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Nato G

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About Nato G

  • Birthday 04/02/1997

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    Reading and writing stories, PC gaming, all things fantasy and sci-fi, and of course, Bionicle, the greatest story of my childhood.

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Mata Nui Rises

Mata Nui Rises (291/293)

  1. Yes, and no. I would honestly hesitate to describe those years as being the saga of the Toa Inika/Mahri. Those years were Matoro's story, through and through. They were about his tests and tribulations, his struggle and sacrifice. It's his story, and his alone, that makes those years hit as hard as they do. The other five were just... kind of there. I reread the Complete Biological Chronicle only last year, and I honestly can't recall now if the other members of the Inika/Mahri even had character arcs. I'm not sure it's fair to contrast two years that focused very heavily on the story of one specific character over years that worked much harder to give meaningful character development to entire ensembles of characters. The shift from clone waves to villains with personality was a great idea, but it adds to the problem of the hero characters not getting as much character development. The novelty of the Piraka being completely new and unknown made them infinitely more interesting than the established characters of the Inika, and the fact that they got more than half of the screentime that year means there was a lot less room to give the Inika meaningful narratives. Unfortunately, there's a lot of wasted potential with both villain waves. The Piraka just get randomly abandoned at the end of 2006, are turned into snakes offscreen, then get one-shot by Axonn during their one confrontation with the heroes in 2007. The Barraki get introduced with this sweeping new backstory with game-changing ramifications that completely reframe everything we thought we knew and understood about the history of the Bionicle universe... and nothing is done with it after that year. As much as I love the lore of the Barraki, the story of those two years would have worked so much better if the Piraka had returned instead of the Mahri going up against the weakest wave of villains the story had seen up to that point.
  2. Chapter 12 – The Question From the notes of Chronicler Crisda. We all wanted the same thing. Most of us weren’t brave enough to say it, let alone ask for it. But as Chronicler, I often find myself being the one to ask the hard questions. * * * Icthilos The Ko-Metru Hideaway, as it had colloquially come to be called, had once been the secret sanctum of the mysterious rahi Keetongu, during the days before the Great Cataclysm. In the time since, it had become a place of quiet contemplation for more than a few Matoran, and more recently, one Ko-Toa refugee. “Trina said I’d find you here,” Savnu said, as she entered the chamber where Icthilos sat on a frosty outcropping of rock, looking down at the glassy surface of a long-frozen pool in the room’s centre. He’d been staring at it for a while now, engaged in a senseless staring contest with his own reflection. His encounter with Maliss had shaken him in a way he hadn’t felt since the day that Maliss had been struck with a Skakdi’s Devastator lance on the beaches of Xia. What he felt for his Brother now was very different to what he’d felt then. “Were you taking bets?” He asked absently. “In hindsight, we probably should have,” Savnu said, sitting down across from him, “You know how I love to gamble.” “What I said- I didn’t mean-” “You did,” she cut him off. “And I… well, things got a bit heated back there, but I’m not angry at you. Not really. I’ve heard it from almost everyone else, it was long overdue coming from you.” “No, it’s not alright,” he growled, looking up at her, “I broke my one rule.” “Your rule?” “I never spoke ill, never judged any of you for what you had to do, or chose to do.” “Some of us deserve judging,” Savnu said, “Because you’re right, I didn’t think about the consequences. I almost never do. Even today, when I was thinking about using these.” She withdrew a small leather satchel from a pocket of her robe and tossed it across to him. “But I am thinking about the consequences now.” Icthilos had a feeling he knew exactly what he was going to find inside the satchel, but he opened it nonetheless, tipping it towards his open palm. Stones of all shapes and sizes tumbled out onto his hand, each one aglow with energy. There looked to be a few dozen in total. “Toa Stones,” he observed, “You kept collecting them?” “From anyone I could convince. In case we needed more… recruits.” “And the need is greater now than ever.” “When I told Trina I’d go looking for you, I thought about heading to the other Metrus instead, passing these out among the Matoran returning to their homes from work.” “But you’re giving them to me instead? Not interested in being Mother to any more Toa?” “Last time, we were desperate. Last time, I was sure it would work,” she said, “I’m not certain of anything now. You’re right. We need to know more before we act… if we act.” “I’ll keep them safe,” he promised, returning the rocks to their pouch and tucking them away alongside his memorial stone. “I told Trina I’d keep you company if you didn’t want to rejoin the group,” Savnu said, standing up again. “But if it’s all the same to you, I’d prefer to spend the night somewhere a tad more temperate. They’re gathering in Le-Metru. I reckon everyone would appreciate having you with us.” “I think that would be for the best,” he stood up as well, resigning himself to renew his search of the Knowledge Towers another day, “Let’s go.” * * * Pira For all their maddening mannerisms, the Le-Matoran of Metru Nui sure knew how to build. Even dusty and disused, the Moto-Hub was an impressive testament to engineering and technological advancement. The structure was packed with workshops and storage rooms, each filled with half-finished vehicles and components, and Pira already found herself eager to explore them more thoroughly. With her mask, who knew what she could cobble together? Especially now that another group had finished bringing all of the gear and gadgetry they’d salvaged in Xia from the boats to the Moto-Hub. But for now, she and the other Toa were only exploring enough to ensure that the building was secure, that the doors and windows were intact and no rahi or Rahkshi were lurking about. True to the information they’d been given, there were no signs of Rahkshi tracks anywhere inside. It seemed the creatures truly did avoid buildings, though that wasn’t enough to dissuade Pira and a few others from volunteering to keep watch at the entrances. Though everything in Le-Metru had been turned off, all of the equipment remained intact and connected to the city’s power supply. Most of the Moto-Hub’s wired lightstones and other machinery still worked, even the chute systems would probably function if switched back on, though there was no real reason to test that theory. For now, the lights were enough, and those lights made it easy enough to spot the first Rahkshi that were beginning to creep forth from their hiding places by the time Savnu and Icthilos finally arrived, bursting through the front doors in a hurried haze of white and red. A few of the Rahkshi seemed to take an interest in the duo as they sped past, but backed off as soon as the Toa were inside. “The neighbours seem nice,” Pira quipped, in way of greeting. “Hopefully they’re not too riled up about last night’s party,” Icthilos grumbled, “Whose idea was it to set up camp in the same Metru where we fought a bunch of those things, anyway?” “Trina said it was a group decision,” Pira replied, “There aren’t too many places in Metru Nui big enough for all of us. Aside from the Coliseum, of course.” As she spoke, Pira noticed a new Rahkshi step right up to the glass of the front door, peering at the three Toa. It was blue and yellow, with a simple piece of silver plate attached to its chest, which didn’t look to be part of its natural armour. The creature studied them for a few moments, then clacked its faceplates together and began to walk away, its demeanour more like that of someone taking a casual stroll than the animalistic scrabbling of the other Rahkshi roaming around. “But I don’t think anyone was too excited by the thought of spending a night with the Mesmers,” Savnu said, unaware of what had just happened over her shoulder. “Who’s here?” Icthilos asked, forcing Pira to pull her attention away from the receding form of the strange Rahkshi. “Almost everyone,” she said. “A few of the Toa and Turaga have gone back to whatever homes they had here. That Tuxar guy apparently extended an invite to all of Bo and Ga elementals to stay in Ga-Metru for the night. Widrek seems to be staying at the Coliseum with his new friends. And I haven’t seen Orane around,” she glanced at Savnu, “Did he say anything to you?” “He’ll be curled up somewhere ghosting around, probably,” Savnu said, shrugging, “He spends more time in spirit form than his actual body. Hopefully he’ll have some intel to offer when he gets back.” “Speaking of getting back, we’ve been waiting for you,” Pira gestured over her shoulder, towards the corridor that led deeper into the Moto-Hub. “The Chronicler decided to stay the night, says he has something he wants to ask. Trina insisted we wait for you.” Not for the first time, Pira wondered what exactly the chain of command was around here. Even after being with them for months, she was no closer to understanding, and too apprehensive to ply her companions for answers. Many of the Toa looked to Icthilos as some kind of leader, even though none of them save for Trina herself was a member of his team. Yet she rarely saw or heard of Icthilos actually giving any orders. It was more like the others looked to him for permission rather than instructions, and there were exceptions to even that, with Toa like Savnu doing whatever they wanted and generally remaining on good terms with him. But though Pira was at least partly curious, she also didn’t really care. Other people making the decisions meant less for her to worry about. As long as they made the right decisions. That’s what she told herself, at least. The trio made their way towards the former test track, a wide-open area marred with old skid trails and scorch marks, where the Toa and Turaga had space enough to sleep where they wished, while still having the security of being close to one another. Makeshift bedding and even some tattered tents were strewn about the area, while some of the Ta-elementals among the group had set up small campfires for the scattered groups to sit around. After sending another volunteer back to take her spot at the door, Pira decided to follow Savnu and Icthilos to one of the fires, where Vhalem, Bihriis, and Trina sat speaking with the Chronicler, Crisda. Vhalem offered her a nod of acknowledgement as she sat down, and no one else objected to her presence, which came as a surprising comfort. After Widrek’s departure and her conversations with Savnu and Vhalem earlier in the day, she felt like she was finally… tolerated? Accepted? Whatever it was, it was better than what she’d had the day before. “I’m told you have a question for me, Chronicler,” Icthilos said, as he sat, “Why didn’t you ask it when we spoke earlier today?” “It wasn’t a question to ask where the Makuta and his Mesmers might hear,” Crisda said. “Though they know it will be asked, nonetheless. No doubt they’re prepared for the possibility.” Pira didn’t need to be a mind reader like Bihriis to know what the question was. Everyone knew what the question was. Every Toa who’d felt the slightest inkling of discomfort or disappointment at the way the Matoran of Metru Nui were being treated had been waiting to hear this question. “The people of this city have suffered since you departed, brave Toa. They toil and tremble, slaves to a savage shadow,” Crisda said, with the practiced ease of someone who’d probably written this speech specifically to feature in his chronicle. The words felt hollow and artificial, with none of the emotion they should have come with. “You left to free our kin in Xia from tyranny, and though we know it is unfair to ask more of you, we’re asking all the same.” He paused, seemingly for dramatic effect, before finally speaking the words that were no doubt on the lips of every Matoran in the city. This time, the emotion was there, the fear and desperation of a man trapped under the thumb of a tyrant. “Please, will you set us free?” The answer, when it came, was not the one anyone expected. It was one that cut Pira to her core, every bit as cold and cruel as a blade through her heartlight. It was only a single word, spoken without rage or remorse. A word that brought all of her own memories of loneliness and abandonment surging to the surface. “No.”
  3. I wouldn't be friends with anyone who acts like a Toa. In the real world, self-righteous morality police who go around abusing their power and picking fights with anyone who doesn't follow their belief system aren't the best people. I know that's kind of a harsh interpretation, but there were a lot of times in canon were Toa talked down to their enemies for not following the Three Virtues/accepting the Matoran as the "chosen people"/honouring Mata Nui's will. And how many times have we seen Toa use their powers to actively threaten someone, or throw a destructive temper tantrum when they don't get their way?
  4. Chapter 11 – Forgotten Futures From the notes of Chronicler Crisda. My people used to look to the stars for meaning. The stars offered promises and prophecies, preaching to us our purpose and potential. But now the stars have darkened, the Matoran have moved on, and the Knowledge Towers stand abandoned. Abandoned, but not empty. The records and writings of the soothsayers and scholars still remain, forgotten on their shelves. I’ve visited on occasion, sifting through the records for literature to add to my chronicle. But there’s so much waiting to be rediscovered. I never knew what was important, or where to even begin. Icthilos knew better. He knew what he was looking for. But he didn’t know what was looking for him. * * * Icthilos Much like their counterparts in Metru Nui, the Ko-Matoran of Icthilos’ homeland had been stargazers, though their beliefs were far more primitive. They’d been trackers and trappers, guides and guerrillas, the most adept at navigating the mountainous terrain that surrounded the villages in their region. To them, the stars were signposts and navigation tools, occasionally offering omens and portents for what tomorrow might bring. The Ko-Matoran of Metru Nui were far more privileged in that regard. Their practice of complex prophesising had fascinated Icthilos from the moment he’d first learned of it, but of course the stars were already going out by the time he’d arrived in the city, and soon there were no new predictions to be made. But the observations remained, scribbled and scrawled in pieces throughout the towers. There was one story he’d once heard in passing, one he’d thought nothing of at the time, one that had suddenly resurfaced in his memory when Widrek had given his speech. Specifically, when he’d mentioned the Mask Of Life. The Matoran who’d told Icthilos this tale had been older than most Turaga, ailing and frail, and had sadly suffered a fatal fall shortly before the Toa had departed for Xia. Icthilos had investigated the incident himself, and found no cause to believe it anything other than an unfortunate accident. But now, he wondered if Destiny had had a hand in it. It was entirely possible that no one else knew of the story the old Matoran shared with Icthilos, or at the very least didn’t realise its true significance. It was the story of the one star that hadn’t gone dark… and a night when that star had briefly become two. For several hours, Icthilos explored the towers, searching for the notes left by the Matoran he’d met. It was as he emerged from yet another fruitless search that he found a figure waiting for him in the snow outside. A twisted Fe-Toa clad in black and orange, his form infused with machinery, and an icy blue hue to his beady eyes. “Mal,” he beamed, holding out his fist in way of greeting, “It’s good to see you, Brother.” Maliss made no move to draw closer or complete the fist-bump. “Is it?” He replied, his voice a hoarse whisper, “You might be able to hide your feelings from the rest of them, even from Trina, but I see you. You’re disappointed.” “The Brother I knew fought against tyranny. He would never have stood with it.” “The Brother you knew was proud, and principled, and it cost him dearly,” Maliss rasped, brushing his fingertips over the metal of his fake limb. “I’m sorry. These… augmentations. They look like they must have been excruciating.” “Pain is merely a message. Information to be interpreted. It doesn’t have to mean anything more.” “I don’t understand,” Icthilos lowered his outstretched hand. “There is much you don’t understand.” “Then tell me!” Icthilos demanded, “What became of my Brother?” The Chronicler’s words hadn’t been exaggerated. Maliss had become more machine than man, in mind as much as meat. Even as he spoke to Icthilos he seemed distant, detached, his gaze fixated on something only he could perceive, his thoughts far afield from the conversation at hand. “Makuta Vhel showed me the truth, a truth that even Widrek was too afraid to speak to you all. It’s a terrible truth, one that pushed Dhozoh to misery and Tuxar to madness.” “And what truth would that be?” “The truth of the lie. The lie we have lived all our lives. The lie that is our lives.” “You’re not making any sense.” “I am. Just not to you.” “What do you want, Mal? Why did you seek me out?” “Truth be told, I was thinking about killing you,” he raised his hand and curled it into a fist; Icthilos felt his armour constrict around him, holding him in place, “I could make it look like an accident, or suicide. No one would question it, given all the guilt you’re clearly carrying.” Icthilos opened his mouth to say… something, he wasn’t even sure what. He’d faced death countless times on Xia, but he had no words for this. But before a single syllable could spill forth he felt cold steel against his skin as a blade grew from his own armour and curled across his throat. “I doubt even sweet Trina would be surprised to find you’d put a knife through your own neck,” Maliss sneered, “But ultimately you’re worth more to me as a messenger than a martyr.” He opened his hand, and let it fall to his side. In the same moment, Icthilos’ armour returned to its natural state, and he flopped forward, sprawling in the snow. “What message?” He sputtered, too stunned to rise, too numb to ask much else. “Some among the Toa wish to act against our new order, and they will look to you to lead them. Deny them. Your Duty is done.” “You expect me to take the side of tyranny?” “I expect you to do what you need to do to save lives. This is the way the world must be. That is the only truth that really matters. You’ll find no more satisfactory answers among the forgotten fates and failed futures recorded in these towers.” “What truth could possibly justify this?” Icthilos forced himself to his knees, “What truth could make you turn against your own Brother?” “Our Brotherhood is part of the lie,” Maliss said sadly, turning away from him, “We’re cogs in a machine, Icthilos, and cogs were never meant to be conscious.” And then he was gone, falling through his own shadow as if it were a hole in the ground. * * * Trina “Here they are,” Savnu said, as she and Trina came to a sudden stop before Pira and Vhalem, who were on their way back from the outskirts of Onu-Metru. “News, Mother?” Vhalem asked. “A plan. For the evening, at least.” “Some of the Toa and Turaga who had homes here are already returning to their old residences, and the wounded have been taken to Ga-Metru,” Trina said, “The rest of us have decided to make camp in the Moto-Hub in Le-Metru. It’s big enough to house everyone, and we might be able to scrounge up some useful tech.” Even as she spoke the words, they sickened her. Scarcely a day since returning to the city, and they were already thinking about scavenging whatever technology they could find to give themselves an advantage, just as they had on Xia. Everything had changed. Nothing had changed. “I’m in,” Pira said, “Hanging around with all of you for one more night beats going back to sleeping on the streets.” Vhalem cast a quizzical glance in her direction for a moment, before nodding to Trina, “I’ll be there.” “Alright, I think that’s everyone,” Savnu said. “Everyone who still wants to be with us, at least.” “Everyone except Icthilos,” Trina said. “You two haven’t seen him?” “Nope, sorry,” Pira said, “Should we go looking for him?” “It’s getting close to dark,” Trina sighed, “We should get moving if we want to make it the Moto-Hub in time. Icthilos knows to find somewhere safe before the Rahkshi show up.” She had an inkling as to where he’d wandered off to. She knew him well enough to know he would want to be alone right now, though she had half a mind to try to track him down and deny him that. The group needed him every bit as much as he needed them. Unity mattered more than ever now. “I’ll go look for him,” Savnu offered, seeming to read her expression, “I’ll bring him back, or at least keep him company. None of us should be alone right now.” “Thank you, Savnu,” Trina smiled, “Try Ko-Metru. The old hideaway.” Savnu disappeared without a further word, leaving the three Toa to set off to Le-Metru as the shadows lengthened around them.
  5. Chapter 10 – Hitting The Streets From the notes of Chronicler Crisda. Our universe was once vast and mysterious, its most distant shores unseen, its darkest depths unexplored. And yet, we thought we understood it all. It is only now, when our universe has become so much smaller, that we came to understand how little we truly knew. * * * Pira “He called it shadow sickness,” Pira said. Icthilos and Savnu had stormed off by the time she and Vhalem had made their way back to Trina, so she was just telling her and trusting the information would be passed on. Trina had always come across as one of the more level-headed Toa leaders, striving to balance out the unchecked egos of her companions. “I’ve never heard of it,” Trina said, frowning. “Go on.” “He said it happens when a Toa tries to absorb energy from a Rahkshi, or even a Makuta. Like, if you tried to catch a blast from a Lightning Rahkshi, that sort of thing. The powers of some Toa overlap with those of Rahkshi, but their abilities are… different, you know?” As she spoke, Pira glanced at her spear, suddenly feeling far less comfortable with integrating Rahkshi staff pieces into the weapon. Had she inadvertently exposed herself to some kind of illness by salvaging scrap from the creatures? “Because they’re creatures of antidermis. Everything they are is twisted and tainted by the Shadow they were wrought from,” Trina nodded grimly. “I think I understand.” “Exactly. The way it was explained to me, when a Toa absorbs an energy like that, they willingly take that Shadow into themselves. It infects them. Feeds off their elemental energies. Festers.” “Like infecting a Kanohi. Or draining their light with Shadow Leeches.” “But slower, and…” she grimaced, “…and a lot more painful, I’m told.” “Did this Turaga tell you anything else?” “Just that even if treated, not everyone survives.” “Thank you. This Turaga, did he tell you his name?” “No,” Pira shook her head, “He just showed up while I was asking some of the others about the wounded. You should be able to find him pretty easily, though. He stood out.” “Stood out?” “He looked kind of off. He had all this scrapwork armour with patches on it, like he was cobbled together out of spare parts or something.” Pira had seen more than her fair share of unpleasant things since the universe had gone dark, but the Turaga had been on another level. The way he was pieced together looked excruciating, barely survivable. If he hadn’t been walking and talking Pira would have thought he was dead. And there had been a weariness in his voice that made it sound like he wanted to be dead. “Was he an Onu-Turaga?” “Yeah.” “I know of him. Larone. He was the Turaga of Metru Nui during the time of the Matoran Civil War. He was injured during that conflict, and sent to Karzahni for repairs afterwards. From what I hear, he’s been a bit eccentric ever since.” “Can we trust what he says, then?” Vhalem asked. “I think so. It makes sense. It’s a Vo-Toa, Le-Toa, and Ba-Toa who’ve fallen sick. Those all line up with possible Rahkshi powers. And if anyone would know about an obscure ailment, it’s someone who’s had the misfortune of spending time in Karzahni.” “Is there anything we can do?” Vhalem asked. Before Trina could answer, the voice of Turaga Rost rang out across the arena once more. “Thank you for your patience, friends. The Vahki have completed their task of cataloguing you all-” Pira didn’t recall him ever declaring that the Vahki were doing that. “-and now you’re free to go. Your injured will be taken to Ga-Metru to rest and recover, and the Matoran will be allocated new residences before the day is done.” That’s it? Pira thought bitterly. No fanfare, no welcome, no citizenship ceremony… “You Toa are free to go where you wish, settle in whatever Metru you feel most comfortable in. Those of you who had homes here will find your lodgings exactly as you left them, the rest may requisition any empty residence you wish. Just ensure that you’re behind closed doors come nightfall, when the Rahkshi roam the streets.” “I think you’ve both done enough for one day,” Trina said, turning back to Pira and Vhalem. “You should check out the city. You both fought for the right to be here. You’ve earned this.” If you say so… Pira turned away without a word. Trina’s words had seemed like a compliment, but they felt more like a dismissal. How was Pira ever meant to prove herself if they kept pushing her away? * * * Icthilos He should’ve been happy. He was back where he belonged, officially freed of his burdens and responsibilities, the mission and its grim memories finally behind him. The Matoran were home. His work was done. And yet, his thoughts were tormented. As the Toa had dispersed from the Coliseum, Icthilos had quietly activated his Kanohi and slipped away in the direction of Ko-Metru. His was the Kanohi Alaka, the Mask of Obscurity. Where the Kanohi Huna prevented the wearer from merely being seen, the Alaka made the wearer imperceptible to every other sense. Those who glanced his way would see him plainly enough, but no one would hear him pass, nor even feel the vibrations of his footsteps. He was indiscernible to even the subtle, subliminal sensations that so many beings subconsciously relied upon, and so went entirely unnoticed by most he passed. Even other Kanohi, such as the Arthron or Suletu, wouldn’t have been able to detect him. He deactivated his mask once he reached Ko-Metru; there was no one here to notice him. There didn’t seem to be much of anything at all here now, not even rahi. The only fresh tracks he could make out in the snow were those of Rahkshi. And the only companions he had were ranks of deactivated Keerakh scattered around, standing or sprawled in whatever position they’d been in when their power supplies had finally run out. Even the snows, it seemed, had stopped. Whatever systems in the city that created separate climates in each Metru seemed to have malfunctioned or been shut off. The entire Metru felt warmer than it once had, and the snow underfoot sodden and half-melted, with no signs of fresh snowfall anywhere in sight. Ko-Metru had truly been abandoned. But that didn’t mean he couldn’t find what he needed here. He soon spotted the silhouettes of the Knowledge Towers in the distance, and set off towards them. * * * Vhalem Pira had been uncharacteristically quiet since departing the Coliseum. Vhalem didn’t know her all that well, but he knew she was someone who loved to talk, and had no qualms about making her thoughts known. That she was keeping those thoughts to herself now spoke volumes. They were exploring the streets of Onu-Metru, which seemed to be mostly empty save for a few patrolling Vahki and Mesmers. The Matoran they saw were few and far between, moving about in twos or threes, hurriedly pushing carts or crates to or from the various elevator entrances that led down to the underground Archives. They didn’t walk, they ran, as if terrified to be caught doing anything at a steady pace. “So, what’re your thoughts on the city so far?” Vhalem asked, after a half-hour of sullen silence. “I know Ithnen would love all of this. She’s been wanting to see Onu-Metru since we left.” He was somewhat wishing he’d brought her along instead of Pira, but he hadn’t been able to find her among the crowd on their way out of the Coliseum. “It’s a step up from Xia. A step,” Pira replied glumly, “At least here I can see the sky. Not that there’s much to see up there since whatever was projecting the stars stopped working. It’s kind of weird knowing that I should have a Spirit Star, but I’ll never get to see it…” Even in Metru Nui, the sky wasn’t much to look at. The conditions were more twilight than daylight, with the positions of the sun holes and the dense clouds overhead allowing very little direct light down into the city. “Have you given much thought to the future?” He asked. “Well, everyone seems to think that me, you – all of us that aren’t Turaga yet – still have some kind of Destiny ahead of us, so I guess I’m just waiting for that to happen so this can all be over with.” “You don’t like being a Toa?” “I didn’t even like being a Matoran,” she laughed, but there was no mirth in it, “My life was misfortune and misery long before Terry turned off the lights. Things would work out for a little while, but my luck would always turn.” “Things could be different now, though, you know?” Vhalem said. “The war’s over, and it sounds like we don’t have much in the way of responsibilities here.” “So we should be carefree and happy while these Matoran are subjected to the same kind of slavery you all endured in Xia?” Vhalem felt like he’d been slapped. He had his qualms about the Makuta’s way of running things, but somehow he hadn’t fully appreciated how bad it really was until she’d phrased it like that. “Well, I mean-” he scrambled for a response, and settled for snark, “-I thought Le-Toa were meant to be carefree and happy?” “Firstly, that’s stereotyping,” Pira stopped to jab an accusing finger in his direction, “Secondly, if I had something to be happy about, I might be. But I keep thinking about all those Matoran we rescued and brought here. They wanted a better life, and instead they’ve been given the same one.” “You didn’t strike me as someone who cared much about anyone else,” he countered, leaning back against the side of one of the buildings. “I might not be great with other people, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have empathy. Are you really okay with freeloading while the rest of the Matoran are left slaving away?” “Not really, but I’m choosing to be grateful for what I have,” the words came out hollow; his heart wasn’t in it, despite Icthilos’ earlier insistence that he should be thankful. “That’s not good enough for me,” Pira said firmly. “I don’t think it’s good enough for you, either, otherwise you wouldn’t be trying so hard to convince me.” “What is that even meant to mean?” “I’m not stupid, Vhalem. You’re not really trying to convince me. You’re trying to convince yourself.” “Of what?” He challenged, unable to deny her words. “That you’ve done enough. That you deserve what you’ve been given. I ask myself those same questions at least a few times a day.” “And what’s your answer?” “I don’t have one, yet.” “Then what do you have?” “Perspective.” “On what?” “The Great Spirit… the Toa… my whole life, none of them have ever done anything for me. Even this power I took for myself. I know what it feels like to never be saved, Vhalem. It’s what all of those Matoran are going to feel if we do nothing to help them.” She wasn’t wrong. But that didn’t mean she was right. “We’re just two Toa. There’s nothing we can do.” “You know full well we’re not the only ones.” “Sure, yeah, some of the other Toa might be unhappy about how things are being run here. But they’ve just come home from a war that wiped out half their number. No one wants another one.” “That’s the thing,” Pira said, sighing, “If freedom for the Matoran is what they fought for, then I don’t think the war ever ended.”
  6. Chapter 9 – Uncertainty From the notes of Chronicler Crisda. I thought when the Toa finally returned I’d spend weeks, maybe months, quizzing them for every detail of their expedition. Instead, I was the one who found himself being questioned. Icthilos was the one who sought me out. He’d always been something of a leader among the Toa, even before they’d left for Xia, and that fact remained unchanged now. Though we’d come from different islands originally, he and I had both settled in Ko-Metru, and come to know each other in passing (though I suspect I followed his exploits much more closely than he followed mine). I knew him well enough to understand that – more so than perhaps any other Toa – the conflict on Xia had been his war. And now he seemed ready to start another. He and I spoke for some time. I told him of Makuta Vhel’s unexpected arrival, of how he and his followers had simply appeared inside the Coliseum in full force. It had been a bloodless takeover; the invaders took the Vahki offline as soon as they arrived, and four Toa and a handful of Turaga stood no chance against hundreds of Odinans and Rahkshi. I told him of the changes the new rulers enacted within days of their arrival, of the abrupt evacuations of Le and Ko Metru, and the forceful amalgamation of the Matoran populations. I told him of how Order Of Mata Nui members in the city had been rounded up, and never seen again. After that had come the Rahkshi curfew, the restriction of recreation, and the increased work quotas. And after that had come the attempted rebellion. Icthilos seemed unsurprised when I told him of its grim outcome. Eventually, Icthilos’ questions turned to his Brother Maliss, though I fear the answers I gave were not the ones he was hoping for. For the first hour or so of our conversation, Icthilos was clearly sceptical and suspicious, no doubt wondering if I’d been swayed to the Makuta’s side like so many others. But the longer we spoke, the more his apprehension abated, until at last he was willing to allow me to ask some questions of my own. He told me of the battles on Xia, describing it as a gruelling guerrilla war of temporary alliances and betrayals as Toa, Dark Hunters, Skakdi, and Vortixx all vied for control over advantageous terrain and vital resources. He told me of the liberation of the slaves, and the retreat that followed, the Toa and Matoran fleeing the city while the other forces were left to tear each other apart. And when his tale was done, he showed me a simple stone tablet. It was inscribed with names, some I recognised, some I didn’t, but I didn’t need to know them all to understand what it was… what it meant to him. He asked me to write down their names, and make sure they were remembered. I promised him I would. * * * Vhalem It was somewhere past noon when Vhalem regrouped with Trina, Savnu, Keidal, and Icthilos. At Trina’s request, he’d had conversations with several of Metru Nui’s Turaga, approaching them under the guise of seeking advice about his Toa transformation, before slowly steering the conversation towards the status of the city and the nature of its new rulers. Savnu and Pira, as well as Trina herself, had been having similar conversations with some of the other local Turaga and Matoran who were here offering aid, while Icthilos had been doing the same with the city’s Chronicler. All of the accounts they’d collected concurred on the key details, and it all painted a grim picture of daily life in Metru Nui. “We have to do something about this, right?” He urged. “This is… inhumane.” “It’s pragmatic and oppressive, but-” Icthilos sighed, “-I don’t want to be the one playing Piraka’s advocate, but so far the way Vhel is running things isn’t that different to how Metru Nui or even Xia were run before.” “And I came here because I was told this place would be better than Xia,” Vhalem said softly, “You promised all of us a better life.” He knew it wasn’t fair to lash out at Icthilos of all people for this, but he also didn’t really care right now. This wasn’t the future any of them had fought for. “You have light,” Icthilos jabbed a finger towards the sky, “You’re free. This is better.” “All recreational activities, religious ceremonies, and social gatherings cancelled. Increased work quotas and no days off or downtime, even though the city is using less power with the chutes offline. All these people do is labour, day after day, with barely any breaks. The only difference between this city and Xia is that these Matoran don’t sleep at their workstations.” “What do you want me to say, Vhalem?” Icthilos snapped. “It’s awful, but even if everything else Vhel said about the universe is lies, we do need heat and power to keep everyone in this city alive, and those things do require the Matoran to work.” “Nah, it doesn’t add up,” Savnu interjected, “With all of the refugees that came in, there were more Matoran around than workstations that needed filling. The Matoran were doing enough work to keep the city going before we left, and that was with the chutes online, and break days. But Vhel is working them all even harder now.” “So it begs the question, where is all of the extra power going?” Trina asked. “It certainly wasn’t lighting up Xia or Zakaz or anywhere else in the universe, at least not as far as we could tell when we were still out there.” “I don’t have the answers,” Icthilos shrugged, “Maybe you should ask Talok, or Orane whenever he gets around to returning his body.” “What about the people who’ve gone missing?” Keidal spoke up. “There used to be Av-Matoran here who escaped Karda Nui, but no one’s seen any of them in weeks.” “Apparently the Order Of Mata Nui members who were in the city were also rounded up,” Icthilos added. “I have another question,” Vhalem said, “You guys told me that you sent four Toa back to Metru Nui, right? But I only saw three up there with that Rost guy.” “Yayle. A Su-Toa,” Trina said, “I asked around, no one seemed to know anything.” Vhalem noticed Icthilos’ gaze shift abruptly downwards, as if he found himself suddenly unwilling to meet anyone else’s eyes. Before Vhalem could pry, Savnu spoke up. “No one seemed willing to say anything is more like it,” she said, “I asked after him as well, and a few Turaga that I haven’t seen around yet. The fact that they won’t say says it all, I reckon.” “Couldn’t Bihriis get us a clear answer?” Vhalem asked, “Where is she?” “Attempting to get answers out of Widrek.” “I don’t think we’re going to get any more answers out here,” Icthilos said, appearing back to his normal self, “Not with the Vahki and Mesmers around, and not this close to the Coliseum; we don’t know the effective range of a Makuta’s mind reading.” “That’s assuming there even is a Makuta,” Savnu said. “I’m no expert, but what we heard seemed pretty convincing,” Vhalem spoke up. “That… felt like a Makuta. That aura… that presence… I don’t know how else to put it.” Makuta Vhel seemed far more intent on secrecy and theatrics than the Makuta of Xia had been. Antroz had always been very direct and straightforward, appearing in public to make proclamations rather than relying on emissaries. It hadn’t been uncommon to see him roaring around the streets on his Destral Cycle some days. By Makuta standards, he’d been quite down-to-earth, albeit not in a friendly sense. But still, on those rare occasions were Vhalem had found himself close enough to the Makuta to see and hear him clearly, he’d felt what he’d felt today when Vhel’s voice had issued from the speakers. A sense of smallness, an awareness of how powerless he was in the presence of this alien demigod. “You said the same thing during Vhel’s speech earlier,” Trina turned to Savnu, “You really think the Mesmers are somehow faking a Makuta?” “That’s impossible.” Vhalem said firmly. “There were a lot of things I once thought impossible, Vhalem,” Savnu said, “But on Xia I saw Kanohi, weapons, and powers I’d never dreamed of before. We know these Mesmers can hypnotise people, we know they can wear Kanohi, we know they had the tech and tactics to conquer the universe once before, and they’ve had tens of thousands of years to develop since then. I reckon enough of ‘em working together could pull off just about anything.” “And this story about the universe being a machine?” Vhalem asked, “I don’t know this city and its history as well as the rest of you, but I saw the way the story rattled you all. There’s something to it, isn’t there?” “A fiction forged around cherry-picked facts,” Savnu said firmly, “The idea of a Makuta gives people something to fear, but no one can rule for long through fear alone. So they came up with this ridiculous story to give everyone something to hope for. We need to act now, and bring this farce to an end before anyone else gets swayed to their side.” “I know consequences are usually an afterthought to you-” Icthilos growled, “-but we can’t dismiss any of this out of hand. If there’s truth to any of it we can’t risk acting rashly.” “Icthilos, please-” Trina said gently. “Nah, I want to hear what he has to say,” Savnu snapped, waving dismissively in her direction, “Go ahead, Icthilos. Tell me how I’m the rash one, when it was your reckless need for revenge that landed us all on Xia in the first place!” “You sounded enthusiastic enough at the time.” “The difference between us is that I regret it.” “You truly think I don’t?” “You don’t show it.” “Neither do you.” Vhalem slowly stepped away from the group, a cold knife of guilt twisting within him. He’d pushed them to this, his own anger fuelling the fires of their deeper, darker sorrows and resentments. So much for unity… He turned his back on the bickering group and started wandering back towards the transports. Icthilos was right; they needed to understand the consequences before they started another conflict. Savnu was right; they needed to take action before more Toa like Widrek switched sides. There was no right way. “Looks like Mother and Father are having their first fight,” Pira appeared out of the crowd, falling into step beside him, “And in front of the kids, too.” “Can you just… not, right now?” Vhalem grumbled. “Where have you been, anyway?” “After Savnu headed back to give her report, I decided to keep chatting with the Turaga.” “And?” “And I think I know what’s wrong with the sick Toa.”
  7. I always knew it was only a matter of time until carcinisation conquered the Bionicle community. All praise our new crab overlords! (And these awesome builds!)
  8. Chapter 8 – Truth From the notes of Chronicler Crisda. Few beings have had one-on-one audiences with Makuta Vhel, and each of them has come back changed. Even now, the Turaga don’t understand how or why. There is no sign of Infection on their masks, no evidence of meddling in their minds, and yet they are changed. What truth lurks in the Makuta’s memory that can warp a being so completely? Rost became joyous and jubilant. Dhozoh became more dour and withdrawn. Maliss became cold and cruel. Tuxar now consider himself to be a god. Widrek too, returned a different man to who he was when he departed. * * * Pira “How’re you holding up?” Savnu appeared at Pira’s side, making her jump slightly. “I appreciate the check-in, but I’m not one of your brood,” Pira said, waving her hand and summoning a brief breeze to dispel the dust that had been kicked up by Savnu’s Kakama-assisted arrival, “You don’t need to Mother me.” Savnu had been blurring about the crowd since Widrek had disappeared, speaking with some of the other Xian Toa. Ever since they’d transformed she’d taken full responsibility for them, overseeing their care and training. Due to her affectionate attitude and role in their creation, many of them had taken to calling her Mother, rather than Sister. Though Pira hadn’t been one of those transformed by Savnu’s Toa Stone gambit, she was the only other Matoran from Xia to have been turned into a Toa, so she’d often been lumped in with Savnu’s four surviving charges. While she didn’t mind having someone looking out for her, she wasn’t so big on the touchy-feely stuff. “Noted. But while I’m here…?” “Nothing.” “Nothing?” “I’m worried about him. Is that what you want to hear?” She blurted out, “Widrek hates my guts, and I’m still worried about him.” “He’s your Brother Toa. Our strength comes from our ability to set aside our squabbles and stand together when it matters. It’s only natural to feel as you do.” “Natural? What’s natural about any of this?” Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed stares being directed her way by others in the crowd. Before she could send some scathing remark towards the gawkers, Savnu suddenly wrapped her in an embrace, and after a brief blur they were both standing behind the transport, out of sight and earshot from the crowd. “Sorry about that. People are worried enough as is. Let’s not make it any worse,” Savnu said, letting her go. “You were saying?” “I don’t know what I’m saying. I don’t know what to say to any of this!” “For what it’s worth, you’re far from the only one feeling this way. We’re at the mercy of a situation we still don’t understand. I feel just as helpless as you do right now.” “You don’t show it.” “It wouldn’t help.” “So… what? You just shut off your feelings and pretend everything doesn’t suck?” “Nah, that’s Icthilos’ job. The sad truth of our universe is that sometimes bad things have to happen for good things to follow. The forest has to burn for new life to take root in the ashes.” “I’ve never been one for metaphors. You got anything more tangible?” “I keep faith in the Three Virtues. The world may have changed, but our Duty hasn’t. The fact that we’re all still here means our Destinies still lie ahead.” “Maybe you missed the news, but the Great Spirit is dead, and so is his evil replacement. I’m pretty sure Destiny died with them.” “How do you explain your own transformation, then? Or those of the other Matoran and Toa who changed after the Great Spirit seemingly perished?” “Dumb luck. Happens a lot to me. I still haven’t decided if it’s good or bad.” “It sounds like you and I believe in the same thing. Just with different names.” The only response Pira could bring herself to offer was an ambiguous grunt. She wanted to believe there was some plan or purpose to her transformation, to everything that was happening, but all facts were to the contrary, and blind faith had never come easily to her. “Perhaps the Great Spirit isn’t as dead as he seems,” Savnu said, “Or maybe, our Destinies are decided by some Greater Being beyond the confines of this universe. Maybe concepts like Luck and Destiny are just words we use to assign meaning to random chance.” “Or maybe it’s all meaningless. Maybe-” On the other side of the transport, the crowd stirred and murmured as a sound like a whirlwind swept across the arena. “-maybe we should go see what that’s about,” Pira finished. In a blink, Savnu had brought her back around to join the rest of the crowd. Widrek had reappeared, and now stood in the box platform alongside Turaga Rost and the other three Toa. He still looked like himself, with no sign of Infection on his mask, but when he spoke, there was a fanatical glee in his usually-sombre voice that made him seem an entirely different man. “My friends… I have spoken with the Makuta, shared in his memories, and he has shown me the error of our ways,” Widrek proclaimed, gesturing grandly as he spoke, “For too long, we have called ourselves the chosen people, placed our faith and praise upon a being who saw us as nothing more than cogs in his machine.” Pira felt something twist inside her. The Widrek she’d spoken to this morning was gone. “I have seen the truth,” Widrek pointed at his mask, “And I tell it to you now. The Great Spirit is not dead, but exiled, trapped within the Mask Of Life and banished into the void beyond our universe. Without him, this machine we live in is breaking down, and only the labours of the Matoran can keep this universe alive until he can be recovered.” Pira exchanged a glance with Savnu; the taller Toa’s expression indicated that she shared Pira’s scepticism, but there was also a grim kind of acceptance in her eyes. Pira understood why. Widrek – or whoever was putting words in his mouth – had just given all of the believers in the crowd cause to hope, preying on their faith to dissuade them from interfering with the new world order. His unspoken threat was a powerful one: any disruption to the daily work of the Matoran – such as the attempt to overthrow the Makuta’s rule that many of the Toa had no-doubt already been considering – could ruin any hope for the future. “So, is this Destiny’s design?” She asked Savnu, her tone bitter. “I hope not.” * * * Icthilos Any doubt he might have had about something nefarious unfolding behind the scenes had been swiftly dispelled by Widrek’s impassioned speech. He’d been gone less than a half-hour and his entire demeanour was different. “What are we going to do about this?” Trina asked him, speaking softly. “And don’t you dare say nothing.” “Nothing, for now,” he replied, not looking away from Widrek. “Round up a few Toa we trust, ones on the less… spiritual side. Get them to chat up as many of the local Matoran and Turaga as they can. We need a clear picture of what’s really going on in this city.” “What about you?” “I’m going to talk to the Chronicler. I figure he’ll either be the voice of free speech around here, or the propaganda orator for the new order. Either way, I’m sure I’ll learn something from him.” “What about Mal?” Icthilos’ gaze shifted from Widrek to the Fe-Toa standing behind him. The Brother that Icthilos had known was nearly unrecognisable; beyond his new prosthetic arm, his whole build was different, with a stooped posture and gangly proportions, enhanced all over with mechanical components, encased in jagged armour. The only consistent detail was the familiar, Kualsi-esque shape of the Mask Of Shadow Travel he wore. It had been nearly a year since he’d seen his brother, and time had clearly taken its toll on both of them. “If we go over there to him, he’s just going to toe the line, whether he’s bought in or not,” Icthilos said, “I think we need to wait for him to come to us, and hope he’s still himself.” “And if he’s not?” “We’ll find a way to help him. To help all of them.”
  9. I know some purists get upset when fan projects talk about Bonkles having blood, but I didn't feel like writing something like "circulatory fluid" every time. Given its association with Greek mythology, ichor felt like a good fit for Bionicle's more fantastical setting. I'm glad to hear it. I always found it absolutely wild that Greg casually stated that Shadow Kraata are intelligent enough to communicate, only to do absolutely nothing with that revelation. I really wanted to explore the implications of that.
  10. Chapter 7 – New World Order From the notes of Chronicler Crisda. Most Matoran have always held the Vahki with a certain degree of dread. The unnerving way they speak, the unnatural way they move, the ruthlessness with which they carry out their orders… and yet, we still understand the Vahki. They’re consistent, predictable. But our new enforcers are far more frightening, for no one knows what’s truly going on behind those eerie eyes. * * * Ilton The Sea Gates were all closed. Sealing them up had proven to be the easiest part. It was actually finding them that had been the most difficult. The Great Barrier was pockmarked with cliffs and caves, some of which had collapsed during the earthquake that had wracked the universe after Teridax’s takeover. Several of the gates had been near-completely obscured, and it taken a close inspection of the cliffside to even discern their locations. Even being able to sense metal hadn’t helped Ilton as much as he’d expected. The Great Barrier was home to numerous smuggler caches and hideaways, not to mention shipwrecks. The tides (back when there still had been tides) had brought the debris and detritus of old wars piling up against the base of the barrier in some places, leaving rusted armour and broken weapons lodged amidst the rocks. But the work was now done. Metru Nui was now completely cut off from whatever was left of the old universe. Any hostile force that tried to reach the city would find the gates gone, reshaped into solid slabs of metal with twisting roots buried deep in the rock. Ilton had witnessed a great many horrors in Xia, and he’d done his utmost to ensure none of them would ever threaten Metru Nui… assuming any Vortixx, Skakdi, or Dark Hunters had even survived. The last report he’d gotten, via a Kadin-wearing messenger Toa who’d come and gone earlier that morning, was that the city was home to its fair share of horrors already. Ilton was all too eager to get back to the city – he was one of the best-suited Toa in the universe to take on an alleged Makuta, after all – but the messenger had advised that Icthilos and the others wanted him to stay safely away from the city until they had a better sense of what was going on. So here he waited, with a meagre crew and mounting worry, for his friends to send word. Hopefully Savnu wasn’t doing something characteristically reckless in his absence. He wandered about the ship for a while, chatting with various crew members to keep at bay the worries brimming in his brain. But eventually his concern could no longer be ignored, and he found himself approaching a lone Ga-Turaga perched near the front of the boat, hoping he might have some sagely solace to offer. The man’s name was Marik, if Ilton recalled correctly. He’d transformed into a Turaga in the earlier days of the Xia campaign, and had been mostly relegated to a support role since then. “Could I trouble you for some advice, wise one?” He asked gently. “Don’t call me that,” the Turaga snapped, glowering at Ilton as if he’d been slapped, not merely spoken to. Like the first Toa who’d died in the Vahki strike, he wore a Mask Of Clairvoyance, though his bore a ragged crack from battlefield damage that had likely rendered it powerless. Ilton almost blurted out an offer to repair it for him, but many of the Toa had kept Kirils as backup masks to repair their equipment after battles. Plenty of others would have offered to fix the crack long before now, which meant Marik was choosing to leave his mask mangled out of choice. “I apologise. I meant no offence.” “I’m the one who has committed the offence,” Marik replied, gesturing to his body, “I transformed with my blade buried in a Skakdi’s heartlight. This form isn’t a… promotion. It’s a punishment from the Great Spirit for breaking my oath as a Toa.” Ilton had heard the story. Marik had been the first – but far from the last – Toa who’d been forced to bend or break the Toa Code in the heat of battle. Ilton himself had escaped having to make that terrible choice, but he knew others – Savnu, Bihriis, Widrek – who’d crossed lines they once wouldn’t have. Unlike Marik, though, the others hadn’t turned into Turaga while doing so. “I was told that Skakdi you slew was poised to destroy a Xian transport with Matoran on board. How do you know that saving their lives wasn’t the fulfilment of your Destiny?” From what he’d heard, that transport’s destination had been the same foundry where Savnu had later deployed her Toa Stones. There was a very real possibility that the Matoran Marik had saved were among those who had gone on to become Toa. To Ilton, at least, that explanation seemed a far more likely interpretation of Destiny than assuming Marik was the only Toa in existence to be turned into a Turaga as some kind of cosmic punishment. But remorse and self-loathing were hard things to overcome, for Marik simply scoffed at the suggestion. “What would you know of Destiny?” “I’m one of the last Fe-Toa in existence, and I’ve just learned there’s a Makuta in Metru Nui in need of deposing. That sounds like Destiny’s design to me.” “Hm, perhaps-” Marik paused, brow furrowed. “Something stirs in the water. We’re not alone.” Sure enough, Ilton soon felt the same thing with his own abilities. A vast, complex shape with ample mechanical components moving beneath the water, as large if not larger than the boat beneath his feet. The sea began to swell as the unseen thing rose, then broke the surface, battering the boat with a brutal wave that brought it rolling against the rocks of the Great Barrier. As Ilton pulled himself upright, he saw the surfaced object for what it truly was: an airship. An airship with what looked to be a Hagah plasma cannon mounted on its underbelly. A plasma cannon that was now taking aim at the battered boat… * * * Trina Ten minutes of strained silence had passed since Widrek’s disappearance. Some of the Toa murmured amidst themselves, but few were willing to raise their voices above a whisper. Some of the Matoran were already helping themselves to the food and water that had been brought out, and Turaga were tending to the wounded, talking with the healers in hushed tones. Trina nudged Icthilos. “If you were so sure this was a trap, why did you let Widrek go?” “He wanted to go. None of us could’ve stopped him,” Icthilos replied softly. “And everyone here knows and respects him. If something happens to him, we’ll have no trouble rallying everyone against the Makuta.” Trina wasn’t shocked by the words, nor even disappointed. This was the side of Icthilos that the war had brought forth, the calculating pragmatist who sought the advantage in any situation, no matter how dire. He and Widrek had often thought alike, which meant Widrek’s had also considered the possibility that he was sacrificing himself when he’d chosen to step forward. “Besides, he didn’t go in alone,” Icthilos said, gesturing back towards the transport. Trina glanced in the direction he’d indicated. It took her a few moments to identify the detail that was out of place, a Toa lying unconscious on a stretcher with the rest of the wounded. A Su-Toa that she knew full well wasn’t actually injured: Orane. “You knew he’d do that?” She asked, certain she hadn’t seen Icthilos order Orane to do anything. “I assumed. Hopefully he can tell us more about whatever’s going on inside the Coliseum.” As if summoned by the mention of his residence, the one-eyed Mesmer that had been by Turaga Rost’s side earlier suddenly pushed through the crowd to approach the two Toa. “Icthilos, and Trina,” his mandibles clacked together as he spoke, “I’ve heard much about you.” “I’m afraid we can’t say the same, mister…?” Icthilos said. “I am Talok. Administrator Talok. Aide to the Makuta, advisor to the Regent,” his already-hunched form bent further forward into a bow, “I understand you are among the leaders of this group, so I thought it prudent to introduce myself and address any questions you may have.” Despite his poor posture, Talok seemed taller and burlier than the other Mesmers Trina had glimpsed around the arena. He was still head and shoulders taller than many of the Toa, save perhaps for Widrek and the Toa Vehi. Both his body and the ornate, angular armour he wore bore the scars of innumerable battles; this was an old being, and one who had known war. “I have… quite a few,” Trina said, “How about you start by giving us a bit of a rundown on the chain of command here. Obviously Makuta Vhel is at the top, Rost is his Regent, but how does the rest of the hierarchy fit together?” “I am the appointed leader of my people, just as Rost is for yours. There is also an advisory council, where your Turaga have input in our decision-making processes, as do some of the elders among my kind, and the Rahkshi representatives.” “You have Rahkshi advisors?” “At their final stage of evolution, some Kraata can speak and reason. They think and want just like the rest of us, and so they must be heard. There are three such Rahkshi in the council.” It sounded utterly insane, but Trina had heard rumours of powerful talking Rahkshi in the past. If such beings existed, she supposed it was only fair that they be given seats at the table. As fair as anything could be in this mad new pecking order. Although, the idea that there were Rahkshi involved in the city’s decision-making processes suddenly made the events of the previous evening far more worrying. Could these Rahkshi leaders prosecute the Toa for destroying the wild Rahkshi that had attacked them? Did they have that right? “So beyond this council, where does everyone else fit in?” She asked hurriedly, not wishing to dwell on the thought. “Your fellow Toa continue to fulfil their duties as protectors of the Matoran, while mine aid the Vahki as enforcers. The Matoran occupy the lowest tier of society, as workers.” “And why do your lot get to lord it over the Matoran?” Icthilos asked. “Because it is our Duty, given to us by the Great Spirit at the dawn of this universe, just as you were given yours. As you should well know, the Prime Species were ordained by Mata Nui himself to uphold law and order in the universe.” “And they dishonoured that Duty by becoming conquerors,” Icthilos countered. “Your lot aren’t worthy to claim that Duty now.” “By that logic, the failure of your kind to stop Teridax supplanting the Great Spirit would make you equally unworthy to continue in your role as protectors, would it not?” Trina audibly winced. She had nothing to offer as a counter or comeback. Teridax had outwitted them all. So many heroes had made so many sacrifices, and all they’d managed to do in the end was doom the universe to darkness. “I don’t blame you for your… narrow focus,” Talok continued, “Your Duty was only ever to protect your own people. But ours was to uphold order among all peoples, and now those who dwell in this city are all that remain. We have been denied our duty for tens of millennia, and we will not be denied any longer.” Trina felt Icthilos’ hand take her own, a gesture that was as much for her reassurance as it was his own. She could feel him trembling slightly, though whether it was due to anger or something else, she wasn’t sure. “Okay, what of the city?” She asked, “Why is Le-Metru abandoned?” “Le-Metru was deemed… wasteful. The machinery, the chute systems, it all used too much power, so it was evacuated and shut down.” “And the Rahkshi live there now?” Trina asked. “The Rahkshi reside in the Archives, beneath the city. They dwell there during daylight hours, and roam the streets at night.” Apparently anticipating their aghast reactions, Talok quickly continued, “There is an understanding in place. The Matoran adhere to a strict curfew, and the Rahkshi know not to trespass in any structure with doors or windows.” Trina wanted to scoff at the idea on instinct, but a key detail from the battle on the beach stopped her short. “They didn’t enter the boats,” Icthilos said, realising the same thing she had. “They attacked us on the beach, at the railings, even knocked down the mast, but none of them went inside.” It was a comfort to know, but only a small one. The Rahkshi had been merciless in their attack on the Toa; Trina didn’t want to imagine what the creatures would do to any Matoran who broke curfew. “Precisely,” Talok said. “As to your earlier question, the city has been restructured. With Matoran of more than the six prime elements present, we saw no sense in segregation. Le and Ko Metru are now abandoned, while Onu-Metru is only sparsely populated, and now used primarily for storage. The rest of the Matoran are now concentrated in the remaining Metrus. The furnace of Ta-Metru provides heating and other vital supplies for the city. Po-Metru is used for manufacturing, and Ga-Metru is the source of our food and water.” “It sounds like there’s not much room left in this new world order for Toa.” Icthilos said. “After what you’ve endured, is that so bad?” Talok asked, “You’ve done your Duty. You brought your lost Matoran home. You’ve earned your rest.” “If that were true, we’d all be Turaga by now,” Trina pointed out, “We’re still here, which means our Destinies remain unfulfilled.” “Well, of course. The people will always need their Protectors,” Talok said, starting to turn away, “I suppose only time will tell what they need protecting from.” Trina couldn’t shake the feeling that she was already looking right at it.
  11. Rahkshi are one of my all-time favourite races in Bionicle. There's so much untapped potential and unexplored implications with them, which is a big part of why I gave them such a prominent role in this series. The gravity battle stemmed from the fact that while a lot of power scaling in Bionicle is vague and unspecified, Rahkshi have very clearly-defined power levels, with some of the Level 6 descriptions specifically stating they're stronger than even a Toa Nuva. For powers that overlap with Toa, like gravity, I felt like that would create some interesting room for strategic countering or cancelling-out of powers, and tug-of-war type struggles. Pira is definitely one of my favourite characters to write. With so many of the Toa basically being veterans who are set in their ways of faith and Duty, I felt that it was important to have a perspective that was essentially the complete opposite. She's very lightly inspired by Gavla, the Av-Matoran from 2008 who felt like she didn't fit in, and enjoyed being a Shadow Matoran. The ideas I posted in that other thread came together as I was working on this story. The history and fate of the League Of Six Kingdoms obviously have a pretty major role to play in Embers, so I spent a lot of time thinking and theorising about that. In the thread I framed the theories as being based on canon info, which is still the case, but they were influenced just as much by what would make for interesting plot points in this story. With Bionicle being a kids theme, there wasn't a lot of room for nuance or ambiguity. The antagonists were pretty much all moustache twirling, puppy kicking caricatures of villainy. But with so many different species and cultures in the Bionicle universe, surely there had to be members of other races who honoured Duty, who were seen as heroes by their own people? That's something I really wanted to dig into throughout this story, and a Makuta seemed like the perfect place to start. Thanks for reading, and for all of the feedback. I'm glad you've been enjoying the story. The next chapter will be out tomorrow.
  12. The version of that image on BS01 has the shield, but it's colliding somewhat with the ball joint of his wrist. That might be why it was edited out entirely in the version you've shown here.
  13. Chapter 6 – A Tale As Old As Time From the notes of Chronicler Crisda. The Makuta’s tale has been told and retold several times since he arrived in our city. At first, he told it only to the Toa and Turaga in a private gathering, who in turn passed it on to us. After the failed rebellion, he told it once more, broadcasting it across the city. And his Toa Hagah are all to eager to remind us of it any time we step out of line. Today marked the third time Makuta Vhel told his tale himself, and this time it felt… different. It’s hard to describe in words. There was something provocative and prideful in the way Vhel spoke. It felt like a challenge, directed at the returned Toa. Putting them in their place, daring them to disagree, belittling their beliefs. The first time this tale was told, there was violence and vitriol, defiance and despair. Some Matoran and Turaga even took their own lives. But this time, I fear the outcome will be far worse. * * * Trina “There is much that you do not understand about this universe and your place in it. To understand how we have reached this end, you must first understand how our story began.” Trina suppressed an involuntary shiver as the Makuta spoke. She’d spent most of her life living in the mountains, and the last few centuries in the close company of a Ko-Toa, but something in Vhel’s voice gave her chills in a way she’d never experienced before. “We Makuta first came into being some 100,000 years ago, wrought from antidermis by the Great Spirit you all so revere. He cursed us with pride and power, and set us to work nurturing and protecting life in this universe. Despite what your Turaga teach you, it was we and we alone who created the plants and rahi that provide you your sustenance and fill this world with wonder. It was we who took it upon ourselves to thwart the League Of Six Kingdoms, we who ended the Matoran Civil War in this very city, and we who toiled for centuries to prevent similar uprisings elsewhere in this universe. And yet… who did your kind proffer their praise and prayers to? Not us.” Murmurs rang through the crowd as the Makuta spoke. On the surface, nothing Vhel said truly stood out as unfamiliar or false. From everything Trina knew of history, the Makuta did have a known history of creating creatures, they had been the ones to bring down the Barraki, and Teridax’s massacre had ended the Civil War, but the way Vhel was completely cutting out almost any involvement from Mata Nui flew in the face of everything the Turaga taught, everything Trina had always held to be true. “No. You gave your faith to an absent, distant Great Spirit who has never done anything for any of you! The same Great Spirit who put the Barraki in power then let them conquer unchecked for a thousand years. The same Great Spirit who designed us to be jealous, and let that jealousy fester to the point where we rose up against him. If your god was truly all-seeing, all-knowing, how could he not foresee the consequences of his choices? Why did he stop any of it? Why did he not spare you from your suffering? The answer is not that Mata Nui could not see, but that he simply wasn’t looking. Your Great Spirit had a Destiny of his own, one that left him looking ever outwards, not inwards.” Trina glanced at her companions. Some looked disinterested or confused, while others appeared distraught. Icthilos’ brow was furrowed, as if the words being spoken were some complex riddle to be deciphered. But it was Widrek’s crestfallen expression that left Trina most concerned. Widrek wore a Kanohi Rode, and was capable enough of recognising falsehood even without it; if anyone here could discern the deceptions in the Makuta’s words, it was him. The fact that he looked so utterly defeated could only mean he hadn’t found any. “But that Destiny is lost to us now,” Vhel continued. “There is no new world awaiting us. Only this one, and it dies each more with each passing day. So we each must fulfil the functions we were made to perform, and in so doing make up for the mistakes of our kindred and forebears. I will be your provider, the Toa will be your protectors, and you Matoran will work, as Duty demands.” “And if we don’t accept your rule?” Came the amplified voice of a De-Turaga somewhere near the back of the crowd. “I urge you to speak with the citizens of this city before blindly flinging yourself into defiance for defiance’s sake. Do what Mata Nui could not: contemplate the consequences of your choices before you make them.” “You say the Great Spirit never did anything for us,” Trina interjected, “What of heat and light? Gravity? The means to bring new beings into being?” “Valid points. But as I said, there is much you don’t understand about this universe. The truth of it is beyond what your kind are capable of comprehending.” “Then dumb it down!” Savnu shouted. “Even a simple explanation is better than none at all,” Trina agreed. “Your brother said much the same thing,” the Makuta mused. “So I tell you all what I told him. Your Great Spirit was not a god, and this universe is not some magical realm. For lack of a better term, this universe is a machine, and we are all essential components in a grand, symbiotic system. The Great Spirit gave you light and warmth because it was what your kind required to live and work efficiently. He gave many species the means to create more of their kind to ensure there would always be new workers to replace those who died or retired.” It made a twisted kind of sense, loathe though Trina was to admit it. The Matoran of Voya Nui, Mahri Nui, and Metru Nui had all spoken at times of a world above and an ocean below, of inconceivably vast open spaces without walls or Domes or Sea Gates. It was already difficult to dismiss so many beings from so many places swearing to the same story, and the fact that light still shone through the Sun Holes of the city only added to the veracity of their claims. The idea that this universe was some manner of machine made as much sense as any other for why there were apparently these arbitrary artificial barriers barring access to the world above. “We need proof!” Savnu’s voice rang out across the arena again. “You’re just words, spouting revised history from somewhere we can’t even see.” “It’s strange, isn’t it?” Vhel chuckled, “For 100,000 years you didn’t need to see the Great Spirit to believe in him.” “What I see is a few hundred beings who have the power to make anyone say anything they want,” Savnu countered, “For all we know there is no Makuta, and you’re just one of these Mesmers speaking in a scary voice and spinning a stupid story.” “Your cynicism is… warranted. If you doubt my words, then consider the history of this very city. When a Civil War broke out among the Matoran the effects were felt throughout all corners of the universe. A Toa had to retrieve the Kanohi Ignika and give their life to revive the Great Spirit. The same events played out after Makuta Teridax caused the Great Cataclysm. This city is deeply connected to the machine you call your universe, and when the work stops, the system crashes.” “You’re still just words.” “Then designate one of your number. They will have the privilege of meeting with me in person, and learning the terrible truth of our reality. I will share with them my memories and knowledge… if their mind survives the experience, I trust their testimony will sate your scepticism.” Trina found herself stepping forward. There was no rational reason for it, just an impulsive need to know. If this was all true, then she needed to understand, not only for the sake of her own curiosity but for the sake of everyone’s survival. If the universe was a machine, maybe it could be fixed? If the Makuta understood the nature of this universe, perhaps he knew something of what lay beyond it? But she’d scarcely taken two steps before Icthilos’ firm hand caught her arm. “Don’t you dare say you have to be the one to do it,” she warned, pulling out of his grasp but not moving any further forward. “You don’t need to be the martyr every time-” “No. It shouldn’t be me,” he said. “And it can’t be you.” “Why not? If you say you think I can’t handle it I swear-” “Because we didn’t make it this far to lose each other,” he snapped, his earnestness taking them both by surprise, “Especially not to the most obvious trap in the universe.” “I… okay, I’ll give you that one,” she stammered, trying to cover up her surprise with the first flippant remark she could think of. “So who, then?” “Him,” Icthilos said, pointing to the lone figure, already at the front of the crowd, who was moving out into the open. He stood a head taller than any of the other Toa, more so if one counted the fin jutting from atop his Kanohi Rode. Widrek. The second he stepped fully away from the rest of the crowd, the shadows around the arena seemed to stretch and shudder, coalescing into a cloying curtain of blank blackness that engulfed the lone Onu-Toa, leaving no sign of him when they dispersed.
  14. Chapter 5 – Welcome To Metru Nui From the notes of Chronicler Crisda. I’ll never forget the looks on their faces when we first opened up the transport. They were so relieved to see us. But not in a happy way. In a… broken, weary way. As if seeing any one or thing else would have shattered them completely. Those looks told me more than a hundred interviews could have. I understood in that moment why they hadn’t allowed me to go with them to Xia. * * * Icthilos The delegation that emerged from the Vahki Transport were mostly ones that Icthilos recognised, but not the ones he’d expected to see. There was the Chronicler, Crisda, an exuberant Ko-Matoran who was likely going to become a very annoying presence in the near future. With him was the Ga-Turaga Nadrua, a member of the council of seven Turaga who’d been running the city before the Toa had departed. But conspicuous in their absence were the four Toa who’d been sent back to the city a year ago. “I have questions,” Icthilos called loudly, moving to stand by Widrek and Pira. “Many questions.” “Make that two of us,” Pira piped up. “All of us,” Widrek corrected, gesturing back towards the boats. “And there will be time to answer them all,” said Nadrua. “But not here. Bring your people aboard the transport. There should be enough carriages to carry you all. This Metru is abandoned; your supplies will be safe here until additional transportation can be arranged.” “Carry us where?” “To the Coliseum. Regent Rost wishes to welcome you all home.” “Oh, we already got our welcome,” Icthilos bit back, concealing his surprise behind snark. Regent Rost? What had happened to the council of Turaga? “From the Vahki.” “And the Rahkshi,” Pira added. “The Vahki were tasked with defending the city,” Nadrua said, “As soon as they reported back and we realised it was you, they were stood down. As for the Rahkshi… the night belongs to them, just as the day belongs to us.” “What is that supposed to mean?” “Makuta Vhel rules this city now. His sons are citizens as much as the rest of us.” “What?” * * * Trina The trip to the Coliseum went by mostly in solemn silence, each traveller consumed with confusion and concern. The meagre information that Nadrua had given before the transport embarked had sparked questions without count, each more disconcerting than the last. Turaga Rost was regent of the city? A Makuta ruled Metru Nui? Rahkshi had free reign? None of this made any sense. Trina was in one of the lead sections of the transport, sharing a compartment with Icthilos, Widrek, Bihriis, and the remaining members of the Toa Vehi – Savnu, the Vo-Toa Keidal, and Su-Toa Orane. Ilton was still on the last boat, tending to the Sea Gates. In his absence, the seven in the transport represented the oldest and most experienced Toa still alive, though that experience wasn’t helping any of them make any sense of this situation. “I guess I’ll be the one to lose the quiet game,” Trina spoke up, after a half-hour or so of travel. “What are we going to do about all of this?” “We need more information before we can do anything,” Widrek said. “We need to learn everything we can, and only then can we act. Together.” The last word was said with a pointed glare towards Savnu, who deflected the jab with a question. “What do we know about this Makuta Vhel? I don’t recognise the name, but I didn’t exactly have them all memorised.” “I’ve heard him mentioned in passing,” Bihriis said, “He was assigned to the land of the Brighteyes shortly after the League Of Six Kingdoms were defeated.” “Brighteyes?” Trina asked. “That’s what the elders of my village called them. I’m not sure if they have a common name for themselves. I’ve heard them called mantids, mesmers…” “Takadox’s people, you mean?” Keidal asked. “That’s them,” Bihriis nodded. “The original inhabitants of Odina, before their armies were destroyed and the Dark Hunters displaced them to a little island to the south of there. After defeating the League, the Brotherhood Of Makuta assigned one of their members to each of the Barraki’s lands to monitor them and prevent any future uprisings.” “Their lands, and everywhere else,” Trina muttered. The two Makuta nearest her homeland – Gorast and Aemula – had long indulged in a petty, private game of sending Rahkshi raiding parties into each other’s territories, causing problems that the Toa Gelida or Toa Vehi had often ended up having to deal with. “And has this Vhel done anything since then?” Savnu spoke up. “No experimenting on locals or trying to invade continents like the other Makuta?” “Not that I’m aware of.” “So Vhel has just been waiting in some isolated corner of the universe, doing nothing?” Rather than answers, Trina was left with even more questions. “And now he’s here, repopulating Metru Nui with his creepy kids?” “So it would seem.” Widrek nodded grimly. Trina glanced at Icthilos, who had been sitting quietly throughout the exchange, staring at the floor. The only one being more quiet than him was Orane, but given the way he was slumped in the corner of the transport with his eyes closed, he was likely either asleep, or using his Kanohi Iden to roam around in spirit form somewhere. “Icky?” Trina gently nudged Icthilos’ shoulder, using the nickname she knew he hated in the hopes it would annoy him into speaking. “I’m listening,” he mumbled. “Just processing. Widrek’s right. We can’t do anything about this until we better understand if anything needs to be done about it.” “If?” Trina scoffed, “There’s Rahkshi roaming the streets-” “And it sounds like there’s already some kind of arrangement in place to manage that.” “What about the Makuta running the city?” “What about him? So far no one’s said he’s done anything wrong.” “Something is clearly very wrong.” “You were the one who urged us all to go to Xia,” Widrek rumbled, narrowing his eyes at Icthilos, “No one doubted you, no one denied you. Why are you so reserved now?” “I urged us to go to Xia because it’s our Duty to protect the Matoran,” Icthilos said. “I’m urging us to be cautious now for the same reason.” “Because starting a fight with this Makuta and his Rahkshi would risk Matoran lives,” Trina said, realising where he was going, “If we were to force his hand, he has thousands of hostages.” “It’s more than that,” Icthilos said. “Even one Makuta has more than enough power to destroy the generator, the furnace, or any of Metru Nui’s other key infrastructure. Without power or heat this city will meet the same fate as the rest of the universe. I don’t want to provoke a being who can sentence us all to a slow extinction.” Trina opened her mouth, then closed it when words failed to emerge. She had no counterargument. This wasn’t a rescue mission in a foreign city. This was an occupation, and the invading forces were already in full control. Orane suddenly sat bolt upright, eyes snapping open. “We’re here.” Sure enough, the transport shuddered to a stop and the sides slid open to reveal that it and its companions were now parked on an ascending elevator. The platform soon reached sunlight, revealing the familiar interior of the Metru Nui Coliseum. Trina and the others clambered out and stepped out into the arena. Already, the ramp that had allowed the transports access was receding into the floor, rendering it smooth and solid once more. Most of the arena was sparse and dusty from disuse, and the thousands of seats overlooking it were mostly empty, save for a few hundred hunch-backed beings in armour of all hues sitting in the front rows. Even from this distance, Trina could make out the eerie glows in their beady eyes, and she found herself lowering her gaze out of instinct. It seemed that Makuta Vhel had brought the population of his island with him to Metru Nui. “Come forward, old friends!” Boomed the voice of the Po-Turaga perched in the box overseeing the arena. Trina heard the voice echo from beyond the gate the transport had come in through; Turaga Rost was broadcasting the scene through the city’s telescreens. “At long last, welcome home!” With a metallic creak, the box began to lower, and as it got closer to the ground Trina could better discern the six figures standing in it. At the front was Turaga Rost, of course, though he now wore ornate armour of brown and orange. In his hands he held a steely staff with a top that looked to be made from the faceplate and kraata case of a silver Rahkshi. Just behind him stood one of the Odinan creatures, a muscular being clad in metallic hues of grey and black, with a green glow to his one remaining eye; the other had deep scars cutting across it, clearly a claw mark of some kind. Behind them stood three Toa, all of whom Trina recognised despite the new equipment or unfamiliar Kanohi each of them now bore. There was the De-Toa Dhozoh, clad in silver and grey, now wearing a Kanohi Tryna. Beside him stood the Bo-Toa Tuxar, clad in blue and green, with what looked to be a Mask Of Laser Vision on his face. And standing just ahead of the two of them was her brother Maliss, a Fe-Toa clad in orange in black, colours he’d adopted long ago to pass himself off as an Onu-Toa. The last time she’d seen him, he’d been badly wounded and on the last boat back to Metru Nui. Now he stood tall and proud at the Turaga’s side, the arm he’d lost in battle with the Vortixx now ending in a mechanical prosthetic with a buzzsaw tool in place of a hand. Much of the rest of his body seemed to have undergone alterations or augmentations as well. Her elation at seeing him again evaporated when his eyes briefly met hers, shifted right past her to Icthilos, and his expression transformed to one of… disgust? Something was very wrong. Not just with Maliss, but with every one and thing that was happening here. Last time Trina had seen Rost, he’d been bitterly resentful towards the Toa, and incredibly resistant towards their departure. He’d never been one to sheathe his smarm for the sake of politeness or propriety, so a warm welcome like this was the last thing Trina would have ever expected from him. An insensitive “I told you so” in regards to the many Toa who hadn’t returned was far more his style. Not to mention how incredibly unpopular he’d been with the other members of the Turaga council; none of them would have willingly put him in power. “Welcome, too, our lost brothers and sisters from Xia,” Turaga Rost continued, as the rest of the Toa and Matoran who were able to began to make their way out of the transport. “I’m sure you have a great many questions, but first, refreshments are in order, I think.” The doors at the base of the Coliseum tower creaked open, and out emerged groups of unarmed Vahki carrying tables, crates of food, and barrels of water. Behind them were more local Matoran and Turaga, bearing stretchers and supplies to treat the wounded still on the transport. Trina recognised among them some of the other missing members of the former Turaga council, which at least meant Makuta Vhel hadn’t killed them all during his takeover the city. Though, given that he’d brought hundreds of beings with hypnosis powers with him, a hostile takeover probably hadn’t even been necessary. “Sit, rest, eat, and listen,” Rost said. “Hear the tale of our new protector.” And then a new voice, unseen and unfathomable, echoed from the speakers arrayed around the arena. It was a voice that sent a chill down the spine, that made the shadows feel colder and closer. A voice of great age and greater veneration, its every syllable seeming to demand total attention. There was no need for introduction or explanation. This could only be the voice of Makuta Vhel.
  15. The difference is that the Bionicle story was built upon the premise of six-person teams, and the story switched focus to a different team after Matoro's death (with the Mahri only having minor appearances in side stories after that point). Hero Factory, by contrast, is basically about space police, and much like real police they don't send the entire station's worth of officers out on every mission. Season 1 (the only series to really focus on multiple missions) establishes this right from the outset. In episode 1, four Heroes are sent on the mission to Merak 9, and later four more are sent to Lemus 2. In episode 2, it's the same, with four Heroes being sent to Tantalus 5. Episode 3 follows this pattern as well, with four Heroes being sent to Mekron City. And the finale has two groups of three being sent into New Stellac City. Since later seasons/waves tended to focus on a single mission rather than multiple consecutive adventures, it makes perfect sense that they chose to follow the same setup, with some team members being sent on the missions, while others were presumably busy on other missions offscreen.
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