|The Darkness Returns|
The Darkness Returns
|Setting||Matoran Universe, Noctxia Magna, Gigas Magna|
|Previous||The Fairon Chronicles|
|Concurrent||The Leviathos Chronicles|
|Next||War with the Order of Darkness|
The Darkness Returns is a story about Fairon and Rantu, and their separate missions to defeat the Gigas Magna Empire and Order of Darkness. It takes place in the Gigas Magna Storyline, and is the sequel to The Fairon Chronicles and The Leviathos Chronicles.
- Continued from The Fairon Chronicles...
"You are very lucky that you still live," he hissed to her. "We do not generally appreciate members of the Gigas Magna Resistance."
"But you are a bounty hunter, the little pet of whoever pays you most to do a job," she replied coolly. "Is greed all that inspires you?"
A door opened, and there stood the bestial deputy leader of the Brotherhood of Gigas Magna, the ruling council of the Empire. Mordrax sat there in a large chair; his prosthetic limbs were particularly obvious in the light. He gestured with one of them at a chair opposite his
Sit down, said a voice in Shayla's mind. Sit down. I mean you no harm.
Do not listen, said another voice. Mordrax will not help you.
Shayla sat down. Mordrax smiled.
Since I was injured, I have not been able to use my vocal cords. That is just as well. My mind is more persuasive, is it not?
"What do you want?" said Shayla.
I want the total annihilation of your order. I want our takeover of the universe to be complete. But for both of those things, I need to know: WHERE IS BROMINAX?
"I don't know," said Shayla quite honestly.
Mordrax emitted a sound that would have been a hiss, but since, as he said, his vocal cords had been damaged, it sounded like a gargle.
You went to the Matoran Universe with him. You joined a secret organization there. Then my friend Velnax teleported you back, and Nightwatcher captured you. That is all I know. So where is your leader? I brought you to this isolated outpost for this purpose. Do not waste my time.
"I don't know."
Then you are of no use to me, he snarled, readying his blade to plunge it into her body. With lightning-fast reflexes, Nightwatcher stopped it with his staff.
Well done, Nightwatcher, Mordrax gurgled. My prosthetic suit is powered by Shadowdermis, so it can anticipate almost anything. Clearly, you have mastered the art of quick thinking.
"How do I know that you will not claim that one of your other bounty hunters, which offer lower prices for their work, captured her instead? With her dead, I shall have no proof that it was me that captured her until it is put on record."
Fine, Mordrax hissed. Besides, I have changed my mind about killing her. There is one more torture she can endure.
He led a nervous Shayla into another room in the small building they were in. A large basin of a silvery, smooth substance rose out of the floor. Mordrax grabbed a large cup, dipped it in the pool, and held it to her mask.
For a hundred years, our organization has used Shadowdermis to many purposes, most of which are oriented towards the annihilation of your order. We want complete control of this planet. Now, this is a little experiment of mine that I would like to use on you before you die. It has never been used on a sentient being before.
Now, he gestured, drink.
Shayla shook her head.
DRINK! shouted Mordrax.
Several things happened at once. The pool of what appeared to be Shadowdermis exploded into flame. The same thing happened to the cup. Shayla managed to evade the fireball, but Mordrax was not so lucky. His Shadowdermis-powered prosthetic suit was aflame. He writhed in pain on the ground and screeched at her in her mind.
"Well," said Nightwatcher, "it certainly does not look like you are in a good condition to pay me." With those words, he fired his High-Energy Plasma Launcher at Mordrax. The fire spread around the writhing being. Within seconds, a large portion of the building was aflame. He pulled Shayla away and they rushed towards the exit.
"What happened?" asked Shayla.
"The Shadowdermis was annihilated. I never cared for that substance anyway."
"Is Mordrax dead?"
"Most likely. I do not honestly care."
"Why'd you save me?"
"It is hopefully worth some widgets," said Nightwatcher as they ran out into the desert of Gigas Magna, "because if not, your remains will be quite unrecognizable."
- To be continued in Sea of Shadows...
One month later...
The Bounty Hunters' Guild was an elite, prominent bounty hunting organization, so large it made the Dark Hunters look like a penniless bunch of Matoran living on the street trying to sell their services to passerby. They worked by sending two bounty hunters after a target at the same time, which was intended to put pressure on both of them to find the target first. Treachery and backstabbing were, of course, encouraged. Normally, these missions ended up one way: one bounty hunter won, being elevated to a higher position in the unofficial ranking of the Guild, and the other being forced into shame, until each was sent to another mission. However, in the rare case that both of the bounty hunters failed, or were decapitated, two members of the next rank would be called in to complete the job.
If all the bounty hunters failed, then Nightwatcher would be sent out. However, since Nightwatcher's method took a long tome and usually involved a large and complicated plan to bring down one or more interplanetary organizations, the Guild leaders found it best to keep Nightwatcher as far away as possible from the rest of the Guild. He was never paired with anyone else, as the last time that had happened, the other bounty hunter had ended up permanently fused to the bounty.
Rank One was mostly made up of amateurs, making a futile attempt to make a living by doing something they weren't very good at. Most of them never survived their first mission. They were usually considered expendable, and sometimes, just for fun, someone would pair a Rank One hunter with a Rank Three or higher and watch the beings they were supposed to be hunting beat the Karzahni out of them.
Rank Twos were mostly part-time workers, Matoran and Agori assassins usually, every once in a while a Toa or a Glatorian. These made up the greatest percentage of members, as these, unlike the Rank Ones, actually had reasonable life expectancies. They were not, however, often sent out to combat Resistance members; these were sent after low-profile targets such as Empire political enemies.
Rank Threes were decent fighters, not good enough to combat most Gigas Magna Resistance members, but valuable all the same. these were almost all either massively powerful thugs or somewhat successful Toa hunters, often sent to other planets to keep the inhabitants in check. This was not technically bounty hunting, but as the Guild served as the unofficial military branch of the Empire, and they were paid anyway, most of them didn't really care.
Ranks Four and Five were the elite, highly skilled mercenaries able to fight anything from Krahka to even, in some cases, Great Beings. Most of these were born fighters; powerful beings with great access to elemental powers, great swordsmen with legendary battle skills, and quite a few of both. These were the highest classes, unless, of course, you counted Nightwatcher, who was in a class of his own.
The reason Varzinox was angry was because he was being paired with a bossy Kodax warlord who didn't look like he knew the first thing about bounty hunting, and a Makuta who didn't look like he could handle a Cordak blaster right. Yet here they were, together, being led down a hall by a small Lightning Rahkshi to whoever it was that had summoned them there.
"This had better be good," he murmured, "or someone's throat is going to get ripped out."
A major difference between Rank Fours and Rank Fives is that some Rank Fours are not as disciplined, meaning that if the bounty hunter becomes angry at his employer, it usually takes about the equivalent of a small city's army, navy, and air forces to bring him down.
The two beings standing by the door were pathetic-looking Makuta, one even skinnier than he was, the other a fat piece of Muaka dung that he estimated would last about two seconds against Slicer. Varzinox considering blasting them aside for fun, but decided that if he was going to take his anger out on someone, it would be his employer.
"Come in," said the skinny one, making a feeble attempt to pretend that he wasn't intimidated. Varzinox snorted at him reproachfully and walked inside the door.
A powerfully built Kodax awaited them inside, sitting in a chair, idly tapping his claws on the armrests. At last, here was a real warrior — no doubt, he had fought in the Kodax War, and probably a number of wars after that. Varzinox wondered how he had gotten so far from Bara Magna, but decided, as he had with the bossy warlord, that it didn't really matter. He did, however, reconsider his decision to take his anger out on him.
"Ah, Ralox, Valtrahk," said the Kodax. "You have returned. And who is this?"
"We found him on Gigas Magna, My Lord," said the Makuta, kneeling down. Varzinox noticed that the other Kodax was also kneeling, and briefly wondered whether he should kneel as well.
"Ah," said the Kodax. "Finally, a real warrior. Those two Makuta you saw guarding the door are Kutrax and Kunaku. Stupid creatures, they couldn't even defeat two Toa. I posted them on guard duty as a punishment. Tell me, Rotaxian; what is your name?"
"They call me Varzinox," said the bounty hunter through clenched teeth.
"Well, at least you got rid of your useless code names," said the Kodax smoothly.
"Get to the point," spat the Rotaxian.
"Have I introduced myself? My name is Velnax. You see, we are having a number of... problems... with a Great Being. His name is Brominax. I want you to kill him."
"A Great Being?" asked Varzinox in surprise, wondering if his abilities would be nearly enough to defeat a member of such a powerful species.
"He did not vanish along with the others after the Kodax War," said Velnax, misunderstanding Varzinox's reaction.
Varzinox swallowed. "How much?"
"You bounty hunters," Velnax laughed. "That's the first thing you want to know. Well, we have quite a lot of funds at our disposal, so let's say... ten thousand?"
Varzinox would have gaped at him in shock had he not been trying as hard as possible to avoid looking like a fool. Instead, he merely nodded. "Dead or alive?"
"Dead, of course," said Velnax. "He's no use to us alive. Oh, and if there's a Toa with him..."
"Kill him and you get an extra two thousand."
Varzinox nodded. "Of course, sir. I shall leave immediately."
The bounty hunter walked outside as calmly as he thought possible. Inside, he was shaking with glee. Ten thousand! He had never gotten nearly that much on any mission. This was a good day, he thought to himself.
The two Toa walked calmly across the dark wooden floor of the Daxia fortress, followed by three hundred Matoran. The long procession marched through the corridors until it reached the massive chamber that made up Daxia's council room. The cheering and roaring of the Matoran echoed in the large room, and Fairon had to shout to make himself heard.
"We freed the Matoran!"
Helryx, a powerful Toa of Water with scratched, battle-worn armor, stood up and walked over to the two Toa. "Good," she said, obviously pleased. "At last, the final remnants of that horrible war with the Order of Darkness are accounted for."
"I think this calls for a celebration," said a voice nearby. Fairon looked in its direction to see a strong, yet clearly aged, Toa-sized figure. His armor was a bright yellow, which was neatly contrasted by his white Akaku. His name was Vinax; a respected Toa of Lightning and Helryx's personal aide.
"A celebration?" said Helryx. "No, a promotion. The two of you have done quite well."
A month had passed since Fairon and Rantu had defeated the Order of Darkness. Since then, they had gone on various missions to different parts of the Matoran Universe, freeing Matoran, Intellians, and Reptisapeans, survivors of the battle of Sacho Nui, from Order of Darkness prisons scattered across multiple islands. The last of them had now been freed after a lengthy battle with Velnax's robot minions.
As for Velnax himself, there had been no sign. The Makuta had vanished after Xa Nui. Some said he was dead; others, that he was injured and was spending his time trying to heal. Fairon suspected that he was only waiting to make his next move, whatever that might be. Whatever his fate, he wanted no more than to find the cruel murderer of Dorex and give him the fate he deserved.
"So," whispered Rantu to Fairon, "what do you think will happen to these Matoran?"
"They'll have their memories wiped," said Fairon. "A pity. They won't remember us."
"Or as Kondius would say, 'Oh, happy-luck. The short-Toa will ever-forget my heroic-deeds!'"
The festive mood dimmed as the Matoran, still celebrating their newfound freedom, were led away by Vinax and some other senior Order members. Helryx's face visibly darkened as she turned to face the two Toa. The cracks and scratches on her mask seemed even more prominent now that she looked at them that way.
"I need to speak to you in private," she said, gesturing to her quarters.
The Toa, looking at each other and wondering what she was going to show them, nodded and followed her to an all but empty room. The walls and ceiling were a sickly shade of gray that looked almost green, and there was no light in the room whatsoever. She shut the door and turned to face them, her green eyes shining in the dim light.
"I think," she whispered, "that there is a traitor in the Order of Mata Nui."
The two Toa gasped in surprise. Helryx looked at them both strangely, then continued.
"Remember that mission to Xia a week ago, where you found the Order of Darkness base? Everyone had fled hours before, as if they knew that we were coming. We found a transmitter in the wreckage. From what we can tell, it made several communications with someone on this island."
"How is that possible?" Fairon responded. "Don't all Order members undergo regular mental scanning to ensure that they're not betraying us?"
"No," she answered. "Not all of them. We can't scan the minds of beings going on covert operations. Your brains haven't been scanned since you defeated Velnax, one month ago. You've constantly been on missions."
"Are you implying that we're traitors?" Rantu growled.
"No," said Helryx. "We monitored you closely during the last few missions. We would know if you betrayed us. What I'm implying is that someone who knew about your missions sold us out."
"But that's only us and Brominax!" Rantu exploded.
"Exactly," Helryx answered.
There was a moment of stunned silence.
"Brominax would never betray us!" cried Fairon. "He couldn't—!"
"I'm not saying he did," said Helryx. "All I'm saying is that we need to consider all possible opportunities. Who knows; maybe someone found out about the mission without learning it directly from either of us. But we need to keep our eyes open."
"Yes, Helryx," said Rantu.
"Now, whoever the traitor is, it looks like they're trying to set the two of you up. If we let them think that I suspect you, they might let their guard down and make it easier for us to find them. Therefore, it must appear as if I don't trust you.
"I'm going to send you on missions separately from now on, so it looks as if I'm trying to keep the two of you apart. I'm also going to pair you with some others. I don't want you to reveal the details of this plan to anyone; just say that you don't think that I trust you.
"I'll give you the details later," said Helryx. "You can go now."
Fairon and Rantu exited quickly, whispering to one another, their footsteps growing fainter and fainter as Helryx listened. After listening for footsteps for a few seconds with her keen ears, she turned around and pressed her hand on an invisible panel on the damp wall. The wall slid apart, and she entered a large area which looked very much like a prison cell.
She walked up to the thing that lay on the wall at the other end of the room. Chained to the wall was a Toa of Water, her armor scratched and pitted. Her blue eyes glared accusingly at the impostor, and had she not been gagged, she likely would have spat in her face.
"Now, Helryx," said the being that had entered the room, "it's time to tell me what you know. All of it." She grinned coldly at the Order of Mata Nui leader.
"Because no one keeps secrets from Makuta Miserix."
Velnax stepped slowly towards the strange chamber. The dark room was small and completely empty, save the large chair, the viewscreens, and the golden floating orb. All of these things had been brought over from the Dreadnought when his master had first arrived.
The sphere that levitated a bio off the floor was big enough for one being. It was slowly rotating, and the strange object gave off a dim but eerie yellow light. Inside, a dim silhouette was visible: that of a medium-sized humanoid, apparently in a meditative position.
"Antidax?" Velnax whispered.
The orb stopped rotating, the silhouette stood up, and the strange object opened up. The figure stepped out.
"Have I not told you enough times not to interfere with my meditating?" rasped the being.
He was muscular, but he was not physically imposing like Velnax. Wicked blades were held in place on his shoulders, reflecting the golden light of the meditation sphere. His red-and-black armor was thick, but somehow it suggested a strange sense of elegance. He generated an aura of pure power that even Velnax could not hep being impressed by.
He was Antidax, Brominax's deadly foe. He was a Great Being, the one who had betrayed the Order millennia before. He had been the instigator of every major conflict in the last thousand years; with his meditation, he could look into the abyss and undetectably manipulate every being in the universe.
Antidax wanted to rule the universe. Each small step, each minor detail of his plans, each day brought him closer to the day in which he did.
"Many times, My Lord," Velnax answered. "But you ordered me to tell you when the plan was initiated."
"There are many plans," said Antidax, pacing around the orb. "Which one?"
"The one involving Miserix, My Lord."
"Ah," Antidax said. "That plan. Fairon is a nuisance, and I am glad to hear that he will be disposed of. He cannot be allowed to interfere with the Underworld War."
"What of Brominax, My Lord?"
"The bounty hunter will not be able to kill Brominax. He is mine. All that matters is that he be... delayed. He cannot be allowed to interfere with Valtrahk's mission. But Fairon... Fairon is another matter. The only reason he isn't dead is because of a combination of extraordinary luck and that annoyingly powerful mask of his. He can be disposed of easily. The important thing is that we succeed in disposing of him."
"Is he truly that important?"
"Yes, Velnax, more important than you know. He has the potential to become a terrible threat to us."
"What do you want me to do, My Lord?"
Antidax stared at him for a moment, as if analyzing him. Then he looked away.
"I want you to make absolutely sure that he's dead."
Fairon looked up at the bright sky, exasperated, as he listened to Harini's incessant chatter.
"...And how does this work? So we go on the mission together, and we just teleport away to the place? How exactly do we stay together? Do we walk around the—?"
"For the last time, Harini," he said, pretending that he was actually trying to hide his exasperation, "we won't know until we get there. We have to find out if the rumors are true, and if they are, then we go straight back to Daxia to report to Helryx. No detours. Understand?"
Fairon was finding the job of acting as a superior officer to Harini, however low-ranking in the Order of Mata Nui hierarchy, very difficult. The Toa of Water had only just finished her combat training with Brominax (Dorex's temporary replacement, as no one had yet been found for the job of weapons instructor) and had her mental defenses established. This was her first mission as a Toa; all her other missions had taken place before her transformation.
He was having a hard time keeping the headstrong female under control; she was hyperactive and somewhat unwilling to follow orders. Sometimes he questioned Helryx's judgment in making her a member of the Order, but understood the reasons behind it.
After the fall of Robotopolis, Harini had been brought here along with her companions from the city. While the others were sent to other lands to find new homes, Harini was kept because of her natural skill with the short blade. She was extremely agile and capable, and she could outmaneuver almost anyone in battle, save some of the higher-ranking members like Brominax.
Their job was to travel to Xa Nui to investigate rumors of a new Order of Darkness base, and Fairon smiled inwardly as he remembered the first mission of two young Toa as they encountered three Makuta on that very same island.
"So what do we do now? How do we get there? Is there an Olmak we get to use or something? Do—?"
"Helryx doesn't just hand out Olmaks," Fairon answered, trying and failing to look serious as he looked at the lean Toa of water. "We need to go through the transporter."
They had left the Daxia indoor gardens now, and were approaching their destination; the massive Daxia Gate. It was not a fence, as one would have thought, but instead a gate between dimensions. It was made up of two massive protodermis columns about thirty bio apart, with a crackling purple ribbon of energy extending from one tower to the other. Near the base of the gate was a small station, monitored by a minute Matoran in a swiveling chair far too large for him.
"Destination?" he asked the two.
"Xa Nui," Fairon answered.
The Matoran nodded, and pressed a combination of buttons on his control panel. The energy ribbon expanded, until it was large enough for a number of beings to walk into.
"You're very bad at this, you know," said Harini, grinning.
"Bad at what?"
"Assuming positions of authority," she said as they stepped into the swirling void between universes.
Rantu and Brominax emerged from the void to stand on the base of a massive rocky cliff. It was vertical and perfectly smooth, with the exceptions of one or two small grassy outcroppings higher up.
"Why couldn't we just have teleported to the top of this thing?" Rantu groaned.
"We don't want to be seen," Brominax replied. "I think you've gotten too used to the idea of going to battle, where we completely discard all concepts of secrecy and just blast our way through the masses of foes, without caring who sees us, as we know we can track all the beings down and wipe their memories. Not here. We must be cautious."
"You're a Great Being!" Rantu cried. "You can do anything! You're certainly capable of keeping us from being seen!"
Brominax let out a hollow chuckle. "Apparently, you don't have much experience with my kind. Understandable, of course. They vanished a hundred thousand years ago; even I don't know where they went. We are not invincible, Rantu. We lost most of our powers after the Shattering, and you must understand that we were not extremely powerful in the first place. Believe it or not, but we Great Beings have our arsenal limited to whatever weapons we choose to take and a small set of parlor tricks. We are not fighters, or at least most of us are not. I am what you could consider a unique exception."
"Yes," Brominax said, smiling sadly. "To put it more accurately, extremely powerful parlor tricks, but parlor tricks nonetheless. We may contain more control over our elemental powers than almost any being alive, but you must understand that underneath our powerful appearance, we don't have the strength of a Toa."
"I don't understand," said Rantu, confused.
"Nor do you have to," said Brominax. "But to return to our original topic: yes, I am capable of preventing us from being seen. It involves a new strategy that I have not yet tried, so would you please hold my hand for a moment?"
Rantu hesitated for a moment, unsure if he actually wanted to be the test subject of a Great Being's experiments, then decided to comply. His hand was gripped — not tightly, but powerfully — by his superior, and then he saw that neither he nor Brominax were there.
"Do you see what I have done?" said Brominax, letting go of Rantu's invisible hand.
"You've redirected the beams of light," Rantu guessed, "so as to make it impossible for us to be seen."
"You aren't as obtuse as you look, Toa," said the Great Being. "Follow me. We have been sent to investigate something, and I think it is time for us to do just that."
Fairon was silent as his bright green eyes took in the sight that lay over the next hill. The inhabitants were no longer at Luren Village. This, of course, was to be anticipated; they were all still on Daxia undergoing rehabilitation. Even though their Shadowdermis had been removed, their personalities had been influenced by the substance, and they needed to have it fully removed from their systems so that they could return to ordinary Matoran society.
Still, the island had changed measurably since Fairon had last visited a month before, namely due to the fact that a massive metal fortress was under construction. It was not nearly as large as Daxia's monolithic building complex, but the fact remained that it existed, and if it existed, it was a problem.
For once, Harini was quiet as she took the binoculars from him and scanned the bright blue horizon. Fairon could dimly see a large number of specks that he knew to Vorahi patrolling the fortress. One of the more heavily-guarded areas was a section that was still under construction; Fairon could tell even from this distance that the building equipment was even now slowly moving another piece of the structure into place.
"Reinforced protodermis," Harini muttered.
"They used that for Robotopolis' ore shuttles. They needed to be extremely strong to be able to go down to the bottom of the ocean. What the Order of Darkness is using here is more refined, of course. I doubt even a protino bomb could penetrate this thing when it's finished, especially not if it has an antimatter shield."
"How did you learn so much about metals?" Fairon asked casually.
"I worked the ore shuttles, of course," said Harini. "What, do you think all the Ga-Matoran worked in the meditation rooms? Oh, no. Kutrax and Velnax singled out all of the toughest Matoran to work with them, and I was one of them. Lucky me," she said bitterly.
"We'd better report to the Order, then," said Fairon, taking his transmitter in hand and preparing to activate it. Suddenly, there was a flash of light too fast for Fairon's eyes to detect, and the device was vaporized in his hands.
"Oh, no, you won't, Toa," said a voice from behind him.
Acting on instinct, Fairon jumped into the air just before the second blast hit the spot where he had been a moment before, and in that fraction of a second saw his attacker. It was a Makuta, that Fairon was sure of. His muscles were hard and lean, and his glinting eyes looked squarely in his. Another fraction of a second later, and the Cordak blaster fired again.
Fairon dodged this projectile as well, and saw that Harini had vanished. No doubt, she was sneaking up behind his attacker, ready to pounce on him with her short swords. But if she was trying to help him, it didn't seem to be working, he reflected; he had had to dodge all the Cordak bullets. The Makuta threw the blaster on the ground and jumped toward him with his jagged sword. Fairon parried, but the force of the blow knocked him out of balance, and he had barely gotten back on his feet when the second blow came.
Then there was Harini. She came from above, slashing at him too fast for Fairon's eyes to see, her twin blades a blur, thrusting at the eye here, going for the leg there, feinting and coming back around somewhere else. Somehow, the Makuta held his own with the crooked silver sword, but he had been momentarily distracted, and that was all Fairon needed.
A month ago, had he tried this in one of his battles with Kutrax or Kunaku, he would have been chopped to bits. But no longer was he the naive adventurer that had sought out battle with the Order of Darkness. No longer was he the reckless young fool. He was faster, stronger, and, most important of all, smarter. And now he was relying on his speed, strength, and intelligence to complete this task.
Quickly, he backflipped so he was directly over his opponent's head. The Makuta looked up, but by then it was too late. Fairon's staff was a shining, spinning blur, and it was heading to the part of the body which no fighter would ever thunk was necessary to defend: the very top of the head.
This was a very unconventional tactic, and Fairon knew it. He had become an expert at unconventional tactics over the past month.
Then, his foe vanished. Instead of separating the Makuta's head from his body, Toa Fairon landed on the sandy ground. However, he had lived on the island of Xa Nui for all his life, and he was absolutely certain that none of it was sandy.
"What the Karzahni is this?" muttered Harini, who was walking in his direction from a small grassy area nearby.
For once, Fairon agreed with her. They were standing in what appeared to be a desert, with golden sand stretching in every direction as far as the eye could see. And instead of the sun of the Matoran Universe shining above them, the desert sand was illuminated by a strange light setting over the horizon. Fairon had seen these once before, in the sky out of a glass window in the city of Robotopolis.
The twin suns of Solis Magna.
"Agreed," he muttered. "What the Karzahni is this?"
By a strange coincidence, "What the Karzahni is this?" was exactly what Rantu was saying to Brominax at that moment.
"Nynrah," said Brominax grimly. "The Nynrah Ghosts' base. Or at least, what's left of it."
The large silver building that served as the Ghosts' headquarters had been completely annihilated. Bits and pieces of the walls and some prototype Ghost equipment lay on the ground within a hundred-bio radius of where the base had once been. far into the distance lay the remnants of what had once been a thriving marketplace, now reduced to ribbons.
Rantu frowned, bending down to pick up what looked like one of Nynrah's many experimental weapons. "This makes no sense. Why go after the weapons manufacturers? Whatever happened to this place, the being — or beings — that did this could certainly level Daxia as well."
"We should look for survivors," said Brominax. "Maybe they know what happened here. Who knows; maybe this was accidental. Maybe an experimental weapon just went wrong, and..." he gestured to the scene of devastation around them.
Rantu shrugged. "Maybe. We should send a message back to Daxia."
"Agreed," said Brominax. "And we should try to focus our efforts on finding out what happened to this place."
"What about survivors?" said Rantu, then realized the stupidity of his question. No Matoran could have survived the cataclysm that had taken place here.
Brominax ignored the question and turned to the east. He took out one of the Order of Mata Nui's prototype molecular scanners. Rantu had heard about them; they were supposed to be able to take readings of various things, such as radiation levels, nearby technology, and it was supposedly also able to scan for life-forms. Brominax shook his head.
"No beings other than us on this island," he reported, "which is to be expected."
Rantu looked over Brominax's shoulder, a difficult feat, since the Great Being was at least twice as tall as he was. The device possessed a screen, upon which unintelligible symbols were moving about rapidly. Brominax somehow made sense of the readings and looked back towards him.
"Interesting," the Great Being muttered. "There are unusually high radiation levels here."
"Dangerous?" said Rantu.
"Barely detectable," Brominax responded. "These readings are just above normal, and they're marginally higher in some places than others, just by an infinitesimally small amount. It's as if something had high radiation emissions when it was created, but the emissions were lowered over time until they became negligible, and are still lowering at a small rate."
"Some kind of weapon, perhaps?" suggested Rantu.
"The Nynrah Ghosts don't work with any radioactive materials," said Brominax, frowning. "If it were a weapon, it would have had to come from somewhere else."
"But why take out the weapons-makers?" said Rantu.
"Maybe someone found a better weapons-supplier somewhere," Brominax answered. "Since they no longer had any use for the Ghosts, they wiped them out so no one else could use have the possible advantage of the use of the Ghosts' services."
The two beings patrolled the area for a while, inspecting the wreckage of the town to look for possible clues to its destruction. Brominax took reading after reading, and when he decided to check the topography reading, he finally discovered something of interest.
"Look here," said Brominax to Rantu, indicating a dark patch on the topography map, which was a patchwork of reds, yellows, and greens. "This is a low area. The green around it represents a high area. The low area is where we're standing right now."
"Okay," said Rantu, not fully understanding.
The display zoomed out. Splotches of dark riddled the bright green landscape.
"Dozens of these," said Brominax. "Impact craters."
Brominax sighed, exasperated. "They're distributed at a regular pattern. If these are impact craters, then they would have had to have been made by some sort of weapon. Most likely, this weapon was dropped from somewhere high. Perhaps an airship."
"An airship?" Rantu pictured fleets of Brotherhood of Makuta airships bombing Daxia with this mystery weapon. "What organization uses airships?"
"Not the Brotherhood of Makuta," said Brominax. "Not the Dark Hunters. Neither of them would be capable to create weapons of this power, either."
"Well," said Brominax, "either it's an organization we've never heard of that has somehow managed to slip under our radar, or it's the Order of Darkness."
"Nice guess," sneered a voice from nearby.
Both Brominax and Rantu swerved around to find themselves looking into the eyes of a being wearing a large, rounded hat. As the dimensional portal closed behind him, thirty Rahkshi stepped to his side.
"Hello, Brominax. Hello, Fairon," said the being, removing his hat and looking right at them. "I am Varzinox of Bota Magna. Now, it would be much easier for the two of us if you surrendered, and I could blast your heads off without much trouble. Sadly, we all know that's not going to happen, so I am going to be forced to resort to the violent method." He turned to the thirty bright crimson Rahkshi.
"Overwatch Rahkshi," said Varzinox, "attack."
- Continued from The Leviathos Chronicles...
Nightwatcher was content at last. After a month of pointless wandering, including an incident with a hidden planet, a small splinter faction of the Brotherhood of Makuta, a large group of Dark Hunters and Order of Mata Nui members, and a rather annoying Noctian, Nightwatcher had finally managed to break through Shayla's mental defenses. Even to him, that had been quite a challenge; her mental blocks had been erected by Brominax, the leader of the rebellious organization known as the Gigas Magna Resistance.
During a small... complication... both Nightwatcher and Shayla had been mutated: she into a disgusting Toa of Water and Shadow; he into a form of Skrall. Neither of them were very good-looking in their present states, but Nightwatcher had luckily still retained most of his awesome power after the mutation.
Shayla, however, while she had been gifted by new powers of shadow, had had her mental shield broken down by her mutation. This made it terribly easy for Toa Nightwatcher to reach into her mind and find what he had been looking for all along: the location of the Resistance base. Curiously, it turned out to be on exactly the same hidden planet where he had been the last week or so: Noctxia Magna. Unlike most of the planets in the system, it had been lucky in the fact that it had not yet been annexed by the Gigas Magna Empire. This was due to the fact that it was enveloped by a field that prevented it from having any effects on the surrounding areas. It could not be seen from any other planet, and even its gravitational influence had somehow been muffled.
He had made two deals with two different beings already in which he had promised not to reveal the location of the planet to the Empire. Nightwatcher was, despite his reputation, an honest being, and he would probably have decided to keep his promise had both of the other beings in question not broken their side of the deal.
The Brotherhood would probably be happy to learn of the existence of a new planet to conquer. Most likely, he would receive a very, very, very rich reward.
Especially since the planet in question contained the hidden base of the Empire's most hated enemy.
Now, he was looking at the large metal Resistance base, hidden partially by a massive clump of foliage, Shayla next to him, unable to move due to an energy field that he had erected around her. Massive plasma cannons located at regular intervals on the walls pointed themselves at him, but he knew that they wouldn't fire if it meant hitting a senior Resistance member. At least, not until they had verified that killing their target was more important than keeping Shayla alive. Of course, being who he was, they could not possibly have harmed him; he could have simply turned them aside with a wave of his hand, and they would have shot back at the fortress.
Of course, they don't know who I am, Nightwatcher thought. Too bad for them. People die for mistakes of this sort.
He continued his pace, the motionless Shayla bobbing up and down in the air beside him. Then he stopped, looked at the fortress again, and said, in a booming, magnified voice:
"I have Shayla. I am willing to offer her back to you for a reasonable price. Try to kill me, and things turn out badly for you. Negotiate your terms, and things turn out marginally better. Of course, that's not to say that I won't go to the Gigas Magna Empire and tell them that this planet exists. Then again, you could always pay me extra..."
He waited for a moment. The former Enforcers were known to be honorable beings, and a hundred years ago, they would probably never have associated with lowlife scum such as bounty hunters. In these times, though, they had grown more desperate; he had even heard that the notorious bounty hunter Zirahk had joined their cause. And now that Brominax was gone, in the Matoran Universe on some ludicrous mission which had ended up with him in a coma, they had been left utterly leaderless. He had little doubt that if keeping their organization's base from being revealed to the Empire meant choosing to ally with a bounty hunter, they would do so.
Little doubt. Not no doubt.
"Very well, bounty hunter," said a deep voice, which Nightwatcher knew belonged to Odresk, who was probably the acting commander of the Resistance now that Brominax and Fyxan were off on their mission. "Name your terms."
Nightwatcher smiled to himself. The Resistance would be willing to pay a ludicrous amount of widgets to keep him from revealing their base's location. Of course, they had no idea that mere minutes before, he had sent a message to the Empire headquarters saying that he had discovered the Resistance base. No doubt, their starships were even now readying themselves for the hyperspace journey to Noctxia Magna.
He would be incapable of revealing something to the Empire that the Empire already knew about.
Nightwatcher was staying true to his reputation. He never lied. Only deceived. And at deception he was very good indeed.
The Kanohi Ihaka was a powerful mask indeed. It permitted the bearer to transform into any being in the universe, so long as he or she had seen them before. In theory, that could allow one to, say, turn into the Mata Nui robot. In practice, however, it was much more complicated: it required immense mental control, and was more difficult to use if the being one was trying to copy was extremely powerful.
And now it was broken.
Fairon's mask had apparently been grazed by the Makuta's sword. Of course, it was a testament to his fighting skill that his head didn't come off with it, but the mask was now useless. He had been entrusted with it by Helryx herself, and he was supposed to have taken care of it well. But now it was completely useless; he was feeling weak now, which, as even the most obtuse Matoran knew, meant that the Kanohi had been broken.
He removed it from his face, and saw that it had turned gray. He was tempted to discard it, but instead decided to hold on to it in the case that they were to encounter some kind of place where it could be fixed, which did not seem all that likely in this barren wasteland. A pity; such a powerful mask could have been useful at a time like this.
He turned to Harini, the baking heat already taking its toll on him. "Any ideas?"
She looked questioningly at him. "I thought you were in charge."
"Yes, I am," said Fairon briskly. "And I am asking your opinion."
Harini frowned. "So. We're on a distant planet who knows how many mio away from where we were, sitting in a desert—"
"Standing in a desert. Well, if I may suggest something..."
"Yes?" said Fairon, irritated, with a river of perspiration streaming from his brow.
"Why don't we start with finding out if there's anywhere for us to go that isn't a desert?"
"And how do we do that?"
"Like this," she said calmly, and all of a sudden a massive tidal wave engulfed them both.
Ralox walked, head high, into the central chamber of the Xa Nui fortress. Velnax sat in the chair, looking quite annoyed, and Ralox knew that most of the annoyance was likely directed at him.
"You failed to kill Fairon."
"The Toa of Water—"
"I know about the Toa of Water."
"Fairon would be dead if you hadn't instructed me not to kill her."
"Not likely," said the Kodax in the chair. "From what I understand, you'd be dead if you hadn't desperately teleported them away. That Toa is quite a fighter. Where are they?"
"My lord," said Ralox, "they are not five kio away from the Guild base."
"Gigas Magna?" Velnax frowned. "Why of all places did you choose Gigas Magna?"
"I imagine that the Guild will make short work of Fairon. He is no match for the Slicer."
"You imbecile," said Velnax in a perfectly calm and level voice. "We don't want the Gigas Magna Empire to be involved in this. Either he is to be killed by us, on our own turf, or not at all. That applies until Harini completes her mission. Do you understand how important that is?"
"Yes, my lord."
"Follow them. Remain out of sight of Fairon. Make sure that Harini keeps Fairon alive... or at least that the Empire doesn't get the body. Is that clear?"
"Yes, my lord."
"Get out," said Velnax. Ralox willingly complied, and Velnax turned away.
He rose from the chair and sighed. Ralox may have been powerful and loyal, but he was a foolish pawn with no more brains than a Kane-Ra. They were all foolish pawns: Valtrahk, Ralox, Kutrax, Kunaku... Every last one of them. He was waiting for the day that someone who could be genuinely useful would join the Order of Darkness, someone with both brains and power.
Despite what Antidax had said about the fact that Fairon was alive was only due to luck and his Ihaka, both he and Velnax knew it wasn't true. He had both brains and power, and not only that, but he knew how to use them.
Velnax was waiting for the day when Fairon joined the Order of Darkness. And that day, he knew, was growing ever closer.
Rantu and Brominax were standing back-to-back, with swarms of crimson Rahkshi slicing at them. Rantu had never seen this kind of Rahkshi before (though they bore a distinct resemblance to Turahk) but he knew that if he had the choice, he would most definitely pay never to see them again.
Sadly, he didn't have the choice, and the vicious horde was coming at them by the dozens. Screeching loudly, they swung their staffs at Brominax and Rantu in swift and vicious strokes, the sunlight reflecting brightly off of their silver weapons. Rantu was having a hard time fighting their attacks off, and he was a fully trained Order of Mata Nui member. He would likely have been skewered already had it not been for Brominax.
Rantu had seen Brominax fighting too many times to believe the old saying that Great Beings were peaceful, or at the very least he knew that the saying didn't apply to all of them. Brominax was a whirlwind of light, almost literally — he hacked off Rakhsi heads here, easily parried the Rahkshi's deadly thrusts like he was swatting flies, and every once in a while focused his light powers to fry one of the kraata to cinders. His arms were moving too fast for the eye to see, and Rantu, gifted with the power of Aura, could see that Brominax was glowing. It was not a visible glow; it was the glow of power, and he could see that Brominax was still holding back, even now, possibly to prevent himself from tearing the island to bits.
But Rantu had more pressing concerns than that. Swiftly, as he stopped one Rahkshi's internal mechanisms and turned around half a second later to block a quick blow with the middle of the Rahkshi's staff that would have smashed his head had he been a moment too slow, he saw that more Rahkshi were coming out of the portal, sprinting past Varzinox to join the battle. The being from Bota Magna (wherever that was) was simply standing nearby, cracking his knuckles, waiting for the Rahkshi to finish them off.
The knowledge that his foe was simply sitting out of the battle and waiting for him to die sparked rage in him, and the rage gave him strength. He was a whirlwind too now; not nearly as powerful as Brominax's vortex of fire, but a leaping, dodging, stabbing, thrusting, ball of green light.
Suddenly, Rantu jumped away from Brominax, flipping over the Rahkshi's heads so quickly that their mechanical bodies were too slow to react, and as he landed he chopped three of them apart, then sliced the kraata in pieces while parrying another Rahkshi's attack. He continued on his path through the horde, slipping under the Rahkshi and thrusting his weapon through their bodies, then spinning his weapon and lunging through another one's defenses, all the while moving towards Varzinox. Brominax had seen his plan by now, and Brominax, too, was somersaulting over Rahkshi's heads, and as he came down he unleashed his terrible twirling claw blade upon them, severing six of their heads at once, then coming back for more.
Varzinox saw what they were doing, as well, and, abandoning the portal which still more Rahkshi were coming from, ran for his life. But Brominax and Rantu jumped over the last of the Rahkshi, sliced one or two apart for good measure, and raced after him. The remaining Rahkshi took a moment or two to adjust to the situation, and then activated their hovering mechanisms and flew after them.
Oh, wonderful, thought Rantu. His feet were moving rapidly, a blur in the chilly air of Nynrah, and as he watched Brominax run along beside him over the devastated village they were rapidly leaving, he wondered how close Brominax's legs were to terminal velocity. In front, Varzinox was tiring, which was good; behind, the Rahkshi were not, which was obviously very, very bad.
"On my back!" shouted Brominax. Wondering what the Great Being had in mind now, he decided to follow his superior's instructions and leap onto his back. All of a sudden, they were moving faster that Rantu had ever moved before, with the possible exception of the time he had been on a massive space city that was rapidly plummeting through the planet's atmosphere. Varzinox was behind them now, or so Rantu thought, but a quick look at Brominax's powerful hand told him that they had... picked up... a new companion for the time being.
The other end of Nynrah was rapidly approaching, and as Rantu looked over his shoulder, he saw that the rahkshi were no longer in sight. Brominax's pace began to slow down, and finally stopped mere bio away from the edge of the great cliff that surrounded the island on all sides.
"They'll catch up to us soon," said Rantu to Brominax, whose body looked like it had been on a short walk down the road instead of a sprint across an entire island.
"Ready?" said Brominax, who had apparently decided to completely ignore Rantu's previous comment.
Rantu didn't know what Brominax was talking about, but decided to respond "sure" anyway.
"Hang on," said Brominax. "Try to stay on your feet."
Rantu decided that it had been a very bad idea to pretend to understand what the Great Being was planning, and that he really needed to know what was about to happen, and how to keep from dying while it happened, and that he should say so, and thus began to.
All he managed to say was "ow."
Brominax had aimed his arms at the wave of oncoming Rahkshi headed in their direction, and released a colossal blast of pure energy that shook the island to its roots. Rantu and Varzinox, who had still been trying to regain his senses, were blasted to the ground, but the shockwave hadn't been aimed anywhere near them.
The Rahkshi a few kio away were completely pulverized by the blast. All that remained a few seconds later was a nasty-looking sludge on the ground that was what the kraata had been turned into, punctuated every once in a while by small crimson bits of armor.
Brominax lowered his arms, and Rantu, feeling the effects of the shockwave pass, decided that it was safe to stand up. Varzinox tried to run, but he fell to the ground again after Rantu grabbed him and pulled him down.
"Who do you work for?" Rantu hissed.
Varzinox spat in his face. "I'm a bounty hunter. What does it matter who I work for? All that matters is that I get the money, eh?"
"Bounty hunter?" said Brominax with interest, looking down at the Rotaxian. "Oh, I see. You're from the Guild, aren't you?"
Varzinox tried to spit in his face, but Brominax glared at him intensely enough to make him shut up.
"You're a Great Being?" Varzinox whispered, a note of terror emerging in his voice.
"Of course I am," said Brominax placidly. "My life is dedicated to ridding the universe of beings like you who murder for money. You're just going to be one less."
"Okay!" Varzinox whispered. "I'll tell you who hired me. It was the Order of Darkness. Okay? The Order of—"
"That's enough," said Brominax grimly. "Contact the Order of Mata Nui, Rantu. We're heading back to Daxia."
The being named Gor watched the three beings teleport away. Unlike the rest of the Brotherhood of Makuta, he knew perfectly well of the existence of the Order of Mata Nui, and he cared little for it. He had never revealed its existence to anyone, but that was only because no one had ever asked. He was a shrewd, unreasonable being, and those were very good qualities for a member of the Brotherhood to have.
He wasn't a Makuta. He considered himself to be one, and no one else thought different. But in truth, he was a Kodax. He had been a Matoran once, but those were days long gone. After he had suffered a fatal... "accident"... he had been rescued by a mysterious robot named Baterra Magnus. He — or it — had kept him alive, and he had been transformed into a monster to serve the robot's bidding. A powerful monster, but a monster nonetheless.
Monster — that was what he was. The Kodax and Makuta were all monsters. He had learned that firsthand during his years of service in the Brotherhood. The Kodax were the Makuta prototypes, and they had been even worse. They had betrayed their creators, the Great Beings, and declared war on them. The conflict had gone of for ages before at last they had been defeated, and they had left a terrible scar upon the universe.
So he had been made one of them. He should have been grateful to that disgusting robot for saving his life, but if he could have traveled back in time to the point where the Baterra had transformed him, he would have let himself die. But he couldn't, and he wasn't going to. Besides, he served a purpose now in the plans. He did not know what purpose, or why the purpose was important, but he cared little for that. All he wanted was to someday get his old body back.
The robot, Baterra Magnus, had come from the future. He had gone back into the past to try to prevent something important from happening. Gor didn't know what it was; nor did he care. All he knew was that it had something to do with Brominax being dead, and time running out.
The robot was dead now. He had been killed about a year ago by some lunatic Toa of Shadow, or so he had been told. Now that it was gone, someone else had to assume leadership of the project.
And who could possibly have been better than Antidax?
He shook himself. It was time for him to resume his role in the plan. He would learn the location of the base of the Order of Darkness. The Brotherhood — naturally, not knowing Antidax was manipulating them — had sent him once already to destroy the little rebellious group known as the Order of Darkness. Of course, the Order of Mata Nui had done his job for him; they had destroyed Velnax's floating city, then gone to his base, defeated him, and annihilated the Shadowdermis substance. Of course the Order of Darkness just had to rise again and destroy the best weapons suppliers in the universe.
This time, though, he wouldn't let those bumbling Order fools do the job for him. This time he would fight Velnax personally, remove his head, then remove all his disloyal subordinates' heads, then get hid of his annoying Vorahi army.
Sounds like fun, thought Gor. He was going to genuinely enjoy this.
He mentally deactivated the cloaking field that surrounded hm — he wanted the Order of Darkness to see him coming— and stepped over the remains of the city with his clawed feet. He spared not even a glance at the devastated landscape around him; all he thought about was what the look on Velnax's face would be when he smashed his sneering face into the ground with a powerful heel...
And because, as he slowly walked on the direction of the portal the Rahkshi had come from, peices of the ruined city being ground to dust info his feet, he spared not a thought for anything else, he only had half a second's reaction time when he noticed the shadow that had passed over him...
The waters churned around him, Fairon bobbing up and down in the swirling liquid. He tried to take a breath of air, but another wave hit him and he exhaled. He tried to swim and keep himself from falling in again, but another, more powerful wave knocked him beneath the surface.
He looked around underwater. He could not see anything; the sand had been stirred up, and the water was nothing but an impenetrable mass, with nothing behind it but itself, as unending as the sky. He came to the surface again, and, finding that the waves' strength had diminished somewhat, looked around at the lack of landscape around him.
He was in a sea in the middle of the desert, where, he suspected, there had been no rain for thousands of years, let alone a flood. Beneath him, he saw that the sand had finally settled down, and yet he still couldn't see the bottom. The water faded away into blackness, and there was no bottom to be found.
What, he thought grimly, was Harini thinking?
Harini. Where is she?
As if to answer his question, a hand reached out from above him — above him? How was that possible? — and held on to his shoulder. Fairon swerved around in the water, and saw Harini standing on a pillar of water as if it were solid ground.
"What were you—?" he began, more shocked than annoyed, but all she did in response was grab his hand, and suddenly, the pillar of water the two of them were on rose into the air.
"Don't you think that this is a nice way to get out of being in a desert?" said Harini calmly.
"You ridiculous — lunatic — are you insane?" Fairon spluttered.
"Admit it," said Harini. "You like how I think."
The pillar rose higher and higher, until they were at least a kio above the ground. Beneath them, Fairon could see small imperfections moving around in the water, which he recognized as waves. To the east and west lay not desert, but a sea of what looked like volcanic rock. The south was filled with sand dunes, glistening in the light of the sun. To the north lay a massive black volcano, and at its roots —
They were likely many kio away, and they could not see it in much detail, but Fairon knew instinctively what it was. It was no mirage; it was no trick of the light. Such things could not happen this far off the ground. It was a city, with great pillars of silver light—
It reminded him of Robotopolis.
In fact, one of the buildings, though Fairon couldn't see it in much detail, looked exactly like one of those Fairon had seen on the collapsing city.
He was being paranoid. It had to be that. There was no other possibility.
None that made sense.
"Well," said Harini, "it seems like that's our only option."
"Agreed," said Fairon. He remained silent for a moment. "How did you know there was a city there."
Harini looked uncomfortable for a second, but it vanished so quickly that Fairon assumed he had imagined it.
"Lucky guess," she said. "Come on, now. We'd better go before we die of thirst, shall we?"
"How nice," Fairon muttered.
As the saying goes, you know you've made it big when you have something named after you.
Slicer had an entire job named after him, and he had most definitely made it big. The word "slicer" now meant "weapons master," and he was the one and only slicer on Gigas Magna. He had earned it, too; he had worked for nearly a hundred thousand years refining his skills as a swordsman.
But never in his hundred thousand years of combat training had anything like this happened.
He walked, attempting to look calm, out into the desert sands to the south. Crowds of bounty hunters followed behind him, whispering as his dark red feet stepped onto the burning ground beneath him. Gigas Nui, the main base of the great Bounty Hunters' Guild, was now filled with the eerie buzz of many beings whispering. All weapons drills had stopped; each of the five main massive complexes, one for each Rank, was now either empty or emptying. Even the fully-trained bounty hunters, who, unlike the rest, lived in the massive crystal spires spread thinly across the black landscape, were gathering out here to watch what was happening.
A lake had been born in the desert. And Slicer wanted to know why.
His eyes were as sharp as they had ever been, and as he squinted into the distance, he saw two tiny specks approaching through the haze. He knew enough to tell that it was not an optical illusion. And, more importantly, he knew that the two Toa who were approaching the city were not allies of the Guild or the Empire; if they had been, they would have come directly to it in one of the many transports that came in and out of there every day. Whatever motives they had for creating a lake, Slicer did not know.
All he knew was that they were not his allies. And if one was not Slicer's ally—
He was his enemy.
Scorpius' Vorox eyes gleamed in anticipation. "Of course, Slicer."
Slicer made a quick not, then turned around. "Go back to your practice fights," he ordered. "Those of you who aren't back in the building complex within thirty seconds are going to be the subjects for my next lesson in target practice. The thirty seconds start now."
The bounty hunters nodded and quickly ran towards their complex, where the senior bounty hunters would give them lessons, save the small group led by Scorpius, which was assuming positions around the city. Gigas Nui was a place full of activity, and the bounty hunters were many in number, but Slicer felt no love towards them.
He was no longer sure he felt anything. Not after what he had done during the Kodax War. He would forever have to live with what he had done a hundred thousand years ago...
He hated himself. He hated everything he stood for. The being who had once been Apoplex was gone forever, replaced by this towering, evil Kodax. He hated the Guild, hated verything he had done in the last hundred thousand years...
But, as he reflected, he realized he didn't hate it enough.
Brominax had issued a full report to Helryx. He had provided every minute detail of their battle with the Rahkshi, provided her with all the radiation scans of Nynrah. There was nothing he had not done.
He had completed his job quickly so he could interrogate the prisoner. Brutaka had found him on Nynrah, apparently following Brominax. He looked like a powerfully built, silver Makuta, but unlike most other members of the Order, Brominax knew the subtle difference between a Kodax and a Makuta, and this specimen was a Kodax.
"What," said Brominax gruffly, "were you doing on Nynrah?"
He had seen this Kodax before too. It had been so long ago, it seemed, that he had last been on Gigas Magna, acting as the leader of the hidden Resistance, losing to Ixtil again and again in arguments over how the next attack should proceed. And it seemed even longer since he had last seen the Kodax.
Brominax had first thought that the Kodax was a spy of the Gigas Magna Empire, but that had turned out not to be the case. He had been working for a mysterious entity known as Baterra Magnus. But that entity had been destroyed, according to the Twilight Guardians, and he saw no reason to doubt them. So perhaps, without a master to serve, this Kodax had gone to the Brotherhood of Makuta, hoping to find a new purpose in life.
That still didn't explain why he had been following them on Nynrah, though. Or why he was in possession of a concealment field that even a Great Being could not penetrate.
"Working," spat the Kodax.
"I work for whom I choose to work," the Kodax sneered, "just like everyone else."
Brominax narrowed his eyes. "You work for the Brotherhood, is that correct?"
The Kodax scoffed. "The Brotherhood? Of Makuta? Are you absolutely mad? The big bunch of bumbling idiots doesn't even know you exist, and they certainly wouldn't get me to follow you of they did. If they knew you existed, they would make a poorly-orchestrated military assault on your base, not watch you defeat a horde of Rahkshi."
"So," said Brominax, "if you weren't going after us, then what were you doing? If you don't work for the Brotherhood, then who sent you there?"
The Kodax blinked at him, his bright red eyes gleaming defiantly. "And why should I tell you? For all you know, I could have just been there to watch a show. The destruction of Nynrah was pretty entertaining. Watching Valtrahk prance around like some sort of—"
He blinked again. "Please ignore my previous comment." Brominax looked down at the silver being in the silver chair. He bent down until he was looking the being squarely in the eyes.
"We aren't going to torture you. We aren't going to starve you. What we are going to do is slowly wheedle the information we want out of you, even if it takes a thousand years. Understand?"
The Kodax returned his gaze, but Brominax saw that he did not appear nearly as sure as he had moments before. Then the being sighed.
"My name," he said, very slowly, "is Gor. I was sent to exterminate the Order of Darkness."
"Who," said Brominax, "sent you?"
Gor looked up at him, clearly making as much effort as possible to look annoyed. "Antidax."
Brominax reeled back as if struck. His bright green eyes looked squarely into Gor's. "You are sure?"
"Absolutely," said Gor, grinning, his mouth open wide as if he had just made a funny joke. "He said you'd find that interesting."
Brominax looked at him once more and ran out of the interrogation chamber. He did not understand the whole extent of Antidax's plot; he was certain that Gor didn't either. But he knew that it was time to end it, once and for all.
He looked back at the room he had just left, and stopped. Gor would be useful, and if he were leyt out, it was possible that he could lead them to Antidax. "Release him," he said to Gor's guard.
"I said, release him. He's no use to us sitting in that chair. I assume you've already deactivated his cloaking device? Good. Give him a weapon — nothing too deadly — and send him to me. I want him prepared in thirty minutes."
He was going to find Antidax now, whatever it took.
Who should he take with him? Fyxan was gone — away on his mission. Dorex and Colix were dead. Shayla had vanished. None of the members of his original strike team remained.
The answer sprang to his mind. Vinax.
He was a senior member of the Order of Mata Nui. He could be useful.
And what about Rantu? said a voice in his mind. The training would be good for him.
No, Rantu was a novice, inexperienced. He could not possibly had stood up against Antidax—
Then a memory came to him of the young, naive Great Being named Brominax who had fought against overwhelming odds in the Kodax war, and the answer came to him.
The Skrall had gone. Shayla had been returned to them. The bounty hunter had agreed not to reveal the Enforcers' existence, and Odresk thought that that was all that mattered.
Ixtil, however, knew better. He had been recruited by the Gigas Magna Resistance ninety years ago, after he had publicly exposed the Empire's attempts to conquer other worlds. He had led a large resistance movement of Matoran and Agori, but the movement had been crushed, and Ixtil had been forced into hiding when a large number of bounty hunters had begun looking for his hide. Luckily, he had had contacts in the Resistance — the group of six bounty hunters known collectively as the Twilight Guardians — and he had moved to Noctxia Magna.
Officially, he was dead. Of course, the Empire knew better; he had been a very public foe of the Resistance, and they knew that the Resistance would accept him. But he had grown accustomed to his new environment, and his analytical method of thinking had saved many lives over time, causing him to continue to grow in rank.
So when Brominax, Fyxan, Shayla, and Colix left on their mission to the Matoran Universe, Ixtil had been left as the second-in-command to Odresk. As soon as the Skrall had arrived on their base, Ixtil had analyzed the situation and reached his conclusion: that there was an 84% chance that the Skrall had used some sort of trickery.
He was not technically the second-in-command anymore; Shayla was currently the highest-ranking of the Enforcers. But she was still recovering from her previous encounters, and Ixtil was still permitted walk-in access to the leader's quarters.
This was something that Ixtil would usually have denied: he usually preferred to knock. But now, the calm Ko-Matoran was as distressed as a being purged of emotion could possibly be.
He did not walk in to Odresk's quarters. He ran in.
Odresk had to give the order to evacuate the base.
But now, as he was knocked back by a sudden explosion, he realized that there was a 98.9% probability that, for once in his life, Ixtil had been too late.
They could see the city clearer now that they had approached it. It was made of five massive, one-level buildings, all of which were exactly identical: cold and gray. Their design was not inspiring or tasteful: they had been built for the purpose of housing things. Nearby, however, were a series of massive silver towers jutting out into the darkened sky, crystal spires reaching into the heavens, their peaks reflecting what little light remained.
"What is this?" Fairon whispered. The towers were majestic, but there was something... eerie... about the place, as if it were the home of ghosts. "What lives here?"
"No footsteps," responded Harini in an equally quiet tone. "Either no one's lived here in a long time, or—"
"They've covered their tracks to prevent us from seeing anything," Fairon answered. "But why? They don't even know who we are!"
"Exactly," Hairini answered, looking up at him, her bright green eyes a placid sea as the chilly wind whipped around hem both. "They're being cautious. It's the logical response."
"Then we find them," said Fairon, looking defiantly up at the highest tower.
"Toa fools," said a voice. "So confident..."
Fairon looked around. Nothing stirred, save the great winds that were sweeping about them. "Harini, do you know where it's coming from?"
She looked up at him, her eyes conveying the fear her face hid. "I thought you were in charge!"
"You know," said Fairon, "you need—"
The sandy ground shook beneath them, and Fairon stumbled and fell onto the earth. Harini had managed to retain her footing, and she rushed Fairon to his feet, beginning to drag him away. A chasm was opening up in the ground, perfectly rounded, and sand was falling into it as it expanded.
"It's a trap!' Hairini yelled, but her voice was all but drowned out by the fierce wind and the creaking of ancient metal gears. They ran, towards the desert, away from the ever-expanding chasm that was rushing to catch them. It was much larger now — many bio from end to end — and at the rate at which it expanded—
"Look out!" she said to him, and she grabbed him, only barely keeping him from falling into the new hole that had opened up in front of them in the ground, and was now expanding just like the first one. It was cutting them off from the desert, and now there were only two ways to go—
Towards the mysterious buildings—
"Let's go!" shouted Fairon, and the two Toa ran towards the buildings as yet another hole in the ground opened in the place where they had been before, and Fairon looked down for a moment into the unending blackness. He could not tell how deep it went, but he decided that he would raher take his chances with their unseen antagonists.
But yet another chasm opened, preventing them from going either way. All the sand had now fallen into the pit, and now Fairon could get a good look at his surroundings. The ground had not been made of sand; that was just the upper layer. Beneath it was the layer which they were standing on, a strange metal surface.
But it would not be there for long. They were standing on what looked like a pillar, and the edges were shrinking around them quickly. Fairon and Harini stood back to back, and both of them had a very good look at what lay around them. It was a massive pit, a monolithic void, that streched down for dozens of bio. And it appeared that that was where they would be heading.
"Harini," he whispered, "use your Kanohi Faxon. There might be a way for you to survive the fall."
The hexagonal metal pillars which made up the "ground" were dropping down into the abyss, interlocking with the hundreds of others in the faraway bottom of the hole. There was little time left, Fairon knew; only the hexagon he and Harini were standing on remained to drop catastrophically down into the—
Strange, he thought. I always expected to die in battle.
He braced himself for the inevitable fall—
The fall never came. The hexagon remained above the chasm. Breathless, Fairon and Harini looked around them, but nothing stirred. The wind had grown in intensity, and threatened to blow them off into the abyss.
"This," said the voice, "is our welcome to those who enter Gigas Nui uninvited. And this is our welcoming committee."
A dozen or so beings rose into the air, their jetpacks allowing them to hover slowly. Most of them were species Fairon had never seen before, but one looked much like a Matoran. All of them drew wickedly sharp blades, and they activated their jetpacks, rushing through the sky towards them.
Maybe he would die in battle after all.
"Why," muttered Fairon wryly, "does everyone always want to kill us?"
"They're being nice," said Harini, winking at him. "Let's be nice to them back."
Nightwatcher stepped into Tetrack Nui's private chamber. The massive, perfectly circular room was a smooth jet-black, the only light a small light in the ceiling, which was not nearly enough to cover the entire chamber. Save Nightwatcher himself, that was one of the two things there which was not perfectly black.
The other was Tetrack Nui.
The massive being stood six bio tall, his dark-and silver armor a twisted freak of nature, his massive head and large, pointed teeth reminiscent of those of a Hordika Magna. He sat upon a massive black throne, which some believed he had not left since the assassination attempt on him more than a year before.
He remained in his throne, looking down with his almost contemptuous and clearly half-insane green eyes at the bounty hunter.
"What is this?" Tetrack hissed, raising his hand to indicate his new Skrall form. "Had any problems, Nightwatcher? My spies have not been monitoring your progress."
"Your spies," Nightwatcher answered calmly, "are off doing other things. The last time you sent spies after me, I sent what was left of them back to you in a small matchbox. I believe it was your decision that you waste no more time condemning able infiltrators to death."
"Ah," said Tetrack, who was, Nightwatcher saw, attempting to hide his confusion. The madness that had come upon him a year before had left a great many things missing from him, his memories no exception. Gone was the charismatic leader of the Bounty Hunter Wars, the cunning planner of the Gigas Magna Civil War, the chilling mastermind of the Underworld War. He could see now why Baterra Magnus had wanted him dead.
Of course, Baterra Magnus no longer wanted anything. Nightwatcher had killed him on Kodax Magna a year before. But Nightwatcher was certain that his followers still existed somewhere; perhaps, one day, he would bother to seek them out; for now, he was content with his bounty hunting job.
"Where," said Tetrack, "is Shayla?"
"Shayla," responded the bounty hunter, "is currently in the hands of the Resistance. I held her for ransom, and they agreed to pay me a rather large sum in exchange for her return. Of course, once your fleet arrives, there won't be enough left of her to fit in anyone's hands, but that's beside the point."
"That is an act of treason," Tetrack growled, his massive fists, large enough to crush a Toa in, clenched tightly. Nightwatcher returned his gaze, looking bored.
"Why, that's nice. Go ahead, then. Give the order to execute me. You know perfectly well that no being on this planet is capable of even scratching me. So now, why don't we skip the annoying details? I assume you know what I do when I'm annoyed..."
"I know perfectly well," said Tetrack. "I assume you are asking me how much you're going to be paid for the discovery of the new planet."
Nightwatcher gasped mockingly. "No, I was asking how many balloons there were going to be at the Metru Nui coliseum tomorrow during the festival—!"
"Absolutely nothing," said Tetrack.
Nightwatcher looked up in surprise. He had been lazily reading Tetrack's emotions since the beginning of their conversation, and yet, somehow, there had been no hint of deception.
He had not been fooled by anyone for over fifty thousand years.
"I suppose you are wondering," said Tetrack, "why you have been fooled. I shall present the answer to your question now."
A being appeared by Tetrack's throne, whom even Nightwatcher's powers had not been able to sense. It was a dragon-like Kodax in a mechanical suit, with the right half of his face burned away.
"Hello, Nightwatcher," said Mordrax. "I suppose you're surprised by all this. You do remember my shadowdermis-powered mechanical suit? It is far more powerful than I originally imagined. Even more powerful than you."
"I wouldn't bet on that," said Nightwatcher coolly.
"Oh, but I would," said Mordrax. "Nightwatcher, you are under arrest for the attempted murder of Overlord Mordrax."
With that, Mordrax revealed a hidden cannon in his arm. The shadowdermis which flowed through his body channeled its force into the weapon, and meanwhile, it placed an invisible restraining force on Nightwatcher, so he could not break free from the inevitable conclusion.
"What—?" said Nightwatcher, absolutely shocked by the idea that there was now a mortal being more powerful than he.
And with that, Mordrax fired.
Here they were again: Brominax and Rantu together on a mission, going off to hunt the Order of Darkness. Only this time, they were accompanied by the Toa of Lightning Vinax and what looked like a deranged Makuta.
If only Fairon were here, Rantu thought. He'd enjoy this.
Fairon. It already seemed so long ago that they had parted in Helryx's chambers for the last time. So far as he knew, there had been no news of Fairon; of course, he wasn't exactly a high-ranking official, so he couldn't expect to receive all of the news...
But if Fairon had successfully completed the mission, then wouldn't he have sought him out by now to have a friendly chat in the halls of Daxia or have a practice match together?
He blinked, sorting out his thoughts. There were an infinite number of explanations as to why he hadn't seen Fairon. Besides, the two of them had only left on their missions twelve hours previously. Still, to Rantu, that had seemed like an eternity.
"Are you coming or not, Rantu?" said Brominax.
Rantu blinked again and looked across the stream to the Great Being. "Yes, of course I am."
They had been sent to Nynrah again, but now they had Makuta Gor with them as a guide. Brominax appeared certain that they could discover those who had destroyed the village. Vinax, however, did not share his confidence.
"He won't talk," Vinax hissed in Brominax's ear. "He has no intention of talking, he has no interest in talking, and if i were him, I wouldn't talk either if I were in his position."
"You are not him," said Brominax, indicating the hunched Makuta who had been clearly trying to slip off, but when he realized that Brominax knew exactly where he was, he rejoined the group without requiring persuasion. "And besides, we will know if he is telling us lies. Correct, Rantu?"
Understanding immediately what was being asked of him, Rantu nodded. He closed his eyes and left his body.
He was no Toa of Psionics; he could not read minds or move objects through telekinesis. His power was much simpler: that of aura. Each being, each object, has an aura of energy about them. Tapping into that power allows one not to read minds or control them; he was able to sense emotions, ideas. It was simple, and that was his power: simplicity itself.
He allowed his mind to drift, sensing the presences of Brominax and Vinax. Vinax was a bowl of great golden energy — which Rantu recognized as elemental power. But while Vinax was a bowl, Brominax was a cauldron — a great force of light, kept in a physical form. But he did not intend to concentrate on either of them. Instead, he allowed his energies to pass through the body of Makuta Gor.
There was fear, which was understandable; being threatened by an immensely powerful Great Being is not something to be taken lightly. But he sensed another kind of fear: a deeper, more penetrating fear.
He tried to concentrate on it, but instead of succeeding, he almost last his connection to the aura field. Stopping himself, he instead let his mind drift again, and then he saw it — it was not an immediate fear, not a present fear, but rather a fear that had been with him for a very long time, almost—
"Rantu?" said Brominax. "Is he going to tell us or not?"
Ah, yes, thought Rantu, and he finally remembered who he was and what he was doing. He let his mind slowly leave the chasm of Gor's fears, and instead slowly directed them to find out what Gor intended.
There was fear, as he sense earlier. And there was deception, but not enough to suggest that Gor was going to lie to them. And then, once again, he caught upon something else — a tremor in the aura field. Not coming from Gor, but instead coming from Nynrah itself.
He slowly guided his mind towards it, and he sensed that his mind was traveling towards one of the impact craters filled with radiation that Brominax had seen. He felt a powerful wave of pure fear coming from it, and at the same time, he felt a strange force, something he had never felt before: a blank slate of pure evil. A mind, if it could be called a mind, fully bent on destruction—
Then, something that had never happened, happened. A visual image came to him; not an idea of what he was seeing, but an actual image—
"Away!" he yelled frantically, but he was no longer Rantu; he was a strange green Makuta ordering a group of crimson Rahkshi towards him. "You can't—!"
An enormous shock, almost like a rupture in the ground itself. He was thrown back five bio by the shockwave, and as he got up, limping, groaning, and blood-spattered, he saw that a massive crater had formed almost exactly where he had been standing moments before.
"Stupid Rahkshi," he muttered, looking down at one of the fragments of red armor that had landed beside him. Then he saw a massive shadow passing over the ground around him, and hastily spread his massive silver wings and few away far enough to avoid being annihilated in the resulting shock. However, the shockwave carried him over a few more bio, and he landed painfully the roof on one of the few buildings left on Nynrah.
"Rahkshi," he ordered, "retreat!"
Then the dust cleared, and he got a good look at the cause of the destruction—
Rantu's eyes rolled back in his head. His multicolored body fell to its knees on the ground, his head fell face-first in the dust. Rantu and Vinax rushed over to him; Gor too advantage of the moment ad tried to escape, but without even looking, Brominax activated his Kanohi and froze him in his tracks. He picked up Rantu's limp body and passed his hand over him, initiating a release of moral light that could cleanse a being of any poisons.
Rantu coughed, and his eyes wearily opened.
"What happened?" Vinax urged.
Rantu motioned for Brominax to let him down, and the Great Being did so. Rantu stood up on his legs again, a bit unsteady, and as he regained his balance, be began to recall what he had seen.
"Gor's not planning to lie to us," he coughed, "but that's beside the point. I think I know what happened here."
Brominax looked at him. "What do you mean?"
Rantu hesitated, and began again. "I had... a vision. Nothing like this has ever happened before, and I don't know why, but I saw what happened to Nynrah."
"Tell us what you saw," ordered Vinax.
"I was... a green-and-black Makuta," Rantu began slowly. "There was a pair of wings on my back, and I had a pair of claws on my hands..."
"Valtrahk!" said Vinax excitedly, his battered and weary face as youthful as Rantu had ever seen it. "So maybe this was an Order of Darkness superweapon! Go on, Rantu!"
Rantu shook his head. "I don't think so. He and his Rahkshi were trying to defend themselves from something. That's what caused all of these impact craters. I never got a good look at it, but I felt something... it was just so evil and irrational... it was like some kind of Rahi..."
"So maybe the Order wasn't the perpetrator after all." Brominax frowned. "But why—?"
"The Coliseum," Gor croaked.
The three Order of Mata Nui members looked around at the Makuta suspended in midair.
"What did you say?" said Brominax, releasing the Makuta from his telekinetic grip.
"Valtrahk said something about being at the Coliseum," Gor said once he had stood up from the hard fall he had made on the ground. "I don't know what he meant by that, or why."
Vinax and Brominax looked at each other. "The festival," Vinax muttered.
"Precisely," said Brominax.
Rantu looked from Vinax to Rantu. "What festival?"
Brominax looked at him with his penetrating green eyes. "The annual Festival of Metru Nui. Now that t's been repopulated by the Matoran, I assume they'll continue the tradition."
"The entire population of Metru Nui," Vinax added. "All gathered up into the Coliseum."
Rantu's eyes widened. "Holy Mata Nui..."
Fairon and Harini were back-to-back, fighting off the countless warriors that swarmed around them. Harini was a blue blur, her twin knives spinning in quick and deadly patters. She struck down a strange yellow being, his hat falling down into the abyss. Another came at her from the side, but she swiftly turned around and neatly cleaved him in half. The two parts plummeted almost slowly to the ground. By the time they had reached the end of their fall, Harini had downed another, a strange silver scorpion-like being, whom she had kicked gracefully off the hexagonal column. His jetpack having been smashed, he screamed on the long fall down until it was silenced by the inevitable thud.
Fairon was finding it much more difficult. He had been weakened by the destruction of his Kanohi, and even the simplest of combat moves made him tired. His twin swords, which had replaced the Lance of Light he had lost at Robotopolis, were growing heavy, but he knew he must carry on, even if it meant his death.
A Vortixx came upon him next, wielding a long staff with a wickedly sharp blade on the end. His foe wasted no time in preparing himself; he swung the staff at him, and Fairon barely avoided it by jumping to the side. However, not only did it leave him dangerously close to the edge of the column, but it also left Harini open to an attack from the back. His attacker sensed this, and apparently decided to settle both problems with one blow, which would both down Harini and knock Fairon off the edge. He lunged at the female Toa of water, deciding to strike her down first, and Harini, who had finally managed to down her last opponent, barely had enough time to turn around before he came upon her.
However, in his eagerness to kill Harini, the Vortixx had forgotten about Fairon, who had seized the opportunity and jumped into the air. The Vortixx looked up and raised his weapon, but he was half a second too slow — Fairon was on his back, but before he could get ahold of him, the Vortixx knocked him off, sending him flying through the air. He skidded across the platform, and saw the edge of the pillar come ever closer. Before he could fall completely off, he managed to grab on to the edge with one hand. However, his intervention had allowed Harini to ready herself, and she managed to outmaneuver the Vortixx and neatly sever his head. She looked in his direction and attempted to come towards him to help him get back onto the pillar, but the other warriors had not forgotten about her, and were now cutting her off from Fairon.
Wonderful, Fairon thought. The wind had increased even more, and it threatened to blow him off into the chasm. Had he been at his full strength, he could have easily climbed back up onto the pillar to aid Harini, but he had been severely weakened, and now it was all he could do to hang on for dear life as the wind battered him severely.
However, the wind was now the least of his problems. Though most of the attacking beings were either dead or attacking Harini, one of them had remembered Fairon: the orange Matoran-like being Fairon had seen when the battle started. Taking out a long scythe, the being grinned wickedly and activated the forward thrusters, flying forward to spear Fairon. Fairon braced himself, and at the last second managed to summon up what was left of his strength and jump up onto the pillar. The Matoran-like being collided into the pillar, momentarily stunned, and Fairon used the time to kick him sharply in the face. Dazed, his foe managed to activate his jetpack as he fell down, turning the deadly fall into a slow spiral down to the bottom.
Still weak but unwilling to leave Harini behind, he returned to his feet and charged into battle. His appearance surprised many of his foes, and the two Toa managed to take two of them down. The rest were quickly upon them, and Fairon was gasping for air. He was no longer sure that he could stand a few more minutes, but there were only a small number of opponents left...
He looked momentarily at Harini while parrying a large, well-armored being's constant series of blows. "This sure is a Karzahni of a first mission, eh?" he said, managing to find a hole in the being's armor. He drove his sword into it, hard — the being toppled over the edge, but one of his swords, still embedded in his foe's body, came with it.
"Oh," said Harini, smiling weakly at him, "well, if it's anything like yours, it's far from over..."
Fairon was driven back towards her by a sharp series of blows by a powerful white-armored Skakdi. He parried, but the brute force of the offensive nearly knocked the weapon out of his hand. Recognizing the combat form of Kracht, Fairon utilized his own Lihtne form to deflect the offensive ever so slightly, just enough to keep the Skakdi's sword at bay. Frustrated, the Skakdi pushed on with more and more strength, but then decided to change tactics. After Fairon deflected a blow meant to cut off his head, the Skakdi continued moving his sword—
In Harini's direction.
No, thought Fairon, fear flooding his mind, and at the last second, he bowled her over, kicking the Skakdi a few paces back.
"You owe me one now," whispered Fairon to Harini.
"Thanks," Harini whispered, and for a moment their faces were very close, his bright green eyes looking into hers—
Then he saw that the Skakdi had not fallen over the edge, and Fairon got up. Filled with a strange force that had not been there moments before, he somersaulted into the air, twirling his sole remaining weapon and bringing it down hard on the Skakdi's weapon. He was the only one of their foes who remained, and both Toa lunged at him with equal force. As in the case of the Makuta they had fought not hours before, the Skakdi grew confused by the two attackers, looking from one to the other desperately, desperately trying to keep them both at bay, slowly being driven to the edge of the cliff—
But then the Skakdi unleashed a move that Fairon should have seen coming, but he had been so certain of victory that he had never expected to be caught off guard. He rammed his head into Fairon's, knocking him back a couple of steps, and even as Harini cleaved his staff into two, he jumped towards Fairon, his trident pointed down at his neck and poised for the kill. Fairon tried to roll out of the way, but the Skakdi grabbed him by the throat and carried to his feat. Fairon aimed an elbow at him, but the Skakdi put his weapon to his throat.
Harini looked at her foe in his bright red eyes, readying her weapons.
"Don't move or he dies!" shouted the Skakdi.
Harini hesitated, looking Fairon in the eyes. But before she could make her decision, a new foe appeared, a strange tan creature with half of his tail. He had apparently been invisible during the battle, and there was a triumphant look in his eye as he pointed his weapon at Harini.
"Make one sudden move and I shoot. Now, Toa, put your swords down very, very carefully, or I'll blow your brains out."
Harini looked at Fairon again, and he nodded. She slowly leaned down, setting her weapons on the floor. The tan creature kicked it away. "Your Kanohi too," he said. "I'm not taking any chances with you two."
Fairon nodded. Harini removed her Kanohi Faxon and set it down.
"Good," the being crooned. He activated what looked like a sort of electronic implant embedded in his arm. A blue holographic image popped up, and he spoke to it. "Scorpius to Slicer. Two for interrogation."
"Good," said the apparition. "Cuff them and bring them to me. I shall make them talk, whether they care to or not."
The invasion alarms blared loudly as Odresk ran through the bleak hall, shouting orders to the evacuating Resistance. A plasma cannon blast shook the building heavily, sending him sprawling on the floor. He regained his balance and continued running towards the exits.
"Curse that bounty hunter," Odresk muttered. Another blast shook the building, and he swore loudly as he fell face-first on the floor.
"A leader should always keep his composure," said a familiar Ko-Matoran voice from behind him. Odresk stood up again and found himself looking down at the Kanohi Iden of his deputy Ixtil.
"Yes," said Odresk, "but this is, after all, an eaxtraordinary circumstance—"
"Especially in extraordinary circumstances," said Ixtil as another blast shook the building. Odresk nearly fell again, but Ixtil appeared totally unaffected.
"Yes," said Odresk, regaining his composure. "Ixtil, how much time do we have left?"
Ixtil looked at him almost severely. "Accounting for the time it takes for their plasma cannon to reload, and for the new energy field we have installed, complemented by the structural integrity of the building itsekf, with the variable of whether or not other warships will arrive—"
"Ixtil!" growled Odresk, who was running alongside him to the exits as another cannon blast hit, knocking some of the ceiling above them loose.
"Approximately six minutes and seventeen—"
Odresk swore again, not even waiting for Ixtil to finish his sentence. The two beings were running at top speed, the cannon blasts knocking Odresk back a few paces one in a while, or collapsing the ceiling above them. The hangar bay was nearly within sight now, and as Odresk looked around him, he saw that hundreds of Resistance members were already boarding their personal spaceships.
"Ixtil," Odresk hissed, "estimate how many Resistance members there are here."
Ixtil's eyes moved quickly across the surroundings. "Approximately two hundred twelve."
"Are you sure?"
"I estimate a 94% probability that—"
"Mata Nui, you sound like a robot sometimes. Where are the others?"
"Given the four minutes and forty-nine seconds that have passed since the attack occurred, I estimate that there was enough time for approximately one hundred twenty to escape."
"What," said Odresk, "is the status of the others?"
"Status unknown for the eighty-two other beings, sir."
Odresk growled, and looked up to find that their running had gotten them to their destination. Odresk's personal cruiser lay in front of them, a relatively small battleship with a crew of only twenty. It was painted a bright red, its smooth curves, while keeping it aerodynamic, making it appear like a great work of art.
"Ixtil," said Odresk, trying to convey a bravery that he did not feel, "you get in the cruiser. I'll try to find the others."
"But sir," said Ixtil, looking up at him, his blank and expressionless face as worried as Odresk had ever seen it, "you have only four minutes and sixteen seconds to—"
"I am aware of that, Ixtil," Odresk said bluntly, rushing off as numerous other Resistance members took off of the landing pad and flew into the sky.
"BUT SIR," said Ixtil, his voice all but drowned out by the shriek of the engines, "IT IS A VIOLATION OF PROTOCOL FOR THE COMMANDER TO—"
"TO KARZAHNI WITH PROTOCOL!" said Odresk, his voice fading away into the distance as he entered one of the many darkened tunnels. Ixtil looked on almost tearfully, his heart as close to sadness as it had ever been.
"Shall we leave, Commander?" asked the pilot, earmuffs readied.
"Yes," said Ixtil, swallowing. "Set a course for Kodax Magna. Evacuation plan 2-H."
"Yes, sir," said the pilot, and as he slowly levitated the aircraft, the shrieking whine of engines cutting through the air, Ixtil looked out the window at the door which Odresk had passed through.
The door between life and death.
The crimson aircraft activated its forward engines, and as it left the hangar bay, they were able to see the two Imperial ships sending down bolt after bold of plasma in the direction of the building. Ixtil could see the usually-transparent shields glowing orange from the intense energy that was consuming them—
Then the shield flickered away, and the warships intensified their fire on the base. The metal structure built so long ago by the criminal empire Dark Talon, which the Enforcers had lived in for the last hundred years, was battered by wave upon wave of terrible energy. Large craters were punched in the roof, breaching the great compound, shattering the walls, burning down the great foliage of Noctxia Magna—
Then it all exploded in a massive fireball as the automatic self-destruct system activated, preventing anyone from ever learning their secrets.
Ixtil turned away from the window, his face as cold and expressionless as ever, as the ship entered the dimensional void. And all the while, he wondered, just like two hundred others scattered across the universe:
Fairon's eyes blinked open, and he blinked them again as he saw the bright light that lay right above him. He stood up and adjusted to his surroundings.
He was in a small, cramped prison cell. Such a scene was not new to him; he had been in prison cells numerous times before. This time, however, he had not been captured by the Order of Darkness; this time, he had not been fighting a war on Sacho Nui, and been kept as a prisoner of battle. This time, he and Harini had been fighting for their lives against a strange, faceless enemy that had put them here in cells.
Harini. Where was she? He tried to look through the bars of his cell, but in doing so accidentally brushed up against one of them. He jumped back and yelled in shock and pain. They had apparently been electrified, and with enough voltage to nearly kill a Matoran at that.
Lucky I'm no Matoran, then, he grimaced, and tried to look around for an object to use to break himself out. There was none. All that existed in the cramped cell was a bench, apparently carved out from the rough white wall, and a light. He tried breaking the glass with his closed fist, but to his shock, it seemed impenetrable.
He took a deep breath, then another. This wasn't the first time he'd ever been captured. He would find a way to get out soon. He would.
There was, after all, no other option.
He lay down on the hard white bench, resuming his original position, and sighed deeply, closing his eyes. He was certain that someone would come for him eventually; after all, he had heard the strange tan being — Scorpius, he had called himself — say that they were to be interrogated. Of course, maybe they'll starve us first, whoever "they" are, thought the Toa of Light. Maybe they think that'll make us more willing to talk.
He settled into a more comfortable position, deciding to use the time to think about other things. For instance, where were they? Certainly, they were not in the Matoran Universe; the sun had already confirmed that for him. He had heard rumors of an incident involving a rogue group of Makuta that involved half of the Order, but it had been kept so secret that, apparently, no one in that half of the Order was allowed to talk to the other half about it.
But, of course, that was idle gossip, wasn't it?
He lay in that position with his eyes closed for a time, and jerked awake at the sound of footsteps. A massive red being was walking down the hallway, where all the prison cells lay. All of them, so far as Fairon could see, were empty.
The red being waved his hand — or at least, what his hand should have been; his arms ended in a pair of chainsaws — and Fairon's cell door opened. Fairon looked up at him, intending to look the being menacingly in the eyes, and the being stared back at him, his bright green lanterns glaring at him evilly.
"I am Slicer," said the being, grinning wickedly and raising his chainsaw arm. "I am the Guild weapons master. But of course, you already knew that, didn't you?"
"I don't know what you're talking about," said Fairon in a level tone.
Slicer's piercing gaze continued. "And I suppose you've never heard of the Gigas Magna Empire either?"
Fairon shook his head. "Absolutely not."
With a sudden, shocking motion that Fairon never saw coming, Slicer whipped his chainsaw-hand around and placed it menacingly close to Fairon's throat. "I am not playing games, understand? I am not some wise, kind old Great Being you're dealing with here. I am a merciless, deadly, and easily angered assassin, and I would kill you if it convinced you that I'm serious. Perhaps I'll kill your Ga-Matoran friend there. Or perhaps I should get Mordrax over here and show us one of his new torture techniques. Now, what were you doing here? Answer, or I'll have you watch your internal organs being removed, one by one."
Fairon gulped, but managed to keep looking Slicer in the eye. "And why should I tell you?"
Slicer hissed and spun around sharply, moving his chainsaw arm away from his neck but at the same time making a small cut with the other on Fairon's naked, Kanohi-less brow. "Because you fear death, as all sane beings do, and if you fear death, you fear me."
"I do not fear you," replied the Toa of Light angrily. "And I do not fear death. I would die in the service of my order."
"Oh, really?" growled the massive Kodax. "And what order would that be?"
"Tell you what?" said Fairon. "You tell me what this place is, and maybe I'll answer your questions."
"You are in no position to make demands, fool!" said Slicer.
"Am I?" Fairon replied. "Whatever you need me for is obviously important, or otherwise I'd be dead already. First, tell me why it's so important that I be interrogated."
Slicer growled. "You make me want to kill you. Fine, then. I shall tell you. Your Kanohi."
"What of it?" Fairon frowned.
Slicer looked at him again, twirling his chainsaws. "It is coated with residue of Shadowdermis."
"How do you know what Shadowdermis is?" said Fairon in surprise, letting his guard down.
"Only the Brotherhood of Gigas Magna knows of it," hissed the slicer. "It's a top-secret experimental material."
"Sadly," Fairon answered, "I do not know of the Brotherhood of Gigas Magna. Please elaborate."
Slicer laughed loudly. "Is that a bad joke, Toa? Very well, then. I shall elaborate. Please bear in mind that this shall make your torture much more painful later.
"Once upon a time, there was an Enforcer of Gigas Magna named Forsk. He rebelled against his order and joined with Tetrack to form a massive army of Rahi. They quickly pushed the planet of Gigas Magna into submission, and the Enforcers were all but annihilated. However, Brominax, the leader of the puny Enforcers, survived, and began an even more puny Resistance against us. Of course, he's either dead or on the run now. We've already destroyed his fortress, and his allies are scattered across the void. And you," said Slicer, pushing his weapon against Fairon's throat again, "will talk."
"So this is Gigas Magna?" said Fairon.
"Of course this is Gigas Magna. And in case you're still pretending not to know, this is Gigas Nui, the headquarters of the Bounty Hunters' Guild. Now," said Slicer, his chainsaw hand pressing against Fairon's throat a little harder so a thin trickle of blood began coming from his neck, "you shall——!"
Slicer let out a sudden scream, and the massive red creature writhed in pain until he fell to the floor, unconscious. Immediately, alarms began to sound. Fairon looked down at the massive red body, wondering what had happened to him.
"Well, don't just stand there!" shouted a voice that he recognized as Harini's. "Grab his keys!"
Fairon dumbly nodded, and he bent down to look for them. There appeared to be none, but then he remembered that Slicer had opened the door by waving his hand. He bent down over Slicer's unconscious form to see if there was anything in his hand that would be of use, and there was: a strange metal device attached to his lower arm. Fairon stood up again and attached it to his lower arm. Looking down again to make sure that the Kodax was still unconscious, he waved his arm slowly, and the metal door slowly opened. Once he was out of his cell, he looked up and down the bleak corridor for Harini, and finally he found her, in one of the cells a few rows down from his. He ran towards her and opened the door.
"Why didn't I think of that?" said Fairon. "Electrocuting Slicer with his own prison walls?"
"It wouldn't have worked for you," said Harini, who was now running along the hall beside him. "You don't have Water powers. Of course, I couldn't make a constant stream; that would probably knock me out too..."
"So you created a puddle of water," Fairon guessed, "connecting to the metal bars, and Slicer stepped in it."
"I had to make sure it wouldn't hit you as well," Harini explained. "Luckily, you were fearfully backing away from Slicer onto the bench, so it wasn't much of a problem."
Fairon was about to come up with a witty retort when they reached the end of the hallway. They opened the door and began to run towards the next. Once they had reached the next door, a gaggle of heavily armed and clearly very dangerous beings plowed through the door they had just passed through and rushed towards the two Toa.
"What is this place?" muttered Harini, quickening her pace.
"Gigas Nui," said Fairon, looking behind him to see if their foes were gaining on them. "He said it was the headquarters of the Bounty Hunters' Guild."
"Nice place," said Harini.
"This is going to be a fun morning," muttered Fairon.
The twin suns rose high over the Metru Nui coliseum. To many, it would have seemed odd to see a Great Being, a Kodax, and two Toa in the crowd sitting next to one another, and that was why Brominax used his powers to make it appear that there were, in fact, four Le-Matoran occupying their seats. They watched as, down below in the Coliseum, the first game of the Kolhii tournament began.
"When do you expect Velnax to make his move?" inquired Rantu, looking across Gor's seat towards Brominax.
"As soon as he wants to," Brominax replied.
"Are you expecting anything specific from him?" said Rantu, who stopped when he saw that Brominax was thinking hard about something. "Sorry..."
Gor squirmed around uncomfortably in his seat. "I led you to Velnax," he growled. "That was my part of the deal. Ready to let me go now?"
"Oh, no," hissed Vinax. "You'd just go straight back to your masters, groveling like a little worm and spilling all our secrets. Besides, if this is a trap, we want to make sure you're with us."
Gor muttered something particularly nasty and leaned back in his seat, casting angry glares at the three Order of Mata Nui members. Brominax ignored him, his eyes closed and his hands clasped together, muttering something as if he were asleep. He opened his eyes at last, and looked sharply towards Rantu.
"The Core Processor," he said. "Why didn't I realize it? They're after the core processor."
Vinax gasped in shock. Gor sank lower into his seat, frowning glumly. Rantu raised an eyebrow. "The what?"
"The core processor," Vinax explained. "The center of Mata Nui's mind."
Rantu swore loudly, and many Matoran heads turned in his direction. "What'cha mean?" said another Le-Matoran. "We won the match!"
"Oh, right," said Rantu, who had forgotten all about their disguises. The Le-Matoran was shaking his head in exasperation, and quickly forgot about Rantu as a new match began.
"We have to leave," said Brominax, getting up quickly from his seat. "Now."
Gor, surprisingly enough, followed without complaint. Vinax gestured for Rantu to follow them. The Toa of Aura cast one last look at the Le-Matoran, frowning, and continued after the others. They made their way down to the ground levels of the Coliseum. Several strange looks came in there direction, and more than one Matoran said along the lines of, "Hey! Ya lose interest or something?" The group ignored them, and they made their way down the stairs to the ground without complaint.
At last, they reached the exits of the Coliseum, and Brominax wasted no time in neatly punching through the ground with his enormous fist. Beneath it, there was a strange metal corridor that led to another area underground.
"Emergency entrance," said Brominax. "It's burned into my brain."
"That's not a very conventional means of entry," Rantu frowned.
"Oh, trust me," said Vinax, jumping down into the tunnel after the Great Being. "Once you've been in the Order of Mata Nui as long as I have, you learn that there's no such thing as an unconventional means of entry."
Gor looked around warily, and then down into the tunnel. "You first," said Rantu, and the Makuta looked behind him angrily.
"Why are you so insistent on keeping me with you?" Gor grumbled.
"I think Vinax explained that already," said Rantu, who, upon realizing that Gor was not willingly going to risk his life for a cause that was not his own, jumped on his back and knocked them both into the tunnel.
They slid down the near-vertical slope, Gor shouting curses, and eventually the slope leveled out. Rantu walked forward, and Gor looked frantically around him for a means of escape.
"You're not so brave when you're stuck here with us, are you?" Vinax muttered, giving Gor a light electrical shock that caused him to turn around. "No wonder the Brotherhood categorized you as 'psychologically unstable.'"
"Quiet," said Rantu, his hands pressed to his face. "I'm sensing something here. I can't tell what it is, but we're not alone here..."
The party walked through the corridor in silence. Every once in a while, the tunnel changed directions, and Gor opened his mouth to give a pessimistic comment from time to time, but save that, there was nothing to relieve the monotony. Yet still they trudged on. At one point, Rantu saw an inscription on the wall and asked Brominax about it, but the Great being simply ignored him and ordered him to keep going.
How many hours had they been down there? Rantu wished that Brominax could simply run at the speed of sound and take them with him, but he had explained that there were traps, and not even he knew what all of them were. So far, Brominax had managed to keep them from falling into any...
Then Rantu sensed the aura field change. There was a powerful force in here, something he could barely comprehend... But no, he realized that was not what they were looking for. It was the mind of the Great Spirit he was sensing, and so he attempted to ignore its presence in the aura field as he departed from his body and searched for the other beings which he had sensed.
They were closer now, he could tell, but he still could not identify what beings they were; they were of a kind unknown to him. With a sudden shock, he sensed a pair of dead bodies — but no, they had been dead for at least a thousand years, Rantu realized as he inspected their energies closer.
And then he understood what kind of being was stationed down here.
He had nothing to do with the Order of Darkness.
"Hello, Brominax!" wheezed an aged, croaking voice from the darkness. "Come to visit me, after all these years?" The being coughed loudly.
Brominax did not unsheathe his weapons. "Draconius."
"Hello, old friend," said the being, stepping into the beam of light Brominax had produced, blinking his aged eyes repeatedly. Rantu could see what he was now; a strange black shrunken creature with an elongated head. He was unarmed, so far as Rantu could see, save a short wooden rod that he used as a cane. His dim orange eyes surveyed the scene.
"Don't worry, Brominax. All old enmities between us can be forgotten. Would the four of you come and sit down?" the being named Draconius said, gesturing to a small area that he had clearly made his living area. "My Odina Drone robots" — So that's what the other presences were! Rantu realized. These robots. — "have no intention of harming you. Please, do sit down. I have many things to say to you all..."
Nightwatcher opened his eyes. He was lying on a metal chair, and a powerful white light was being shined into his eyes. He did not blink, and instead attempted to st up. However, he found that his hands were being bound by a pair of metal chains. He gently tugged at one of them — "gently" being the amount of strength required to level a building, but it did not break. He growled in irritation, and then released a massive burst of energy, such as the one he had used to annihilate the Noctxia Guardians' supposedly indestructible fortress, into the handcuffs. However, even then it did not break.
"Mordrax," he hissed. He readied himself to use his full power to destroy the handcuffs — about enough to destroy the solar system, as well as some comets outside of Solis Magna's gravitational influence — when Mordrax appeared before him.
"Why, hello," said Mordrax. "I suppose you're enjoying yourself."
Nightwatcher hissed angrily and channeled the energy towards Mordrax instead in a powerful, laser-thin charge. In normal circumstances, the energy would have completely annihilated Mordrax and passed up through the atmosphere at near the speed of light, where it would have continued into infinity through the vastness of space, Mordrax's component particles with it — but instead it did no harm whatsoever.
"How amusing," Mordrax laughed. "I can't wait to take you to Gigas Nui and show Slicer. He'll laugh aloud, I'm sure."
"If you're going to kill me," spat the Toa, "do it now and be done with it."
"Kill you?" said Mordrax. "You must be mad. You could be useful to me. Once we've broken you like a Mahi steed, we'll give you some sort of humiliating job and forget about you."
"Go to Karzahni," Nightwatcher growled, his face contorted with fury, "you overconfident little—"
Nightwatcher then proceeded to spit out a string of extremely vile curses in eighty different languages.
"Tsk," Mordrax said, shaking his head in mock distaste. "Such awful manners. You'll have to be disciplined if you continue behaving so rudely."
Nightwatcher roared, unleashing another powerful energy blast. Mordrax waved his hand, and it vanished.
"You don't like being beaten, do you?" Mordrax said, grinning, his remaining eye looking savagely at Nightwatcher. "You're so helpless right now..."
"No one leaves me helpless," Nightwatcher spat. "No one."
"You pitiful weakling," Mordrax laughed. "You are helpless. Shadowdermis is more powerful than you could ever have imagined. With this power, I can overthrow Tetrack, crush galaxies with my very word, even beat you."
"Shadowdermis was destroyed," said Nightwatcher, his face contorted with fury.
"Not all of it," Mordrax answered, moving closer to the white chair Nightwatcher was bound to. "You see, one hundred years ago, Tetrack appointed me in charge of a very special experiment: to create a new form of Shadowdermis. This is infinitely more powerful than the original, capable of even shattering worlds. Not even you can stand against it."
"Coward," murmured Nightwatcher. "Fight me face to face."
"You know that I would win," Mordrax responded. "I see no point. I shall let you rot in that chair some time longer."
Mordrax began walking away, his mechanical legs creaking as they made contact with the cold, sleek tiles. Nightwatcher screamed in rage, his voice cracking the very foundations of the building, but Mordrax stopped his voice with a wave oh his hand.
"Why don't you quiet down for a change?" laughed Mordrax, and Nightwatcher's mouth was suddenly sealed by a powerful psionic force. Inside his own mind, Nightwatcher continued screaming, the unbridled anger channeling itself through his own body.
Mordrax smiled satisfyingly, not sparing a glance at the Toa of Shadow in the chair behind him. He mentally shut the door behind him, and he continued on his way to Tetrack's chambers.
The Enforcers are gone, he thought. The Resistance is scattered. Nightwatcher himself is broken, and the Guild serves me. Now the only obstacle in my way is Tetrack.
Time to finish the job...
Leviathos was a former Dark Hunter, a member of the Order of Mata Nui and Brotherhood of Unity, the Prime Advisor of the Noctxia Guardians, but in all his years of service he had never known of the existence of the planet of Gigas Magna. And yet now, three days after he had learned of its existence, here he was, sneaking past guards on the city of Gigas Nui.
It had taken him two days to reach this place; Gigas Nui had strict security measures, including an anti-teleportation shield and two dozen extremely powerful plasma cannons. Any attempt to teleport or fly in would culminate in disaster, so there was only one option remaining: approaching from a distance on foot. There were infrared scanners, yes, but they could be easily fooled by someone as... gifted... as him.
The Resistance had recruited him for his immense power; he had been able to defeat Nightwatcher himself in combat, thanks to his Space-Time powers, which he had accidentally activated during a battle with him. However, that was only part of the reason: another was that Leviathos was, apparently, the subject of a prophecy that could enable him to gain enough power to destroy the Makuta. Apparently, Odresk had hoped that the term "Makuta" could apply to Kodax as well.
There were many Kodax inside these walls. Far too many.
So, Leviathos reflected as he quickly looked behind him, he had been chosen for this solo and terribly dangerous mission to test his abilities. He had been contacted a few hours ago by Ixtil, telling him that the Resistance had been discovered by the Empire and was now scattered. Leviathos had asked to return to them, but Ixtil had ordered him to finish the mission.
Of course, if the Resistance was, in fact, scattered, then there would be no way for them to send the air support that was necessary to complete the mission once Gigas Nui's defenses were sabotaged. Meaning that this was likely a suicide mission.
This should be fun.
Leviathos held on to his staff as he quietly ran across the sands. He managed to reach his destination without falling into any traps, and pressed himself against a hard concrete wall, breathing heavily. He looked around again warily, as he knew that about a hundred of the most dangerous killers in the universe were on the other side of the wall.
What a happy thought, he thought, breaking into a swift, light-footed run around the perimeter. He stopped sharply when he noticed a slim quadrupedal Faran, bearing a guard's badge, turn a corner just in time to keep from seeing him. He went around the other way, wondering for the twentieth time whether it had been a very bad idea to take this job.
He peered swiftly around the corner, and saw that the Bota Magnan was looking around, her ears pricked on her Husi Pecking Bird-like ostrich head. Leviathos resumed his original position, pressing against the wall, holding his breath. Finally, the Faran continued looking around, having at last decided that she had heard nothing but a small rat scuttling around.
Wasting no time, Leviathos ran, his feet making not the slightest sound. He may have been in possession of all the Kraata powers, but he could only fully control a few of them, and he was not yet able to muffle noise or make himself invisible. All he could do was try to sneak past the guards to the main control center before either of them could sound an alarm.
He let out a sigh of relief as he neared the main control center, a comparatively small building about the size and shape of a Kodax battle tank. It was colored a dark gunmetal, and it was covered by, not the (nonetheless strong) reinforced protodermis that covered the other buildings, but instead an extremely rare metal, which he had encountered once before, on the outside of Noctxia Guardians' base: a ridiculously strong protodermis alloy.
Leviathos resisted the temptation to swear; there were likely numerous guards out here, patrolling the streets of the small city. The last time he had tried to break into reinforced protodermis, he had used a concentrated beam of energy as thin as an atom with the force of a nuclear weapon, and yet he had not even made a dent in the material. It was, Helryx had told him, the strongest material in the known universe.
If only I could activate my Space-time powers right now, Leviathos thought, but instantly knew that that was impossible: he had only been able to use them once, when he was close to being killed by Nightwatcher. He tried to summon them again, but to no avail—
And then the alarms sounded.
Leviathos did swear this time, but his voice, as well as he himself, were ignored by the guards as they rushed past him. Realizing that they were not interested in him, he continued stealthily towards the reinforced protodermis command center, only to find that he was being picked up by a massive six-fingered robotic hand.
"Hello," said Leviathos, pointing his Midak Skyblaster at him and firing.
The giant barely noticed, saying, "Why were you headed to Command Station 1A?"
"Oh, um..." Leviathos began, and the giant, who had apparently not expected an answer at all, dropped him on the sandy ground.
"We have been ordered to contain the security breach in Section 4D. Do not disobey orders or you shall be reported to your commander. Is that understood?"
Leviathos nodded. Apparently, this robot was too stupid to understand that he wasn't one of them. "Understood, sir," he decided to say, getting up and brushing the sand off of his legs.
The robot continued walking, its massive feet creating large eruptions of sand as they hit the ground. Deciding to abort his mission until the situation, whatever it was, was over — there were too many bounty hunters running around at the moment — he decided to follow them. Perhaps the "situation" could help him in some way...
He raced through the throng of bounty hunters, which were all traveling in the same direction: towards one of the large concrete buildings. After a few moments, Leviathos reached his destination, and what he saw there was quite interesting, at least to him: a pair of Kanohi-less Toa, back-to-back, cutting through a throng of bounty hunters just outside the building, which had a rather large crater in its side. It was clear that the two Toa were weakening.
Which is why, he reflected, they were very lucky he was here.
For a moment, he weighed the situation in his mind: Should he get into the impenetrable command center, or should he rescue the two Toa?
What the Karzahni, he decided. It's not like I could leave a friend behind. Even ones that I've never met.
Suddenly, he ducked and rolled, plowing through the bounty hunter ranks. None of them made a move to attack him — apparently they thought he was an over-eager Rank Two wishing to join the battle in an attempt which would probably get him killed — but he was no Rank Two. He had been a bounty hunter before, and then he had proudly borne the title of Rank Five.
But that had been thirty thousand years ago. Now, of course, he was much better.
Quickly, he rushed up to the two Toa. The blue one tried to spear him, but Leviathos grabbed her arms and locked them in midair. He whispered to her: "I'm on your side. I'll explain later."
Then, of course, she tried to swipe off his head. Leviathos shook his head at such deplorable manners, and parried her attack. She came upon him like a whirlwind, but he had no time for fighting those whose side he was on, and so he instead completely turned his back to her and began attacking the astonished bounty hunters, who evidently had no idea what was going on.
As he had predicted, Harini broke off her attack when she finally grasped the idea that the strange Noctian was on her side, and instead joined with him to fight the swarm of foes around them. The other Toa, one of Light, had understood the situation and was now swiping at one of the bounty hunter's legs, severing one.
Leviathos, meanwhile, had his own problems. Most of these bounty hunters did not have the thirty-five thousand years of experience that he had, and he managed to disarm most of them. Another came, an Onu-Matoran with half his face sawed neatly off, but Leviathos was ready; when the Matoran tried to get at him from below, he simply backflipped over his head, grabbed him by the shoulders in midair, and as he landed his own momentum launched the Matoran into the air, sending him screaming until he fell on top of a pair of bounty hunters. The Matoran was unharmed, Leviathos noticed, relieved.
The Toa, however, apparently had no qualms about taking lives. the Toa of Water was carving a Rotaxian's body into a number of small pieces, and the one of Light had succeeded in taking down a yellow Kodax. Leviathos managed to spare a glance at the two of them before he experienced, once again, the feeling of being pulled up into the air by a massive six-fingered robotic hand.
"Oh, Karzahni," he muttered, heating his body up with his Fire powers — not all his abilities were Kraata powers — and expected the robot to drop him. This was, after all, a proven strategy that had worked with many other large opponents. However, the robot seemed to be able to withstand the heat Leviathos was producing, and was now bringing the puny Noctian up to his face.
"You. Noctian," said the robot. "You are a traitor to the Guild. Activating Attack Procedure D9."
Oh, great, Leviathos thought. After deciding that he didn't want to know what Attack Procedure D9 was, he decided to try a new strategy: activating his Elasticity powers to slip out of the robot's grasp. However, he had never used this kind of power before...
Closing his eyes, he imagined himself slipping out of the robot's grasp, and slowly, he began to feel his skin soften...
Then the robot closed his hand and crushed him, and Leviathos screamed. Only then did he realize that his strategy had worked after all, and he was falling—
Ten bio onto the ground.
Wasting no time, Leviathos opened his wings and swiftly flew away, just in time to avoid both a painful impact and a potentially even more painful swipe of the robot's hand. He managed to dodge another midair swipe, and another, but each swipe came closer that the last.
Mata Nui, if only I knew how to use my Adaptation powers, thought Leviathos, entering a steep dive towards the ground, which he only barely pulled out of after seeing that the robot's hand was coming towards him once more. He landed hard, but managed to come back up again. He was back with the two Toa again, who were still holding off the bounty hunters fairly well.
That was just as well. He had bigger problems at the moment. Much bigger.
He dimly heard a Vorox shouting to get the Rank Five bounty hunters onto the scene, as the Rank Threes were being clobbered (or something like that), but Leviathos paid little attention. What he did pay attention to was the fact that the robot had apparently forgotten about him for a moment, and was, for some reason, reaching down with its massive hand into the throng of bounty hunters far below him. He wasted little time in rushing towards the robot and stabbing his sword into its foot, but it completely ignored him; his sword made little more than a dent on the metal.
Oh, no, he thought. Not that alloy again...
He rushed back, attempting to come up with a new strategy, when he saw what the robot was doing. It had picked up six bounty hunters from the crowd with is large metal hand — including the ostrich-like Faran Leviathos had seen earlier — and he was somehow magnetically altering their armor. Bodily fluids spilled from high above, and Leviathos watched, stunned, as the remaining bits of the bounty hunters — only the mechanical ones — joined together and formed themselves into a massive club.
I knew it was going to be one of those days, grimaced Leviathos as he jumped away just in time to avoid the massive metal weapon that slammed into the ground where he had been standing seconds before. It created a rather large crater and the impact knocked several of the fighting beings off balance, but Leviathos had little time to analyze the situation before the club smashed itself into the ground once more. This time, he flew up to avoid it, but the other hand was still there, swiping at him, and he was forced to retreat.
Then he saw the answer. How could he possibly have been so stupid?
Focusing his powers on the robot's head, he activated his Lightning powers, creating a massive storm of lightning confined to the robot's metal shell. It groaned loudly, sparks coming out of its open mouth, and its silver eyes closed. It slowly began to wobble, as if unsure whether to stand up straight or not, and then it dropped its club and toppled over backwards. The Guild members began to rush out in all directions from the falling metal structure, but some were not quick enough, and they were crushed under its tremendous weight.
Leviathos sighted in relief, hovering in midair for a moment, and then remembered the two Toa fighting for their lives on the ground. They were slowly failing, and in a few minutes one of them would make a mistake, and they would both fall. He looked down at the multicolored wave of assailants, and he knew that two Toa and a Noctian couldn't survive a battle of such proportion to the end, or at least not all three of them.
He dove down towards where the two Toa were fighting and before they could react grabbed them both by the hands, hoping that he possessed enough strength to lift them away from the scene of battle. Luckily, he had powers of Levitation to aid him, and within seconds they were out of range of all the bounty hunter weapons.
The Toa of Light looked up at the Noctian that was carrying them away. "Thank you. What is your name?"
"Leviathos," replied the Noctian grimly.
"I've heard of you," said the Toa of Water. "Don't you work for the Order?"
"I did," Leviathos answered. "I'm employed by the Resistance now. I can take you to my rendezvous point. You'll be safe—"
"Look out!" yelled the Toa of Light, and Leviathos managed to alter his flight path enough to avoid a large ball of fire that hurtled through the air.
Plasma cannons, Leviathos realized. Of course. I never disabled their weapons systems. Well, I can fix that.
"Hang on!" he yelled to the two Toa grabbing on to each of his arms. To their clear shock, he turned to face the oncoming plasma missiles, dodging one after the other. At last, he had a clear shot at their source, and quickly launched an electromagnetic pulse into the command center, hopefully frying the plasma cannon controls and disabling the operators.
That should do it, he decided, slowly lowering and finally setting down smoothly by a lake which he had not noticed on his way to Gigas Nui. "I assume this is past the boundary of the teleportation-blocking field. We'll be able to teleport away now."
"Thank you again," said the Toa of Light.
"Now," said Leviathos, looking at his two new companions. "You haven't told me who you two are yet."
"Fairon," said the Toa of Light. "This here is Harini. We work for the Order of Mata Nui, but we were accidentally teleported here."
"Fairon," Leviathos said. "Harini. The two of you," he began, activating his teleporting powers, "welcome to the Gigas Magna Resistance."
"Please," said Draconius, spreading his arms to indicate the darkened hall around him, "make yourself comfortable. I have not had visitors in... well, a terribly long time. As you can see, this isn't a very inviting place."
He looked around momentarily, his aged eyes squinting in the near-blackness, and began feeling around for an object of some sort. He eventually found what he was looking for; a primitive oil lamp that looked almost as old as Draconius himself. He turned a knob on its side, and a dim light began to shine.
"My last visitors were the Rahaga," Draconius continued, setting the oil lamp down on the floor and sitting down, legs crossed, next to it. "Please, do sit," he said, gesturing to the four beings gathered around him. They sat around the lamp, Rantu keeping a watchful eye on the pair of guard robots stationed behind the being.
"As I was saying, the Rahaga came here last some years ago," Draconius said, stretching his thin arms behind him. "We've grown acquainted, you see. Sometimes I tell them stories, and they tell them as well. I saw a Keetongu once too, just when I arrived here a hundred years ago. One of the strangest things I ever saw; I had thought they were extinct. He was leaving, the Rahaga told me, to free the lands enslaved by the Visorak. I bid him farewell, and he left.
"Of course," he added, "I haven't seen them in a few years or so. Pity. They told good stories. Now, of course, I only have Odina Drones for company. But now I am greeted by four new arrivals," Draconius said, adjusting the lamp lightly. "And that brings me to the question of what you are doing here."
"You've changed a lot, I see," said Brominax, looking at the being strangely. "You're not the Skrall I knew. But I must get right to the point: Have you seen anyone near here in the last few days?"
The Skrall shook his head. "No. If I had, I would tell you. Ah, I see the way you look at me, Brominax; you don't trust me. I don't blame you. But I'm a different being now; those dark times are long past me."
"I must admit," Brominax answered, his hands folded tightly, the lamplight reflected in his eyes, "I never expected to see you go honest, but of course, I never expected to see you again at all. Well, I believe that you are telling the truth, but perhaps you could aid us in our mission."
"Mission?" Draconius laughed. "I haven't gone on a mission on any sort for at least a hundred years. I'm getting old, Brominax, and so are you, even if you don't fully care to admit it. No, I am happy here, living in the tunnels below Metru Nui, undisturbed by a living soul. I have found the answer to my quest: peace is my home, not war. This is where I wish to remain, and when the time comes, this is where I wish to die."
"Well then," said Vinax, standing up sharply, "I suppose we must go then."
"Agreed, said Brominax. Gor looked at Brominax, then at Vinax, and finally decided to stand up, utilizing as much effort as possible to look as if he didn't want to be there. Rantu, however, remained in his sitting position, eyes closed, his brow furrowed, a stream of sweat pouring down his scalp.
"Rantu?" said Vinax, bending down to touch his clammy forehead. The Toa of Aura was shivering. "Rantu? Is there anything wrong?"
Rantu opened his eyes suddenly and looked up at the Toa of Lightning, his eyes wide and fearful, his body trembling as he pressed his hands to his ears and closed his eyes again.
"It won't stop," he muttered, sounding as if he were in great pain. "It won't stop. It won't stop!"
"Rantu?" said Brominax, and Rantu opened his eyes again, looking up at the Great Being's old, serious, worrisome face. Rantu shook his head and gasped as if in pain.
"Fear..." Rantu choked, gasping the words out as if in pain. "It's everywhere... I can feel it... It's inside me! Get it out!"
A sudden whirring sound startled all but Gor, who continued to slouch indifferently, and they saw that the Odina Drones' eyes had brightened, lamps of their own shining from their eyes — or rather, from what they could tell, very old, fading, and extremely dim lamps.
"Bioquake detected," said the robots in unison, and as if to prove their statementm a light tremor shook the ground beneath them.
"Strange," said Brominax, taking out his scanning device. "No bioquakes were predicted for—"
He stopped short. Vinax, with some difficulty, peered over the Great Being's shoulder, and his response was the same. "Holy Mata Nui... How is that possible..."
"What?" said Rantu, suddenly jerked from his vision of pain. Gor looked up as well, suddenly much more interested in the situation. Brominax blinked — one of the few times Rantu had seen the Great Being do so — and gestured to Rantu.
"We have to get out. Now. You too, Draconius."
"What?" frowned the elderly Skrall. "I thought—"
"No questions," hissed the Great Being, and Rantu realized that this was the first time he had ever seen him appear apprehensive. "Prepare for emergency teleportation."
A flash of light came, the feeling of being flung through the empty void, nonexistent tendrils crushing them from all directions—
And then the pressure on them was gone. They were directly outside the Coliseum, and hundreds of Matoran were fleeing the building from the exits, screaming in terror. It took Rantu only moments to realize why; suspended in midair above the massive stone structure was a group of small colored dots.
"Why, hello, Brominax," said a powerful amplified voice that Rantu immediately recognized as Velnax's. The Matoran were now all out of the Coliseum, still running, which he decided was a good thing; if a battle took place, most likely, they would not be harmed.
"I see you brought friends," Velnax continued. "Good. That will make this much more enjoyable for me."
"Do you intend to fight us?" Brominax roared, unsheathing his weapons and gazing menacingly upward at the group of Order of Darkness members levitating over the Coliseum. "Then come down and do so, you cowards!"
"Fight?" said Velnax, his mocking screech echoing across Metru Nui. "I have already proven that the combined weight of all my accomplices — Ralox, Filax, Valtrahk, and the like — is too much even for you, Brominax. Together, we are strong, and we have no time to waste fighting you. No. I haven't come to fight you."
"Then what have you come for?" shouted Vinax.
Out of the corner of his eye, Rantu watched Gor began to back away from the group. He shouted a warning to Brominax, but it was too late; Gor had already teleported away.
"Why, Vinax," Velnax answered, "we've come to destroy you."
Rantu spoke up next, having decided that Gor was now the least of their problems. "And how do you intend to do that?"
"I hate to be crude," Velnax responded, "but sometimes the crudest methods are the ones that work best. You see, I intend to... ah... drop a rock on you."
Rantu gasped in awe. The roots of the Coliseum were cracking, breaking, shattering, and he realized that the bioquakes they had felt underground were not bioquakes at all. It appeared as if—
"No," said Draconius softly, backing away as if it would do much difference. "How is that possi—?"
"It's possible, all right," Vinax answered. "Brominax, get us out of here!"
"Done," said Brominax. He snapped his fingers, and Rantu prepared himself for the trip into the dimensional void.
But it never came, and they remained on solid ground.
"Oh," said Velnax, his tone indicating that he was on the verge of laughter, "Gor's mission was only partly to destroy our Order. The other, more important part was to have you killed, and he found that the best way to do that was to cooperate with us. There was never any plan to attack the core processor.
"However, there was a plan to kill you, and I think we did rather well. Oh, and don't even bother trying to get out; Gor made a force field around you guys before he left; he can be very helpful when he puts his mind to things."
"What now?" Rantu whispered, gazing urgently at the Great Being.
"I'm thinking," Brominax muttered.
"Think harder," whispered Vinax.
All the while, the massive building rose into the air. Its enormous shadow covered the landscape, and the bewildered, confused, and utterly terrified Matoran were racing in all directions.
"Goodbye, Brominax," said Velnax, and a terrible, amplified laugh erupted—
Rantu looked up as the large building steadily grew larger as it fell to the ground, and he braced himself for the inevitable end—
And then, with a shock comparable to anything save the Great Cataclysm, the Coliseum landed on its side, smashing the pavement and devastating everything beneath it. A thick cloud of dust rose up from the impact site, filling the entire crater, and Velnax looked down at the scene of decimation, a hint of a smile present on his face.
"Kutrax. Kunaku," he barked, and as he slowly levitated to the ground, two Makuta appeared by his side. "Make sure they're dead."
"Yes, My Lord," they said, immediately flying down to inspect the rubble.
Velnax turned around, his cloak whipping around him in the noonday wind, and he vanished, gone to report his success to Antidax. And down below, beneath the rubble, a being opened his eyes...
One year ago, a traitor arose in the Brotherhood of Gigas Magna. The traitor, upon realizing that the leader of the Brotherhood was going mad, made the decision to assassinate him, so a new, stronger, more intelligent leader would rise to power in his place. Mordrax had gotten wind of the plan, and when the traitor attempted to kill Tetrack in his own quarters, Mordrax joined the battle, and in the process was nearly killed. However, the traitor fell, and Mordrax was commended for his actions.
Now, he decided, he was going to do the traitor's job for him.
Nothing about the traitor had been revealed to anyone. The only other being who knew about the incident was Nightwatcher, and he clearly had no intention to tell anyone about the plot. It had been kept a secret — but speculations and rumors arose nonetheless. It would be very difficult, Mordrax thought, to hide the fact that he had murdered the leader of the government.
But then, of course, if you're proud of something, why hide it?
His footsteps echoed ominously as his heels clicked in place on the floor beneath him. The whirring of his robotic parts formed a barely discernible buzz in the background as he ascended the steps to the entrance of Tetrack's chamber, but he paid no attention as he stepped through the open passageway onto the dimly lit, cavern-like hall where Tetrack's throne was located.
"Mordrax." The massive being's voice was expressionless, but Mordrax detected in his eyes and his mind what his voice did not tell: Tetrack was very apprehensive, nervous even. "I did not summon you."
"It is an emergency, My Lord," Mordrax replied, stepping down to his knees and bowing his head.
"What... sort... of emergency?" said Tetrack warily.
He knows why I have come, Mordrax realized. He is no fool. Good. That shall make this all the more enjoyable.
"Terrible news, My Lord," Mordrax said aloud in a scathingly mocking tone, raising his burned, scarred, dragon-like head to look up at the massive being. "The great and ancient leader of the Empire passed away this morning. He was found in his chambers by his loyal servant Mordrax, who, as his next in command, has regretfully been forced to replace him. He is going to deliver a very public address soon, in which he tells of how noble Tetrack was, and even though he was going mad, his wisdom still guided us in the greatest and most powerful ways..."
"You have come to kill me," Tetrack hissed.
"Why," Mordrax answered, the mocking tone still present in every word he spoke, "I expected it to be blatantly obvious. Of course, you're a senile old fool, so I wouldn't expect you to understand..."
Tetrack growled at him loudly, and began standing up, the mechanical parts in his legs creaking from under-use as the titan rose unsteadily to his feet. After a few moments, he succeeded in standing up properly, managing to turn his head slowly and gaze defiantly at him.
"You," Tetrack screeched, "you treacherous little piece of Muaka dung! You shall fall!" With that, he waved his arms, and a storm of lightning filled the room, striking the metal walls. Mordrax merely stood there, gazing indifferently at his master.
"Tsk," Mordrax said distastefully, clicking his tongue repeatedly and shaking his head as the lightning struck him again and again without harming him in the least. "So misguided..."
He flicked his mechanical hand gently, and a fireball of plasma erupted from it. It rose into the air and coiled around him like a snake.
"One hundred years ago," Mordrax whispered, his voice just barely audible over the combined roar of the flames and the lightning, "you murdered the leader of this organization because he was weak. Forsk was a pitiful fool, filled with such notions as honor. Now, Tetrack, it's my turn. Say your last words."
"I have no intention of doing so," Tetrack answered. With an ear-piercing Gligg-like screech, he spun his chainsaw hand around and slammed into the ground. Mordrax dodged, rolling over on his side, and immediately launched the plasma at Tetrack. Tetrack screeched again, deflecting it with his other chainsaw arm, while the other continued to go after the smaller Kodax.
"You cannot yet control your powers!" Tetrack roared as he blasted Mordrax with a stream of Water. "You fool! You may have defeated Nightwatcher, but I will not be taken by surprise as he was!"
Mordrax was thinking the same thing. A blast of psionic energy was deflected by Tetrack's own mental powers. In a risky move, he backflipped, going under the massive being's legs. Tetrack aimed a powerful blast of energy at him, but Mordrax nimbly dodged the blast.
"You cannot run forever!" Tetrack roared, shooting a tremendous series of Ice blasts that punctured the metal walls as if they were aluminum. Mordrax dodged these as well, shooting blasts from the launcher built into his right arm. He leapt up onto Tetrack's throne, firing a series of volleys. Tetrack's attacks hit his own throne as well, the black metal shattered, and with one hand the massive being sliced through the throne, carving it in two. Mordrax jumped off of it, and both of the warriors stared at one another, the aging Tetrack breathing heavily.
"Oh, Tetrack," Mordrax said, spotting a shadow on the other side of the passage leading up to the room, "I have no intention of running anymore."
He let out the blast of pure energy that he had been gathering, pointing it directly at Tetrack. The silver projectile carved through the air at lightning speed, slamming into the titan's massive, armored chest, knocking him back several bio. At the same time, a number of Odina Drone bodyguards, attracted by the noise, entered through the doorway with their weapons ready. Tetrack's massive body landed on them, crushing their metal exoskeletons.
Mordrax wasted no time. His bestial features twisted in a terrible expression of both jubilation and rage, he jumped into the air, readying his sword, landed on top of Tetrack, who was still trying to get up—
And stabbed the titan through a chink in his armor, directly into his heartlight.
Tetrack screamed, a noise so powerful that it echoed throughout the building, tearing into Mordrax's soul, or what was left of it, threatening to shatter the building itself, threatening to shatter Mordrax's mind itself—
And then the terrible noise stopped, leaving only an echo; Tetrack's eyes closed, his face in a final expression of pure hatred; his heartlight dimmed; and finally, after a hundred thousand years, the ancient creator of the Empire, Brotherhood, and Guild was dead at last.
Mordrax looked down contemptuously, sneering at his leader's final fate, not a hint of regret or sadness on his evilly grinning face. And then he turned around and walked out the door, not looking back, not displaying the slightest emotion on his mutilated face, as he telekinetically returned the throne room to its original state. All burns, all cracks, even the slightest blemishes were gone from the walls; the massive throne repaired; and Tetrack's face looking as peaceful as ever.
What a pity, Mordrax thought, but he was not thinking about the loss of Tetrack. It's too bad that this battle cannot be known of. I would have liked to have done it in public.
And so a new chapter in the tumultuous history of the Empire began: that of the leadership of Mordrax, who was at the moment quite unaware of what was taking place elsewhere on Gigas Magna, many mio away...
Three hours. Three hours of pure, unbridled, rage and hatred. Three hours, using different methods each time to try to escape: whether a blast of gravity powerful enough to crush worlds, or a burst of electromagnetism that could have destroyed the entire solar system's power supply, or a ball of flame that was intense enough to be another sun, all of Toa Nightwatcher's attempts failed. And each failure only compelled him to try harder, in the vain hope that he could be free again to inflict his wrath on Mordrax, his humiliator.
But again and again, the Shadowdermis thwarted him, making him unable to escape. These bonds were the most formidable foes Nightwatcher had fought in thousands of years, and even worse, now they were winning. No attempt to crush or blast them would succeed; the Shadowdermis channeled inside them was all but invincible...
Nightwatcher stopped with his latest attempt to escape, which involved creating a vacuum inside his handcuffs, which would hopefully cause them to deteriorate. An epiphany came over him, and he abruptly relinquished his mental hold.
I don't hope, Nightwatcher realized, grinning savagely under his Skrall helmet. I stopped hoping fifty thousand years ago. I find obstacles, intentionally put them directly in my way just for the fun of it, and then blast through them.
And this imprisonment was starting to lose its enjoyment value. He couldn't blast through his bonds at the moment, and that was growing quite annoying. It was time to resort to a new strategy.
A brief mental calculation told him what he needed to know, and Nightwatcher smiled. The Shadowdermis bonds were designed to keep him from blasting through his bonds. Mordrax, of course, had once again underestimated him. He could do much more than blast through things.
Aha, said Nightwatcher to himself. He did another brief mental calculation, and another microsecond passed in silence while he judged the pros and cons of the plan. Normally, he would not rely on anything or anyone to help him with anything, but the situation he was in was most definitely not a normal one. This was probably the best way to get revenge on Mordrax. And (even though he usually did things exactly the opposite of quickly, in order to prolong the enjoyment of watching his target try to wriggle out of his grasp) the fastest. Possibly the only way, unless he had help from an Omega Being — and the last time he checked, all the Omega Beings that he knew, that number totaling exactly one, rather seemed to enjoy tormenting him.
All that took less than a second. By the time the second was over, Nightwatcher felt quite satisfied, and he attempted something that, had anyone else tried it, would have been entirely suicidal. Atom by atom, he felt the sensation of his body growing stronger and stronger. He felt himself changing inside, not to mention in the outside, and felt himself transforming, the same sensation that he felt every time he posed as another being for the purpose of serving one of his elaborate plots.
Little by little, he was absorbing the Shadowdermis.
A fiery agony built up inside his chest, inching across his body like a swarm of Scarabax beetles, but that did not matter to him. He could endure pain. He could endure anything. Seconds passed by, and it felt like his entire body was aflame in the core of the sun, or perhaps in the center of a neutrino bomb. But he had felt such pain before, and as the minutes passed, he continued the process of absorbing the Shadowdermis, as the sole chronometer on the wall painfully ticked the seconds that passed by.
His helmet warped and mutated under the strain of the energy pulsing inside him. Feeling now as if he were watching his body change from above, he felt — or saw; there was little difference — the red parts of his Commander Skrall armor vanishing, to be replaced by new skinny black limbs. His body stretched, making it feel as if he were being pulled apart by a pair of terribly strong, unseen Rahi—
And then, finally, the pain stopped. Nightwatcher could still feel a sort of heat flowing through his veins, which remained there as Nightwatcher looked around him. The Shadowdermis was a part of him now.
With a roar of rage, he raised himself up on the metal table he had been lying on, his bonds snapping like ribbons, al the Shadowdermis drained from them. He stood up, admiring his new body for a moment — he was distinctly reminded of a Makuta by this new form — and then, exactly when he predicted them, a loud alarm began to sound. Odina Drone guards began rushing in, and without awaiting orders, lowered themselves into battle stances and began shooting bolts of plasma at him. Nightwatcher hardly noticed; he merely watched with a sickening smile as the bolts bounced off of his hide, and then with a wave of his shadowy hand, he crushed the guard robots into oblivion with the merest fraction of his power, then watched as more swarmed in.
Two of the Odina Drones carried a cannon between them, and, while Nightwatcher merely stood still, enjoying the futile efforts of the robots to subdue him, they set the cannon down in a small space in the middle of the ever-growing throng of robots. They pointed the cannon at Nightwatcher and fired.
Foolish Mordrax. Nightwatcher almost laughed aloud as the projectile struck him, releasing a powerful burst of energy that he was able to keep at bay without even thinking about. It would not have done him much harm anyway; it was one of the Shadowdermis projectiles that Mordrax had launched at him to render him unconscious. Now that the Shadowdermis was a part of him, there was not much it could have done.
Ignoring the Odina Drones' attempts to blast him, Nightwatcher simply stepped through the throng of robots, feeling the heat of their cannons as they pummeled him more and more. He flicked his finger, and a small blast of energy was generated, ripping open a hole in the reinforced protodermis wall that Mordrax had so foolishly believed that he could contain him. He smiled. The Shadowdermis made him feel more powerful than he had in a long time, and even though he generally despised aid in all its forms, he would miss the powerful feeling at least a little once he had discarded the Shadowdermis.
But that, of course, would only come after he had defeated Mordrax.
He found himself almost unconsciously walking through the corridors of the Tenik Nui capitol building, headed for Tetrack's quarters — or Mordrax's, as he supposed they were now — when he hesitated. He had only been in control of Shadowdermis for a few minutes, while Mordrax had been using his Shadowdermis suit for about a month. He was not as experienced as the Kodax was, and even though he hated to admit it, he was not entirely sure he would win the fight.
He sighed as plasma missiles exploded in the air around him, doing nothing more than canceling out the effect of the building's air conditioning. He hated backing away from a fight, but as in the case of Matata, he would have to wait until he was ready to defeat his opponent.
And until then, why not give Mordrax a little trouble for him to worry about?
Nightwatcher's grin grew wider.
The all-too-familiar sensation of traveling through the purple void vanished, and Fairon and Harini found themselves outside the weathered-looking, mossy, patched, crumbling, but still terribly large stone fortress.
"It's not much," said Leviathos. "This is our replacement fortress. The old one was a lot better." Without even bothering to look at his companions, he shrugged indifferently and stepping forward into a puddle of mud, where he sank all the way up to this pelvis. As he attempted to extricate himself, the Noctian hissed and muttered something that sounded like a curse under his breath.
"I can see that," said Fairon. He was beginning to understand what was going on, or at least a little. The Resistance was the enemy of the Empire. The Guild, which had imprisoned them, had been working for the Empire against the Resistance. This Leviathos worked for the Resistance, and he had brought them here to aid them. "Listen, I can understand what your situation is, and I'd love to help, but I have to get back to the Order of Mata Nui."
Leviathos turned back towards him, staring intently at the Toa of Light. "The Order is dedicated to doing Mata Nui's will. Do you not think that helping us would be Mata Nui's will if he knew about our situation? You are a protector of the greater good, just like I am, and you have to understand that serving in the Order of Mata Nui is not the only way to do so?"
"It is my way of doing so," Fairon retorted, staying where he was. "I'm sorry, but I just can't help you. I am allied to the Order."
"It may not be your choice," said Leviathos, and he looked somewhat angered now.
Harini looked up at Fairon, and Fairon felt a jolt of shock; he had almost forgotten that she was there. "Don't you think that these people deserve our help? They rescued us, after all."
"That doesn't mean that they're on our side," said Fairon softly in response, looking into Harini's eyes, and she stared back at him.
A pair of squishy footsteps forced Fairon to attention. While he had been distracted, they had been approached by a pair of guards, both Toa of Iron. Fairon looked up to face him, and he looked them squarely in the eyes. "What do you want?"
"You're trespassing," said one of the guards in a deep voice, fingering his plasma cannon as if he longed for nothing more than to use it against someone.
Leviathos stepped in between the guards and Fairon. "I brought them here."
"Really?" hissed the other guard, sneering, not turning his gaze from Fairon. "And could you please explain why the Karzahni you are foolish enough to do so?"
"They were held by the Bounty Hunters' Guild in one of their prisons," Leviathos protested. He attempted to say something further, but one of the Toa of Iron held up his hand and cut him short.
"Grab her," he ordered, and in a swift motion, the other Toa of Iron disarmed Harini and put a knife to her throat. "Come along, now," he said, motioning to Fairon. "If you make one sudden move, she dies, which is something I assume you don't want. I don't want to fight you as well. Savvy?"
Fairon nodded, making it apparent by the look on his face that he wasn't happy with the decision. "I don't like being threatened."
"Neither do I like threatening you," the Toa of Iron answered in what Fairon judged to be a genuinely honest tone, "but it's the rules. We can't trust anyone we don't know."
"Understood," said Fairon, who really did understand. He supposed that if someone had suddenly appeared on Daxia without warning and he had been assigned guard duty, he would have done the same thing as well. He looked to Harini, and she nodded to him, conveying the unspoken message: We can trust them for now.
"As for you," said the Toa, turning to Leviathos, "you're going to report to Ixtil in person. You will also include the fact that you brought these two over here, which is something Ixtil will no doubt hold you accountable for."
The Toa of Iron who was not guarding Harini gestured to Fairon and Leviathos, indicating for them to follow him towards the gate of the fortress. They continued, all five of them — Fairon, Leviathos, Harini, and the two other Toa — being careful to avoid the mud. For the first time, Fairon had a chance to truly admire his surroundings. Great trees of all imaginable forms and sizes rose from the mud in great pillars of wood, reaching up into the sky, cloaking the forest in shadow with their leafy tendrils. All around them were rustling noises which Fairon guessed were made from small animals, though neither of them could not see the sources of the noise. Beneath them was the strangest part; in the mud, scattered around the ground, were dozens of small spiky bush-like plants, about a half-bio in height. That would not have been so unusual in itself, except that they were moving across the ground somewhat slowly, but fast enough to get Fairon's attention. Their Toa of Iron guide saw Fairon looking at them, and he turned around to explain it to him while walking. "They're called bushlings, or at least that's what our rather endearing name for them is. We don't know what they are, but they're not animal or plant."
"What are they, then?" said Fairon, intrigued.
"Ixtil says they're some sort of 'semi-conscious plantoid biomechanical life form,' whatever that means. Basically, they're just as alive as you and I are, but they're not sentient, and they're sort of between animals and plants. They're controlled by what amounts to a brain, and it's able to roll around on its spikes to find nutrients in the soil."
"So they're animals, then," said Fairon. "They have brains and they can move."
"That would be true," agreed the Toa of Iron, "except the brains are almost fully mechanical. They're built into the existing organic systems — which mostly resemble those of plants — to give the things locomotion and something close to consciousness. Even when they reproduce, the mechanical parts remain. No one knows why. It's a mystery, really. We think it was some Great Being experimenting with plants one day."
"I know a Great Being," offered Leviathos. "I could ask him."
"As do I," said Fairon. "His name is Brominax. He works for the Order of Mata Nui."
The result that simple statement made on the two Toa of Iron was astounding. Harini's guard dropped the knife he was holding to the Toa of Water's throat and gaped at Fairon in astonishment. The leader's reaction was just the same, and he kept looking back from Fairon to Harini, looking as if he were trying to decide whether or not they were hallucinations.
Their guide finally managed to regain his composure after a moment, watching Harini get to her feet and stand beside Fairon. "How exactly did you come to know Brominax?"
"He's a member of the Order of Mata Nui," said Harini, who looked just as surprised as Fairon at the guards' reaction.
Their guide nodded slowly, taking the information in. The other guard joined him at his side, having abandoned Harini for the moment, and looked questioningly up at him. However, their guide ignored him and continued speaking to Fairon and Harini. "And when did you see him last?"
"Yesterday," Fairon responded. "He was departing for a mission with my friend Rantu."
Their guide nodded slowly again.
"You two had better come with me," he said. "We have a lot to talk about. Come," he said, gesturing once more to them for them to follow them into the building. His companion, meanwhile, reached the gate and punched a series of numbers into a digital keypad (which looked ridiculously out of place on the stone structure), causing the gate to open. "We'll report personally to Ixtil. This is something he should know at once."
Makuta Miserix frowned, hands clasped tightly behind his back, as he walked in circles around Helryx's quarters. He was wondering what the recent events could mean for the Order of Darkness.
Now that they had revealed themselves by their attack on the Coliseum, it would be too late to turn back. The Order of Mata Nui was certain to declare war now, even as they planned to bring down the Brotherhood of Makuta. Even the Order of Mata Nui's resources were limited, and if they were to fight two wars at once, their forces would have to be stretched over the whole universe, leaving Daxia almost undefended. (Of course, their new allies in the Brotherhood of Unity on Noctxia Magna could have aided them, but right now, as Antidax had foreseen, their planet had been discovered by the Gigas Magna Empire. The last he had heard of them, they were currently underground, fighting a one-sided battle against the conquerors of the planet.) And with him to secretly manipulate the Order of Mata Nui, there was no chance of them winning both wars.
Soon, it would be time to give the order to invade Xa Nui. Already, preparations were being made for the battle, on both the Daxia and Xa Nui bases. It would be a great battle, which was why he was glad that he would be sitting here in his chair, watching comfortably as the Order forces were pummeled into defeat. Of course, if he were to continue his role as Helryx, he would have to act as though he were enraged, disappointed, dismayed, and all that garbage. He had been practicing his acting for weeks, even before he imprisoned Helryx, and now he had decided that he was ready for the challenge of performing in front of a live audience.
He didn't care what would happen, of course. He cared nothing for anything now except revenge on Teridax, and if allying with the Order was the best way to do it, then so be it. Of course, once the Order of Mata Nui and Brotherhood of Makuta were out of the way, he could use the knowledge he had about the Order of Darkness' inner workings to destroy it from the inside. Then he could rise up from its ashes and assume his role as destroyer of Teridax. Perhaps he could throw in the title "master of the universe" somewhere in there as well.
There were problems, of course. But they were to be recognized and dealt with when the time came.
A sharp series of raps on the wooden door ended his reminiscing. "Come in," he said in the powerful female voice he had not quite gotten used to yet.
The door was slowly pushed open, making a creaking noise as it turned on its rusty hinges, and a one-armed Gekkan stepped in, holding one of the Order's new digital datacards in his remaining claw. "Sir?" he said excitedly.
"Yes?" said Miserix brusquely, frowning at the Gekkan.
"Sir, your presence is required at the command room, sir," said the Gekkan rapidly, making a quick bow as he spoke.
"Enough with the sirs," Miserix growled. "Where's my other assistant?"
"Well, sir, he was preoccupied—"
"Very well," Miserix hissed angrily. He supposed he would have to put up with this overexcited being for the moment. "I suppose this is your first day on the job?"
"Wonderful," said Miserix, not bothering to hide his irritation. "What is it that you need me for? And don't just stand there. Give me the information while we're walking there."
The Gekkan made another quick bow, and moved out of the doorway so the leader of the Order of Mata Nui could pass through. Miserix, in Helryx's body, continued walking at a measured but not slow pace. He would arrive quickly at the command room, but first, of course, he had to hear what this annoying being had to say.
"Well, sir," began the Gekkan, almost stumbling in his clumsy attempt to walk with his leader, "as this datapad shows—"
The Gekkan tripped over his own foot and fell to the ground, his remaining arm dropping the delicate electronic mechanism, leaving its outside shell to shatter into hundreds of pieces under Miserix's feet.
"Um, as I was saying, sir," said the Gekkan, standing up so quickly it appeared to Miserix he was almost going to fall down again, "the Coliseum has been attacked by Order of Darkness forces."
Ah, Miserix realized. Having already known about the attack, he had almost forgotten that the Order of Mata Nui was not already in the possession of his information. "What do you mean, 'attacked?'"
"Er," said the Gekkan, sounding almost embarrassed, "well, sir, I mean it was picked up and then dropped again, sir."
"It was what?" said Miserix, in a voice that almost convinced his own self that he was absolutely shocked by the news of incident. "Why did you not you say so?"
Miserix hissed at him, then reached out with his arm to grab the Gekkan's. "Hurry. This should be dealt with at once."
Miserix began running at full tilt, speeding through the corridors, managing not to bump into the few other Order members that he saw when he passed by. The Gekkan, of course, was not so lucky; clumsy as he was, he could not avoid nearly falling every few paces, and of course he skidded into every Order member that passed by. As Miserix reached the command center, he began to wonder why the Gekkan was an Order member in the first place. At least he understood why he had been assigned to be his aide. He doubted that a being that clumsy could last three seconds on a battlefield.
He stopped for a moment, pausing as he listened to the noise of the Gekkan stumbling to catch up to him. Then, deciding not to wait for his aide, he pushed open the doors that led to the Order command center.
"I came as fast as I could," said Miserix. "What is the situation?"
The command center was a large, undecorated room, empty save the thirteen-seat long wooden table that stood at its center. A massive video screen, a testament to the Order's technological capacity, filled three of the walls of the room, encircling the table, filled with tactical and live video displays of the situation at the Coliseum, and in other locations around the Matoran Universe.
He sat down in the head chair, and the other ten members of the senior council — Brominax and Vinax were missing — turned to face him, meeting his gaze with piercing eyes of all colors and forms. Out of the corner of his eye, he watched the Gekkan step in through the door, nearly falling flat on his face, but the other council members ignored it as they explained what he already knew.
Basically, as the council explained to him, the situation was this: Vinax and Brominax had been ambushed at the Coliseum by Velnax and a number of his minions. The Matoran inside of it had escaped to safety, but the building had been picked up by a powerful telekinetic force — which Miserix knew to be the combined telekinetic power of half the Order's Makuta — and dropped on top of them. Gor had escaped to safety, and now an Order of Mata Nui strike force had been sent to defeat the Makuta, and, judging from what Miserix could see on the tactical displays, were not doing too well.
Miserix stood up sharply. The other senior members stood up as well, looking towards him as if they expected him to say something.
"Call off the attack," he said.
Ten angered voices rose at once, each trying to be heard above the others. Fists banged on the table repeatedly, and the soundproof room echoed with the noises of the clamor, only adding to the confusion.
"I said," said Miserix slowly and carefully, "call off the attack. We cannot afford to lose any more members."
The ten angered voices came back.
"We need to focus our resources on the war," Miserix said. "This war is more important than any of our lives."
"So we just abandon them?" roared Tobduk.
"Yes," said Miserix bluntly, almost forgetting for a moment that he was in the guise of Helryx.
The clamor stopped abruptly. Miserix stood up, indicating that the conversation was over. "Make preparations for the invasions of Destral and Xa Nui. I will be in my quarters."
He stepped towards the door, and the other Order members followed. Tobduk remained in his chair for a moment, glaring angrily at Miserix, and as Miserix walked out, Tobduk grabbed him tightly by the shoulder. Miserix spun around to face him, and for a moment their green eyes met. Then Tobduk pushed angrily past him out the exit, leaving Miserix and his clumsy aide alone in the room.
Poor Order of Mata Nui, he thought, sneering at no one in particular. They have no idea what they have gotten themselves into...
The world came into focus slowly, becoming clearer as Rantu returned to the real world. He blinked repeatedly, clearing what seemed like dust particles out of his eyes, and slowly tried to make himself stand up. However, he soon found himself unable to move, and he when he looked at the unconscious forms of the beings next to him, he suddenly understood. They were trapped under the rubble of the Coliseum.
Curious, he pondered. Why are we still alive?
The last thing he remembered was the massive monolith of stone and metal plunging down from the skies upon them, pieces of metal raining down like hail upon them as they watched, frozen in place by a strange energy. Brominax, he remembered, had tried to stop it, but it had clearly done no good...
But of course. That was why they were still alive. Brominax, while unable to stop the Coliseum from falling on top of them, had cushioned the impact so that they would survive. Of course, now, despite the fact that they were otherwise unharmed, they were trapped in near-blackness, almost completely unable to move.
Vinax awoke next; Rantu could sense his return to consciousness through the aura field, even if he could not see the Toa of Lightning, and he began to hear his slow, peaceful breaths from across the wall of rubble that separated them. Draconius was next, and after a short fit of coughing, Rantu began to hear his breathing as well.
But what about Brominax? They were safe at the moment, but Brominax was the only one that could free them, and if Brominax were dead, then they would probably die of starvation or suffocation. He tried reaching out through the aura field towards the Great Being, but he felt nothing. The Great Being was not dead, he was sure, but it seemed like the strain of using his powers had put him into a coma-like state, and Rantu could not be sure if he would ever wake up.
“Vinax?” he whispered.
“Rantu?” answered the Toa. “How’s Brominax? And Draconius?”
“Brominax is in a coma,” Rantu answered quietly. “And Draconius seems all right.”
“Well then,” said Vinax’s voice decisively from somewhere to Rantu’s left, “it seems like we must dig ourselves out. Can you move at all? Rantu? Draconius?”
“No,” Rantu answered. Somewhere to the right, Draconius said “A little.”
“Good,” Vinax said calmly. “Now, Draconius, you try to dig your way towards the rest of us. Can you do that?”
“I don’t need to be tutored. I’m not that old,” hissed Draconius, and slowly, Rantu could hear a scraping and clanging sound from nearby as Draconius made himself a space with some tool that Rantu could not quite identify. He slowly detached his thoughts, and he felt his mind growing blank as he entered the aura field.
All of a sudden, he found himself flying up vertically through feet of Coliseum remains that lay above him — to his relief, there were only a few feet between him and the top of the rubble mound — and then he stopped, looking once more at the skyline of Metru Nui, with the only difference being that the Coliseum was not majestically rising up in the sky above him but instead was in pieces beneath him.
Then, suddenly, he watched as a Reptisapean — one that he recognized as the Order of Mata Nui member codenamed Ion — ducked down behind one of the Coliseum’s fallen support columns and began firing a plasma cannon directly at Rantu. The Toa of Aura was so surprised that he had no time to dodge, but instead he watched as the blast of fiery energy passed directly through him without leaving a mark, and he remembered that he was having another vision.
He turned around, and then he saw what Ion had been aiming at: a powerful silver Makuta with a Rahkshi head. It appeared that he had had an armor upgrade since they had last met — just like Rantu himself — but there was no mistaking the fiery cold eyes of the being Rantu had last seen when they had dueled beneath Xa Nui:
The eyes of Makuta Kunaku.
Kunaku dodged the plasma blast, leaping nimbly to the side and firing a succession of Shadow blasts from the tip of his long staff, a wild gleam in his eye. Ion ducked and rolled away in time to avoid the blasts which penetrated the thick shield she had made of the Coliseum’s support column, jumping up in time to release her own deadly blasts of energy at the Makuta, which were dodged as well.
Ion hissed in frustration, readying her melee weapon in one hand and the cannon in the other, clearly ready to initiate an old and simple, yet often successful, Order tactic which had been developed by some long-dead senior member of the Order, and which was now often referred to as the “rush and smash.” The concept was simple: Rush at your opponent while shooting at him, which should distract him enough for you to reach him and get at him with your melee weapon. Of course, the rush and smash usually involved two fighters — one to rush and one to smash — but Ion was prepared to utilize it by herself.
She glanced towards her partner, who was standing a few bio away and was engaged in a battle with Makuta Kutrax, and after deciding that he was in no position to help her, she suddenly charged at the unsuspecting Kunaku, wildly firing plasma bolts at the Makuta. Kunaku’s shock was quite apparent on his face; apparently he had never seen the tactic before. Ion charged in his direction, and Rantu watched as she performed the tactic efficiently. Kunaku was not holding his ground, which was what all Order members were instructed to do by Dorex to prepare for the event that they were attacked by the method themselves. Kunaku was retreating, rushing away in what appeared to be terror. Had Rantu not been focused (or not focused) completely on not keeping his mind blank, he would have smiled.
Ion was gaining on Kunaku when suddenly the voice in her headset spoke. She stopped abruptly, and Rantu listened carefully. Of course, he should not have been able to hear a word of the transmission, but he did not question his ability to do so in a vision. She stopped chasing the Makuta as the voice began its message, becoming oblivious to her chase.
"We are retreating. Prepare to be teleported back to Daxia."
Ion stopped in her tracks altogether, looking at Kunaku, who was still running in terror from her. She stood still, as was the Order procedure, let her arms dangle by her sides, and then she was gone to the dimensional void, headed to Daxia. Rantu watched as Kunaku, having realized he was no longer being pursued, slowly turned towards Kutrax to find that he was not under attack either. They nodded briefly to one another, and each of them pulled out a strange device which looked somewhat similar to Brominax's scanner, beginning to move about the area.
Oh no, Rantu realized. They're looking for us.
His thoughts were interrupted seconds later by the noise of a loud clang of metal upon metal, a grunt, and then a strange noise as he was jerked from his vision. He found himself looking into the orange eyes of Draconius, and he suddenly realized that his arms were free, and there was an empty space nearby, presumably one that Draconius had made, big enough to fit three or more beings.
"Come," said the Skrall brusquely. "We must get Vinax."
Rantu shook himself, stepping into the hole Draconius had dug through the rubble. A shower of small shards of metal fell through the empty space, landing near his feet, but Rantu took little notice of it. "We have to hurry," he began. "Kutrax and Kunaku are up there, looking for us."
Draconius raised an eyebrow, a barely discernible movement in the near-pitch blackness. "Judging from your tone, that isn't a good thing," said the Skrall, holding up his smashed oil lamp, which Rantu had a strange feeling was what he had used to dig himself out.
"Not good at all," said Vinax's muffled voice from nearby.
"I'll dig for Brominax," Rantu said, brushing off the small shards of glass that had settled over his body. He bent down onto the floor, looking for some kind of digging instrument. "You follow Vinax's voice."
Draconius grunted something in reply, then discarded his oil lamp and began looking among the rubble for a digging instrument as well. Rantu found one first, something that looked like half a Kolhii stick, and he turned in the direction where he sensed Brominax was buried. He pried away rubble first with his hands, then, when he encountered something he could not get past, the Kolhii stick, until he sensed the life-energy of Brominax was closer to him. He prepared to reach the Great Being at last—
And then, for a few seconds, he left his body again; he was back above the rubble, looking at Kutrax and Kunaku, who were standing side by side, apparently looking at some small area beneath their feet.
"They are here," Kunaku growled, pointing his claw downwards that the point which his scanning device appeared to indicate was where the Order of Mata Nui strike team was.
"Then let us waste no time," Kutrax answered, adjusting his plasma cannon to the highest intensity level and firing...
Rantu emerged from the vision a second before he felt the fiery heat. He opened his eyes again, and in the center of the cave that they had dug out lay a small, smoking crater. He blinked, realizing that he could see much better than before, and realized that a sudden bright light had entered the cavern from outside, and the source of the light was probably the thin tube that had been neatly carved through the rubble above them by a plasma blast.
Two objects fell through the tube. They landed on their feet, back to back, weapons at the ready, eyes peering through their Kanohi at their foes.
Kutrax grinned malevolently at Rantu. "Why, hello," he said, and pointed his cannon at the Toa. Before he could fire, Rantu rushed towards his foe, charging him with his half of a Kolhii stick in what looked like a completely hopeless maneuver. Kutrax pressed the trigger, but Rantu continued straight at him without stopping.
A massive ball of plasma energy completely failed to smash into Rantu's chest and kill him instantly. Kutrax had very little time to react as Rantu charged forward, raising his Kolhii stick like a club as he prepared to hammer it down on the Makuta's skull. Kutrax raised the plasma cannon to block it, and the Kolhii stick hit it without even causing a dent in its protodermis casing. But that was only a diversionary maneuver which allowed Rantu to leap forward and kick his foe sharply in the chest, knocking him back into Kunaku.
"You forgot one thing," hissed Rantu, looking down at his Makuta foe. "Plasma cannons take a while to reload when set on high intensity."
Before Rantu could finish him off, Kutrax jumped up, clambering onto the ceiling of the cavern and yelling in rage, dropping down with sword in hand to kill the Toa nuisance with a sweeping blow from above. But Rantu was ready, catching Kutrax's arm in his hand, and the Makuta fell on top of him. Swiftly, Rantu rolled over, putting the Makuta beneath him, and stunned his for momentarily with a strong punch to the face. Kutrax tried to raise his sword to attack again, but Rantu punched again, putting the Makuta out of his worries for the moment.
"Two things," he corrected, taking Kutrax's sword from his limp hand, still a little surprised at the fact that he had just defeated a Makuta while unarmed. "I've gotten better."
He turned to Kunaku, who had his back to him, apparently still assuming Kutrax was conscious. Surprisingly, Draconius was still alive; from what Rantu could tell, he had taken a broken piece of metal pipe and attacked the Makuta with it, and even more surprisingly, he was winning. Kunaku repeatedly had to dodge the pipe, and was slowly but surely stumbling back in the rather narrow passageway. But the Skrall was old, and he clearly could not hold his advantage for long, so Rantu would have to take action.
He raced towards Kunaku, holding Kutrax's sword close to him as he ran. Kunaku turned around sharply, catching Draconius with a kick, sending the aged Skrall flying away from him, and he twirled his staff as he faced Rantu.
"I remember you," Kunaku snarled.
"Sadly, the same goes for me," Rantu retorted as he made an almost lazy swipe to Kunaku's right side, which Kunaku blocked easily. He rolled his hand lightly over to the right, going for Kunaku's leg, and the Makuta only barely stopped it from cleaving it in two. "Your face is so terribly ugly that I never wanted to see it again."
"Then you're in luck, Toa," hissed the Makuta, swinging his staff and carving through the air where Rantu's neck had been seconds before. "Dead people can't see anything." As Rantu dodged the blow, Kunaku sent a blast of chain lightning in his direction, which came so close to him that he could feel the heat from the electricity. Rantu countered, his weapon gracefully sliding past a weak spot in Kunaku's defense, but was unable to do anything more than slice a small bit of his armor off before the attack was blocked.
"Don't make me play rough," Kunaku yelled in rage, and suddenly the battle began in earnest, fueled by the Makuta's sudden rage. Rantu's blows were beaten back by the sheer power of his attacks, and the Toa stumbled back a few steps before he began resorting to defensive sword techniques. He was unable to deflect power attacks such as those, so instead he made a different approach: letting the attacks make their way towards him as he pushed them away gently with his weapon, letting them come close, but not too close, to hitting their mark. Kunaku hissed in frustration and redoubled his attack, pushing Rantu back a few more paces through the low-ceilinged corridor, towards the area he had been digging in only a few minutes earlier.
Rantu was growing desperate now. The last time he had fought Kunaku, Kunaku had been weakened from a prior battle in Robotopolis, and they had been evenly matched. But now Kunaku was fighting in earnest, and Rantu, despite the skills he had developed during his four months in the Order, did not feel like he could win a battle against a seasoned fighter like the one he was facing now.
He would, he supposed, have to get lucky. That was how he accomplished most missions, after all.
Rantu smashed his upper elbow into Kunaku's chin. The Makuta was clearly surprised, and Rantu pressed the advantage, slipping into a faster combat style designed for attack, and began striking swiftly at Kunaku's body. Neither attack reached its mark, but Rantu saw Kunaku's eyes narrow as he made a particularly close strike to the shoulder. Kunaku's weapon was whirling still, a tornado of destruction, but it did not have the same elegant grace that it had had at the beginning of the fight; it was moving to protect its master instead of to destroy its foe. Rantu advanced forward, ducking and swiping at the hip, and it was just blocked by the corner of Kunaku's staff. The tide of battle was turning, and both of them knew it.
Then, as Rantu tried to stab Kunaku through the throat, the Makuta leaned back to avoid the attack, and suddenly ducked down. Rantu made an attempt to take advantage of the situation by slicing off one of the Makuta's arms, but Kunaku simply exploded upward, jumping as high as was possible without hitting the low ceiling, and smashed the middle of his weapon into Rantu's lower jaw, sending the Toa sprawling backwards, his weapon sent flying among the stone and metal.
Kunaku grinned, and, wasting no time with final words, slammed his staff down, attempting to impale the Toa. Rantu rolled to the side, trying to reach for his lost weapon, but it was too far, and another lunge of Kunaku's staff forced him to divert his attention to the fight. As Kunaku made one final attempt to end Rantu's life, the Toa sprang upwards, but it was too late when he realized it was a ploy. Kunaku released a power scream that was so powerful it nearly shattered Rantu's eardrums, and it sent him flying backwards into the wall. Dazed and with the terrible noise still ringing in his ears, he had no time to react as Kunaku raced towards him—
And then a familiar broken oil lamp smashed into Kunaku's skull. The Makuta was sent tumbling down to the ground, unconscious, and Rantu sat up again as the fully recovered Draconius threw the oil lamp away.
"Makuta are so annoying, aren't they?" the Skrall said lightly.
The Resistance base reminded Fairon of something from an ancient legend. The stones that paved the walkway were covered in thick layers of moss that formed a green carpet under their feet as they walked; organic birds nested in the turrets; and large gaps were missing from the walls, opening up into the lush jungle behind. Leviathos assured Fairon that the old base had been much better, and he hoped that was true; the stone building seemed like a relic from prehistoric times.
As their Toa of Iron led them through the open-air fortress, Fairon caught glimpses of numerous areas off to the side: what looked like a hangar bay, which was filled with what looked like spacecraft of a sort Fairon had never conceived; a training area, where numerous beings, most of species he had never seen before, practiced weapons forms in perfect unison; and what looked like a massive eating area. But they were running too fast to see them in detail, and in a few moments Fairon was forced to turn to what was up ahead.
They were approaching a small dilapidated stone building, a minute construction that looked more like a large shed than the leader's chambers of the Gigas Magna Resistance. A single shattered window dangled loosely from its frame, and besides that, there was no other hole in the mossy stones of the wall, besides the one that allowed them to enter via a low passageway. The Toa of Iron motioned for Fairon, Harini, and Leviathos to enter, and they did so, ducking down to fit through the doorway that was clearly made for a species half their height. Their guide followed them in, and Fairon looked around.
The inside was no better then the outside. Like the rest of the base, it was worn from hundreds of years of disrepair. A wooden desk that looked like it was about to catch mold in these humid climes sat at the far end, and behind it was a small Ko-Matoran sitting on a low stone chair. He did not look up as they entered; he was typing something vigorously on a small digital notepad. Their Toa of Iron guide cleared his throat impatiently, and without looking up from his notepad, addressed them. "Yes, Dakap, what is it?"
"Leviathos brought something very interesting back from his mission to Gigas Nui," Dakap answered. "Visitors from the Matoran Universe. They were teleported here accidentally." Fairon noticed that Dakap didn't add, Or so they claim, which probably meant that he did trust them after all.
Ixtil stopped typing abruptly, looking up, a pair of green eyes peering questioningly through his Iden. "I presume that you have something important to say."
"Yes, Commander," Dakap answered briskly. "They have news on Brominax."
"What news?" said Ixtil.
"He is alive."
Ixtil nodded slowly. "I see. Has he accomplished his mission?"
"What mission?" Harini burst out. "Do you mean that you sent him to our universe to spy on us?"
Dekap looked at Ixtil questioningly. The Ko-Matoran nodded, and Dekap left the room, pushing past Fairon and Harini in his haste to exit. He motioned for Leviathos to follow, and the Noctian exited, leaving Fairon and Harini alone with Ixtil. Ixtil motioned to two stone chairs by the edge of the room that Fairon had not noticed, and the two Toa nodded, bringing them over to in front of Ixtil's desk, where they sat, face to face.
"I calculate a 78% probability that you two will not be able to answer all my questions," said Ixtil calmly. "But I must try. Tell me, how is Brominax?"
Harini looked at Fairon questioningly, and Fairon answered. "He was all right the last time I saw him. Am I correct to guess that he was a member of this Resistance?"
Ixtil nodded, apparently unperturbed by Fairon's question. "He is our leader, and he was the leader of the Enforcers of Gigas Magna before this war began. He left on the Matoran Universe because he believes that is where Antidax is. But first, tell me everything. I wish to know everything that has taken place over the last months."
Fairon nodded. Convinced fully now that the Resistance was not a malevolent order, he told Ixtil everything he knew of the Order of Mata Nui's recent history, beginning with his initiation into the Order four months previously, and continuing with his adventures on the front lines and sidelines of the war against the Order of Darkness. He told of the capture of Sacho Nui, his imprisonment and escape, the loss of contact with the Order, his and Rantu's attempt to go to Robotopolis themselves and finish what they started — the words poured out of his mouth in a torrent, with Harini interrupting every once in a while to tell of things in the war Fairon had not known about, such as the Order of Darkness raid on Gekkak-Nui. He continued speaking, pausing for a moment at Dorex's death, then telling Ixtil about their awakening of Brominax from his coma, their final showdown against Velnax, and then the cleanup efforts, the scattering of the final Order of Darkness holdouts, and his mission to Xa Nui with Harini which had unexpectedly turned into a fight to the death with the Guild. After completing his story with their escape and arrival on the base, Ixtil, who had been listening intently all the while, spoke up at last.
"You say Velnax was leading the Order of Darkness?" said Ixtil.
"Do you know him?" said Harini.
"Not personally," Ixtil answered, clasping his hands together, "but all of Gigas Magna knows his tale. He was one of the Kodax, the prototypes for what you call the Makuta, and they were created by six traitor Great Beings. Five of their names are lost to history, but the sixth we remember well. His name was Antidax. He created Velnax, the overlord of the Kodax, though in reality, Velnax was his puppet; he controlled the Kodax Empire through him.
"He wanted power for himself. So he betrayed the other traitors, tricking them into their deaths, and when the Shattering took place and the Great Beings made a home on Gigas Magna, he ordered his Kodax creations to make war on this planet. Eventually, the Kodax fell, thanks to the heroic actions of Brominax, and they left the solar system in a group of massive spaceships, to make a home elsewhere in the universe. Velnax did not accompany them. He made his home in the Matoran Universe, where he became a member of the Brotherhood of Makuta."
"But now he's betrayed them," said Fairon. "He created the Order of Darkness and rebelled against them. And how does Brominax fit into all of this?"
"Antidax was imprisoned for his actions, and when the Great Beings left this world, he was freed from his prison by his allies, disappearing. Brominax suspected him to be alive, and then, less than a year ago, he learned from our ally Dorex of you Order that Velnax had risen to power in the Matoran Universe, creating a breakaway faction of the Brotherhood. But Velnax would never act alone, he reasoned, and so he set off to the Matoran Universe with his cadre of advisers. He knew Helryx, of course, being a senior member of the Order himself, and he planned to persuade her to make war on Velnax."
"And that's where it went wrong," Fairon guessed. "They kidnapped him and put him into a coma."
"And that," said Ixtil, "is proof that Antidax is there. A Makuta could not have subdued a Great Being. I believe that Antidax captured him personally, or else channeled his powers through Velnax's body. But then there is the question: If Antidax was capable of killing Brominax, why did he not?"
Harini spoke up. "He wanted to hold him as a hostage, because the Order of Mata Nui had something he wanted."
"Ah," said Ixtil, "but what makes you think it was the Order of Mata Nui?"
"Because Velnax attacked us," Fairon said but even before the words were out of his mouth, he knew they were incorrect. The Order had attacked them. Flamu had been sent to negotiate Brominax's release, but had never returned; apparently, the Order of Darkness had taken that as an act of war, because that was when the war had begun.
Ixtil seemed to have noticed Fairon's mistake and did not answer. Harini spoke again. "So you think Antidax wants something of yours?"
"Yes," Ixtil confrmed. "And while I am unsure what it is, I calculate a 97% chance that they want us to get something that—"
A being stepped through the entryway, a tall red and orange member of a Toa-like species. "Sir, we have urgent news for you. We have... an unexpected guest."
"Bring him here," Ixtil ordered.
The red being shuffled his feet in embarrassment. "I don't think he'll like that, sir."
Ixtil seemed to process his thoughts for a moment, and then nodded knowingly. He turned back to the two Toa guests and stood up, leaving his digital notepad on the desk. "I am afraid I must leave you now. If I am correct, Leviathos is waiting outside, as he certainly wants to know you better. He can show you to your quarters. You can get something to eat if you wish."
"Our quarters?" started Harini. "We must return to the Order of Mata—"
"I am afraid that that will not be possible," said Ixtil, who was walking at measured, even pace towards the doorway. "We are not able to lend you any spaceships for you to return to your Order in; we quite literally cannot spare any more. As of this moment, the two of you have been drafted into the Gigas Magna Resistance."
"Get your filthy hands off my arms," Nightwatcher spat, "or I shall remove them from yours. You have three seconds. One... two..."
The powerful Glatorian guard let go, looking up at the towering Makuta fearfully.
"Thank you," Nightwatcher said sarcastically. Ever since he had arrived at the hidden Resistance base — the location of which he had retrieved from Shayla's mind before turning her over to the Resistance — a number of guards had tried to order him around, which a being such as Nightwatcher usually tended to find annoying. He had managed to refrain from using any deadly force, but if the guards continued to be so irritating he would give in to his annoyance and let it grow into anger. And an angry Nightwatcher was not usually a good thing for a potential ally to see.
Allying with the Resistance was, of course, not an important part of his plan. But he needed to make Mordrax believe that he was planning to make war on him. Of course, there were better ways; Nightwatcher could not deny that, but he wanted to have the satisfaction of making Mordrax realize that the Brotherhood's most powerful ally had joined with their most dreaded enemies.
For a moment, a small part of his mind which he had ignored for some time made a suggestion. He ignored it, intent on making himself look terribly impatient when Ixtil arrived (which, of course, he was), but the nagging thought returned, worse than before. He tried to snuff it out, but even Nightwatcher, who possessed the destructive energy of a million hypernovae, could not destroy an idea.
The voice spoke up again, repeating the question: Or did you just come back because you want to see Shayla again?
No, he told himself, but that tiny part of him refused to accept that statement and began to taunt him. He turned his thoughts away from his internal debate as he sensed Ixtil rounding the corner; and half a second later, the Matoran did so, striding brazenly on the broken cobblestones toward him, stepping in a slow, measured pace while a pair of bodyguards flanked him. Not, of course, that they would be capable of guarding anyone's body against Nightwatcher. Nightwatcher thought for a moment that the Matoran was trying to appear brave in front of him, but then realized that that was in fact how he normally walked: in a slow, calculated manner, just like he sensed Ixtil was calculating what to say to him.
A being that operates purely on mathematics, Nightwatcher thought, grinning broadly on his inside. On the outside he yawned in what looked like a blatant attempt to show false boredom, when in fact Nightwatcher was really bored; he was just showing it in a blatant way so it looked fake. He liked doing that when he was having a conversation with someone, just for his own satisfaction.
Ixtil finished walking towards him, and looked straight up into Nightwatcher's helmet, clasping his hands behind his back. Green eyes met green eyes for a moment, and Nightwatcher tilted his head to the side in his trademark birdlike fashion.
Ixtil began to open his little Matoran mouth, but Nightwatcher interrupted him. "There is no need to tell me who you are, because I already know. There is no need to tell me that you're pleased to see me, because you aren't, and I don't react well when people lie to me. Now, then, let us dispense with the pleasantries and get on to the part where you order these annoying guards to stop pestering me before I really get irritated and blow someone's head off."
Ixtil continued looking at him, not moving at all. "My name is Ixtil, Acting Commander of the Gigas Magna Resistance. I am very pleased to see you, Toa Nightwatcher."
Nightwatcher felt a twinge of both surprise and irritation at the fact that Ixtil had decided to stand up to him, and even the smallest amount of admiration. He could, of course, have simply looked into the Ko-Matoran's mind and anticipated what he was going to say, but that was something he rarely did. He enjoyed the element of surprise every once in a while when someone talked to him, even if the surprise came with annoyance.
"Very good," said Nightwatcher, doing his best (which was astoundingly good) to sound amused. "As I have told one of your more foolish and imbecilic operatives, I have new information about the current state of the Empire."
"Let us say that it is very, very new, and it is important enough for me to betray the Brotherhood and slip away here to tell you about. Now, shall we sit down and discuss this in some place in this dilapidated thing that you call a fortress where there are no guards that so foolishly attempt to threaten me?"
Ixtil nodded mechanically. "You could go to my quarters if you wish."
Nightwatcher, having already seen the structure through his X-ray vision, scoffed in contempt. "That thing? I suppose you really are desperate if the Enforcers choose to live in a place like this."
"I suppose," said Ixtil mildly, "that if you really are as powerful as you say you are, you could renovate this place for us in the snap of a finger..."
"Maybe," Nightwatcher hissed, his foul mood not leaving him, "but I'm not going to waste even the merest fraction of my energy doing something that doesn't help me. I've come here for the sole purpose of making Mordrax angry, and I don't need 'here' to look tidy for me to do that. No, let's discuss it right here, shall we?"
Without even moving, Nightwatcher made a small round metal table appear from thin air onto the ground beneath them, two chairs appearing on either side. Nightwatcher sat immediately, looking pointedly at Ixtil as he indicated for him to do the same.
"Guards," said Ixtil carefully, "leave us."
The Enforcers nodded, each of them making a small bow, and the two beings that had been guarding Nightwatcher exited for the main area, followed by Ixtil's two bodyguards. As they left, Ixtil turned back to the Makuta, sitting slowly down in the chair.
"You want something from us," Ixtil said. "That much is clear. I cannot calculate exactly what it is you want, but may I take a guess?"
"By all means," Nightwatcher growled, yawning in false boredom.
"You've been betrayed by the Brotherhood, so we have something that can help you have revenge."
"No," Nightwatcher corrected, raising his index finger and twirling it in a strange gesture that would likely not have been seen from anyone except perhaps a mute who was trying to express something. "Your organization is something I need that can help me have revenge. I don't need your forces or your weapons or your spacecraft. All I need is for word of my joining to reach the Brotherhood."
"And why Mordrax in particular?"
"Mordrax," said Nightwatcher, yawning again, "has taken over the Brotherhood of Gigas Magna, and thus is now in control of the Gigas Magna Empire. He faced Tetrack in battle, completely crushed him, of course, and then made it look like an accident."
"I believe that there is a 78% chance that that is incorrect," said Ixtil, registering no emotion at all. "Mordrax is not powerful enough to—"
"And then he humiliated me," Nightwatcher spat.
Ixtil stopped a moment to recalculate the odds of that happening. "But that is—"
"Statistically impossible?" Nightwatcher said, allowing himself a thin, pointed smile. "I'm particularly gratified. No one's ever said that straight to my face before."
"Under normal circumstances, yes," said Ixtil. "I take it that thee were not normal circumstances?"
Nightwatcher stopped smiling and leaned in closer to Ixtil. "I assume you know of the substance called Shadowdermis?"
"Your Brotherhood has used it against us before, yes," Ixtil answered. "It was destroyed a little over a month ago, so I have been informed."
Nightwatcher leaned back in the metal chair and stood up, flexing his thin knuckles. "Wrong. The Brotherhood of Gigas Magna improved on the design of Makuta Kunaku. They made a new Shadowdermis. It does not interfere with teleporation fields, so it is virtually undetectable, but it contains all the powers of the original Shadowdermis — magnified by a thousand times. And it was not destroyed with the rest of the substance."
"What does that have to do with Mordrax?"
Nightwatcher grinned again. "Mordrax was wearing a mechanical suit powered by the original Shadowdermis when it was destroyed. However, instead of annihilating him as well, which I would no doubt have preferred, he absorbed the energy, and was, sadly, able even to defeat me. But the fool made the mistake of imprisoning me with the new Shadowdermis — or Shadowdermis 2.0, as they call it — and I absorbed it. Now we both have the substance flowing inside our bodies, and he knows I am a threat to his rule. So now, for the sole purpose of defeating me, he's going to annihilate the Shadowdermis, which he has been developing personally for the last hundred years. Without the Shadowdermis inside me, I could fail again, Mordrax would destroy your pathetic little army with his new powers, and you will be completely obliterated."
"I see," said Ixtil. "So despite what you claim, you genuinely do need something. You want us to keep Mordrax from destroying the Shadowdermis. But why can you not do it yourself?"
"Mordrax would sense my presence. I am, quite bluntly, too powerful for a being of equal power to not notice. He would detect me if I were too close to him. You have no choice but to steal the Shadowdermis away."
"If what you are saying is true, then Mordrax will soon be too powerful for anyone to stop him, correct?"
"Precisely," said Nightwatcher, looking down at the Ko-Matoran with sinister green eyes. "Including you."
"I calculate a 97% chance that you are implying that we make a full-scale assault on the Empire."
"As soon as possible. And then, once I have satisfactorily mastered my new powers, I can take down Mordrax. The Empire will be leaderless, I will have had my revenge, and you can prop up some nice new Republic or something like that to fill the power vacuum with."
Ixtil looked at Nightwatcher again. "When do you recommend that we begin?"
"You know the answer as well as I do," said Nightwatcher, arrogantly striding out of the small pavilion without so much as looking back. "Right now."
The numbers and letter combinations on the bottom of the massive screen changed rapidly, not remaining the same for more than a few seconds. The data was coming quickly from Order agents around the universe, and every few seconds, one of them relayed data back. Most of them Rantu could not make out; they were all abbreviations and short summaries that he did not understand, but one of them did not change. It remained there, as if there were some sort of mechanical error that kept the screen from responding, but he and all of Daxia knew otherwise.
They were only nine letters, nine all but meaningless, insignificant letters; but for the Order of Mata Nui, they meant much more. They meant that the Order, for the first time in more than six thousand years, was going to war. And this time they might not win.
The letters were:
Xa Nui TLH
Or Xa Nui. Threat Level: High.
Beside those letters was a rapidly-changing statistical graph, as all the energy scanners belonging to all the Order agents stationed around Xa Nui sent information back. A little to the right was a statistical graph relating to Destral, which would, if the Order's plans went well enough, be attacked in two weeks. But Destral (labeled Threat Level: Medium) did not seem all that important right about now. After all, Destral had not geared up to attack them.
Rantu diverted his gaze from the display wall and towards the table of members of the Order council. The members were bickering loudly, Tobduk's powerful voice booming loudest of all, while Brominax and Helryx leaned back in their chairs and waited for the argument to cool down. He shuffled his feet, not fully knowing what he was expected to do. Brominax and Helryx had agreed to bring him there, as a witness of the recent battle, but up until now his duty had largely consisted of standing and watching while the Order leaders shouted at one another over the finer details of the planned preemptive strike on Xa Nui.
He sighed, stilling his shuffling feet, and began to lose himself in thought as he stood by Brominax's chair. He began to ponder the mystery of his recent visions, first on Nynrah and then on Metru Nui. As soon as he had returned to Daxia with Draconius, Brominax, and Vinax and filed a full report of the events, he had scoured the library for any mention of Toa of Aura having visions. And yet, even in the expansive Order library, he had found not the smallest tidbit of information regarding visions outside of the usage of the Mask of Clairvoyance.
So what had happened? He was clearly not going insane; the second vision had clearly predicted that Kutrax and Kunaku were going to attack seconds before they did. But what were the other options? Had he suddenly sprung upon some rupture in the aura field? That could have made sense had it happened only once, but it hadn't. It had happened two separate times, so that was clearly not an option...
He was jerked from his thoughts as the clamor of the argument suddenly stopped when Helryx smashed her fist into the table.
"We are going into a war," she said softly, "and we must treat it as one. I have watched as many ruling council members have died and been replaced, and I have survived my share of battles over my years. But never have I seen a council arguing over how to proceed with a war the same way twelve criminal Matoran bicker over prices for smuggled goods.
"Now," she finished, "all of you, get quiet or get out. Now."
The council sat in stunned silence, obviously surprised by her rebuttal. Only Tobduk and Brominax seemed to show no reaction. A second later, the stunned silence faded, and all the council members looked at Helryx intently, waiting for her to continue. Brominax reclined in his chair again, as if he already knew what she was going to say.
"You all may be wondering why this Toa of Aura is here," Helryx continued. "Probably one or two of you already suspect I brought him here for the enjoyment of watching senior Order members argue. But I have brought him for more important reasons. Rantu, come here."
Rantu stammered something, having never quite gotten used to being called by his first name by the ancient leader of the Order, and stepped to her side. He looked at twelve sets of eyes: some, like Tobduk's, were outright contemptuous; others showed confusion, and still others displayed slight boredom. Only one pair was looking at him encouragingly, and that was Brominax's.
"I believe there is a traitor in the Order of Mata Nui," said Helryx calmly. "Perhaps even in this very room."
The council abruptly erupted into shouting again. Helryx smashed her fist on the table again with astounding force, but the shouting continued.
"ORDER!" Helryx yelled, dwarfing even Tobduk's voice with the shout. The council was subdued once again.
"Thank you," said Helryx, satisfied. "Now, this Toa of Aura will look into the aura field, right here, right now, and scan you for deception. I just came up with this today; I cannot believe I didn't think of it sooner."
Tobduk muttered something angrily, like he usually did when a new idea was introduced by someone other than himself, but an angry glare from Vinax, who was sitting on his other side, silenced him. In the meantime, Helryx turned towards Rantu. "You can do it now."
"But I thought Order of Mata Nui members had mental blocks," Rantu answered.
Helryx looked at him for half a second with a confused stare, and then nodded in understanding. "I see. Of course. You've never tried to learn anything from an Order member before. Well, you must understand that our mental blocks cannot allow emotions from being released to the aura field, where any Aura user is free to read them."
"I see," said Rantu, nodding, and on Helryx's command, he opened his body to the aura field.
He was in the chamber now, standing exactly where he had been moments before, his back to Helryx, facing the council. A greenish energy filled the empty air — the residue from fourteen beings' power — and around the table, which dimly glowed with energy itself, the twelve members of the council sat, a complicated mix of emotions radiating from them that Rantu found impossible to filter out. He would have to inspect each of the council, one by one.
He attempted to divert his attention to Brominax, the first on Helryx's left, but he felt his hold on the field slipping away, and he stopped. Ever so gently, he nudged the energy field, and after a few seconds — or so it seemed in this reality — he was looking at Brominax, all thoughts of the others gone from his blank mind, his brain allowing itself to fill with the Great Being's emotions. He had looked at him while connected to the aura field before, but never so close, and he was amazed. Besides the golden field of raw power that would have blinded Rantu had the light penetrated to the real world, he sensed a complex variety of emotion. Slowly, he sifted through it, finding such emotions as annoyance and impatience, but most of Brominax was a great sea of calm and peace. He sensed many hidden thoughts, but that was understandable; everyone in the Order had many secrets, the Great Being most of all. At last, his thoughts drifted away from Brominax, having found exactly what he had expected to find.
Trinuma was next. Again, there was some secrecy about him, but it was clear he held no malicious thoughts. Satisfied, and glad that the investigation had not taken as long as it had with Brominax, he moved down the line to Vinax, where he found the same things as he had seen in Trinuma.
And then came Tobduk. Rantu had not known what to expect, and truthfully didn't want to know. So far as he knew, no one had looked at the bitter-tempered being's emotions before, though that was probably because they hadn't wanted to. Right off the bat, he sensed fear, and that caused him to probe further. Again, he nearly lost his hold on the aura field, but again he managed to remain within it.
There was fear. There was hatred. And, more importantly, there was deception, bright and clear as the day. There was something more, distrust, but Rantu paid little attention to it. He understood now. The Order had been betrayed by Tobduk. Why had he not seen it? Why hadn't anyone seen it?
He was about to come out of the field when he was suddenly swept into another vision.
He was standing on the beach of Daxia, looking out into the bleak horizon. Rain splattered on him, passing through his body — this was a vision of the future, and he didn't truly exist in this world. The sky was a dark gray, the sun obscured by a massive wall of rainclouds that poured their weight down onto the land, the sea, and the Order of Darkness ships that filled the water, stretching almost as far as the sea itself. Fighters and war Rahi were stepping from the ships in orderly rows, marching onto the Order's land, leaving their footprints on Daxia's precious shores...
Rantu turned around, driven by a sudden impulse, and found himself facing towards Daxia's middle. Many bio away, the Order fortress stood, but it no longer shone silver and reflected the light of the sun. The great towers were scorched from a barrage of energy blasts, and many were fallen. The great city wall was in tatters, and behind it, the green landscape of the island was aflame, as if the inactive volcano had suddenly ignited it.
And there, amid the devastation and invading troops, stood two beings: One a slim, battle-scarred Toa of water, the other a lean titan a full bio taller than she. They were in a battle stance, facing one another, and as the Order of Darkness forces approached, they clashed blades with a furious intensity.
"I WILL KILL YOU!" Tobduk roared, smashing away Helryx's defenses. Rantu watched, paralyzed, as the lines of invading troops passed right through him. He was unable to move, unable to aid his leader...
As Tobduk smashed his sword downwards, he saw Helryx roll away and raise her sword to counter the attack, but she missed, and the massive weapon passed directly into her throat, spearing her by the neck...
Rantu gasped in horror and shock as he returned to the real world. The other Order members looked at him in confusion and expectancy, looking exactly as they had when he had left for the realm of the aura field; only a few seconds of real time had passed. He nearly fell to the floor in shock, but Helryx got out of her chair and in a swift movement grabbed him before he could hit the marble floor.
"It was him!" Rantu gasped, wasting no time in pointing a shaking finger at Tobduk. "He is the traitor!"
Tobduk, who had been narrowing his eyes and impatiently clasping his hands together, looked around in what seemed like genuine surprise as a dozen pairs of eyes glared angrily at him. "What? What do you—?"
"Explain yourself!" Helryx roared, getting out of her chair almost shaking with rage, her fists clenched tightly enough to strangle a being. "Explain yourself before we throw you in the dungeons and leave you to rot! GUARDS!"
A pair of tall guards who had been stationed outside, almost as tall as Tobduk himself, immediately stepped through the door and looked at Helryx, awaiting further instructions.
"Seize this traitor and take him away!" she hissed, pointing her hand at Tobduk. The guards immediately complied, stepping in almost mechanical motions towards the ten-foot-tall being sitting in the chair. Each one of them grabbed hold of one of his upper arms and began dragging him away, knocking Tobduk's chair over.
"NO!" Tobduk yelled. "No, you don't understand!" he managed to free one of his hands from the guards' grip, and before they could grab hold of it again, he used it to point accusingly at Rantu. "HE IS THE TRAITOR! HE IS THE—"
The guards managed to grab hold of his arm again, and at that moment, they passed through the doors. Instantly, the room became silent as Tobduk passed on the other side of the soundproof walls. None of the council members so much as breathed; their gazes were all fixated on the doors that a member of their group had just passed through.
Helryx turned to the Toa of Aura at her side, gestured to the now-empty seat, and said, "Rantu, you can sit down now."
What came next could almost have amounted to a sonic explosion. Ten beings (once again, Helryx and Brominax were silent) shouted at the top of their lungs, slammed their fists on the table, yelling at one another. To Rantu, the dialogue was impossible to make out; each individual voice was drowned out by the nine others, and the result was an unintelligible burst of sound that he was completely unable to make out.
Feeling as if he were in a dream, he slowly and carefully stepped around the peaceful Great Being, who had once again reclined in his chair as he watched the argument. He looked over at Rantu almost lazily, then returned to his previous position as the clamor continued. Trinuma and Vinax were completely oblivious to his presence as he passed by, their energies completely focused on making their voices heard above the others', and Rantu slowly stepped over to Tobduk's chair.
He felt its cold metal back, running over it with his fingers, looking down onto the seat where the great senior Order member had once sat. Trinuma's chair — no, his chair. He was a part of this council now, if only for the moment; no doubt, when the war was over, there would be a vote, and the seat would be filled permanently.
When the war was over...
He felt as if a pair of cold metal hands were gripping his sore, stiff shoulders as he thought that. He remembered his vision, recalling the sacking of Daxia, and wondered if that vision would come true just as his last one had. Was the future truly fixed, or could it be changed? Was everything he had ever done even now shaping the cosmos, making way for the fall of the Order of Mata Nui?
He looked over at Brominax, meeting his eye, then leaned back in his chair and watched the clamor continue.
Fairon stood in the silent emptiness of the great open-air area at the center of the ancient stone castle. The skies were filled with a dark gray mist that clouded the early morning skies, and he was reminded of the humidity of the island of Daxia.
Daxia. How long had it been already? How long had it been since he had gazed upon the twin suns of the Matoran Universe where he had made his home? The last two days had seemed to have taken an eternity, and his head was still spinning from the changes he had experienced.
He continued walking, his mechanical feet clinking on the worn cobblestones, dislodging one or two mossy rocks. He let his feet guide him to the east as his eyes carved a path through the fog. He had no idea where he was going; he just needed to find some place where he could be at peace, away from the confusion that was clouding his thoughts just as the fog was the air. He breathed slowly as his legs took him to wherever they were heading. For a moment, he wondered if it were a dream, but he dispelled the thought from his head. If this were a dream, then this would still be the only chance he would have for a while to have peace, if the announcement he had heard yesterday was correct and they really were about to go to war.
Fairon recalled the events of the previous afternoon. After being shown around the fortress by Leviathos, he and Harini had retired to their quarters. But he had almost been unable to sleep, and when he had, he had slept fitfully, his dreams invaded with visions of running through the jungle, where the ground suddenly caved in beneath him as a hexagonal pillar retracted into the abyss below, leaving him falling through space.
He jerked himself back to reality, and suddenly found that he was stepping through the open gate into the jungle. He breathed in slowly through his mouth, letting the still morning air fill his lungs, then exhaled, staring out into the jungle. The jungle noises of the night had ceased, giving way to emptiness. He stood there, halfway between civilization and the wild, and let his mind grow blank as his breathing slowed. Here he was at peace at last...
"Nice place, isn't it?"
Fairon spun around, his sword raised, and pointed it at the intruder who had dared to invade his peace. He quickly lowered it when he saw that he was pointing it in the face of a mutated Noctian. "Oh, it's you," said Fairon, bringing his weapon down.
"Of course it's me," said Leviathos, stepping up to stand next to Fairon. "Who else would it be?"
Fairon sighed and shook his head. "I've been having some strange nightmares recently."
"Haven't we all?" the Noctian answered. "This war is taking a strain on us. If you could call it a war, that is. Our last major victory was over a year ago. Now the Empire has us on the run."
"I'm not one of you," said Fairon, turning to Leviathos. "I don't belong here. This isn't my world."
"Nor is it mine," said the Noctian, staring back. "But they chose me, and I chose to stay. After all, the Order of Mata Nui is just one force of light, and the Brotherhood of Makuta is just one force of darkness. I was transported to another world by a Great Being; why, I do not know. But I believe that I am here for a purpose: To serve the light in all its forms, and to battle all of the darkness."
"You seem to believe quite a bit in purpose," said Fairon, raising his eyebrows. "Why is that?"
Leviathos sighed and looked down at his feet. "It's a long story, Fairon. Perhaps it would be better to save it for later."
"There might not be a chance to tell it later."
Leviathos raised an eyebrow. "Are you really that pessimistic about our chances, then?"
"Yes," Fairon sighed, careful to avoid the gaze of the Noctian beside him.
"You wouldn't be so pessimistic if you heard our plans, Fairon," said Leviathos almost lightly. "Let's go back inside. We can discuss this on the way. Besides, you never know when you might be needed."
"Needed?" Fairon frowned.
"As you've already noticed, there are only a few of us," said Leviathos, turning his back on the lush greenery and turning back into the almost equally lush green fortress. "Almost all of us are going to be going out on missions soon."
"Like I said," said Fairon, "I'm not one of you."
"Are you going to continue to be that obstinate, Fairon?"
"Good." Leviathos chuckled lightly. "You remind me of me, just a few months back..."
His voice trailed off. Fairon understood what Leviathos meant; something had changed him in the last few months, and changed him deeply — whether for better or worse he did not know — but he was smart enough not to inquire further. Instead, he changed the subject: "So, what are the plans?"
"Right now, Ixtil is assembling four teams," Leviathos explained. "The first is to go to Kodax Magna and sabotage Tenik Nui's power generators, so that all of the city's power is wiped out. You see, how it works is that the generators capture the solar wind and—"
"Never mind that," said Fairon briskly. "What about the other three teams?"
"They are going to three places on Gigas Magna," said Leviathos. "Ixtil has new information that gives us the locations of the only three reservoirs of Shadowdermis on the planet. Apparently, we—"
Fairon reeled as if he were struck by lightning, only regaining his composure a few seconds later. "Reservoirs of what?"
"Shadowdermis. From what I gather, it's a sort of substance that interferes with teleportation. It was destroyed about a month ago — we don't know why or how — but now we know that there's a new kind of Shadowdermis, much more powerful than the original."
"How do you know all this?" Fairon croaked.
"I was at Ixtil's morning briefing, representing the Order of Mata Nui. More like a midnight briefing, but—"
Fairon's head spun. His mind was filled with a thousand questions, running around his brain and trying to force him to speak them aloud. How had Shadowdermis, of all things, ended up on this side of the solar system? How did the Resistance fit into all this? How did the Order of Darkness fit into all this? How did he fit into all this?
"I know about Shadowdermis," said Fairon. "I know far too much. What is it doing here?"
Leviathos shrugged. "I honestly don't know. But the Gigas Magna Empire has it, and we're being ordered to bring it back here to keep it safe."
"Keep it safe? Why?"
Leviathos shrugged again. "It's important somehow."
Fairon knew there was something missing, something that he hadn't quite understood yet, but he let it go. "So what happens once the power supply is down?"
"We move in," said Leviathos. "We attack Tenik Nui and Gigas Nui at the same time. The Guild won't be able to repair Gigas Nui's main defenses for at least two weeks, and they don't have that sort of time.
"Tenik Nui will be much harder; even though their Odina Drones will be out of commission — they can't recharge if the city doesn't have any electricity — they still have a significant fighting force. We can't last that long under their attack, so our only chance is to force a surrender as soon as possible. If we're successful, then we can work on the final details and then we'll officially be in control of the planet again."
"You will," Fairon corrected. "And there are far too many 'ifs' in that plan for my liking."
"I know," Leviathos sighed, sitting down of one of the recently propped-up metal benches by the outer wall of the building where the Resistance kept their quarters and putting his face in his hands. "It seems too risky."
"You're an Order of Mata Nui member," said Fairon, raising an eyebrow and joining him on the slightly rusted bench. "'Risky' is part of daily life."
"I know," Leviathos answered. "And that's what worries me. This is much, much bigger than anything I've seen in the Order. And if that weren't enough, I feel as if we're heading into something much bigger than even that."
"You're very cheerful sometimes."
They sat in silence for a few minutes as the fog cleared.
The Makuta of Valmai Nui swore under his breath. Ever since Ralox had been sent to this accursed planet of Gigas Magna by Antidax a day ago, he had been having nothing but trouble. And then, just when it seemed as if things couldn't get any worse, they got worse.
After making preparations, he had set out the night before last, a few hours after sunset. He had sought out Fairon and Harini easily enough, but then he had watched them attacked by a group of bounty hunters — accursed things; he couldn't believe Antidax was hiring so many of them these days — and decided to intervene to prevent them from being killed. Luckily, the bounty hunters had had no plans to kill them, and he had aborted his plan at the last minute, instead deciding to follow the prisoners to their cells to make sure no harm came to them.
And from there, his troubles had begun.
Ralox had watched as the being named "Slicer" came to interrogate the fools, watched as Harini defeated him, then watched as they activated an alarm and unintentionally summoned crowd of bounty hunters charging in their direction, armed to the teeth, with him directly in between the pursued and the pursuers. He managed to get into a jail cell, still unseen, as he waited for the mercenaries to pass by, but then some clumsy being had accidentally shut the door (being electrocuted in the process) so he was trapped inside.
Normally, that would not have been a problem; He was a Makuta, after all, a being imbued with many more powers than most inhabitants of the Matoran Universe. But this was not the Matoran Universe, and he suddenly came to realize that he was trapped in a Makuta-proof prison. He tried every approach he knew, but to no avail; not even a shadow nova blast worked. As the battle raged outside between Fairon, Harini, and the bounty hunters (pitiful fools; he could have finished two Toa within ten seconds) he found himself trapped inside, invisible, with no apparent way out.
So then he had tried something risky: He had revealed himself to a passing Gekkan and used his Rahi control power to manipulate him into using the device on Slicer's arm to let him free. He hadn't been sure it would work at first; Gekkans were sentients, not Rahi; but apparently they were still Rahi enough that one could manipulate them by touching their minds and uttering a few well-chosen words. Weak-minded fools.
He had rewarded his rescuer by vaporizing him immediately. No one could know of his existence.
From there, it should have been easy enough. He made his way out of the building in the general direction of the gaping hole the two now-trapped Toa had punched in the side of the building, meaning to watch them from the top of a nearby structure and rescue them if necessary (though inconspicuously, of course; Fairon couldn't be allowed to know what was taking place). He watched as they were aided by a Noctian-Makuta hybrid — he recalled that his name was Leviathos, though what he was doing in Gigas Nui he couldn't imagine — and everything seemed to be going just fine. With Leviathos' help, they were actually holding their ground against the attacking bounty hunters, so save in the direst situation, he need not intervene. He looked upon Leviathos' battle with a massive robot with interest, noting that the Noctian was quite a decent fighter—
Until a stray energy bolt came out of seemingly nowhere and blasted him in the chest.
He had by no means seen it coming, and the sudden shock of searing pain as it melted through his armor took him off guard. Luckily, it had only been a glancing hit, and as such only a small portion of his metal armor was singed off. As he lost concentration, however, he was momentarily distracted from the considerable task of making himself invisible, and when he telekinetically eased his fall as he dropped off of the edge of the building, he suddenly realized that he was visible again.
The realization took place half a second too late to save him from the quick eyesight and instinctive reactions of a Faran bounty hunter, who had, upon noticing the new arrival who was definitely not one of them, shot another energy bolt at him. Luckily, for such a powerful organization, they didn't seem to train all of their operatives as well as they should have been, and it missed by two bio. However, even though he had concealed himself again, they knew now of his existence.
And Farans had excellent senses of smell.
The Faran quickly detached itself from the battle and made a group consisting of other Farans, which split up to search for him. Ralox had had no choice to leave; he could not risk being captured, and to kill the Farans would likely draw too much attention. No, he had to get out of Gigas Nui and wait for Fairon and Harini there.
And then had lost his targets. The accursed Noctian had simply teleported away quickly, giving Ralox no time to even plant one of the Order's new almost-microscopic tracking probes on either of them. Now, without his targets, he had been forced to go back to looking. But if his instincts were right, they had gone to the Resistance's new hiding place, and a location that the entire Gigas Magna Empire had been searching for for a hundred years was not one that he could have expected to have good chances with finding.
But he had to try. He always could go back to Velnax, of course, and admit his failure; Antidax had provided the "leader" of the Order with a large amount of information, and no doubt that included the location of the second Resistance base. But admitting failure was something one never did to Makuta Velnax, or at least not if one wished to be spared a great deal of pain. And suppose Antidax came out of his meditation sphere early? He didn't know exactly what kind of mental power Great Beings had, and he certainly didn't want to find out firsthand.
No. There was a better option than that. He would have to start from the beginning. And they was why he was here.
Ralox looked across the valley, almost a kio away from the ruins of the great Resistance fortress. The remnants stood there like a twisted abomination against nature: they seemed like a sculpture born from the dark depths of a mad Po-Matoran's imagination. Metal shards were spread heavily across the scorched grass, and ahead of him Ralox could see a large piece of shrapnel about the size of a Matoran. He stepped around it, being careful not to touch its charred, still-smoking surface.
The fortress had once been a building that radiated an aura of power, if such a thing were possible from a building. It was as strong as one of Tenik Nui's missile bunkers, reinforced with many layers of protosteel. It had not been designed with aesthetics in mind; it was simply a giant solid block of insulated metal with enough room inside to fit ten thousand beings and a large number of plasma cannons.
But no fortress in the universe, not even a missile bunker, was designed to survive the kind of brute force that the Empire had used on it. They had not even considered asking the Resistance if they wanted a surrender; instead, they had just jumped out of the dimensional void and used a full-on frontal assault, knowing that they would not have to go on the defensive because the Resistance had been caught completely unawares. Ralox imagined the scene in the back of his mind: a dozen warships, their plasma cannons blazing, launching wave after wave of full, unrelenting assault upon the Resistance.
They never stood a chance, Ralox realized. He felt an unwilling wave of resentment towards the Empire; only cowards would stage an attack where they did not allow their enemies the chance to fight back.
But it didn't matter now. The fortress had been annihilated, blasted into molten slag. It was clear now that there was no chance of finding what he was looking for here, in this valley that had so quickly become an abandoned, forsaken wasteland riddled with the blast marks of plasma cannons. If he wanted to find the other base, then he could not look for clues here. He needed to start looking somewhere else.
He activated his radio comlink again, once again possessed with the fain hope that Harini was in the area and he might be able to contact her and learn of the status of her mission.
"Harini?" he hissed.
Only static. Ralox swore and deactivated it again. He was at a dead end, and he knew it. The only thing left to do was return to the Matoran Universe and report failure. He was under no false impressions as to what would happen to him: He would be punished, and severely. He had allowed Fairon and Harini to fall into Slicer's hands, he had been seen, and he had allowed them to escape his surveillance. On any mission, any one of those things would likely mean severe punishment. On one as important as this, it would mean death if he was lucky, something far worse if he was not.
But was it still a good idea to give up now?
He had no intention of betraying Antidax. He respected him, and he was smart enough to know that making an enemy out of Antidax was far more dangerous than keeping him as an ally. He also knew that whatever punishment he would be given, it would be just. He had failed, and failure was one of the worst crimes of all, second only to betrayal. But what if he could still succeed? What if he could redeem himself by completing another mission for his leader? There was only a very slim possibility that he would succeed, and a very high possibility that he could be caught by the Brotherhood — who knew what security systems they had now? — but whether he succeeded or failed, it would be his only chance.
Yes, he decided. It is time to get the Shadowdermis.
Harini awoke panting and sweating, as if she had been having a full workout for the entire length of the night. She sat on the edge of her uncomfortable bed for some seconds as her breathing eased, then stood up, made sure that there was no one else around, and activated her transmitter.
It was a small communications device implanted directly in her auditory sensors, connected directly to her brain through surgery so she could turn it on and off at will. It was virtually undetectable, and it allowed her direct two-way communication with Velnax (who had a radio comlink that Filax had designed for him) despite the fact that they were an unknown number of mio away from one another.
"Velnax," she hissed, looking around one more time to see if there was anyone else present. "Do you read me?"
She wasn't entirely sure it would work; even though the plan had been for her and Fairon to end up on Gigas Magna from the beginning, she still didn't know if Filax had designed the comlink to transmit through Gigas Magna's atmospheric distortion. The first few seconds of static were tense, and it was a relief when Velnax finally responded.
"Harini. Where are you?"
"The Western Continent fortress," she hissed back, her heartbeat less intense now that the moment of uncertainty was gone and she was sure that no one was around. "I'm alone."
"I don't know. I'll look for him in a moment. He can't have gone far."
"Good." Velnax's voice sounded satisfied. "You do know the plan?"
"Yes," Harini answered. That, at least, she was sure of. "And don't even bother trying to tell me to stick with it. I know it just as well as you do. You're not the only one whom Antidax told how his plans in Gigas Magna were going to end."
"It is vital that things go exactly as planned, Harini," said the voice in her ear. "There can be no mistakes at this point. You already know about the Robotopolis debacle. Antidax had to rework almost his entire plan after we failed to kill Fairon then..."
"You sound like you're blaming me for it," Harini growled. "I wasn't involved then. I was only an innocent little Ga-Matoran, trying to make a living for myself in the 'safety' of Robotopolis."
Velnax snorted. "I can't believe that you were ever innocent, Harini. You were too quick to jump on when Miserix offered you a place in our Order of Darkness. You've done this sort of thing before. Treachery, lies, manipulation — you were a master at this before we ever heard your name."
Harini closed her eyes and kept them shut for a few moments. The she opened them, blinking back tears, the sole remnants of a dark and buried past.
"That isn't important now," she said in a smooth tone, the same reassuring tone she sometimes used when she was trying to convince a target of something. Yet even in her ears, it sounded like a lie, and she had no doubt that it sounded the same to her employer. "Everything will go as planned. I shall ensure that we will depart for Kodax Magna as soon as possible."
"Good," said Velnax, speaking in a similar smooth tone that was clearly intended to mock her own. "And Harini..."
"I have my spies, you know. Even in the Resistance, I have spies. I'm not stupid, Harini. You may be a master of concealing your true motives, but you're playing a risky game by doing this. Suppose you should... ah... do something wrong... we will eliminate you."
"What are you talking about?" said Harini. Once again, it sounded false even to her own ears.
"You know well enough what I mean. Fairon's a very handsome young Toa, isn't he?"
"What are you suggesting?" said Harini.
"I know that flirting with him is part of your job, Harini, but for goodness' sake, don't allow your emotions to control you."
Harini snorted. "Are you implying that you think I'm—"
"Yes, I am. You do like him; I can tell that much. My operatives have seen the way you look at him. You're not faking this time."
"Maybe your operatives are wrong," Harini said stiffly.
"And maybe they're right. You have to consider that. You might not realize it yet, but it's obvious that you are beginning to fall in—"
Harini turned off the comlink then mentally. She sat where she was, staring into the unlit blackness, stunned. In her mind, she kept trying to convince herself that Velnax was wrong, that it was just another job, just another job, just another job. But it wasn't, and she knew it. She found herself attracted to him. Fairon was a handsome young Toa, and he did seem rather nice. But even before she had gone to Robotopolis, she had gone on numerous missions where she had been attracted to a target. And yet she had succeeded each time, because she had known to discard those emotions, and before long she realized what they were: Just pointless attraction that one could get over easily. Yes, that was it.
She wasn't ready to admit the other possibility to herself yet.
A single fiery eye stared blankly out into space. Its owner, a skinny Kodax now in possession of a thick mechanical Shadowdermis-powered suit, sat still on the massive chair that had once belonged to Tetrack as he contemplated what to do next.
Nightwatcher was gone. It was clear enough now what had happened; he had absorbed the Shadowdermis into himself, and had broken out to leave for elsewhere. But Nightwatcher wasn't one to forget about betrayal, and especially not humiliation. There was no doubt that he was planning vengeance.
He was hiding somewhere, but most likely it wouldn't stay that way. The bounty hunter was most definitely not the type to lie low. His arrogance and rage would drive him to make a move against Mordrax, and soon. The logical move was to try to gain control of the Shadowdermis that now coursed through the Toa's body so Mordrax couldn't destroy it. And that was what Mordrax wanted to happen — Nightwatcher would come to him, and he would be destroyed. Besides, if Mordrax took the opportunity to destroy his foe's new powers right now, he would just go further into hiding, and no doubt he would make a plan to bring him down one way or another. No, the safe way to go would be to leave the Shadowdermis be and let Nightwatvher come in his direction.
Of course, Mordrax realized, Nightwatcher's worked with me for over two hundred years. He knows me well enough, and he most likely knows what I'm planning now. That may make things things a bit more interesting.
But of course, Nightwatcher wasn't going to make his move yet. Not yet. For the moment, at least, Mordrax had more important things to worry about. Like the Resistance — somehow, a group of only three of them managed to penetrate Gigas Nui's defenses, stand up to a horde of various highly trained (and many more not as highly trained) bounty hunters, and severely damage their high-yield plasma cannons. Despite the Empire's best efforts to help repair the damage, it would still be a while before the defenses of the city were ready again, meaning that a Resistance strike could take the city relatively easily.
It seemed ridiculous that any three beings below, say, a Great Being's power level could do such a thing by themselves without the aid of some sort of rather powerful weapon or an army of robots to back them up. Sometimes it seemed to Mordrax as if some force was sometimes conspiring against him, but such a thing was obviously impossible.
Mordrax sighed and shrugged off those thoughts. He had another press conference within the hour in which he would discuss the "cause" of Tetrack's sudden death with the Matoran news organizations. This time, he didn't even have to bother to censor the media — his new powers had allowed him to remove the marks of battle from the being's body so well that the most skilled healers on Gigas Magna could find little wrong, except of course for the obvious fact that he was dead. It looked very much like Tetrack had died of old age, and that was a good thing. No one could know what he had done.
It occurred to him that Nightwatcher already did know, and he might choose to reveal the information to the public. But he dismissed that thought almost instantly — Nightwatcher had little use for turning the populace against him.
Again his mind turned to the Toa; he had gone over his plan countless times, repeatedly attempting to figure out what Nightwatcher and the Resistance would try to do in the coming days, and again and again reaching the same conclusions. He thought he had it all planned out, but he knew that the most minor mistake could shatter the plan, and so he kept checking and double-checking himself.
And then a new thought turned to him: What if Nightwatcher should side with the Resistance?
Mordrax blinked and left his trance. Of course. Nightwatcher wasn't stupid, not at all. He knew Mordrax was ready for a battle with him, so maybe he was planning to wait him out until the last moment, and let the Resistance wear him down. And if that possibility, no matter how remote, had the slightest chance of becoming a reality, then Mordrax could no longer take chances. A Resistance with Nightwatcher at its head was not something he wanted to think about.
Yes, Mordrax realized after a few more seconds of thought. That must be what Nightwatcher plans. It's what I would have done. But I know him too well, just as he knows me. I know what he's going to do.
An evil grin suddenly swept across his mutilated face.
Yes. If he's cooperating with the Resistance, he must be planning to attack Tenik Nui. And the best way to do so would mean deactivating our power systems.
"Thank you, Nightwatcher," he said as he stood up from his chair. "Thank you for making this more interesting..."
Tenik Nui had no power generators whatsoever inside the city-continent. Instead, energy was gathered by solar wind collectors which gathered charged particles released from the sun and converted them into electricity. (These were similar to the now-wholly antiquated solar power panels, only these were able to absorb all sorts of particles and not merely photons.) They had been developed in the first few thousand years after the Kodax War, and they seemed perfect — a clean energy source which would have no limits until Solis Magna stopped shining.
But as the city expanded across the continent, the problem quickly became apparent — the solar wind collectors had to take up a large amount of surface area if they were to gather enough solar wind. And as the city grew, they would have to supply more power, until eventually the collectors would take up a rather large portion of the continent. That, of course, was unacceptable.
So the government of Tenik Nui came up with a rather clever solution, or so they thought. They would place the collectors on an uninhabited island, and the electricity they produced could be relayed to Tenik Nui through a power system located beneath the ocean. But Tenik Nui continued to grow, while the island didn't, and eventually it was realized that unless they wanted the oceans of Gigas Magna to be filled with power collectors they would have to find another place to put them.
The best solution appeared to be in outer space. At first, it appeared like they would be able to place the collectors in orbit and have them directly send down the energy in concentrated beams that could all be collected in one place, and that was what was done for a time. But then someone had the bright idea of instead putting the collectors up on the moon known as Kodax Magna.
It was a good alternative. The unusually large natural satellite was completely uninhabited, and had been for thirty thousand years ever since the Kodax had abandoned it, leaving the energy domes that protected parts of the surface from the harsh vacuum to fail from the lack of a power source. No one had tried to make a home there since the Kodax left, and why should they? There was nothing that the barren moon had to offer, not even a supply of minerals to mine. It was a lifeless hunk of rock, and it seemed like it would stay that way for eternity.
But then the building crews came. They installed another artificial atmosphere, they knocked down the empty shells of the Kodax buildings which still stood after all those thousands of years, and then they built. At first, it was just a ring of power collectors around the moon that sent packets of energy directly down to one massive building which channeled the energy directly into the power grid. But then, over the millennia, the structures grew until they covered the entire moon. The system that controlled Tenik Nui's power supply didn't actually need to be anywhere close to that big, but energy was also produced for several of the neighboring planets in the solar system — for a large sum, of course.
All of areas of the moon which were not covered by solar wind collectors were instead covered by the computer system which monitored the solar wind collectors. It was connected directly to the computer system of Gigas Magna, and was controlled remotely from the center of Tenik Nui. But in the case of emergency, it could also be accessed directly on the moon. Luckily for the Resistance, the Twilight Guardians had long since known how to hack into the Kodax Magna database without being detected, and now they were at last going to make use of the skills that the team of six had picked up over the years.
The Resistance's plan was simple: hack into the database and then sabotage it. Fain had managed to construct a virus that would spread through its entire infrastructure and shut it completely down, while at the same time keeping the collectors from relaying energy to the planet.
It was simple and brilliant, which was what worried Fairon so much as he boarded the spaceship. He still remembered what Helryx had told him during his training: "There is nothing worse than a foolproof plan." He hadn't understood what it meant until Helryx had explained that there was no such thing as one. Believing that your plan was foolproof was nothing less than blatant foolishness.
Fairon looked around him at the seats nearby in what had once been the cargo hold of the spaceship he was in. He was at the edge of his row of uncomfortable chairs; beside him was Harini, who was staring straight forward and trying not to look at anything, probably in nervousness though she would probably never admit it. The final seat in their small row was that of Leviathos, who at the first glance didn't seem nervous at all but seemed to be clutching his sword a bit too tightly. Fairon could understand this: it was difficult to go into battle knowing that your pilot, and not you, was responsible for your life right now. But it was necessary, because Kodax Magna was equipped with a teleportation shield and the only way to approach was by spaceship.
"Ready?" said the voice of Dakap over the intercom. Fairon had been intrigued but hardly surprised to learn that he was a skilled pilot.
The eight rows of beings behind Fairon murmured in response. Dakap apparently took it as a yes, and Fairon began to hear a faint whirring sound as the sublight engines were turned on. He looked out the thick window, watching as the cobblestones suddenly seemed to grow smaller. Then it began; a slight shaking that indicated that the ship had left the ground, and in an incredibly short time the hangar bay was invisible. Fairon didn't know what kind of forces were required to launch a cargo ship off of the ground like that, but he guessed it had to be something rather powerful.
Half a second later, the ride smoothed out as the crammed spacecraft went supersonic. Fairon looked away from the window and turned towards Harini. Her fists were clenched tightly, and she seemed to be looking in no particular direction.
"Harini?" said Fairon. "Are you all right?"
She blinked, broken from her trance, and looked over towards him as the ship entered the vacuum of empty space and they all grew weightless, being held in their seats only by the thin straps that kept them in place. "Yes. I'm fine. It's just that I've never liked being in outer space..."
Fairon nodded. He could understand that; she had spent many years in Robotopolis, the city floating in the orbit of Aqua Magna, and he couldn't blame her if she had grown to dislike it. He opened his mouth to say something comforting, then realized that he was unable to think of anything and shut it again. He bit his lip as Harini returned to staring nervously into the distance, knowing that he had missed his opportunity to say something, though what he was meant to say he wasn't sure. He noticed Leviathos gazing intently in his direction, but half a second later the Noctian turned away and he assumed that he had been imagining it.
He could feel the faint thrust of ion engines as the ship continued on its way, at an amazing number of kio a second. He knew that, somewhere behind the vehicle's thick hull, perhaps several kio away, there were two other ships belonging to the Resistance.
All of them were headed towards Kodax Magna, where they would land on the night side of the moon, in the place which had been nicknamed Shadowgate. Shadowgate was more or less a missile bunker created by the Twilight Guardians long ago, before the birth of the Resistance. More importantly, although it had been all but destroyed a year prior during a cataclysmic battle and subsequently abandoned, it still contained the link to the database that was required to get into it.
Fairon gazed out the viewport again, looking back at the planet of Gigas Magna now so far beneath him. Already, it was growing smaller, but he could still see it in detail. From his point of view, he could see the northern hemisphere of the planet — mostly, it was covered with a great blue ocean that shone like a jewel, but at one point it gave way to the Western Continent. It was like an ocean of its own, a vast ocean of green plantlife. It felt to him as if he could feel the humidity even from this height.
To the north lay more ocean, interrupted every once in a while by the occasional pinprick of an island, and at the pole lay another landmass, the Northern Continent. The gray landscape, unbroken except by the several canyons that riddled the northern crust, seemed somehow unnatural. He didn't know it, but long ago it had been just a small volcanic island, or at least it had been until the Kodax Tetrack had planted a bomb in the upper mantle. The bomb had been made to cause a large part of the planet's insides to simply explode outward through the volcano, effectively annihilating everything on the island's surface. Over time, the sea of molten rock cooled to form new land, forming new shores and a new continent.
Fairon then turned his eyes in the other direction, looking towards his destination. Kodax Magna was exactly as he had envisioned it — a cold gray hunk of rock that lay frozen in the starless sky. As it loomed larger on the horizon until it was almost as large as its parent world, he was able to make out more details, most notable of which were the trenches. They could have been mistaken for canyons, but he knew that was impossible — there was no water on the moon to carve them, no geological activity to rip them open. No, these canyons had to be something else.
Then he saw what they were, and his eyes opened wide. These canyons were not gaps in the solid rock of moon — they were as-yet-undeveloped gaps in the thick layer of power collectors and computer systems that was discernible even from this far away. What he thought was Kodax Magna's surface was not Kodax Magna's surface at all — it was what had been built on top of Kodax Magna's surface.
He sat staring blankly for a second, not knowing how to feel about it, before he noticed the relatively small speck that lay in between them and the moon. It was another second before the speck grew larger and he recognized what it was.
It was a spaceship. For a fleeting moment he allowed himself to hope that it was just another of the heavily customized cargo ships that the Resistance was using to transport them, but this ship was much bigger.
And it was heading in their direction.
Fairon didn't even have time to shout a warning before he saw the bolts of pure energy flicker through space, lancing directly towards him. He was thrown around in his harness sharply as the ship rocked heavily from a tremendous impact.
"We're under attack!" someone yelled.
As if in response, the ship shook violently again. A brief glimpse that Fairon got out of the viewport was enough to tell him that Dakap was desperately attempting to evade the enemy fire that was threatening to pulverize the energy shields. His view of Kodax Magna — now larger still — spun in circles while Dakap maneuvered the thrusters, but suddenly another massive energy bolt crashed into the ship.
There was a sudden crackling noise as Dakap activated the intercom system. His voice was almost panicked as he issued the orders: "Orx, man the cannon!"
Fairon heard the noise of a harness being removed somewhere in a row of seats behind him. He heard the noise as the being called Orx moved about in the zero-gravity environment and headed for the back of the ship, where the controls for a small energy cannon were located. But even though Fairon didn't know much about space combat, he could guess well enough to assume that one small cannon wasn't much against a massive battle cruiser.
Dakap would have to land on Kodax Magna before they were shot down.
He turned again to Leviathos and Harini. Leviathos had his eyes closed, but whether in thought or fear Fairon could not tell. Harini had clenched her teeth tightly, looking at Fairon expectantly as if she wanted him to do something, though he didn't know what he could do under the circumstances. As more blasts rocked the ship, Fairon looked deep into her green eyes. He clutched her hand in his, and he opened his mouth to speak—
Then another, larger blast hit the ship. Fairon was jerked against the ship's side, and once again he got a quick glimpse through the viewport. From there he saw three things that alarmed him.
The first was what looked like another ship, identical to their own, close enough nearby to be clearly visible. Its hull looked burnt by the sheer energy of the laser bursts, and it seemed to be floating about the vacuum with no pilot at the controls. He suddenly understood why; there was a massive gaping hole in its side. The crew had all died of explosive decompression, and even in the brief seconds that he looked through the viewport he could make out the outline of some small object floating nearby. His first analysis was that it was a piece of the hull that had broken off, but he suddenly realized that it looked uncomfortably like a bipedal sentient.
The second was that another battle cruiser was approaching from the other direction, and soon enough it would be in firing range.
The third was that Kodax Magna was still much, much too far away for his liking.
He took this all in in only a few moments, before his thought processes were interrupted by the sound of another voice shouting "Fire! There's a fire here!"
Wasting no time, Fairon immediately clambered out of his seat, along with Leviathos and Harini, finding himself in the new zero-gravity environment. He had had little time to accustom himself to the new environment before he felt the waves of heat nearby. Attempting to maneuver, he clambered over his seat — Over? What did such arbitrary designations matter in this place? — and made his way towards the source of the heat, where a panel in the smooth metal wall had once been.
He made swimming motions, passing ahead of Harini, but Leviathos got there first. He made a gesture towards it, and Fairon realized that the Noctian was going to use his water power to put the fire out before it caused too much damage or used up all of the oxygen in the cabin. The stream of water had begun to pour from his hands towards the fire, but without warning all three of them were smashed into the opposite wall by centrifugal force as Dakap moved the ship into a roll to evade enemy fire.
As that happened, the small bit of flame suddenly ballooned into a massive fireball, as if it had just noticed the presence of all the pressurized oxygen. Red-orange tongues of flame spread out quickly through the cramped space, and Fairon found himself wondering if his life was truly going to end here, in the vacuum of space, thousands of mio away from the Order of Mata Nui. But then he saw Harini release a great wave at the fireball, and within seconds the danger had abated.
Then Dakap made another roll, slamming Fairon into the wall once more, but this time the Imperial ship hit its target and Fairon could feel the hull shaking beneath him. Dakap again spoke through the intercom: "It's no good; I'm running out of shielding! Anyone have any ideas?"
Fairon looked around, catching glimpses of many other faces, some alien, others recognizable from the brief time that he had spent at the Resistance base. One was a red and silver robot the likes of which he had never seen before, but from the way it moved it looked like it were as sentient as Fairon himself; two more were Rahkshi, one green and black, one gray and orange, but they were different from any other Rahkshi he had ever seen. Several Matoran and Agori were present, as well as a Skrall. But among the fifteen or so beings that occupied the eight rows, there were no ideas forthcoming.
He turned to Leviathos, his mouth open to ask a question, but then he stopped as he saw what had happened.
Leviathos' armor was a scorched and battered mess. Several exposed organic parts were seriously burnt, and though his armor had protected most of his vital organs from the fireball, he seemed not to be in very good condition. His eyes were shut, and the way he was floating in the low gravity was eerie; he looked like a ghost from a tale of mythical past. Time seemed to slow down as another powerful shuddering occurred and Leviathos' prostrate form smashed against the wall, his arms and legs flailing about limply.
"Leviathos?" said Dakap over the intercom. "Leviathos, we need your help! You're the only one that can—"
The rest of the conversation was cut off by three more laser blasts from the enemy. Alarms began to sound, drowning out the rest of Dakap's statement, and Fairon stole one last glimpse out the spaceship. Kodax Magna was nearer, yes, but the knowledge wouldn't be much good if they were all blown to shreds by the time they reached there.
Harini, meanwhile, was trying to revive the Noctian, first with a blast of water in the face, but Fairon paid little attention. It wasn't any good — when he woke up, if he woke up, it would already be too late. They were all going to die...
For the first time in his life, Fairon had given up.
Dimly, as if he were remembering something from a long-forgotten nightmare, he saw rather than heard Harini shout at him to help, felt the shaking of the ship through the vibrations of the air. There was no sound now, and soon, very soon, it seemed like there would be no sight, or anything else...
Sight. No sight. Why hadn't he thought of that before?
He blinked and awoke from his trance. All of a sudden, he was aware of everything again, the noise of the continued impacts, the voices, the terrible alarms that ringed over and over again as if they were meant to signify their approaching, inevitable doom. But if he could help it, it wasn't inevitable at all...
Ignoring the pleas of Harini to help her revive the Noctian, ignoring all the sounds around him, he began to swim as fast as he could towards the cockpit of the spaceship, where Dakap was stationed. He used his momentum to propel himself forward as he shot like an arrow towards it, then, upon reaching the gateway between the two sections he saw Dakap desperately pulling the control column around with his left hand, while with his right he jabbed at the other controls with his fingers. Through the front viewscreen was a rapidly shifting view of Kodax Magna.
"Dakap!" Fairon yelled, trying to make himself audible over all of the noise. "DAKAP!"
"WHAT?" roared the Toa, not so much as turning around to acknowledge his presence as he grappled fiercely with the manual controls.
"I need you to set a course straight for Kodax Magna!"
This time the Toa of Iron shot an incredulous glance back at him before returning to the controls. "And why the Karzahni should I do that?"
"Just trust me!" shouted Fairon. "There's no time to explain. I know what I'm doing!"
Dakap shot another glance back at him, this one not so much incredulous as anxious and skeptical. "I sure hope so," he muttered. He pushed the control column forward as Fairon shut his eyes in concentration.
The shaking of the ship suddenly ceased. The view of Kodax Magna began to grow larger.
Fairon was beginning to perspire heavily, the beads of sweat moving slowly away through the vacuum. The concentration he required was immense; it seemed like he were supporting the planet of Gigas Magna on his back. Several kio away by now, photons were being suddenly driven from their paths through the skies and redirected into a three-dimensional image, that of a small cargo ship, while at the same time those that emanated from the ship he was on were restrained from traveling on their paths through the inky blackness.
He had made their ship invisible.
The illusion wouldn't last long. Either he would collapse, his energy spent for the moment, or the attacking ship would take some measurements and realize that the ship they were firing on had no mass. From there, it wouldn't take them long to find out where they were now, and then they would begin firing again.
Hopefully, before either of those happened, they would have approached the artificial atmosphere and gone out of range of enemy fire.
Fairon felt his strength begin to lessen. Desperately, he willed himself to use every last remaining bit of energy he had, but even as he did so his concentration started to slip. He knew that if he failed at this, his life would be forfeit, but he was so tired now, so exhausted. He felt himself begin to black out from the strain, and instinctively knew that if he did so, it would be the end for them all...
With some new reserves of strength, he pressed himself to keep going. In the back of his mind, he heard Dakap whisper something to him, but he was too far removed from that for it to matter. Now it was just his will and billions upon billions of photons, floating in the shadowy void...
He began to fail again. He felt the patterns of photons he had created begin to disperse. Desperately, he once more tried to use the fear that he kept bottled up inside him — the fear of failure, the fear of death — but it wasn't enough. His power ebbed, and then he felt his will slide into the blackness...
But then he thought of Harini. Harini and Leviathos and Dakap and all the rest would surely die if he should fail. This was not about himself; this was about the future of the Resistance. This was about the future of many worlds. He pictured the face of Harini inside his mind, allowing it to fill him with just a little more energy. If he died, she would die. Her life was in his hands...
Besides, he reflected, she had saved him from the fire. Now he had a debt to repay.
Somehow, these thoughts gave him enough will to push on for a few more seconds before, in the back of his head, he heard Dakap speak: "We will reach Kodax Magna within a few seconds. Please return to your seats and strap yourselves in..."
He gasped as he let go of the molecules and allowed the beams of light to run their course. He opened his eyes and found himself floating again, looking into Dakap's face, breathing heavily from the effort but with a sense of relief and satisfaction.
"Well done," said the Toa of Iron, but by that time Fairon had already passed out.
The ship entered the atmosphere.
Brominax's golden-yellow armor glinted in the afternoon sun, reflecting the awesome power of Light that was stored within him and making his figure all the more impressive as he hurried through the Daxia corridors, striding past smaller beings as they looked at him with almost reverent awe. He ignored them, fixing his gaze ahead.
At his side was a Toa of Aura clad in light green and blue armor, hurrying to match the Great Being's pace. His gaze flickered for a moment and he looked at Brominax inquisitively, but at the last moment decided against it, looking away again.
Rantu didn't have to be able to peer into the aura field to know that Brominax was, at the moment, very, very angry, and that an angry Great Being was not something one wanted to deal with. He could feel the tendrils of barely contained rage swirling inside his body, the amount of pure power contained inside his body by sheer force of will, and he decided that it was a good thing that Brominax was on their side.
Once again, his wandering mind settled on thinking about the situation that had caused Brominax's anger. He tried to analyze it, tried to find something in the events of the last few minutes that could help explain everything, but his mind was still reeling from the shock of it.
The atmosphere among the ready lines of warriors had been tense and anticipating as Rantu looked down on them from the balcony reserved for the ruling council of the Order. Before them was their entire army, all but ready to march on Xa Nui. The time had not come to attack; not yet. There were still many preparations to be made for the two separate wars against Velnax and Icarax.
But it would come soon. Helryx was announcing her plan to reveal the Order to the residents of the Matoran Universe; the time would come for everything to change. These wars would, if won, change the landscape of all the lands forever. The Toa Nuva were being sent to the Universe Core to awaken Mata Nui, which could bring about the final defeat of the Order's foes. But for now, the Order had to fight them themselves, and fight them they would.
Brominax brushed past a Reptisapean member who seemed to be rehabilitating from some kind of leg injury — he was carrying crutches. Rantu was not so lucky; he nearly bumped into him. He caught himself just in time, muttering apologies before hurrying through the dreary metal corridors of Daxia.
The eleven other council members sat rigidly in their seats, awaiting Helryx's speech. The Toa of Water was not yet present; everyone else was waiting for her to arrive. They remained in stone-cold silence as the time passed, until at last Helryx appeared from the exit to the balcony. There was resounding applause from all of the Order members, but Helryx made a gesture indicating silence, and the members, disciplined as they were, obeyed immediately.
"The day has come," Helryx said in a voice that could have passed as soft had it not been so powerful. "The day has come for us to battle the evils of this universe. For a hundred thousand years, we have prepared for this day, and days like this. Tests like these will be the ultimate tests of our courage, and for the sake of the universe we must pass."
Out of the corner of his eye, Rantu saw Brominax look expectantly at Helryx as if he were waiting for her to say something.
The thin crowds in the corridors grew even thinner as they hastily passed through them towards the end, until at last there was no one at all. These were the areas where the higher-ranked members had their quarters and meeting rooms, and thus most other members tended to avoid the area. Brominax's pace quickened, until Rantu was forced to almost run to keep up with him.
"What is this about?" he finally dared to whisper.
"The Brotherhood of Makuta and Order of Darkness are powerful enemies, make no mistake," Helryx continued, "and only a fool would underestimate them. But they fight to control a universe, and we fight to save it. Never forget that we are fighting for a just cause, and is not a just cause one that is worthy the cost of our lives? We will fight for our lives, and to our deaths, until the end comes, one way or another.
"We will fight, and no doubt many of us will die, but we cannot forget that the universe is more than one being's life. I do not mind dying for this cause. I would not mind all of us dying if it meant the death of those who threaten the safety of the Matoran. Perhaps we will fall in the end, perhaps none of you that I see here will survive the wars that are to come. But I know, as I look upon each one of your faces, that if we do, we shall go down having done our best, and that is all that can ever be asked."
Brominax glanced back in his direction. His pace did not slow the merest fraction as he spoke. "Rantu, you must understand that whatever you are going to hear must be kept the greatest of secrets. Do not reveal them to anyone, no matter the cost. This information is a secret of the highest level. Only four other members of the Order know the full details of what I am going to discuss with Helryx — no, only one, now that Shayla, Dorex, and Colix are dead." Brominax blinked at this point, apparently to hold back tears.
"Then why am I even here?" Rantu's facial expression turned into a frown of confusion as he chased after Brominax.
"We will never surrender to them, not even if we are doomed to failure. We will not have a truce with those that threaten innocent lives; we shall fight to our last breaths if necessary. We must never give in, never give in ever, save to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy. We will fight in the skies of Karda Nui, we will fight in the waters of the Great Sea, we will fight on the shores of this very island if we must, and should Daxia one day be brought down, then we shall still continue fighting until it ends at last.
"We are ready to face our enemies, to endure the challenges they shall bring against us, to do anything to prevent the shadow of the tyranny of the Brotherhood and Order from falling over this universe. They will do their worst — and we will do our best. These are dark times, but as always in dark times, we shall be the light that is cast through it. The time has come to reveal ourselves, my friends and allies, and reveal ourselves we shall! There is no price too great, no shadow to strong, no army too large, that can stop us! We will fight, and we will win over the shadows!"
Helryx raised her clenched fist high into the air as she said the final sentence, and the cheering in their audience while she gave the short speech suddenly grew in momentum, becoming not so much cheering as a great sustained roar from the hundreds of voices several bio below them on the ground.
"Let me put it like this," said Brominax, quickening his pace once more so that Rantu was forced to genuinely run to catch up. "We Great Beings know more about the future than we tend to reveal. Well, one Great Being, specifically, but that's not important..."
Rantu had opened his mouth to respond when Brominax abruptly stopped. Still not quite breathing heavily, Rantu managed, with the aid reflexes honed for several years by Dorex, to stop neatly at almost the same time as the Great Being without knocking into him. A noticeably impressed Brominax acknowledged that with an almost undetectable flicker of his eyes, then proceeded to knock on the door in front of him.
"There is something I need to say," Helryx said as the roaring finally abated, again in that soft but booming tone. "What you are about to hear has been kept completely secret, and only a handful of this organization's members know of it yet.
"I believe that there is a sort of superweapon that currently exists in this universe. We do not know who is in possession of it, but we do know that it has been used to destroy the island of Nynrah. We must take precautions against this, for it is terribly deadly, and most of all we must not allow it to be used against the Matoran. Of what nature it is, we do not know, but we must do all in our power to find out."
The door opened sharply less than a second later. Perhaps Helryx had been waiting by the door, knowing that Brominax was coming, or perhaps her finely honed reflexes had allowed her to spring towards the source of the knocking in such a short time. Rantu was never to know.
"I was expecting you to come," said the Order leader, looking the much-taller Great Being in the eyes. She had an impressive, powerful air about her despite her relatively short stature. Turning towards Rantu, she looked the Toa of Aura up and down as if she had never seen him before and was analyzing his defenses to see how long it would take to beat him in a battle. "Why did you bring him?" She gestured sharply towards him, making it extremely clear that she didn't care for the fact that Brominax had brought him to her chambers.
There was a terrible silence beneath them as Helryx paused for breath. Rantu guessed that a less disciplined crowd would have started to murmur to one another in incredulity, but instead the Order members remained standing straight, facing the lean, armored figure of the Toa of Water.
Helryx had opened her mouth to continue when suddenly a massive holographic image flickered into existence in the sky above them. It was fully realistic, only twenty times bigger, and the menace of the original image was carried into this one. Eyes flickered in its direction, and as they focused on the image they narrowed as they recognized the form of Makuta Velnax.
Brominax responded coolly to Helryx's question. "If all of them are to know," he said, "then what difference does it make if one Order member knows before the rest? Especially if he is a Council member." He gestured towards the room behind Helryx with one hand. "May we enter?"
"Certainly," Helryx growled, opening the door further to allow the two beings to enter. It was apparent that she was unsatisfied with Brominax's answer, but she knew that there was nothing that she could do about it. Rantu realized that there in front of him was a side of Helryx that he had never seen before; the weaker side, the one that did not hide its emotion but instead let it pour out of her like rain from a cloud.
If the message has shaken her so much, that can't be good, Rantu decided. That can't be good for anyone.
"Order of Mata Nui," said the sneering face suspended above them, "I admire your confidence in this matter, but you cannot hope to win against the Order of Darkness. Your leaders know this; by going into war with us, you are only advancing your own destruction. Destiny is on our side."
Helryx looked towards the image, curling her lip in a mixture of revulsion and hatred. "Do you intend for us to surrender?"
Velnax turned around to face her, looking at the Toa of Water from high above her. "Surrender?" said Velnax in mock incredulity. "In my mind, you've made it clear enough that you're never going to surrender. You're too foolish to. No, what I suggest you do is run. Run before we destroy you. Run to the very edge of the universe, run to the end of the plane of reality itself, and maybe, just maybe, you can find some place where you can hide from us."
Velnax grinned maliciously. "Of course, the one place you can hide from us would be in the land of the dead..."
Helryx's quarters reflected the metallic style of the halls. The room was almost empty, save a metal desk — covered in an unorganized pile of datacards that Helryx clearly was meant to analyze — and a small sleeping area. There were no personal items, nothing to indicate the identity of the room's owner.
"Go on," said Helryx to the two. "Say what you're going to say."
Helryx's emerald eyes burned with a shining green fire. Her fists clenched tightly as she looked up towards the massive holograph. "You come for a reason. Speak up!"
"It's very simple," said Velnax. "I have come here to let you know that the Order of Darkness is now in possession of the superweapon of which you speak. You have seen its destructive power; do you dare to attack us now? Do you dare to land your invading forces on the shores of Xa Nui? Don't look surprised, Helryx — we of the Order of Darkness are just as capable at watching your base as you are at ours; more capable, in fact. For that is the way it is. We are more capable, and therefore victory shall be ours."
"They need you, Helryx!" Brominax said emphatically. "You're their leader. Don't back out now just because—"
"I'm not backing out." Helryx's voice was cool and sure as she spoke. "It's just a change of plans. If he is involved, we have to go at this differently. He knows my strategies."
"The fact remains that the entire Order of Mata Nui saw your reaction to the news, and they know that something's amiss."
"This is a war. Two wars. Of course something's amiss," said Helryx, though Rantu noticed that she looked considerably less confident as she wandered over to her desk and sat down in a chair.
"You know exactly what I'm talking about. We have to let the Order know."
"If you heard as much as you said we did," Helryx roared, her fists shaking uncontrollably, "then we know that we're ready to face you in this war. You will fall!"
Velnax's sickly grin returned. "I know that this will not dissuade you. I know that this will not convince you to hold off your attack. But reflect on this: will you genuinely choose sacrifice all your lives fighting us? We have power and knowledge a hundred times greater than that of yours. Know this, Helryx, and despair. Your doom is near.
"Oh," he said, moving his massive head around to look at an area next to where Helryx was standing. Rantu saw his massive eyes examine the Order members carefully, and his malicious smile grew broader. "Brominax. I thought you might like to know that Antidax says hello."
Helryx glanced at Rantu for half a second in what looked like unease before returning to look at Brominax. "This is probably part of his plan," she hissed. "He's counting on us to do what he means us to do."
"We have a moral duty, Helryx," Brominax answered. "We can't walk away from it. The time has come to tell them all the truth. The whole truth."
"The truth can be dangerous."
"Would you rather lie?"
"Yes, I would. After all, I've done worse. Much, much worse." Rantu could sense the raw emotion in Helryx, swirling around in her like a hurricane, so powerful that he probably couldn't have identified the emotions if he had tried. "I would do anything, anything, if I knew it could help us destroy his evil."
Brominax, meanwhile, had seemingly calmed down. "They need to know what they're up against."
"They already do."
With a brilliant flash of light, the projection vanished, causing Rantu to look away. Even as he shielded them, the flash pierced his eyes with its intensity, causing his gaze to white out for some seconds even after he opened them. He blinked the spots away and looked around.
Most of the Enforcers had ducked and covered their eyes when the image had dissolved, much like Rantu had. By now, they wee standing back up and generally looking in the direction of the projection, as if they expected the holograph to reappear. The situation was much the same among the leaders, with two exceptions: Brominax, who seemed to be unaffected by the flash, was looking at Helryx with a worried expression on his face. As the Great Being stood up, Rantu saw what had happened to his leader: she was standing stock-still, staring blankly in the direction of the image as if she were in some sort of dream.
"Vinax," she whispered, still staring, "you're in charge of contacting our Dark Hunter informant Ancient. Lead the mission to Xia. There is a more important matter that I must attend to."
Vinax looked at her questioningly, still blinking. Helryx immediately slipped out the way she had come — through a one-person elevator built for the sole purpose of quickly transporting the leader of the Order of Mata Nui throughout the Daxia fortress. Brominax stood up and looked in the elevator's direction, gesturing for Rantu to follow. The Toa of Aura stood without a word, and they exited through the side door that led directly into the inside of the building.
"Helryx, all they know is that they're up against a powerful splinter faction of the Brotherhood of Makuta led by a Makuta named Velnax. That's not the truth, or at the very least not all of it."
Rantu coughed politely, causing the two Order leaders to look across the gray room towards him. "I'm sorry, but I don't really understand. What does an Antidax have to do with all of this?"
Brominax gestured towards Rantu as he looked in Helryx's direction again. "Go on. Answer his question."
Helryx sighed and shook her head. "I suppose you're right, Brominax." Rantu was taken aback; he had never seen Helryx admit defeat before. "Fine, then. Sit down; we have a lot to talk about."
"So do we all," said Brominax.
- The "pair of dead bodies" Rantu senses in Chapter 14 are those of the two Glatorian pilots stationed in the Core Processor that were killed in the Great Cataclysm.
- The reason the name of the traitor in the Brotherhood of Gigas Magna is not revealed is that the story in which those events take place has not yet been written.
- This story is the longest article on this site.