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  1. Part 7: Back to Start Nuju slowly retraced his steps down the catacombs, taking careful note of everything, down to even the minutia. He had opted to stay behind at the city center. His presence was not particularly needed among his former peers in the Ice Sector, as it had the lowest incident rate of any Sector. At least, it had thus far. Former data could not exactly be depended upon, Nuju had concluded. All evidence up until now suggested that Toa were built as Toa. And yet, Nuju himself was apparently proof that Toa could be created from a Tekoan. Precisely why he was scouring the ancient tunnels below the heart of the city. The entrance itself had been disguised as one of the many decorative hexagonal extrusions that lined the Grand Temple. Even though the passage was now well-marked, Nuju still had difficulty in distinguishing the door from the rest of the building. This of course brought up, as they say, the prize-winning question. How exactly did six Tekoans manage to wake up underneath the Grand Temple in a vault that was both sealed and disguised? It was clear from the furnace room that this place had been in use once. The sheer abundance of tools and weapons suggested that it had also functioned as an armory. A logical suggestion, due to the scale of the room, was that it had been used by the city’s Toa and Protectors in days past. However, a historical monument such as this would have been protected and preserved as the Toa and Protectors retired or passed away. It would be reasonable to think that Lhikan and Tuyet would have made someone aware of this place before their time came. But Tuyet died and Lhikan vanished, leaving no one aware of the vaults. Nuju pressed a button on his scope. A small light blinked in the corner of his vision, indicating that it was ready to record. “Toa Nuju, Log 1-37. First chamber under Grand Temple, designated ‘The Forge.’ Architecture is Pre-Tenth Era design, suggests construction during founding of Tekoa. Depth of Two-point-three Metra, instrumental. Equal depth to Earth Sector, no indications of chamber on city maps.” He turned to the still-lit forge furnace, panning along the odd hexagonal anvils and up the staircase to the smelting basin. The smokeless fire had grown in size since initially lit, burning a bluish color, the steady blaze lighting the room far better than the light-crystals had. It should, by all means, have gone out by now, though there could be some unseen mechanism at work keeping the fire ablaze. “The specific materials appear to originate from Stone Sector, Fire Sector implementation. Depth indicates heavy Earth Sector involvement. Forge seems is contemporary and powered, leading to conclusion of creation six to nine cycles ago, maximum.” Nuju tilted his head up to the ceiling, observing the tiling of the dome above. It was what one would expect of a ceiling over such a furnace, caked with a crystalline layer ash, soot and slag. “Er…Personal reminder: Inform Toa Vakama that, despite his fine handiwork in crafting my batons, it regrettably seems that the amorphous Vahki’s glass remains cannot be removed from them. I will continue using them to the best of my ability.” —————————————————————————————————-—————————————————————————————————- The quartz-like hall ahead of him felt cold, even to the Ice Toa. A more superstitious person would have assumed that it was destiny or some force of the deities that allowed him to find the correct route through the maze. He had felt a draft running through the passage, and subtle markings on the wall made it clear which way they were going. Pure and simple logic. And the cold was most likely a way to sterilize or preserve certain artifacts stored at the other ends. Some sort of refrigeration units in the sides passages probably maintained a constant temperature far lower than what he was feeling. Nuju paused to check his scope. Readout was 25° Rel. That… couldn’t be right. From feel alone, his estimate would be close to -10° Rel. But the thermometer did not match. …Clearly, the surface of the hallway was… something like quartz, which was causing interference from it’s piezoelectric traits. …Yes, that was it. ——————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————- The canister room was rather… unnerving without the others present. In the low light, the six Toa canisters seemed dark and foreboding, not unlike the burial tubes in the Grand Mausoleum, and asymmetry of the fallen and vertical canisters gave an eerie, though artificial, feeling of decay. Even the dried puddles of stasis fluid made the room unsettling, the greenish-yellow stain on the floor looking for all the world like- Nuju shook the thought from his mind and continued to work, choosing to focus on the canister he woke up in as a generalized example. “Augmented medical canisters have a hinge-and-gear mechanism that theoretically would expel the Tekoan inside upon completion of transformation to Toa.” He lifted his own canister back into place, where it sank back into a socket. He studied the floor around it for a while before continuing. “Experience, however, maintains that the subject wakes before being tipped over. Certainty of shared experiences not known-” The clock on his HUD blinked, alerting him that it was now the regularly scheduled time to consume food back in the Ice Sector. Against his better judgment, Nuju sat down at the base of his canister to ingest the rather bland nutrient paste. Alternating between eating and recording his thoughts, he continued. “Average time of transformation: unknown. Individual members of current Toa group emerged separately. Until the exact dates of disappearance are known, immediate conclusions cannot be made…” He trailed off as he watched a small glob of nutrient paste fall to the floor. Outside contamination. A forensic nightmare. He quickly closed the paste container and knelt down to try and scrape the offending food from the scene without disturbing anything else, chastising himself on bringing a faulty food case. In a short time, the paste was removed, bringing along with it a thick layer of dust and revealing a faintly glowing square of glass embedded in the floor. Hmm. Even accidents can have their uses. The icon etched into the glass reminded Nuju somewhat of a cracked plate of ice. Inspecting the floors underneath or in front of the other canisters revealed similar pieces, each one’s slight glow seeming to denote the element of the Toa who had been inside the canister. A marker, perhaps, to tell whoever operated this place to select Tekoans from specific Sectors. It could also be symbolic. From the center of the room, the canister that Vakama woke up from pointed North, towards the Fire Sector, Matau’s pointed West to the Jungle Sector, and Nuju’s Southwest, to the Ice sector. Whenua’s canister was the odd one out, oriented towards the Southeast, whereas the Earth Sector was subterranean. It made sense, of course, you can’t have a canister pointed down. Unless… —————————————————————————————————-—————————————————————————————————- It had taken half a day, but Nuju was able to schedule a meeting with Elder… erm, Tulaga Dume. He had, of course, tried to meet with Councilor Solek, his representative Elder, but the administrative attendant had simply told him that his message would be passed on to Elder Solek. However, they had been quite adamant that the entire Council, save for Tulaga Dume, were in a very, very important meeting, and so might ignore Nuju’s request for the time being. To be honest, if this had not been urgent Nuju would have waited whole Cycles to talk to Elder Solek, rather than Dume. Solek had a reputation for being so insistent and willful to the Council whenever a new or interesting crisis emerged, even to the point of seeming humorous to the other Sectors. However, he almost always swayed the Council to his favor, so having the Elder of Ice on his side would have ensured that Nuju gain the resources… “<Toa Nuju? Tulaga Dume will speak to you now.>” Nuju flinched slightly when the Vahki spoke from behind him. He was not caught of guard, of course, it was a natural reflex, considering his last few incidents with the enforcers were not so… pleasant. “<This way.>” “<Zero Delta Six. We are here.>” The large stone doors to Dume’s office had been recently reinforced with hexagonal shields of iron, reminding Nuju quite a bit of the Great Temple’s exterior. And most of the architecture in all of the important buildings in the city, really. As the doors opened, Dume swiveled around in his chair to face the Toa of Ice. The synchronicity somewhat unnerved Nuju. “Toa Nuju! Welcome.” Dume motioned to a seat. Surprisingly, it was adequately sized for a Toa such as himself, and sat down as requested “I had it moved from Toa Nidhiki’s Home Unit. I thought it would be an admirable… reminder of Toa past.” “Toa… Nidhiki?” Nuju was puzzled; He had not heard of any Toa by that name. “My apologies, he was a Toa far before your time. Or my time for that matter. He had just started to fade into obscurity while I was a young child…” The Tulaga moved forward in his seat, resting his elbows on his desk and interlocking his fingers. “But we are getting off topic. What did you want to discuss?” “I would like to request fellow Toa Whenua and Onewa aid me in a small expedition. Below the Earth Sector” The Elder of Fire made an expression the Toa of Ice did not quite recognize, tapping his fingers together. It was somewhat of a stern look, but elements of a smile were visible. “I’ll see what I can do. Your expedition seems like quite the interesting new prospect.” Nuju stood up. “Thank you for your consideration. And time.” “It is not a problem, Toa Nuju. I will get your request to the Council as soon as possible. In the meantime, I believe that it would be best if you return to the Ice Sector and resume your duties.” Nuju nodded. Yes, the Knowledge Towers seemed like the right place to be at the moment. History records should have all that he was looking for. Perhaps Toa Nidhiki could lead him to some answers. …Metaphorically, of course.
  2. Congratulations to the winners! It was fun to see what everyone created!
  3. Just to make sure-- we're allowed to enter into multiple categories, just not to submit multiple entries into the same category, correct? Edit: Sorry, had a brain fart last night after re-reading the "one entry per person per category" part.
  4. Thank you so much! I hope you continue to enjoy it, even if the updates are a little slow!
  5. Thanks! I tried my best to re-create the kind of mystical feeling I got when I first saw the opening of Mask of Light way back when. That line felt a little off to me too, but it personally felt a little weird without anything there as well. I might go back later and re-work that bit into something that sounds a bit better.
  6. Makuta’s line, “Today I take my rightful place among the gods," from JTO hints at a bigger mythology in the G2 universe, such as multiple deities and possibly a different creation story. Here's my take on what that could be... The Great Beings It is said that long ago, before history, in “the time before time,” there was the void. And though it was a void, inside of it was life. Not life as you or I know it, mind you, bound to the material plane, where things are born and die. This was pure life. Unending, unyielding. Those with this life were the first gods, the Great Beings. They were great in their knowledge, knowing all that could be and all that would come, and were mighty in their power. They could create whatever their hearts desired, and lived happily for an eternity. But they grew tired of their existence. “What is the point of life,” the Great beings said, “If we always know what will happen? By merely knowing, we have experienced everything imaginable.” So the Great Beings cast away their knowledge of the future into a box. They crafted armor out of pure light and put it on one of their own, giving him the box to guard so that no one could open it. They called him "Great Spirit," and named the warrior “Mata’nui,” meaning “The warrior that holds destiny, the champion among us” in their tongue. This is how the Great Spirit Mata’Nui, came to be. Tren Krom, the Corrupt The Great Beings, now relieved of their burden, returned to their old ways, creating great worlds for them to enjoy. But one Great Being, finding that his worlds were no longer as as beautiful as the others, went out to take the knowledge of the future back from Mata'Nui, so as to have something that made himself special compared to the rest. So he befriended the Great Spirit Mata’Nui, and they became so close that many began to call them brothers. Mata'Nui, while gladdened to have such a friend, still would not let the Great Being open the box. Driven by his envy, the Great Being began to plot the death of Mata’Nui. The Great Being fashioned a sword for himself of pure shadow, so as to be able to pierce Mata'Nui’s armor. He came to Mata'Nui with the blade, saying “Brother, I have finally been able to something beautiful. We must celebrate!” The celebration lasted a thousand years, for all had come know of this Great Being’s struggles, and rejoiced for him. When the celebration ended, all but the one Great Being slept. He crept to where Mata’Nui was sleeping, whispering, “It is good that you are sleeping, brother, for awake this would have been agony.” And so the Great Being ran Mata’nui through with the sword, sending him into an eternal slumber. The Great took the box from Mata’nui’s lifeless arms and opened it, staring into the bottomless pit of knowledge. But the sheer amount knowledge was not meant for one person alone, and so he was driven mad by it. When the other Great Beings awoke, they were distraught at what one of their own had done, and mourned Mata’nui. Finding the evil Great Being, they cursed him, naming him “Tren Krom,” meaning “the corrupt, the one who brings suffering and misery,” and transformed him into a hideous creature, so that anyone searching for his knowledge would be driven mad themselves. They fashioned a prison for him out of a rock, melding his flesh with it, and created a deep ocean to sink it in. This is how the Great Ocean and Tren Krom came to be. Artakha, the Uniter (”Commentary” by Takua, a chronicler-in-training) The Great Beings closed the box again, forging a great chain to hold it shut. (You’d think for a people called “Great Beings,” they’d have done that in the first place, wouldn’t you?) This was when everything was new, young one. They didn’t think that anyone- (But you just said that they knew everything before they put their knowledge in a box! Wouldn’t they have known to put a chain on it before they made it? And how do you put knowledge in a box?) It’s a story, young one, one that has been passed down for eons. Some of the story has probably been changed, or mistranslated… Anyway, they called upon one of the greatest creators among them to forge the chains. Now, he had seen how easily the Shadow Blade had cut through Mata’Nui’s armor, and decided that light alone was not strong enough to hold the box closed. So he began to forge the links of the chain from the elements. “Forge-worker,” The other Great Beings said, “Why do you forge the chain from the elements, and not from pure light as we did the armor? Surely they cannot be strong enough!” And they took some of the elements and crushed them, casting them into the Great Ocean, forming the land. “Ah, my siblings, but try to break the chain I have formed.” He challenged them. And try as they might, none of them could break the chain he had forged. For separate, the elements were weak. Together, nothing could have broken them. (But how did he make a chain out of fire or water, and how did the Great Beings break them? They aren’t solid!) It’s… symbolic. Hush, now, and listen. To finish his creation, he took some of Mata’Nui’s armor and spun it into thread, weaving light through each of the links. He wrapped the chain around the box, sealing it. And so they called him “Artakha,” meaning “The uniter, the one who builds,” and gave him the box to guard, until such a time as Mata’Nui returned. This is how the Great Spirit Artakha and the Land came to be. Karzahni, the Dutiful Now, as death was not permanent for the Great Beings, someone was needed to stay with Mata’Nui until he awoke. This duty fell upon a mask-maker, one who had considered Tren Krom a friend, and so felt obligated to right his wrongdoing. He was given the Shadowed Blade to use against all that might harm Mata’Nui as he slept. For a thousand years, this Great Being sat beside the sleeping Mata’Nui, neither sleeping nor eating so as to be with Mata’nui when he woke. At the end of the thousand years, the Great Being felt his strength waning. Tired of waiting, he asked for another Great Being to take his place, only for a year while he rested. “Brother,” they said, “We are busy with our creations. Surely he will wake up soon.” So the Great Being, angry at the other’s refusal to help, waited another thousand years for Mata’Nui to wake up. Again, he called for another to take his place, this time for only a month. “It is your duty, what if Mata’Nui wakes while you sleep?” And so the Great Being sat for another thousand years, angry at his people. Finally, he called for Artakha, asking him to take his place for one single day. “I understand your pain, Mask-maker,” said Artakha, “But I, too, must protect my charge; I cannot help you, but I will sit with you.” The Great Being, though unhappy he could not get rest, rejoiced in Artakha’s company, and the two sat together for another thousand years, neither of them sleeping nor eating. At the end of the thousand years, Mata’Nui finally woke up. Upon opening his eyes, he found himself alone, save for the Great Being and Artahka. Mata’Nui praised the Great Being for his dutiful nature. But the Great Being looked away bitterly, saying “I am honored by your praise, Great Spirit, but I do not deserve it. I was tired of my duty, and hated it.” Mata’Nui laughed. “You could have left at any time, abandoning your duty, but you did not! Is that not worthy of praise?” And so they called the Great Being “Karza,” or “He who does what is difficult, the one who perseveres.” And so Karza finally rested, watched over by his friends. This is how The Great Spirit Karza, and thus the Three Great Spirits of Virtue came to be. Artahka the Uniter, Karza the Dutiful, and Mata’Nui, the one who holds Destiny. The War of Creation Now there came a time when each Great Being strove to create their own world, one which they could rule as they saw fit. Most beautiful among the worlds was the one made from Tren Krom’s Prison and the discarded elements, located in the center of all creation. Naturally, as all of the Great Beings had taken part in this world’s creation, and each one claimed that it was theirs. Artahka saw the divide beginning to form among the Great Beings, and said, “Siblings, why do you quarrel over this world? Do you not remember that one of our own, though disgraced and mad, sleeps beneath it’s waves? Would it not be better to make another world to enjoy?” But the Great Beings ignored the Uniter, and did not stop their fighting. Their petty arguments soon grew into a great war, spanning all of creation. Worlds began being fashioned and used as weapons, or as battlegrounds for the Great Beings, and many more were destroyed, save for the center world. Mata’Nui became greatly troubled by this, and swore to end the fighting by whatever means he could. So he joined the battle himself, not with swords or spears, but wielding two gleaming shields in each hand. He would step out onto the battlefield, blocking both side’s blows until they were too exhausted to continue the fight. Mata’Nui, still standing strong, would say to them, “Siblings, do not quarrel over the center world. It is a prison to our brother, who is disgraced, and it has only brought misfortune to our people.” But the Great Beings ignored the One Who Holds Destiny, and did not stop their fighting. The war became so great and wide-spread that there was no Great Being left who did not wield a sword and use it against their siblings. Only the Great Spirits of Virtue refused to fight. Now Karza was still angry at his people for their unwillingness to help, and became enraged at their petty war, and so decided to end the fighting himself. So Karza yelled out to his people, warning “Siblings, stop your quarrel over the center world! It is a prison to our brother, Tren Krom, and like him, it brings suffering and misery! If you do not, the center world will be destroyed.” But the Great Beings ignored the Dutiful, and did not stop their fighting. So Karza took his brother Artahka’s forge tools and his own sword and used their destructive power against the center world. The land shattered, and parted the sea, letting Tren Krom, the Corrupt, see the war for a brief moment. The Mad Great Being laughed, yelling out “This is what I saw! A war to destroy all of creation! You are the cause of my madness!” With the center world’s beauty destroyed and Tren Krom’s prison weakened, the Great Beings no longer wished for control of the center world. Karza, still angry with his people, said to them “See now what your actions have done? To stop your war, I had to destroy what you sought, weakened our brother’s prison, so that none would want it!” And so the Great Beings stopped their war, and more was added to Karza’s name, becoming Karzahni, which now meant ”He who does what is difficult, the one who brings destruction, the jailer of the disgraced.” Karzahni, knowing that while it did stop the war, his actions also threatened to release Tren Krom from his prison, and so he banished himself to the remains of the center world to ensure that Tren Krom never escaped. He built a jail under the ocean around Tren Krom’s prison, with the intent to house the most dangerous outcasts in creation. His brothers, the other two Great Spirits, noticed his determination to fix his mistakes and began living on the land above, caring for what little of nature remained and rebuilding the world. This is how the Three Great Spirits became the Guardian Deities of our world; Karzahni, the Dutiful, guarding The Pit; Artahka, the Uniter, guiding the Island city of Tekoa; Mata’Nui, He who holds Destiny, watching over the Island of Okoto.
  7. Part 6: Goats It’s official, Onewa thought, being a Toa is the worst thing that has ever happened. He gasped as a hoof collided with his chest-armor. A herd of Mahi goats had escaped from their pens, and, well, the last time Vahki had been sent after them, only twelve of the original fourty were returned. The others were so scared of the mechanical enforcers that most of them ran off into the desert wildlands. Some even say that a few jumped off a cliff to their own deaths. Whatever. They certainly weren’t afraid of Onewa. This job might have been easier if they were… Since he was a Toa, it was now Onewa’s job to corral them back, keeping both civilians and goats safe and sound. And if he couldn’t, well, that’d probably be the start of his infamous career as a the Toa of Failure. What a bother. He didn’t even get the chance to rest. As soon as he stepped off the cramped airship, Onewa was introduced to his assistant, who wielded a data-board of forty or so jobs that the Sector needed him to do. This was only the third one. ...And his personal ‘assistant,’ Kodan, didn’t seem to do much actual assisting. The disk-piece on his armor glowed, and the dent popped back out, leaving his it good as new. Vakama’s skill with the forge was certainly unparalleled. Onewa thought back to his old job. Carving. Oh, the lovely sound of iron striking stone. The wonderful, smooth feel of finished work. The chalky smell of rock-dust lingering in the air. He could almost smell it... Onewa coughed as he was caught off-guard by a Mahi goat expelling its fume-vents. But now he’s here. As a goat-herd. Fighting it would be too much work, he thought to himself, go with the flow, as they say. Luckily mentality did not determine your element as a Toa, or he could’ve been stuck so close to all that water. He shuddered mentally. Or worse, he could have been a Toa of Jungle. Imagine having to deal with an entire sector full of Matau...s. Onewa managed to tackle a goat, hoisting it up over his shoulder, only to drop it again after being kicked sharply in the back of the knee. The dropped goat bleated indignantly and headbutted the Toa in the shoulder. “Son of a Burnak!” Onewa swore, trying to regain his balance despite his bruised leg. Of course, with his luck, even standing upright proved difficult, as each attempt was met with a kick or a headbutt. Tired and feeling rather dejected, Onewa decided to lie down in the dirt, rolling away out of headbutting and kicking range. Perhaps he should them alone for now. At least until he could stand again. They would leave him alone if they didn’t see him as a threat, right? Unfortunately, the goats began crowding around their defeated enemy and began biting the protosteel that protected his chest. Annoyance briefly turned to anger in the Toa of Stone. “Alright, that’s it!” In one swift movement, he grabbed the horns of one of the goats and twisted his body. The Mahi’s teeth scraped against metal as it was flipped onto its back. The goat tried fruitlessly to roll over, bleating in distress. It wasn’t what he planned, but it had worked. The other goats backed off, watching the Toa of Stone warily. He stood up, brushing himself off and righting his mask. “One down...” He muttered, and hoisted the overturned goat onto his shoulders. He called to the stone and dirt, the sudden awareness of his element’s presence surging around and through him. He tamped on the rock with a foot, forcing his will through it. With a low rumble, the landscape changed, jagged stones violently piercing the dust and dirt, encircling a sizable area of foliage nearby. The Toa carefully set the (debatably traumatized) goat down into his makeshift pen. “There. Now stay put.” He turned back to his larger problem. “Who’s next?” Onewa challenged, taking a step towards the herd. They stepped back. He stepped forward again. They stepped back again. He paused, then stepped back. They didn’t budge. Great. Now they’re terrified of him. Well, as long as they stayed away from cliffs... ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Soon, all the goats made it safely (albeit with few bent horns) back to their new pen. Khodan checked the assignment off of the data-board. “Great work, Toa Onewa, you’re a natural at this goat-herding thing. You’d make a great farmer. If you weren’t a Toa, of course.” “At the moment, that... that doesn’t sound like a compliment.” Onewa said as he cleaned his hands, just barely catching the dirty look that the replacement farmer shot at him. “Well, these people are proud of their work.” Khodan tapped his foot on the ground in approval, “Actually, we all are. It’s no wonder that the Stone Sector outputs the best materials. It's a shame though, about the one who owned all these Mahi.” Onewa took some of the cleaner-dust from the bowl, rubbing it over his armor. Specifically the parts covered with goat-slobber. “So, what happened to him?” The record-keeper sighed. “She disappeared about quarter of a cycle ago. Probably just up and left Tekoa, went back home Khazarha. She was Skakdean, after all.” Khodan looked down at the data-board again, nonchalantly pointing a thumb at the replacement farmer. “Givlah over there knew her.” Onewa shook the excess dust off and stared into the reflective bowl. A missing person? Why wasn’t that on the list? That’s far more interes... important than herding a bunch of goats. “Thanks, I’ll go talk to him.” Not bothering to wait for Khodan’s approval, Onewa walked off to the orange-and-tan farmer, who was at the moment attempting to get one of the goats to eat from his hand. Much to the farmer’s chagrin, the goat seemed certain that Givlah’s hand was the snack and not the wheat-shrub. There was a clanging noise as the goat bit down on the Tekoan’s fingers. “Ow! Artakha-cursed beast! Why did Tula eve-” He cut himself short as the Toa approached, putting on an awkwardly fake smile. “Ah, Toa, fine work you did on... with the goats.” “It’s... not my thing. I haven’t even touched a Mahi before today.” Onewa smiled apologetically at Givlah, who turned his attention back to the goats. Onewa could almost hear what the farmer had to be thinking. Of course you haven’t. Anyone would have done a better job than you. Onewa shook these doubts from his mind. “So, uh. The one who used to own these goats, you knew her?” Givlah continued looking at the goats, avoiding eye contact with Onewa. “Yeah, Tula... Tulakk. What about her?” There was something in the way the Tekoan spoke that Onewa couldn’t quite identify. “Well, she’s missing, right? Do you know where she went?” The Toa of Stone attempted to pet one of the Mahi. It snorted and backed away. Ignoring this, Onewa continued, “Did she have friends or family elsewhere? Another Sector, or on another island? Okoto, Khazarha?” “I do not know. If you do not mind, ‘Toa,’ “ Givlah spat the word with the same accusing tone Dume had used, “I have to return to my work,” He looked around the Toa to the approaching Khodan, “As I would imagine you have to return to yours.” Onewa was about to press further, but was herded away by his ‘assistant’ toward the sector transport. “Please do not bother the nice man, Toa Onewa! We have other places to be! I am sure Tulakk is fine.” The Toa reluctantly complied, looking over his shoulder at Givlah. The farmer was slouched over the stone pen, petting the goats, murmuring softly to them. He was certain now. The farmer knew more than he was saying. Khodan, too, might know something. Onewa stepped onto the dust-skimmer and sat in his designated seat. It was quite cramped. No better than the airship. The Earth Sector-made seats were just barely big enough for regular-sized Tekoans, and the ones that had been more suitable for a Toa had been replaced with Vahki carrier tracks. Onewa began on a mental rant again. What a pain. They wouldn’t even make accommodations for him, and he was still expected to do the most menial tasks. They’ve set the air flow at too low a temperature. His bruised knee hurt. As the skimmer’s door closed, however, he started to forget his problems and began to think about Tulakk’s case. A missing person, completely ignored by the Vahki police force? Come to think of it, his fellow Toa were missing persons until a few days ago. The Vahki hadn’t searched for them, either. Just how many people were missing? ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- The skittering of the skimmer’s legs and the cool air blowing on his face were just unnerving enough to get Onewa to start unconsciously fidgeting like a shambler from the Jungle Sector. As if it couldn’t get any worse, Khodan was ‘lecturing’ him on the history of the Stone Sector. Like Onewa hadn’t heard all of that when he was a child. Honestly, there was really nothing better to do but ignore Khodan’s stupid lecture and his stupid rectangle mask and instead watch as the desert hills and rusty plains rushed by the view-slit across from him and wonder what in Karzahni happened to Tulakk. The transport lurched to a halt, tipping Onewa over awkwardly into the next seat. “We’re picking up a few civilians and Vahki units.” The intercom buzzed. Onewa mumbled something about common courtesy as he righted himself, his train of thought completely lost. Vahki drones boarded first, folding themselves up into their carriers at the back of the skimmer. Right behind them was a brown-and-silver Tekoan, who sported a few bandages and medical clamps across his armor. He glanced at Onewa through his round mask and immediately changed course and sat next to Khodan. A few more rather nondescript Tekoans climbed aboard, sitting down in various seats away from Onewa. An awkward quietness soon overtook the carrier. “So,” Khodan cut through the silence, tactlessly trying to strike up conversation with his neighbor, “How were you injured, friend?” “Uh. Cave-in...?” The Tekoan shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “Ah, you were in the Earth Sector, then? Awfully drabby place, in my opinion. Damp, too. What were you doing there?” “ Um, requesting an order of Iron. ” He paused, “...And visiting friends,” The Tekoan mumbled. Khodan smiled politely. “Oh, I see. What do you do for work, Ahkmou?” A slight hint of panic wormed it’s way onto the Tekoan’s face. Ahkmou shifted in his seat, subtly moving further away from Khodan. “I’m a... trader. I also do some small errands for carvers or farmers.” Onewa got the distinct feeling that he was witnessing an interrogation. As if to confirm his suspicion, Khodan flashed the Toa a cunning look. “You know the area well, I suppose? Do you think you could help us find someone?” For an instant, Ahkmou seemed relieved, then was on edge again. “Who are you looking for?” “A Skakdean farmer. Tulakk.”Khodan pulled out his data-board, readying the stylus. “Her neighbors were wondering where she went. Maybe you know her?” At hearing the word 'farmer,’ Ahkmou seemed completely relieved. “Oh, I sold her a new spade a while ago!” the Tekoan scratched his mask in thought. “There were a few shipments over to Khazarha last quarter. Last ones for a while, from what I’ve heard. She probably wanted to visit home while she had the chance.” Khodan, finished with his notes, set down the data-pad and locked eyes with Onewa. Keeping that same unnerving smile on his face, he said nothing. His message, however, was clear.
  8. Part 5: Underground The first thing Whenua noticed when stepping off the Government Transport was that the Earth Sector’s pleasantly quiet atmosphere had been replaced with a subtle echoing buzz. Chatter mostly. About him. The worst kind The Escort had left him in an unfamiliar part of the caverns, probably far away from the Archives. The few civilians he saw talking seemed nice. Asking them for directions shouldn’t be too hard. “I heard one of the Toa is coming here!” A orange-and grey one said. The brown-and-silver one nearly spit his drink out. “What? A Toa? Here?” A sigh came from the purple-and-black one. “No way Dosne, they’re all too busy up in the City Center to bother with…” She trailed off as she turned to see what her friends were staring at. Whenua loomed over the group, looking very… out of place. “Uh… sorry to interrupt…” Whenua spoke softly, “Would you, um, happen to know the way to the Archives?” The brown-and-silver citizen seemed to try and hide behind the purple-and-black one. Ignoring her friend, she stepped forwards toward the looming Toa, looking him straight in the eyes. Her voice betrayed her seemingly brave demeanor . “Y-you’re going to need to leave by the south exit, then go east. If you see the-uh, old iron mine, you’re going the right way.” Whenua timidly smiled. “Thank you… uh, I’m kinda… new to this. I need all the help I can get…” He was about to get on his way when the purple-and-black one shot out her hand. “Name’s Komu.” Whenua paused awkwardly, looking dumbfounded at her hand. She gestured again, sticking her hand out further. Gingerly, he took her small hand in his giant one, and shook it carefully. “I-i’m Whenua.” “Then good luck, Toa Whenua. May the Spirits of Virtue continue to guide you.” As He began his journey to the Archives, he heard Komu exhale and begin talking with slow excitement to her friends. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Whenua stared up at the entrance to the Archives. Home, at last. He hoped. It had apparently been at least a cycle since he last stepped foot into the Archives. Maybe he could get back to his old job… no, no. He’s a Toa now, and that brings new responsibilities. Like protecting those in his sector. All three thousand metra of it. Whenua suddenly felt severely overwhelmed. “You’ve been standing there a while. Would you like to come in?” The voice of the Archives Head of Staff jolted Whenua out of his trance. “Nohui, sir!” Whenua smiled, reflexively standing up straight, making the height difference between the two all the more apparent. The old man gently laughed, shaking his head. “Now, now, you don’t have to do that anymore, Whenua,” Nohui patted the Toa of Earth on the back, ushering him inside. “You’re a Toa now. I should be calling you sir!” Whenua felt the organics in his face flush. “Oh, uh, n-not really, um… sir. I-ah, kinda like the way we’ve always talked.” “I see disappearing for three cycles and becoming a Toa hasn’t changed your personality. Good on you.” The Head of Staff tapped one of the suspended animation canisters, observing the small ghekula toads hopping around inside. “It feels like the Archives started to go downhill the day you disappeared. A lot of things did, actually. Oh, uh, would you mind?” He gestured to the canister. Whenua obliged, picking up the citizen-sized canister with ease, and looked around for the proper chamber to set it in. “Where should I…?” “Oh, anywhere out of the way will do. We’re going to set these specimens free. The stasis fields are starting to fail in this model.” Nohui beamed with pride. “My son, actually, is helping develop the next version!” Whenua set the canister down with a soft, familiar thunk. “How is Nuhrii doing, anyway? …Other than his new job, I mean?” He absent-mindedly picked up another canister, and started organizing the stack. Nohui chuckled. “Oh, you know, he may wear my old mask, but he’s still as fiery as his mother. Quite literally, almost. Had a nice mask-making job for a while. Didn’t hold that for long, let me tell you.” He sighed, looking off down the tunnel. “You two should catch up yourself sometime. He hasn’t seen you since you got a job here…” Whenua smiled. “I miss the days we would play in the old mining complex,” He placed the last canister in its place. “There. That should be good for a while.” The Head of Staff put on a mock expression of anger. “You shouldn’t have done that, you’re a guest here!” He couldn’t keep the face, however, and started to laugh. “Old habits die hard, I guess.” “It…it was day before yesterday last time I did this. For me, at least,” Whenua spoke slowly, “I don’t know how I lost so much time…” Nohui quickly stopped laughing and looked at Whenua, studying his sullen expression. After a long silence, Nohui spoke, a warm smile on his face. “You’re always welcome to come back and work here, you know. On your days off from being a Toa, of course. I’ll pay you.” Whenua seemed to cheer up a bit. “I guess doing something familiar every so often would be nice. But are you sure? I mean-” “Oh, don’t worry, I’ll work it out somehow,” His old boss interrupted. “Besides, you’re an employee-turned-Toa, obviously you’ll get some benefi-” Nohui’s words were cut short by a loud rumbling from somewhere in the cavern. Instinctively, the two of them rushed under the reinforced supports, bracing themselves for falling debris. Whenua silently counted to five. They should be safe. An automated voice came over the speakers.“Cave-in in section D-16. Repeat: Cave-in in section D-16 . Please stay clear until rescue crews arrive.” The intercom beeped twice, then continued to repeat. “They might not get there in time.” Whenua looked to Nohui. “Are you alright here?” The old man sat down, taking care to not strain his knees. “This place is well-reinforced. Shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Go on.” Whenua took off as fast as he could. Nohui smiled and turned to the ghekula toads. “He’s going to do great things, let me tell you.” ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- “D-16. D-16. D-16. D…16!” Whenua turned sharply, his shoulders grazing the narrow passage. The cave-in was quite severe. The entire back half of the housing section was covered with rocks and earth. Whenua could see multiple people just barely trapped under the rubble. Whenua wasted no time, using his strength to move the boulders and broken houses, making a path towards the back of the cavern. Others rushed in to those trapped around him, pulling them free as soon as he had cleared the debris. Two… six…nine… Whenua counted to himself as each person was rescued. He ignored his sore muscles. He couldn’t stop, not until everyone was rescued. “How many?” He yelled out above the commotion. He was quickly overwhelmed by people calling out for their missing family and friends. “My brother!” “Mama!” “Yelu and Teinak!” “How many people?” Whenua yelled out again, still pulling stones away. “About thirty of us!” Whenua looked to his side, seeing Dosne, one of the citizens from before, trapped under a crushed building next to him. “Don’t worry, we’ll get you out!” Whenua moved to push the debris off, but was stopped. “I’m fine! Komu and Ahkmou were behind me when the cave collapsed! They’re back there!” He pointed to a boulder, larger than Whenua himself. “Help them first!” Whenua nodded, placed his hands firmly on the boulder and pushed, straining against its immense weight. If only he knew how to use his elemental powers like Onewa…. Looking quickly over it, Whenua recognized the blotches of silver-blue on the rock face. The boulder was a dense metal ore. Usually they would have to bring in heavy machinery just to move this thing an inch. But they didn’t have time. If the boulder wasn’t going to move… he’ll just have to break it. Whenua took out the thumper tool he had taken from the forge room, and strapped it to his smaller arm. He braced his larger hand against the rock and punched, using the thumper’s chisel-like head to strike the boulder. Thunk. Whenua could barely see the grey mark left on the stone’s surface. Hardly chipped, he thought to himself. Not good enough. Again. Thunk! The rock broke a little more. Still not good enough. Again! Thunk! Again! As the Toa pulled back to punch, his thumper tool rumbled to life, a strange purple glow emanating from its core. Whenua, not seeming to notice, struck the boulder again. The purple glow spread from the thumper to the boulder, making a fleeting pattern across it’s surface. With barely a whisper, the rock crumbled away, creating a makeshift tunnel large enough for the Toa of Earth. Whenua, without a second thought, stepped through into the darkness. It was a short time until he reemerged, carrying an unconscious Komu in his large hand and a weakened Ahkmou under his other arm. As soon as he left the tunnel, the earth shook again, slowly closing the path behind him. As if it had been waiting for him to leave . “<Sensors detect no further civilians trapped. Recall, twenty-two, subside.>” Medical and rescue Vahki arrived, bringing the usual cave-in equipment, setting up protosteel supports around the remainder of the settlement, and had managed to pull free the remaining victims. Recovery canisters, replacement masks, and a few rations were organized on the ground, ready to be used. Whenua set the two gently down in front of the medical drones. “<What is the nature of the medical emergency?>” a Vahki chirped with a comforting (though eerily synthetic) bedside manner. “How are they? Can you help them?” The sleek white Vahki looked over them, scanning for injuries with cold, unfeeling eyes. “<Citizen Ahkmou: Minor lacerations, slight bruising. Status: recovering. Immediate medical aid not needed.>” The Vahki paused, calling over for medical supplies. “<Citizen Komu: Major bruising, endoskeleton has been bent in multiple places, mask is dented. Status: Repairable. However, immediate medical aid is needed to prevent further damage. Please stand back…>” A few Vahki carried over a canister and placed Komu inside. “<Citizen Komu should be able to return to her duties within a season. Thank you for your cooperation.>” The Toa of Earth followed the medical unit until they reached the transport station, keeping an eye on Komu and the few others inside canisters. Their safety was his duty, after all. He almost got on board with them. But no, he must remain here. “Toa-Whenua!” He turned to find Dosne, his torso wrapped in a jumble of dermis bandages, breathing heavily. “Did- did they-just… leave?” “Erm, y-yes. Oh, but Komu is going to be fine.” Dosne breathed a sigh of relief before wincing. “I-shouldn’t have… run… here.” He noticed Whenua’s look of concern, smiling back reassuringly, “I’m-alright… though. .” Whenua chuckled softly. Dosne’s breathing returned to normal as he looked down the railway at the departing transport. “You left before everyone could say thank you.” Whenua was taken aback. “I’m, uh, not too comfortable with a lot of attention put on me. It makes me feel like I’m not… normal.” Dosne nodded understandingly, carefully adverting his gaze from Whenua’s disproportionate arm. “If I were in your place, I don’t think I’d like having so much attention either.” They sat quietly at the station for a little longer, taking in the gentle cavern breeze. Away from everything. Maybe being a Toa isn’t so bad.
  9. Part 4: Results He couldn’t feel his limbs, couldn’t hear anything. His sight was blurry, and the aching on his face made Vakama was certain he was going into mask-shock. The strange and intense burning sensation from within his chest seemed to be all that was keeping him from passing out. The vague shapes of his Toa comrades moved about in front of him, trying to reach him or moving him out of the way from the massive blob. He could just barely see the familiar, safe shape of his mask. If he could just touch it, everything would be fine... Vakama’s hope, however, did not last. His mask was kicked and batted farther and farther out of his reach with every attack and counterattack from the behemoth or his allies. Panic set in. He was going to die like this, wasn’t he? Vakama had been friends long ago with a stonemason who went weeks trapped under fallen debris. When they finally found her, they found that her mask had been broken. It had only taken a day, they said. Vakama could only now imagine what she had gone through. The burning feeling continued to radiate out to his organics and armor. It was if he was on fire, his life force burning away as the feeling spread. Every second without his mask was beginning to be agony for him. “Vakama...” Again, a voice spoke to him. “Save the heart of the city. Find Lhikan... the path.” His vision left him, replaced by images floating in his head. Six disks. A silhouette of someone... familiar. “Return him to his eternal slumber...” A shadow began to spill over the city. A Golden mask, two horns curving down its side floated before Vakama, pure shadow spilling from its eyes. The darkness twisted into the shape of a giant. “Do not flee from doom.” Instinctively, Vakama tried move back from the truly colossal... thing, only to find a ledge behind him, dropping down, down into an abyssal sea. “Do not hide from doom.” The shadowed figure bent down, glaring at Vakama, its many eyes blazing through the holes of the mask. The figure grinned horrible white teeth. “You must fight doom.” The shadowed creature spoke this time. One name that chilled Vakama to his soul. ”{Makuta...}” Vakama came to his senses shortly after. Judging from the pain in his chest and uncomfortable position on top of his mask, somehow he was hit just right so as to land on his mask. Perhaps he wasn’t going to die after all. Quickly attaching his mask to its proper place, Vakama ran to grab his forge-hammer and regroup with the others. He found Nuju and Matau faring the best of all, seeing as their years of climbing the within the Knowledge Tower’s Data-rooms and Chute-ducts, respectively, had made them both quite nimble. They had been slicing and stabbing at the Vahki’s arms and legs, but it healed so quickly they had given up and were catching their breath. Onewa had lodged his mace into the Vahki again, so Whenua and Nokama begun to use it as an anchor to hold onto while trying to restrain the Vahki. Onewa had begun to lift stones from the Colosseum floor and hurling them at it whenever he had an open shot. “Nice of you to join us, fire-spitter.” Matau huffed. “Our attempted rescue did not have desired results.” Nuju set his ice batons down. “What he means is, the thingamabob kept blocking us from getting to you.” Matau rotated his sore shoulder. “A little help would be appreciated!” Whenua called over, not quite holding the Vahki in a makeshift arm-bar. The sight of the massive Toa hanging sideways issued a chuckle from Matau. “It seems that we are not in true danger... at least, not yet.” Nuju stood back up. “The Vahki seems to be attempting to only suppress us.” They were shortly interrupted by Whenua landing between them. “Tell that to the Vahki.” The big Toa righted himself and dusted off, tapping Matau on the shoulder. “This is what they do during disk-dueling, right? Tag-in?” Matau rolled his eyes. “If only you actually watched that sort of thing, big guy. We’d be done with this in seconds!” He grabbed his swords, striking a pose for those up in the stands, muttering “Massive Toa, immense strength. Won’t punch, afraid to sit on Vahki. Nice, fluffy Toa of Earth. Who would’ve thunk...?” Picking up his batons, Nuju motioned to Vakama. “It would be wise if we relieve Onewa and Nokama as well.” It was an ordeal, to say the least, getting Nokama untangled from the Vahki. For a scholar, she seemed to be really enthralled in being a gladiator. She had managed to perfect Whenua’s attempted arm-bar, successfully restraining the Vahki’s movements, despite their difference in size. Taking the chance, Matau aimed for its waist, slicing with all his might... and lodging one of his swords halfway through. Nuju had used the stuck mace-and-chain’s pickaxe as a foothold, ramming the sharpened ends of his batons into the Vahki’s collarbone segment, attempting to gain some control of it’s movements that way. It slowed just enough, allowing Nokama to let go safely and catch her breath. Vakama, in the meantime, had been alternating between using his unique forge tool as as a spear and war-hammer, but to no avail. Every move he made was batted away by the Vahki. He eventually found himself backed into a corner, unknowingly retreating from the monstrous peacekeeper. “<Colloquialism: Resistance is Futile>” "Who thought it was a good idea to program this thing with cliche one-liners? I want names!” Matau called over to the crowd, before turning his attention back to his stuck sword. Vakama dove through the Vahki’s legs as a hammer-like arm came down with a ground-shaking thud. Matau yelled again, haven lost his grip on his sword. “And could you please try to control that thing better?” Nuju sighed, pulling sharply back on his makeshift control sticks. “You would be better off leaving your blade for now, Matau. You are not well versed in the way of the sword...” “I know how to use them!” Matau interrupted, “What’s to know about swish, swish-” He stopped talking as the Vahki’s armor started to creep up his arms. “What the...” Nuju jumped off, his ice batons disappearing into its shoulders. The crowd gasped as Matau and the weapons quickly became engulfed by the Vahki. “<Phase 2 complete. Code: Six. Omega. Restrain. Phase 3 commencing. Combat level 6 authorized.>” The Vahki seemed to dissolve, becoming a formless mass, swirling like the mighty winds above the sea, lashing and grabbing at everything that came near. Every so often, they could see Matau from within the mottled waves, struggling in vain against the waves. “We have to help him!” Whenua moved forwards, only to be stopped by Nokama. “You’d be trapped in there yourself, and where would Matau be then?” She stopped, gesturing to Nuju. “Does this look familiar to anything you two have seen, in the Archives or Data Tablets?” Whenua shook his head, glaring at the blob. “All it looks like is a fellow Toa is in danger and we’re not trying to help. He’s probably suffocating!” Nuju ignored him, closing his eyes. “I could throw rocks at it, knock him out of that thing.” Onewa offered. “Fire.” Nuju opened his eyes and looked at Vakama. “Can you create fire? Like Lhikan?” “I-I don’t know... what does...?” Vakama stuttered “I used a light-stone before, for the furnace...” Nuju closed his eyes again. “It seems to be composed of a certain scientist’s so-called ‘moving sand.’ Nanites, primarily silicon-based, if I am not mistaken, scholar.” Nokama nodded. “I wasn’t sure, since Nuparu was only allowed to give us a few small samples to study at the schools...” She turned to Vakama. “You have to at least try. We will find some loose light-stones. If all else fails, try to use your hammer to pull him out. Onewa, teach him. Quickly now” The group scattered, leaving Onewa and Vakama to face the Vahki. “So... how do I do this?” Onewa sighed. “I barely know myself. Try and feel what it’s like to be fire? Try to ‘talk’ to your element?” He softly laughed. “Internally, I mean.” “Alright...” If there was any time to discover his natural elemental power as a Toa, it was now. Vakama took a deep breath. Feel yourself become a flame, Vakama thought to himself. Feel the heat and light and burn absolutely... ... Nothing. No spark, no heat. Emotion, maybe. Rage and passion, the stories say, make up fire. Vakama tried to conjure up feelings of anger, of raw, unfiltered emotion. He did feel something. Not anger, not fire, but something else. “Onewa, hold my hammer.” Onewa complied, grabbing the forge tool. "Give me five minutes.” Vakama adjusted his mask, took another deep breath and, ignoring the yells of Onewa, jumped into the amorphous Vahki. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- It was dark, within the swirling currents. Vakama would occasionally brush the odd solid bit and grab hold, hoping for a leg or an arm of the Jungle Toa. He had to keep his breathing to a minimum. His trusty filtration unit should hold for a while, but it was not meant to function in an environment like... well, certainly not anything at all like this. Vakama felt a hand weakly grab his leg. Matau! All that was left was to get out of here... somehow. Reaching down, Vakama grabbed hold of Matau. He was moving sluggishly, floundering around. He’s running out of air. Vakama’s filtration unit had finally given up, leaving him without air as well. But he couldn’t give up now. But a little voice in the back of his mind whispered doubt to him. Admit defeat. You weren’t a Toa, just an ordinary citizen masquerading as some hero. Vakama struggled against the thought, against the Vahki. Against letting go of his last... Vakama slowed his movements. Maybe his doubts were right... maybe he should stop resisting. Nuju’s statement that the Vahki was merely trying to subdue them, maybe that’s the right idea. If they stop moving, pretend to pass out, the Vahki will let them go. So Vakama stopped. And waited. And held his breath. It wasn’t working, at least, not fast enough. The Vahki still thought that Vakama was resisting, but why? His oxygen-deprived mind raced. He had to let go of Matau. Slowly, as if he was passing out, Vakama let go of Matau, making sure he could still reach him. It was a major gamble. They could both die. He might have doomed them. The nanite’s swirling movements slowed. Nuju was right. Soon, Vakama found that he could breath again, each small and labored breath of air harsh and metallic-tasting. He felt his back touch gently on the stone floor of the Colosseum. Now he could make his move. Slowly and gently, Vakama rolled over with the flow of the nanites, and wedged his fingers solidly between the stone tiles. Grabbing Matau, he moved himself forwards through the Vahki. For a brief moment, he saw the crowds up in the stands. Calling upon the last of his strength, Vakama pulled on Matau, throwing him out onto the Arena floor, clear of the Vahki. The Vahki wasted no time swirling around Vakama, pulling him in again That’s it. Vakama succeeded. Matau was free. It would know better this time to wait after he stopped moving to start giving him breathable air. Vakama might actually die this time. He laughed to himself, somewhat morbidly. Almost dying, twice in one day. Imagine that... A Toa... who’s only good... at dying. Vakama drifted in the darkness, truly letting go this time. “You give up too easily, Toa of Fire.” The voice had a mild taunting tone to it this time. “The prophecies tell of rage and fury...” It’s not like that for me, Vakama wanted to say. I’m not a real Toa of Fire. I’m certainly not the one foretold by Ekimu. “Does a fire choose what it burns? Does anyone choose their own destiny?” Did it matter? Vakama was running out of air. Something softly hit him in the head. Groggily, he looked at the glowing object. Huh. A light-stone. The other Toa were outside. Trying to help him. Vakama grasped for the light-stone. He held on, the light coming and going as he faded in and out of consciousness. He was suddenly yanked from his spot, pulled out into the blinding light of day. The sudden rush of air caused him to inhale sharply. A chain composed of Nuju, Nokama and Whenua collapsed to the ground as Vakama landed with a thud beside them, still holding the light-stone attached to his hammer. Whenua’s giant hand carefully picked him up, moving him clear of the Vahki. “Good job, Vakama. Take it easy for a bit.” Matau was catching his breath next to Vakama, flat on his back, triumphantly holding his lost sword up. After a while, Vakama was able to sit up, watching as Onewa and Whenua threw light-stones into the advancing blob-Vahki. “You are sure you can shatter the crystals from within?” Nuju said, setting three more around Onewa. “Yes, and hopefully you all figure out your powers soon. As much as I adore your envy, this is really tiring... and stressful.” The Vahki was right on top of them now, rising like a wave preparing to crash down. Onewa nonchalantly kicked the final few stones into the mass, and clasped his hands together forcefully. The Vahki shook, then exploded outwards into a glassy pyre. The crowd, overcoming their initial shock from the explosion, began cheering wildly. Then all became silent as Elder Dume’s voice crackled from the speakers. “The Great Spirits surely have guided you through your victory against the Kranua today. Truly, you are our Toa... our city’s new protectors!” And cheering broke out again.
  10. Part 3: Coliseum Nuju scanned the arena, trying to observe and memorize every detail that might be important for what was to come. The asymmetric and irregular hexagonal pattern of the coliseum's floor irritated him slightly. The abilities of the modern Stone sector far surpassed their ancestors, and they could fix this with more perfect hexagons. Though, as this was a historic monument, and such changes would be... frowned upon, as it were. The shaping of the ground caused uneven footing, and had no real purpose other than to trip up the contestants. Whatever the group was facing, they could potentially use that to their advantage... or it could be used to their disadvantage. Up in the stands, a crowd was beginning to form, the middle and upper class from each sector. It made sense, of course, there hasn’t been a trial by combat such as this in many years. Perhaps even thousands The stands were high, keeping the audience safe with smooth, steep walls. No escape or even footholds to gain higher ground there. Everything seemed stacked against the Toa in this arena. Matau constantly fidgeted. Whether from nervousness or excitement, his constant motion was distracting to most of the team, primarily Onewa and Whenua, who were trying to get him to stay still by elbowing and patting him on the shoulder respectively. Dume looked around from the high loft, the spot reserved for the elders of the city, far above the arena. The best seat to see what was going on, without any chance of... stray projectiles. Safety, of course, being top priority for those who protect the city. Even Nivawk, Elder Dume’s creature of unity, was present, the wyvern flying back and forth on the ledges closed to Dume’s box. It, like the rest of the crowd, seemed anxious for the battle to begin. Bodies bustled past each other, trying to find whatever seat had the best view, the right cushion, how close it was to the vendors, so on and so forth. Dume raised his hands, and all was quiet. “Friends! Colleagues! Citizens! I would first like to announce that the Council has seen fit to declare me your Tulaga. I, of course, declined at first, but you all know how Elder Solek is.” A few members of the crowd chuckled. “But you are not here for my petty announcement! You are here for this historic trial! the games! We have before us today six... beings who claim to be Toa!” The Elder’s voice fluctuated, taking on an accusatory tone. “Perhaps they are the ones who caused Lhikan to vanish! Or your friends! Your family!” The crowd started boiling into an uproar, yelling insults and throwing odd bits of trash or whatever they had on them at the Toa below. Matau, being dramatic, (as Nuju had come to expect,) waved and blew kisses at the crowd, stretching out his arms as if the thrown trash was some sort of shower of affection. Dume held his hands up again, effectively silencing the crowd. “However, my friends, it is not for us to decide their guilt. Under the judgement of the Three Great Spirits, they shall prove their innocence... or guilt... in our grand arena. May the virtues, and the will of the deities that embody them, be with us...” He struck his cane against the floor, causing unseen machinery to open the arena door across from the group. “And now... let the trial by combat commence!” Nuju stood at the ready, his batons freezing over at his touch. He reminded himself quickly that fighting is just a matter of logic. No instinct, no strength. Just planning and executing that plan. There is no reason for him to feel as nervous as he is. It is simply... illogical. A lumbering shape moved its way out of the gate, slowly revealing the Toa’s challenger. The head was that of a Vahki guard, but the disk launcher and subsequent extensions had been removed. The body was bulkier, if one were to understate, the iridescent shell with green and red markings across its outer layer seemed to... move as the creature walked. The mechanical innards, the usual soft spots of traditional drones were black, their metallic gleam indicating a carbonized protosteel. The shape didn’t match any know Vahki guard on any records Nuju had viewed. Ergo, weaknesses, strengths, any knowledge of this variant were unknown. This did not bode well. It would be better to stand their ground, observe and dodge its- His thought was cut short as something blurred by, striking the ground where Vakama had been a moment before. -attacks. Matau, surprisingly, was not the first to rush in headfirst. Instead, Onewa was the one to charge, bringing the morning-star end of his weapon down directly into the Vahki, shattering the carapace at the shoulder coupling and lodging it there. It spun around on its pelvis to face Onewa as he landed, literally catching him off-guard, and, like a rag-doll, threw him to the edge of the arena. "<Assessing damage.>” the Vahki pulled the offending weapon from the wound and threw it through an opposing wall, barely missing Nokama. Vakama called out to them above the roar of the crowd. “We need some sort of plan! We can’t just run in!” As the most analytical of the group, it was, of course, only logical that Nuju took charge. “Agreed. Whenua, cause a distraction by hitting it. Nokama will puncture the neck.” Nuju turned to Matau. “In the event of failure, you will attack. I will continue to damage the right arm.” It would, by no means, ensure their victory, but the plan was flawless. In theory. In reality, the timid Whenua didn’t run in at full speed, and the motion he made could barely even be considered a tap, let alone a full-blown punch. Of course this, didn’t even bring the notice of the Vahki. Nokama missed entirely, her blades disengaging from their guard, shooting away from the mammoth’s neck and into the right arm. Nokama was quickly disarmed, and the Vahki grabbed Matau, pinning him against the ground. Nuju was the only one remotely successful in his original plan, using the other’s distractions to finish taking off the right arm before being thrown across the arena himself. The crowd jeered, laughing at the Toa’s failure. Nuju’s face burned. From the friction of skidding along the ground, of course. He had no reason to be embarrassed. "<Right arm compromised. Combat level 2 engaged. Heavy force authorized.>” The bulky torso of the Vahki began whipping around again, sending Matau hurtling through the air, and colliding with Vakama. “We need a better plan.” Nuju heard Nokama mutter under her breath. Perhaps it was an oversight to not take into account Whenua’s shy na- His train of thought was interrupted once again as he was thrown to the ground. Onewa, who had missed the last few moment while extracting his head from the arena walls, had tackled Nuju out of the way from one of the Vahki’s swings. Hastily picking the Toa of Ice up, Onewa started chastising him. “It’s just like disk-dueling.Pay attention, dodge and weave. We’ll regroup over there.” He pointed to the spread-eagled bodies of Vakama and Matau. The short trip over to Vakama, however, seemed long and arduous while dodging the Vahki’s punches, kicks and the occasional rock. Nuju, out of breath, attempted to regain his command, but was quickly interrupted by Onewa. “We’re short on time. Whenua, do you think you can hold it down for just a little? You don’t have to hit it, just Burrower-hug it.” The Earth Toa nodded, and began pushing the Vahki away from the group. Lopsided lummox. Why couldn’t he have done that in the first place? “Vakama, you were the one to say we should work together. Tell us what to do.” Nokama said. “Well, uh.” The forge-worker stammered. “Nuju, you seem, uh, to be the most analytical of us. Could you identify more weak spots?” Nuju simply nodded. “Good. Since you, Whenua and I have our weapons, we’ll distract that... thing, so the others can retrieve theirs.” Matau pumped his fist in the air, shouting “AND... BREAK!” before dashing off in the direction of his swords. Nuju flipped his batons around in his hands, feeling their weight and thinking though his next couple of moves. Whenua, who had just barely been successful in pinning the Vahki to the ground, stumbled backwards, landing in front of Vakama. “Alright, good job. Ready to go another round?” Vakama joked as he helped lift Whenua up. Whenua huffed, trying to catch his breath. “I’m... an... archivist! I don’t... think I can take... much more.” . The Vahki scanned its surroundings, seeming to make a not of each of the Toa’s positions before settling its sights back on Whenua. It raised itself up on its remaining arm, the damaged shoulder releasing steam. “You have to if this plan is going to succeed.” Nuju asserted, bracing himself for the next attack. The Vahki instead turned away, walking calmly towards the severed arm and picked it up. “<Phase 1 complete. Code: Respond. Nine. Lock. >” Its attention was suddenly directed to the stands, raising it up to the cheering crowd and taking on a theatrical demeanor. It thrust the broken arm into the open socket, the metal suturing itself up, leaving a shiny mottled carapace where exposed gears and wires had once been. “< Phase 2 commencing. Combat level 3 authorized.>” It turned back to the three Toa, charging at them. Before anyone could react, the Vahki had struck Vakama in the face, his mask clattering to the ground. Even the crowd stopped cheering and cringed at the sight. The Vahki pulled back, rotating its shoulder as if to test it. It spoke the the two Toa left standing. “<Colloquialism: Good as new.>”
  11. Hello there, and welcome to BZPower!

  12. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Review topic for Mahianō: A Metru-Nui G2 Story. I don't quite know where I'm going yet with this story, and I haven't had much experience writing stories, so constructive criticism is greatly appreciated. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
  13. Part 2: Arrested “<Vahki unit 8616 dispatched, location 1417; Possible incursion detected.>” Matau fidgeted, his gears turning both literally and metaphorically. The Vahki guards had always made him nervous. But now, with their staves pointed in his direction, he was almost unable to continue talking. Almost. “Act natural. There is a chance their sensors will register us as regular citizens.” He whispered to his friends. Or, well, Vakama, Nokama, Onewa and Whenua. Jury’s still out on Nuju. But there was still hope yet! “<Unidentified persons: submit to containment or prepare for cauterization.>” A second Vahki guard instructed them. …Just not in this situation. There was no convincing a Vahki official. 'Submit or flee,’ as most of the sectors put it. He just never though that he would have to make that choice for himself. “We don’t want to cause trouble,” Vakama started, “We just want to know what’s going on.” “It’s not against the law to walk about on the street, is it?” Nokama added. A third, then a fourth Vahki walked towards them. Reinforcements, more sure to be on their way. Karzahni, if the Toa tried to fight them right now, they wouldn’t stand a chance. “<Erroneous. Citizens have free roam of the city. Non-citizens are subject to containment or cauterization.>” “Then we surrender.” Nuju stepped forward. There was a long, agonizing pause. “<Hostile movement perceived.>” The Vahki struck Nuju with its pincer-like staff, essentially rendering the Ice Toa incapacitated. Onewa, who had attempted catch the falling Nuju, was the next to be hit. “Hey! He said we surrender!” Vakama yelled, only to be knocked to the ground like the other two. “<Erroneous. Hostiles did not comply.>” The last thing Matau saw was the iridescent green shell of a Vahki gleaming in the sunlight before everything going black . Through fits of darkness, Matau was able to see that he was being dragged somewhere. Presumably to… wherever Vahki take their prisoners.. When he finally came to, he was face-down in the dirt and unable to move. Judging by the dirt on his face and its taste in his mouth… He had no clue where he was. Not that he’d recognize his surroundings anyway. He never really got out of the Jungle Sector that often. Or ate dirt enough to know where he was by taste. “Hey, Matau, you awake?” Well, at least Onewa was him. “Murmuph,” Matau replied, “Fsshm. Mrmurph.” He tried to spit dirt out of his mouth. “Mmbrmn.” “I assume that’s a yes.” Nuju said. “It seems none of us are seriously injured.” He got them into this! If they were hurt, it would have been his fault! “RMBMRR! Grmr-brlm!” “Matau! Watch your language.” Nokama chided. “Hmbmhhrm.” “<Non-citizens will be silent.>” A Vahki guard threw Matau into a upright position, knocking the wind (and dirt) right out of him. He was in a cell, probably just large enough to hold the six Toa and a few Vahki. Everyone was accounted for, except for Vakama, who was missing. The Vahki guards were communicating among themselves, their chattering speech sped up and warped. Matau was barely able to catch a few words he recognized. “<…Interrogation…Toa…Recall…>” A few moments later, Vakama was thrown into the cell, looking quite disoriented.The Vahki closest to them, one with a shiny carbon-black shell, hooked Matau by his restraints and dragged him off. “Whoa, whoa, hey! Easy there! Where are you taking me? I have rights!” The Vakhi made a noise, something like a groan… or whatever the Vahki equivalent of a sigh was. “<Erroneous. Non-citi…>” “Yeah, yeah, non-citizens have no rights or something.” Matau interrupted, and resigned himself to silence for the duration he was being dragged down the hallway. Eventually, he was propped up on some sort of seat. Not really comfortable, but not horrible to sit on. A Vahki adjusted Matau’s restraints, surprisingly well actually, considering it had claws for hands. Now tied down to the seat, Matau could only move his head. “<State name, sector/place of origin and occupation.>” An unseen Vahki demanded. “You first.” Matau was suddenly winded by one of the Vahki he could see. “<Repeat: State name, sector/place of origin and occupation.>” Matau coughed. “Fine. I’m Matau of the Jungle Sector. My occupation is being a handsome son-of-a-” “<Discrepancy detected.>” It was the Vahki’s turn to interrupt. “Wow. Rude. Look, I’m new to the whole being-a-Toa thing, so I’m not looking my best. But you’ve been a creepy mechanical thing all your life so you-” “<Discrepancy.>” The Vahki repeated, interrupting again. “<No citizen with the designation ‘Matau’ is on record in the Jungle Sector. Final repetition: State name, sector/place of origin and occupation.>” That didn’t make any sense. Absolutely no record of him? Good, bad, or otherwise? Matau definitely remembered censuses and other required registration forms that would leave at least some sort of record of him. “Um, what? Check your data-thingamajigs again. M-A-T-A-U. Jun-gle Sec-tor. I worked three jobs, as a cart-driver, test pilot, and janitor. You know what those are?” He spoke slowly and carefully, trying to make sure the Vahki understood him. “<Mockery presumed.>” The unseen Vahki behind him paused. “<Rectifying.>” There was whirring, metallic clanking then a sharp pain in Matau’s back. “<Administering suppressant. Subject will experience minor issues in speech patterns; motor functions; hallucinations; inability to continue deceptions.>” Almost immediately, he felt dizzy, time slowed and sped up, the ceiling became the floor, and he was fairly certain he saw a bright pink Ash-Bear in the room with him. “<What is your purpose in this city?>” “I’ve not-never lied to youss. Toa-hero Matau, thass me.” He slurred. “Why… why do I feel slowthink… ing?” He trailed off, trying to make sense of his surroundings. Maybe the bear’s friendly… If he could… just… pet… it…. As he tried to reach out to the creature, he realized that his hand, unfortunately, was still bound to his seat. “<Answer not understood; elaborate.>” “This line of questioning is no longer required. Thank you, guardian.” Matau now knew he was hallucinating. Elder Dume himself being in the room? There was simply no way someone as important as one of the head council-members watching a routine interrogation. Probably. His head was still fuzzy. “<Understood; Withdrawing.>” There were clanking noises as the Vahki moved away to some unknown location. “What’s with Matau?” Whenua! Buddy! Pal! He had come to rescue Matau! “Has he gone completely cross-wired?” Onewa was suddenly in front of him, waving a hand in front of his eyes. Matau lazily waved back. Nokama came into veiw, gently pushing Onewa aside. “It looks like the interrogation Vahki used some sort of modified staff… he seems just barely coherent enough to answer questions.” She pressed around, and upon finding a barbed spike in Matau’s back, pulled it out. She held the foreign object, showing it to the group. “Is this what they did to you, Vakama?” The red Toa shrugged. He felt around on himself, looking for another spike. “I don’t think so… I don’t know. I saw… things… or…or visions, but… ” He shrugged again. Through the suppressant-induced haze, Matau was just able to notice that both Vakama and Elder Dume looked troubled. Matau tried to stand up, forgetting again in his stupor that he was tied down. He subsequently fell over in a fairly comedic manner. As the group worked to untie and pick him off the ground, Elder Dume spoke. “We apologize immensely for what has transpired here, Toa Matau.” He bowed his head, then raised it again. “We have been extrememly vigilant ever since our last champion and defender, the Toa Lhikan, vanished.” “My head-thoughtss were void-blank… anywayss. But…” Matau trailed off, examining his now-unbound hand like he had never seen it before. “Toa Lhikan is missing?” Vakama gently let go of Matau, turning to Elder Dume. “Since when? How long were we gone?” “It would be hard to determine. Lhikan… disappeared around last cycle.” Dume shook his head. “It has been hard for the general public. Vahki production has been up 20% to compensate.” “A… whole cycle?” Vakama leaned back against the wall in disbelief. Nokama put her hand on Vakama’s shoulder, trying to comfort him. “Maybe more.” said Onewa, looking almost… scared. Even Nuju seemed unsettled. “You… were here prior to when Lhikan vanished?” Elder Dume sounded shocked. “This is entirely unprecedented. Why did you not make your presence known to us?” The group remained silent, except for Matau, who was moaning and bumping into things in the room. “We…” Vakama started, then stopped and looked at the others for approval. “We were citizens of this city before we became Toa. Or whatever we are.” Whenua said quietly. Still under the effects of the suppressant, Matau couldn’t quite grasp the flurry of looks on Dume’s face. Fear? Relief? Hunger? What time was it anyway? Probably dinnertime. “How peculiar.” Dume turned away from them, pacing about. “First order of duty, of course, is for you all to get rest. The day has been long, and you have been under strenuous circumstances.” He waved a hand towards the door. “Follow me, if you will.” The strange procession followed the Elder back through the hallway, with Whenua carrying the drugged-out Matau. The dank and gloomy dungeon hallway slowly turned brighter and less depressing as they headed upwards to the upper levels of the building. The little bit of red-purple moonlight coming in through the massive windows announced that the early hours of nighttime were upon them. “Here are you quarters for the night. I hope that they are suitable to your needs. We will, however, require that you leave by tomorrow.” Dume signaled for a Vahki to unlock the door behind him. “The Council of Elders is meeting early, and we have many subjects to discuss, including a way to announce and deal with your… manner of arrival. We can’t have our new champions’ reputations sullied by their incarceration in a prison, now can we?” Matau was unshouldered onto a cushioned seat, where he lolled about until drifting off into strange and troubled dreams. Matau awoke to the bright sun shining though the window and an Ash-Bear-sized headache. The others had been awake long before him, and had taken the time to begin preparing food in one of the side chambers. It was quite a funny sight to say the least. Vakama had apparently been able to light a small fire in the stove, but was struggling to keep it at a cool enough temperature to not melt the pan above. Onewa, meanwhile, had raided a storeroom, and had only pulled out meats an root vegetables for the meal, much to the chagrin of Nokama, who was attempting to explain proper nutrition. “Oh good. You’re awake.” Whenua greeted him at the doorway. Matau slowly waved and held his head. He hadn’t had this bad of a headache since being hit by a delivery cart that one time. Nuju handed Matau a cup of tea, making subtle motions that it would help him with the headache. Despite the fact that the tea was slightly boiling, and the cup itself somehow had frost on it, Matau downed the whole thing, liking the extremely bitter taste better than the pain. The group eventually finished making their meal, some sort of stew, primarily thanks to Onewa and Nokama’s joint efforts. Vakama held the partially melted stew pot, pouring the contents out into bowls for the Toa. The Toa sat down, clanked their fists together, the sign of unity, and dug into the stew. “Wonderful meal, who made it?” The sudden voice startled Matau, causing him to spit his mouthful of stew across the table. At some point, Elder Dume had showed up and had taken a bowl for himself and had sat down without the Toa noticing. Vakama, wiping stew from his face, greeted the wise one. “Good morning, Elder Dume, how did the meeting Council go?” The elder took a big gulp from his bowl, then spoke. “It went well. The official report is that we are proud to welcome you to this city. As Toa, of course.” He paused, standing up to look out the window. “You will have many responsibilities in your new forms. This city is not safe. Darkness runs under it as the sewers, archives and catacombs themselves do.” He tapped the windowpane. “Your duty, my friends, is to protect it. With your lives, if need be, as Lhikan, Tuyet, and many others did before you.” “What about the arrest? Did the council pardon us?” Onewa asked, setting down his bowl. Dume turned, mischief in his eyes. “Oh, yes, of course…” Three Vahki appeared, as if on cue, carrying each of the Toa’s weapons, polished and sharpened to a shine. He smiled and spread his arms out. “Though, you will have to prove yourselves to this city… In a trial by combat!”
  14. “Vakama…” Vakama began to stir from the strange voice. In his half-awake state, he felt that, somehow, the voice was familiar to him. “Vakama, arise…” Mostly awake now, Vakama fumbled around on his mask, trying to find the switch for his filtration unit, mumbling subtle curses on whoever had mixed up and sent fumes from the Great Furnace into the air ducts to his living quarters a few months ago. Ready for the new day, disengaged the ventilation unit on his mask and took a deep breath… Which filled his lungs with the stasis fluid surrounding him. He panicked and flailed about, thinking he was drowning for a few moments in his unfamiliar surroundings before re-engaging his ventilation unit and accustoming himself to breathing the medicinal substance. He hurriedly felt around the darkened space he was in, noting the curved walls were indicative of a healing canister, though, with no transparent wall, it was clear this one was… different. As he passed his hands along the inside of the chamber, part of the surface gave way, emitting a bright red light, startling Vakama. To add to his confusion and panic, he soon found his canister being tipped over. Whatever was keeping the fluid locked in the canister suddenly gave way, as Vakama shortly found himself blinded by light, coughing up stasis gunk and feeling quite cold. “Wha-where…?” Vakama muttered to himself, trying to get his bearings from the large entryway that was once the top of his canister, though his view was mostly blocked by a figure posing, which he supposed was intended to look heroic. “Ah, another Toa to join in our ranks!” The figure looked backwards as another figure, larger and lopsided, walked forwards, looking into the canister as well. “Nokama says we look like Toa. That doesn’t mean we are…” The new figure absentmindedly rubbed his disproportionately large arm. After a few moments, he turned to Vakama and reached inside. “Come on, let’s get you out of here.” He hooked his large hand around Vakama’s body, pulling him out of the canister and setting him onto his own two feet. With his surroundings changed again, Vakama took some time to figure out where exactly he was. The ceiling was ribbed, with eight circular gaps in between each of the support struts. The walls were curved, dome-shaped, with circular portholes covering most of it. Stone and metal were melded together in such a way so that the piping seemed to grow straight from the sides. Underneath the gaps in the ceiling, the floor had raised sockets, most of which currently held canisters not unlike the one he just been pulled out of. Evidence of Stone, Iron, and Fire sector craftmanship. If he were to have to guess, based on what he read of history books, Vakama would have say… Tenth era, Krom-style architecture. Placing them in or around the Great City’s center. Try as he might, Vakama did not find a discernible exit. “Hey… is the new guy alright?” The bright light-stones embedded in the ceiling let him properly see the strangers around him. The first figure to appear at his canister was green in coloration, indicative of the Jungle sector. The mask he wore was slightly rectangular, and extended far over the top of his head. He was also not wearing any armor at all. Now that Vakama looked around, he realized no one was wearing armor, their organic components all exposed. That explains why he was feeling cold. “Uh… where’s my armor?” “Same place as mine, I suppose.” Mumbled the large, lopsided one. “We’re all as naked as the day we were built!” The green one exclaimed, a big, stupid smile plastered on his face. Vakama made a mental note to attempt to ignore the green one for the time being. What the big one said made sense. If they were all in medical canisters, surely someone had to have removed their armor so the stasis fluid could heal- or change- them however it needed to. “Well, uh, I suppose… introductions are in order?” The big one outstretched his larger hand to Vakama, before realizing his error and switching it for his smaller, normal-sized left hand. “I’m Whenua. I work… or, well, I think I still work in the archives.” Vakama, after a few misses, managed to shake his hand. “Vakama. Forge-work. Mostly disk and mask-making.” “Still trying to get used to the taller body, I see!” The green one jumped into the conversation. (Almost quite literally.) To Vakama’s dismay, Whenua stepped back from the two, letting him take center stage. “Took me a few tries, but I got the hang of it! I’m Matau, wise, resourceful, and ever-energetic!” Great. “That beautiful blue scholar over there is the lovely Nokama.“ She rolled her eyes, put on a smile, and waved to the two of them. Matau, of course, waved back, grin bigger than ever. “She was the first of us to wake up, followed by yours truly.” “The brown fellow sitting there with the I-am-really-annoyed-by-Matau-look on his face is Onewa!” Matau pointed to the final member of their odd company, “The icy guy in the corner hasn’t spoken one bit yet, but I’m gonna make him talk and be friendly if it’s the-” “Nuju.” “Uh. Okay… That’s Nuju! The cold, icy, and… slightly scary.” The aperture in Nuju’s eyepiece contracted, stared down the offending citizen of the jungle sector, then turned to Vakama. “Ingrown.” Vakama stared blankly, puzzled at the odd, seemingly random word. Nuju sighed. “Our old armor is now ingrown. Covered in new organic components.” He tapped his chest for emphasis. “We have been changed” Vakama let out a short laugh. “Well of course. But into what, exactly? I can’t exactly go home and try and act like nothing’s changed about me.” The room was silent. Apparently this hadn’t occurred to anyone else. That, or they didn’t want to think about it. “But, isn’t that a good thing?” Matau asked. His happy-go-lucky demeanor dropped like a stone. “Think about it. We’ve been given a chance. We’re Toa now, those fated to become heroes!” “Matau.” Nokama spoke. “I said we looked like Toa. Yes, most of us are the right build. But there are some… ” She paused, glancing at Whenua, then gesturing to the cansiters and the rest of the room. “…Differences from how we know Toa come to be. They are built as Toa, and die as Toa. They come from somewhere over the Great Ocean, and when they come, their numbers vary. But there are never six sent to any of the islands. Never six toa. The only group of six Toa will come from the stars!” Vakama nodded. Everyone had heard of The Prophecy of Ekimu. “Did we come from the stars? Or over the sea? Nuju, Onewa, and Whenua met each other before this! By our own admission, we were just Tekoans before… before whenever this happened.” “But, if we aren’t Toa,” Onewa began, standing up. “Why can I do this?” He clenched his fist and made a downwards pulling motion. With a rumbling, His seat was quickly pulled into the stone floor underneath them. He turned back to the shocked group. “The stones just… call to me. I somehow… knew I can control them. I don’t know how I knew… but I must have this ability for a reason, right? Toa have elemental powers, don’t they?” “Lhikan could control and create fire. Tuyet could form ice wherever she touched.” Vakama offered. He didn’t really pay much attention to what the Toa could do. Well, when they were still around. After they started vanishing, many people from the different sectors started trying to investigate the disappearances, though many who searched… well… “You could just be the only one of us who is a Toa.” Whenua mumbled. “Or I could be the only one who isn’t.” “But that still doesn’t account for how we were once Tekoans! Having powers could mean anything! Toa are built as Toa. You don’t become a Toa!” Nokama was clearly adamant on her stance. “Whatever we are, we are not Toa.” “…Who cares?” Matau asked, shrugging. “We look like Toa.” He pointed to Onewa. “He, at least, has the powers of a Toa. No one outside will ever know the difference. We can still be heroes!” Even Nokama paused at that one. He was right. Even if they weren’t Toa, they were given this opportunity, they could use it. “I found armor. And tools. Follow me.” The group was so embroiled in their argument, they didn’t even notice the quiet Nuju had slipped out of the room and returned. They followed him down a large and surprisingly cold corridor, with Whenua following close behind Nuju, and Vakama and Matau shivering in the back. Vakama seemed to be the most affected by the chill of the cavernous passage, and not being used to his new legs did not help him keep pace with those in front. Matau, on the other hand, lagged behind because he kept on tripping over rocks he couldn’t see, with every trip bringing a new line of curses. Vakama found he had never heard most of them before, and, judging from Onewa’s chuckles and Nokama’s glances of disapproval, were very, very profane. “How did you find the exit?” Nokama spoke up, drawing everyone’s attention away from Matau for the time being. “Secret mechanism.” Nuju pointed to Onewa. “His seat.” After many twists and turns, with multiple branches to the path going who knows where, it dawned on Vakama that there was no natural way Nuju had been able to take to this supposed armory. The only thing that made sense to him was that, somehow, the labyrinth had called to him. The tunnel had led them into a great room twice the size of the one they had woken up in. The same circular portholes lined the walls, carrying sets upon sets of armor, tools and weapons within them. The center was raised, circular in shape, with arches along its side, revealing that the interior was hollow. Walking up the steps jutting out from it revealed that the top of it was like a bowl, with a gutter leading off the other side into rectangular depressions in the floor. Surrounding it were seven smaller raised sections, flat and solid, with the eighth open at the top, their hexagonal shape jarring with the rest of the room, . They looked though the old sets of armor, each attempting to find a fitting set for themselves. It soon became apparent that only a few pieces of the available armor were compatible with their specific armor-plugs. The rest of the armor wasn’t even wearable, some pieces seemed to even be torn in two. They found shoulder plates, gauntlets and greaves that fit on most everyone, even Whenua found coverings for his massive arm. Vakama was the only one that found a fitting chest-piece for himself, with a vented bevor positioned just slightly above the center of his chest. The others were not so lucky. The light-stones in the walls burned a bright red-orange, illuminating the room like the furnaces Vakama had worked in all his life. He turned to the center of the room, recognizing the intended purpose of the raised portion. It was a furnace… and it was…calling to him. He pulled a forge-staff from one of the portholes, and, like in a trance, Vakama used the it as a lever to pull one of the light-stones from the wall, took it to the furnace, and smashed it. Flames licked up from the broken crystal, igniting the smelting furnace. “Come on, help me get this stuff into the top.” Vakama grunted, lifting rusted pieces and dumping them into the basin. The others, after some time and passing looks to each other, followed suit, picking up more and more, until Vakama gave the word. “Okay, I think that’s enough.” “Yeah, that’s great and all, fire-spitter, but enough for what?” Matau wheezed. Even Whenua looked tired from carrying all the junk pieces to the top. “Armor.” Vakama replied, engaging his ventilation unit as the fumes started to rise. “Didn’t you say you only did masks and disks?” Nokama asked, also trying to catch her breath. “First time for everything!” Using the tongs segment like an ink well, he dipped the tip into the molten metal, pulling up a good amount into the disk reservoir. He plunged the burning mess into the open pedestal, the quenching tank bubbling and gurgling. Vakama drew the new disk out of the tank, the silver quenching liquid dripping off the beveled shape. Type-7, repair and regeneration. Duration and uses: indefinite. Perfect for incorporating into armor. As Matau alternated entertaining and annoying the rest of the group with stories and jokes, Vakama poured molten metal from the foundry into ingot molds. From there, he hammered and bent them over the hexagonal anvils until they matched their desired form. With each new piece of armor, he added in a part of the disk. The satisfying hiss of armor-plugs into their sockets proved that Vakama had done his job well, each piece fitting its respective owner as if they were built into it. Glowing patterns splayed out from the each of the incorporated disk fragments, slowly spreading coloration of their respective owner’s native element across the chest-plate. “Wow…” Whenua tapped his new armor in amazement of how even the right side was beveled outwards to be able to comfortably fit his odd form. “Adequate.” commented Nuju. Probably the best complement anyone could have received from him. “I like the style, but its color doesn’t match my-” Onewa at this point physically restrained Matau from completing his joke. “They’re wonderfully made, Vakama,” Nokama said for the whole company, “Thank you.” “I have some metal left over. I’d like put it to some use… I could make weapons or something. If you don’t mind waiting a bit longer.” “Swords! Swords are a must-have!” Matau had broken free of Onewa’s grasp, and was now spouting random facts about uses of different types of swords. “Okay, okay. I’ll make you some swords,” Vakama held up his hand, signaling Matau to be quiet. “Anyone else?” “Ice-pick batons.” Nuju requested, “Climbing should be primary function.” The others were content with choosing a weapon or tool from the armory. “In the meantime, anyone who wants to help me find the exit is welcome to join me.” Nokama called to the team. All but Whenua went with her, Onewa and Matau attempting to strike up conversations with Nuju as they exited the room. The exploration party left the room and returned multiple times, still unable to find the real exit. “Whelp. That was a bust. It’s really dark back there. Someone used to that kind of darkness could really come along…” Matau said pointedly. Whenua, who had been watching Vakama work intently up until this point, sighed and got up from his seat, joining the rest of the party. Vakama was slightly glad to be by himself, the only noises that of the hammer against the metal and quenching liquid hissing against the hot metal. After he had finished the Matau’s swords and Nuju’s ice batons, he took the time to look over the tools the others had picked out. Nokama had picked out an odd set of tools… or were they weapons? The blade end was shaped like a crescent moon, attached to a hilt and guard, two triggers placed were the index finger would go when wielded. Some sort of cylinder was in the middle of the blade, perhaps housing some sort of chain, or rope. Whenua chose a weaponized gauntlet with a motorized chisel at the end of the knuckles. A ‘thumper,’ of sorts, like the kind the archivists use to drive away creatures from the archives. Onewa chose a mace-and-chain, large and relatively simple, the handle end having a small stone-carving hammer attached to it. Vakama had taken his time, trying to determine which tool he would use to define himself as a toa. Despite all his thinking, he had decided on the forge-staff he had picked up. He examined the beautiful hammer-tongs combination, silver gears, levers and switches lining its side, each one performing a different function. What he would have given to have had this when Elder Dume commissioned him to make a mask… He had completely forgotten about that. It would have been his life’s work, the masterpiece of everything he had ever forged. He couldn’t just abandon the project just because he had changed, he could still finish it, he just needed- “Yo, Vakama, buddy, we found the exit! Let’s go!” Matau called, slinging his new swords around his waist, re-positioning them onto his back, then back around his waist, trying to figure out which one made him look cooler. “Seriously, Vakama.” Onewa looked stern, “You need to see this.” As he followed the other five carefully down the pitch-black corridor, Whenua in the lead, he got the feeling that everyone was unsettled by what they had seen outside. Outside the great temple’s doors, Vakama saw what had disturbed his new allies. Blockades covered most of the streets, forcing citizens to funnel through controlled lanes. Above them, projected onto the side of a crystalline building, was Elder Dume’s face, a recording of his voice broadcast in such a way that it seemed as if he could be talking right in front of them. “… We now have confirmation of… disruptors in our midst, representations of the outside world, synonymous with the darkest vices of violence, ignorance and decay. Bear with your loyal Vahki guardians, as they will soon rectify this incursion. If they ask you to do anything for them, please comply, as it will certainly aid in the capture of these dissidents. Remember, despite it being a regrettable action, our city has closed its borders for your protection, to prevent such anti-citizens from continuing to invade our land. This city is a gleaming beacon of purity and stability, and I believe it is in all our best interests to keep it as such. Keep our city pure. Keep it safe. If you see something strange, something out of the ordinary, report it to your local Vahki protectors. Civic deeds will be greatly rewarded. Should we fail to uphold our laws, even if it seems like the right thing to do, the consequences could be… cataclysmic.” As the recording started to repeat, the group suddenly became aware of all the stares they were getting, all the fingers pointing their way, whispers and murmurs travelling from person to person. A few citizens walked in the opposite direction from where they were going, presumably on their way to alert Vahki guards. --------- Review Topic
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