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Amethyst: Tacker's Story


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Chapter 1

Trinuma, member of the Order of Mata Nui, was bored.

That, in and of itself, was a unique condition, especially considering that he had just invaded a fortress and was walking past vaults of…treasure. But unfortunately, this fortress was Daxia, and the treasure at hand was written on tablets.

Information. On Mata Nui, his mission. The true nature of the giant robot. Commentary on various peoples and objects of power. All of which Trimuma had learned and memorized long ago. Which meant he had little interest in salvaging these records from their giant vaults, and taking them out into Spherus Magna where enemies could find them. Well, okay, they were going to build another fortress, but still – not exactly the best plan.

He was about to give in and go tell Tobduk just that when he reached the last vault door. Or rather, didn’t reach it – it had been melted away. Of the records in that last vault, there was no sign.

Trinuma shuddered. This could not be. Should not be. But the evidence was unmistakable. I failed. Somehow. But it was impossible. He knew it was. He knew that…Tobduk could not find out about this. He ran. Whoever did this was on Spherus Magna. He would find them, and finish the task he thought he had finished.

* * *

Turaga Kali, Turaga of Plasma, was trying very very hard not to laugh his head off. For one thing, it would disrupt his friend’s pinpoint and precise concentration as he piloted his plasma-fired flying vehicle at ridiculously fast speeds. For another thing, the robot that they were flying through was very cold and quiet and any sound would likely echo for miles.

It was only when the two touched down next to their hut on the outer reaches of town that Kali finally let loose his bolt-ripping guffaws. He slapped his Toa partner on the back. “That was terrific! That look on Trinuma’s face was priceless!”

The Toa, ignoring Kali, began unloading the large parcels from the back of the vehicle and began sorting through them without comment. Time was of the essence.

“These are the ones we want.” Tacker said, handing a particularly large stack of tablets to Kali. He dissolved the rest of them easily – most of these, Kali noticed, were treatises on extinct Rahi, including dates and cause of extinction. Well, okay, there was one tale of an old fortress that had withstood several Skakdi raids before all of its inhabitants vanished, mildly interesting, but not worthy of much attention.

“Are you sure there’s nothing valuable in there?” Kali joked. Tacker shrugged, and helped Kali carry the tablets inside.

“C’mon, Tacker, lighten up. What is with you?”

“We have to find them before they die. If they aren’t dead already – hopefully they froze before the air ran out.”

Kali grimaced. “Well, at least we do have these tablets. It could be worse.”

But Tacker was already reading the first tablet off the stack with rapt attention. Kali scowled. He remembered a simpler time, when Tacker would have laughed at his jokes. When the two would have happily celebrated their successful campaign of pulling a fast one on the most secretive organization in the universe.

But to the now-methodical Su-Toa, it was just one more step in a larger plan.

* * *

A short while later, Tacker looked up from his reading. It was late, and Kali turned on the lightstone in the hut. Tacker saw that Turaga had finished his own stack of tablets and had a somewhat resigned look on his face. Only a couple more tablets to go, and Tacker would be done.

He was starting to wonder if he had gotten the wrong vault. None of any of this made any sense. Sure, it was all there – what he expected…

He caught a movement, near the window. Someone was spying on them! Nervous, he jumped to his feet, carefully setting the tablet down. Tacker ran to the door and stuck his head out, looking around for the fleeing intruder.

There! The street-stones showed a shadow, ugly and misshapen, heading away from the hut.


Tacker ran, calling on the power of his Kanohi Kadin as he did. Took off, following the shadow. Flight gave him the advantage of silence, although without the Mask of Concealment he had been using earlier, his orange and white armor would be plainly visible. However, the stranger appeared to be in a hurry, not minding the pursuer at all.

They were soon near the center of town. Tacker slowed a bit, rising higher so not to lose his quarry in all the twists and turns, and to avoid being seen by anyone below.

The stranger entered a small humble building near the center of town. Tacker landed into a run, panting furiously...

He arrived just in time to see the Mask of Life vanish into thin air. Two Matoran guards and a Toa lay unconscious on the ground, clearly in some sort of pain.

Frantic, Tacker ran around the pedestal. Feeling it. No mask. He saw a shadow outside slip away. Ran, following the stranger through the maze of alleys. He was closer, using his flight power to go fast close to the ground.

The monster. Right there. A small rivulet of plasma formed between his fingers, just so the garish green light might illuminate his nemesis.

He saw armor, flickering and fading, and then felt a burst of pain on his forehead. Something hit, and he fell on his back. He didn’t feel the second impact.

* * *

The world shook Tacker awake. He was staring at the sky, and his world blared red. He twisted his head to his left, seeing a huge contraption bearing down on him, like a giant Rahi on wheels.

Tacker looked down at himself. Chains, blinking red lights embedded in them. Well, you picked the wrong Toa for this trick.

Tacker tried his elemental power. Nothing.

Tacker looked, frantic. He had seconds, maybe. Head jerked left, then right. There were bolts hooking the chains to the ground. They had gaps at the bottom, enough for a link to pass though, perhaps. He grabbed the last link. Inhaled. Exhaled, flattening his chest, and slipped the link through the bottom of the bolt and out. The chain went slack, and Tacker threw the chain off. Rolled free. The rails shook, and his mask sent him up into the air…right in front of two shocked Skakdi faces.

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Chapter 2

Tacker landed on his side, rolling onto his stomach. Waited to feel the pain of being crushed. Instead, he felt the dizzying sensation of backward motion, the wind pouring over his sore back, and slipping and flailing. He was impaled on a diagonal ledge, limbs flailing about for purchase that would not come.

The thing curved erratically, and Tacker received a face full of dust. He sat up, and opened his eyes. The thing was gone. He coughed and spat. He hurt all over.

So it was the Skakdi, wasn’t it? Thought they could throw us all off balance. With that, Tacker stood up, looking down at the rails lying in the sand. That was how his enemies knew that the machine would be here to do him in. The machine ran on these rails.

Tacker felt a chill, and it wasn’t just the cold desert wind. He had seen these before. When he was helping the other Toa build New Atero, they had encountered these. The natives proclaimed them as old technology left by the Great Beings.

Tacker started walking, heading the direction the machine had gone. Whatever the Skakdi had planned, Tacker knew he would be there to stop it.

As he walked, he took the opportunity to think. Turaga Kali had warned him, when he was training him, that he should take advantage of every situation. “There are many ways you can adapt. When in the middle of a firefight, it is your amusement. Life is often boring. When you have time to think, cherish it, for it doesn’t come that often.” So Tacker thought.

He thought about Kali – back in his training days, he was much more serious. Tragedy had brought out an odd quality of optimism that irked Tacker. The old Turaga was going insane.

He thought about the Skakdi, mentally running through all the attacks those people had used against him in the past. He carefully laid out the contingencies of just doing recon and getting backup versus going all out and taking the mask back. He thought of the people he might choose for backup, what powers and experience might be useful. Then he thought of escape plans. The fact that he didn’t know where he was presented a problem.

He scanned his environment. A desert, full of whirling dust. Rocky spires. He could still see – the dust wasn’t that thick. He rounded a spire. There was a fortress, looking like it was near the coast, and he could just make out a dot approaching it. The machine, no doubt. He turned back, looking north. Faintly, he could see a lump on the landscape against a line of green. That would be the Great Spirit’s shell. Tacker smiled grimly at that. He knew the route from the universe to his city like the back of his hand.

Still, it was going to be a long walk back. Tacker ignored this. “One problem at a time.” Kali would always tell him. “Your mind can only do one thing at a time, and if it starts wandering between things, you must separate them and deal with them separately.” And so Tacker wandered a little way east, and drank from a small creek near the edge of a forest. Ate a little fruit from a tree – it wouldn’t pay to go into a battle weaker than he already was. Tacker factored that into his strategic calculations. His armor was pretty banged up from the collision with the machine, and his muscles in his back were bruised.

And then, and only then, did Tacker allow himself to think about his friends. He hoped they were frozen, not dead. He hoped that Kali wouldn’t give up reading while he was gone, and that he would figure out the truth. Go find them. Surely he could enlist some other Toa in the rescue. Protecting Matoran was what they did, after all.

But Tacker kept thinking. He set the pieces out in his mind, assembling what he knew and didn’t know. Asking questions of himself, establishing what he needed to find out. “What you don’t know is always the most important thing,” Kali used to say. “Knowing that you don’t know something for certain is the beginning of figuring things out. Thinking that you know something that you really don’t is a trap, one that many enemies use. First class deception, right there.”

After he would say that, he would often fall into this chain of thought, repeated so often that Tacker called it the Standard Speech. “Tacker, remember, the best weapon you have is between your audio receptors. You have much potential, but you are also the most dangerous. An average Toa gone mad is no problem at all, because they can be stopped by their peers if need be. But you must closely watch yourself at all times, because you cannot afford the slightest of missteps. Those missteps are the difference between a Toa of Plasma and a monster.”

“Remember, Tacker, most Toa have to fight to defeat their enemies. We have to fight to make sure that there are enemies left to fight.”

* * *
Meanwhile, back in the present, Turaga Kali finished his reading for the third time. He also was wondering if Tacker had gotten the wrong vault. While the reading was interesting, there was no mention of what he was looking for. Mostly, a long list of welding temperatures that made sense, and a lot of mathematical calculations that didn’t. A huge amount of scribbling in some ancient Matoran dialect that was unreadable. Journals of various Matoran,no doubt stolen to prevent the tiniest bit of information leaking out, Kali thought.

And various copies of the same diagram, a central sphere with ten rods extending out in all directions. A thin sheet connected all of the rods, making another sphere around the first. After the rods passed through the sphere, they ended in sharpened spikes.

"Tacker," Kali grumbled.

"Why isn't he back yet?"

* * *

Tacker kept walking. He knew he had to stop the probable Skakdi invasion before worrying about his friends. Well, get the Great Spirit’s mask back. Although, now that he thought on it, the chaos after that theft might cover a multitude of actions.

He wondered if dislike for the Skakdi, an old enemy, might be clouding his judgment.

An elemental blast of fire arced down on him from above.

Tacker sidestepped it and continued on. Apparently not.

There was some chatter amongst the defenders up top, but Tacker didn’t think that it was recognition and fear. More like worry. More elemental blasts rained down, but Tacker smoothly dodged all of them. He knew better; many Skakdi had the ability to mimic powers of their opponents, and Tacker’s was one power he knew they would copy and use badly. Although in one case it had worked to Tacker’s advantage, but that was a dangerous close call…Tacker shuddered at the memory. He had to interfere after the plasma one Skakdi was using got out of control and absorb it all to prevent instant death of his enemy. However, it did take the armor off him and scared his friends silly; Tacker never saw that particular group again. Still, Tacker wasn’t eager to repeat the experience.

However, when he got closer, he saw that these particular enemies were…Toa? “Um…hello?” Tacker said. “I’m a Toa of Plasma. Can I help you?”

“Are you here to join the Skakdi?” The blue toa asked, who wore huge wings that looked like they had been damaged, clearly not for flight.

“Um…no?” Tacker ventured, clearly dumbfounded. “Why did you join the Skakdi?”

“Because it was the only sensible thing to do.” A brown Toa nearby put in. “After all, the Skakdi are obviously a superior race of beings worthy of our service.”

Tacker didn’t respond. The brown Toa looked brainwashed, and there wasn’t any point in assuming that he wasn’t. On the other hand, Skakdi, as Tacker well knew, did not possess mind-control abilities. This situation was getting worse and worse all the time.

Tacker’s first instinct was to call for backup. The mind-controlling and brainwashing being could still be here, and Tacker had never really fought someone with those kinds of mental abilities. Well, okay, he had, but not as a Toa…and it wasn’t really a fight. He quickly put that out of his mind – it wasn’t relevant to the situation at hand.

Unfortunately, Tacker’s mind also warned him that it would take days to get back across the sands, even flying, and if the Skakdi regularly used those machines, they could be back before he did. So the wisest course was simple – to steal one of those machines for himself. But first, he must know exactly what was afoot. Was the machine a test? a normal operation? a surprise attack?

He started walking west, toward the area where the machine had entered. More elemental blasts and weapons fired at him from the crenellations, but Tacker either dodged or deflected them with his power. It was clear that the Toa and the other defenders weren’t out to kill him, merely to figure out what he was doing.

As he expected, the door to the machine room was closed and barred, clearly made from solid stone and barred with protosteel. Fire blast – Tacker dodged, and the bolt melted some of the steel into slag. Thus weakened, the latch would have been easy work for Tacker’s powers, but it would take nearly all of his elemental energy to melt a hole in the door big enough for him to easily get through, and he was sure that he could not open it easily without the Mask of Strength. Especially not with these Toa blasting at him.

He kept walking. He remembered that every Skakdi fortress has one weakness in particular. There was not a hurry or need to run – it would only the startle the defenders above. Besides, he knew that bringing the entire fortress down on his head was not a good plan.

The Toa approached the sea, the foaming waters far below immediately setting him at unease, for he had never liked water. Approaching the edge of the walls, he began to pound on the stone, his back to the treacherous cliff, the Skakdi above staring at him in puzzlement. He scowled. This fortress hid its weakness well.

He turned around and moved back to where he had started. The sun was high in the sky, and his head was starting to hurt. Okay, new plan.

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Chapter 3

The five Toa stared down at the desert, incredulous. One minute a Toa in white and orange armor had been calmly been walking along around the perimeter of the fortress. The next, he had simply disappeared.

* * *

Turaga Kali bounced along down the street, his Noble Kadin glowing and fading. A grid search for Toa Tacker would take time, but there was no hurry. Kali was confident that Tacker could take care of himself, and well, if he was dead, Kali would find out.

His search was badly complicated by Toa, Matoran, and various other beings scurrying about in a state of confusion. From what he had overheard so far, the Great Spirit’s mask had been stolen. The Ignika. Apparently that was a big deal, with everyone claiming that the Great Spirit himself had been stolen. Kali found that to be nonsense. After all, how could you steal a Spirit?

But then again, Kali realized, that question was also absurd. It was too easy to steal a spirit, much easier than stealing a mask.

Still, he had to admit that this search was mighty frustrating. So far, he had encountered two Toa in white and orange armor, but none with the mask or face of his friend.

The only friend that he had left. Oh, well, he would find him. Couldn’t have gone far.

* * *

Tacker pressed his back against the very warm fortress wall. Hidden under the battlements, the Toa would soon assume that he was long gone. Patience. He edged quietly to his left, listening to the Toa debate among themselves. One of the Toa insisted that he was still here, hiding under the battlements. Of course, one of the Toa did have an Arthron, after all…Tacker smiled. He would use that to his advantage.

The door to his right opened, revealing a set of three Skakdi unlimbering their weapons to attack. Tacker melted the weapons toward the enemies, causing them to drop them before the extreme heat could get to their hands. He ran toward them, kicking one Skakdi in the chest. He then turned around and swung his fist into another Skakdi’s back. He fell to the ground in pain.

Meanwhile, the third Skakdi used the distraction to grab Tacker around the neck. He grabbed his choking arm, stepped on his foot, and threw him over his shoulder. Then he casually walked through the door as if nothing had ever happened. Walked past the mysterious machine. Made note of the controls for future reference – it appeared to be some sort of lever device.

Kept walking. Saw more of the strange machines.

He opened a door in the fortress wall, aiming toward the main part of the fortress. Calmly advanced past various places, but none had what he was looking for. He did see an armory, however, and raised a hand to melt it to nothing – but stopped himself. He would need his energy later. And he didn’t want to draw attention.

The Skakdi are clouding my judgment. What other errors am I making?

It’s possible that I’m wrong that everything is connected. Perhaps someone else knew about the machines, and put me on the tracks – in the odd event that I didn’t die, they would know exactly where to find me.

Still, the Skakdi are connected to this somehow. I have to find out how. Which means recon. No attack until I have all the facts.

He walked up a stairwell. He didn’t see a stairwell going down anywhere, so he decided to operate on the assumption that this was the bottom floor. Cautiously, he advanced up the outside of the stairwell, opting for advance notice of threats over stealth. Near the top, he spotted a gray Skakdi, who was looking at the white-and-orange Toa with a gaze of interest.

“I’m here to join the Skakdi.” said Tacker without a moment’s hesitation. “Take me to your leader.”

The gray Skakdi looked a bit skeptical. “You wish to serve us?”

Tacker nodded.

“Come with me then. The Golden One will be pleased to see you.”

The Golden One?

Tacker advanced cautiously. The Skakdi didn’t have any weapons, aside from the empty serving tray he was carrying, but Tacker wasn’t fooled. He kept an eye on the Skakdi as he turned to the side of the hall to admit Tacker. Not a good sign. He clocked him up the side of the head, quickly turning to make sure he had crumpled to the floor. “I would also like to remain conscious for our meeting.” Tacker said. He smiled at the comment, allowing a bit of the tension to release and his nerves to rearrange.

His mind split in a war for a second, wondering whether or not his actions were necessary. But if the Skakdi had a mind-control device, best not to take any risks.

He kept walking down the hall, and spent a bit of time grid-searching this floor. From what he could tell, this place was living quarters. Occasionally he had to advance carefully around open doors to avoid being seen.

The third floor, and the fourth after it, proved much the same as the second. Except the fourth floor had more storage areas like the first, and more armories. Tacker gritted his teeth and moved on.

The fifth floor was more opulent than the others. Light shown in from large floor-to-ceiling windows on crimson carpets and plush-looking furniture. Tacker heard a crash from his right. He held up his hands to attack, but he didn’t see anything. He heard voices to his left, so he ran that way.

Only to run straight into a bunch of Skakdi, armed to the teeth and ready for battle. They grabbed him by his arms before he could react, surrounding him and pulling him along. Tacker quickly decided to wait – they were drawing him toward the voices, after all. A door opened in front of him, and he was shoved forward into the room.

* * *
Kali decided to go home. The sun was setting, and he wasn’t making any progress, and the most likely place Tacker would be at would be home now. Unless he wasn’t in the city anymore.

* * *
Tacker saw a large stone room, rectangular. Skakdi sat at a U-shaped table or stood at various places along the walls. The most notable was a golden Skakdi, clutching a black bowl of some silver liquid. His visage reflected in the liquid, making it truly a sight to see. Nice…thought Tacker…for a Skakdi.

“Makuta’s Spiriah’s experiments are impressive,” Tacker said. “He should have skipped ferocious as a quality for a warlord, however, and substituted calm and calculating instead. That usually works better.”

“Agreed. But we don’t think Spriah was looking for warlords, merely minions who would fight for him.” The being set the bowl aside, addressing the group.

“He should have stuck to Rahkshi, then.”

“That would be unfortunate for us, wouldn’t it? We would have no opportunity to rule, Toa, and you would have nothing to fight.”

A black female face popped up on his right, whimpering. She reached her hand up to sit up at the table, and Tacker saw the Mask in it. She threw it away, sending it clattering across the table and onto the floor. Tacker made no move for it. So that’s how they’re mind-controlling people? Instead, he calmly walked over to the being. Twenty Skakdi pointed weapons at him. Tacker ignored that and calmly extended a hand to the being. She smiled at the gesture.

“Your name?” Tacker said.

“Calmahri,” said the being. Tacker saw that this was at a great strain. He did not press further. Instead, he knelt down and picked up the Mask of Life from the ground. Immediately he felt woozy and ill. He set the Mask back down on the table. Okay. Information I have. Mask is here. Many Skakdi guards. Did not see invasion plans yet. Plan: Escape.

He formed a plasma shield around himself, then shot a plasma bolt at the ceiling. “I have an entire city ready to raid this place and take this mask,” Tacker said. “Why did you bother?”

“Because it was rightfully ours! It was stolen from us by some Toa. We're just repaying them in kind.” The being allowed himself a smirk.

What I wouldn’t give for a Matatu, but then I wouldn’t be able to escape. The plasma bolt opened a hole in the ceiling, large enough for the Toa to escape, which he shot out of and into the night. He heard the beast scream, and Tacker didn’t feel good about his situation at all. He landed.

The female was in the center of the room, looking up at Tacker with a pleading expression. She was holding onto the mask, and something on her back was moving. A moment – and Calmahri was rising, struggling to reach the opening Tacker had made.

And the Skakdi were not idle. Tacker saw their weapons take careful aim. A shot. A scream, and she spun downward, hitting the floor.

That’s what he saw with his eyes, anyway. In his mind he saw ten Matoran huddled in the middle of a room, and a single shot that felled them all.

And a single Matoran nearby, a glowing stone held in his hand.

Tacker produced a ring of plasma that burned through the rock ceiling below.

Ceiling collapsed.

Tacker flew down, grabbed Calmahri. Flew up, hanging on to the wriggling beast, and was grazed by a piece of the falling rock. Pain drummed in his ears – he was running low on power, and he forced all of his concentration on his mask. A bolt hit him, probably from some guard not taken out in the attack, and he fell, swerving to miss the edge of the fortress, and skidded to a stop in the dust.


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Chapter 4

Kali, in a rare twist of circumstance, was annoyed. The fact that Kali knew he was annoyed always made him laugh. “Well, of course.” the Turaga murmured to himself, sipping a fruit flavored drink. “People who are meta like that often get annoyed at the fact that they are annoyed. After all, being annoyed is very annoying, is it not? This is why people who think too much about themselves are prone to feeling depressed.” He proceeded to laugh at this. “The solution is not to think about yourself, but to think about the problem at hand. There will always be time to self-reflect later, when you are in a good mood, and your joy will be quintupled.”

“That would be very accurate.”

Kali looked up from the crowded eatery to see a robed being, face covered, advancing toward him.

Kali jumped, almost dropping his drink. “Why thank you for your kind words. It’s a rarity these days. A pathetic shame. But my, my – you don’t look like you're from around here.”

“Have you seen any purple translucent glass?”

“Have you seen an orange-and-white Toa with a Kadin?”

The black robed being closed a gray and black hand around Kali’s throat. “That was a rhetorical question, weakling.”

“My apologies, oh great one. I did not mean to offend.”

“Please come outside with me.” The normally quiet diner was starting at the interruption of a Turaga being nearly strangled by a Skrall sister. She dragged him out the door.

“We are missing a lot of things, Turaga.” snarled the Skrall. “My master is missing a fortune and a future. I am missing a daughter. And you are missing a friend. Mind if we work together?

Kali didn’t answer. I suppose that’s another rhetorical question.

* * *
Trinuma slipped into a diner for a meal. He had been walking all day, and was exhausted. The worst part was, he didn’t know exactly who he was looking for, or even if his hunch had been right. It could be just some random Plasma Toa who wanted a peek at the records…but those records…it was too much to be just a coincidence. He breathed nervously. If Tobduk found out he was doing this…

The left wall of the diner exploded. He found himself down on the floor, weakening…but he didn't see Tobduk anywhere...

* * *

Somewhere off in the distance, Kali heard Matoran screams. The grip on his arm tightened. “That is not your concern.” said the Skrall.

* * *
Tacker awoke in a cell.

Well, at least, he had to assume it was a cell. It was exactly as he imagined a prison cell would look like, complete with the bars and the stone door. He had many an occasion to imagine one. It was the fate he used to dread, the nightmares that used to keep him up at night. The interrogations. The torture. “I will not betray my friends!” he would shout. “I will obey! I will do anything, just leave them alone!”

And then – well, he no longer had to fear that. No prison would ever contain him. He calmed down. He hadn’t even realized he was anxious, but now he felt the familiar sensation of emotional tension easing, allowing him to focus. Elemental Power.


He felt the rising tide of panic coming up again. No, no relax – you must be low on energy. Rest. But Tacker knew better – this wasn’t the feeling of reaching into himself and bringing nothing forth, even though it had been years since Tacker had done so. It felt as if someone had placed an ice panel between himself and his powers, cutting them off from his mental reach.

He stood up, shaking. TheOrderfoundmeandI’mgoingtobetrappedhereforeversonobodywilleverknowandtheSkakdiwillkillme…Somewhere in the distance Tacker heard loud screams. Nonono…Tacker ran to the bars, shook them. “Please, mercy.” Tacker begged.

It was then he realized that he was the one screaming. He then screamed again, just to let all the emotions, the fear, the anger, the rage out. After all, he had already ruined his reputation as the calm analytic thinker, acting much like a beast in a cage. To his surprise and great relief, the door opened. A golden face looked from behind the bars, which he unlocked. He simply held out his hand to the Toa.

Tacker took it.

* * *

Trinuma stumbled to his feet. The diner was a disaster area, chairs and tables in toothpicks along the ground. Matoran and Agori were stumbling to their feet, but he noticed that the Matoran looked worse for wear. Some had dead heartlights. Even Trinuma, who felt no special affection for Matoran and had made some sacrifices as part of his job, didn’t particularly like this. Whoever this new villain was, he would be brought to justice.

Worse, Trinuma noted that both walls of the diner had been superheated, causing the wood to buckle and explode. Whoever did this had access to the power of Plasma.

But Trinuma had to wonder. If this particular Toa was after him, why didn’t he just kill him as he lie there helpless? Why kill innocent Matoran?

Maybe I was wrong after all. He walked off to tell Tobduk about the new threat, wondering, in spite of himself, what could cause a Plasma Toa to go mad.

* * *

“This way,” the Sister said, moving him past a corner and onto a road out of the city.

Kali followed, eagerly slapping the sister on the shoulder. “Great, haven’t had such happy fun since my Toa days.” A second later, Kali felt like his mind was exploding with pain. “Ow, ow.” The pain dissipated.

“Shut up.”

Kali ignored her. “Mind telling us where we are going? I anticipate the destination better if I can visualize it.”

The Sister just picked up the Turaga by the back of his head again. “You know why I’m taking you with me, Turaga? Because I am doing this as a favor for you. I am giving you a chance that I didn’t have, because I was foolish and stupid and made all the wrong choices. And now I’m paying for every last one of them.”

She sighed. “I’m no good with threats, but I already have what I need from you. I could tear your mind apart and leave you right now, as good as dead.” She stared right into the Turaga’s eyes. “Annoy me at your own risk.”

Kali stared right back. “I’ve been ‘dead’ – or shall we say ‘undead’? – for the past 1,000 years. You’re going to have to do better than that.”

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Chapter 5

Tacker watched as he was led past Order of Mata Nui guards, weapons raised. Weapons fired, but they bounced off, the Golden Being taking every single one of the shots, deflecting them away. Part of his mind wondered why the Golden One was helping him, but he assumed that the Skakdi were mad at that Order for some reason. Which doesn’t make any sense at all.

The Golden Being’s power ripped out, energy surrounding Tacker. Suddenly, Tacker felt stronger. Plasma ripped out, destroying all of his enemies’ weapons. Tacker shoved the prison guards into his cell and shoved the door shut. Let them suffer his worst fear. For a while, at least.

The two walked up to the sky. He let the Golden being carry him away, back to his fortress. After all, he had helped Tacker, so it would only fit that he would do something for him, right? After all, this being wasn’t an enemy, was he? He had just rescued him.

The two sat down, and two Skakdi poured fruit drinks for them. “I want to thank you kindly for your help.” Tacker said, still a bit rattled. No, I'm not really rattled. I'm faking it to make me think his manipulation worked, so he will trust me.

“Think nothing of it.” said the Golden Being. “The least I can do for such a being like yourself. You need your rest.”

“My friends,” said Tacker. “They need help.”

“You need to think clearly. Your friends are frozen, Tacker, and you are still moving. You need to be able to think in order to free them. There will be time to free them later, after you get some rest.”

Tacker hesitated. But didn’t this being save him? Wasn’t he just trying to help? Would going along help me figure out what's going on?

“Will you help me free them as well?”

“Of course I will, Toa Tacker.” The Golden Being smiled, smoothly guiding Tacker to some sleeping quarters. “Rest up, Toa. Tomorrow we go and rescue your friends.”

“Do me a favor.” Tacker grumbled, lying down.


“Leave the door open.”

* * *

Kali and the Skrall traipsed through a quiet vehicle bay. “Do you have a name?” Kali said.

“They used to call me Kinshasa.”

“Why this route?”

“It’s faster.”

“Where are we going?”

“What do you think?”

Kali glared at Kinshasa.

“You don’t have to answer that question. I already know the answer.” The Skrall grabbed a smaller flying vehicle and powered it up. “Telepathy. Useful power to have. Now get on.”

* * *
Trinuma ran, Tobduk and Krakua fast on his heels. Normally he would have had trouble keeping up with those two, but he really wanted to get to the bottom of this mystery.

The attacker had doubled back, and appeared to have increased his speed. He was looking for something, and it appeared that he was in a mad rush to get it. “Stop!” Krakua shouted at him, his shout amplified by his sonics power.

Trinuma wasn’t counting on that. He shot a volley from the Nynrah ghost blaster on his back, only to find that the stranger was completely organic. No mechanical parts to control. But his weapon was purely mechanical. Trinuma shut it down. The stranger hissed in raw fury, throwing his weapon aside and lunging at the Toa. Krakua followed up with a sonic blast that forced the stranger to his knees. Tobduk grabbed him, and the three marched back to base, Trinuma carrying the weapon. He noted that it was a cylinder, with two glowing circles of red light on the side, and a bunch of red glowing nozzles at the other end.

“Hold.” said Krakua. He pulled off the stranger’s hood. What followed was a horrendously revolting sight – a green, entirely organic face, with a slimelike strip connecting the center of his face. His eyes were deep black, and small black bugs crawled over his face, eating the strip. His face cleared, and he said something unintelligible. Krakua shrugged. “Get me a Rau.”

Trinuma went immediately. Normally he would just tell Krakua to do it himself, but bringing the mask might get him a translation of what was said.

Then he decided on a better option. He got two Rau. Took off his Mask of Charisma and slapped one on. Gave the other one to Krakua. “Speak.” he said.

It took a couple moments to get used to controlling the mask, but finally the hissing became something understandable.

“Where are my Amethyst sticks?”

“I don’t know. What is Amethyst?” Krakua said.

“It’s shiny and purple and sticks.”

“I don’t know.” said Trinuma. He reminded himself that he was not wearing his usual mask, and that he could not use it to conceal the truth from the stranger. “Who are you? Where are you from?”

“Alexis,” said the being. “The planet Alexis. The collapsing planet.”

Trinuma shook his head. He truly had never heard of that planet. But I saw the purple sticks. I saw the Amethyst.

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Chapter 6

Kali and Kinshasa snuck up to the fortress. Well, Kali assumed that they snuck in, seeing as none of the guards saw them.

But as Kali looked, some of the guards – were Toa! “It’s not what you think,” The Skrall whispered. “I’ll explain later.”

Kali didn’t like this at all. What was he getting into? They approached the vault door in the side of the wall, and Kinshasa pulled him out of view. “Two options. You can use that Kadin of yours, and brave those guards, or you can wait for me to open the door.”

“There’s always a third option,” said Kali. “But I hold that in reserve. Give the door a try.”

A latch slid out of place, and the door started opening, slowly. Kali saw her expression of concentration, and didn’t disturb her. Minutes passed. Finally the door opened wide enough for the two to slip through. Seeing the Sister’s expression, Kali gently pushed her against the wall and let her rest. Instead of resting, she closed the door behind them. Trap! Trap! Kali’s instincts screamed.

Then she rested, calmly settling against the wall. The dim light concealed them – hopefully they hadn’t been seen. “Kneel down,” Kali whispered. “They’ll see us if we’re not careful.”

She looked at him. “Don’t you have powers?”

“Yes, I do,” Kali said. “I’m using them now – to advise and give counsel. It’s not one of the best powers in the universe, but it’s one I’m proud to use.”

The Skrall Sister sighed, and followed the Turaga’s advice. They were now face-to-face with each other.

“Why are you doing this?” Kali said. “Tell me the answer for real. I will keep your secret.”

“It’s none of your business, pathetic weakling. And you have an open mouth. You will open it to the ends of the universe.”

“So? If I’m a pathetic weakling, then you can kill me when you’re done.”

“I will never kill you. That’s what my enemies did, and I made a vow never to kill.”


“Because it hurts. It hurts the person who does it, the person who dies, all the people who that person knew – every time, behind every person is ten shadows of other people who helped, who they helped, who they just met but wanted to know better…I hear all of them.”

“Careful,” Kali warned. “Your voice is getting louder.”

She lowered her voice. “Telepathy is a curse, you fool. You know when you’ve hurt someone, when you’ve condemned them to death because of a choice you made, and you hear their voice in your thoughts. A ordinary day. Pain. Joy. It’s sort of a comfort, really, because you can pretend that you didn’t make the choice, that the results won’t happen, and you remember… And then you just can’t be there when the voice ends. It just dies. One minute, you hear the voice in your mind, and the next, it’s gone forever. Never to return.”

She exhaled heavily. “But it’s a comfort, in a way. You can be with the person, even when you can’t. Not knowing is the worst pain in the universe. You think I would inflict that pain on another, my pain, in addition to the agony of not knowing? You are a fool, Turaga Kali.”

“Indeed, I am an old fool,” said Kali. “But that doesn’t change the situation. Maybe if you told the pain to someone else, it would be easier.”

She just shook her head. “Talk won’t find your friend.” She stood up, walking past the machines in the direction of the entrance to the fortress.

The Skrall Sister opened the door, cautiously hiding behind it for a second. Kali delayed on the other side of the door. Two Skakdi guards. Kinshasa waved her hand, and the two dropped like stones. Magma bursts, lasers, and various ammunition spewed though the door at the unseen attackers. That is, until it hit a telekinetic force that sent the whole volley back.

“Stop it!” Kali hissed. “You think we can take down the whole fortress ourselves? You just blew our cover, you bumbling-“

His insult was cut off by a laser that shot past his face. “Move,” Kinshasa hissed in his ear, and the two ran down the corridor and up a flight of stairs. Kali had to use his mask to keep up. Whenever they encountered guards, Kinshasa either stunned them before they could attack or redirected their attacks back at them. Five floors up, and they burst into a corridor lined with comfy furniture and a right wall made of glass. Kinshasa paused, and Kali could see that she was taking a moment to recollect herself.

“This way,” she said. The two walked, wary of more guards, but there didn’t seem to be any. “Trap,” Kali said. To his surprise, she nodded. “Exactly. We must be careful how we spring it.”

She opened the door to a big stone room, only to see the stars. Rubble littered the floor, the remnants of what Kali presumed to be the ceiling. Kinshasa cursed. But Kali noted the patterns of the burns on the floor and the heat-twisted stone. Plasma.

“Tacker was here,” Kali mused. He smiled broadly, slapping Kinshasa on the back. He then turned and ran down the hallway, shouting “Tacker! Tacker! It’s Kali! I’m here! Come out, come out, wherever you are!”

A couple seconds later, his mind exploded in pain and he fell to the ground unconscious.

* * *
Trinuma was in full-on interrogation mode now. So far, someone – Trinuma was pretty sure it was from the Matoran Universe – had made a purchase offer for some of his prisoner's amethyst support beams. Unfortunately, his people desperately needed those beams to repair a broken section of their planet where his people grew food. So whoever it was – and the description did sound familiar to Trinuma – stole the beams before he could get off-planet with them. He had managed to track the being to the sea, where he saw something off – an island, crawling with mechanical things, but no amethyst.

Having no choice, he decided that he would have to go home and tell his people about what happened, but he noticed something as he left – a huge robot, leaving his planet. Angry, he tracked it back to Spherus Magna. However, his spacecraft was low on fuel, and he had no way to defeat the robot, so he went home, to his people’s scorn and shame. They didn’t even believe his story.

With nothing better to do, he built a new spacecraft and came back. Along the way, he met some people who agreed to help him on his quest, as long as he did something for them. There was something on that planet that needed removed, they said. Some tech gone haywire that they wanted cleaned up.

“They gave me those weapons, and told me that they knew for certain that the amethyst was here.”

“Why can’t you just find more?” Trinuma said.

“Because our planet is the only source of the mineral. We mined it, and sold it by the shipload. So much that our planet was destabilizing and collapsing in on itself. We were rich; we didn’t think of the consequences until it was too late. Please, you have to believe me. I just want my people’s respect back. Now I am a villain in their eyes. I was the dealer – always advocating more mining even when it was clear. I thought the pillars would work. What can I say? I thought the pillars would work.”

“We didn’t know,” said Trinuma.

“Excuse me?” the stranger demanded.

“It was the will of Mata Nui.”

“Look, I don’t care about this Mata Nui business. Where’s the amethyst?”

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  • 2 months later...

Chapter 7

Tacker woke up. He was alone. The door was open.

He stood, looking over himself. A gray Skakdi looked through the door. “Would you like some food, Toa?”

“Sure,” Tacker said, slightly baffled. Skakdi getting food for him? Helping him find his friends? Saving him from the Order?

The Order is the real enemy. The Skakdi are just pawns. Makuta-Spiriah brutalized pawns, but pawns nonetheless.

Or this could be some elaborate scheme. A trap.

Tacker shook his head. He still didn’t know what was going on here. He needed to find out.

He walked out of the room, straight into the path of the incoming server. Holding his hands over the platter of food, Tacker absorbed the energy into his system. The gray Skakdi glared at Tacker in disgust. “You’re supposed to eat sitting-“ Tacker hauled off and punched him in the face, then continued up the hall.

I’m leaning toward the Order vs. Skakdi theory. That’s why they rescued me, and took the Mask of Life.

Of course, if this is a trap, that would be exactly what they would expect me to think.

He settled in on one of the couches to await the Golden Being. He now wished that he had told the other Skakdi to fetch him instead of punching him out. Oh well. Tacker could be patient. He tried to think of how he should respond when he arrived. If they were going to save his friends, Tacker would play along until he saw the obvious trap. It wasn’t like Skakdi to play mind games.

But this one may not be like the others, his mind warned him. Tacker shrugged.

“Tacker,” said the Golden Being. “Come with us.”

* * *
Kali awoke in a cell.

He rolled over and went back to sleep.
* * *
Tacker and the Golden Being arrived at the vehicle bay. The Golden Being indicated one, and the two scrambled aboard, the latter checking controls and otherwise powering the thing up. Tacker carefully made note of the sequence for later use.

Tacker also noted that this vehicle was a single car, whereas the other ones he had seen were multiple cars hooked together. He shivered at the thought of all the cars taking troops to invade "New Atero", the name the natives had for the makeshift encampment outside the robot…

But there were no plans for an invasion…He sighed. He was very used to the idea of the Skakdi as an invading force. A deadly enemy. His emotions were scrambled. Which was exactly where a deadly enemy would want them.

Tacker considered the odd arrangement of things. The fortress on the coastline. The strange vehicles. No invasion plans. Could it be possible that they just wanted peace, the vehicles were just for trade, and the weapons just for defense?

Possible. But not likely. Tacker knew Skakdi. They were by nature brutal and hungered for combat. When they didn’t have anyone else to fight, they fought among themselves.

The vehicle stopped. They were near the outskirts of the encampment. For a moment, Tacker considered running, escaping to home and back to Kali. But he owed this being a debt.

And I still don’t know what’s really going on here!

“Tacker, I want you to think about this. If you were a member of the Order, where would you put these Matoran where you didn’t want anyone else to find them?”

Tacker thought. His first thought was that the Matoran would be taken to a remote southern island where no one else could find them, but him and Kali had already checked there. Besides, the Order wouldn’t take those Matoran away, evading certain death, only for them to die somewhere else.

And they knew that they weren’t in the robot proper, otherwise some Matoran would notice a group of Su-Matoran appearing out of nowhere. And since it was a secret project…

“Daxia,” said Tacker. “They are on Daxia. Underground – me and Kali checked everywhere aboveground, but we had to leave before we were discovered. At least, that’s most likely.”

The Golden Being nodded.

“If you’re willing, I have a vehicle that can take us there,” Tacker said. “Ready to go?”

The Golden Being nodded again.

“Or I can just go. Whatever you like.”

“We'll help.”

Tacker, annoyed, shoved open the door and walked to his vehicle. It was a couple blocks, mazing though alleys near the edge of town. He didn’t see anybody. He poked his head in the door of the hut. “Kali?”

No answer. Kali was gone. Thankfully, he didn’t see any tablets. He hoped that Kali had hidden them, and that they weren’t stolen. Probably out looking for me. I hope he didn’t blow our cover or otherwise attract the attention of the Order.

Of course, relying on an insane Turaga - okay, only possibly insane, about 70% - not to do something crazy is not prudent. Therefore, I will assume that the tablets are stolen, my cover is blown, and Kali is in trouble or dead.

I will also hold the other possibilities in reserve just in case…Tacker tracked his eyes over to his side of the room, and looked under the bed. Pulled out a couple mechanical devices – they would need those. His Mask of Concealment came out with them, and Tacker remembered something. Reached into the very back of the mess, and pulled out a very old Mask. Slapped it on his face. He felt the familiarity of the Akaku taking over his senses, and he quickly scanned the room. Saw the tablets, hidden. Smiled in relief. At least the old Turaga did something right. But he didn’t have time to rejoice, so he took the mask off. Tossed one of the devices to the Golden Skakdi standing at the door. Pushed past him. “Come on, we’ll need that.” Walked over to his vehicle. Pulled a lever. Entered a bunch of authorization passcodes. The Golden Being climbed in; he had to duck to fit. Tacker closed the door, and adjusted some settings.

Soon they were soaring around, heading for the entrance to the robot. They passed through an eye socket, swerved through a smashed open sea gate, only to face a panel of a steaming, glittery substance.

Tacker threw a switch, and a pair of drills appeared on the hull. “Ice,” said Tacker bitterly. Tacker let the drills impact the ice, heading toward Daxia – at least, what he hoped was Daxia. The way was slow, and occasionally Tacker used his powers to assist his vehicle’s work, and to refuel it. Occasionally, the vehicle would stop and heat up the shattered ice, turning it directly to steam, then continued on.

Tacker tried to imagine his arrival at Daxia. Would the Matoran run to greet him, safe under the ground? He pictured Kobalu, an old friend, running to greet him, his other friends surrounding and cheering his name. They would tell him where their other friends were imprisoned, if they weren’t there already…

No, that was too much to hope for. They would be frozen, and Tacker would have to thaw them one by one. Tacker pictured himself doing that. He almost wished he had brought a Toa of Fire along. No, secrecy is important. The Order.

Wait a minute, isn’t that ironic. By keeping his existence a secret and doing this by himself, he was actually helping his enemy, making it easier for them to make him disappear. He sighed. And by this time, they would know someone like him was out there. Tacker sighed. I just didn’t want to give these Toa here another burden. After all, it was me who failed. And I will make it right. I just have to do this right.

Minutes passed, then an hour. Tacker flickered though the gauges trying to amuse himself, but to no avail. Shouldn’t I be talking to the Skakdi, trying to get information? After all, he was very much at the Toa’s mercy right now. “Why are you helping me?” Tacker asked.

“You’re smart, Tacker. You could do a lot of things. You and us.”

Tacker said nothing.

“We want you on our side. You’re valuable.”

“Against what?”

“Nothing. We're not fighting a war, Tacker. Everything we want, we have. Everything my people want, they have. But power like that – people want that power. We expect to have to defend it. After all, when we were in want of power, people fought us to hold it. We had to confront our worst fears, align with a sworn enemy, be transformed into something more hideous and awful in order to be here. We seek amusement.”

Tacker said nothing. This being thinks it’s funny to break me out of jail? To go hunting Su-Matoran in the middle of the ice?

No, he’s trying to rattle me. Or rattle the Order. For fun. It’s most likely that he’s going for both.

Tacker shivered, even though the ship’s systems were keeping him warm.

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Chapter 8

Kali awoke in a cell, to the chorus of much banging and stomping about. Someone ran past his cell carrying a torch, and Kali could hear screams of various sorts from his left, amid much thumping and yelling.

Well, it has been awhile since this has happened, Kali reflected. Actually, this beats peace and quiet any day of the week. That usually means that everyone’s dead. Today we have life! Activity! Action! Now all we need is a few explosions, and the day will be complete!

Dead silence.

Then all the activity started up again. Kali sighed. No explosions. What a disappointment. I was looking for explosions, like the last time Tacker rescued me. Oh, well, looks like these captors are of the lame and boring variety. He smiled and touched his badge of office – an old, battered wrench – to the door lock, and summoned a bit of plasma to melt the bolt out. The cell door swung toward him and Kali jumped out of the way as it hit an adjoining wall with a loud bang.

Awesome! More entertainment! I hope they bring the explosions this time. He eagerly hopped down the hall, only to see Kinshasa fighting a whole group of Skakdi. Well, can’t go that way. Kali ran the other way down the hall, and up a flight of stairs. Pushed through a trapdoor, struggling the whole way, and using his flight powers to help. Stood up.

Thought for a second. Well, might as well help Kinshasa. And I know just the trick. Just the trick.

* * *

“Sir, I have a report.” A small green Matoran walked up to Trinuma.

“I’m busy,” Trinuma muttered. He was tinkering with the being’s weapon, trying to figure out the power source. It was clearly turned off, but it was also clearly dangerous.

“I saw an airship, heading for the robot!” the green Matoran exclaimed. “It was piloted by a orange and white Toa and had a Golden Skakdi in it! I swear by Mata Nui!”

Trinuma looked up from his work. “What did you say?”

* * *
“Seriously, I have no idea who they are, I swear,” the alien stranger said. “The person from your world, I think he might have been orange and white, but he was smaller. Not a Toa. The golden one – no clue.”

Trinuma sighed. “I’m going after them.”

“You won’t get far,” the Le-Matoran put in. “The interior of the robot is iced up. I saw it.”

Trinuma glared. “He’s a Toa of Plasma.”

The alien stranger glared at Trinuma. “I’m not a Toa of Plasma, but if you take me along, I can find him.”

* * *

Tacker stopped. Concentrated. Blasted the ice below him to steam. Ocean. It refroze before Tacker could think.

Furious, Tacker blasted the ice above him to steam. Solid protodermis.

Started up again. Kept going. Burst into a chamber. The top of this dome had been cut, a small hole, letting in light.

Below him was the island of Daxia.

Tacker landed. The island was covered in thick ice, but thanks to the window in the sky, the air itself hadn’t froze yet. Thank Mata Nui and the Great Beings.

He clapped a device over his right leg and knee, and wound it up across his chest and right arm,where it ended in a breathing apparatus. The Golden being did the same as best he could, though it was clear that the latter device was made for someone smaller. Tacker flicked a switch, and the heating device booted up. “Stay here.” Tacker said. Then he got out of the vehicle.

His feet hit the ice. Every step was painful. Every movement was painful. Low on energy…Tacker knew that he should go back to the vehicle and recharge. And he would, after he found his friends…got to find them. Must. He entered the fortress, ice crunching under his feet. Icicles hung from the hallway, cueing up memories unbidden.

Sharpened swords, pointed at me…hanging from the ceiling, clattering. He sighed. That was after his friends were taken. He broke off an icicle and threw it on the ground, ignoring the pain in his fingers.

Kicked in a door, sending shards of ice below. Heard screams. Trudging footsteps behind him, trying to run through packed snow and stumbling on slippery ice.

Kadin. Down.

Landed. Saw three Matoran, huddling around a weakening collection of air and heat stones. “Toa,” said one. Another ran over. “Tacker! I thought you were dead!” He hugged him. That must be Debalu.

“Tacker, I can’t do this. The guy who’s been visiting us and the purple stuff – it’s all wrong.”

“What can’t you do? He’s given us some instructions, all you have to do is follow them. I know you – you’re really good at following directions.”

“Tacker, that isn’t what I meant. Kali gave this to me. Told me it was our only hope. But I can’t do it.”

Tacker looked at the rock, glowing with the power. “It’s supposed to make you a Toa, but the Suva rejected me. You take it – you would make a better Toa than me, anyway.”

Tacker shook his head. “I’m just an ordinary repair Matoran, and not a very good one.”

“Just take it for me, alright? That Trinuma guy – he scares me, and I feel like he’s going to tear this hut apart any day now.”

Tacker smiled, and took the stone from him. “I’ll…do my best to protect it for you.”

His small reverie ended. “Come on friend, let’s get you out of here. I’m sure that you have a story to tell.”

But looking around, Tacker feared that his story would have to wait. There were about ten more Matoran, frozen, in this vast underground room. “There’s no one else here.” Debalu said. “Just the ten of us.”

“Where is everyone else?”

“Down below. With the purple sphere. They’re probably frozen now.”

Tacker sighed. Time was running out, and this Matoran wasn’t making any sense. He carefully thawed the remaining Matoran, and instructed them to carry the air and heatstones. Using the last reserves of his elemental energy, he warmed the Matoran using his powers, and carefully led them up the stairs.

But it was too much. Tacker could feel his own energy fading. I shouldn’t have used so much after the first blast. Reckless, implusive…A Matoran froze on the bottom of the stairs. Another froze midway up, and only quick action by Tacker kept him from falling to the bottom and his death. He carefully set him down.

He had no energy left. He probably couldn’t get back to the ship himself, let alone his Matoran friends. “I’m sorry.” he said as his friends froze yet again. He emerged from the stairs. I will come back and free you, I promise! My faultmyfaultmyfault. Next time, I will have a better plan.

Something hit him, and he felt himself walking, but not at his command. A red mask loomed over him, and Tacker felt his spirits involuntarily lift. Good to see you…no wait. He snarled at his enemy, mostly to try to stop the familiar power from taking hold. “Trinuma. How long has it been since you captured half of my village and murdered the other half?”

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Chapter 9

Trinuma grinned as he forced the Toa to walk past him. Then he let go of his power to control mechanical parts at will and charged forward to the trapdoor, and looked down at the frozen Matoran. He pulled the mechanical device out of his cloak. Soon the Matoran would be no more, and he would be back to a secure future, where the occasional alien would be his worst trouble.

And then something slammed into him from the side. His shot flew wide, hitting a section of the fortress wall. He hit a frozen fortress wall, which shattered. An orange and white Toa was on top of him, something burning him in the intense cold. Trinuma yelled in pain and threw the Toa off. Stumbled to his feet, howling in rage, and turned back to the fortress.

Something slammed into him again. He fell forward, sliding down the icey hallway, trying really hard to stop.

Crash. Blackness.

* * *
Kali happily danced along, filling his basket with fruit. He also stopped to sample a few. Mmm…delicious. A few more, and the Skakdi cook would be pleased indeed. After all, tasty fruit was just the thing to pick up a really bad day.

Especially these, Kali thought, picking some orange-colored Thornax, which he had seen a couple Glatorian use to blow up a wall. What’s a party without some fireworks?

Moving along, Kali made his way back to the fortress, and stomped up to the vehicle door. Thought about asking the good Toa to open the door – after all, he was loyal to the Golden Being, right?

Nah, Kali thought, this method is so much more fun. He lined up a row of the bright orange fruit in front of the door, and tossed a couple inside for good measure.

“What’s he doing? Is he crazy?”

“Crazy old Turaga.”


The door exploded, knocking Kali backward and reducing the door to a pile of rocklike shards. Kali shook his head, stumbling to his feet. Only to see half a dozen weapons pointed his way. “Well, that was fun.”

Nothing changed. Kali picked up his fruit basket. “Put that down now,” a brutish white Skakdi ordered.

“Relax, this it just a basket of fruit. I had nothing to do with this,” Kali insisted. He kept walking toward the fortress. A warning shot sailed over his head. “And you, good sir, would not kill an innocent Turaga in cold blood, would you.” Another shot missed him. Kali kept walking. “But of course you would do that. You’re brutish, hard, cold-“ A shot hit Kali’s arm, causing him to drop the fruit basket. He gulped in pain, and turned to grab it with his other hand. Grabbed it. Stumbled over rock. The pain was making him dizzy. Walked, stumbling through the inner door, his left arm hanging limp at his side. Thought for a long moment, then stumbled back to the prison area. Ate fruit with his good arm. Felt a little better.

He walked forward. Dizzy, motion blurred. Shouts, noises of battle. Screams of pain. Groans. Kali walked.

Felt the basket tip from his hands. Hit the floor.

The world turned into a roar, and went black.

* * *
Tacker found himself on his ship. The Golden Being was piloting it, and Tacker wanted to tell him that he shouldn’t, but he was too weak.

He was sure that he flew back here after defeating Trinuma. “We have to get back…quickly.”

* * *

Some time later, Tacker awoke in the hut. He felt better. “My friends.” Tacker said. “How long have I been out? Trinuma is still there. With the Matoran.” Tacker sat up, only to collapse again.

“They are safe,” The Golden Being reassured him.

“Did you go back? Tell me, what happened to Trinuma?”

“He’s frozen.”

And then Tacker remembered. Trinuma had been holding the launcher when he first attacked him. That must have been keeping him warm – but then he threw Tacker off of him. With two hands.

The launcher and Trinuma were separated.

The Golden Being chided him. “Rest.”

* * *
Kali awoke in bed. A black beast eagerly smiled and squealed with delight, darting around a Skrall sister to get a better look. Kinshasa glared at him, with a face that would wither Thornax. “Don’t ever do that again.”

Kali shrugged, giving the black creature a hug, but never taking his eyes from Kinshasa. “What can I say? Explosions are the answer.”

Kinshasa glared. Kali got up, still smiling. “This fortress has been nice, but I think I would prefer a change of pace. And where’s Tacker? I miss him. Obviously not here, or you would have found him by now. Any more lucky guesses?”

Kinshasa said nothing.

“Oh, and there’s a fancy mask here that some people like me want. Care to get that while we’re here?”


Kali tapped Kinshasa’s knee. She jumped backward, and the quantity of annoyance on her face quadrupled.

“I guess not,” Kali said. “Well, it’s been a pleasure working with you, Sister Kinshasa.” He walked past her, the beast following him happily.

“Calmahri! Get back here!”

The beast whimpered, and reluctantly turned back to its master. Kali sighed. His quest to find Tacker hadn’t exactly ended well. He had made zero progress. It appeared that that Kinshasa had misled him for her own purposes. After all, he was just a crazy old Turaga anyway.

He wasn’t going anywhere. His feet were moving, but he wasn’t going anywhere. He looked down, and spun his legs in the air. Nothing happened. He turned to look back. Calmahri’s face glowed with determination, and Kinshasa growled angrily and kicked her against the wall.

“That’s enough!” Kali shouted. “Don’t hurt her!” He ran down the hallway, using his mask to help, and put himself between the two warring parties. In his mind, he saw a Skakdi, kicking at a straggling Matoran.

For some reason, he remembered his injury just then, and was surprised that he could use his left arm. Kinshasa smiled. “I popped it back in.”

“Thanks, I guess.”

“You better be. I had to prevent the Skakdi you half obliterated from killing you.”

“I didn’t know.”

“Well, now you do. What is with you?”


“You never show anyone any respect. Nothing affects you. You don’t care about anything.”

Kali laughed. “No, the things that I care about, I help in what little ways I can, and I know that isn’t much, so I laugh.”

“You don’t care about yourself.”

“Why should I? I’m just another crazy Turaga.”

“Turaga. Not. Crazy.” said Calmahri. Her eyes furrowed, trying to express something. “Kali. Good. Odd. Odd in a good…way.”

Kinshasa lifted her hand to strike, but Kali moved in front of her. “That’s enough. She’s fine.”

“Silly.” said Calmahri. “Good. Inside.”

“I just don’t see much point in being sad. It doesn’t help. I was sad for a long time. Nothing changed. I finally decided that there was no fixing what had happened, that I couldn’t have changed it when it happened, and there was no changing it now. So I decided to be happy again, and to fix the things I could. And the things that happened – trust me, I’ve seen worse happen, and been powerless to stop it.”

“You sound just like him,” Kinshasa snapped.


Kinshasa broke off, flustered. “A stupid Tesarean that ended up dead. That’s all you need to know.”

“You liked him,” Kali said. “And you hate people like him now, because he’s dead. No, because he humiliated you, and then died.”

“Shut up.”

“Exactly. And you couldn’t save him. In fact, you telepathically communicated with him for years before the end, knowing that it was coming, but you couldn’t stop it. You valued something more than him, and it hurts.-“

Kinshasa grabbed him, lifting him off the floor, and clapped her hand over his mouth.

Kali channeled a bit of plasma energy at her hand. It was all he could do but she let go in pain.

Something reared up and slammed into them both, breaking Kinshasa’s grip. Fortunately, whatever it was didn’t have too much force, and the two tumbled to the floor in a heap. He saw Calmahri stand over him, panting.

Kali laughed, mostly out of shock. He got to his feet, still laughing. “Um, thanks.” he said to Calmahri. “But you need to work on the landings.” He saw her smile weakly.

“Do you guys need anything?” A gray Skakdi said, looking in from an adjacent hallway.

Kinshasa glared. “No.”

“Okay, okay, just checking in and stuff.” the gray Skakdi said. “Jeez, I get no respect around here.”

“We really need to take this outside.” Kali said, gesturing to the two…persons of interest…behind him.

Calmahri shook her head and took Kali’s hand, tugging him along. “Okay, lead the way.”

Calmahri nodded and started running. Kali did his best to keep up, but despite the use of his mask he was falling behind. Calmahri waited for him at the corner, slumping down to all fours and keeping Kali’s pace.

What have I done to earn this being’s loyalty? Kali thought.

“Throw fruit. You throw fruit. Door open.”

Kali patted her to make her stop. “I get it.”


“I’m confused.”

“You not…understand.”


Calmahri looked baffled. Then her mind seemed to slip, or switch. “Name? Yours?”

“Kali. Turaga Kali.”

Silence. They kept moving.

It wasn’t long before they encountered a vault door. Above it was an ordinary glass paneled window. Kali had to admire the design. The open window made it appear from the outside that it was just another ordinary hallway. It would take a true genius to realize that the vault was under the window on this side of the hall. Kali made a mental note to himself for all future fortress invasions.

Calmahri tapped he hand on the vault door. “Open.”

I was afraid you would say that. Kali examined the lock.

“Hurry,” Calmahri said, gesturing urgently.

It appeared to be a simple strength lock. Kali pulled down on a metal wheel, but he couldn’t budge it. “Help,” Kali pleaded. Calmahri grabbed the wheel, and struggled against it, but it would not move.

Suddenly Kali felt himself flying backwards, away from the vault. He saw Calmahri move along with him. Then they jerked to a stop and hovered in the air.

“Please do not disrupt our arrangement,” a voice said.


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Chapter 10

Tacker sat up. Stretched. He was okay, energy fully restored, and he knew where to go.

He was also alone. No Golden Being.

Tacker bolted up with alarm, then instantly calmed down again. This was nothing to get upset over – the Golden Being’s presence was no longer needed here anyway. He could do the next thing by himself.

And if he stayed, I wouldn’t let him come with me anyway, Tacker realized. By leaving, he just made my life a whole lot easier.

* * *
Indeed, Tacker reflected, it was almost too easy. It didn’t take him long to find that hole in the robot hull or fly his craft very close to the very obvious hole in the Daxia fortress wall. He almost didn’t need the heating device, but he put it on anyway. After all, why waste elemental energy?

He carefully thawed the Matoran and managed to squeeze them all into his vehicle. It was a very tight fit, but they all made it. Fortunately, this ride was going to be short.

Tacker briefly wondered what he was going to do about Trinuma. Part of him felt that leaving him trapped in the ice was wrong, and also that it could backfire. An enemy could free him. But being trapped in the ice seemed a fitting end for him, and Tacker wanted to focus on the Matoran.

Where is the rest of the Order? Tacker thought as he landed. Shouldn’t this place be crawling with Order Agents by now? I mean, one of their agents is down, and don’t they specialize in investigation?

More importantly, there were only ten Matoran here. There were over one hundred Su-Matoran on his island, and over fifty of them were taken.

Even more odd, these were the ten Matoran Tacker knew personally, the ones that he had worked with day in, day out, and trusted his life to more than once. There were some reasons why that would make sense – they were hard workers and all – but it was one Karzanhi of a coincidence.

"Okay," Tacker said, sitting down in front of the Matoran who had crowded into the hut and were sitting on the chairs, the beds, and the floor. "We need to talk."

* * *
Kali fell to the floor, hard. He considered making that fall look worse than it actually was and playing dead, but then rejected it as it wouldn't work too good on Kinshasa the mind reader. So he just sat there stunned. Everything hurt, and moving was painful anyway.

"Calmahri," said Kinshasa. "That is unacceptable."

"Mask-mind..." Calmahri gestured to the vault. "Does not like."

"He can 'not like' all he wants. I'm trying to save him."

"From what?" Kali said.

"That is not your concern."

"That mask once was where I live. What do you plan to do to it? Destroy it, preferably with a bunch of explosions? Invade it, preferably with a bunch-"

"Shut up."

"No, I will not. That's my city, and my people. You'll have to kill me first."

Kinshasa just glared.

"Just go ahead and kill me."

"I will not kill."

"You never explained why you wouldn't do that. Something having to do with a Tesarean, I thought."

"That is not your concern."

"May I remind you who dragged who out of a cafe back in New Atero? If none of this is my concern, why am I here?"

"Tacker was here, and I thought reuniting you would keep you two out of trouble."

"In other words, I was really close to discovering something that you didn't want me to know about, and that bringing me here would stop it," Kali said. "Sorry, I don't tolerate lies, sneaking around, backtalk, or put-offs. I want the truth, and I want it now. After that, you can kill me or do whatever you want. It's not like I can stop you, anyway." He stood up, leaning clumsily on his badge of office. "All these lies and secrets are weighing you down. That's why you find me so annoying. You want to tell the truth, tell somebody the truth, but you're afraid of what will happen if you do. I'm here to tell you that those fears are unfounded. You can trust me."

Kali noticed movement out of the corner of his eye, but he didn’t dare turn to look. “Besides, no one will believe me anyway – I’m just a crazy Turaga - ow.” He slumped over on his knees, and saw Calmahri emerge from the vault door with a golden mask in her mouth. Kali grabbed it immediately. Instantly, Kali felt no pain. It was still very hard to command his muscles in order to stand, but he didn’t feel why.
He registered some sort of tension on Kinshasa’s face. Calmahri screamed, grabbed Kali and tried to put him on her back. Kali grabbed on with one arm, squeezed the Mask between him and her and hung on. He felt her run, screaming all the way. It was a quick ride, and the two were in the opulent glass room. Kali leaped off, but it was too late. He saw her slump to the ground, unconscious.
Kali staggered to the door. He hated to leave her like that, but the Mask was more important. He opened the door, only to see the Golden Being.
“Very resourceful, Turaga.”

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Chapter 11

"I don't know where to begin," one Matoran said. "Thanks for rescuing us and all, but who are you?"

Debalu shook his head. "That's Tacker."

Tacker smiled. "I am Toa Tacker, Toa of Plasma." He gestured to Debalu. "He gave me the Toa stone he was too cowardly to use."

Debalu shook his head. "I am never going to live that one down."

"Actually, that was the right choice, in the end," Tacker said. "It takes a lot to admit that someone can do something better than you."

"Says the guy who became a Toa as a result." Debalu chided. "I suppose that's a good place to start as any. Shortly after I gave you that stone, we were taken away by a few tall guys with masks. They didn't look like Toa, though."

"The Order," Tacker said. He remembered the tall beings his friend spoke of, finding them among the secretive organization's ranks years later when they went out to war.

"Whatever," another Matoran said. "After we left, we were put on a boat. We were blindfolded at first, but then there was some argument and our masks were taken off."

Another Matoran spoke up. "When we woke up, they gave us plasma heaters and airstones, and told us to build a round thing."

"Yeah, it had spikes. We sharpened them back at the fortress, remember? We were supposed to heat up the rock to put the spikes in, but that didn't work, so we had to cut it." He looked around nervously. "I hope that's alright." Everyone laughed.

Tacker sighed. "I'm confused. Start over."

"Well, okay, it was the purple stuff. When we woke up, they had us carry long poles of it through a hatch. The ends of those were sharp. You remember that, right?"

Tacker nodded. "I remember."

"They also had us carry out those curved panels we made on that strange order too. They were really strange, with big holes in them."

"I remember those," Tacker said. "Go on."

"When we had our masks back on, we were in a strange place. We were led out a hatch into a big open space. Like really huge. You could see the stars on both sides."

"I remember looking back at the hatch, thinking that it looked like a foot. A giant foot."

"It belonged to the robot out there, Doba. I'm sure of it."

Doba sighed. "If we were living in a giant robot, Mata Nui would have told us by now."

"Like he told us what we were working on out there?" another Matoran said.

"Come on guys - let's figure this out," Tacker said. "What happened next?"

"We worked on the round sphere thing, and we finished it."

"Even when the hatch left."

"That was weird. I mean, when it was there , sometimes we would get visits from some burly beings with a whole lot of food. They would always give us ten times more than we needed."

"I guess they thought we were hungry!"

"But after the hatch left, we didn't get any more."

"We figured it was the will of Mata Nui to finish, so we did." Debalu said. "Then we waited for the hatch to come back."

"And then the darkness came."

"It was already dark. The only light came from the lightstones and the plasma burners. It was very cold, the air was thin."

"Well, you know what I mean. Two massive walls hit. Before, we could look out the purple stuff and see the stars."

"Then it got really dark, and really cold. Most of us froze. We tried to fight it at first, but we didn't have enough power left in the burners. Eventually they froze too, so we smashed them and took the heatstones out. And then we ended up at Daxia."

"The Daxia thing, that was weird. One moment, we were there, the next, we were in that room."

Tacker pulled out the Order's tablets. "Any chance the 'round thing' looked like this?"

"Yes!" exclaimed one Matoran. "Those were the exact plans! Where did you get those?"


What followed was a series of exclamations. Tacker looked on as Matoran grabbed tablets left and right, shouting that they had found so-and-so's journal, that was my calculation, I worked there, and so on.

Tacker sighed, and pulled out a blank tablet.

1) My fellow Su-Matoran worked on a sphere-like device. Where is it?
2) What moved ten Matoran, and these ten Matoran, from here to Daxia?
3) What do the Skakdi, particularly the Golden One, have to do with this?
4) Where is Kali?

Things I'm not sure about:

1) Why the Mask of Life was stolen, who stole it, and why I ended up strapped to a track and nearly run over.
2) Why the Golden Being helped me.
3) What that black beast is.

In short, I still know nothing.

But Tacker backed up. He did have one clue to question one. Actually, he had several.

Clues (Question #1):

1) Not in the Giant Robot (unlikely that it is, anyway)
2) Round Area: A round, enclosed sphere, open on both sides, and then closed.
3) Some importance to Mata Nui and his mission, which I now know is restoring Spherus Magna.

Kobalu looked over Tacker's shoulder. "Nice. You really are Tacker."

"When in doubt, make note of what you know and what you don't." Tacker grinned.

"What's restoring Spherus Magna?" Kobalu said.

"Spherus Magna is the planet we're standing on. It used to be in three pieces, and Mata Nui put them together again." He drew three circles on a tablet, then pressed them together woth his hands. "Smash."

Doba nodded. "And we were in the middle."

Some Matoran shook their heads. "That makes no sense."

"Maybe it does." Tacker shrugged. "I've heard that the planet was in three pieces to begin with because the natives tapped a fluid - energized protodermis - out of the center. In that case, there would be a very big hole in the middle of this planet."

Another Matoran shook his head. “Possible, but not likely.”

“It’s the only theory we have. I say we act on it. Whatever got you here must have teleportation powers, and those have a range limit.”

“Also,” Tacker continued. “Whoever that was also knew that I was alive, number one, and had teleportation powers, number two. I know Kali doesn’t. I know Trinuma doesn’t, probably…”

“Kali? Where’s Toa Kali? Is he still alive?”

“Turaga Kali,” Tacker corrected. “To the second questions, I can’t answer for certain. He was here last I saw him.”

And then a high-pitched sound forced everyone in the room to cover their audio receptors. Tacker got up and opened the door, only to see that his hut was surrounded by Order of Mata Nui agents.

“Toa Tacker,” said Krakua, “you are under arrest.”

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Chapter 12

“Toa Tacker? I don’t even know who that guy is. He’s dead.”

Tacker flew up. “But I have business to take care of. I dare you to arrest ten innocent Matoran.” Then he skimmed over the top of the hut and was gone.

Flew over the city at high speed, and noticed one of the Skakdi vehicles slowly slipping its way out of the city. Tacker smiled as he landed on its back. Slung himself down and opened the rear door to the pilot car. From up above, he saw that the cars were filled with the most eccentric collection of objects ever made.

All from New Atero.

“That was quite a haul! We sure ripped off those huts, didn’t we!”

All of it stolen.

Tacker sighed, and calmly smacked the two Skakdi’s head’s together. “When will you ever learn?” Tacker said, kicking them to the back of the car. He pressed a button, and the car he was driving detached from the ones behind it. Shoved the lever forward, and the car blasted across the sand.

Tacker allowed himself to laugh.

* * *
Kali backed up, nervous, frantically looking around for another exit. The Golden Skakdi snatched the Mask from him, and he fell to the ground unconscious.

* * *

Tacker expected to have to struggle to get though the big door. Instead, he found a gaping hole where the door should have been. Looks like someone brought some serious firepower. He slowed down and brought the thing to a stop, expecting the tracks to end. Sure enough. He exited the door to a hail of attacks from all directions. Ow, ow – Plasma Shield. Saw the amount of firepower aimed at him from the massive door. Flew up over the battlements and went into a dive, smashing into the large window near the Golden Being’s quarters. Saw the Golden Being holding the Mask of Life over the unconscious forms of Calmahri and Kali.

Tacker walked toward the Golden Being. “Did you move my friends from where they were to Daxia?”

“I simply made your dream reality. You dreamed of them on Daxia. I simply made it real.” The Skakdi paused. “I don’t know where they are. You only imagined your friends, so only your friends were brought back.”
Unfortunately, even I can’t remember all one hundred Matoran in the fortress where we lived, which were taken and which weren’t. That’s assuming this being is telling the truth and not just playing a cruel joke.

“And the prison escape – was that another dream made real?”


Tacker imagined Kali and Calmahri on their feet, ready to fight. “You’re lying,” he said. “You don’t have power over dreams.” He imagined tendrils coming from the mask to strangle the Golden Being. “You’re trying to trick me. You really know where they are.” Tacker imagined his flying vehicle swooping in through the window, Order agents chasing after it in hot pursuit. A few seconds later, his vehicle actually appeared, flying though the window.

Tacker looked on, baffled.

“I thought you would appreciate the help, Tacker. A Toa of Plasma is a useful ally. And,” the Golden Skakdi held up the Mask “it was a useful distraction, if nothing else.”

Tacker shivered. A black being emerged from the hallway. “Go home, Tacker. Enjoy your last few moments of life. And take the silly Turaga with you – he’s caused enough trouble already.”

“Kali? He wouldn’t hurt a Scarabax,” Tacker said. “Now you, on the other hand, I know nothing about. Except that you look very ugly.” He glanced quickly from one to the other, ready for a fight. “I have no idea what you’re trying to do, but I’m probably going to try and stop you.”

“This is not your concern.”

“You stole the Mask of Life. An entire city would love to have it back. Besides that, I’ve been tricked, manipulated, and chained to a death trap. I want a straight answer, and I want it now.”


She looked like she was debating a course of action. Tacker formed a plasma cage around the being, holding it at a considerable distance, but still enough to annoy the being. She gritted her teeth with pain. Tacker heard a groan from his left, but he ignored it.

“I am sick of your lies.” Tacker said, looking at the Golden Being. “Tell, or I’ll do worse to you.”

“There’s nothing to tell!” the Golden Being sputtered. “She just gave me the mask, told me to keep it and guard it against people like you. So I did.”

“Being…hired me…told me to steal the mask,” The black being said.

“Who?” Tacker said. The plasma walls moved closer. The being howled in pain. “I don’t know.”

“What do you mean, you don’t know?”

Silence. “Answer.”

“He wasn’t from here. He was green. He said that the Great Beings wanted to end the Matoran, and he said if I would steal the golden mask, he would do something for me.”

“Where is he?”

“I don’t know.”

“Find out,” said a weak voice. Tacker looked to see Kali. “Ah, Kinshasa. I knew you would truth-tell.” He smiled broadly. “And so good to see you again, Tacker. By the way, she’s lying. She knows exactly where he is. She has telepathic powers-“


“Alright, alright. You just had me worried, running off and all.”

Tacker sighed. “Well, where is he?”

Kinshasa laughed.“In an Order of Mata Nui prison.”

Tacker moved the prison walls closer. “I’m serious! That’s where he is! I came here to rescue my daughter from these thugs. They’re good for guarding masks, but they have no brains.”

“And what did this ‘being’ promise you in return for your mask theft?” Kali jabbed.

“The body of a dead Tesarean, and the destruction of the machine that killed him.” Kinshasa said. “I thought that would be payment enough.”

“The two must have been really close,” Kali said. “It’s made her a little crazy, but she will get over it.”

Calmahri shook her head. Kali walked over and slug an arm over her shoulder. “It’s all right.”

“I think we can do that for you,” Tacker said. “But we need the mask back.”

“You are a fool. You are the machine that killed him!”

“I don’t kill anyone.” Tacker said. “Toa do not kill.”

“Then who did?” Kinshasa demanded.

“I don’t know. But we will find out. Together. Mask. Now.”

Skakdi surrounded the group from all sides. “Nobody is finding out anything or going anywhere,” said the Golden Being.

The mask ripped away from the Golden Being’s hands and flew to Tacker’s.

Tacker immediately handed the mask to Kali.

“Good choice,” murmured the Turaga.

Tacker ignored him and blasted two more Skakdi’s armor to puddles, and several more clutched their heads in severe headaches. “All aboard!” Tacker yelled, scrambling into the cockpit. He was surprised to see Kinshasa already sitting there next to him, but he ignored it. Weapons fired, banging into the vehicle. Crystal formed on part of it, and part of the metal armor melted. Plasma shield.

Kali and Calmahri got aboard. Tacker took the controls, and noticed a Matoran lying under the control panel. Ignored him, smashed though the window and blazed away. A hydraulic line snapped. He frantically rerouted the system.

“That was totally amazing!” the Matoran exclaimed.

Kinshasa kicked him and he fell unconscious.

“Hey,” Kali complained from the backseat. “Lose the attitude.”

“Yeah,” Calmahri agreed.

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Chapter 13

Trinuma awoke in a cell.

Tobduk slammed Trinuma against the wall. “This is unacceptable.”

“I understand.”

“You acted foolishly, impulsively. You cut a hole in the ceiling of our base and punched a hole in it’s wall –“

The Plasma Toa I was fighting punched a hole in the wall,” Trinuma said. “Fortress is done for anyway. He already broke in and stole a bunch of records out of the vaults.”

“What?” Tobduk yelled in Trinuma’s face. “I was appointed leader in Helryx’s absence. If Karzahni happens, you tell me about it! What records did he steal?”

“The records on the Su-Matoran fortress in the southern regions. Near Zakaz. We sent them some purple sticks. The Amethyst the stranger keeps talking about.”

Tobduk backhanded him. “I want those records back, now. You’re going to bring in that Toa for questioning, right now. Got that? Otherwise, you won’t be an Order of Mata Nui agent for much longer. Do I make myself clear?”

“Yes,” Trinuma said. “You make yourself very clear.”
* * *
Tacker and Kali did their best to fill each other on what had been going on on the way back. Still, coming home to an empty hut didn’t appear to rattle Kali much. Tacker immediately ran back into the vehicle, demanding the location of the Order’s prison. Kinshasa thought for a second. Tacker ran out of the vehicle, quickly grabbing a patch for the broken hydraulic line and welding it on.

“This way,” Kinshasa said, pointing. “I can’t read the Order members’ minds, but I get a sense from your Matoran friends and my friend that it’s this way.”

Tacker said nothing, just powered up the vehicle and shot off that way. It must have only have taken minutes, but to Tacker it felt like years. He felt ashamed of himself – it was obvious that the Order would have called his bluff.That tells me they know who I am. Probably sent the sonics Toa to listen in. Still, if any of the Matoran died, it would be on him.

He landed, jumping free of the vehicle, pulling Kinshasa along with him. “Get away from here!” he yelled to Kali. Blasted open the door to the prison, and ran through the halls, pausing only to ask for directions. They led him not to his friends, but to a green being.

“Free him!” Kinshasa said.

Tacker shot plasma at the lock and ran, shouting “Follow!”. They spun, blowing through a wall and leaping over a mantid Rahi which crashed into a group of Order Agents coming the other direction.

“There,” Kinshasa said.

The Matoran. All nine of them trapped behind bars.

Red launchers. Aimed at every one of them.

The sudden appearance of Tacker made them pause, but Tacker didn’t blink. He shot plasma at every one of the launchers. The launchers exploded, much to Tacker’s surprise. Order agents yelled in pain and grabbed their hands, some of which had been blown off. Tacker shuddered, but his friends met him with expressions of protosteel. They had endured far worse and survived. Tacker quickly melted the locks, and the Matoran made a break for Tacker.

An order member grabbed one of them, only to be smashed into a wall by telekinesis. He let go.

A Matoran picked up a lightstone rifle and started shooting at Order members. “STOP!” Tacker yelled. Matoran picked up more weapons off the ground, looking around in confusion.

“Let’s get out of here,” Tacker said. Then he ran for the door, nine Matoran right behind him. Opened a door into a blaze of projectiles. Closed it. Blasted through the nearest wall. Cut through a cell of a green and blue Matoran, a Skakdi with three legs, and a disturbing female character that was the polar opposite of Kinshasa. The prisoners in question looked to stunned to do anything, but a couple Matoran aimed weapons at them and gave them death glares anyway.

Tacker ran for his life through the last cell, and Kinshasa was right behind him as he smashed through the last wall, hit a hallway, and ran. He heard footsteps behind him, and worse, gurgling water. Twist, turn, and blast. Sunlight. Water lapped at his heels. Turned to see Matoran struggling against the current. Noted the prisoner whose cell he had just breached, in the form of a Toa of Water. Kinshasa was having the worst of it. Tacker flew in and grabbed her without thought. Set her down, and immediately flew back.

Kinshasa pulled most of the other Matoran out.

Tacker saw the Calmahri descend next to him. “Ship. No fit.” He shook his head. “Run!” he shouted.

Kinshasa scrambled back aboard, the Matoran following. He saw Kali on Calmahri’s back. It looked painful, though – one of the wings moved a bit slower than the other, and Tacker saw her grimace.

But he didn’t have time to worry about that. Nynrah Ghost Blaster shots filled the air, accompanied by bolts of pure energy and various elemental powers. Tacker flew up beside the ship, which was trying to dodge all of this. “Speed up!” Tacker yelled. “Get out of here!”

They did. That problem down, Tacker and Calmahri were in the air. Tacker grabbed Kali, trying to relieve some of the pain. She smiled in relief, but Tacker shook his head. He was simply being practical, and didn’t want another being down.

Although that seemed that could happen anyway. Tacker was very low on energy, and while the two were agile, Calmahri’s wings were too big of a target. “Follow me exactly!” Tacker said, flying over a mountain range. He dived over the ridge, blasted in front of him, and then banked hard to the right. An explosion rang out behind him, much to Tacker’s surprise. Order flying vehicles moved too fast over the ridge or were taken out in the explosion.

“Gas pockets.” Calmahri said. They were near what the Agori referred to as Vulcanus.

“There’s the city – watch it!” A Nynrah Ghost blast hit her, but she shrugged it off. Nothing to control – the wings were entirely organic. Tacker put enough Plasma into the last vehicle to disable it. He landed at home, panting. Calmahri dropped to her knees with exhaustion. Tacker helped her up.

They sat down, and some of them went to get some food. “I’m sorry.” Tacker said.

“It’s all right,” another said. “All in a good strategy.”


Doba grinned. “All hail Toa Tacker, hero when we needed him the most.”

“And not twenty seconds before!” another Matoran joked.

“So what did we learn from this?” Kali said.

“Do the unexpected,” one Matoran put in.

“No, I mean in terms of solving the mystery,” Kali said with a smile. Tacker explained, repeatedly tolerating interruptions from the others.

"So we know that you stole the Mask of Life at the behest of that guy," Kali said. "But do you have any idea why he was trying to destroy us?"

Kinshasa shrugged. "He was looking for the amethyst..."

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Chapter 14

“What happened here?” Tobduk demanded. Trinuma sighed. That prison guard is out of a job. Let’s hope that he isn’t out of a life as well.

“Well, sir, um –“

“Speak, you fool!”

“There was a plasma Toa and a robed being t-that ran past me and I was shoved against the wall and the Toa pushed open the door and ran past and there was a huge Rahi and I tried to stop it by shooting fire and it charged through that wall-“

“Shut up.”

“Okay, okay. I’m just a rookie member sir, please don’t hurt me.”

“Leave him alone.” Trinuma said. He walked down the hall, somewhat astounded. Plasma holes had been burned in the walls, water stains and puddles were everywhere…he heard the sounds of battle up ahead. Two very large mantid Rahi were fighting each other in the main corridor, chomping at each other in annoyance, while a three-legged Skakdi and a Bo-Matoran looked on, enjoying the entertainment. Other prisoners nearby looked agitated, some frightened, some placing bets with other prisoners on who would win.

“Alright, settle down.” Trinuma said. He smiled deeply, allowing the energies of the Mask of Charisma to envelope the two warring creatures. “You don’t want to fight anyway – it’s a waste of energy. Relax, and calm down.” And they did. One of them shapeshifted into a Toa of Water, looking at the Rahi with disgust. “It’s all right.” Trinuma said. “He won’t hurt you, once you’re safe back in your cell. You would like to get away from him, right? Come on.” He led her away, back to an empty cell that had not been breached. The rookie did the same to the Rahi.

The skakdi looked at the Bo-Matoran. “What are we doing standing around here?” The two started walking toward the door.

Two blasts of white-hot energy met them. “Not so fast.” said Tobduk.

* * *
Tacker sat up. It was early morning, and Kali had volunteered to take watch for the last stretch, so the first thing he saw was the back of the old Turaga staring off into the distance. Tacker had originally objected, but Kali refused. "They won't attack an old Turaga like me," he chided.

But there had been no sign of an Order attack. Even their agents needed to rest, apparently, before making an assault on a hut of a Toa, a Turaga, a Skrall sister, a creature, and a bunch of heavily armed Matoran. The thought of heavily armed Matoran almost made Tacker laugh.

But Tacker was realistic. Brushing a couple of sleepy Matoran off of him, he stood up, reflecting that he was going to have to build a bigger hut. Careful not to step on small hands, he inched to the door. He saw that Kinshasa's eyes were already open, and that she was using telekinesis to lift Matoran off the floor to clear a path for her, then gently setting them down where they were. They didn't even wake up.

She did, however, shake Calmahri awake. Calmahri scowled in annoyance and ruffled her wings in disgust, but got up and made it to the door.

"Plan," Tacker said. He felt he was the leader of the group. "I need to go rescue the remaining Matoran down below."

"That's impossible." Kali said. "If they are really in the Core, then we can't get them out."

"There might be a way in," said Kinshasa. "The Northern Frost had a spring of energized protodermis that once reached down to the core."


"But we should find the alien and take him down to the core. If the amethyst is there, and it is his, then he has the right to have it back."

Tacker shook his head. "If the Order put the Amethyst in there, they did it for a reason. We cannot just remove it."

"The Order," Kali reminded, "took half of our people and sent Skakdi to kill the other half."

"I disagree with their methods, but they know the will of Mata Nui. We cannot assume that the amethyst does not serve a purpose."

Kali nodded. "But we cannot assume that it does, either."

Tacker shook his head. "I know the Order. They would not place an object inside a planet just to rattle an alien and murder a bunch of Matoran."

Kali shrugged. "They seem to enjoy doing that."

Tacker scowled. "That was Trinuma. Regardless, we need to rescue the Matoran. That’s most important."

"Kinshasa just suggested that we waste time finding someone who I believe should not have even been freed, and that is my response."

Tacker sighed, then walked off. Minutes later, he came back with a Kanohi Rau. Dodged past some semi-alert Matoran, and dug up a tablet. The Order had taken most of the tablets back, but that didn't matter; they knew what was on them. These few were written in ancient Matoran, and Tacker had hidden them away much earlier than before.

He pulled out the Rau, and put it on.

"Problem:" Tacker read aloud. "The core of Spherus Magna must be repaired and restored so that the planet might be restored without imploding in on itself."

Numerous numbers and math calculations followed.

"Further, it is suggested that a support structure be constructed in order to meet these needs."

Tacker read though. More math. Then a crude picture of the amethyst dome. A list of materials followed, each with a bunch of notations. Amethyst, Tacker noted, was where the numbers matched up. He explained what he knew to the others.

"Well, I'm wrong again, I suppose," Kali said. "But in any event, we don't have time to find him. "

"Point taken. We don't have time for theories. We have to get down there and back before the Order finds us and stops us. We also have to have a way to keep them safe from the Order. Any ideas?"

"Tell other?" Calmahri said. "Thought-task much big for us."

Kali nodded. "We are no shadow now, Tacker. The Order has seen our faces. We are alive. "

Tacker nodded. "Agreed."

"I also returned the mask. We can talk. "

"Okay. But we just need a method to get down to the Core and get the forty Matoran back. Tell no more than we have to."

"Okay, okay, I get the point." Kali said, watching as three faces stared right at him. "I'm not even going to open my mouth. I'm not even going to go. I'm going to stay right here."

Tacker shook his head. "I have no idea how I kept you secret all those years."

Kali shrugged. "Beats me."

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Chapter 15


"So why were these Matoran in the Core?" Turaga Vakama asked.

"They were working on a secret project for the Order of Mata Nui. " Kali said. "Constructing a support structure and core for this planet, I might add. Further, sir, those Matoran were in my village, Turaga, and I swear by Mata Nui-"
"Enough." Turaga Vakama said. "You're telling me that the Order of Mata Nui, who helped my team become Toa, is nothing more than a bunch of Matoran enslavers and killers. I won't hear it. Get out."
Tacker sighed. So much for moral support. And he had to remind herself, it was just a theory. What if they went down to the core and nothing was there? Nothing, just a black void like the Turaga believed?
Tacker shook his head. "Let's try the spring. Where is it?"
"The Northern Frost," Kinshasa said.
Kali ran over to an Ice Agori. "Hey, do you know were the energized proto spring in the Northern Frost used to be?"
"Er, no-"
Kali turned around, quizzed three Glatorian, and finally found someone who could answer his question. The grizzled Ice Agori he found looked confused. Kinshasa sighed. "I do know where it is."
"Yes, but do you know all the ice formations in the Frost that we will crash into along the way if we don't have a guide?" Kali put in. "Come on guys, let's go."
* * *
Trinuma looked at an empty cell. “Proof.” Tobduk said coldly. “The Toa was working with the alien.”
Trinuma shook his head. “That doesn’t make any sense. A Toa would ally with an alien who wants to wipe out his own people, whom he made a wreck of this place to try and save?”
“Maybe he didn’t know what the alien was really after.”
Trinuma shook his head. “No, no, you’ve got this all wrong. Mata Nui. His name is Tacker. There was a Matoran in that village we assigned to forge the amethyst named Tacker. Somehow he must have escaped the Skakdi we sent to wipe out that village and he became a Toa.”
“No Matoran could have escaped that. Every Matoran and Toa in that village was dead. We checked. Are you saying that you miscounted all those years ago?”
Trinuma sighed. “He’s trying to find his Matoran friends that we took. And he thinks that the amethyst is the key to finding them. After all, they left with it. Think.”
“I’m thinking!” Tobduk said. “Where did those other Su-Matoran come from?”
“Exactly. He must know where they are.”
“Yes. That means the alien knows too. And they have a means of getting the Matoran here.”
“Exactly,” Trinuma said, walking toward Tacker’s hole in the wall, and gestured to some irregularly shaped prints in the sand. “Find the alien, find the method, find the Matoran, and eliminate the mess.”
“You’re going to kill them all.”
“Now, Tobduk, we don’t need any more problems, do we? The Matoran respect us for our efforts against the Makuta. Why should we give them reason to doubt our goodwill?”
* * *
Several hours later, Kali was looking down a very deep black hole. “It’s a perpetual sinkhole.” the native explained. “The volcanic activity here rubbed these two areas together, probably squeezing the energized protodermis to the surface. Then when the proto left, it fell in on itself.” He gestured to the crumbling rock around the hole.
Tacker shrugged. “I’m no Toa of Stone.”
Kali sighed. “It doesn’t matter. We’re running out of time.”
Calmahri whined. Vehicles of all sorts were coming across the ice, looking for an orange-and-white Toa.
Tacker grabbed a lightstone. “I’m going down. If the Order get here before I get back, leave.”
* * *
Trinuma wasn't exactly surprised to see a tan-colored tube, painted to blend in with the sands. He almost tripped over it. He shot at it with his blaster, and mentally commanded the thing to rise from the ground. Stood it up on it's flat end. The hatch opened with a clank.
A green being looked up nervously. "It's all right." Trinuma said, activating his mask. "We're here to help." They entered.
Tobduk kicked the green being, knocking him out.
Trinuma looked around. There was more of the strange launchers, a couple of which Trinuma took. A couple catwalks led to upper levels. He clambered up, only to see a strange machine, a metal frame with five platforms linked together in a circle. In the center was a unit that glowed a dull blue color.
"It's a teleporter." Tobduk said. "It has corridinates set for the core of the planet, and some sort of sequence engaged."
Trinuma shook his head, and pulled out the Rau from his pack. Looked at the sequence. Smiled. "It's good, Tobduk." Put his usual mask back on. "Follow me."
Tobduk scowled. "Don't ever use that mask on me, you slime."
"I'm not using a thing." Trinuma said, grabbing launchers off the walls and tossing some to Tobduk. His mask flared to life. "You can trust me. We are going to rid Spherus Magna of those inconveniences down in the core, rob Tacker of what he wants. Problem solved. The alliance will melt, and then we can go back to moving old records and watching kolhii matches. Trust me on that one. "
"Stop using your mask!"
"I am not using my mask." Trinuma said, stepping out onto a metal platform. "Let's get this started."
* * *
Kali saw Tacker dive into the hole.
"How is he going to get out?" Kinshasa said. "Climb?"
Kali smiled. "Flight. Useful power to have."
A few minutes later, Tacker emerged. "We can go down. " he said. "It's smooth, but it's more level after a few yards."
Kali grinned, jumping over the edge. "Slippery slide! Wheeee!"
* * *
Tacker saw Calmahri dive after Kali before he could move. He grabbed Kinshasa, who looked like she was about to protest. I don't need to have you be captured by the Order and have to rescue you later. He leaped into the void, and felt a telekinectic force push him away. And your abilities will be useful to find Kali, I expect. He rapidly slid down the tunnel for a good while, then remembered his mask, managing to turn the whole thing into a rough feet-forward fall. He heard Kinshasa grumble and curse above him, but he ignored her and focused on avoiding death.
On and on he fell. Tacker tried not to imagine how hard it would be to carry Kali back out of this hole, and then he did. He would do it, no matter what. He would go in and out of this hole until all the Matoran were freed, and he would not give up as long as he still had breath. He was a Toa, and he had a duty to his people.
Several minutes passed. The air grew cooler, and Tacker wished he still had the heating device.
A light faded and flickered ahead. Tacker saw purple. He called on his mask to slow down, bending up and away, and hit Kinshasa, slowing her down as well.
Slowing...slowing... and then he was going up, sliding on smooth purple rock on his back. Kinshasa slammed into the rock below him with an unspectacular thud. The two immediately scrambled to their feet, Tacker with a confused expression on his face. Shouldn't they be freezing by now?
"This way," said Kinshasa.
Tacker said nothing. Are you leading me into a trap? He followed, nerves on high alert. An opening below. He glided though it, and he twisted around and stood on his feet. That wasn't the only thing that was wrong. Molten protodermis heaters ringed the central portion, and even stranger machines connected the bars. The surface was slick beneath his feet. Lightstones dangled from every possible spot, flooding the chamber with light. And at the center, Tobduk and Trinuma stood, weapons pointed at over 40 Matoran lined up on the central beam. Trinuma had a weapon aimed at Calmahri and Kali, who were standing on the very center of a metal device.

Trinuma grinned, "Stand down, Tacker."


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Chapter 16


Tacker said nothing. He just started walking across the beam, his eyes never leaving Trinuma's eyes. The warlord looked at him - and then felt a small hand push the launcher he was carrying away. [/size]

At that exact second, Tacker launched himself at Tobduk…...red energy formed out of Tobduk's launcher, hitting a Matoran... Tacker slammed into him and knocked him to the bottom of the sphere. He then clanked into the bottom of the spike with a loud clack, sliding toward the center. Tacker flew back to the center, only to find that Trinuma was facing similar circumstances. He looked at Kinshasa, who nodded.

Kali scrambled down from the machine, grinning. "It's a teleporter!" he said. "We can all get out of here."

Tacker examined the controls, finding them to be complete gibberish. Then he noticed the Rau lying on the control panel, and took the hint. Instantly he knew what he was looking at. Programmed a sequence. "Matoran first." Tacker said.

The Matoran looked on, scared and frightened. "I'm Toa Tacker, Toa of Plasma, here to rescue you."

One Matoran smiled. "I remember you. Clumsiest Matoran in the forge, but he sure could climb." He stepped out on the teleporter pad. Four more followed. Tacker pressed the button. Five more got on. Again.

Trinuma yelled, reaching up and grabbing onto a Matoran’s leg. The Matoran kicked him and he fell unconscious.

Tobduk grimaced, working his staff into the gravity generator that had him pinned. Fired. Crawled himself up, growling. Matoran ran away from him, serious expressions on their faces, somewhere between relief and fear. Tacker landed in front of him.

He grabbed the launcher, and flew over him, slamming the Order member into the sphere wall.

* * *
Kali pressed the button. Twenty Matoran. Then ten. He hoped Tacker was right, that this was a teleporter and not a death trap. Four last Matoran lined up. Kali looked around. There was forty Matoran, and this machine took five each time. He heard a clanking noise behind him, and what he saw...was a Toa of Plasma holding a Su-Matoran.

"Dead" said Tacker coldly. Then he flew to the teleporter pad and dutifully placed the Matoran where he belonged.

Kali pressed the button. Tacker walked over. "Time delay." He said. Kali got to his place. Kinshasa stepped up, Calmahri gracefully landed. Tacker worked the controls. He noted that the teleporter was low on power. It will have to do. Set the timer and flew over.

The center of the teleporter shattered. Light flared out of its center, flaring out to Tacker, Kinshasa, Kali, and Calmahri. A column of light...and then Tacker was standing in an unfamiliar place. Metal surrounded him, and he was standing on a teleporter pad like the one he just left. Tacker ran over to the controls, pulling out the Rau. A green being stood up, facing him, then swatted Tacker away. Hit some buttons on the panel, then ran to the teleporter, dissolving as they watched. Kali shook his head. He knew where he had gone, and that he had finally gotten his wish.

* * *
Trinuma sat up. He was lying flat on his back, staring up at the purple sky. Which, he reflected, was the last thing he was probably going to see for a very long time. Someone pulled him up and held him two inches away from his own mask. Well, aside from that face.

"You failed!" Tobduk raged, gesturing to the smoking wreck of a teleporter behind them. "If we ever get out of here, you. Are. Fired!"

"Tobduk," Trinuma said. "How did Tacker get down here?"

They walked out of the sphere. Looked around. A few minutes later, they were looking at the narrow spring from which Tacker and his allies had emerged.

"Flight powers" Tobduk cursed. He blasted handholds, and the two began to climb.

* * *
Tacker powered up the teleporter on the ship, set the timer, and got him and everyone else on. The next thing he knew, he was standing on his feet outside his hut.

Forty-nine Matoran were there to greet them. They wouldn't be building any statues in his honor, but the kind words and touching of hands was enough.

Until he saw them - two other Matoran, holding onto their lost friend. Tacker knelt in front of them. "I'm sorry." he said. I did what I could. He put his hands on the two Matoran's shoulders "I'm sorry." he said again. It was my failure. I should have... But he couldn't think of anything. There should have been something, anything, an error in strategy he could point to, that caused this. But he could not.

Sometimes, no amount of strategy or careful thinking will fix something.

So he just was there for a long time, before finally drawing the courage to stand up. And walk away.


And so Tacker and his friends, coworkers, and just fellow Matoran arrived home, much to the pleasure and chagrin of many others. Fortunately, they quickly built their own accommodations, relieving many a cramped Matoran hut. At least Tacker was grateful.

Tacker was also true to his word. After making some add-ons and repairs to his vehicle, he took Kinshasa back to Metru Nui. From the wreckage, he pulled two scorched, blackened objects - bodies that had been burned and frozen. One had a trace of green left on his armor, the other red.

"It wasn't the fire that killed him." Tacker said. "If it did, there would be fluid over this floor, and it would freeze. But either way, it was Makuta who did it."

"Who is Makuta? Where is he?"

"He's dead. Mata Nui killed him. Burned him up. He's gone."

Kinshasa said nothing.

"I know" Tacker said. "Makuta attacked this robot when it was there for my friends, and left them behind to die. He's dead, and he's still hurting us."

They stood there for a long moment. Then the two, without comment, gathered up the bodies for a proper burial.
* * *
In another place, Kali saw a Matoran who was absorbed in his work, carefully disassembling a formerly red-glowing launcher. Another Su-Matoran walked over. "What have you got there?" The first Matoran started explaining.

Kali just smiled. He just couldn't wait until the Great Beings saw this.

* * *
Angonce adjusted a few knobs on the equipment in front of him, feeling a pit of fear in his stomach ease off. "Yes" he mused. "The Matoran are among our finest creations."

He could see red energy ripping into the pieces of the giant robot, dividing it away. Ice melted into the sky as the hull unfolded. Matoran and Agori were already hauling pieces of the hull away; others were getting ready to explore the open waters in search of treasure.

Angonce smiled. If you want to destroy my Matoran friends, you'll have to do a whole lot better than that!

The End


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