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Roodaka plodded along helplessly next to Botar’s replacement. “Why, exactly, are we still being held here? Surely you have better things to do than cart a prisoner around-“ “Be quiet, fool” Botar’s replacement scowled. “This is my duty. Now get back in line!” A Dark Hunter, pleased at the delay, launched a Rhotuka at the replacement. The flames from the spinner were enough to burn a hole in his armor. Delighted, Roodaka used the opportunity to stun Botar’s replacement with a small amount of shadow energy, then leaped after the being, landing solid blows. A quick kick crashed him into a rock, knocking him out. Spinning, Roodaka snatched the spinner launcher, aiming it at Botar’s replacement’s throat. A second later, the Order member disappeared, reappearing behind Roodaka. Lifting the former Visorak viceroy into the air, the replacement formed energy bindings around her, giving her no way to aim her new launcher or to harm her opponent. Growling, he reached out his arm to seize the launcher – just as Roodaka used her power to disrupt the bindings just enough…the spinner struck his arm, and he was no longer Botar’s replacement. Glaring down at the new Keelerak next to her, Roodaka knelt, whispering into his audio receptors. “Come along with me, you fool, and I might see fit to reverse the mutation, or you can take your chances out there. I won’t look for you.” The reply, in the language of the Visorak, was one of pure hatred. Roodaka allowed herself a smile, and as she sauntered off toward the forest, an obedient Keelerak trotted along at her side. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Vakama, Turaga of Fire, sat in a quiet place for contemplation and reflection – by the surf of the newborn ocean that had once been Aqua Magna. Propped against a small shade tree, the veteran Turaga began pondering through recent revelations…the Great Spirit, a giant robot…the Order agent’s takeover of Metru Nui and then Makuta’s efforts to control the city…the city that was the very center of power…the Great Spirit’s sacrifice and his words…Slowly, Vakama walked through years of ignorance and doubt, fitting piece after piece into the puzzle that brought him here. How could I know so much, he thought, and yet so little? Perhaps we are in yet another place that only knowledge will break us of. Ah…there is no hurry…we have plenty of time to discover our future here…Time, yes… The Mask of Time! It is in the hands of the Shadowed One. I suppose the matter should be brought before the Toa, although they have enough matters to deal with, and probably will not be able to help. Frustrated, he stalked away, slowly easing out of the emotion and facing his inability to act. It took a Makuta, a Toa, and an army of Rakishi to defeat the Shadowed One and Voporak before, and even if I was…stronger…it would not matter. “Turaga?” * * * Roodaka was in a bad mood. For someone accustomed to the mountains and factories of Xia, the high towers of captured cities, and expansive fortresses, this forested area was just a little too … unsettling. Cowering in said forest to avoid detection by her potential allies, however, was supremely frustrating. “This will do quite nicely for a fortress, don’t you think?” The Shadowed One nodded to Sentrakh. Sentrakh said nothing. He didn’t really mind this particular spot, seeing that it was on a tall hill. But the trees around this clearing would have to be removed – to many places for enemies to hide. Sentrakh wasn’t sure whether he would favor that fact or not. “That question” said the Shadowed One “is one I would like an answer to.” “Perhaps” said Sentrakh. “The trees.” “Soon, Sentrakh, we will have no enemies. They will all be frozen in time.” Sentrakh nodded cautiously. As he did so, he spotted a metallic bit of green that skittered away. Then he heard the sound of running feet behind him. He whirled, the two Dark Hunters churning off in the direction of whoever had been listening. * * * “Turaga?” “Yes?” It was a Matoran, somewhat fatigued. Standing next to him was a colossal figure, armor of white and gold, and disturbingly familiar… “Who are you?” “In the universe that I come from, they call me Makuta Teridax.” Vakama’s eyes narrowed. “What do you mean?” “He’s from an alternate universe where the Makuta banished all the darkness from inside themselves…” Mazeka related the tale that had brought them here. “I suggest you return to the universe from which you came.” Vakama said. “The Toa will not welcome you here. I will not welcome him here until he can prove that he is one with the light.” “What would you have in mind?” Vakama smiled. If this was one of Makuta Teridax’s tricks, he was going to regret it. * * * Roodaka dodged tree trunks, vaulted brush, and swung from tree to tree (humiliating!) to evade pursuit. Nearby, a Keelerak crashed through the vegetation, making a racket even a deaf Turaga could hear. Somehow it was managing to avoid the flashing eyebeams and wheels of energy that filled the forest. The only problem was that it was now flying through the air, crashing toward the water… “Incoming!” * * * Roodaka plunged into the surf. She hated water, but the prospect of getting sheared in pieces by a pair of eyebeams was not as fixable. It took a couple of seconds for her to process the voice she’d heard as she raced past the figures on the surf. “Roodaka?” Vakama’s voice. She bolted back to the surface, startled. The Shadowed One launched his eyebeams at her, only to be stunned by a blast of light to the face. He staggered, blinded, but Sentrakh launched a Rhotuka spinner at the Makuta, which he barely managed to dodge. Mazeka leaped onto the Shadowed One’s arm, trying to dislodge his staff, but the veteran Dark Hunter merely tossed him away. His vision restored, the Shadowed One launched his eyebeams to destroy the Makuta’s armor, which were defected by a Rhotuka. Irritated, the Shadowed One moved in on the Makuta, leaving Sentrakh to face to face a Turaga, Roodaka, and the Keelerak – who, due to the exposure to the water had gone crazy and was shooting off spinners in every direction at a rapid rate. Sentrakh was forced to dodge or parry the spinners with his own, that and the ones Roodaka was carefully launching, in between her own acrobatics to avoid the paralyzing spinners. Meanwhile, to evade being permanently blinded by his new adversary, the Shadowed One used his staff to form barriers around himself, repairing it as fast as Teridax could smash it, which wasn’t too slow. “The Shadowed One, indeed.” observed the Makuta. “Can’t stand the light.” He blasted the interior of the structure with light, drowning the Shadowed One in it. Furious, he blindly smashed at his structure, shooting a Rhotuka of his own at the source. “You obviously know who I am. But only a fool could have placed you together – something that does not exist with a thing that should not exist. Next time, Toa of Light, find a better disguise.” Teridax scowled, blasting what remained of the structure with chain lightening. Sparks made shallow ridges in the Shadowed One’s armor, but the Dark Hunter leader was unmoved. He launched eyebeams at his adversary, blasting through a good amount of Teridax’s leg armor. Only a last minute application of his dodge powers saved his leg from being completely lost. “Whatever you are, you’ll have to do better than that!” “I can” said Teridax. Concentrating his power, Teridax slowed down the Shadowed One’s reflexes. Quickly, the Shadowed One did the only thing he could, slapping the Mask of Time over his face in a vain attempt to ward off defeat. Speeding up time inside him, the Shadowed One regained his speed, warding off the Makuta’s attempts to slow him down. However, use of the mask required his complete concentration… * * * Sentrakh backed away from the Keelerak. Suddenly Roodaka was standing on a very narrow spire. The slightest movement would send her toppling… The Keelerak collapsed. Sentrakh sighed. He prepared a Rhotuka spinner for launch. Roodaka leaped forward off of the spire, and crashed into Sentrakh, Rhotuka flying into the air. The spinner destroyed some nearby sand, creating a pit, which Sentrakh promptly slid into, carrying Roodaka with him. At the last second, Roodaka felt a strain on her arm, but whomever it was’ grip was slipping rapidly, and only swift reflexes enabled Roodaka to add her own grip to the stranger’s before losing it entirely. Sentrakh had a grip on her neck and was pulling her down. Desperate, she flailed about with her one free arm, but the only thing was one shade tree with weakened roots. The tree came crashing down, and Roodaka saw a firestaff come down on her neck. Then she saw nothing. * * * “Roodaka!” Someone was kicking her in the side. And saying her name very loudly, right in her ear. “Ow! Which side are you on?” Roodaka said. “Oh, Vakama, I’d thought I’d never see the day.” “To answer your question-” “Not important. Not at all.” * * * Makuta Teridax, unfoiled, switched powers, forming a vaccum around his opponent. The Shadowed One launched his eyebeams again, but this time Teridax was able to evade, the bolts only singing his armor. The Shadowed One charged in, trying to catch his enemy off balance…and was hit by a spinner. The paralyzing power was only enough to momentarily stun him, but it was enough for Teridax to trying slowing again… and for Roodaka to run past, snatching the Mask of Time from his claw. Teridax teleported away. Weakened and infuriated, the Shadowed One vented his anger with a burst from his eyebeams, destroying the tree which hid his talented bodyguard. Sentrakh climbed out of the pit, brushing sand off his armor. Neither said anything for a long time. The Shadowed One simply gestured for him to come along as they began the slow walk back to camp. * * * A small application of Teridax’s power revived Mazeka. The two watched as the sunset breathed color into the sky and the combatants deserted the battlefield. As they watched, a slender female form emerged from the forest in a clearing adjacent to the battlefield, a diminutive Visorak trotting alongside. A Turaga appeared, moving in. “Allies” mused Mazeka. “No” said the Makuta. “Even enemies with a common foe will be allies, but these are not friends, nor foes. Their history is complex, one best told on a cold, dark, night…” * * * Roodaka passed the Mask of Time to Vakama. “Catch” she snarled. “I’m sure you could find a use for this” Vakama said. “Are you sure?” “I don’t want any baggage.” Roodaka waved her hand. “And that’s just the thing, Vakama. I can always count on you.” They walked in silence for a bit. “You don’t have to be weak anymore, Turaga.” Roodaka gestured to her spinner launcher. “I am not weak. I am as I should be, and I still have my duty.” “Of course, Vakama. You have the Mask of Time. Nothing is impossible now.”