliged, her Elda sensing survivors ahead.Norik was keeping fires down all throughout the crash site, and so the heat was bearable. However, without Nidhiki, the air was bogged down with smoke and ash. And as the artificial lights had gone out with the engines, and the fire was dying down, Norik had to light their path using a ball of fire. Luckily, his flames did not worsen the dirty air, as the elemental power of a Toa of Fire alone does not create smoke, nor does it use fuel. However, should the fire touch anything combustible, it spreads, consuming the material and producing carbon dioxide as any fire would. Norik had already discovered that “anything combustible” now included his new, human flesh. And so, he suspended the fireball in midair above his blistering fingertips, still embarrassed that he had burned himself.Now, he held out his light so that Hahli could see the shrapnel she was stepping over. They were in a badly damaged section of the airship, which meant that they had to climb around rubble; pieces of the ceiling, pillars caved in during impact, loose bits of the wall, shattered furniture, and live wires. Norik observed that they were passing through some sort of armory. They were moving through a series of connecting rooms whose standing walls were lined with lockers, each containing a stall by their door holding gun-like weapons. He judged by the scattered chest plates and boots on the floor that the species he now apparently belonged to, with its interchangeable armor, used such chambers to equip themselves for combat. Norik was tempted to take some of the articles, as they appeared to offer better protection than his current garments, but he knew he had to focus on the matter at hand.Hahli was carefully stepping forward, scanning the space in front of them for other living things. She could still detect a group of survivors huddled in more or less the same area, but unlike Krakua, she could only focus on one thing at a time, and so others might have wandered into her range while she wasn’t looking.With a gasp, she felt the presence of someone else, just one room in front of them.“There’s someone up ahead!” she exclaimed, but, just as she shouted out, fear gripped her heart. She hoped they hadn’t heard her.“Oh - a survivor?” Norik asked.Hahli stepped back, hoping that Norik would take the cue to go in first. “They’re ... scary,” she whispered.“Scary?”“I just ... feel like I shouldn’t let them see me,” Hahli tried to clarify.Norik wasn’t familiar with the powers of Kanohi Elda, but he supposed that her mask could be warning her that whoever was laying in wait for them was an enemy. Still, he was inclined to give whomever it was the benefit of the doubt, and besides, he wasn’t about to run from a fight.Cautiously, he stepped into the door. It was another one of the chambers, which would once have been identical to the others, and now was distinguished only by the unique damage it withstood during the crash. About a quarter of the room was completely caved in, the ceiling was dented, and lockers had been strewn about.“They’re trying to hide,” Hahli informed him from behind, “In the corner,”Norik approached, dimming his fireball. He thought he caught glimpses of something huddling behind some of the horizontal locker doors. He tried his best to be soothing, reciting, “Don’t be afraid,” but of course, he had never had a very comforting personality.Peering over the obstacles, he saw someone lurking, hunched over like an animal. Judging by the silhouette, they were the same sort of creature the Toa had become; but if that was the case, Norik was far from impressed by his newfound brethren. He had at least expected the species to be civilized, but this creature seemed to be acting on primitive instinct. They breathed heavily, and their chest heaved with every breath. They raised their eyes to the Toa Hagah and growled.When he saw their face, he recoiled in horror. They were deformed, scabs and soars splotched across their cheeks. Thick liquid streaked its face, oozing from their mouth and nose and flowing from their eye sockets like tears; it appeared to be lodged in their throat as well, for its growl was deep and gurgling. What should have been the whites of their eyes were instead a sickly yellow, almost florescent.As the Toa hesitated, the aberration sprang with a primal scream, quickly followed by a shriek from a terrified Hahli. The wretch’s outstretched hands snatched at Norik’s neck. Still a stranger in his new body, it took him a moment to react. With a shove, Norik pushed them away, breaking their loose, clawing hold on his shoulders. They landed in a heap, but they quickly scrambled back, trying to put ground between themselves and their adversary.Norik was also recovering from the shock. Aware that he was unarmed, he pulled two of the locker doors from the ground. They were held together by what had been a separating column of metal, which Norik used as a grip. Although he still lacked a spear and was without Rhotuka spinners, but at least now he had a shield.Hissing, the creature tried to duck under the improvised shield. Norik easily blocked the strike and countered, using the lockers to strike his opponent on his head. They were shaken, but not as badly as the Toa Hagah had hoped, and they were soon preparing to attack again.Norik let them take the offensive again, hoping that after enough counters from his shield, the creature would drop. This time, however, they didn’t try to go around the shield, but tried to claw it from Norik’s hands. His grip held firm, but although one locker was attached with firm hinges, the other was held on only by a locking mechanism, which didn’t prove to be strong enough. Norik’s defense split in two.The snarling thing wasted no time with a brief retreat and quickly jumped on their prey. They managed to grab a tighter hold of the Toa’s neck, and the momentum thrust Norik backwards. Norik wasn’t quite knocked to the ground, but the creature was clearly on top of him, the ooze dripping from its face on to Norik’s crisp red uniform. He wasn’t strong enough to throw them off when they were in such a favorable position; it was all he could do not to be pinned down and strangled. However, Norik did not rely solely on his strength.Using his Kanohi Pehkui, Norik shrunk down beneath his assailant’s grip and ran out from under them. The creature looked around for the Toa, confused, only to find him bearing over them.Now, it was Norik’s turn to try and pin his enemy down. Although they had not appeared to the Toa as particularly strong, they were fueled by a beastly hatred. He was thrown off by the vicious humanoid, and by the time he looked up, the creature had pounced.The two struggled against one another, but Norik had no desire to try and match the freakish thing’s strength. He used his Mask of Diminishment again, ducking under their legs. This time, however, the creature was determined not to let their foe get away. They snatched at the twelve-inch Toa, lifting him off the ground. Norik immediately retaliated, growing to his full size and knocking them backwards.Norik exhaled stiffly. It was clear that diminishment wasn’t going to be enough, but he had a few other tricks up his sleeve.As his enemy started forwards once again, Norik released a tall jet of flame, hoping to intimidate them. It worked even better than he had hoped; the creature let loose an ear-piercing scream and bolted deeper into the ship, not looking back.Norik wasn’t about to let them escape. He dashed after the fleeing creature, determined to restrain them. He followed them into the next room over, dashing around fallen lockers and heaps of plaster, trying not to lose sight of his quarry. They were far faster and nimbler than he was, and easily navigated the ruined corridors, soon leaving Norik behind.Realizing that he lost sight of them, Norik paused, considering the situation. He supposed he was better off resuming his search for the survivors, and -As he realized what had happened, he fiercely scolded himself for not thinking things through. He had left Hahli behind in the dark!“Hahli!” he yelled out. He turned on his heel, calling, “Hahli!” as he jogged.He did his best to retrace his steps, but he soon found himself just as lost as he had been moments ago. His calls to Hahli became increasingly harsher as his frustration built. He had hoped that the crash site would hold answers. Now, here he was, even more lost and anxious than he had been on the beach. He couldn’t help but notice that he hadn’t helped anyone out of danger, either.“Norik!” came Hahli’s voice, “Over here!”The figure of the Toa of Water stepped into the radius of Norik’s firelight, wearing a weak smile.“Found you,” Hahli mentioned a bit shyly, “With the Kanohi Elda,”Norik nodded. “You’re getting the hang of that thing?” he asked.Hahli’s smile grew. Norik looked over her grin, her posture; she still seemed a bit uneasy, but she seemed to be gaining some confidence back, which was a good sign. With any luck, the rest of the team would tow.“I can still sense the people on this floor,” Hahli confirmed, “They’re moving, but very slowly,”“And that thing we found?” Norik wanted to know.Hahli frowned. “Don’t you think we should worry about the people in danger?” she suggested, far from eager to face the “thing” again anyway.The Toa of Fire shook his head, although not because he disagreed with her. “As long as that thing’s running around, they’re in all the more danger,” he pointed out, “But we’re better off finding the survivors, you’re right,”He gestured for her to take the lead once again. She headed in the same direction Norik had come, a little less cautiously than she had moved before; she had grown surer of her footing, even if she had no idea what lay ahead of them.The two continued there walk in silence. Norik believed he had come this way before, although he wasn’t entirely certain, and was surprised by how close he had come to exiting the locker rooms. They emerged into another dark, soot filled hallway much like the window-lined hall they had entered through. As far as they could see, there was still no sign of life, hostile or otherwise.Hahli led Norik through corridors dotted with doorways, branching off into rooms of unknown content. “Almost there,” Hahli whispered, fear and excitement alike in her voice. They approached a bend in the hallway. Beams of weak, yellow light flashed around the corner every so often, the motions of a light source, just off-screen.With a smile, Hahli gestured for Norik to follow. The survivors were beyond this last corner.The Toa approached, with some degree of caution. They saw a figure in the darkness, hunched over a flashlight, fiddling with something in his hands. At first, Norik feared that they had stumbled upon the creature again, but he supposed that Hahli’s Elda would recognize it if so.“Hello?” Hahli called, “We’re here to help!”As the figure turned around, however, the beam of his flashlight caused the Toa to flinch and turn away. They could still make out a blurry silhouette, backing away from them, afraid, but not with the primitive fear the creature had shown when they had first encountered it. This was the caution of a rational individual, which Norik was pleased to see.“Taiki! They’re here!” the figure called, which an edge in his voice that fell somewhere between terrified panic and passionate enthusiasm. Norik squinted, trying to clear up his eyesight and, he hoped, his confusion.As shapes and colors straightened out again, however, his confusion only grew.He was looking at the barrel of a gun.
  11. If you look at my profile on November 30th, 2012, you might notice something out of the ordinary. I have been a member of BZPower for years, but I am still in the New Members group. I created this account years ago, thinking that I would use it, but a friend of mine recruited me to another BIONICLE fan-site and I wound up never posting here. Rather, I wrote several BIONICLE Epics and Fan-Fictions of varying quality and posted them there. My friend and I, along with a handful of others, still use the site, and this epic was posted there first. However, with this story, I'm taking a different approach. My goal with Hopeless Dream is to get people talking. I'm trying to write the sort of story that leads people to wonder and theorize, and we'll see how well I accomplish this as time goes on. And so, to widen the audience, I am posting The Hopeless Dream here as well. I've done my best to portray realistically how these characters would react to awaking as human beings. They are just as confused as some of you probably are, about how they have arrived in this strange new world, and why they have been transformed. Rest assured, I have the answers, and I intend to reveal more and more about the situation, to the characters and to you, the readers, as the story marches forward. That said, I'm going to refrain from hinting at anything in this topic - I'll answer questions of clarification, of course, but I don't want to discuss any future plans I have in a story of this nature. Please, tell me what you think! Edit: Firstly, second chapter is up, after several months and no comments. But I'll keep at it, mind you. Secondly, it would appear as though that second chapter was too long, or subject to a formatting glitch. One way or the other, it's been cut off. I'm working on splitting it now, and by the time anyone reads this, I suspect it will have been divided between two posts. However, if anyone can tell me what may have happened, or else redirect me to a topic which can, I would appreciate it. On the upside, this might get me out of the New Members category... We'll see how that goes. I probably should try and shorten my chapters in any way I can, they're quite unwieldy.
  12. Falling The last time Hahli had closed her eyes, she had awoken to a nightmare. She had seen the Realm of Karzahni, a place from the depths of legend. It was said that the greedy and selfish were sent there to be repaired into hard-working individuals. Few returned, however, for Karzahni was mad, and was just as likely to rebuild them as freakish monsters.The Elders Hahli knew and trusted had soothed their peoples fears of Karzahni, assuring them that the story was a silly old myth, told long ago to frighten lazy workers. She had heard many such silly old myths serving as Chronicler of Metru Nui, a once-great city that had been devastated by treachery. Her people had been exiled a millennia before, but they had returned at last to rebuild their civilization and preserve its legacy. Their celebration quickly turned to frenzy. Buildings needed to be reconstructed, transportation systems need to be restored, defenses need to be installed, statues needed to be erected, and silly old myths need to be recorded, all in the name of prosperity.Metru Nui had been protected by seven heroes, called Toa Nuva, each wielding Elemental Powers. However, six of the seven had been sent by the Elders to the island of Voya Nui, on a mission rumored to be vital to all life in the universe. The Toa did not return, and in their absence, mistrust of the Elders had built. As Chronicler, Hahli had been recruited by Jaller, Captain of the Guards, as part of a team to journey to Voya Nui, to offer aid to their heroes - and prove a point to the Elders.Their expedition had traveled too close to the Realm of Karzahni. The ancient being had captured them with twisted glee, for so few had been sent to his Realm recently. He had sent them to laborious and often pointless work throughout his Realm while he prepared to experiment on them. Calling them back together, he had demonstrated his ability to conjure terrifying illusions from the very fears of his prisoners, but when he looked into the mind of Jaller, he saw the devastation of a world without Toa, and became so overwhelmed by the vision that they had escaped. The team found six Toa Canisters, sleek metal transports that could take them to their destination. Hahli climbed into hers and closed her eyes, breathing deeply, telling herself to trust the Canister to take her wherever she needed to go. ~ Traveling in a Toa Canister removes all sensation. The experience is compared to a deep sleep, although one usually wakes up from such a journey cramped and sore. They sacrifice comfort for automatic piloting and a nearly invulnerable transport.Hahli yawned and tried to stretch her legs, but froze when she heard the sound of her feet crashing against the Canister wall. Her feet were too close to the front, but she could see in the dim Canister that her head was only a few feet away from the back...Cautiously, she squirmed in place, trying to gather an idea of what had happened. She was taller, but that was a relatively small change compared to the rest. Her armor was gone, replaced with a far lighter, multi-layered armor she doubted could protect her from a slingshot. Her mask had gone with it - although she remembered Karzahni had taken her mask, he had then given her a different one as a replacement. Now, that had vanished, replaced with long strands of something brown sprouting from her head. She had changed into some sort of fleshy mutant, her body purely biological and absent of any mechanical components. Having never seen an animal without armor, she suddenly feared that she had been mutated into a plant.At length, she decided that she wasnt going to get any answers in the Canister. She opened the massive Canister lid, bracing herself for the unknown; little was known about Voya Nui. But it couldnt be worse than the Realm of Karzahni, could it?The Canister had landed on a small, rocky beach, dotted with tall weeds. She could clearly hear the wind and the crashing waves behind her. It was cloudy, but the light still made Hahli squint. Standing in front of her, leaning casually on a bolder jutting out from grass and sand, was a similarly pinkish figure. He was wearing light armor, as she was, in the form of a dark grey jacket and pants, a white shirt, and a blue tie scattered with white music notes. The growths on his head were much shorter, and partially covered by a grey fedora. Hahli opened her mouth, but gagged on her new tongue, allowing the figure to speak first."I went through almost the same thoughts as you did," the figure said, "But being a plant hadnt occurred to me," He spoke with the lightheartedness of an old friend, but it only perplexed Hahli further. He couldnt know what she was thinking, unless..."Kanohi Suletu," he said, his smile widening, "Mask of Telepathy,""Kongu!" exclaimed Hahli, relief filling her. Kongu was another of Jaller's company, energetic and lighthearted. Their party had found a damaged Kanohi Suletu, and Kongu had decided to keep it. She ran to him, but she was still uncoordinated in her new body, and stumbled, falling right into his arms. She laughed at herself, and hugged him."I suppose I wanted to reassure you," he said, nervousness creeping into his voice, "And I dont want you to panic, but..."Gently but firmly, he pushed Hahli back, and locked eyes with her. His eyes were a light blue-grey, but he didnt look at her with the happiness Hahli had expected."I'm sorry, Hahli. But I'm not Kongu," he told her.She stepped further away from him, embarrassment filling her. She and Kongu had never been close, but after all that had happened since they left Metru Nui, all that was still happening, she had been thrilled to think she was with someone so familiar. Now, her initial fear returned, her mind spinning, trying to make sense of her transformation. It made her dizzy.The mind-reader stared on, helplessly. "I dont know what to tell you," he admitted, "My name is Krakua, Toa of Sonics,""Sonics..." she whispered, not understanding, still dazed in the fog of her mind.Krakua slowly spread his arms. Hahli stared at him, clueless what he was doing, when she realized that the sounds of the beach had disappeared. Sonics, he sighed, as though lost in nostalgia, closing his eyes and smiling at the peace. Hahli heard a low humming, and watched his hands rise and lower along with the new sound. He strung together a simple melody, and quickly began to build it. Hahli was dumbstruck; the music she was familiar with was entirely traditional, featuring little innovation. In a thousand years of exile, her people had never produced something as ornate as what Krakua appeared to be composing on the spot, nothing that she had heard; although, she realized, Kongus village had always been known for its music, and on her first and only visit there she had been greeted by a performance. The villagers had piped and drummed out a fast beat for dancing and celebration, without the need for an occasion. It hadnt been nearly as complex, but Hahli had laughed and danced with the villagers, delighted by their show. Krakuas song, meanwhile, waved and wove, sounding lovely and almost haunting. It was beautiful, certainly, but it didnt bring her that elation brought on by simpler, upbeat music. The two didn't really compare.Hahli grew calm. She really did see something of Kongu in Krakua, something that went deeper than the mask they wore. They were both musical, and through their music, Hahli could see the sort of people they were. She heard their soul in their song, and that was reassuring."I'll take that as a compliment," Krakua grinned, bringing his music to a halt.Hahli jumped, having already forgotten that he could hear her thoughts. "Oh, I like it," she told him a little too quickly, immediately wondering if that was being too friendly.Krakua chuckled. "You trust me?" he asked her.And, without speaking a word, Hahli told him that she did. They both grinned."Heh, good," Krakua laughed. He grew serious, saying, "Because I think I know what happened to your friends,""Don't worry, they're safe!" he blurted, sensing her worry, "But they're far away, Hahli. I'm sorry,""They arrived safely. But when they emerged from their Canisters, they had changed,"Hahli nodded along, looking at the spread of her new fingers."Not like us, actually," Krakua clarified, "I dont know what this is all about. They kept their armor. But it was new armor. Toa armor,"She stared at Krakua, expecting yet another twist. Instead, he stared back, his eyes meeting hers, apologetically. The concept of Jaller, Kongu, and the rest as Toa was ... unbelievable. She had known them all her life. It wasn't had news, really, but she was quickly realizing the implications..."It was destiny, I suppose," Krakua went on, "No one's figured out how they transformed so far. But the world needed heroes. The old Toa, the Toa Nuva, had failed. Although they survived too!" he added quickly, "But the Toa Mahri, Jaller's team, they succeeded,""They saved, the universe, Hahli," he finished, gently."Without me," Hahli whispered, her voice cracking.Krakua nodded glumly. "I didn't hear about a missing teammate - But I'm sure theyre worried!" he explained, "I just assumed it was a team of six, didn't pay attention to the details, sorry. Caught Jaller's name ... Kongu sounds familiar ... was there an Onepu...?"Krakua trailed off, not expecting an answer. He bowed his head and tuned out Hahli's thoughts for the moment. Almost immediately, he felt the itch to check again. He had grown used to the Suletu, and for good reason. He had lived as an outsider among his people before it had come into his life. There were numerous reasons, but first and foremost, it had been because he couldn't pick up on the emotions of those around him. People had been unpredictable. So he had kept to himself, humming made-up songs and working alone when possible. When he spoke, he had usually been reprimanded for disruption, for getting people off task. With the Suletu, however, he knew what buttons to press, and could measure reactions to his activity. He peeked up at Hahli, hoping to try and deduce her emotion from her facial expression, despite never being very good at that. Instead, he noticed her lips were moving."Sorry, what was that?" he asked, re-activating his powers.Hahli looked troubled, understandably, although her mind was no longer with her friends. "Why werent you listening?""I figured you wouldnt want me reading your thoughts right then, and..." Krakua took a breath, realizing that he was going to have to start from the beginning."And, as a Toa of Sonics, I make a lot of noise. I've created shockwaves that could reduce boulders to dust," he explained, pointing to his ear, "I lost by hearing completely. Butchered the Sound Receptors,"Something occurred to him, and he poked at his new, human ear experimentally."I guess they're not electronic anymore. Purely organic ears..." he mused, "Still cant hear a darned thing, though. Hence, Kanohi Suletu,"Hahli nodded, beginning to understand him. "I was just asking if you were a local Toa,"Krakua shook his head. "I was sent to deliver a message Axonn, one of the guardians of..." he trailed off yet again, lost in thought."Assuming," he continued, "That this is Voya Nui," He squinted at their surroundings, seeing only the ocean or rocky hills in all directions.Hahli sighed, feeling the flood of thoughts begin, wondering where she was. She was quickly growing sick of having the world pulled from beneath her feet. In contrast, Krakua was learning quickly, and he knew exactly what to do."Follow me," he told her, "We've got to find the others," ~ Krakua walked briskly over the uneven terrain, while Hahli was still getting used to her new form, the swaying of her legs, the weight of such light armor, and was struggling to keep up. All the while, Krakua explained his thinking to her at a pace to match his stride."I can sense two other entities, recently awakened from Canister Hibernation. They've met, and they're heading roughly in our direction. I think it's a coincidence," he paused, "Yeah, theyre going to some sort of landmark we can't see from our vantage point.""Over those rocks, I guess," he said, turning in that direction, "We'll meet them there,"Hahli nodded, feeling a little excited. Rock climbing was proper adventure. They were going to find out what was going on, and she would have a story of her own to tell the Toa Mahri when she got home.If Krakua heard her, he didn't warn her not to keep her hopes up.Hahli did her best to follow Krakua's path as they began to ascend the dull, rough surface of the boulders. She moved uncertainly, testing potential footholds, while Krakua steamed ahead, on the rocks and in his speech."If you believe this is Voya Nui, than you have to trust that the Canisters functioned properly. Clearly, yours didn't! But while I've never heard of Canisters malfunctioning, I have heard of them being tampered with. Which would mean that someone wants us here, and they've changed us into these squishy things. Must be, otherwise these fellows wouldn't be here - how many people go to Voya Nui at this time of year? And if we were on Voya Nui, why didn't you arrive with the rest of the Toa Mahri?""Wait, wait!" Hahli called, both because she was falling behind on the rocks, and because she was falling behind in his logic. Krakua looked back, expectantly. Hahli began to ask, but then she starting laughing at the absurdity of the idea. "That doesnt mean ... That doesnt make me a Toa!"No, she decided. There was no way. She looked to her guide, nervously. She saw that he wasnt laughing. "Does it?" she asked, shaking as she considered the idea.In response, Krakua simply gestured behind her. She turned, and saw only the ocean and the beach, below the cloudy sky. She understood. She concentrated, not really knowing how to make it happen, but just willing it to. She focused so hard, she didnt realize that she had closed her eyes."Look," Krakua prompted.A small font of water had sprung up from the sea in front of her, raising a few feet, barely a ripple. To Hahli, it was the most amazing thing in the world."Hahli Mahri, Toa of Water," Krakua admired, "I promise to you, you will get back home,""You knew," she whispered, in awe of her own display, "Because of the Suletu,""Not in the way you'd think," Krakua explained, "If you weren't a Toa, you wouldn't have a mask power. The Suletu can pick up on certain mask powers, even when its wearer cannot. You wear Kanohi Elda, the Mask of Detection. It allows you to see what is hidden,"Krakua came forward as he was speaking, and touched Hahli lightly on the shoulder. "That's enough," he told her. She stopped the water, but remained fixated on the rippling sea until Krakua gently pulled her away. "Try and detect them," he nudged.Hahli did her best to look for what was hidden. She looked for two entities, alone along the shore. Just as she and Krakua were.She gasped. She could feel them, she knew where they were! Again, dizziness came over her. So much had happened; so much was happening still, that it was overwhelming."Krakua," she announced, "I can feel them! ... And thats not all. There are others - dozens of them, all together, in a village or something!"Krakua nodded. "About as many as a small village, yes, but even at this distance, their mindset is so busy, so rushed, that they come across as city folk..." he pondered, "Perhaps a factory,"Hahli studied the Toa of Sonics, and did her best to emulate his thoughtfulness: "I cannot..." she searched for the word, "...sense their mindset,""You never will," Krakua responded, "The Suletu and the Elda can both detect people out-of-view, but only the Suletu can read their minds," He resumed climbing the rocks."Whets the point of the Elda, then?" Hahli asked, starting after him."Kanohi don't work like that ... they weren't designed, but discovered, forged from Kanoka Disks. Don't ask me where the Disks come from; theyre just Crafted somehow. Combine the Disks in different ways, get different powers. Some are completely useless. There's plenty of redundant masks - Levitation is useless compared to Flight," he went on, "Oh, and Kanohi Crast, the Mask of Repulsion, lets you push things away. The Mask of Gravity can do that, and more,"Hahli looked in despair at the foothold Krakua had used ahead of her; she knew she couldnt reach. She tried to hold on to some weeds growing in a crack, but when she tugged on them they became completely uprooted and crumbled in her hands. She began to look around for another way, when she saw Krakuas outstretched hand."My Suletu only works on people; Kanohi Elda will show you many other secrets that will pass by me unnoticed," Krakua smiled, "I've already won your respect. Have a little for yourself,"Hahli grinned and nodded, letting him help her on to a ledge."Lead the way," he instructed.She concentrated, feeling for the presence of the others ahead."This way," she determined. ~ Norik scanned their surroundings impatiently. They were in a region of rocky hills, surrounded by boulders, easily ambushed from above or below. As he scrutinized every potential avenue of attack, he confirmed, once again, that his paranoia was unwarranted. Feeling restless, he inspected his own garments. Although he didn't know it, he was a military officer's formal dress. He wore a dark red uniform, complete with a matching cap, and his jacket was decorated with medals of no significance to him. He felt naked in such light armor, wishing he still had his shield, spear, or even his mask.Over the decades, Norik had risen through the Toa ranks to be the leader of a Toa Hagah Team. Toa Hagah were elite among elite; they served as the personal vassals of Makuta, bureaucrats charged with protecting existing forms of life and, if need be, genetically engineering new animals as beast of labor. As a Toa Hagah Team Leader, Norik had guarded Makuta Teridax himself, who had possessed so much influence that the Great Spirit addressed him as a brother. The work was dangerous, and often morally ambiguous. Norik had restrained his lord's failed experiments minutes after their birth, extinguished revolts against Teridax's authority, and stood through day-long negotiations without flinching or speaking a word, in order to intimidate the other faction in a display of Teridax's strength. Still, that was the way of the Makuta; in times of crisis, they did the work that needed to be done, and once peace was restored, they hid in the shadows, perhaps, Norik had wondered, out of shame. Norik had felt a kinship with his often secretive lord, imagining how it felt to receive less recognition than the glorified Toa-heroes, despite fighting far grimmer battles. He instructed his Team to be proud of their duty, for everyday, even if they accomplished nothing else, they showed the Brotherhood of Makuta that the Toa of the universe supported their lordships wholeheartedly.But Norik's respect had not been enough. The Makuta had grown envious of the Light, and had plotted a horrible revolt against the Great Spirit himself. Conversations heard through closed doors and words he shouldn't have read revealed to Norik a small glimpse of the plan, enough to recoil in horror. It was known that the Makuta were powerful, and fearing such a scheme, a Great Kanohi Mask had been created as a fail-safe. The Mask of Light was said to be able to negate the Makutas' power, but the Makuta, hearing of this, had stolen the Mask of Light preemptively. Norik had led his team to the Makutas' inner sanctum, stolen the mask back, and then labored to return it to safety. The stress had torn their team apart, and Norik had been left frustrated and hopeless. The Makuta had pursued them relentlessly, capturing no less than four of the six Toa Hagah. Norik had searched for his remaining teammate, Iruini, and had convinced him to help him free the others. They found their allies, partners, and old friends horribly mutated and tortured, part of some sick experiment. As Norik had cursed himself for his failure, a servant of the Brotherhood appeared, raising her weapon to his head. He had tried to run, but he knew it was hopeless; closing his eyes, he had prepared for death.His body had gone cold and numb. As he felt his surroundings, he had realized that he lay in a Toa Canister, with no weapons, no armor, and no idea what was going on.The Toa of Air crouched between two boulders, peering through the gap at their discovery, some variety of civilization in the distance. He wore a strange pattern over all of his cloths, blobs of green, dark green, brown, and a dozen other colors, layered over each other. Military grade camouflage, although neither Toa recognized it."Those towers..." he was muttering, "Ready to shoot anything in the sky, but limited defenses on the ground. Why?"He was quickly getting on Norik's nerves. Like Norik, this Toa, named Nidhiki, had been moments away from being killed, only to be transported to a Toa Canister. He claimed to have been fighting in the Toa-Dark Hunter War, a terrible conflict begun when the Dark Hunters, a band of mercenaries, had been refused access to the legendary city of Metru Nui, and retaliated in rage. Nidhiki had been a part of the Toa Team sent to fight the Dark Hunters' spree of terrorism. As the war reached a stalemate, with the Dark Hunters unable to defeat the Toa in combat and the Toa unable to find them, Nidhiki had been caught alone and off-guard by a Dark Hunter. He fought, but soon surrendered, closing his eyes and bracing himself for death.The events of the Toa-Dark Hunter War were well known to Norik, and Nidhiki's description of events matched what he had heard. What didn't add up, however, was that the Toa-Dark Hunter War had ended ages ago, while Nidhiki spoke of it as though it was still going on. He certainly spoke like a warrior; since they had found each other, Nidhiki had shrugged off most of Norik's questions and focused on finding civilization. Now that they had found it, he seemed convinced it was an enemy camp. The anachronism was far more frightening, however. If the force that had brought them here moved through time itself, what else could it do?Norik shook it all off, trying to concentrate on the present. "If there are people there, its a good a place as any to start looking," he repeated, "Lets just climb down and -"A glare from Nidhiki cut him off. "You have no idea who these guys are, or how friendly they are," The veteran took a dark-colored mask from the ground, a mask with a glass visor and a large mouthpiece. "The Mask of Stealth can get me in,""If we go to straight to subterfuge, we'll ruin their trust before we even meet them," Norik pointed out."If we don't, we'll get shot," Nidhiki retorted, and moved to put his mask on."Found something?"Norik and Nidhiki swerved to face the newcomers, fearing that they had been discovered. A man wearing a grey suit had spoken, standing casually behind a companion. She wore jeans and a jean jacket, both splattered with white paint, over a faded light-blue shirt advertizing a boating company. Norik took a cautious step forward. "Do you work there?" he asked, tilting his head towards the facility.Krakua shook his head. "We're just like you, Toa dragged off course and dumped here without explanation,""We didnt mention," Nidhiki spoke slowly, "That we were Toa,"Krakua grinned and said nothing. Instead, Norik and Nidhiki heard his voice in their heads: Suletu, the Mask of Telepathy. He sensed distrust rise in Norik immediately, resentful that his thoughts were being invaded. In Nidhiki, however, he only found confusion."How did you do that?" Nidhiki asked in awe."... He just told us!" Norik reminded him, "He's got a Suletu!""He's not wearing it now!" Nidhiki shouted, defensively.The four Toa stared at one another in silence for a time, processing the information. Krakua and Hahli had been using mask powers without a second thought. Before long, however, the rest of the group was snapped out of it by Hahli gasping. They looked around and noticed that Norik had become three feet tall and half as wide, his cloths shrinking to fit."Excellent," Norik nodded, growing back to his original size, "I still have my Pehkui after all,""The Mask of Diminishment," Krakua mumbled to Hahli, "Allows the user to shrink. Nothing that the Mahiki cant do, though,"Then, Nidhiki seemed to fade from sight. A surprised Hahli looked around for him, but Krakua and Norik recognized the effects of the Mask of Stealth. They were compelled not to look precisely where the Toa was, although the strong-willed still stood a chance at find him."Bloody useful this is, then," said Nidhiki upon reappearance, throwing the mask he had been given onto the ground beneath him."We've mutated," Norik said, piecing everything together, "And our masks fused to our faces, becoming ... soft, like plants. Then Nidhiki was given a second mask, because..." He squinted, trying to riddle it out."Just to mess with me! Ha! Ha! Ha!" Nidhiki belted out, tossing his head back, his voice scathing.Norik stiffened at Nidhikis outburst. "I found this one," he continued, "Wandering the beach. He says he's from the Toa-Dark Hunter War, all those years ago. We think that weve somehow been transported out of our times -""I never said I agreed with you," Nidhiki interrupted."I am Norik Hagah, Toa of Fire," Norik pressed on, ignoring the Toa of Air, "Appointed leader of Makuta Teridax's Toa Hagah," Krakua was impressed by his proclamation; to be selected as a Toa Hagah at the height of the Brotherhoods power was high acclaim. Hahli had never heard of a Toa Hagah, but the mention of Makuta Teridax quickly put her on edge. Teridax had exiled her people from Metru Nui, and terrorized them for decades after. Legends of his past deeds only described other crimes, and his status as servant of the Great Spirit had been forgotten by all but the keenest historians."Nidhiki Magnai, Toa of Air," added the squatting figure, who had begun poking at the mouthpiece of the mask on the ground.The group fell into silence again. Hahli sighed, peering at the building in the distance and wondering how they had wound up here, why she had been chosen. If they needed Toa, surely they could have just asked? And why four who had never met, four from different places and - what had Norik said? Times? For all of the legends she had heard, the histories she had transcribed, this was unprecedented. She looked around to the others, only to find that they were staring at her."Oh!" she exclaimed, "I'm Hahli, sorry ... Toa of Water, I guess," She felt her face grow hot, and found herself all the more uncomfortable in her new form. She noticed that Norik was still watching her intently, studying her, and she cursed herself for not speaking sooner."H... Hahli?" Norik asked, looking bewildered. He pondered the name for a moment, certain he had heard it before, until he reached a moment of realization."Hahli!" he cried, alarm filling his voice, "We've got to get out, Hahli, we've got to get back..." His voice weakened, and he wavered on his feet. Krakua moved closer in case he fell, but Norik managed to remain on his feet. The mind-reader studied him closely, perplexed. Hahlis name had triggered something in Norik, revealing to Krakua a shadow cast over his mind. It was as though some power was trying to prevent the Toa of Fire from even thinking about her."Where do we have to go?" Hahli shrieked, caught entirely off guard, "Who are you?"Krakua held up his hand to stop her. "Don't," he cautioned, "Not now.""I don't..." Norik stammered, pushing himself to remember. He felt Krakua enter his mind, soothing him, telling him not to worry."It's okay, Norik," Krakua whispered, "It's not your fault. It's in all of us,"Nidhiki looked up, growing nervous, while Hahli began shaking. The sun was falling in the sky, and it was growing colder."Yes, I noticed it before," Krakua confirmed, "There was darkness surrounding Nidhiki's name, too, in Norik, Hahli," and, he stopped, reluctant to admit it, but continued, "In me. It was not nearly as extreme as Noriks reaction, of course,""What is it?" Hahli whispered."I'm not certain, but I believe it's our memories. They've been tampered with, suppressing all knowledge we had of one another before we arrived here. If Norik's right, and Nidhiki's from our past, then we must have heard of him. And subsequently, that knowledge was removed," he paused, considering the possibilities. "Such a precise modification would be difficult to sustain ... if you tried that on two people who knew each other well, they'd overcome it eventually. Although they'd get a far worse headache than Norik did,""That's why we're strangers," Norik deduced, gathering his senses."Someone," Krakua agreed, "Has gone to great lengths to bring in four Toa who don't know each other," ~ Hahli sat watching the sun set over the horizon. Even the sky seemed different from her home. She pulled her knees to her chest, holding herself together, wondering where she was.Krakua had joined Nidhiki by the boulders, leaning on one of the rocks and peering at the structures in the distance. It was a large complex of grey buildings, surrounded by two walls and a ring of watch towers, armed with some sort of cannon, scanning the sky. The entire compound was hidden from the rest of the world, stationed in a deep valley and surrounded by steep hills. There appeared to be several roads leading in and out through tunnels. Krakua used his Suletu to try and learn more, but the people were far away, and the signals were weak. Hahli doubted they were ever going to decide to go down there.Norik had resumed his watch without prompting. It gave him something to do while he thought. He had a nagging suspicion, and at last, he had exhausted all other possibilities. It was a flimsy conclusion at best, but Norik knew Toa teams. He had led several, and he had been promoted to Toa Hagah for his expertise. And there was something obviously out of place here."Why four?" Norik asked aloud.Krakua turned, perplexed. He had been focusing on the facility, not listening to Noriks mental reasoning."Toa come in sixes. There are extenuating circumstances, to be sure," Norik went on, "When a bunch of Toa group together, their number depends on how many Toa were in the vicinity, how many are ready to work together. And then deaths, births, mutations, and a hundred other things can change it, too.""But that's when a team gets together on its own," Norik pointed out, "And we didnt come here of our own free will. We were brought here by someone, and if that someone wanted a Toa Team, why did they bring four?""I didn't realize," came Nidhikis voice. The group turned to see him glowering."I didn't realize we were a team," he reiterated.Krakua shook his head, saying, "I scanned the beach for the thoughts of people emerging from Canisters. I only picked up you three, not even a ghost of another signature. And I havent picked up anyone else since then,""I see them," Hahli whispered."Sorry?" Krakua asked."They've found the buildings," Hahli claimed, "They're on the other side of the valley. Two of them, all alone,"Norik and Nidhiki looked at Krakua expectedly, but he was still shaking his head. "That's impossible. No one's thinking over there, I would be able to feel it if they could,""Unless," Norik suggested, "They're shielded from telepathy,"Krakua laughed, nervously. "The Elda can't see anyone the Suletu can't. Look, we've been waiting long enough. They're not likely to attack us if were unarmed, and if they did, wed have Elemental Powers to defend ourselves with -""Look into her mind, Krakua," Norik insisted, "And see what she sees,""Were wasting time -" Krakua began."Guys..." Nidhiki moaned, his eyes fixed on the sky."Have you looked?" Norik asked."There'd be nothing to see -""I can feel them! Right over there!" Hahli interrupted."Guys!" Nidhiki called."You've just gotten your powers -" Krakua dismissed.That was enough for Norik. He had nearly been killed, he had lost his job, his team, everything, he had been transformed into something he had never seen before, he had been humiliated by the power of a name he didnt recognize, and now everyone was pulling in different directions, shouting over each other. But Norik had seen this before; he had been placed in front of Toa, watched them snap and bite at one another, and he had been expected to lead them."Do you, Krakua," he yelled, "Outrank a Toa Hagah Team Leader?""I'll have you know -" Krakua began, but his confidence faltered. In Norik's days, there had been a strong hierarchy of Toa. There had been a long sorting algorithm of success and experience. Norik had maneuvered through that, and come out as an aid to one of the most powerful people of the time. Krakua's situation unraveled before him. This was intended to be nothing more than his first mission, a simple go-and-fetch quest for him to get some practice. He answered to a high authority, to be sure, but he was just an errand boy within that Order."Do you?" Norik asked again."SHUT UP!" Nidhiki yelled, before Krakua could reply. All turned in his direction, and found there wasnt much to see. The Toa Magnai looked annoyed, as he had looked since they met him. He still crouched in his chosen vantage point. What had changed was that he was urgently pointing to the sky.They flew overhead, making such a clamor that the Toa were surprised they hadn't noticed. Each was a massive, dark egg shape silhouetted over the fading blue sky. Those that flew closer to the ground revealed rows of sharp wings, jutting from either side, along with a shorter row running along the bottom like a fin. Two massive orange lights glowed on the rear of the underbelly while smaller lights blinked on the tips of the wings. Flittering about them were their smaller kin, perhaps serving as communication links, delivery routes, or scouts."Airships," Hahli summarized, barely audible over the sound of the engines, "But I've never seen so many,""The facility doesnt seem happy about it," Norik commented. The watch towers were bursting with activity. Each weapon was taking aim at the fleet.The Toa didn't know what to do. They stood and watched as the airships passed overhead. The watchtowers didnt fire. The sound of roaring engines died away.Krakua spoke again. "It was a display," he explained glumly, "I could feel the confidence in the airships. They were trying to intimidate the people down there," He pointed at the crack, at the facility slowly calming down. "It worked. They were scared stiff.""Some sort of conflict?" Norik asked.Krakua was numb. "A war," he confirmed.The Toa had fell into silence yet again, the events of the day exhausting them. At length, Krakua cleared his throat and turned to Hahli."You were right, Hahli," he confessed, "I can't see them, but I can see that you see..." He stopped, sensing that she had forgiven him."Are they still where they were?" Norik asked.Hahli shook her head. "They were scared off by the airships, I think," she said, "And started heading around the valley, back where Krakua and I came from,"She started out, with Norik following close behind. After an afternoon of scaling boulders, they descended the first rock with ease. Krakua came after less confidently, testing every foothold. Nidhiki let them get ahead of him at first, before at last rising from his perch, glancing again at the fortifications behind him. Before he left, he thought to take the mask with him, powerless or not. ~ It was night now. Seeing the alien constellations, scattered across a sky with no red star, was unsettling to them all. None of them spoke of it, but they knew they were in another world. Those who had jackets wrapped up tight in the night chill; Norik suggested they jog to create warmth. He didnt use his power over fire. He didnt want to draw attention to the group.Hahli saw them, even in the darkness: two more displaced souls traversing the landscape. "Hey!" she called out, "Over here!""We're unarmed!" came a quick response, "We come in peace!" The two didn't come any closer, but neither did they run away.Krakua, try as he might, still heard no thoughts from either of them. One seemed as though he simply wasnt there, an empty space on the map; the other was more clumsily hidden, sort of like a black spot on the Suletus radar, blurred, but not invisible. He wouldnt have noticed it at first, but now that he knew what to look for, he would be able to find him again.The Toa jogged up to them. It was difficult to make them out in the darkness, but they were dressed just as strangely as the Toa. One of the two was a giant, easily seven feet tall, broad-shouldered. He wasnt muscular, however, but in fact possessed nearly skeletal limbs, having lived on scraps for decades. He was wrapping a long black trench coat over a strange, neon-orange costume, the cloths of a construction worker. His mind was entirely invisible to Krakua.His companion, who had spoken first, was shorter, but still relatively tall, wearing a long, crisp white lab coat. He was of pale complexion and short, dark hair which almost seemed spiky. Boney and slouching, he didnt look like a soldier of any sort, despite holding his hands up in surrender. He was reciting military clichés, but he wore a sarcastic smirk. Unlike the giant, Krakua could feel this man's consciousness there, but something was still preventing him from getting in his head, pushing him back, as though they were magnets of the same charge. His brain was a safe, locked tight."We came in Canisters!" Norik explained, ignoring the possibility that they were locals, "But we do not remember how we came to be here! We guessed there are meant to be six of us. Are you Toa?" he asked, believing he already knew the answer. To his surprise, the pale man began laughing."Ha! No, sir, no I am not! And by friend here has never even heard of Toa!" he explained. The giant stepped behind him, appearing frightened."But you came in Canisters?" Norik asked, already frustrated with this new development."Oh, yes!" the pale man confirmed, still smirking.Krakua stepped forward. "Forgive me, but, I wear Kanohi Suletu, the Mask of Telepathy. But hear no thoughts from either of you!"The pale man looked surprised, and turned to his friend. "Telluris, how are you pulling that off?"The giant, Telluris, only stammered, "I ... I do not understand,"The pale man reassured him, "Don't fear, Telluris, you have no way of knowing. I truly am sorry you've gotten wrapped up in all this,"Just as Norik was about to speak again, the pale man called out, "A wear Kanohi Crast, sir. You've probably never heard of it. It was deemed useless, as it only repelled, and couldnt pull things forward as a Mask of Gravity can. But I studied it for some time, and I realized that it repelled not only objects, but also energy, all kinds of energy. Psionic, electric..."As he spoke, he vanished before them, becoming, just as he was a blur to the Suletu, a blur to their eyes. Color and form are merely the products of light bouncing off of objects, light that this stranger was no longer allowing to touch him."Even light itself," he continued, reappearing, "I am quite difficult to find,""And, you are?" Norik interjected."You have not told me your names, yet," the man pointed out. He had no desire to be the first to introduce himself, nor to state his name upon request. He had no reason to respect the red-uniformed figure in front of him."Norik Hagah, Toa of Fire," Norik replied sharply, "And this is Nidhiki Magnai, Toa of Air, Krakua, Toa of Sonics, and Hahli, Toa of Water,"The man in the lab coat hung his head, as though in shame. His smirk vanished. "Knowing my name," he sighed, "Would only trouble you further,"Norik watched his temper, not wanting to raise his voice again. "Look, weve got enough problems without -" he began, but stopped, noticing the sound of engines growing louder again.They swarmed in the sky, even closer to the ground this time. Nidhiki shuddered, and not due to the cold; in the darkness, their resemblance to hunting insects was even stronger. The orange lights did not blink, but their glow faded and grew, sending the unsettling implication that they were scanning the ground below. The curved metal wings seemed to flap, although perhaps they were just shaking in the wind. The scale of it all was only more imposing.Telluris whimpered, beginning to fall to the ground. His friend was there to catch him, though, grabbing him under the armpits."I've got you, my good man," he reassured him, "I won't let you fall again,"Krakua's eyes were fixed on the larger, orange lights, as though eye contact would improve his reception. He struggled to make out the thoughts of those on board. He could sense hundreds, if not thousands, of staff in the fleet. They knew they were flying over enemy territory, and although Krakua sensed confidence, he could also detect an undertone of nervousness. As he scanned the fleet for names, places, or anything else of importance, he picked up on that sensation of worry again, more intensely this time. Pinning it down to one ship, he felt the anxiety rise. Something was wrong.Before he could shout to the others, the ship burst, a singeing bright fire expanding from one of the lights. It fell from the sky.Toa and strangers alike watched as the airship grew larger in the sky, the flames spreading. They saw the silhouettes of girders that once held it together warping and twisting sickly, like a breaking hand. It had not started directly above them, but it veered straight overhead, the spectators having to crane their necks to keep their eyes locked on the turmoil in the sky. Even Krakua, who heard the thousand screams of the crew grow ever louder as the airship grew closer to them, could not take his eyes away. Perhaps they would have watched until it landed on their heads. However, it flew on, never faltering from a straight descent over the beach and towards the ocean, and as it neared the sea, the wings folded back and the landing gears extended. The last deed of the bridge had been to follow their landing procedure.They may have aimed for the water, but it landed on the beach, partially submerged, thousands of feet away from the six. The little seawater did not quench the flames, but the explosions soon ran out of fuel on their own. The fires died down, licking the metal corpse. Screams turned to whimpers in Krakuas mind."There, there," the pale man whispered. Norik turned to see that he and Telluris were locked in an embrace. The image was almost comical, the giant stroking the twigs back as he wept. The consoling preacher whispered to him, speaking as a mother would to a child, telling him that we was safe, that everything would be fine. Indeed, he played the part to the letter, convincing Norik that he was following a script, mimicking something he had seen, faking the emotion. Norik clenched his fists, containing the anger of a day of turmoil. He was tired of everything happening at him. It was time for action."Your name, sir!" Norik demanded.The man looked up from the heaving chest of the displaced Glatorian. "I am Makuta Krika," he revealed.Norik looked at the measly frame in disbelief. He recognized the name; Krika had been infamous, even by Makuta standards. Not that he had committed any crime, as far as he knew; rather, he kept to himself, giving answers which sounded wise, but meant nothing at all, whenever he was addressed. He was cynical, and while he patiently sat through meetings, contributing just enough to warrant being kept around, he sometimes snapped, berating his allies and opponents both for their stupidity. Norik wasnt sure if he had followed Teridaxs plans for rebellion, if that had even happened yet in Krikas timeline.Nidhiki, Krakua, and Hahli remained silent, waiting for the esteemed Toa Hagah Team Leader to react. Norik looked around, taking in the absurdity. He had been stripped of his armor and weapons. He had become the de facto leader of a team of strangers, two of whom werent Toa at all, and completely unpredictable. He was in a war zone, but knew nothing of the conflict at hand, only that the locals were constructing hidden bases and sending airship flybys.And now, one of those ships was on the ground, which meant that he could do something about it."Come on!" Norik ordered.The Toa burst into a sprint, Norik at the lead. Even at this distance, he tried to kill the fire with his Elemental Power, knowing that it was futile to think he could extinguish the entire inferno. Still, any the slightest impact he could make on the flames might save a life."Observe, Telluris," mused Krika as he watched them go, "Toa. Heroes. They come in all shapes and sizes. But at the first call for help, they all throw their personal safety to the wind. They rush into obvious danger for the sake of complete strangers,""Do you..." Telluris hesitated, confused, "Like them, or what?""Hm?" asked Krika, still staring after them."Do respect them?" he clarified."Oh, I shudder," the Makuta answered, "To think of a world without them," He broke into a run, following the fledgling team. Nervously, Telluris started after him.~ Review Topic
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