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Karzhani the Utahraptor

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About Karzhani the Utahraptor

  • Birthday 09/23/1996

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    Somewhere on Earth.
  • Interests
    Bionicle, Dinosaurs, Astronomy,Reading about them, and playing computer games like Jurrasic park and Halo. I also like posting on BZP

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Toa (12/293)

  1. Chapter XIV: The Skrall Return 0600 Hours Skrall Base Camp, next to Skrall River Skrall Major Branar quietly rose from his bed, put on his uniform and boots, and ventured outside his tent. It was still the early hours of dawn; he could see a faint glimmer of orange light on the horizon in the east. He sighed. He had scarcely gotten three hours of sleep the night before, having retired to his tent after midnight, due to a meeting with other Skrall military leaders to draft war plans. He had spent the next couple of hours lying awake in bed, worrying about the future of the Skrall tribe, before finally drifting off into sleep at around three in the morning. Ever since his appointment as a military leader by Tuma a year earlier, he had found himself plagued by acute insomnia, due to the magnitude of his responsibilities and the anxieties that came with them. It did not help that following the collapse of the old Skrall regime and hierarchy, his illustrious military career had elevated him to the de facto second-in-command of the remaining Skrall forces, after Stronius. He paced over to the officer's mess hall, housed in a larger tent adjacent to his. A diminutive Rock Agori, who served as the cook for this particular camp, greeted him. "Good morning Major," he said, "early as always, I see." Branar nodded, noting that he was the first officer to arrive; the hall was completely empty except for the Agori cook. He took a seat at the table farthest from the entrance to the tent. The Agori promptly walked over to his seat to serve his breakfast. As he ate, Branar brooded over the challenges that were currently facing the Skrall and contemplated a possible course of action. We know the Baterra have come back, he thought, and we have an alliance with the Matoran and Agori. Our new allies have told us that the Baterra are more organized, more vicious, and seem to be lead by a powerful malicious entity. What could all this mean? And more importantly, how do we strengthen the Skrall military to face their old enemy, one that many of them are still terrified of, with renewed strength and tenacity? His thoughts were interrupted by the presence of a junior officer, one he had conferred with the day before and tasked with the job of evaluating and reporting on current Skrall operational readiness. "Major Branar," he said anxiously, "I have ordered the necessary inspections to be done on our soldiers. From preliminary reports, it appears that the two divisions of the Skrall military - about twenty thousand units in all, are ready to mobilize." Branar nodded. The night before, during their protracted meeting, he had convinced Stronius that he would need to bring such a large force to bear if there was any hope of defeating the Baterra. The truth was, many elites within the Skrall establishment, himself included, remained doubtful of the strength of Matoran and Agori forces, and whether there assistance would make any discernible difference in the coming war. Branar waited as the officers gradually streamed in, and quickly ate their meals, making conversation along the way. When he was certain that most of them had finished eating, he rose from his seat and cleared his throat. Everyone suddenly fell silent. Satisfied that he had their attention, Branar began speaking. "Skrall warriors, it is time to tell your battle-weary soldiers the harsh truth - that we are at war again. We cannot let morale slip, neither can we slacken the discipline of our armies. Our old foes - the Baterra - refuse to leave civilization alone. It is in this light that we shall aid the Matoran and Agori in dispersing and annihilating them. Of course we do not forget the treachery of the Glatorian and their Agori friends. But they can be controlled - and they can be awed to submission by our military prowess. The Baterra cannot. It is time to give these robotic creatures a wake-up call, one that will make the name of the Skrall a symbol of fear and terror in their barbaric robot minds. And we shall burn all those that still choose to defy us!" His speech was received with roars of approval from the assembled Skrall officers. After a brief pause, he walked back towards his seat, and went back to contemplating his worries. He could not let his anxieties show, however - no matter how insecure or doubtful he felt, he, as a Skrall leader, had to project an outward image of confidence and resolve. That was how Skrall warriors were supposed to live - fearless, unyielding, and above all, merciless. *** 2 Hours Later Tobduk's Office, Order of Mata Nui Headquarters, Matoran City "Sir, Baterra attacks have increased in their intensity along the borders of the city. Throughout the night, our patrols had seven separate skirmishes with small groups of Baterra. We have a total of 31 casualties: 12 killed, 18 wounded, 1 missing. As far as we know, we successfully destroyed a single Baterra, and damaged 7." Tobduk frowned as the Matoran messenger verbally delivered his report. The numbers were worrying. Clearly, the battles fought last night were one-sided in favor of their opponents. He knew the Baterra could be vicious fighters, but he never thought that they were able to so easily decimate Matoran and Agori defenses. "Alright," he said, "acknowledged. Tell Trinuma to strengthen defenses along the borders by deploying Glatorian - Toa mixed teams as frequently as possible. Tell him to rotate shifts. Thanks." Troubled, he sat back in his chair, and turned his head to gaze out of the window at the new Matoran city. Even though they were technically in a state of war, there was no sign of panic or alarm in the streets. Matoran went about their daily work - travelling, trading, building, and so on, albeit with more frequent checks by security patrols. And I certainly do hope, he thought, that it stays this way. I wonder how many of the Matoran below are really aware that their lives are hanging by a thread. His mind wandered to the team he had deployed to investigate the source of the Enigma signal, a whole four days ago. It was possible that they were on their way back, but then again, it was also possible that they had been attacked, ambushed, stranded - or worse. Somehow, despite the irrationality of it, he was convinced that the signal was of critical importance to their campaign against the Baterra - why else would the Pedagogue be so interested in it? The normally cynical and emotionless Tobduk suddenly found himself wishing that Synheith and his team were okay.
  2. Hey all, was wondering if its still possible to retrieve topics from the old forum, particularly in the Library. I have quite a few sizable pieces of old work that I fear are lost. Please advise.
  3. Chapter XIII: Phantoms Synheith quickened his pace. It was late in the evening, and he had walked a considerable distance in the preceding few hours, crossing the outer edge of the valley and emerging into a large barren plain flanked on all sides by cliffs. To his north, a dry riverbed snaked across the landscape, and beyond that was a cluster of vegetation, growing at the base of a large mountain. From Gresh's description of the surrounding terrain based on the map he had seen in the Illumus fortress, the Baterra Factory would be either within, or close to, the mountain before him. That was, of course, if there was any factory left to find. He could see storm clouds gathering to the east, obscuring the the setting sun. Got to move faster, he thought, I might be able to find shelter in the trees up ahead. By nightfall he had reached the bank of the dry river, and managed to cross it without much difficulty. Conjuring a small flame as a source of light, he moved cautiously into the sparse forest. Something did not feel right - he had the uneasy feeling that something was wrong with this place. Something innately unnatural. Then it struck him. Most forests, even the most uninhabited, or the most inhospitable places, have some form of ambient noise. There is always the sound of crickets chirping, always the sound of an animal scurrying across the leaf litter. This forest was completely silent. This place was seemingly devoid of natural life, as though someone or something had purged every living being from the area. In fact, Synheith had not seen a single other living thing since he exited the Illumus Keep. He kept on walking, trying to convince himself that there was a logical explanation for the conspicuous lack of wildlife, one that did not involve Baterra or the Pedagogue. The highly advanced armor he was wearing seemed to sense his apprehension, if that were possible, and appeared to tighten a little bit over his body. He gradually became aware of the sound of someone else, another pair of feet, walking almost in unison with him, although quite a distance away. Crunch. Crunch. Crunch. He stopped. The other set of footfalls stopped too. Synheith shrugged. Probably it was just his weary mind fooling him. At worst, it was probably an overenthusiastic Zesk trying to stalk him. Crunch. Crunch. Crunch. Synheith stopped again. There was an eerie silence. "Who is there?" he declared, loud and clear, waving his flame around to scan the surroundings. There was no one. Far to his left, he thought he saw a shape flit out of the light from behind a tree and into the shadows. He looked again, and it was gone. He saw a flash of lightning in the distance, followed by the ominous, rumbling, sound of thunder. Rain began to fall - starting out with light intermittent drops, but slowly increasing its intensity until Synheith found himself in a steady downpour. The sound of the rain drowned out the sound of the footfalls he might have heard. However, being stalked was now the least of his concerns. The water kept dousing his flame, which was his only source of illumination. He took cover behind a large tree with a sprawling canopy, and conjured up another flame to assess his surroundings and re-orient himself. The attack came from the left. Something massive, strong, and agile slammed into him from the side, knocking him off his feet and into the mud. He landed on his arm, suddenly dazed, and slowly looked down in horror to see a huge tear on the left side of his armor suit. He glanced up, conscious of his surroundings again, and only caught a fleeting gaze of his attacker - a sizable mechanical being with black armor - as it disappeared into the trees. But he saw enough of his assailant to confirm that it was a Baterra, albeit a very large specimen. He struggled to get on his feet again. He then saw the most peculiar process unfold before his eyes - a silver, viscous liquid flowed from what seemed like within his armor suit, and poured into the rupture on its left side. Within seconds of its exposure to air, the liquid had hardened into metal, and the gap had been seamlessly sealed. There was no time to marvel at the technology, however, as the Baterra appeared from behind a nearby tree and charged at him again. This time, however, he was ready. He took his pulse staff, thrust it at the robot's torso, and impaled it as it approached him. He then triggered the staff, firing a pulse laser inside the Baterra's chest and causing the being's abdomen to explode. He retracted his staff and the robot's body collapsed lifeless into the mud before him. He rapidly became aware of two other shapes moving closer towards him from the surrounding foliage - perhaps the helmet he was wearing had enhanced his peripheral vision. He fired his pulse laser at one of the shapes as it neared his position, causing a startled Baterra to stumble out of the shadows. Synheith lunged at it with his staff and swung the weapon at its head, resounding with a large clang and throwing the creature off its feet. The second Baterra tried to ambush him from behind, but he was ready. Synheith turned and tackled it to the ground, and in the process dropping his pulse staff. Both beings clawed at each other vigorously, while at the same time trying to grab the dropped weapon. Synheith became aware of the sound of loud, booming laughter, over the roaring of the rain. Rolling over to retrieve his staff and quickly using it to dispatch the second Baterra, he raised his head in frustration and shouted: "Show yourself! Or are you too much of a coward?" "No, no, I am not." The familiar voice of Makuta Treperath seemed to come from everywhere at once. "Its just that I prefer to have minions do the dirty work for me." "Yes," said Synheith, making a sweep of his surroundings, "basically a coward." "No, Synheith, you are mistaken." Synheith spun around to come face to face with his cloaked nemesis, who had somehow materialized behind him. In the split second it took him to acknowledge his foe's presence, the Makuta's powerful telekinetic abilities had send him sprawling backwards, his body sinking into the mud. "I am not a coward," Treperath continued, not moving a muscle. "I am not a coward because I defend what I believe in. You, on the other hand, pretend to defend a Mata Nui, a ruler, whose mandate to rule has expired." Synheith shuddered a little, surprised at how easily the Makuta had read his thoughts. "I know you - your fears, your insecurities, and your lack of faith in Mata Nui," Treperath continued, as lightning flashed overhead the rain intensified. "I have studied your mind, for my amusement, in much detail." "And?" Synheith said, trying to buy time, hoping to distract his opponent until the ringing in his ears stopped and his armor could repair the damage inflicted by the fall. "The Pedagogue has a greater plan, and vision, for us all, more than your little Mata Nui ever did," Treperath pronounced, "and it might save you a lot of hurt if you stopped resisting it. After all, when it comes to the age-old question of which sovereign a hero should serve, there are no right answers." With much effort, Synheith struggled to his feet, adjusted his helmet, and stared deep into his opponent's eyes. "Sure," he said. "But there are wrong ones."
  4. Chapter XII: Going Solo Synheith, alone, slowly walked towards the rim of the valley, leaving the devastated ruin of Illumus far behind him. Prior to splitting up, Synheith had agreed that he would travel to the supposed location of the Baterra factory on foot, holding on to the map of the region Kyry had found inside the Illumus fortress. Kiina, Gresh, and Kyry would drive back to the Matoran City with their Thornatus and report their findings to Tobduk. "You'll be fine," Kiina had said. Before leaving, Synheith had decided to don the suit of armor they had found inside the central room, the armor that had apparently belonged to Verectorian. It seemed well-designed, and aside from the hole in its helmet, was pretty sturdy, probably having capacity to soak up a lot of damage before giving way. He had discovered, to his pleasant surprise, that unlike conventional modern Toa or Glatorian armor, which was made out of heavy chunks of metal that required great strength to operate, this suit was sleek and lightweight, made of several interlocking gray pieces that completely covered his body. Beyond that, the armor seemed to possess advanced, seemingly mystical capabilities - when he consciously made the decision to lift his arm, for example, the armor would somehow predict his action even before he had moved the limb, and the arm piece of the suit would lift itself, mechanically, in tandem with his actual movement. This made motion in the armor suit almost effortless. The gauntlet of the suit concealed several buttons, hidden by a retractable surface layer, but Synheith had not discovered their function yet. Even though he did not openly admit it, Synheith felt a great sense of unbridled power and freedom, perhaps amplified by the fact that he was, once again, on his own. More than that, however, was the aura of strength the suit seemed to radiate- and the way it seemed to, subtly, invigorate and empower him as the successor to a powerful force of good. It was almost as if the soul of Verectorian resided in the suit, giving Synheith his divine stamp of approval, spurring him on towards his destiny. Or maybe I'm just slowly going insane, thought Synheith, after all, rationally, there's nothing to prove that the Baterra Factory still exists, or this suit of armor has any worth beyond a piece of metal once worn by someone important. Synheith caught himself. He couldn't afford to have such thoughts, not now when the nature of his mission was so critical. Instead, he focused on gathering his thoughts on sieving through the massive, confusing amounts of information that he had been presented with in the past few days. Slowly, the links began to form in his mind. After being freed, the Pedagogue and Treperath first headed towards the Matoran City, carrying the Crystal, and were found in a radio chamber in the Order Headquarters, tuned in to the Enigma Signal. Tobduk said the purpose of the Crystal was a "means to a power". The origin of the Enigma Signal is the keep of Illumus, Verectorian's home. Could it be that the Decryption Crystal, as its name suggests, decrypts and reveals a code embedded in the Enigma Signal? This was not a sudden realization that hit him, but rather a slow, sinking conclusion that he realized he needed to communicate to someone. Then he internalized the fact that he was, once again, truly alone. *** Kiina silently piloted the Thornatus through the vast salt lake, Likara, Gresh, and Kyry seated behind her. Their passage had been uncharacteristically silent. No one voiced out the irony that perhaps it was the lonesome Toa of Fire's absence, that had caused them to be quieter, for some reason. "Are you sure Synheith is going to be okay?" Gresh spoke what was on everyone's mind. "He'll do fine," replied Likara, "he's been through worse before. Trust me." As an afterthought, she added with a smile: "you seem oddly concerned by someone who can't seem to tolerate you". Gresh shrugged. "I don't know, but in the short time we've worked together, we've been like teammates. I'm new to this whole concept of 'Toa Teams' that I keep hearing about, but one thing I constantly hear is this that Toa teams are supposed to stick together, help each other out." *** Tobduk's Office was consumed in a flurry of messengers, secretaries, and workers, scurrying around delivering and coordinating reports and intelligence regarding their opponents, as well as coordinating their own military operations. Everyone in the office seemed to pause for moment, however, as a single Rock Agori, normally a feared enemy of the Glatorian, strode into the office, carrying a folded letter, escorted by a tall Order member. The odd pair approached Tobduk's table, and the Order agent spoke. Tobduk raised his head, appearing mildly disinterested at the fact that one of his sworn opponents had just materialized in his office carrying a letter. "He's from the Skrall," the Order agent said, "carrying important news." His interest aroused, Tobduk leaned forward, and the Agori wordlessly handed him the paper. Tobduk hastily unfolded the letter and voraciously read its contents. To the Leaders of Matoran and Agori Civilization, After much deliberation, our decision to fight on your side is final. The Skrall will honor their promise to stand by you to the end, until either the Baterra or all our cities are turned to dust. Supreme Commander Stronius is mobilizing his soldiers right now, to help you crush the Baterra beneath our heel. I expect to hear from you soon. Skrall Major Branar Tobduk put the letter down, and slowly looked up, a contemplative look on his face. He turned to the Order Agent, still standing attentively at his table. "Go and escort this Agori back to his transport," he said, "in the meantime - help me congratulate Ackar for his diplomacy - now, with this new ally, we have the power to make a move back at our opponent - and we no longer stand alone." *** Author's Note: Sorry for the short length, I fell asleep while writing this and actually dreamt of being attacked by Baterra.
  5. Chapter XI: Shadows Synheith stood on the edge of the cliff, scrutinizing the massive valley laid out before him. He could, with some degree of certainty, make out the shapes of what appeared to be large structures built into the ground - imposing fortresses with towering keeps and high walls. The fog that shrouded the valley began to clear, slowly, as if anticipating their arrival. Synheith could now see, definitively, the outlines of multiple buildings, some in severe states of disrepair, tilting to the side at odd angles. The entire scene looked as like a still picture of an old-fashioned Matoran City in the midst of an earthquake - buildings lying shattered, half-sunk into the soil, as if a terrible force had obliterated this place, and driven out those who inhabited it. Within a cluster of the structures, he could make out the shape of a long, thin tower, noticeably taller than all everything else, leaning to the right at an almost 45-degree angle. On the opposing side of the valley, the vertical facade of the mountain range stretched up towards infinity. The entire area gave an insurmountable sense of desolation, as if nothing was ever meant to inhabit this place, and nature had rushed to claim the occupants of whoever had built the structures below. "This must be Illumus," Likara appeared beside him, interrupting his thoughts. "It would have made sense for them to set up their fortress in this place," Gresh chipped in, casually strolling to his side. Kiina and Kyry soon followed suit, eager to catch a glimpse of what lay in the valley. Synheith pointed at the tall tower he had noticed earlier. "See that place?" he said, to no one in particular, "that must be where the signal's originating from." Kiina gasped. "This means there could be someone still alive down there, transmitting! We could even come face-to-face with a real life Great Being!" Gresh pointed to a winding mountain trail that led down into the valley. "Looks like we can get down there from that path," he said, "but its not wide enough for us to drive the Thornatus; we will need to leave the vehicle here." "Its a risk worth taking," Kiina shrugged. "We don't know what we'll find down there, and whether it will be hostile," Likara said, with a hint of doubt in her voice, "maybe I should stay here with Kyry, to protect both him and the Thornatus." "Aren't we in this together?" Kyry retorted, "if Kiina goes down there, then we all go!" Likara rolled her eyes and was about to come up with a response, when Gresh pointed at the rock path he had spotted earlier. Everyone turned their heads to see that Synheith was already heading down into the valley. *** 1 Hour Later Amid the Ruins of the Illumus Family Stronghold Synheith slowly pushed the gate open, and peered inside. There was no discernible movement beyond the gate, only a large open area, flanked on all sides by walls, with a few withered trees and pieces of rubble within. There was what seemed to be an outline of another gate at the other side of the courtyard, but the thick fog limited the range of his vision. "All clear," he whispered. Gresh, Kiina, Likara, and finally Kyry followed him through the gate. Kyry had come despite some protest from Likara, and Kiina, in the interests of time, had to insist that everyone go into the valley. Stepping into the courtyard, Synheith noted that there were gates built into the walls on their left and right as well. The most forbidding doorway, however, was the one he had spotted earlier on the other end of the courtyard, a massive monolith gate made of what seemed like solid rock. "We must be inside the fortress compound," Kiina said, "looks like there are multiple places to search. Let's split up and find out if anyone's left here. We'll meet back in this courtyard in half an hour." Likara opened her mouth as if to disagree, but decided against it. "If they're no objections, I'm going with Kiina, we'll search for what's beyond the door on the left." Gresh said this while inching closer to Kiina, then putting his arm around her. "In that case, I'll protect Kyry while searching for what's beyond the door on the right," Likara said. Everyone looked at Synheith, suddenly realizing they had left him out. "Well," he said quietly, "looks like I'm on my own. Just the way I like it." *** A couple of minutes later, Synheith found himself standing alone, still in the courtyard, blasting away with his pulse staff at the metal lock to the huge stone door, trying to find a way to open it. The others had found that their respective gateways were not locked. With a final, frustrated bolt of fire, he managed to soften the metal on the lock such that a single blast from his pulse weapon shattered it. Triumphantly, he pushed open the door, which groaned open, inch by inch, to reveal a dark space beyond. Synheith's eyes took a while to adjust to the sudden absence of light, so, leaving the door ajar, he took a tentative step into the room. The floor was made of polished marble, the kind highly valued by Matoran. The light from the open door illuminated a single important feature of the room - a long oak table at its center, with chairs positioned on either side. As his eyes grew accustomed to the darkness, Synheith noticed a few more things - a faded carving of a blue hexagon on the wall, with two opposing crescents within it, and a piece of parchment that lay on one end of the oak table. Everything was covered in a thick layer of dust - no one had stepped into this place for millennia, it seemed. He walked over and examined the parchment. On it was a sequence of multiple lines of characters, the frustratingly familiar ones that were used by the Great Beings and resembled, but was distinct from, contemporary Matoran writing. Kiina would know how to read this, he thought, better save it for her. It might crumble to dust if I try to pick it up, so its best to leave it where it is. Searching the rest of the room, Synheith did not find anything worthy of note. One of the walls was decorated from floor-to-ceiling with brief groups of the same unreadable letters, which might have been names of some kind, but did not seem to be of much significance. He found a drawer beneath the oak table, but it was empty. Returning to the courtyard soon after, Synheith was quickly joined by Gresh and Kiina. "We didn't find anything important, much less anything alive," Kiina said, her voice dripping with disappointment, "we did, however, find a passage to the section of the fortress with the tall broadcasting tower-thing you saw earlier. A few notices pasted nearby do confirm that it is the transmitter of an automatic signal, made to repeat itself every few seconds, and is powered by geothermal energy. This would be the source of the Enigma Signal." "That, of course, raises the question of what happened to the Great Beings who lived here," Gresh cut in, "perhaps the automated Enigma Signal was intended as a call for help, like a mayday or S.O.S signal, sent out by the members of Illumus to seek aid when their fortress came under threat." "Did you find any hint that the Baterra invaded this place? Any shattered pieces of armor or bodies?" Synheith inquired. Kiina shook her head. "As far as I can tell, it looks like whoever lived here fled long before its invaders arrived. Besides the structural destruction, are no signs, as far as I can tell, of a two-sided struggle. Its almost as if the Baterra came here, found an abandoned fortress, partially ravaged it, and moved on." "We did find some hastily scribbled phrases on tablets, perhaps used as records or announcements," Gresh said, "they don't seem to make much us, though." Kiina nodded in agreement. "The few I translated just yield mysterious phrases, such as "TO THE KEEPER BELONGS THE ASCENSION" or "THE BACKUP LIES BELOW THE SEA". Either my translation is flawed, or we do not have the...context, to decipher these notes." This prompted Synheith to remember the parchment he had spotted earlier. "Kiina," he said, "there's a piece of paper with what looks like a few lines of text on it, in the room I searched beyond that door. I believe it might be of some significance." *** Leaning forward with her hands on the oak table, Kiina squinted at the parchment in the dim light provided by Synheith's flame. Gresh had stayed out in the courtyard, waiting for Kyry and Likara to return. Muttering to herself, Kiina abruptly stood up and faced Synheith. "This is a poem," she said, "written by someone named Arkalogus, who was the housekeeper of Illumus, apparently. It reads: Standing still, I lift my cup, drink my wine; its blood-red hue betrays our final fate a fate my late master could not divine - a condemnation to warfare and hate My Lord has fallen to the deceiver; yet his parting wish remains intact - despite the actions of this false teacher his construct, his plan, are ours to enact. Across the azure carpet, a bird flies alone, it will reach the north harbor and at the hills, it will arrive to glimpse at the product of our labor And I write this in the security despite the worries my soul begets although I may be dashed against the facade of obscurity - I will have no regrets." Synheith stood still, pondering. This was obviously written after Verectorian's death, but what was its subject - the enigmatic "construct" and "plan" that had been completed? And how was it linked to the Decryption Crystal, the Enigma Signal, and most of all, the Ring of Vitality? Was it a separate matter entirely? Distracted by his thoughts, Synheith leaned back against the wall behind him. The moment his back brushed against the blank rock surface, there was a sudden movement - and a section of the wall pulled away to reveal a hidden compartment behind it. Synheith immediately recoiled, then turned around and aimed his weapon at a possible concealed threat. From within the compartment, an empty suit of armor - sleek and gray, stared back at him. He relaxed. This was probably just an emergency combat suit, hidden from view to be used in the event of an attack. There was a small plague, inscribed with the same unreadable characters, lying at the feet of the armor. A single, detail, however, above all others, caught his eye - one of monumental implication. The helmet of the armor suit had been punctured - a projectile had shattered the front of visor, and made an exit hole at the back. Whoever had worn this had suffered a fatal wound to the face. Kiina translated the plague, which confirmed his suspicions about the identity of the armor's former owner. "Here rests the armor of our Lord and Master Verectorian Illumus, 57th Lord of the Honorable Succession To Illumus, Member of the Council of Elders, Guardian of the Ascendancy, Protector of the Code. Retrieved during the Battle of Winding Canyon, before total defeat by Baterra Forces. His body has been cremated." Synheith reached out, his hand brushing against the armor, wiping away a layer of dust on its chestplate to reveal what he now realized was the Symbol of Illumus - a blue hexagon, with two crescents inscribed within it. "Kiina! Synheith!" Gresh's voice interrupted the reverential silence of the situation. "Kyry and Likara have found something important." Likara stepped into the room, and blurted out, "Kyry and I found a hidden chamber, a room which perhaps served as a military headquarters. On the table, there was a map of Illumus and the surrounding area, and a single point is circled in red - just a few klicks north of here, in the mountains, there is what is labelled as a "Baterra Factory". Synheith struggled to remember Surel's explanation of how the Baterra were produced. "Surel told us that Verectorian broke up our planet to separate the fortresses and factories of the Baterra, which were in the north, from civilization, so that they could be neutralized," he said, slowly. "Now that our world has been merged again, the Pedagogue is probably going to need to repopulate the ranks of his army. This means that he'd be headed for that factory first. We need to get there before he does. Shut that place down." "Our duty," Likara said firmly, "was to investigate the Enigma Signal, and report back to Tobduk. If that thing is really a factory, the five of us don't stand a chance against an army of Baterra." "You're always too scared to go find new things and explore new places, aren't you?" Kyry said, wagging a finger at her. "No, I'm trying to protect what matters!" Likara began to raise her voice, "that's why I'm so insistent that you always stay put. Because you're an Agori, and I need to protect you." "Maybe Agori aren't as weak as you - " "Quiet!" Synheith announced authoritatively. "I will go, find the Baterra Factory, and take necessary action." "That's disobeying an order!" Likara protested, "Tobduk wanted us to report back to him! And its our duty that we be back at the city, to protect the Matoran in case the Pedagogue returns!" "My duty?" Synheith could feel a strange anger rising within him, "to what!" Likara seemed caught off guard. "Your duty to Mata Nui!" Synheith frowned. "Why serve the virtues of Mata Nui when Mata Nui is no more?" Likara stepped back, as if Synheith had uttered a great blasphemy. Kiina and Gresh shifted uncomfortably. "Fine," she said, her voice full of emotion, "risk your life disobeying an order! Go ahead!" "Hey, I'll come with you too!" Kyry said, stepping forward, but Synheith held out his hand. "I will go alone," Synheith said, more calmly this time. "You are right. All of you have a duty to protect the Matoran. Return to the city, report to Tobduk. I will investigate this matter by myself." Kiina put a hand on his shoulder. "This is suicide, and you know it. As a friend, and a fellow living being, I can't let you go in yourself." As if in response to Kiina's statement, the helmet of Verectorian's combat suit behind them suddenly fell off its hook, inexplicably, fell to the ground, and rolled to Synheith feet. He bent over, picked up the helmet, and put it on. Staring at his teammates through the shattered visor, Synheith spoke. "I'm not going in alone. The ghost of Verectorian - and all those whom the Baterra have killed over the years - will be with me."
  6. Thanks for the /really/ comprehensive review, Hahli Historian! Your review is actually longer than any of the individual chapters in the epic, haha. Points about grammar and characterization have been noted.
  7. Member Name: Karzhani the Utahraptor Theme: Broken MaskWord Count: 592 Link to Story and Title: Torn
  8. I am Takanuva, Toa of Light. A day ago I was Takua, a Matoran, a mere villager, and now, I stand as the biggest barrier between the continuation of our home and its extinction. But as I rise from this strange liquid, its vapors dissipating into the air around me, I sense that something is not quite right...I do not feel whole. Oh, shut up, impertinent insect. Show yourself, Makuta! Why does your voice resound in my head? I don't know what that Protodermis did to us, puny Toa, but it appears our forms have been intertwined. What trickery are you employing? Release me at once! You presume that it is my intention to merge with you as a singular entity. Amusing. This is no time for small talk, Makuta. As I - as we - speak, the Matoran are waiting for me to defeat you and awaken the Great Spirit. I will do everything I can to keep that from happening. Try and stop me. This body might belong to both of us, but I demand that its duty is only to the Mask of Shadows. Look at the reflection of yourself - ourselves - in that pool of Protodermis, Makuta. Our forms have been combined, our masks have been merged. We possess great strength, and we should wield it for what is just. Our masks have not been merged. They have been broken. I guess my portion of it will just have to be stronger than yours. Your condescension is laughable. Control of this form will belong to whoever has the most willpower, the most strength. If you fight for shadows, if you manipulate and deceive, if you step over the bodies of others to forwarding your will, how can you say you have strength? Makuta, tell me now how casting your brother into an endless slumber is an act of strength? Strength...comes from the efficiency of the mind and body, Toa, not from doing what is right. That's where you're wrong. I might not be as clever as you - I can pierce your labyrinth mind, its twists and turns and absolute boundlessness. But I know that by virtue of being able to discern right from wrong, I am stronger than you. You are a machine that calculates and derives an end without concerns for the lives of others - you have no heart and no spirit, only a mind and brute force. This is why, today, I will emerge triumphant. This is why us - we - are strong. Let us go forth, and use this body, and its broken mask, for a greater purpose. "I AM TAKUTANUVA" And I will save the Matoran. Nooo! How...can...your..force...trump - "LIGHT HAS REVEALED THE WILL OF MATA NUI. OUR BROTHER MUST BE AWAKENED." *** I now stand, whole again, separated from the Makuta's spirit by an unexpected turn of events. Through the power of Mata Nui, my form was restored, and I once again can call myself the untainted Toa of Light. But as I survey the curious landscape beyond the Makuta's lair - the place the Turaga call Metru Nui, I can't help but think that the experience I had with a shadowy being in my mind is not an uncommon one. All of us are Takutanuva in some way, good and evil given form, an eternal conflict of desire and virtue. Making the right decisions stems from overcoming the inner darkness that lurks within our forms. All of our masks are broken. But that doesn't mean we can't be strong.
  9. Chapter X: The Road that Time Forgot Synheith leaned back in his seat and stared up at the stars. It was approaching midnight now, and the sky above him was littered with millions of minute pinpricks of light, each of them gleaming in their individual majesty. Am I a star, then? he wondered casually, do I exist on my own, in this unfair boundless world, a singularity among many others, free of any true burdens or responsibilities? Am I free to pursue my own ends, regardless of whether it fulfills the tenets of Unity, Duty and Destiny? They had been driving continuously for three days now, the modified Thornatus running on a seemingly inexhaustible fuel supply. Likara, Gresh, Synheith, and Kiina had taken turns driving the vehicle while the others rested, ensuring that they would arrive at their destination coordinates as soon as possible. Kyry, for the most part, had been silent, sulking in the back seat and occasionally voicing out his concerns, which were mostly brushed aside. Already, they had passed beyond the northernmost fringes of Agori and Matoran civilization, travelling past the vast deserts of Bara Magna, taking a right turn at the Black Spike Mountains. In the preceding twelve hours, they had maneuvered their way through a dense forest, driving on a narrow path that seemed as though it had been laid in place by an ancient civilization eons ago. Emerging from the forest, they had found a similar path that took them through a lush ravine. The forests, however, eventually thinned and gave way to another desert area, one that appeared to be uncharted. Currently, they were driving through a massive salt pan, flat ground stretching out in all directions as far as the eye could see, save for a mesa to their right. The air was cool, although not chillingly cold like the desert nights on the Bara Magna wasteland. Every minute they drove took them one step closer to finding the source of the Enigma Signal, and, with that, hopefully finding out what their foe was after. Likara was presently at the wheel, looking as though she was doing her best to stay awake. Kiina and Gresh had gotten off their seats and were sitting together above the rear wheel of the vehicle, talking to each other quietly; Synheith had noticed that the pair was getting along particularly well. Kyry sat asleep in the seat next to him, his head resting on his arms. Synheith felt a marvelous sense of exhilaration, travelling in an unknown desert a vehicle at nearly a hundred kilometers per hour, with a crew he could trust (sort of), the air blowing in his face, the stars above him. There was no sign of a society anywhere near them, no sign of anything that would constrain him, or give him orders or duties he would have to follow. The monotony of the situation seemed to get to him, and he found himself slowly drifting off into exhaustion-induced slumber. One moment he was sitting at the back seat of the Thornatus, and the next moment, he found himself standing, back in the room at Destral, more than a year ago, locked in the shadowy grip of the power of Makuta Treperath. He struggled against the bonds, even as the Makuta slowly stepped towards him. Everything seemed to be happening in slow motion. "To pay respect to a simple formality, my name is Makuta Treperath. What might yours be?" The words sounded distant, detached, as if he were viewing the entire event through a muffled glass window. With a sudden strength that surprised even himself, Synheith suddenly managed to tear through the chains of shadow, landing on his feet, and spun to face the Makuta. Before his adversary could react, he had already taken aim with his pulse laser and fired three blasts squarely at the Makuta's head. Trepearth seemed unfazed by this, and countered with his own weapon. Synheith rolled to the side, charged forward, and thrust the sharp tip of his staff slowly into the Makuta's armor. This time, however, instead of fighting back, Treperath seemed to be asking him questions, inducing him to doubt his loyalty to Mata Nui. "Who says you must live by Unity Duty and Destiny?" Synheith pulled his weapon back and slammed the sharp end of it against the Makuta's shoulder armor again. There was a sharp crack and the inner substance - the greenish gaseous Antidermis - of the Makuta began to slowly began to leak out. Even then, Treperath was constantly launching a barrage of questions, all of which Synheith ignored. As the Makuta's substance finally fully leaked out of his armor, however, there came one final, startling question. Synheith didn't hear this in the Makuta's voice - he heard it in his own. "Why serve the virtues of Mata Nui when Mata Nui is no more?" *** 7 Hours Later Synheith awoke with a start. The dream had shaken him badly - not just because it reminded him of his defeat at Destral - but because it had also reminded him that he lacked a purpose, and he lacked a higher principle or entity to defend or honor. Likara had retired to sleep already; Gresh was now at the wheel, Kiina still sitting beside him, an impatient look on her face. The veteran Glatorian had hardly been able to conceal her excitement once they had veered east of the Black Spike Mountains. To her, every inch of new ground they were covering was another component of the grand new world that had never been explored. They were nearing the mountain range which Tobduk had directed them to; the rays of the rising sun illuminated the outline of gargantuan peaks in the distance. "Funny we haven't run into any of those Baterra yet," Gresh voiced out loud, "perhaps they don't come this far north." Synheith shrugged. "Let's hope it stays that way." "Keep driving and focus on the target," Kiina gave Gresh a friendly nudge, "we're almost there." By midday, they had reached the end of the massive salt pan expanse, and found themselves in the shadow of one of the huge mountains. Driving up an incline that appeared to lead to a natural path between two mountains, the crew soon found themselves surrounded by a thick, heavy, fog, that limited their vision and forced them to continue to rely on their instinctual sense of direction and push on. They soon came to a narrow rock path between both mountains, with a hundred-foot drop to a gorge far below on either side. "Looks like we'll have to cross this to get to the designated coordinates," Kiina shrugged, "be careful." Cautious driving eventually led them across the bridge, which was possibly a natural formation, onto a road carved into the dark brown cliff face of the nearest mountain, a road which was definitely not a natural formation. "Looks like someone built this," said Gresh, "but who, and for what? And do you think whoever constructed this route is behind the Enigma Signal?" "Keep your eyes on the road," Kiina muttered, "I'll do the questioning." There was a deep valley to their left, shrouded in fog. Synheith wondered whether it was natural for such mist to form in the middle of a rugged mountain-and-desert terrain. This entire place gives off the feel of being unbelievably mysterious, he thought, who could ever live so far away from the rest of civilization? His thoughts were interrupted by the sight of what appeared to be a figure lying in the middle of the road ahead. "Wait, stop," he said, "what's that?" Nearing the object, they found that it was what appeared to be a gray suit of armor, lying face-up, with strange symbols and signs engraved all around it. It seemed to be built of a similar material as the Pedagogue's combat suit, and there was a large hole puncturing its abdomen. Gresh ground the vehicle to a halt, and Synheith got off to examine the armor. Peering inside the hole, Synheith could see the bones of whoever had once occupied the suit. But that did not interest him. What made him fascinated was that the designs on the armor looked incredibly familiar, as if he had seen them before, in his dreams. "Whatever this is," Synheith concluded after a while, "its dead. Keep going." *** The hour after they had discovered the armor, they had continued their uneventful drive through the mountain path, until they came to a point where the road seemed to reach a summit, with an apparent sharp downward incline on the other side. Likara had awoken by then, and she noticed that there was something jutting out of the ground near the summit. "That seems to be a sign," she said, "let's go check it out." Gresh stopped the vehicle near the sign so they could get a good look at it. The writing was similar to the one they had seen in the Pedagogue's coffin room - a more smooth, antiquated form of Matoran writing that Synheith was unable to read. "Oh, that writing again," muttered Gresh. "Hey!" Kiina suddenly exclaimed, "I think I can read it!" She turned to Gresh. "Remember when we found the Great Being Laboratory under the Bara Magna desert? I've been spending some time there studying the words, and I think I can figure out the script. Its pretty simple actually, it works phonetically and reads like Matoran." She squinted at the sign. "K-E-E-P A-H-E-A-D" she read aloud. Then she focused on the single word carved beneath that, and as she deciphered it, her eyes grew wide. "It reads 'I-L-L-U-M-U-S'. Up ahead is the Illumus stronghold."
  10. Chapter IX: Pawns Synheith squirmed uneasily in his seat. Around him, seated in the neatly ordered rows of chairs in the briefing room, were more than a hundred Toa and Glatorian, who constituted the majority of the city's primary defense forces. The only warriors absent were those who had been redeployed elsewhere to preserve public security and comfort the population. The chamber was large, with an uncharacteristically high ceiling, and the typical whitewashed walls that seemed to be the Order's preferred background. Behind him was a large set of blast doors, with two heavily armed Order agents standing on each side. In front of him was a prominent central stage, with a podium positioned to its right. Gresh was seated directly in front of him, looking surprisingly energetic for someone who had just been revived from a deep coma. Tobduk slowly got up from the first row of seats, walking up the steps to the stage, and approached the podium. His posture, gait, and constant fidgeting with his armor betrayed what appeared to be a feeling of anxiety, or edginess, and Synheith was mildly troubled to see the normally relaxed Order leader in such a state. Tobduk cleared his throat, and spoke. "My fellow guardians of the will of Mata Nui, and the protectors of the unity of Spherus Magna, to those of you who have been sleeping through the preceding combat, you might be interested to know that we are at war again." His voice boomed and resounded off the walls of the room. The words we are at war again echoed several times, then faded to silence. But in Synheith's mind, those words kept sounding, a truth that he was still as of yet unwilling to accept. We have just emerged from the greatest war I have ever known, he thought, and here we are, facing another challenge, of equal magnitude, against a being, who, like the last one, plans to tear our society to shreds. Tobduk continued speaking. "Our adversary appears to have taken some interest in a signal we found on our basement radio wave receptor. It consists of a series of auditory notes, recurring every two minutes in a seemingly random fashion, that has been repeating itself since at least ten thousand years ago. We have dubbed it the Enigma Signal." A murmur passed through the crowd of assembled Toa and Glatorian as Tobduk described the nature of the signal. "The interest our foes have in this makes it an imperative for us to track down the origin, and find out the purpose, of that signal. Perhaps that way we can better understand their motives. Our auditory expert Toa Krakua has managed to pin down the source of the signal to a set of coordinates nine thousand kilometers northwest of the Matoran City. That is an almost completely unexplored region on what was once the Northern part of Bara Magna, and aerial surveys have shown thus far that it consists of a series of massive rugged mountain ranges, stretching for hundreds of kilometers in all directions, with heavy cloud cover that shrouds much of its surface. If anyone is still broadcasting the signal, they will be there." Tobduk paused for a moment, then looked up from his notes and gazed squarely at the audience, particularly the back row where Synheith was seated. "And I want you to find them." Oh, so now I'm being addressed to personally? Synheith rolled his eyes. "I will be accepting a team of four volunteers," Tobduk said, "the rest of you are needed to guard the city against further attacks. You will be given a single Thornatus, supplies for ten days, and weapons. So, who is up for some....adventure?" Kiina, seated somewhere to his front, almost immediately hopped to her feet. "I'm not going to pass up a chance to help discover more about the threat looming over us," she said firmly, with a trace of anticipation in her voice. "Neither am I," said Gresh, getting to his feet slowly but surely. Likara stood up too, saying nothing, then stared at Synheith. Go on, her expression read, after all, you've worked with us before. And I know you can't stand leaving the problem unresolved. Tobduk shifted his head subtly, so that he too seemed to be looking at Synheith in the eye. Go on, his features hinted as well, do the right thing. Why should I volunteer to go on some inconsequential quest with this motley crew, leaving the Matoran City behind? Isn't Tobduk inducing me to breach my duty? he thought. But what is my duty? Do I even have one now? With Mata Nui gone? Is my obligation still to help the Matoran? Or is it to pursue my own end - that of stopping Treperath? Treperath. I will restore the honor you took from me, Makuta. And so, silently, for the sake of stopping his greatest foe, for the sake of solving his greatest personal challenge, Synheith stood up, in an instant connecting his fate with those of the other three. *** The elite Skrall warrior Stronius laughed rudely and pounded the table in front of him. "Military aid? Skrall have never negotiated such a treaty. We fight for no one. To do so would be deeply....not honorable." Ackar stared at the warrior before him, incredulous, enraged, and disappointed. A year before, he and Stronius would have never thought they would be sitting down across from each other at a table. If they ever came within arm's length of one another, their first thought would have been to strangle or shoot at the other party. But these were different circumstances, and times had changed. "Firstly, Stronius, I think you meant 'dishonorable'. But next - you have men and troops to spare. Can't you have a heart for once, and help a fellow member of Spherus Magna?" Stronius stared at him and frowned, as if seriously considering his proposal. Ackar was aware that he had come to the Skrall base alone, and that at any point in time this tenuous pretense of peace could break apart and Stronius could order his massacre. The Matoran and Agori had only just negotiated a peace treaty and ceasefire with the Skrall a month ago. After their defeat at Roxtus, the Skrall warriors had set up camp further downriver, and had managed to survive there and rebuild their society. With Tuma deposed, Stronius had assumed command of both military and civil affairs. Ackar decided to press further. "Your people, more than anyone else on this planet, know of the sheer destruction and terror that the Baterra can bring. Would you not pass up a chance to defeat them, once and for all?" Stronius' expression seemed to change slightly. Then he turned and barked an order through the open doorway behind him. "Major Branar! Come!" Moments later, a tall, muscular. warrior class Skrall, with atypical green armor, strolled into the chamber casually, as if unfazed by Stronius' shouting. Ackar almost immediately recognized this as the Skrall who had commanded the haphazard defense of Roxtus a year earlier: he had tried to rally the Skrall troops to resist the huge being made out of a amalgamation of Scarabax Beetles, but quickly lost control of the situation. If he had not been demoted, this would make him one of the highest ranked officers in the Skrall military, on par with an Elite class Skrall. "Yes?" Branar said, his voice carrying a hint of insubordination. "This Glatorian suggests we help his people fight the Baterra, and their leader," Stronius said, making a conscious effort not to spit when he pronounced the word 'Glatorian'. "Do we have enough soldiers?" "We are never short of men, sir." "Good. If I were to ask you to lead, would you want to?" "I suppose so." Ackar looked at Stronius, then slowly turned to Branar. Both warriors seemed to be in a state of indecision, a critical choice resting on their shoulders. "We'll think about it," replied Stronius finally, "and send you a messenger informing you of our reply within three days." *** 5 hours later Order of Mata Nui Headquarters Vehicle Bay Instead of the usual dull brown and black coloration, this particular Thornatus was painted a dark blue, with streaks of grey. That was not the only thing unusual about the vehicle: it also contained four passenger seats, eliminating the need for the dangerous practice of riding on the hood of the vehicle. Beyond that, it was outfitted with four state-of-the-art Midak Skyblaster cannon pods, which could be turned 180 degrees if required, on command of the driver. Synheith, Kiina, Likara and Gresh stood in front of the vehicle, scrutinizing it for a while, before Gresh spoke up. "So...who's going to drive?" "I can drive!" A somewhat high-pitched, enthusiastic voice sounded from behind the vehicle. Kyry slowly emerged from behind the back wheel, staring expectantly at the four tall warriors before him. "Who are you?" said Kiina, "and how'd you get in here?" "His name is Kyry," said Likara, "and he should not be here." "Hey, I can speak for myself!" Kyry replied, indignant. "And I got in through there." He jerked his thumb at a small open hatch behind him that led to the ventilation shaft. "Good thing the Baterra didn't manage to find that," Gresh shrugged, "would've saved them a lot of gate-pounding." "Guys, this is serious," Likara said, "Kyry, why are you here?" "I want to join you," Kyry said, his voice cautious, "the Makuta, with his Rahkshi destroyed my village, Fortitude. I want to him get his payback." "This isn't the time!" Likara exclaimed, "we're on a high-priority task that Tobduk needs us to complete! You're just an Agori, and we can't have you along. Just because you spent a night in a desert cave listening to Surel doesn't make you qualified to come!" Kyry crossed his arms over his chest. "I've had enough of this 'You're just an Agori' nonsense. Need I remind you that I helped repel the Raid on Vulcanus? And also, we have a contract, Likara. You protect me and let me go wherever I want so I can trade, and I pay you." "I'm pretty sure the Order's orders override our contact, Kyry. And no matter how good you think you are, Tobduk won't condone an extra passenger." "Well, clear it with him then." "We don't have the time for this, Likara," Kiina said. Synheith could tell that she was eager for more exploration, to discover new territories in this brave new world. "If he wants to come along, we can...make accommodations. This thing has five seats, after all." She turned to Gresh. "What do you think?" "He seems like a fine Agori," the green-armored warrior shrugged. Everyone now turned to Synheith. Not again. "What do you say?" Likara asked. Synheith pondered long and hard. "Yes, so long as he's not driving."
  11. Hi! I'd like to request a review for my epic. 1.) Epic Title: Enigma 2.) Review Topic 3.) 9 Chapters
  12. Thanks Velox for the review. Sorry I didn't see this earlier >< Interesting point. This is something that I realized I needed to do more in the story - show the progression of Vican's thoughts as he was drawn further and further into Mutran's warped conception of freedom. Thanks for pointing it out.
  13. Thanks for another great (and comprehensive) review! Also, funny, I too fell sick over Christmas. With regard to the connections between this and the storyline of Halo 4/Cryptum, I was wondering when people would start seeing the links. The character of the Pedagogue was certainly inspired and shaped by the Didact, and in searching for the name for the villain of this story I googled synonyms for 'Didact'. You might be interested to know, however, that the sarcophagus was actually inspired by one of the Transformers IDW comics (real Transformers fans should know this) where Megatron unearths the Fallen's coffin from beneath the dirt of Cybertron. Thanks for the feedback anyway, I've just written another chapter!
  14. Chapter VIII: War "Threat assessment and situation update, please." Tobduk spoke those words as he walked past Jerbraz hurriedly, down the long white corridor, without so much as lifting his head to acknowledge the presence of the senior Order staff member. "Baterra have appeared on the lower levels, sir," replied Jerbraz, "and they have overrun the ground floor and basement level 1. I have suspended the transport of any goods and equipment from the lower floors to the upper offices to prevent an intrusion." "Good," said Tobduk, walking towards a large set of double blast doors at the end of the corridor. Synheith, Likara, and Kiina trailed closely behind him, struggling to keep up with the tall warrior's massive stride. They had offered to help the Order forces repel the invasion, at least until reinforcements could arrive. Reaching the doors, Tobduk paused and pressed his palm on a concealed button in the wall. A single pinpoint laser - a cutting edge retinal scanner - projected itself from a hidden panel seven feet above the ground. Tobduk lowered his face in front of the device so that it could scan his eye. In a split second, the doors slid open with a quiet hiss and revealed the large central stairwell that was built into the interior of the structure. From far below, Synheith could hear the sounds of many pairs of armored feet emanating from far below, as Order agents from various floors armed themselves and made their way quickly to the lower levels to deal with the intruders. Likara nudged Synheith and a quiet sentence to him. "Don't forget Gresh! He's still passed out on the Thornatus." "One thing at a time," Synheith sighed, although he secretly wondered if they would get out of this next challenge alive. The three fighters quickly followed Tobduk down the stairs, the latter sometimes taking three of four steps at a time. Somewhere on the way down, Tobduk stopped and flicked another veiled switch on one of the walls, and a concealed armory promptly slid out from behind the facade. He grabbed a large, imposing, rifle-like weapon, something that Synheith recognized as an experimental Nui Blaster, a weapon that the Order had developed recently in tandem with Glatorian scientists. The Blaster could seamlessly integrate and launch the elemental powers of Air, Fire and Water, devastating any opponents in its path. Despite the fact that it had never been used in a combat scenario before, and Synheith wasn't quite sure how Fire and Water could be used in the same weapon, Tobduk seemed assured that it would be a useful tool in fighting the Baterra further down. After joining up with a team of a dozen Order fighters making their way to the ground floor from a lower level, they finally arrived at the entrance that led to the ground level from the stairwell. It contained another set of the seemingly invincible blast doors. Despite their efforts, the Baterra had not managed to enter the stairwell. Synheith, standing at the front of the party, felt obliged to be the one that opened the door. On the other side of this door, he thought, twenty Baterra are probably pushing themselves against it, trying to enter. Its time we get to meet them. Leaning forward, he moved his palm along the wall until he found the hidden button, then applied pressure to it, gently, surely. The retinal scanner appeared, and he moved his face towards it. In a microsecond, the machine cross-checked his eye against the hundreds of others it had approved in its records. As if in slow motion, the door made a loud grinding noise, and slid open, every moment revealing more of what was beyond it. Synheith took a tentative step out, instinctively tensing up for the possibility of an ambush. Looking around, he saw the lobby of the Order of Mata Nui Headquarters, strewn with debris, a stark contrast to its usual pristine condition. It was chaotic; there were overturned tables all over the place, and shattered pieces of concrete, wood, and metal armor littered the floor. Nearby, he could see the bodies of four guards who had attempted to stop the overwhelming assault by the Baterra. "Stop," signaled Tobduk, coming to the front of the party. "This looks like a more-than-ideal site for an ambush, even if our enemies weren't cunning shape-shifters." Every piece of debris, or of shattered furniture, suddenly became a possible foe. Synheith edged backwards into the stairwell, suddenly extremely conscious of their predicament. "Show yourself, mighty Baterra!" Tobduk's sonorous voice echoed around the large lobby chamber. There was no response. One of the Order Members behind them, carrying what looked like a rapid-fire laser, crept slowly into the room, and fired twenty blasts from his weapon, systematically in a broad sweeping fashion, so as to land on every exposed surface in the chamber. Nothing moved. If there were any hidden Baterra, masquerading as pieces of debris or objects, then shock of the lasers would have jolted them back to their preferred form. "All clear," the member said, tentatively. Some of the Order members behind them proceeded to rush to help their four downed comrades, checking if they were still alive. Tobduk strode to the center of the room to get a better assessment of what had happened. "It appears our guests didn't stay," he said. "Or perhaps they went further into the structure," Kiina interjected, pointing at a broken set of doors at the far end of the lobby. This one led to a second stairwell, which provided access to the multiple sprawling basement levels of the structure. Perhaps as a reflection of their operational philosophy, a large part of the space in the Order's headquarters was underground. "What could they possibly want in our basement?" Tobduk questioned, "and, come to think of it, what do they want here? Why not attack the central government building where Raanu and Vakama reside? I believe they're after something here. And whatever it is, we're going to stop them from getting it." Tobduk motioned the rest of the party to enter the ruined doors, into the stairwell, and emerged onto a wide corridor on the first basement level. Synheith found himself staring down a long passageway, with doors on both sides, and supply crates stacked in a rather haphazard fashion against the walls. There was no sign of any struggle or any evidence that the Baterra had come this way. Unlike the whitewashed corridors of the upper offices, the basement corridors were more recently built, and some walls and sections of flooring had yet to be painted. But above all, it was bare, made out of mostly empty rooms containing some storage material and not much else. He remembered Tobduk had told him that he was struggling to find a use for most of these rooms, and that the upper floors were perfectly capable of holding all the resources the Order needed, making the basement, in a sense, redundant. This also meant, Synehith slowly reasoned, that the supply crates they were seeing were not supply crates. Tobduk seemed to have come to a similar realization. "It appears," he said, in his usual calm and composed manner, "that we have some...packages that are unaccounted for." Without saying another word, he unlimbered his Nui Blaster, aimed it down the corridor, and pulled the trigger once. The weapon slowly hummed, vibrating in his hands, as it gathered energy from the environment around it. What followed was an awe-inspiring combination of a powerful gale-force wind, an infernal jet of flame, and a huge wave of water, that swept down the narrow corridor as a singular projectile, slamming the ground with terrifying force a meter away from Tobduk, and splitting up into smaller projectiles that swept, unstoppable, down the corridor, crashing with shuddering strength into the supply crates and tossing them against the walls like toys. When the steam and smoke caused by the blast had cleared, Synheith squinted to make a sense of the damage the weapon had caused. The Baterra, formerly disguised as supply crates, were now struggling to their feet, disoriented, some missing parts, some with huge gaping holes in their armor, and some rolling around trying to extinguish the flames that were consuming them. He, and the rest of the Order forces, charged forth as one, tackling the confused Baterra to the ground and preventing them from transforming into something else, and quickly dispatching them. Once all of the robotic intruders were eliminated, Synheith looked around again, checking his surroundings. He now realized something odd - all the steel doors to the rooms in the corridor were wide open, except for the one labelled "B1-03", which was sealed shut. "What's in that room?" asked Synheith, pointing to the door, "anything important?" "A radio we recovered from the citizens of Tajun," said Tobduk passively, "I believe Krakua went back to attending to it, just before the Baterra attacked. Knowing him, perhaps he closed the door so he could sleep on duty, and has simply slept through all of this." Synheith pulled the handle of the door. "It's locked," he said, turning around to face the other members of the group. "Now it isn't." Before Synheith could turn to face the source of that all-too-familiar voice, the door had swung open with deadly speed, and the huge half-ton steel fixture slammed into him from behind, sending him reeling forward in shock. Makuta Treperath, wielding the Decryption Crystal in one hand, and the limp body of Toa Krakua in the other, emerged from behind the door. He held Krakua's body over his, using him as a shield to possible projectile fire. "Put the Toa down and hand us the Crystal," said Tobduk slowly, as if giving instructions to a child, "we have you outgunned. Or would you prefer to experience what I did to your old friend Tridax?" Treperath gave an amused expression, then pointed down the corridor. "Now they have you outgunned." Turning, Synheith realized that amid the confusion, a sizable force of Baterra had managed to sneak in the corridor. He could not see the full extent of their numbers, since their ranks extended back into the stairwell, but he estimated there to be more than a hundred. "Now, you let me go, unfettered, and in return, you can have your Toa back," Treperath stated. Tobduk checked his Nui Blaster. If it were fully charged, he could possibly eliminate all the Baterra in the narrow corridor in a single blast, while the others would handle the Makuta. However, it was busy re-cycling itself and would not be ready to fire in the next two minutes. He dropped his weapon. The others followed suit quickly. They were, at this moment, truly overpowered. "Good," said the Makuta. He flung Krakua to the ground, with a sudden violence, then pushed Synheith aside and strode back to his Baterra Army. They followed him back up the stairs, and, presumably, out of the building. When he could no longer hear their footsteps, Synheith let out a long breath and retrieved his weapon. "Why did they spare us?" Likara ventured, "they could have killed us right here." Tobduk shook his head, and crouched over the Krakua, lying prone on the ground. "He did this so he could strike fear, and respect, perhaps for the day the Pedagogue will come to assume power over our society." Krakua coughed. He was alive, but severely drained and heavily injured. "The Makuta...and some other, dark-armored thing, came in here, pushed me against the wall...choked me...demanded I switch to the frequency with that signal..." Tobduk wandered into the room B1-03, trying to figure out what exactly Krakua was talking about. The Tajun radio was positioned against the far wall, a massive device with numerous mechanical parts and functions. It was tuned in to a single channel, and was playing, at a low volume, a series of what seemed to be random acoustic notes, arranged in no particular order. The Engima Signal. *** 5 Hours Later Synheith sank to the ground, back against the wall, out of sheer despair, frustration, and exhaustion. The sun had set, and the darkness around him echoed the dark mood in his heart. In the intervening hours, Tobduk had managed to draw several missing links. An Agori, named Berix, had evidently been attacked and held down by Baterra on the street during their initial assault on the Matoran City. Makuta Treperath had evidently confronted him, asking for the location of any device capable of picking up radio frequencies. Since Berix was a former member of the village of Tajun, he knew of the radio device and its whereabouts. The Baterra had then proceeded to storm the Order headquarters, and locate the radio device. What Treperath and the Pedagogue were planning to do with it, however, was still a mystery. What puzzled them the most, however, was the fact that after the confrontation within the Order Headquarters, all Baterra troops had withdrawn from the city, as if regrouping for a more important objective elsewhere. Now, Synheith was seated in a medical chamber, watching Turaga Nokama and Toa Gaaki attend to Gresh, who lay unconcious on a makeshift bed. Kyry and Likara were present nearby too, and Kiina stood across from him, pacing around in obvious concern, not taking her eyes off Gresh for one moment. Treperath, he fumed, I could have killed you. I could have fired my pulse laser, right at your face, shattered your armor, and Tobduk would've finished you off. Then the Baterra would have killed us all, but it would have been a price to pay for your life. An Agori courier arrived, carrying a large box, flanked by two Toa escorts. "Here it is," said Nokama, retrieving the box from the Agori. Opening it, she revealed the fabled Mask of Life - the Kanohi Ignika, once worn by Mata Nui, the being who had helped save all of Bara Magna a year ago from the Skrall, and the former protector and Great Spirit of the Matoran. Even now, his soul was said to reside in the Ignika, his thoughts and dreams locked up within it. So you're Mata Nui, thought Synheith. It was certainly strange to come face-to-face, in a sense, with the Spirit whom he had once been told watched over him, when he still lived in the old Matoran Universe. You were the guardian of Unity, Duty, Destiny, those three virtues they taught us to guard to the death. I wonder if you knew those were programmed into you by Verectorian. I wonder if you knew that you were just a pawn used in a larger game between two opposing forces. "Anything wrong?" Likara put a hand on his shoulder. It was as if she could sense his confusion and his mood. Synheith shook his head. "Whatever life force that has been drained out of him, this Mask can restore," said Nokama. Gently, with a pair of pincers, she took hold of the Ignika, then brushed it against the side of Gresh's helmet. Almost immediately, the green-armored warrior's muscles seemed to relax, and in a few suspenseful moments, his eyes flashed wide open. "Where am I? What happened! What happened to the cave - and the sarcophagus!" "We'll have time to fill you in later," said Likara, standing. "A lot has happened." *** An hour later, Synheith found himself standing guard at the gate of the central city square, where Turaga Vakama and the head of the Agori villages, Raanu, had organized a public address about the events that had happened earlier that day. Frenzied Matoran and Agori quickly packed in to listen to their talk. Synheith had been called to stand guard outside the square on short notice, in case the Baterra returned. Gresh was still recuperating with the others back in the medical chamber. "I have just returned from negotiations with the Skrall," Raanu announced, in his usual histrionic manner, "and their leader, Stronius, has agreed to certain conditions of mutual peace and amity. The Skrall and peace with them is a reminder that we have endured much as a society, and, in light of this new threat, we will continue to endure and survive." Raanu sat down, and Vakama rose to the podium. Synheith had heard the Turaga speak once before, and his voice was nothing short of charismatic and commanding, radiating an aura of a wise old sage. "Citizens of the Matoran City, my old friends, as Raanu has said, I applaud all of you for your endurance. But, it is with a sorrowful heart, that I must announce this - we are entering another instance of what we Matoran as a whole have become too accustomed too in the past few hundred years. We are at war again."
  15. Some philosophical/existential quotes, a link to a game and RPGs.
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