Late to the Party

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Late to the Party

Joined: 04 Dec 2016, 01:55

24 Jan 2017, 00:36 #1



Chapter 1 - Wave

Atilucen woke up to see a huge wall of water coming right at him. He stumbled backwards in the manner of an upside down crab across the rock had been lying on, but the water was coming much too fast for him to do much before it came down on top of his body. He felt his helmet hit the rock below him, and the pain jolted him to alertness.

The current pushed him backwards, away from the shore. Frantically, he swam for the surface, yelling in pain as tree branches clunked against his armor. Sand swirled around him. His head broke the surface, and he snatched a breath.

He grabbed onto a tree, struggling to keep his head above water. Then he struggled to hang on as the water rapidly reversed direction, trying to pull him out to sea. Gritting his teeth, his arms wrapped around the trunk, he managed to maintain his grip until the sea returned to its normal boundaries.

That’s when he fell unconscious.

* * *

“Get up!” a voice yelled.

Krakua groaned and rolled over. He was standing in front of his De-Matoran brothers, hands poised to begin. All he would have to do is strike the downbeat and…

A horrible sound rang in his ears. A collection of the most bizarre notes imaginable, all strung together in the most horrible tune imaginable. His audience turned to mock him, laughing at his cobbled together De-Matoran band. “Toa Krakua, professional laughingstock!” “Look, they can’t even carry a tune!”

Shuddering, he curled up beneath the podium in front of him, waiting for the jeering to stop. Just stop.

“I said get up!” an enraged voice yelled. A hand shook him roughly, slamming him into a wall. A jolt of pain brought him back to consciousness. The bizarre notes still rang in his ears, a cacophony of sharply dissonant tones, as his eyes beheld the leering face of Tobduk.

He tried to get up, and accidentally hit said leering face with his Hau. The titan retreated a step to allow the Toa of Sonics to stand up off his bed. “Sorry,” said Krakua.

“Move!” Tobduk said, grabbing onto Krakua’s arm and pulling him forcibly out of the room. Krakua wondered what he had done to earn Tobduk’s wrath now. Was his training not progressing well enough?

He hurried to keep up with the Order Leader’s strides as he practically pulled the Sonics Toa into a run through the stone hallway of the fortress. That’s when he heard a rush of something that sounded like…water. A huge thunderclap as the wall to the left of him collapsed and he was carried away in a rush of water. “Krakua!” Tobduk yelled.

But it was no use, as the Sonics Toa could not swim. The water had knocked the wind out of him, and all he could do was close his eyes and wait for death.

* * *

Krakua was on his back.

And he was breathing air. Alive. The awful chords had ceased – the only sound in his ears was the roar of the ocean. He carefully tuned down his delicate audio receptors to avoid further distraction.

“I decided to spare your life,” said Toa Helryx. “There is a great evil on the many waters I must defeat. My brothers have made many things wrong, and I must fix them.”

Helryx?

“It’s good to see you again.” Krakua said. But the Toa of Water was already walking away. He shook his head. What was going on?

Could he have imagined it? Helryx had gone missing just before the universe ended. But why did she suddenly show up now? No, he was alive. He knew he was alive. He felt all of the pain from being battered about.

Was Helryx behind that wave? He wondered. Is she trying to destroy us all?

“Krakua!” a voice resounded from behind him. Tobduk. But where is he? The Toa of Sonics found that he was lying on a rocky outcropping, a triangle-shaped spit of cliff that connected with the general cliff edge that marked the ocean. He got to his feet, looking down over the rocky beach below.

That’s when he saw the top half of Tobduk’s form lying on the rocks. Krakua shuddered, and looked around frantically for a way down. “I’m here” he said, loudly.

But there was no way down that Krakua could see, and no response from below.

* * *

Somewhere else, green lilypads bobbed peacefully in a pool, decorated with beautiful pink flowers. A thin stream of water fell into said pool, making a small gurgling noise. A vent near the bottom let the water escape, so that it did not overflow the pool. The pool was made of clear glass.

ROAR BANG CLAP SHING BEEP BOING CLAP ROAR SHING DONG…

The room shook, and water splashed over the edge of the pool and across the floor. Images flashed; a picture of a Bota Magna dinosaur roar, a hunter’s gun, a sword, an insect, and then the dinosaur again.

A pair of eyes watched this whole thing absently, strained, a stream of being coming from the agony of stillness.

Not real.

The stream dried up.

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Joined: 04 Dec 2016, 01:55

25 Jan 2017, 02:37 #2

Chapter 2 – The Friends

Atilucen awoke to a face full of tree branches. His arms hurt. His legs hurt. His clothes and armor had dried on his skin, the sensation of clamminess not a very pleasant one.

He groaned as he managed to stand on his feet, pulling his chest armor off momentarily and scraping the silt out of the inside shell. He pulled the cloth that had been underneath free from his skin, unsticking it, then put that piece of armor back on. He repeated this procedure for each of his other pieces of armor, looking around for enemies. When he was done, he walked back to where he had been sleeping the night before.

And that was when the sorrow came up to the surface. He looked around at the desolation, the beautiful trees fallen over and covered in debris, unable to speak. This place, this rock, it was his home – where he and his father had lived. And while it had been merely a rock in a sea of sand after the Shattering, it had been restored to life again by Mata Nui. The thought brought tears to sparkle, but he would never let them fall. Restored to life…and then rendered desolate once again.

He shook his fist at the air, and stomped away, going back the way he had come to this place. The sun beat down on him - there were no trees to shade him anymore, only trees to walk over, roots pointing to the sky like ghastly monsters. He walked inland, eventually coming to the treeline of Spherus Magna – the new treeline of Spherus Magna. His path led him past a small bubbling brook, and he drank some water. His stomach growled, reminding him that he hadn’t eaten in a long while. Gotta get back to camp.

It was then he noticed something odd. A green and blue thing. He walked up cautiously, hoping that it wasn’t an enemy. It looked too flat to be a snake…no, it had two arms and a head. But no legs. It looked like one of those beings that came in the giant robot…Matoran, they called themselves.

But they usually had legs. He rolled it over. Its heartlight was still flashing, casting an eerie glow over the dim light under the trees. It was in that light he saw another green and blue thing not too far away. He walked over to it, only to see that it was a leg.

Atilucen saw the other leg not too far away, past a bent and broken tree branch. He pushed it aside, walking to the second leg, at the foot of a very large oak, and picked it up. He grabbed both legs and brought them back to the Matoran.

Now what?

He didn’t even know why he had bothered to help this stranger. Whoever disconnected his legs could still be around. Maybe because if his legs had been severed, he would have liked help too. That must be it.

A light flashed in the Matoran’s eyes, and Atilucen jumped. “Hey, buddy, just um…could you help me put my legs back on?”
Atilucen looked at him, confused. “I’m not a Great Being. I don’t know how to reconnect a leg.”

The Matoran laughed, reaching toward the orphaned appendage on the ground with one hand and trying to prop himself up with the other. He pushed too hard and he overbalanced, hitting his mask on the leg-armor.

“Seriously man” the voice continued, muffled, “I need help.”

Atilucen pulled him back up to an upright position, closer to the leg.

The green and blue Matoran took ahold of his leg and pulled it toward himself, touching it to something that looked like a joint. He gritted his teeth, clearly straining to insert the ball into a socket. “Help?” he pleaded.

The Agori gripped the Matoran’s thigh bone and pushed. He heard a sharp click – and a yelp of pain – as the joint came back together. The two repeated the procedure to get his other leg back on. The Matoran got up and shook the Agori’s hand.

“Quantrasil, Bo-Matoran and professional gardener, at your service.” The Matoran paused, looking nervously at the dangling tree limb. “Sorry for the introduction, I was just out collecting seedlings for my experiments when some robbers came and took everything I had. They took my legs off to prevent me from following them.”

“Are they still around?” Atilucen asked nervously. He didn’t want to be running into any Bone Hunters out here.

“No, they’re long gone now,” Quantrasil added hastily. He didn’t look too certain of that fact, Atilucen thought.

“Let’s get out of here and back to camp,” Atilucen said. The swords he normally carried had been lost in the flood, so he wasn’t feeling too comfortable either. He’d breathe easier once he was back at his hut, where he had axes and plows. He could buy new swords in the morning.

Quantrasil nodded agreement. The two began walking. “So what are you doing out here?” Quantrasil said.

“Quiet” Atilucen whispered. He wasn’t counting on Quantrasil’s admonition that the robbers had left.
“So what are you doing out here?” Quantrasil whispered.

“Starting a new home.” Atilucen whispered back. “No talking. Try listening for enemies instead of being a blabbermouth.”

“I told you there weren’t any enemies.” Quantrasil said, his voice rising into a defensive tone.

Atilucen just shrugged. Turning away from the Matoran, he just kept on walking.

* * *

BOOM.

A bunch of rocks crashed down the cliff in front of Krakua. The Toa used them to climb down, the stillness and silence in the air after the sonic blast unnerving him. He hurried to Tobduk’s side and turned him over.

His heartlight flashed dimly. At least, Krakua thought it did. He pulled the titan out of the water, only to see that one leg was badly mangled, crushed in several different places. He wasn’t going to walk out of here.

Worse, Krakua saw something approaching with the sunset.

A giant wall of water.

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Joined: 04 Dec 2016, 01:55

26 Jan 2017, 02:41 #3

Chapter 3 – The Plan

It was in those moments, Krakua reflected later, that he had done the best he could. He dragged Tobduk across the sand as fast as possible, but there was no way he could climb up the rock “ladder” he had just made with one hand. And the water was coming. Too fast.

The only thing he had time to do was climb up himself, and the water licked at his heels as he reached the top of the cliff face, causing him to sprawl on the ground.

BOOM.

As the water receded, there was no sign of Tobduk anywhere below.

Tobduk is dead. And Helryx must have wanted him dead. Why?

* * *

Several hours later, Atilucen and Quantrasil were standing on a plateau overlooking the way they had just came through. Solis Magna was setting, casting a yellow-orange glow over the ocean beyond.

It was then that Atilucen saw something menacing on the horizon. A huge wall of water. Quantrasil’s eyes widened in horror. The wall splashed over the same area that it had carved out before, frothing its way back to return to the ocean.

“That’s bad” said Quantrasil. “If that keeps going, there won’t be much of a coastline left before long.”

Atilucen shuddered. “What’s causing it?”

“I don’t know, exactly.” The Matoran said. “But we can figure it out.”

“How?”

“I have a plan.”

* * *

Two days later…

“Greetings, ladies and gentlemen of Spherus Magna!” Quantrasil’s voice boomed through the market.

“An investigation is under way to discover the cause of the strange giant waves that are affecting our coastline!” The fish seller looked up, disturbed.

“It is our mission to find the source of these tremors and end them once and for all! Only the best and brightest will join us on this amazing opportunity for adventure!”

Atilucen looked up from the planks he was sawing to see Matoran and Agori gathering around Quantrasil’s makeshift sales booth. A sign in front of it read “Join us on a tsunami-stopping adventure! 50 widgets.”

“Hey, I don’t have any of those ‘widget’ things,” A female Agori said, looking with disdain at Quantrasil.

“And isn’t this sort of thing supposed to be dangerous?”

“Oh, not any more dangerous than your typical earthquake” the Bo-Matoran said.

Atilucen pushed Quantrasil aside. “Do you know how to build a boat?”

“Of course I know how to build a boat. You’re-“

“Then get on my team and help,” Atilucen said. “I’m hiring anyone who wants to help me build a boat! I’m paying 50 widgets a day for willing hands!”

That list filled up even faster. Soon the skeleton ribs for a massive ship rose above the ground behind the booth. Looking at it made Atilucen’s heart hurt. He did his best to ignore the pain, to try to forget what happened the last time he had built a boat.

“Looking for a pleasurable boat cruise? We have the finest accommodations and the best entertainers of any ship on the high seas. Only 500 widgets a passenger for the latest and most exciting ride ever!”

“I’ll take it,” said a buff looking Po-Matoran. He was surrounded by about five other Po-Matoran, all carrying kohlii balls and having stern expressions on their faces. “Does your ship have a sports training area?”

“Of course, of course.” Quantrasil said. “It will, anyway,” he gestured to the ribs behind him. “Nothing but the best for our passengers.”

“It better be,” the Po-Matoran said, putting his hand under Quantrasil’s chin. “We’re the Ultimate Kohlii Team. Nothing gets past us, pencil-stick-arms. If you don’t follow through, your head” – he stepped on the kohlii ball and crushed it – “will be like that. Got it?”

Quantrasil nodded.

When they had walked away, Atilucen looked at the sign. It now read “Luxury Boat Tours: 500 widgets.”

“Quantrasil, you can’t do this,” Atilucen said.
“Sure I can. Look, there’s more coming.” A group of lithe and beautiful female Vortixx approached, followed closely by their male attendants. “Now that’s what I’m talking about,” Quantrasil said.

“Traveling in style never got better. Travel in the finest luxury with the lowest price anywhere on Spherus Magna!”

“When are we leaving?” one of the Vortixx asked, looking nervously at the half-finished bunch of ribs.

“Within the week” said Atilucen.

“Within the week!” echoed Quantrasil before Atilucen could finish. “The excitement begins soon, or your money back, guaranteed! Sign up now for the best price! Only 500 widgets, the best deal anywhere!”

They all signed up. Quantrasil looked at his now-fat bag of widgets and smiled.

That smile was short lived, as five vicious looking Toa marched up to the register. Toa Jaller spoke up. “We’re the Toa Mahri, and by the order of Turaga Vakama, we demand passage on this boat for free.”

“I’m sorry, I’m afraid that isn’t possible.” Quantrasil said, frantic. “This is a violation of Metru Nui free commerce laws!”

“In case you haven’t noticed already, Metru Nui was destroyed about six months ago,” Kongu pointed out. “And it’s a law, Spherus Magna Ordinance 470.35, that all commercial water operations that carry Agori or Matoran must have a Toa onboard to ensure the occupants’ safety. Now you can comply, or we will shut this operation down as a danger to the Matoran and other inhabitants who wish to use it.”

“Okay, okay!” Quantrasil said. “You can come along. Mata Nui’s left hangnail.”

“What?” said Hewkii.

Quantrasil didn’t even look up. “Trouble” he grumbled under his breath.

* * *

The stall was mostly quiet for the next few hours, as Atilucen’s crew hammered away on the now massive boat. The size had been expanded twice, and Atilucen was pretty sure that it could not be expanded again without making it an unseaworthy proposition.

Something else bothered him about the boat’s design, but he couldn’t put his finger on it. Not yet.
It was near sunset when a row of spikey and spined individuals entered the camp. “Tsunami investigation!” Quantrasil said, ignoring Atilucen’s look of horror. “50 widgets!”

To Atilucen’s surprise, the golden being, who towered over the Matoran and Agori, pushed his way through his group of followers to stand in front of the stall. He was even more surprised when
Quantrasil bowed deeply with his mask about two inches from the booth. “My apologies, oh great one, as I do not know your title. Pardon my extreme disrespect.”

The golden being looked flattered, but soon recovered his senses. “Just call me Goldiflocks.”

“Yes, yes, Sir Goldiflocks. I am not worthy to stand in your presence, but if I may have the privilege of ferrying you to locate the source of this terrible ravaging water, I hope that I will increase your fame and fortune throughout your great and wondrous domain.” He bowed again.

The golden being smiled. “Why yes, indeed, humble Matoran,” he intoned, paying Quantrasil the required amount. “You have an excellent attitude. We shall need more willing servants like you.”

“What was that all about?” Atilucen said. “They’re just a bunch of worthless nobodies.”

Quantrasil shook his head, eyes large. “The Skakdi rule the universe!”

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Joined: 04 Dec 2016, 01:55

27 Jan 2017, 05:46 #4

Chapter 4 – The Hope

Atilucen looked at Quantrasil, confused.

“Er, not this one, apparently,” said the Bo-Matoran. “I get them confused. Sorry, my mistake.” He shook his head. “At any rate, it worked. We got them to come, and a bunch of reliable defenders that are loyal to us. What could be better?”

“Not quite so many passengers,” said Atilucen. “I had to make the boat wide anyway to make it stable, in case we encounter any…rogue waves, but still.”

Quantrasil looked hurt. “How else are we going to pay for this thing?” He pointed to the boat behind him.

Atilucen turned away, his face a mask of sadness. “Just forget it,” the Agori said. “We’ll do it your way, all right?”

“It has nothing to do with whether it’s my way or not. It’s the only way that makes sense, and gives us the most profit. But if it’s too much for you, I can run this operation myself,” Quantrasil snapped.

“I don’t believe it,” said the Agori, a smile rising on his face. “If it’s one thing I know about, Quantrasil, its building boats and…other things. This boat wouldn’t last ten minutes without my help.”

Quantrasil nodded empathetically to that. “And if there’s one thing I know about, it’s sales and profit. So leave it to me, and everything will be fine.”

“No more passengers,” said Atilucen.

“We don’t need any more passengers,” Quantrasil said. “But I do need you to take this.” He handed Atilucen the bag of money. “Anyone can rob me, but they will think twice about robbing a big strong Agori.”

“Isn’t your hut just down the way from me?” Atilucen said, looking down at the bag. “If you run into trouble, couldn’t you just yell for help?”

“Uh, I don’t really have a hut,” The Matoran said. “I’m used to sleeping out under the stars, if you know what I mean.”

“That’s not safe here,” Atilucen said. “I’d have thought you would have found that out by now.” He shoved the booth up to the side of the ship and threw a canvas tarpaulin over the whole thing with a huge ringing of the metal bells attached to the ends of it. If a thief decided to rob the construction site, they wouldn’t be able to do so without waking up the whole camp. Boat ribs were hard to steal, but you could never be too careful. “Come on,” he said. “You can stay at my place until we leave. It’s not an issue.”

“Thanks.”

* * *

It wasn’t too far of a walk from the construction site to Atilucen’s house, but the Agori still kept a wary eye out for bandits. Distracted by Quantrasil’s plan, he had forgotten to buy himself a new set of swords. He made a mental note to take care of that tomorrow.

Atilucen’s hut was larger than most. It was made of two cylindrical pieces of metal cut so that they fit together in a way that looked like a pudgy number eight from above. The door of the structure faced south, with a wood and thatched roof and a wall against the stiff north wind.

The Agori entered, letting the Matoran in behind him, and prepared a small meal for himself and the Matoran. He had already ate on the job at midday, but ever since Spherus Magna had been restored, the Agori vowed that he would never go to bed hungry again. For the next few minutes, there was nothing but the sound of stew bubbling over the fire on the far side of the room, and the click-clack as Quantrasil counted widgets and marked them against expenses he was scribbling on a set of tablets.

“Should be okay,” the Bo-Matoran said, as Atilucen placed soup on the table. “Even when I account for the expensive carpet in the Vortixx’s staterooms, we have room to spare.”

“What?” Atilucen said. What is carpet? Why do we need that again?

“You know, floor coverings,” Quantrasil said. “For relaxation. Or is everything you do work again?”

“Not everything.” Atilucen said, eating his soup. Leave room for sadness, inventing things, more sadness… But he closed his eyes.

He turned away from Quantrasil, seeing the herbs and spices hanging off the inside of the metal. The Bo-Matoran didn’t like watching him eat. There was a table next to him that took up this half of the eight, the one that Quantrasil was doing his calculations on. His chair allowed him to spin, to see the other half of the hut, which was two beds abutting a collection of axes and farm tools. It was somewhat crude, but it was home.

A slight breeze rustled his left shoulder as the Bo-Matoran opened the door, allowing the withered husks to drift away on the wind. He finished his soup.

The door closed and Quantrasil went over to the second bed and immediately fell asleep. Atilucen waited until he was sure before lighting the lamp by his bed and banking the fire to last through the night. He knew it would be a long while before he could sleep.

“Hey.”

Atilucen jumped. The sound was right next to his ear. It wasn’t Quantrasil’s voice.

“Who are you?” the Agori said, a bit too loudly for his liking. He looked nervously at Quantrasil, but the Bo-Matoran did not awaken.

“I’m outside the door,” The voice said. “Sorry for the creepiness, but I didn’t want to knock.”

Atilucen nodded. Rather understandable. He walked over to the door and opened it, only to see the towering form of a Toa of Sonics. “Sorry to bother you,” Krakua said.

“What’s going on?” the Agori said. He walked forward through the door, closing it behind him.

“I’m here to request passage on your boat.”

“Sorry, the boat is full,” Atilucen said. “We’re not taking any more passengers.”

“Did Quantrasil tell you to tell me that?” Krakua said.

“No,” said Atilucen. “That was my decision. The boat can only be so big, you know.”

“Are you sure you don’t have space for one more passenger?”

Atilucen sighed. “I told you, we’re full. One more passenger becomes five more passengers, becomes ten, and pretty soon we’re taking the whole universe over the seas!”

Krakua shook his head. “Not everyone. Just me.”

Atilucen crossed his arms. “No.”

Krakua looked at him. “What if I told you that the Matoran you’ve been working with is – not from our universe?”

Atilucen glared at Krakua. “So?”

“He’s a danger to you. He’s not…one of the Bo-Matoran we know. We don’t know where he comes from.”

“He’s helping me,” Atilucen said. “I don’t care where he’s from as long as he does a good job.”

“My sonics power can locate the source of the water waves,” The Toa said. “There’s some vibrations…in the water…that I can sense. I’m telling you, you need me on that boat. There’s so much going on here that you don’t understand.”

“Don’t patronize me,” Atilucen snapped. “If there’s something I need to know, you better come out with it right now.”

“You don’t need to know. You just need to let me on that boat and let me do my job.”

Atilucen sighed. Yes, I really do want to find out the source of the rogue waves. Can I really turn down the best option to actually do that? Do I really need to know all the intricacies of his sonics power?

“Fine,” said the Agori. “You can come. But no one else. And if you as much as lay a finger on Quantrasil, you’ll have to swim home. Agreed?”

“Agreed.”

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27 Jan 2017, 22:02 #5

Chapter 5 – The Destiny

The room shone with golden light as Atilucen closed the door behind him. He sat down on his bed, then got up, placing Quantrasil’s bag – which he had carelessly left on the chair – inside a metal box under his bed. He turned the key to lock it, then stuffed the key in a pocket under his armor.

He paced the room for a few minutes, going over the sequence of events with the Toa, the bag, and the box. Yes, the bag had weighed the same when he picked it up, yes, the Toa’s interests seemed genuine. He ground his teeth with resentment at the Toa’s questioning of Quantrasil. He wondered what the Toa had hoped to achieve by that. Steal the boat for himself? A distraction?

Atilucen opened the box, pulled out the bag, and did the calculations again. Quantrasil’s numbers and his matched up exactly. No widgets had been stolen. He even checked the passenger list and his memory of the price charged to each one – even that added up right.

He put the tablets and the bag back in the box. Why did everything have to be so complicated?

* * *

A raging sea serpent craned its neck in the pool of water, splashing water over the sides. The glass room shook, and pots and pans rattled. A potted plant fell over, spraying dirt on the floor.

Frantically, the Agori got off the bed she had been sitting on and began scooping water off the floor with her hands…

She was standing on the side of a white cliff made of glass, holding a giant ladle as water splashed over it, a tiny toy boat being tossed on the great sea. The boat approached the glass barrier, but instead of going over the edge and plummeting to death, it became glass itself, and sunk, becoming part of the glass.

The water stopped shaking. The sea serpent curled up near the waterfall, its eyes closed contentedly. The Agori swayed to the left and right, and the creature vanished. Not real. She picked the plant up off the floor, returning it to its place.

As she did so, she noticed something odd. The silver band that surrounded the small dome began to flow through the glass, moving in rivulets from right to left. She began to laugh, the shock of it all causing ribbons to jump from her mouth and snake along the floor, wrapping itself around a Spikit’s tail. The Spikit charged at the glass to the right of the waterfall dome, even as it began to ripple. She opened her mouth to scream, only to see the area begin to form a tunnel, which the Spikit entered.

But first, the water on the floor. The water. She must fix…the water.

* * *
The rush of water approached him from the south. Even though Krakua was safely out of the way, he still had to suppress a shudder. Oddly enough, rainclouds formed over the ocean, dumping water back into it.

“Got passage on that boat?” Trinuma said. They were on a flat plain below the ridge Atilucen had climbed earlier, overlooking the sea.

“Yes,” said Krakua.

“Good” said Trinuma, slapping Krakua on the back. “I knew I could count on you.”

It was then that Krakua heard the discordant notes echoing, but only a short phrase, as if the user was trying to muffle it. His powers immediately found the general direction, and he headed off that way. Trinuma followed.

It was hard to miss.

Tahu and Gali were standing on the beach, and Gali’s arms were upraised. He could see the elemental energy crackling from her hands to form the clouds over the sea, and the rain. Tahu was holding a boom box, which he turned on, making the incriminating noise yet again.

“Not funny, you two.” Trinuma’s voice cut through the air above the music.

Tahu and Gali looked at each other, disturbed.

“You’re both under arrest for destroying Spherus Magna’s coastline, needlessly endangering countless Matoran and Agori lives, and murdering an Order of Mata Nui member.”

“This isn’t necessary,” Tahu said. “Me and Gali were just out here investigating the cause of the waves. Investigating, not causing it!”

“And what is this?” Trinuma said, holding up the boom box.

“It’s just something she gave me for my birthday,” Tahu said. “We were trying to figure out if a sonic frequency was responsible for the waves, like if the song had a connection or something. Go check with Turaga Vakama. He told us to come out here.”

“In the middle of the night,” said Trinuma. “Right.” He slapped elemental power draining cuffs on Tahu and Gali, and pushed them forward. “Walk.”

“It’s true!” Tahu insisted. “Talk to Turaga Vakama, he knows everything!”

“And that’s where we’re going,” said Trinuma. “You’re going to explain why you were out on the beach with a boom box and her, and supposedly this is all about a tsunami investigation.”

* * *
Atilucen finally sat down on the bed, his body still tense with nervousness. Ever since…

He stopped the thought.

…the Shattering. Yes, a worldwide disaster. A comfortable word. Easy blame. Ever since the Shattering, he…the night always brought it back. By day, he could lose himself in the rhythm of his work. Pretend that…

Know that…

Yes, that was it. Know it. But by night, he didn’t know.

He did what he always did. Opened the book that he always kept under his bed. There were no words on each page, only designs, measurements. His mind went over them, the mindless repetition of facts dulling the memories he would not think of. The questions that he would not allow himself to ask. The mechanized plow. The harvester. The weaponized fruit launcher that he never built. The boat.

But this time, the questions burned, and his mind wouldn’t settle. Faster and faster he flipped through the pages, until he was staring at a page near the end of the book. One that was blank.

He found a writing pen in his hand, and found himself drawing, making notes. He felt distant, as if it was another self, another him, coming free of its own devising. He had not done this in 100,000 years. He thought he would never do it again.

He was looking at a box. With a hole in the bottom of it. And cables going on top of it, at the four corners. It would go down, and water would come up, inside the box, trapping air inside. It would have to be lowered and raised slowly, he knew. And it could only go down so far. It would need weights on the bottom, or it would float up.

But it was something he could do. And then he would know.

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29 Jan 2017, 04:15 #6

Chapter 6 – The Chances

Turaga Vakama gave Tahu a sideways look as he spilled out his story, rolling his eyes at certain portions.

“I didn’t order the investigation,” the Turaga said, turning from the flames in the middle of the room. “In fact, I didn’t even know that we had this problem until you just told me.”

Tahu’s Hau curled into a grimace. “I told you to tell the Turaga.”

Gali looked at Tahu, oblivious.

“We’ll be keeping them in our custody until a full investigation is complete.” Trinuma sounded bored.

“That won’t be necessary,” Vakama said. “I can take it from here.”

“He’s innocent,” said Gali. “This is my fault. Let him go.”

“He’s part of the conspiracy,” Trinuma said. “If he really is innocent, he will be released. But until I’m sure of it, he will be kept in custody. We can’t have any more of these waves.”

“He’s innocent,” said Krakua. “Gali brought him the boom box, just like he said she did.” His Kanohi Suletu had picked up on that much. But it also told him that Gali had made a strange offer – to help him discover and control his antidermic powers. That’s why he was really on the beach.

Even stranger, he couldn’t read Gali’s mind at all. It was shielded, and in an odd way that he couldn’t seem to figure out. “He’s a witness, though. I need him for questioning.”

Trinuma looked at him skeptically.

Krakua tapped his mask.

“Isn’t he part Makuta?” Trinuma said. “Couldn’t he fool that?”

Krakua shrugged. He honestly had no idea.

“Come on.” Trinuma said, dragging the two Toa backwards using the cuffs. “Let’s go.”

* * *
Somewhere else…

The Agori shoveled food out of the barrel – some sort of tasteless nutrient pellets – onto her plate. She dipped her cup into the barrel next to it. Tendrils of energy refilled both of them. She turned back to the waterfall. For the first 10,000 years, she had grown plants by the waterfall to try to have taste, but with no one to share the taste or the lack of, her mind soon filled in the blanks.
Soon she was in an extravagant dining hall, pane glass windows showing her the view of Spherus Magna’s landscape. He was sitting across from her.

He. Her father, usually, ready to tell her that her learning and books were useless, and that her quest for adventure was folly again, the same words digging into her, provoking her, enraging her. The rage was better than numbness, absence, nothingness. It gave her life.

But today, he did not appear. Instead, a more musclebound Agori appeared before her. She waved her hand to dismiss him. He didn’t move.

“Hey, Belocka,” the Agori said. “Long time no see. “ A genuine smile crawled across his face. “You still owe me, remember?”

“I can’t pay you,” Belocka said.

“What do you mean, you can’t pay me?” the male Agori said. “Is there something wrong with you?”

“I’m stuck in a tunnel under the sea,” she said. “I mean, a room under the sea.”

The fantasy dissolved immediately. My name is Belocka. And I will never pay you. She looked down at her half-eaten food and began shoveling it into her mouth, downing the glass of water. It was a thought, poking up through the swirling images, the detachment.

The room shook. I am Belocka. And for a hundred thousand years I have had no name. An army stood behind her; a sword emerged in her hand. I will win. I will live. I WILL GO!

And with that Belocka stalked down the newly open tunnel, heading for her new destiny.

* * *

Atilucen didn’t wait. Early morning found him on his feet, surprising for him – he hadn’t slept this well in years. A smile filled his face as hope –false hope, he informed himself – filled his heart.

“I’d like two rubber pulleys” the Agori said, pushing the widgets across the counter.

“For your boat?” the shopkeeper said. Rubber-coated pulleys were expensive, but Atilucen could afford them.

“Yes,” said Atilucen. It wasn’t a full lie.

About an hour later, Atilucen was at the building site, holding a rubber tarpaulin in an odd and bulging shape, and a box that contained two entire gear cassettes.

Another Agori showed up with a collection of thin steel braces. “For you, sir,” he said, and Atilucen signed with a flourish.

“What are you doing?” Quantrasil said from behind him.

“I…um…I…have a personal project,” Atilucen stammered. His stomach growled. He had been so excited that he had forgotten breakfast.

* * *

Trinuma forced Tahu and Gali to wade through ankle deep ocean. Krakua followed him to the Order’s prison fortress, now oddly perched on a rock jutting out of the sea. To his left, the Toa of Sonics could see a great fissure in the earth, filled with sand and chunks of boulder.

“The waves caught it and pulled it out to sea,” said Trinuma, noticing Krakua’s glance of worry. “But other than that, it’s higher than the waves, so we haven’t had any trouble with escaped or dead prisoners.”

Krakua nodded. One of the members of the Order that controlled stone had already built a stone staircase in the side of the rock, spiraling up to the top of the spire. Krakua followed the prisoners, resisting the urge to look down at the waves below. Part of him wanted to believe that Trinuma had already taken care of that problem. But most of him believed that Trinuma was wrong. Tahu and Gali had nothing to do with this – it was probably Helryx.

But Helryx was gone and likely dead, Krakua knew. And if he opened his mouth to say otherwise, he’d be laughed out of the room.

Just then, a Matoran, tapped Krakua’s arm. Strangely, he was not out of breath from what must have been an arduous climb. “I have a message from Turaga Vakama,” he said. “It’s urgent.”

“What?” Trinuma said, never breaking his stride.

“He needs Tahu back right now,” Kapura said. “The Zivion and the Visorak are attacking the camp. He needs Tahu’s powers for defense.”

Trinuma just chuckled. “Right, little Matoran. And I have a bunch of Scarabax that live in my bedroom too.”

“It’s true,” Kapura said.

Krakua gritted his teeth. His Suletu told him that Kapura was, indeed, telling the truth. How was that possible?

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30 Jan 2017, 02:06 #7

Chapter 7 – The Spiders

“It’s all right,” Quantrasil said immediately.

Atilucen looked at him with a puzzled expression. “Sorry, I got distracted. I should be working on the boat.”

“We hired other people to do that. Relax.”

“Not everything.” Atilucen reluctantly laid out the plans for the boat over what was rapidly turning into a makeshift worktable. He hadn’t written everything down – half of his detailed and complex vision was in his head, and not on the page. Not yet. He pulled out his pen. His stomach growled again.

“Quantrasil, can you go buy us something to eat?” Atilucen asked. “I’m sorry, but taking all of this back to my hut is a little much to ask right now.” He pushed some widgets across the table.

“Yeah,” the Bo-Matoran said. “No problem at all.” He took the widgets and headed in a direction where both of them knew there was a café.

That was when Atilucen saw the creature. It was a vicious-looking white spider, with long and spindly arms and legs, and a spinner launcher mounted on its back. Its mandibles and underside were splashed in what appeared to be a light blue shade of paint.

“Quantrasil, look out!” Atilucen shouted.

Quantrasil turned around and shook his head while walking backwards, as if to say “It’s fine.” Atilucen shivered. But the creature didn’t pay attention to him, just walking right along as if he didn’t exist.

It took a few minutes for the Agori to focus on his notes again. By that time Quantrasil had come back with the food, and was looking at him all funny.

The two ate, and Atilucen continued his work on the plans. By the time the sun was a quarter of the way through the sky, he had finished them up to the point that he might be able to leave the boat-building operation to someone else for a few hours. Provided that they didn’t get confused.

Wait, the sun was a quarter of the way through the sky? “Where is everyone?” he said.

Quantrasil looked up from a sawhorse where he was marking boards for sawing. “I have no idea. Maybe they lost interest?”

A satisfied purring sound filled the air, and the clank of weapons hitting something not too far away. Oh yeah, I forgot to get the new swords. “I’ll be right back,” Atilucen told Quantrasil. “I’m going to go see what’s going on.”

The square was deadly quiet, except for the purring sound and some low moans. Atilucen could hear the rising sounds of a struggle, but they were faint and further away now, and the square was still practically deserted. Atilucen approached the weapons seller’s stand…only to see a giant spider perched on behind the counter. “Quantrasil!” Atilucen said, jumping back. It was then that he noticed the cocoon dangling from the three walls on the sides of the booth. Something was squirming in it, and the cocoon was crackling with some sort of energy.

Quantrasil ran to the scene, carrying a saw blade. “Spider,” Atilucen said. “I’ll distract it. Cut that cocoon loose and get him out. And get me a sword!”

Quantrasil shook his head, looking at the contented and purring beast. “You need an axe.”

“Whatever. Just get me something!” And before the Bo-Matoran could argue further, the Agori picked up the spider by its mandibles and hurled it into the square.

Quantrasil ran into the booth and grabbed an axe, and threw it towards the Agori.

Atilucen caught it expertly and turned to face his new foe, and narrowly dodged being impaled by a wheel of energy. He jumped out of the way as the spider fired again, the pleasant purring turning into an awful hissing noise.

He was still trying to figure out a way to attack the spider. When he got close, it snapped at him with its mandibles, and it occasionally launched spinners, forcing the Agori to dodge. There was that spinner there…forward and jump…Atilucen’s axe hit the center of the white spider, cracking its hull in half. It lay still, sparking and leaking a small amount of fluid, making a terrible screech before its eyes flickered out.

He turned back to see that Quantrasil had sawed through the web. One of the web pieces came lose, and gravity wacked the cocoon against the booth, sending various weapons clattering to the floor. The weight of the Agori inside burst the impact-weakened strands, and he tumbled out and hit the ground.

He looked dazed but alive. “That was the best time I’ve ever had!” he bellowed brightly. Quantrasil shook his head and helped him to his feet.

Atilucen walked over and handed the weapon seller the axe back, hilt first. “Sorry, I had to borrow this,” he said. That was when spiders of various colors rushed into the square, all looking for a single target.

Atilucen dived beneath the weapon-seller’s stall, executing a roll to get out of the line of fire. A couple spiders fired their spinners at the white spider, restoring it back to life.

Quantrasil’s face was a mask of sour disgust. Looking over the spiders, Atilucen thought he looked…sad. The weapon seller still was looking at Atilucen in disbelief. “You killed him!”

“Him?”

“The spider,” said Quantrasil. “For the love of Karzanhi, people forget that they are Mata Nui’s weapons. Especially under the influence.”

Atilucen looked at him, confused.

“Forget it,” the Matoran snapped. “If you don’t want to end up in a cocoon, do yourself a favor.” He passed Atilucen a multi-chamber Thornax launcher and grabbed a Skrall shield to hide behind. “Fire.”

The Agori complied, firing a volley straight at the spiders. They advanced on the stand, firing spinners everywhere. Atilucen reloaded as quickly as he could. Meanwhile, the other spiders were restoring the ones partially decimated. A pair of mandibles launched over the top of the booth, and Atilucen blasted the spider, turning into powder. Quantrasil bashed another one with the shield, slicing a mandible off with the axe Atilucen had used earlier. Another spider restored it.

Meanwhile, the shopkeeper was actually walking straight into the crowd of spiders. Spinners hit him, and he fell to the ground. A white spider actually began spinning a new cocoon for him, until Atilucen blasted the spider to bits.

Atilucen hurled another spider away, only to be hit by a spinner. He was knocked over, but otherwise nothing seemed to have happened.

He got up quickly just as stone began to rain down from the sky. He looked to see a bizarre yellow Toa hovering over them, hurling rocks at the spiders that seemed to have come from thin air. Fire lashed out on the back row, clearing out the rows of the would be-injured, and a cyclone whipped up a bunch more and turned them into a statue. A bunch of Cordak blaster shots finished the job.

Atilucen sighed with relief. Quantrasil’s expression was unreadable. The weapons seller shook his fist at the sky and cursed.

The orange-black-silver Toa – he definitely needs a better color scheme, Atilucen thought – landed in front of the weapons stand. “I didn’t know that you two had switched lines of work so soon,” he said.

“I was trying to buy a sword, Toa, sir.” Atilucen said.

“Just call me Hewkii.” The stone Toa said, as the other members of the Toa Mahri walked up.
“Looks like you guys get all the fun these days,” Kongu said. “Mind if we join in?”

“That won’t be a problem at all,” Quantrasil said. “We could use a few less distractions.”

“In all seriousness, thank you for drawing them all here,” Jaller said. “It makes our job easier.” He gave a salute that neither Atilucen nor Quantrasil recognized, but the two could guess was favorable.

“I got lucky,” said Atilucen.

Quantrasil said nothing. Atilucen looked at him, remembering what Krakua had said. Did he know about these spiders?

“Let’s see if we can round up everyone,” Quantrasil said. “The day is half over, and we really need to get back to work on that boat.”

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31 Jan 2017, 00:03 #8

Chapter 8 – The Monsters

Krakua looked up from a rough stool in the middle of a courtyard to see about 15 Toa walk past with a scorched and enchained version of the Zivion. For some reason he couldn’t fathom, the being was wearing a suit and tie and carried himself in quite a dignified manner, the impact of which was considerably diminished by the Zivion’s six arms.

It took the strength of all 15 Toa to shove the creature into a cell and chain it to the floor, and a Toa of Iron to slam the cell door shut after it. Krakua thought he recognized an orange and white Toa in the group, and shuddered. It was a vivid reminder that Toa and the Order had vastly different philosophies, and Krakua wasn’t sure which one he preferred.

Rapidly, he looked away from the group, only to see an enraged Skakdi’s eyes glaring out from one of the other cells. Given that this particular Skakdi had three legs, it was not one of his better visual choices. Not that this particular area had any good ones – he was sitting near the back of a rectangular courtyard that was enclosed, with the exception of one corner, by cells holding various prisoners. A high wall rose even higher than the row of cells, covered in menacing-looking stone spikes.

Incidentally, the Toa of Sonics’ eyes immediately bounced to that corner, hoping to go back to the main area of the fortress and resume his training soon. Either that or go to the library and research the Zivion. He’d heard a rumor that the Zivion had been banished to the Zone of Darkness permanently over a thousand years ago, and he wanted to verify it.

Anything that was better than sitting in front of this Toa that he respected so much, and having to interrogate him.

“Okay,” Krakua said to Tahu. “I know you’re innocent. I just need you to tell you what you know about Gali, and how she got ahold of that boom box.”

“She said she found it on the beach,” Tahu said. “She said she thought it summoned the rogue waves.”

Krakua remained silent for a moment. It was a reasonable theory.

“Did Gali…seem like herself?”

Tahu shrugged. “She wanted to test and see if I could discover more of my antidermic powers. That’s odd. And she kept sounding like all enigmatic and mysterious, like she had a made a bunch of mistakes and was trying to fix them. That’s not like Gali.”

“So why did you go along with it?”

“I was trying to figure out what was going on,” Tahu said. “She told me she knew what was causing the rogue waves. Some massive thing off the coast. Something she said was ‘familiar and yet unfamiliar’.”

“I told her that I didn’t care for the antidermic powers and that I’d much rather be a Toa Nuva again, there to fight by her side,” Tahu said. “But she was insistent, telling me that I was the best person to fix the mistakes caused by her brothers. I thought she meant the other Toa Nuva.” He grinned. “I told her that they hadn’t made too many mistakes, except maybe Kopaka.”

Krakua smiled. He wished that he could say that about his comrades in the Order. That smile was short lived as his eyes flickered over to “Gali’s” cell, only to see, however briefly, the face of Toa Helryx behind bars. Then nothing.

Krakua immediately sounded out the floor using his sonics power, only to detect a much lower rumbling noise and a rapid clatter of footsteps. He quickly put the Toa of Fire back in his cell, only to see Johmak reform in front of him. “They need you out front, quick. I’ll take the Toa.”

Krakua opened his mouth to object, to mention that Gali had escaped, but then realized that he was just a trainee – he didn’t want the blame. The 15 Toa behind him followed Krakua as he jogged through the open corner to another courtyard and out to the outer wall, all with various forms of confused expressions.

It didn’t take very long for Krakua to run up a set of steps on the side of the wall, the tromping of his companions over layering the rumble of footsteps. He arrived in time to see Trinuma’s mask glowing as he spoke. “Stand down and go home. Let justice run its course.”

Krakua looked over the edge, only to see a throwing disk hit Trinuma in the face. The titan staggered.
The Order of Mata Nui fortress was under siege by Ta-Matoran. Lined up on the stair steps, they shook their fists at the imposing forms of the Order agent and the 16 Toa. “They’re not a threat,” said one of the Toa, a Toa of the Green. Krakua nodded his agreement to this assessment. It was unlikely that a group of Ta-Matoran could pose a threat to an Order of Mata Nui fortress.

That is, until they showed up with ten foot battering rams covered in molten lava. Warning blasts from the Toa didn’t phase them, Nynrah blaster shots they deflected with throwing disks, and someone had thought of Krakua – every single one of the invading force wore earplugs.

“What are we going to do?” one of the Toa said, sounding surprisingly calm for someone who was melting throwing disks out of the air.

“Stand down,” Trinuma said, his mask glowing again. But it was clear that he wasn’t getting through. The Matoran, however, were getting through the iron gate as if it were paper, running back to the prison compound with eerie smiles on their faces. Behind them, hobbling along with his badge of office, was Turaga Vakama. “I told you to send Tahu back,” he said to Trinuma.

Why was the Mask of Charisma not working? But he had little time to wonder about that as several throwing disks flew at his head and he had to duck. Order agents across the fortress ran to the scene, trying to get the Matoran to stop. Meanwhile, the Toa were trying to defend the Matoran from getting killed while at the same time stop them from getting to Tahu. It was chaos. And Krakua found himself standing around awkwardly, having no idea what to do.

Side with the Order? Side with the Toa? What is controlling the Matoran and the Turaga? How do I stop it?

The Matoran fell over, bound in a collection of vines. A bolt of Plasma scorched Trinuma’s chest armor, and the being who launched it – a Toa named Tacker, Krakua now recalled – did not look the least bit sorry. And that was when Trinuma fell over, hit by something Krakua could not see. The vines shattered in pieces. And then, as if there was a pause, the Matoran started fighting again. Their thoughts filled his mind – TahuTahuTahu – like a chorus of the mad.

Surprisingly, Vakama’s thoughts were something different. Go get him! The Turaga wasn’t being controlled – he had just came to follow up on his message when all this craziness happened. The area plunged into darkness soon thereafter, and Krakua heard a bunch of stumbling and shuffling about for what seemed like forever. A clank of a weapon. A burst of plasma. The sizzle of lightning. The thunks of throwing disks. And finally, to everyone’s dismay, a horrible rush of water below, and a shudder as the terrible force of the water hit the spire.

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02 Feb 2017, 08:02 #9

Chapter 9 – The Project

“I told you that they have an influence.” Quantrasil said, sawing his way into a cocoon. “Most people don’t see them as threats until it’s too late.”

Atilucen scowled. Every single house he had entered showed signs of a struggle. Even if the occupant had ended up cocooned, they had resisted with every fiber of their being. He would have too.

Fortunately, Quantrasil was sawing into the last cocoon. He had quite the audience – every Agori and Matoran involved in the spider incident had joined them as soon as they were freed, getting the dead arachnids out of houses and helping to free the remaining beings entrapped. By now, the story of him and Quantrasil’s brave defense had spread far and wide.

Finally, the Matoran Kopeke tumbled out of his prison of web. The Matoran and Agori cheered and slapped the bewildered Chronicler on the back.

Kopeke said nothing.

* * *

“Sorry for the wear and tear,” Atilucen said. Although there wasn’t really any; the axe gleamed just as much as when he caught it that morning. He pushed two widgets across the table.

The weapons seller pushed them right back. “You keep it.”

“That’s ridiculous,” Atilucen protested. The axe was light in his hand and gleamed black from the handle that was wrapped in dark leather all the way to its end. It was clearly made of a metal and stone alloy – more specifically, the excidian from the northern mountains mixed with a quantity of steel, a rarity on Spherus Magna even in the days of the Great Beings. It was a treasure almost beyond price.

“Not to me,” the seller said. “That axe was a treasure that once belonged to a hero. He tried to end the Core War, you know. The two tribes that he was trying to negotiate a truce between teamed up and killed him so they could keep fighting.”

Atilucen turned the axe over in his hand, a smile forming on his face. What a stupid idea.

“It should go to another true hero,” the weapons seller said.

Atilucen opened his mouth to object, but then closed it. A hero saves others who cannot save themselves. Hadn’t he been doing that all day?

He shook his head. “I did what anyone else would have done in that situation,” Atilucen said. “I’m nobody special.” A sad thought threatened to resurface then, but he shoved it away.

The shopkeeper shook his head in disbelief, and Atilucen was tired of pressing the issue. Instead, he threw 98 more widgets on the table, making it rattle. “Two swords.”

He got them.

* * *

The construction site was packed. Quantrasil had more than twice the number of workers that he had yesterday, and had spent the early evening explaining Atilucen’s plans in simpler, lay Agori. Atilucen was grateful – while he would be able to do the job, he would have had trouble and might have made a mistake that could have cost him later. Atillucen had to re-explain some of the more complex portions to Quantrasil as he went along, but he was grateful to let the Bo-Matoran do most of the talking.

“Hey” Quantrasil said, rubbing the day’s stress into his forehead.

“I thought you were going to eat,” Atilucen said.

“Already did.”

“I forgot how fast you all eat. How’s progress?”

“If the workers don’t mess it up, we should be ready for launch tomorrow morning,” Quantrasil said.

A worker walked by as Quantrasil said that, and nearly dropped a pile of boards. “Hey,” he complained. “I don’t appreciate that.”

Atilucen just smiled. “That’s ridiculous.”

Quantrasil looked at him, confused.

“I mean, we’re not going to be able to launch in the morning.”

Quantrasil looked around at the staterooms being built all around him, the boat deck being hammered together, and a couple of other Agori lugging around a huge tree for the mast. “I’ve had to turn workers away. There’s too many who want to help, and half of them won’t even take widgets for the trouble.”

“But…”

“I’m telling you man, that stunt with the spiders was genius. How did you do it?”

Atilucen’s confused look was a real gem. “Why did they decide to help us all of a sudden?” he said, gesturing to the workers all around him.

Quantrasil leaned forward and whispered into Atilucen’s ear. “It’s the venom. It makes them more susceptible to suggestion.”

Atilucen looked at him. “Did you order this?”

“No,” The Bo-Matoran said. “My enemies sent them. Go get something to eat. That will clear your head.”

* * *

An hour later, Atilucen was on a mission. He grabbed some spare boards and set them on his worktable, next to his personal design notebook.

“What are you doing?” Quantrasil inquired lazily.

“Personal project,” Atilucen said. “I need you to go back to my house and get some rest, man. You look beat. I’ll stay here and work on this, oversee everything in case someone makes a mistake.”

“Right,” Quantrasil said. “I’m rotating workers every four hours during the night, and tried to make sure everyone knows what they are doing,” He shook his head.

“I can handle it,” Atilucen said.

“Trust me, I’ve handled worse than a night without sleep. This is exciting – if I try to rest, I’ll just be rolling around worrying. I’ll sleep once we launch.”

Okay, the Agori thought, this will only take a few hours. He returned back to his work, arranging the metal braces to form the correct shape, checking his calculations as he went. Next he applied wood boards to form his original box shape. There was sanding and painting and sealing of each of the beams, applying tar to the inside to make the shape watertight. Next he applied the rubber mat to the inside of the box, sealing it to the inside with glue.

Next was the tricky part. He screwed the rubber pulleys to all four corners of the box. Workers milled around him, changing shifts, as he did this.

Quantrasil offered widgets to whoever would accept them. Many begged him to stop the tsunamis, while others demanded to know the story of their adventure when they returned.

Atilucen smiled at this. Right. The tsunamis were probably a freak accident, and Quantrasil was just out for more profits, and…

“That’s cool, what is it?” a Ga-Matoran said.

Atilucen’s face paled. “Personal project.”

“I mean, what does it do?”

“It goes underwater. Like, to find things underwater.”

“Like treasure?”

Atilucen’s breath quickened. Tears danced on the edge of his vision. “Yeah,” he croaked. “Like treasure.”

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03 Feb 2017, 01:30 #10

Chapter 10 – The Fear

Krakua was in darkness. He moved through the maze of sounds, heading straight for the source. Which was near the prison compound.

That isn’t necessary. Tahu’s thoughts resounded in his mind.

“I’m rescuing you from these fools.” The gentle voice of Gali.

“How did you get free?”

“I rusted the lock.”

Tahu’s thoughts gave him a shrug.

“Not so fast,” said Krakua. “I know you aren’t Gali.”

Tahu’s thoughts: surprise.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. Come on, Tahu, we don’t have time for this.”

Krakua unleashed a sonic blast at the creature. It wasn’t a Krahka – its mind was shielded, more powerful than his telepathy could get through. It wasn’t like the thing was too simple – rather, too complex.

He felt the air heat up beside him as he felt his sonic waves being dispersed. “I have no quarrel with you, Krakua.” The being said. “You are not a threat to me.”

“Nor do I intend harm to Tahu,” it said. It was still using the voice of Gali, something Krakua found disturbing. The shadows dissolved. “Not yet.”

Then the being was gone as if it had never been.

Everyone – Matoran, Toa, and Order members – looked at each other in confusion. Trinuma lay on the ground, covered in eerie scorch marks. Various Matoran and Toa were nursing damaged arms or legs.

“That’s enough,” said Krakua. One more for the list of Order mistakes. He looked at Tahu, who was concentrating on something. Then a rush of power washed over the group, and the injuries of the entire group vanished. Tahu fell over and caught himself on the edge of a wall. Krakua grabbed his other wrist to stabilize him.

“Sorry” he said. “It takes it out of me.”

Trinuma was in a bitter mood. “Get out of here,” he snapped, not even bothering to use the Mask of Charisma. The Toa and Matoran complied, and Krakua decided to follow them. He needed to check up on Atilucen anyway.

The Order stands for…order…in the universe, Krakua thought. They make sure everything goes right, and all of the bad guys are defeated. But they aren’t useful anymore. They don’t know what the will of Mata Nui is anymore.

And so I want nothing to do with them anymore. I am a Toa. And so he walked away into the vicious hollow of the evening.

* * *

Atilucen turned back to his plans with a mixture of sadness and regret. He was building this just so…he closed his eyes to stop the tears from falling down.

No.

It was impossible, but he would not accept anything different. Yet. But it took all of his joy out of building this. It took all of his self-control to resist smashing his creation. That way he would never know.
What he so badly needed to know, to make himself believe the truth. The thing that he knew was true, but was too painful to accept. I need this. Even if I don’t want this. His eyes opened, and the tears fell, splattering on his plans. He needed to shove the truth in his face until he finally believed.

He opened the boxes of gear cassettes, and began building the next important portion – the controls from above. This particular arrangement would hold the rope at a certain position, and this one would allow the craft to descend. A crank handle would raise the craft, with manually pulling the rope as an emergency backup measure.

He thought about it for a moment. How was the person in the craft going to be able to communicate with the person pulling the ropes above?

He decided against that. Installing a communication tube would be the weakest point of structure on the craft. Instead, he decided to build a measurement system – the controller from above would let out the rope structure in lengths, each corresponding to one bio. A length of smaller rope he tied around the lifting rope to go inside the craft, allowing the person inside to tug on the rope as an emergency signal. If all else absolutely failed, the person inside could remove the weights to rise as an emergency backup.

He told himself that he was safe.

* * *

Belocka had to stop to rest. She was feeling ill. She had cleared her ears at least thirty times by now. She sat down with her back against the tunnel walls, breathing hard.

She ate a pellet that still clung to her hand. It wasn’t really enough. The glass in front of her transformed into food and water barrels – but her mind saw that an Agori had carried them up from the room long behind her. “Thank you,” she murmured, eating. Her mysterious benefactor stroked her arm, and Belocka pulled away with a glare. The Agori pulled off a mask, and his leering face stared at her.

“Pay” he demanded.


“No.”

“Belocka, I did this so you would be okay,” The Agori said. “So we could be together,” He looked sad.

“That was never my intent,” Belocka snapped. “You know why I did this. Because it was the only way I could get away from him.

“You still haven’t paid your price.”

Not real. He’s not real. I am alone. I have been in here, alone, for 100,000 years. And he’s probably dead. Even if he isn’t, he doesn’t know where to find me. And he never will.

I will never pay.


She shook her head. Some choices in life she had. Her father, the sociopath who imprisoned her in a cocoon of privilege, and the lovelorn Agori gardener who she wrapped around her middle finger. But to get him to finish the job, she had to make him a stupid promise, one that she never intended to keep.

That stupid promise had haunted her for the past 100,000 years. And now Belocka, facing the glass tunnel, had to wonder. The change in scenery had made it easier to recall. Her will burned thousands of years of madness, foolish thoughts that she would pay, had to pay, and even the ones where she paid - and liked it. Those were the worst.

Her mind could not handle much more. She lay down and slept.

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04 Feb 2017, 19:46 #11

Chapter 11 – The Launch

Atilucen woke up. He was sitting at his worktable, his face to his notebook. He must have fallen asleep.

Quantrasil looked up from his position nearby. He too, had literally fallen asleep standing up. “I got the last workers rotated,” he murmured groggily.

Atilucen smiled and slapped the Bo-Matoran on the back. He corralled one of the leaving night workers, and they strapped the box-like device to a space for it on deck, next to two smaller boats.

“In case you have to land somewhere,” the worker said brightly. Atilucen chuckled.

“Don’t you want to see your quarters?” the worker asked.

“Oh please.”

The two walked to the housing entrance above deck, past walls that still gleamed with fresh paint and sealer. The Agori worried that had been rushed. We’re not leaving until that paint dries.

The worker led Atilucen away from the opulent Vortixx quarters above deck and down into a hallway below the bow. It was dark here, but a comforting dark, lit by friendly glowing lamps. The two headed straight for the bow. A door that was labeled “Captain.” Captain Atilucen. But there were two rooms behind the door, both furnished with a bed, a large comfortable couch, and a large and sturdy desk with drawers. Atilucen looked at it in trepidation. Part of him wanted to refuse…

“Thank you,” escaped his lips. “You are too kind.”

“Anything for a hero,” the worker said. “You’ve taken on a difficult job. May Mata Nui and the Great Beings guide you.”

* * *

Krakua looked around nervously. At least 5 Matoran holding Kohlii balls had nearly run him over on the way here, and were now engaged in some sort of stretch routine. The Vortixx hid under parasols and grumbled various complaints among themselves.

A Bo-Matoran was walking around, carrying a passenger manifest. He looked awfully tired. Stayed up…most of the night…got to stay awake…got to get back home.

Krakua shook his head. Join the group, he thought back to Quantrasil.
The Bo-Matoran jumped. Who are you?

Krakua. The Toa of Sonics waved. Over here.

“You’re not on the passenger list,” Quantrasil said.

“I’m a last minute addition,” Krakua said. “Go talk to Atilucen, I’m sure he’ll remember.”

“In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m busy here,” Quantrasil snapped. “Go talk to him yourself.”

So Krakua walked over to Atilucen. “Stirring up trouble already?” the Agori said.

“No, just making sure I can get on this boat,” Krakua said. “You did a good job not mentioning me to Quantrasil.”

“Sorry,” Atilucen said. “I forgot.”

It took the Toa a couple seconds to figure out that the Agori thought he was being sarcastic.

* * *

Atilucen looked over the situation. It was then he realized what was bugging him about the boat’s design – it was too big to…how are we going to get it down to the water?

Normally, he would have put it on his massive farm cart and got the spikit to drive it down to the beach. It had worked out well enough for the last boat, even though the end of the boat stuck out the back of the cart.

That was an actual happy memory for him – the spikit racing, glad to be able to run, the heavy boat rattling. He was on a mission, ready to rescue his lady love from the hands of evil.

Look how that turned out.

Of course, nobody knew what happened next. Everyone assumed that…

But he knew. And it was bad enough knowing. Bad enough to be stuck with tragedy that he didn’t believe in, but to know that, know that…

He needed to know that chapter of his life was over, that no one would ever find out what he did.

“Something wrong?”

“Yeah,” Atilucen said. “There’s a lot of things wrong.”

“What?”

“Sorry,” Atilucen said, shaking his head. “We need to move the boat to the water, Quantrasil.”

“On it.”

“What?” But the Bo-Matoran was already gone.

A few minutes later, he reappeared with a bunch of crabs. Hundreds of them. And a grouchy Le-Matoran. “Chill off, man, I paid you a thousand widgets,” the Bo-Matoran said. “Trust me, they’ll be back, as good as new in a few hours, I swear on Makuta’s left thigh armor.”

Okrahm looked too shocked to formulate a coherent reply. Quantrasil just trotted away with a silly grin on his face, as if he was lying through his teeth the whole time.

Was he?

“Aww, so cute,” a Vortixx said, reaching out to pet the mild-mannered beast. “Can it do tricks?”
“Stop it,” another one said as a Ussal nuzzled her. “Disgusting, filthy animals!”

Quantrasil whistled, bringing the crabs to attention. “Okay,” he said. “I need all of you to lift that boat and follow me.” The Ussals did as instructed. It took all five hundred of them to lift the massive structure, but they managed. Quantrasil waved, leading the procession down to the water.

* * *

Krakua found himself standing somewhere between the Vortixx, the Skakdi, and a bunch of muscular Matoran carrying koli balls.

“This trip did not include walking!” complained one of the Vortixx. “I didn’t sign up for this!”

“You would say that, pathetic weakling,” one of the Po-Matoran said. “Walking builds character, and endurance.”

The rest of the Po-Matoran echoed him, on cue: “Yes!”

“Ugh,” the Vortixx said. “We’re going to be on a boat with a bunch of bruisers. This is the worst.”

A Skakdi shot her a mean look, which included impact vision that hit her in the chest. “Ow.”

A Vortixx hit him with a disorientation Rhotuka that made him dizzy, and he fell over.

“That’s enough,” said Toa Mahri Hahli, stepping between the two combatants. “Everyone on this trip is needed to stop the rogue waves that are ravaging our shores. This is no time for petty combat. We’re a team.”

“I’m on vacation,” the Vortixx protested. “This isn’t relaxation, this is boot camp.”

“Would you like me to carry you?” one of the male Vortixx servants said.

He was the next target of a disorientation Rhotuka.

Krakua sighed, and picked up his pace. He wanted to be on the ocean too, but the walk wasn’t much on his Order-trained muscle structure. He needed some exercise.

* * *
It was about noon by the time the sea came into view. They let the boat down on the beach so the Ussals could take a break and eat, lazily cropping some grass growing between trees. Quantrasil broke into the ship’s stores to give everyone lunch, every though most of them didn’t need it. Privately Atilucen wondered how the Bo-Matoran was still on his feet, given his lack of sleep the night before.

He was just finished chewing when he saw it. An incoming wall of water. “Everyone move!” he yelled. “Get on board!” But everyone was ignoring him, backing up in fear.

“Ussal!” Quantrasil shouted. “Get the boat out of the way!”

To his amazement, they did, moving the boat back toward the fleeing group. “Set it down!” Atilucen shouted, just as the mast brushed the tree line. “Now get on board!” He grabbed the gangplank and attached it to the side, running up it.

The wave was coming. Quantrasil followed, just ahead of the strong Vortixx and Skakdi. The strong Matoran and Agori jammed on, rushing onto the boat.

The wave struck the bottom of the boat hull, jerking it like a mechanical bull as it rapidly sucked the contraption out to sea. Wind blasted hard in everyone’s face, and if it weren’t for the hand rails, they would have been knocked over the side. Atilucen took the wheel as some other Agori workers recovered their wits and raised the sail.

“Isn’t this just thrilling?” Quantrasil said with a smile.

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06 Feb 2017, 07:14 #12

Chapter 12 – The Threats

Belocka got up, the colorful patterns of dreams still dancing on her eyes. A silver humanoid wrapped in a black cloak helped her to her feet, and then slapped her in the face. She stumbled and fell.

It was then that she felt the vibration, in her feet. She lurched forward, was propelled – no, dragged – by the mysterious entity. Then all she saw was the sea, and liquid silver below her feet. She looked down at shackles of silver surrounding her hands. Then they disappeared, and Belocka stood up.

CRUNCH.

Sound. Coming from behind her. She looked.

Behind her was inky blackness. The tunnel was covered in cracks. Silver leaked out from them, a gaping monster with terrible jaws, ready to swallow her whole. She ran.

The sickening crunching noises followed her. But she still had to stop every so often to clear that weird sensation in her ears. Swallow. Release the pressure. Get away from the monster. All the monsters. Get them away.

Hours – or was it days? – passed like this. Fright had banished all hope of sleep, the ROAR of the enraged beast as it sought its prey, the sizzle of the silver liquid. The light from above the tunnel increased. The silver entity waved her on, her father told her it was all a bad dream, and an old friend smiled with a savage delight. A distant archway beckoned, covered with plants and flowers, energy crackling under it.

The harsh sizzle became a low hum as she ran.


She was standing on a running track, running around it, breathing hard, getting away from it all. It was good to run…until black rifts, cracks formed under her feet, stabbing, cutting.

She ran harder. Snakes chased after her until the world was consumed by inky blackness…she cleared her ears. The world spun with color, so much after the years of the same scene, the colorlessness of the silver and dark blue everywhere.

Color. Up ahead. The surface. Light and life.


* * *

Atilucen stood at the ship’s wheel, steering the boat though the choppy waters. The waves were like hills, and he was tacking the boat into the wind. Water sloshed over the deck, but thanks to the excellent tar and rubber work, it wasn’t dripping down into the passenger rooms below.

The passengers were for the most part hanging on for their lives, though. “Get belowdecks” one of the Matoran crew members advised.
“Ah, come on.” Quantrasil said. “Might as well stay up here. It’s part of the suspense. It wouldn’t be a good adventure without a rollercoaster ride, right?”

“Shut up,” one of the Agori crewmembers groaned as he puked over the side.

The other MU residents found this funny. Which meant that the Agori were left with the task of following Atilucen’s tightlipped directions while the Matoran recovered their senses.

Except for one of the Vortixx, who looked on in openmouthed disgust. “What is this craft piloted by, animals?”

“Friends.” Quantrasil corrected, with a stern glare.

Meanwhile the group of Po-Matoran bodybuilders were alternating between shifting their weight around in perfect synch to avoid being thrown off the boat and looking nervously at the water below.
Finally, after several hours of this, the boat finally found itself being driven by a wind to the southwest. The waves gradually died down, becoming a chorus of mild swells that were more tolerable for everyone involved.

Quantrasil took the opportunity to show the guests to their rooms. Some Matoran were dispatched to bring refreshments to the weary group.

“Most of them just wanted to sleep,” Quantrasil said.

Atilucen jumped, finally relaxing his iron grip on the wheel. He smiled, and waved a Agori who looked the least seasick out of the group to take his position. “I’m just about ready to join them,” he said. “I’m beat.”

He furrowed his eyebrows in concern. “Did we lose anybody?”

Quantrasil slapped Atilucen on the back. “No, they all got on the boat. I saw them. And all of them stayed on the boat, despite your best efforts to shake them off.”

Atilucen sighed. Despite his own exhaustion, he was amazed that the Bo-Matoran was still on his feet.

“You could use some rest, yourself.”

Quantrasil nodded. “Little hard to rest when you are hanging for dear life.”

Atilucen shook his head. “Go get some rest, buddy. I think I can hold myself together for a little while longer. Anything else I should know?”

“I’m having trouble steering this thing,” The Agori said. A Ga-Matoran walked over and tried the wheel. Atilucen was about to stop her, but then he saw how the boat lined up with the wind beautifully and shut his mouth.

“I haven’t seen the sonics Toa since we launched,” Quantrasil said.

“I’ll look into it,” Atilucen said. He gestured to the Ga-Matoran. “If something dangerous comes up, you send someone to find me or him right away.”

The Ga-Matoran just nodded in response.

* * *

Krakua had joined the mad scramble to get on the boat, and had immediately gone belowdecks once onboard. He soon wondered if he would regret that decision. He braced himself carefully as he walked through the hallways, listening to the sound of water sloshing all around him. The lightstones embedded in the walls cast an eerie glow, making Krakua feel like it was the middle of the night, even though he knew it was still very much day.

He felt dizzy, disoriented, and tired. All he wanted for the constant movement and vibration around him to stop. He ignored that sensation and carefully made his way down the hall, looking for a place where the shaking was less.

His mind was filled with meaningless chatter from up above – reactions from various beings ranging from thrilled to annoyed to scared to impassive. But then he caught wind of some thoughts that were different, that sounded sinister.

The Master will not approve. I’m coming back to you, but your worst enemy is too. Quantrasil. I ask for your permission to kill him.

Another sharp mind cut through. Krakua sensed that this one was much too powerful for his mask to tell him much about, only that it was communicating with this other mind, and it was angry.

Permission not granted. Find out what he wants.

We know what he wants. We know that he is an operative of Makuta.

I said, find out what he wants. And get me a donut and some tea. I insist on fried Matoran soon. You know what to do. Serve him up with some cardboard and desire.

Yes, Master.


Krakua sensed the connection ending. I will kill him anyway. Son of a Muaka. After you.

Krakua looked around nervously. Where was that mind?

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07 Feb 2017, 04:04 #13

Chapter 13 – The Prisoner

Krakua tuned his sonics power – up ahead, something buzzed, a very tiny sound amidst all the sloshing and clunking.

He opened one of the staterooms up ahead, only to see a horrible pulsating…thing. It looked like a green Skakdi, but it was clear that it wasn’t quite right. Upon seeing Krakua, it immediately moved to stand in front of a pair of storage room doors.

“Go any skeletons in the closet?” Krakua said.

“Oh, those are in the basement. The closet is too dangerous.”

Krakua just shrugged. “Guess I’ll check the basement.” Then he gave the creatures a high-pitched noise. They rebelled and swarmed in annoyance, trying to get away from the sound, which allowed Krakua the opportunity to open the door. A small communication device lay on the ground. Krakua picked it up, turning off the sonics and allowing the being to reform.

“Who were you talking to?” Krakua said. Best not to reveal that he had been listening in on the being’s thoughts.

“Is that any of your business?” the being snapped.

“It is when you’re trying to murder one of the captains of this vessel,” Krakua said.

“I would never do that,” the being said. Strangely, the being’s thoughts echoed the sentiment strongly, as if he was telling the truth. I told him that I would do it, but I wouldn’t. He’s my ally. “He’s my friend.”

“Who were you talking to? Who wants Quantrasil dead?”

“Mata Nui.” His thoughts echoed this. It appeared to the Sonics Toa that this being believed Mata Nui really would want the Bo-Matoran dead. But that doesn’t make any sense…unless he was lying. And he would be a very good liar, to control his thoughts.

“And Quantrasil brought you, on this boat, to stop him.”

Krakua shook his head. “I’ll be keeping this.”

A laser vision blast burned straight for his chest, punching two clean holes in his armor. Another sonic blast sent the creatures into confusion again, enough for the Sonics Toa to exit the door and into the hallway. The swarm followed him, howling in agony and screeching. He headed for the lower levels, trying to draw him away from the boat deck. Stupid Toa. The being’s thought’s echoed. He doesn’t know what he’s dealing with.

The level below the staterooms was a reasonably wide arena area, bolstered with thick wood joists that prevented the area from collapsing in on itself in rough waves. It was narrower than most sports arenas, but it would do in a pinch.

Krakua imprisoned the green cloud in a prison of sound, trying to figure out what to do to destroy this being, or at least stop it from killing an innocent Matoran. Toa do not kill.

Yet he was a member of the Order of Mata Nui. No, I am a Toa, first and foremost. But he could not, in good conscience, let this being go for long.

You’re weak, The being snarled.

Quite possibly, Krakua thought back. The being shuddered at the mental communication, even more than the sonic cage would have normally disturbed it. What are you doing here?

I’m here to get back to Mata Nui and finish what I started. Overthrow him and allow Makuta to take over the universe.

That already happened,
Krakua thought back.

Not where I come from.

Where is that?

You’ll find out soon, Toa.


* * *

And that’s what Atilucen found when he arrived – a being trapped in a sonic cage, and a weary Toa slumped on a corner.

He told someone he was going to kill Quantrasil, Krakua sent to him. The telepathic communication startled the Agori.

Get out of my mind, Toa. Atilucen thought back. Anger crossed his features at the thought of someone invading his mental privacy. He didn’t want anyone sorting through his memories, because…because…

He shoved the thought down. Death. Uh, he wanted to kill Quantrasil. Which is bad. Except this Toa acted like Quantrasil was bad before. Now he’s trying to save him. Is he lying?

The Toa’s eyes swelled with terror. Atilucen backed up. He’s scared?

“Let him go.” Atilucen said. His voice came out soft, low and sad, as if…as if…

He stomped his foot on the floor. “I want to talk to him. And if you tell me any nonsense about you protecting me, I’ll knock you out.” His voice still wasn’t the strong voice of command that he wanted to convey, but it would have to do for now.

The creature reformed before him. It looked weary from hours of hard labor, almost as tired as the Toa on the floor.

“Who are you?” Atilucen said. He wanted to make it sound forceful, like a demand, but what came out was calm, rippling with a veiled threat underneath. It almost betrayed his own weariness from piloting the ship for so long.

“Zaktan,” said the being.

“Krakua” said the Toa.

Atilucen looked absentmindedly at the Toa. “I know who you are.”

“What are you?”

“Skakdi, swarm of protodites, take your pick, it’s all the same to me.”

“Do you wish to kill anyone on board this ship?”

“No,” said Zaktan.

“He’s lying,” Krakua insisted.

Atilucen looked at both of them, confused for a moment. “What do you want, more than anything?”

“I want to go home,” Zaktan said.

“Would you kill someone who stood in your way?”

“Immediately.”

Atilucen sighed. “Thank you, Toa.”

“You misunderstand, foolish beings,” Zaktan said. “Home – for me – this boat is headed right to it. So there’s no point in locking me up.”

Atilucen shook his head. “There’s nothing out here, gas cloud, but ocean.”

Then he waved his hand at Krakua. “Keep an eye on him and see him to his room. I’ll send you a couple Matoran so we can have a watch and you can get some rest.”

Krakua nodded, grateful. He passed Atilucen the communication device. “I hope you can triangulate the signal. Maybe we can find the waves that way.”

“Thanks.”

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07 Feb 2017, 21:47 #14

Chapter 14 – The Confusion

Midway up the stairs, Atilucen realized that had a better option than Matoran watchers. He walked up to the Toa Mahri and told them about the Skakdi in the basement.

“Zaktan is dead.” Jaller said. “Are you sure that you’re in your right mind, Agori?”

“Even if he was alive, he’s a sea snake,” Hahli said.

Kongu and Hewkii immediately headed down to help while Atilucen was still talking.

* * *

Krakua was grateful to see the arrival of Kongu and Hewkii. Between them, they managed to coax “Zaktan” into a room.

By that time, Atilucen showed with the rest of the Mahri.

“Yep, that’s scary all right.” Kongu said. “How did you come back from the dead?”

“The Red Star crashed. I was onboard.”

“The what?” Nuparu said. “The Red Star is where it always was, last I checked.”

“The other Red Star. My universe’s Red Star.”

Nuparu looked at him. “Where did it crash?”

“The Black Spikes.”

“The Black Spike mountains were…mostly…destroyed,” Nuparu mused.

“Keep an eye on him.” Atilucen said. “His story doesn’t add up, so he’s clearly lying, trying to hide something important.”

Hahli shook her head. “Don’t be jumping to conclusions, Atil.”

Atilucen sighed. “Krakua said that this being was plotting to kill Quantrasil.” I don’t trust him either. None of this situation makes any sense at all, he was thinking.

Hahli nodded grimly. “We’ll take care of him.”

Atilucen turned to Krakua. “Is Quantrasil dead too?” he said to Krakua.

“No” said Krakua. “Me and Trinuma checked the records when we got word of him in the square, and then we talked with all the Bo-Turaga we knew. It was as if he had never existed before.” He was sitting on a bed, back against the wall.

Atilucen shook his head. People who had never existed before suddenly appearing, and people who were dead coming back? It was all crazy to him. There had to be a better explanation – to him, this sounded like a tale to scare young Agori at night.

Krakua looked back at him. I heard of Zaktan, but he is supposed to be dead, according to what I learned from the Toa Hagah. So why?

* * *

“Get some rest.” Atilucen told the exhausted Toa. Then he turned to Hahli. “Come with me.”

The two beings mounted the stairway and reentered the boat deck. The Agori wondered if Quantrasil should be informed of the new development, then decided against it. That would probably prevent him from sleeping, and the Matoran needed the rest. He needed him sharp.

The sun was setting over the sea, sending a pink pallor over the turbulent waters. It was odd – the tall Toa with the tattered wings and spindly claw speaking with a small blue being with an old blue helmet-
“Can you sense the vibrations in the water and tell me where the tsunami source is?” Atilucen said.

Hahli nodded.

And that was when he finally noticed. His armor gleamed. Like it was brand-new. Thousands of years of wear and tear, of repairs and patches, suddenly gone. Worse, he had a sneaking suspicion that the change was to more than his armor. The implants in his body had shed their age as well, and he felt far better than he should have felt after a day of nervous piloting.

“Atilucen, it’s a massive rift,” the Toa of Water informed him. “We’re headed straight for it.”

“The center?”

“Yes.”

The Agori walked up to the Ga-Matoran at the wheel. “My boat.”

“Your boat.”

Atilucen swung the rudder to the left slightly. The boat turned at an angle to the waves. “We need to put her just north of the rift.”

“Got it,” The Ga-Matoran said.

“Need someone else to take over?”

“I’ll be good for another couple of hours.”

“Your boat.”

* * *

Belocka entered the realm of color.

She fell.

She screamed.

She hit something. It was not hard. It was stretchy, springy.

Her leg hurt. A saw, chopping my leg off.

She flew upward. Something fell nearby, brushing her leg. It was wet and squishy. It hissed.

She fell. The monster fell faster than her, hitting a huge black pit surrounded by vicious teeth.

She screamed some more. Every sensation was an attack, the bright colors stabbing, the sounds hitting her ears with the force of a yell. Every nerve screamed the sensation of falling, the rush of air. Her mind screamed in agony.

Impact. She hit on her rear this time as she was flung free. Merciful blackness for a second. Then the flying and the color. She was not going as high this time. The monster wasn’t flung up, after her, instead pushed to the side, like a wet banana. The splosh left her dazed.

She was in the middle of the monster’s maw. It was comfortable, sort of, but kind of pinchy and squeezy. Like a hammock. A familiar Agori face walked toward her. No. Not like him. He turned into a spindly creature, covered in inky blackness.

“Ma’m?”

And that’s when she blacked out.

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08 Feb 2017, 23:35 #15

Chapter 15 – The Pain

She woke up.

He was different.

All spindly. The picture unfolded before her – a humanoid, its chest composed of reels of some black substance. His arms were slender silver tracks of the black, extending down to spinnerets where hands should be. A couple of fingerlike appendages spun around just above the spinnerets.

It wasn’t him. It was something else. Something spindly. An enemy. A threat.

“Are you okay, ma’m?”

“No,” she said. “Get away from me.”

“You need help?”

“I said, get away from me.” She cursed.

The being looked confused and upset.

“GET AWAY FROM ME!” she yelled. “STAY FAR AWAY FROM ME!” She scrambled out of her bed and pushed him away. It was then that she realized that she had been lying on a bed. The room that she was in was black and comprised of the same stuff she had landed in.

She fell on her face. As she did so, she saw that the being had large feet, with hooks that made traveling on the black substance easier.

Her mind filled with blind rage. Who was he to be asking[/i[ her if she needed help? Of course she needed help. She had fallen from the sky with nothing but her armor. She had spent over 100,000 years alone. But she didn’t need this being. She needed to kill…to kill

“GET OUT!” she yelled, making to rip him limb from limb. He scrambled away easily as she stumbled to her feet, a terrible grimace crossing her features.

She sighed with satisfaction as he left. Command. She walked, unsteadily, to the door. She fell over twice in getting there. Twice she just wanted to lie there, give in to the weariness.

Let him win. Let them all win. Never.

The room was filled with harsh breathing. She noticed this now. A black screen appeared in front of her, and she clawed at it, stumbling into the hallway.

She turned to see him.

It took forever to accept the reality of what she was seeing. A long moment. Breathing. “You didn’t…”

Or did he?

“You didn’t try to destroy my boat, did you?”

“No.” said the being, confused. “You had a boat?”

She was standing in a hallway, surrounded by fabric, held up by springs. Her feet sunk down in the center of the hallway, the springs holding her up. She felt weightless…and unstable.

“Yes,” she said. “I had a boat. Do you know anything about that, creature? Or are you lying to me?”

“No, I don’t know anything about your boat. What are you talking about?”

Belocka’s eyes clouded over, and her voice dipped lower, becoming harsh and nasty. “I had a boat, once. Then someone put silver fluid in the water and it sunk to the bottom of the ocean. Who did that? Was that you?”

“No, no, I have no idea what you’re talking about! Please, I’m being honest, I swear! I’m just a maintenance person for Elastica, the trampoline emporium! I don’t know anything about boats or silver fluid or anything else like that!”

He was begging now. And she was smiling. The euphoria made her dizzy, and she fell over. How long had it been since it was like this?

“Of course not,” she said. “You would never do something so evil like that, would you?”

The being nodded with relief. “Would you?” he said.

“Never,” Belocka said immediately. Unless they were my enemies. In which case, I bash their heads in first, and manipulate them later.

Her mind was still screaming that this being was a threat, but she shoved the feeling down. He was more than a threat. He was an asset.

“Do you want to have some fun?” he said.

“Oh, anytime.”

“Jump.”

Belocka obeyed this command, whirling to face her unseen attacker. She felt something push her from behind, and she went flying forward through the hall, only to land flat on her stomach again. It knocked the wind out of her, and she lay there, dazed.

“You’re supposed to land on your feet, muddle-foot.” The being said, bouncing next to her.

Belocka groaned. Every bounce he was making was making her more dazed. She rolled over and tried to stand, but the vibrations made moving impossible. “Stop” she said.

He did, and offered her a hand up. “Welcome to Elastica. You can call me Spinob.”

“Belocka” she murmured before she threw up on the floor.

* * *
“You should go rest,” Atilucen said to Hahli. It was several hours later, and the two were sitting on the edge of the Vortixx’s quarters. He had changed Ga-Matoran a couple times on the watch.

“You should go get some rest yourself,” Hahli said.

“I’m never able to sleep at night,” the Agori said.

“Why?”

“If I was comfortable talking about it, I’d be able to sleep with it.” He leaned back against a coil of rope, looking up at the stars. Maybe he could think about the stars for a while. Silly thoughts, to keep the darkness at bay.

“There was a war, and I killed some people,” he said. “At night, I still see their faces.” He gritted his teeth. Even that wasn’t quite true. He was a farmer, not a solider. There was only one face he saw when he closed his eyes.

Hers.

Except she’s dead.


He shuddered. He hoped she was dead. He knew she was dead.

Otherwise, he soon would be.

No, don’t think such thoughts.

He sighed. He was chasing certainty, hoping that his past had died.

It is dead.
But some part of him told him that he didn’t know. For sure. That was why he was out here.

The tsunami. Focus on the tsunami.

He nodded. The tsunami was why he was out here. Solve the problem, fix the coastline. His personal thoughts and plans could come later.

He reclined, reaching across a coil of rope on deck. You shouldn’t even be doing this. The rope surrounded him, warm and soft. A memory. A memory that cut, it was so good.

A memory that would soon become a horrible dream as the Agori’s exhaustion overcame him.

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10 Feb 2017, 03:59 #16

Chapter 16 – The Beginning

“What’s going on?” a voice asked. It sounded cheery.

Krakua bounded eagerly toward his friend. “Oh, so good to see you after so long!”

“Well, you see, I was talking to Mata Nui, and this Toa here thought I was plotting to kill you.”

The friend stepped aside, showing a being that looked a lot like Toa Hewkii. Krakua laughed and slapped his friend on the back. His friend laughed too.

“Why is he laughing?” Quantrasil asked.

Krakua gasped, disoriented. He was on a boat, with a Skakdi, two Toa, and now a Matoran who he had just saved the life of. “Dream,” the Toa said.

“How terrible,” the Matoran said. “We woke him up.”

Krakua grimaced, sitting up with his head in his hands. This situation was getting more difficult to understand by the second.

Zaktan shrugged. “He deserves it after what he put me through.”

“Sorry,” Krakua said. “This appears to have been a misunderstanding. Unless he is trying to kill you, and you’re joking because you have protection.”

Quantrasil laughed out loud. “Oh please. We’re old friends. The worst thing we’ve done to each other is break each other’s straws at the Mini-Mart!”

“What?”

“Forget it,” Quantrasil grumbled.

“Forget it?” Zaktan said. “This being put me in a sonic cage and tortured me for three hours. I demand restitution!”

“He only did three hours?” Quantrasil said. “He doesn’t serve Mata Nui then. Those are a lot more vicious.”

“I’m serious.”

“Relax, Zak, we’ll make him pay later,” Quantrasil said.

“Excuse me,” Jaller said. “There will be none of that.”

“Oh, who invited you?”

“Nobody. I invited myself.”

“Then you should know better than to crash the party, fire boy.”

Jaller pulled out his sword. Flames licked along the blade’s tip. Krakua immediately gave Zaktan a strong dose of a sonic hum, a reminder that he could put him back in the sonic cage at a moments’ notice.

“It won’t be for awhile, Toa-heroes,” Quantrasil said. “You can put the weapons away. Nothing to fear.”

“I don’t think so.” Jaller said. Hewkii increased Quantrasil’s gravity, forcefully sitting him down.

“I want some answers, starting with why you’re still alive and in that form right now,” Hewkii added, looking over at Zaktan.

* * *

“Sorry, sorry” Spinob said. “Anyone never tell you that you’re supposed to land on your feet, girly?”

A scrubber-Rahi skittered past them to clean up the mess while Belocka and Spinob made their way out to what he called the “main floor”. A few more beings that looked like Spinob were apparently working on patching some holes, their spinnerets whirring. Belocka tensed up with nervousness.

“The College of Arts and Sciences extends you their acceptance for your extraordinary achievement in your studies of Spherus Magna history, various mathematical and scientific discoveries-“

“Relax, they’re just more Elasticans like me. They won’t hurt you.”

Belocka tried to haul off and punch him in the face, but given how weak she was, it just turned into a slide across his chest, pulling on the reels a bit and causing the person supporting her shoulders to grimace. “I want to go home!” she shouted.

No, no, that is not the right answer. Anywhere but there. No.

“Are you okay?” one of the other Elasticans said, reaching out for her.

“She just threw up in the hallway,” Spinob said. “I’m hoping some fresh air might help.”

“That’s not any Matoran I’ve ever seen,” Another pointed out. “She looks a bit too swollen. Maybe she’s diseased.”

Spinob nodded. “I’m going to take her to the healers.”
“No, I’m not going to approve the procedure,” said a flat, uneven voice. “My daughter needs to learn responsibility, and she will only learn that if the actions she does have consequences.”

Belocka shuddered. “Please, Dad, I requested this.”

He grabbed her off the operating table, ripping wires and needles out of her, his face a mask of fury.

“No.” Then he pulled her out the door.


“It won’t help,” she said. “The disease I have – it doesn’t have a cure.”

There’s no cure for being an Agori.

* * *

Several hours of questioning later, the only thing that Jaller had been able to extract out of the pair was that they had came from a place called the Red Star that apparently crashed but was still in the sky.

At least, that was all Atilucen could gather. After dragging himself out of the coil of rope, he had listened to all of the people’s arguments. By now, most of the Toa Mahri were here, and they would all be here if Atilucen had not insisted that at least two of them be on the top deck in case the ship encountered a threat.

The rest of the conversation had been, in Atilucen’s estimation, both sides exchanging threats. Quantrasil had some plan that would eventually exact revenge on Krakua for putting Zaktan in a cage, Zaktan was Quantrasil’s friend, the Toa Mahri said that they wouldn’t stand for that, and Quantrasil claiming that their opposition was a worthless measure in the whole scheme of things, but refusing to explain why.

The whole thing made the boating engineer dizzy. How in the world did I get into this mess? He didn’t know who was right, although he was pretty sure Quantrasil was lying just to try to keep Zaktan from killing him and keep the Toa Mahri from killing him.

“Alright,” he finally said. “That’s enough. We’re wasting valuable time. Quantrasil, our passengers are probably waking up. Get them some breakfast.”

Everyone protested. Atilucen put up his hand. “A single Bo-Matoran is not going to bring down this whole ship. I had all the food supplies tested for poison before we left.”

The Matoran walked out of the group, a smug grin on his face.

“I’m going to talk with you later,” Atilucen hissed as he passed. “If you try anything, I will kill you.” His hand instinctively went to the ax on his belt.

The grin disappeared.

“Keep him in this room, and keep an eye on him.” The Agori said of Zaktan. “If he so much as winks his eye, I want to know about it.”

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13 Feb 2017, 00:21 #17

Chapter 17 – The Middle

“Get me out of here.” Too many people. Too much.

She can stay under the ocean for all I care. She’s dead to me. I want nothing to do with her anymore…


She put up her hands over her eyes. “Where am I?” she said. “What really happened?”

Her mind wouldn’t tell her that. It was too hurt. It had been alone for too long. It wouldn’t tell her the truth.

“You fell from the sky.”

“That doesn’t make any sense.”

But she had just been there. Falling. Just like she had been in her father’s office three days ago, when the old business associate of his came in to ask about her and he flippantly dismissed the whole thing.

That was when the shaking happened, and she ended up here. Shaking, out of control. Wrong.

“That’s what happened though. I saw it.”

Am I still dreaming? Not real.

But this time, the world around her did not change. It reminded her what reality felt like – a choke hold.

A choke hold I abandoned, letting my mind fly free. A gift.

But the sadness always ruined the dream, and her will always brought her back. I must accept reality. I must. I must be able to face the real world, unlike those who can’t.

But this time, there was no waterfall to come back to. No place to hide from the oppressive fantasy. No place to hide from herself. Only…

I looked into me, and what I saw made me angry. It was in me, not in them. I can’t blame them.

“Where am I?”

* * *

“Time check.” Atilucen said. “Days to the rift.”

“We don’t know.” The Matoran said. “We’re pulling 5 knots, but I don’t know how far away the rift is. Hahli?”

“I don’t know.” The Toa of Water said. “It’s pretty far away.”

“Anything strange underwater?” he said. “Boards, ropes?”

Hahli looked at him, confused. “No.”

Atilucen sighed. Come on, man. The boards and the ropes would have long since rotted by now, right?

He didn’t know. And not knowing was making him jumpier by the minute. So close, and yet so far.
Behind him, Quantrasil was playing cards with the Vortixx. They were joking with him and laughing, not knowing that a trained killer was in their midst.

“Let me know if you come up with anything,” he said to Hahli.

He wanted to talk to Quantrasil right now and find out some answers. But he didn’t want to start a mass panic on the ship. So he decided on the second-best option.

That was when he heard the sound of arguing coming from the lower deck. “Watch it!” a gruff voice yelled.

“You watch it!” someone else fired back.

Atilucen walked into a warzone. Or at least, it seemed like it. A Skakdi was clutching a sore arm and one of the Po-Matoran was missing a chestplate and panting terribly.

“You get out of here, savages!” the leader of the Po-Matoran hissed.

“We were here first,” The Golden Being said. “You were invading our space.”

“Enough,” said Atilucen. He was surprised to hear his own voice. What am I doing? Either of them could kill me in an instant.

* * *
“Elastica.” The being said.

“No, I mean…” she stood up on the dock. Her arms spread out wide. She could see the stars, for miles around her, reflecting in the water. Immediately she felt dizzy and her hands went back to her eyes, leaving a peephole. As long as she didn’t move them apart, it wouldn’t overwhelm her.

“Where is Elastica?”

“Oh, it’s been awhile since I’ve consulted a map. We’re about 700 bio from the Tren Krom Pennisula.”
“How far are we from the Spherus Magna mainland?”

“I have no idea, ma’m. That’s a question for Mata Nui. Not something I would concern myself with.”

“Who?”

“The Great Spirit Mata Nui, ma’m. Ruler of the universe.”

“Alright, alright.” Her head hurt. She closed the peephole, pushing the palms away from her face to gasp for air, and sat down on the dock. “Don’t talk to me for a few minutes.”

Behind her hands, the waterfall appeared, and she reached out for it –

Nothing. Blissful nothing.

But the sound was all wrong. The waves crashed in on the waterfall and destroyed it.


She screamed.

“Ma’m?” said the Elastican.

“DON’T TALK!” she yelled.

It was too much. The black waves crashed over her, and she blacked out again.

* * *

It felt like it took forever to get the Skakdi and the kolhii players to agree to use the space at certain times. The kohlii players would get the mornings, the Skakdi in the afternoons, and the two would trade evenings to entertain the Vortixx up above. It was exhausting.

After that, Atilucen was more than happy to go to the galley and take an extra helping of breakfast. He found Krakua there, and went he left to go to the upper deck, the Toa was more than happy to follow.
It was then he saw a thick blue line on the horizon, expanding fast. “Everyone get belowdecks!” he said. “I need the best sailors on deck, now!”

The crew scrambled to his orders. “What’s going on?” Hahli said. It looked like she had been sleeping in the rope as well, though far less comfortably than her smaller counterpart.

“Incoming” said Atilucen. “My boat.”

“Your boat,” said the nervous Ga-Matoran.
“Move!” Atilucen barked. He spun the wheel, aiming the boat towards the wave. The sail billowed out – the wind was with them that day, and the vessel increased its speed. The massive wave now loomed before them.

The giant rift forming between him and the boat, him running for his life, the massive wave coming for him, only to drain away.

It hit. It finally hit.


Tears filled his eyes. On the other hand, why did I have to come out here?

Blue energy blazed before his eyes, so he closed them. A massive thump from below, and a sploosh. He opened his eyes, only to see open ocean.

He looked back at the tired-looking forms of Hahli and Nuparu standing on deck. “Thanks,” he said, his voice coming out, once again, much sadder than he intended.

Quantrasil looked on, a devious grin on his face.

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13 Feb 2017, 22:49 #18

Chapter 18 – The Shadow

“Okay, this ends now,” Atilucen said. He roughly grabbed Quantrasil by the arm and dragged him below decks, shoving him in his own quarters and closing the door behind him. “Where are we going?”

“Home,” said Quantrasil, unfazed. “It’s a lot of fun. You’ll like it there.”

“Where is home?”

“Up ahead.”

“Is ‘home’ the source of the rogue waves?”

“Probably,” Quantrasil said. His voice turned sadder. “That’s why we’re going to stop them. You and me together. That’s the plan.”

“And what happens after that?”

“You go home. The tsunamis are stopped, and nobody gets more hurt.”

“Then why all this talk of devious plans?”

“Because, where I’m from, I’m not exactly well liked.”

“That’s vague.”

“I stole some stuff and I got caught.”

“Better.”

“But the people I stole from were evil tyrants, so it’s all good.”

“No.” No, no, don’t remind me of that.

“Atilucen, please. You’re not that way, are you, like those goody-“

“SHUT UP!”

Quantrasil looked offended.

Atilucen cleared his throat. “Alright,” he said. He breathed really hard for a few seconds.

“I’m going to take you home, and then I never want to see you again. You got that?”

“Yeah. But what’s the matter, Atil? Can’t stand a little fun?”

“Not when your fun involves smuggling a gas cloud creature on board and using him to communicate with someone who wants you dead, and then telling us that you have some sort of devious plan. What aren’t you telling me?”

“I want you to see it for yourself.”

“That’s not an answer.”

“Atilucen, Atilucen. So petty and so demanding. Don’t you want an adventure?”

“I want the truth. I’m responsible for the safety of this ship and her crew and passengers.”

“They’ll be fine. I doubt a single hair on their heads will be harmed. Home is a really nice place. You’ll like it.”

“You’ll like it as in I’ll like what happens to you, and I’m just trying to buy time so I can get there?”

“No. Why would I do that?”

“To get there.”

“But you said that home was the source of the rogue waves.”

“Like I said, I’m not well liked, and I don’t approve of everything that goes on there. A bunch of stupid people broke some stuff trying to get something else to happen. So we fix it, and you can go home.”

Atilucen thought about it.

“Come on, Atilucen. I know you. You’re a mechanic. That’s why I hired you. You can fix stuff like this. I’m just a gardener.”

“Like you hired Zaktan?”

“I didn’t hire Zaktan. My boss hired Zaktan.”

This is too complicated.

“And who is your boss?”

“Makuta Teridax.”

* * *

Belocka awoke, lying on the boat dock. The stars shone on overhead.

She was alone.

The loneness felt like a gift.

“See, dear, the beautiful stars,” her father said, balancing her on his knee.

The memory came back, but this time it was only in her mind.

It was the first happy memory in thousands of years. It was from before this all happened.

Before he turned evil.

Before I knew to want something more.

Before I tried to take it for myself, and it didn’t work out.

“Do you think I can see the stars up closer, daddy?” the little girl said next to her.


She stood up. The stars spread out before her, only broken by the inky blackness in front of her.

Blackness laced with silver. Like a gem.

There was a boat next to her. She got in it and took up the oars.

There was some provisions in the back of it. She opened it up and all of it tasted awful. She forced herself to eat it anyway. Even the water didn’t taste like water, instead like something synthetic and awful.

She didn’t feel any stronger after eating it, but at least her stomach wouldn’t complain so much.

She cast off and took up the oars. Her arms welcomed the exertion as she pulled herself away from the island, the strange island that saved her life. But it was all too much to comprehend at the moment.

Falling from the sky…hitting that strange elastic thing…

It wasn’t until she saw that black thing following her that the other thing hitting made sense. But it didn’t seem to be interested in her, just following. She kept going at the oars.

My shadow. The sadness goes into it as it leaves me.

The picture began to form in her mind. She must have ran uphill and burst out into this strange new land, and fell from the sky.

A little hard to believe, but it’s true.

And the black monster must have followed her.

I always wanted a life of adventure.

A faint smile crossed her lips.

I have it.

* * *

The sun was high in the sky when she pulled up to a dock besides a bunch of other boats. She took the bag of provisions over her arm. Her arms hurt something fierce, and her belly ached. The plastic pellets she had eaten earlier weren’t good for anything. She felt faint and woozy.

The silver entity appeared beside her. “This way,” he said. He was walking away from the city that dominated most of the island, toward the wilderness.

She followed him. She had to stop twice to rest, the sea crashing in her ears. He waited for her. Finally, faint and gasping, she stumbled into a cave, and followed it.

It seemed like forever that she spent walking.

And there was a pool. A silver pool. She opened the bag and threw the entirety of it into the pool.
The pool bubbled and fizzed. The bag returned, shining silver. She opened it to find it full of nutrient pellets. She ate them in a rush. It felt so good. She opened the place where the synthetic water had been, only to find real water. She drank.

The entity looked at her in gentle tones. “Stay away from the pool,” he warned. “You were destined to transform once, but I fear that you may be destroyed in my embrace again.”

Belocka looked down at her feet. “I haven’t changed,” she said. Was the hallicinations, this world, all his fault?

“Yes, you did,” the entity said. “It’s under your armor.”

Belocka pulled at her chest armor and pulled it off. Frantic, she took off the fabric and-

Silver lines. They were faint, thin marks in the side of her chest.

But the menacing crest, thick and unbroken, across her chest, was still there. It was white on her blue-dyed skin. The silver lines criss-crossed it now, in something someone might have called beautiful.

She let the filthy garment fall back into place and clapped the armor back on. The entity looked puzzled at her reaction.

“You do have a power as a result.” The entity said. “You will always be able to find me. You might have other powers as well, but I don’t know what they are.”

She nodded. That was good. She needed to eat.

I’m not alone.

And then he was gone, before she could ask another, more prudent question.

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14 Feb 2017, 20:24 #19

Chapter 19 – The Island

Several days later, Krakua had joined Hahli on the upper deck. The two of them were responsible for calling out times to the rift, and predicting the next incoming tsunami wave.

Both, incredibly boring jobs. So Krakua had taken up the habit of making strange musical compositions with his elemental power on deck, to the amusement of the Vortixx and anyone who would care to listen.

To the tune of this old ditty,
To the way of life that’s fiddly, and not so steady,


“Land Ho!” someone shouted.

Land Ho, land ho, here’s for a change of pace we go,
Life’s unsteady, thick and crazy, on the sea,


“What?” someone else said. It sounded like Atilucen was getting more and more nervous with each passing day.

What! Barks the nervous captain,
Unsteady as he goes,
Ready to get the order, hold the bar and have the answer.
Land Ho, Land Ho, here’s for a change of pace we go,


“Krakua!” Atilucen said. “Time to the rift, now!”

Krakua sighed. “240 kio.”

“Home,” said Quantrasil’s voice behind him. He jumped.

Now he could see the land. It looked big. From here, it looked like a desert abutting a glacier, a very peculiar sight, even for the Toa of Sonics.

“Slow us down a touch.” Atilucen said to the sailors. “We’re going to land.”

Krakua shuddered. What did Quantrasil threaten Atilucen with to make us land here?

He looked into the Agori’s eyes. Okay, so we’ll land here, stop the tsunamis, and then leave, Atilucen was thinking.

“This is the rift,” said Hahli. As if on cue, a huge wave formed behind them.

It was so high that Krakua couldn’t even see the top. Fortunately, it moved away from the ship, heading for the coastline of Spherus Magna.

Okay, Krakua thought to himself. Maybe Quantrasil is on our side after all.

The boat landed with a soft thud. A couple of burly Agori leaped down to tie the vessel to some rocks. More lines were cast down, this time with stakes. Then the ladder was lowered, and Atilucen led a group of Matoran and Agori down to the surface. Quantrasil followed with a group of eager Skakdi. “A new land to conquer!” the Golden Being said.

The Vortixx, for their part, had elected to stay on the ship. “Bunch of spoilsports,” a Matoran complained.

“Eh, relax,” Krakua said, landing next to them. “Whoa.” He felt like the ground was moving. It was a weird feeling.

The Matoran laughed.

The Agori laughed harder. Especially, some of the older ones.

“Cut it out!” Atilucen snapped. “He didn’t mean it like that. It was just a juxtaposition.”

“What I meant to say was that the Vortixx will be good guards for the ship while we are gone,” Krakua said. “And it feels weird having the ground move, like I’m still on a ship.”

The Agori clammed up and went silent, looking ashamed.

The Toa Mahri said nothing as they landed behind Krakua. Apparently they shared his vote of confidence in the Vortixx.

“Pretty big for a scouting party,” Krakua said.

Quantrasil gave him a look. We’ll need every single one of you, said his thoughts.

“Safety in numbers.” Atilucen said.

“That isn’t something to count on.” Quantrasil said, looking at the Skakdi, who had already struck up another fight on the beach. “Let’s go.”

* * *

Belocka hit a burly trainer with her lance. He looked at her as if that was the most pathetic attempt to hit anything he had ever seen.

Oh, really, stupid oaf? Try this! She turned the lance and stabbed him in a gap in his shoulder armor. She tripped him and he fell flat on his back. She pulled out a knife and proceeded to stab him in the mouth, then slugged him in the gut. She pulled the knife free.

“Hey girly,” another being said. She grabbed the lance and banged his head into a wall. He fell over, unconscious.

“Belocka, you really shouldn’t let your anger get the better of you.” Belocka pulled out a smaller blade and held it up to his eye level.

“I’m not angry,” The fighter said. “This is just what I want to do right now.” She smiled.

Everything I wanted to do to my enemies, and never got the chance, I’m now doing. So I’m happy, actually. Eventually I’ll do something different.

“Ready for the games next week?” the trainer said.

Belocka nodded. That was the other thing about the place that the natives called “Stelt”. They were very task-oriented, and didn’t talk much.

“Good.”

He walked away. Belocka looked to see her hand still holding up the knife. She stashed it and slipped the heavier lance into a magnetic clip on her back. She was still training to carry the heavier weapon, but she liked the knives, which gave her a literal hidden edge. When she was done with this, she wanted to try swords, axes, bows, hammers…any and all weapons she could get her hands on.

* * *

“Does this look familiar?” Kongu said. The trudging across the ice field had given way to solid rock. The group was now trekking across a ridge.

As if on cue, a giant cupcake appeared not 30 bio from where he was standing. The island opened itself, forming a huge rift in the earth, and swallowed it whole.

Everyone stared, aghast.

“No,” said Atilucen. “This place is not familiar.”

“Speak for yourself, Agori.” Jaller said. The ground began a low rumble as he spoke.

“Is that another cupcake?” another Agori said. “I want one.”

“Hewkii, incoming,” Jaller said. A torrent of strange brown objects hurtled down from the mountain in front of them. The Toa of Stone lowered the gravity of them, and they flew over the group’s head.

“Hey,” one of the Po-Matoran said, picking up a stray. “These are kohlii balls.”

Quantrasil sighed. “Welcome home.” Then he stomped on ahead of the group, looking terribly disgusted.

Atilucen followed him. “What’s going on?” he said.

“Home’s always like this,” the Bo-Matoran said. “It always gives you what you think you want the most, and in the process, it always takes something away.”

“What does it take?”

“Stuff that’s real,” the Bo-Matoran said. “Thrills, accomplishments, trouble, struggle, real emotions, everything hard fought or hard won. I’ve spent my entire life pushing away all of the pretty compromises. But why do you care?”

“The rogue waves,” Atilucen said. He was starting to think that might not be the only reason. This place was making him uncomfortable, but he couldn’t quite put his finger on it. And as the kohlii stars swapped balls that they had rescued for signatures, he had to resist the urge to run off the island, get back on the boat, and sail away forever.

Why?

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16 Feb 2017, 05:38 #20



Chapter 20 – Trouble Realizing

“That’s about where Ta-Koro would be.” The Toa Mahri of Fire said, remorse filling his voice.

“What is this place?” Atilucen asked Quantrasil.

“I don’t know, exactly,” Quantrasil said.

“It looks like the island of Mata Nui,” Kongu said.

“The island?” Quantrasil said. “Mata Nui is a spirit, a god. Not an island.”

“The island was named after him,” Hahli said.

“But that’s impossible!” Hewkii said. “The giant robot is gone. We saw it die. And this place was a part of him.”

“Or was it?” Jaller mused.

“What are you talking about?” Atilucen said.

“When the giant robot that is over there was under the sea, we lived on this island, on top of it, and it looked like this.”

“So there’s another giant robot here?” Atilucen said.

Just then, there arose a low rumble from behind them. The small contingent of Matoran and Agori went pale with fright as a huge swarm of robotic spheres advanced. Trees were dissolved at their approach, only do regrow themselves in seconds before the sight of the astonished group.

“Run!” Krakua said. The group scrambled away from the strange spectacle, a half-frenzied jog around the lip of the caldera.

A few minutes later, they stopped, only to see that the Lehvak hadn’t even bothered to climb the mountain. They were safe.

“Why did you do that?” Hahli said.

“Sorry” the rookie Toa said.

“Let’s go to Po-Wahi.” Jaller said. “Let’s see if there is a way down, just like home.”

It was a short trek across some eerie lava flats to a waterfall, where the Matoran and Agori voted to eat and rest. The Toa were uneasy, Krakua especially. This was still unknown territory for him, despite the fact that it was so similar to his own home.

Atilucen, for his part, carried a triple portion of everyone’s anxiety. Fix the tsunami and get out, get out, GET OUT! his mind kept telling him. He wondered if his anguish was now evident.

A crash sounded in the distance. Krakua jumped, then climbed the falls, and Atilucen followed him. The two mounted the suva pinnacle, and a short jog brought them to the sea.

A faint shattering noise reached Atilucen’s ears – to Krakua’s senses, it was huge. But they both saw the sight of water pouring into a space where it had not previously been. It frothed and bubbled.

Then Atilucen saw something strange. A silvery metal band rose from the sea. As he watched, it became encircled with a ring of glass. Then the glass began to shift as well, forming a person, a being. It was silver in color with hints of blue. More glass rose from the ocean, forming a boat with oars. It rowed away, heading toward Spherus Magna.

Atilucen gasped in horror. No, no, this couldn’t be true…please tell me I didn’t see that…no.

Quantrasil’s words came back to him. On the surface, he could want, but…no. I really want her to be gone.

And if he was foolish, he would go after the boat. It was something false. A trick. A trap.

He swallowed.

“Energized Protodermis,” said Krakua. “I didn’t think that would be out here.”

“What?” Atilucen said.

“That’s what that silvery stuff is.” Krakua said. “What it doesn’t transform, it destroys.”

So it wasn’t her. It was just something else, like I thought. Okay.

He was starting to feel dizzy. He took deep breaths, shuddering. He needed to be sharp, responsible, the Captain. Not reveal that he had a want inside a want inside a fear. The closer it got, the worse it felt.

But none of this makes any sense at all. This whole tsunami thing is completely unrelated to…what happened before. It’s just a feeling, and it’s wrong. And that thing that just happened – it was chance. I saw it, and my fear made it into something it was not. That’s what this place does. Okay. I’m fine. Just…fine.

Let’s keep this between the two of us, okay?
Krakua’s voice resounded in his thoughts.
Atilucen glared at Krakua. I told you to stay out of my mind!

“Sorry” Krakua said. “Forgot.”

“This better stay between the two of us.” The Agori said. “If you tell a word of what I was thinking just now, I don’t care what powers you have, I will personally cleave your skull in half.”

“I’m sorry” Krakua said, looking hurt. But the Agori had already turned away and stormed down the mountain.

* * *

Krakua spent the rest of the trip to Po-Wahi in the back of the group looking morose. A few times, he caught the Agori shooting resentful glares at him from the front.

What could I do? My Kanohi is always on at a low level.

And right now, it was detecting absolute rage directed at him, and the Agori trying to distract himself from it in anyway possible. It was growing more and more potent by the minute, and Krakua had to admit that he was starting to get scared. Atilucen seemed like a reasonable enough guy before. What’s going on?

“What’s eating you, tune player?” Kongu’s voice echoed in his hearing. “Someone stole your song?”

“No,” said Krakua. “I wear a Suletu, and it did.”

“That looks like a Hau to me.”

“Trust me, it’s one of the Order’s fakeouts. You’re thinking about asking me what happened up on that cliff.”

“You really need to get yourself a different Mask, brother. I used to have one of those, and it was real annoying.”

“Really?” Krakua said.

“Yeah, I could never get other people’s thoughts out of my head. And Nuparu, he got the flight mask. It sucked.”

Nuparu snorted. “Wrong time and place for Voya Nui, brother.”

“Not that my current mask is much better,” Kongu said. “Did I tell you about the time that I summoned a 300-foot long mutant venom eel?”

Krakua’s spirits started to rise just a little. “Uh, no.”

“Well, you see, me and Jaller were trapped in a jail cell together…”

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16 Feb 2017, 20:43 #21

Chapter 21 – Old Friend

It was about this time that Krakua noticed that Skakdi were missing.

“Don’t worry about it,” Quantrasil said. “Mata Nui has summoned them. We’ll encounter them later.”

Krakua sighed. “Summoned them for what?”

“Oh, Mata Nui likes his conversations with would-be minions,” Quantrasil said. “I think Goldie knows what’s good for him. He won’t be stupid. We can talk to him later.”

“Coming.” The Toa said, following reluctantly.

* * *

A few moments later, the group walked past a bunch of mechanical parts and shards of glass, and then another pool of Energized Protodermis surrounded by a bunch of over-turned Bohrok canisters. A machine sat next to it, covered in Masks of Regeneration. Some of the Matoran and the Toa Mahri stared at it, but Quantrasil waved them on. “Just another on of Mata Nui’s foul inventions. It’s surrounded by a terrible forcefield, must not mess with it. Come on.”

“Where are we?” Atilucen wondered.

“Home” said Quantrasil. “We’re about to meet my boss soon. He lives right around the corner!”

“Right” Kongu complained. “Mangaia. Makuta’s lair. So much happy-times to be had there, right Chronicler?’’

Hahli sighed.

“Remind me why we haven’t killed that crazy matoran,” one of the other Matoran said.

“Because he’s our tour guide,” Atilucen supplied.

“Toa don’t kill,” Jaller added.

I’m just here to fix the tsunami and get out, not to do anything else. Anything else. “Why is everyone all sticky around Makuta Teridax?” the Agori said.

“You remember those giant robots duking it out in the sky not too long ago?” Hewkii said. “The enemy robot that Mata Nui was fighting against? That was him.”

“Oh.” Atilucen’s diminishing anger at Krakua’s intrusion had faded now, leaving him with a minor tinge of regret. Have I been helping out the enemy this whole time?

“I thought you were playing him to get us in here the whole time,” Hewkii said.

“Or leading us into a trap,” Atilucen said. “Except I didn’t know there was a trap, so I guess I can’t be blamed.”

A roar of water interrupted his thoughts. They approached a bridge that spanned a torrential underground river. They walked across single-file, careful of their steps.

As the roar of the water diminished, Atilucen’s ears picked up on the distant sounds of combat. He noticed that the white and grey Toa who he had been talking with earlier had moved to the front of the group, scouting. As he grew closer, he recognized some of the voices.

He did not recognize the various corpses of Rahi that were strewn over the passage. A roar howled in his ears. They rounded the corner to see a bunch of eager Skakdi fighting a huge Rahi.
With a stinger tail.

Kongu pulled out his cordak blasters and fired six shots straight at the beast. It vanished, and the shots exploded, busting a hole in the wall.

“Well, there’s our escape route,” said the Toa of Air. Atilucen looked behind him, only to see the huge bulking form of the Rahi. “Behind you!” he shouted.

“Old news.” Hewkii said. His mask glowed as the Rahi smashed into the ceiling, howling in pain.
Atilucen saw Hahli swing her talons into the beast. It collapsed to the ground. A faint glow could be seen on the Toa of Water’s features as she turned around. Krakua looked amazed. The Matoran looked scared, and his fellow Agori looked like their pride had just gotten injured.

“Welcome back, you two.” A deep, rumbling voice resounded, proceeding the being that filled the tunnel’s girth with considerable aplomb.

“Makuta,” Jaller said. “I thought you were dead.”

“Oh, you know me. I always come back to life. The attempts on it are amusing, to say the least.”
The Makuta paused. “I must admit, however, I have more than my share of amusements. I would prefer a little more successes. Perhaps you can help me with that, little Toa?”

Jaller looked at the rest of the Toa Mahri. They all shrugged their shoulders.

“We don’t know where we are or what’s down here,” Atilucen said. “Perhaps you could enlighten us on that before we do anything else.”

“Also, we’ve got a problem involving our universe causing tsunamis,” Quantrasil said. “Perhaps you should incorporate that into the Plan.”

“Now, Quantrasil, the Plan is hard to change once set in motion. Let’s focus on the main goal – getting control of this ship, and then we’ll be able to stop the excess water.”

Krakua sighed. “I don’t think so,” the Toa said. “You would toy with your plans for domination while the people of Spherus Magna are in danger.”

“Uh, yeah,” a random background Matoran from Mata Nui said. “He’s Makuta. Isn’t that kind of his job description?”

“I’m trying to save this place from the blasted Skakdi who have taken over this place and made a wreck of it. And you, you know nothing of the wreck that Mata Nui has made the place into.”

“You would say that,” the entire group of Toa Mahri, Krakua, and a bunch of Matoran said.

Skakdi? Atilucen wondered. His mind wandered back to Quantrasil’s proclamation that the Skakdi ruled the universe. Either the Matoran was delusional, or…

“Okay,” Atilucen said. “Show us to the Skakdi rulers of this place.”

“Pathetic,” Makuta said. “Who are you to be making demands of me?” Shadow energy swirled around his palms, a show of strength and might.

“Because,” Atilucen said. “If you’re right, you’ve got yourself an ally. If you’re making up a bunch of lies to deceive us all, then…we’ll be seeing your corpse on the bottom of the sea.”

“I suppose I can humor the friend of a friend.” The Makuta clicked his claws together. “Follow me.”

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17 Feb 2017, 23:41 #22

Chapter 22 – Inside Out

The Makuta led the Krakua and the others through the maze of corridors. The Toa of Sonics was focusing on the Toa Mahri’s thoughts to avoid the occasional pulse from the Master of Shadows. Of the few he was unable to avoid, he felt images of devastation and destruction, tinged with an odd sense of strangeness. Like the random appearance of a cupcake on a deserted island.

Not that that made any sense at all.

More importantly, the Toa Mahri had traversed this route before as Matoran returning to Metru Nui. If Makuta deviated from the correct path to lead them into a trap, Krakua could let everyone know by telepathy immediately, and it might save them all.

Fortunately, there were no such deviations, and Krakua found himself looking at a huge wheel in the sky.

A ferris wheel. Spinning at typical ferris wheel speeds. The imposing feature overshadowed the Coliseum as the most prominent feature of the skyline.

The second thing he noticed was the whirling armed contraption near the sea.

And the music. It was so bright and cheery, a new sound, waiting to be harnessed, he could just feel it…
“Krakua” someone said. And he found himself standing on the island, the island of Metru Nui, alone, the beautiful sound washing over him.

Thrum, Thrum, Thrum…his powers went, building a counterpart to the melody. The arms of the strange ride pulsed above his head, and for a long time, the Toa of Sonics was just happy to mix the old and new harmonies together.

* * *

“No,” said Atilucen harshly. “No, you can’t do this.” He looked on the dock, where Krakua had just been.
“He’s a liability,” the Master of Shadows said sharply. “He will only slow us down.” He gestured to a boat nearby. “Get on.”

“I’m not getting on that boat until you bring Krakua back,” Atilucen said.

“Then we’ll just leave without you,” Makuta said.

Wrongwrongwrong…his mind yelled. Didn’t I want to kill that Toa just minutes earlier? The thought of Krakua beating him after all that he had done was unacceptable. And their enemy…or was it their helper?...had just given him a head start.

“Look Atil, we’re going to where he is. You can kill him in a few minutes if that’s what you want.” Makuta said.

Atilucen froze. No, no, never again. I will never do that again.

“You okay?” Quantrasil said. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

At least Krakua was too far away to “read” that one, thank the Great Beings. He climbed on the boat.

“Delegate the killing to someone else,” The Agori said.

“You don’t look like you have a conscience,” Quantrasil said. “Not like these pathetic Toa.”

“I don’t need a conscience,” Atilucen said, getting on the boat. “I have a memory.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Quantrasil said.

“You don’t have to understand, you just have to follow the order,” Atilucen said. His voice was loud enough by now that the whole boat could hear it.

“Please don’t,” a Matoran pleaded.

“I’ll be all right.”

“You sure?” Quantrasil said.

“Yes,” Atilucen said. He could not remove the sullen expression from his face as he sat down.

* * *

The boat approached the city under the cover of night.

“You sure about this?” the boat driver said. “L-

His words were cut off as Belocka slit his throat and chucked him in the water. I don’t need doubts. I don’t need-

“I’m happy to see you graduate,” her father said. “Your brilliance will impress the male suitors, make you more eligible.”

“Don’t patronize me.” Belocka said. “You know what I want, and you know that it has nothing to do with that.”


The memory faded, and another appeared.

“DON’T TELL ME THAT YOU’RE GOING TO SCHOOL!” her father’s voice raged. “YOU WON’T AMOUNT TO NOTHING THERE! IT’S A WASTE OF YOUR TIME AND MY MONEY!

He slammed Belocka against the wall, his eyes wild.

“I don’t care for your plans for my life,” Belocka said, her voice rock steady. “And I will learn, regardless of your petty wishes.” She slugged him in the gut, and he doubled over, panting. “Next time it’s your head.”


Her eyes blinked open. Which was the correct memory?

She reached over and lifted the brute over the side of the boat, throwing him down on the back. She could not afford a trace of weakness. As she did so, the thin silver lines on her hands glowed, and the wound on his neck was gone.

She smiled. He would fear her even more now.

* * *

“Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the 1071st Steltian competition, where fighters from all across the universe will fight for your entertainment.” Cheers erupted behind him as the fighters took up their positions.

There were no fighter introductions. Belocka’s trainer had told her about this. “We had too much fighter empathy in the first few months of that, so we decided to stop naming them. Increases the audience’s hunger for actual combat.”

Belocka, however, wasn’t visible to all those in the arena. She took up a position near the far wall, which would reduce her odds of being pulled into the battle until later, when everyone else was tired. Her blue armor faded into the shadows.

“FIGHT!” the announcer bellowed.

Thousands of Glatorian tribesmen clashed on the field of battle, elements swirling against adversaries. Water surged quickly, giving the Water tribesmen the upper hand. But the forbidding element of ice froze the water, leading to a terrible defeat…

Her skin glowed brightly. A Vortixx skrewered a Steltian, only to see his wound heal on its own. Fire blazed, dealing terrible burns, only for them to disappear.

She tried to will the power to shut off, but it would not. Finally, she walked up to the Vortixx and stabbed him in the back, only to see the wound heal before her eyes.

Then she took the knife and stabbed her own skin. It too, healed rapidly. Her eyes widened in fear.
The silver glowed even brighter. She stumbled.

The two sides…unable to hate each other anymore. The war is over. They make peace.
NO! STOP! THE WAR MUST CONTINUE! IT ENDED IN TRAGEDY! There was a Shattering, I know it. And then…

I don’t know what happened after that.


Something about this memory rang true. It was real. Not from her 100,000 years of delusions and hallucinations. She was kneeling now on the arena floor, her head in her hands.
She got up. She was still glowing.

It was an odd moment as the Agori, the smallest of them all, climbed up the arena wall and swiped the winner’s crown from the table. Then she stalked out of the area.

“Wait…wait!” the announcer shouted, running after her. “You can’t do that!”

Belocka just laughed and kept walking.

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19 Feb 2017, 03:24 #23

Chapter 23 – Broken Eyesight

Atilucen dragged himself out of the boat. The sun was setting in this odd world.

He was standing next to an Onu-Matoran. A moment of confusion – he didn’t remember any of them volunteering for the boat – but then it spoke, carrying the somber tones of his guide.

He jumped.

“A necessary precaution.” Makuta said. “I much prefer my lair to a cell.”

“You don’t sleep,” Quantrasil said.

“I don’t have to, little one,” the Makuta said. “One of the benefits of this form.”

“Let’s cut the chatter and see the rulers of this place,” Atilucen said.

“What’s the hurry?” Makuta said.

“I’d rather not be standing next to two people that I can’t trust.” As soon as the words left his lips, he knew that they were lies. He’d been okay with people he couldn’t trust. Even…

No.

“We should get him to join us,” Teridax said to Quantrasil offhandedly.

“No,” said Atilucen. “When I’m done with this mission, I’m going straight home.”

Everyone complained. “There’s a whole new robot here, and we’re going to leave it! Let’s find out what’s going on! Why is it here?”

Atilucen put his head in his hands. “It’s not safe,” he said. “And that’s final.”

* * *

“Hey,” someone said. Krakua stopped pulsing his own form of music to look at a stern looking blue and gold Toa.

The last time I saw that mask, it was on Brutaka and he was using it on Takua to send him through dimensions. Not so good.

“You’re Krakua.”

“And you’re Galari,” said Krakua. “You don’t mean any harm, but you’re wondering how I got to be a Toa. Trust me, it’s a long story.”

“What is the difference between me and you, exactly?”

“Well, you see, I’m a guy and I can control the sounds I make. You’re a girl, which can’t.”

Galari crossed her arms and rolled her eyes.

“You just control what I think. Trust me, it’s way worse. Better. Worse.”

“That sort of language won’t take you that far, young Toa.”

“I’m the one stating facts. You’re the one taking it the wrong way.”

The psionics Toa did not respond.

The air was still, save for the muted hum of carnival machines at night.

“You’re from a different universe. A universe that was killed by another like it.”

“I tried to save it,” Krakua said.

“Ready to do it again?”

Krakua thought about that question for a few minutes. “We’re supposed to be fixing the tsunamis that are affecting our coastline.”

Galari nodded. “I can fix that. It’s a system that’s broken.”

“We brought a mechanic with us. We got separated. I need to find him.”

“It’s not what you think,” The Psionics Toa gripped his arm. Krakua shook it off. “I’m serious.”

“Then what is it?” Krakua inquired. What he saw in her mind…didn’t make any sense.

“It’s easier for me to show you,” Galari said. A portal opened between them, and she shoved him through.

* * *

Belocka clutched the winners’ crown as she ran. It felt good, running. Like she had trained for this her whole life, and now she was only just now feeling like this was she was meant to do.

Maybe because, she had conquered more than just a lame arena fight.

Her rower looked in shock. “Did you win?” he said, awash in the dim gray light.

Belocka just nodded. She hardly felt the run, even though her chest was taking in a lot of air. She stopped at the end of the dock. “Lets…go home…quickly.”

He nodded. She got into the boat, and slipped the docking chain as he pushed her rapidly back to the main island of Stelt and the fighters’ barracks.

It was then, finally, that the silver glow died. Belocka hoped it would never come back. She could do without that particular power.

“Did you steal that crown?” the rower said. “It’s okay if you did.”

“No,” Belocka said. “I won.”

“That quick, huh.”

“Yes.”

“How did you do it?”

Belocka thought about punching him in the face. The truth waited on her lips.

“Glass shards” she said. “I slit everyone’s throat.”

She looked down, only to see that the crown was, in fact, encased in a box of glass.

“What are you?” he said.

“I was an Agori,” Belocka said. “Now, I’m not sure what I am anymore.”

“Mata Nui told us all of the Agori were powerless weaklings, and that we had nothing to fear from them.”

“Who is Mata Nui?”

“He’s the watchful ruler of this place. He’s the one who keeps the evil Makuta from ruining everything.”

“How do I get out of here?”

“Go north.” They pulled into the pier. Belocka smoothly constructed a chain of glass to sling the box over her shoulder. The power felt as easy as breathing now.

The rower ran off into the city. Belocka grabbed her bags of provisions she had been saving up from trips to the silver pool, and got back into the boat. More vessels lurked on the horizon, waiting for their female prey.

The female Agori looked on at this hopeless situation. They would come for her and take her prize. If she went the other direction, they would give chase. If she waded into the middle of them, their Rhotuka spinners would kill her.

She turned around and went back to the pool, leaving the provision bags in her boat. The only thing they wanted was the crown.

She shattered the glass, and took it out. Looking at its red stones in the light of the silver pool, the Agori shivered. It was not for a killer, a murderer to wear. It was hers. And if it could not be hers, it would be no one’s.

She threw it in the pool. She half-expected it to become something else, but it was destined for destruction, apparently.

It did not matter. A glass wall formed beside her as she lay down by the pool to sleep.

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01 Mar 2017, 02:25 #24

Chapter 24 – Splinter Cell

Impact vision and heat vision hit head on in the front of a small door marked “Service Entrance” on the side of the Coliseum. The lock shattered, letting the pair of Skakdi storm past into the building.
They swerved past a bunch of shattered Matoran canisters on the floor, heading for a pipe connection marked “Danger: Hydraulic Lift”. They set the valves to the highest pressure. The floor began to lurch as the building began to rise.

When the building settled in position, the two took off, heading for the lower levels. To their considerable surprise, neither of them were attacked by the large numbers of Skakdi guards that were frantically running past them to the hydraulics.

Or maybe it was that they were running past them. What could have been more noteworthy was the fact that Skakdi were in this place – why weren’t they in Zakaz, where they belonged? But the two Skakdi from another universe were not interested in this.

Instead, they headed down the steps, past a bunch of other guards and Matoran, and punched a hole in the floor.

Then they scrambled through a huge vent pipe filled with hot air, veered past a huge cooling fan the size of a Matoran hut, and rapidly descended through another pipe. The floor burned against their feet as they punched through to what appeared to be a giant office floor. A tightly secure one too – Skakdi guards watched dutiful Matoran’s every move. Detailed readouts filled giant screens on the walls, everything from life processes to locations of Mata Nui’s enemies to water-absorption systems…
Yes, there it was. Water absorption systems. Set for Maximum Fun.

The two Skakdi looked at each other. What?

* * *

Atilucen, along with his varied group of misfits, entered the Coliseum. The Golden Skakdi was practically mobbed as soon as he entered. “Hey, Goldy!” one of the Toa shouted from the stands. “Can I get your autograph?”

Immediately a beautiful signature emerged on his book in flowery golden script. “Oh, thank you, thank you so much!”

“Are you a new creation of Mata Nui?” “What are your powers?” “Can you make me a solid gold necklace, pretty please?”

“Enough.” A lighthearted, cackling voice. “Teridax, I know you’re here, so stop trying to hide in that lame Matoran form. Pathetic, for a being such as yourself. And I’m surprised that you have the nerve to show your face around here, Quantrasil, after what I did to you the last time we met, you filthy thief.”
The crowd booed and hissed. Atilucen shivered. What have I got myself into?

“Vezon,” Jaller said. “I don’t know what you’ve done with this universe, but you’ll regret it.”

“Now, you are quite mistaken, Jaller. My name is Mata Nui. This is just a pleasing avatar for my Skakdi armies.”

“We’ve caught him at one of his saner moments,” said Quantrasil. “He’s not always this good.”
“Candy,” Mata Nui muttered. “So much candy.” A rain of hard candy-like items began raining from the sky. Plinky-plink-plink-plink.

“Yay! Candy!” a bunch of Matoran yelled.

The Onu-Matoran’s face next to him was a mask of rage. “They should be serving me, not that wretched beast!” he said, fury encasing his features.

“Don’t worry,” Quantrasil said. “The Plan will succeed.”

“Yes, the Plan will succeed.” Atilucen heard him repeat it to himself multiple times, as if it were something to ward off further outrage.

“And what about the water?” Atilucen said.

“To fix the water, the Plan must succeed.”

“Fight that guy?” Atilucen said. The menacing Skakdi form would be a severe challenge for the Agori’s diminutive stature, but he might be able to make it in a pinch. The problem would be the unknown being’s powers, which he was no match for. But maybe the Toa Mahri could defeat him…

“No,” said Hahli. “If he is who he says he is, then not all of our power combined could defeat him.”

Kongu nodded. “He’s robot brains, Atil. He controls everything. We had to fight against Makuta himself when he took over once, and we made almost zero headway. It’s no use.”

“Can’t we go right to the source?”

“He might just screw the whole thing up again.”

“So we can’t fix the problem?”

“I didn’t say that,” Nuparu and Jaller said at once.

Jaller nodded. “To get the waves to stop for good, we have got to get this universe to leave.”

Makuta nodded. “The Plan is already in motion.”

* * *
The two Skakdi ran out of the room, past a huge screen that read Red Star: Offline, and through a door that read “Robot Central Processing: DANGER: Restricted Area”. Normally, there would be nothing beyond the door, but thanks to the hydraulic lifts, the entire building was several feet off the ground, revealing an entrance below.

Huge wires snaked up from the entrance, plugging in to the central monitoring system above. One of the Skakdi pulled out a knife and cut into one of the huge coils, then into a smaller one, and so on until he could latch a small data monitor to one of the wires. Then he patched the thing up as quickly and thoroughly as he could.

It was then that the hydraulics began to decend. The two scrambled into the the Core Processor hole right before the building would have crushed them both.

* * *

“I take it that these are yours, Makuta?” Mata Nui’s voice smiled with glee as the two Skakdi appeared in the arena. “Co-opting a pair of Skakdi – a brilliant maneuver. You know that’s why I keep you around – you always have such good ideas.”

“That and bringing me a mechanic. I have a Red Star that needs patching up. Perhaps you could help me with that.”

“I don’t know anything about any Red Star,” Atilucen said. “I would need blueprints, diagrams of how the thing is supposed to work.”

“Oh, stop lying to me, foolish Agori,” Mata Nui said. “You know of it as a mystical invention, a marvel of the skies. But aside from that, I have plenty of diagrams and tables for your work.” As Atilucen looked, massive diagrams and tables unfolded before him. He found himself examining them. It was more than he could have ever imagined…

“Atilucen, don’t,” Quantrasil said. “I know you like mechanical things, but this is what this place does to you. You get sucked in-“

“It’s not mechanical, it’s organic,” Atilucen said. “At least, most of it is. Look at that damage schematic. It’s a hole though the middle, and then some components got crunched in the front.”

“I need your help.”

“What?” Quantrasil exclaimed. “No way. The Red Star – I destroyed that personally so I could keep this robot here and take care of it. Without it, the robot cannot leave.”

“Which is exactly why we have to repair it,” Atilucen said, unable to tear his eyes away from the diagrams. “We have to fix it in order to get this thing out of here to stop the waves.”

“He’s done for,” Makuta said, pulling Quantrasil away. “Once they get under the spell, it’s no good for them.”

“No!” Quantrasil said. “He’s more than that.”

Atilucen looked down at his feet. “I’m not really much of anything. I’m just…” No, no. Don’t say that. “…a mechanic.”

He sighed. It was a lie. He wished that being a mechanic was indeed all he was. He had been Quantrasil’s “something more” once. He knew what it felt like.

Maybe it’s not too late for me to start over, and not be something more. Something evil. Maybe if I just do this thing right, it will help. And yet…if I stay here too long…

No, that was me. That was a phantom. I’m going to be all right.


“Show me the job.”

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08 Mar 2017, 20:40 #25

Chapter 25 – Boat Rivet

Krakua looked around at the place he had been pulled into. It was stunning. Fountains cascaded from holes in the walls in beautiful arcs, splashing into immaculate pools on the stone floor. Sculptures stood sentential near the pools. One was a lion that ejected water from its mouth at regular intervals. Krakua could not help staring at its rhythm in fascination.

“It is a beautiful place,” the psionics Toa said. Krakua turned to see a lovely stone tree standing behind her, made of white stone embedded with what looked like glass jewels. A couple Ga-Matoran were splashing each other in the pool under it and laughing, the lights underneath the pool making the drops gleam like jewels in the starry night.

A wind rustled through the area, making all the pools ripple. The sound of the surf reached the De-Matoran’s ears then – previously he had been focusing on the beautiful sound of the fountains.
And then in Krakua’s mind, all of the beauty that he was seeing faded. He had been to Metru Nui before. And Metru Nui…had no surf. At least, not the type of surf that he had heard on Spherus Magna. He was inside a robot…

He sighed, and began heading across a stone floor, past a wall vent that spewed water in a thin sheet, and out past a stone portico that led to the turbulent sea. A Ga-Matoran surfed past, clearly enjoying the sport.

Krakua shuddered. The area clearly drew water in from the outside to produce the waves.
“That water has to go somewhere,” Galari said. “It draws the water in, and forcibly pushes the water out. That’s how you get your waves.”

“But those waves are huge. How…”

“When they installed this, they failed to account for the displacement caused by the robot when it landed. The robot takes up water and stores it as elemental energy when it lands. So they goofed around, and decided that they wanted the waves to continue all the time, so they designed the system to hold some water as elemental energy when the robot left, and just convert that to elemental energy and back again.”

“The problem was, the elemental water added up in the system, so they figured out a way to expel it outside the robot and bring it back in. That’s how you get your rogue waves. The system draws in the elemental equivalent of one giant robot size, and instead of holding it, expels it out. This it does over and over again.”

“So how do we fix it?”

She shook her head. “Krakua, that Matoran over there is having a whole lot of fun.”

Krakua smiled. “I know that.”

And then it started to dawn on Krakua what she meant. Even if he reprogrammed the system to work properly – even if he could – the Matoran who had set it up in the first place would just put it back.

“What do we do?” he wondered aloud.

* * *

The glass shattered.

The energized protodermis sizzled.

Belocka sat up, startled.

A whizzing wheel of energy passed within inches of her chest. Hit the rock on the other side of the pool.

She risked a glance to her right.

Vortixx, coming down the tunnel.

Trapped.

She saw the glass shards of her broken wall fly for the incoming beings. They stumbled, but shielded their eyes from the projectiles in time.

No good.

“Where is the crown you stole?” A Vortixx said, plying at Belocka’s chin.

Belocka pointed to the pool.

The Vortixx looked confused, and began to converse with the others in its own language. “She threw the reward in the pool, destroying it,” he said.

The other Vortixx shook their heads in disapproval. “That crown was worth over 50,000 widgets, and she threw it away?” one of them said.

Belocka grinned. It was nice to be different. She was starting to notice that the people here tended to have an all-consuming absorption with one thing. The Steltians: combat. The Vortixx: profit. At least, these Vortixx anyway.

She got up, stumbling into the Vortixx who wasn’t quite out of her way. Said Vortixx grabbed her and pressed her against the wall. She felt rope dig into her wrists as they dragged her out of the area next to the pool.

It feel like forever as she was forced to walk out of the tunnel at a slighter faster pace than she would have liked. She felt her mind relax. It was strange to lose control of this situation.

Glass sawed between her wrists, freeing her. She was running again. A wheel of energy hit her, and the tunnel turned and whirled. She was confused, and lying down. The Vortixx grabbed her again. Another wheel of energy hit her. “You stay with us,” one of the Vortixx said.

“You come with us to where we take you,” Another said. Belocka felt compelled to obey.

They hauled her onto a boat. Belocka grabbed her bag of provisions from her boat, causing one of the Vortixx to shoot her again. She clung to the bag for dear life.

This caused the Vortixx to reach over and grab the bag. “Don’t bother, Frendox. We already searched that.”

Belocka relaxed her grip on the bag. The boats cast off, heading north. She noticed that a Vortixx was rowing her boat alongside the others.

She closed her eyes and leaned back up against the boat hull. This trip would be a short one, she thought – back to the arena, to face up against the others, this time with no reward. And they would all try to kill her…

Her eyes opened.

Being dead might not be so bad, she thought. Her father’s face, tinged with regret at his lost daughter’s death…

…but he would blame her for the whole thing, and he would be right, too. I cannot accept that.


Still, at least it would thwart his plans for the future, in a decidedly permanent fashion. And it would stop her from having to pay Atilucen too.

Atilucen. That was his name.

Right.

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10 Mar 2017, 01:12 #26

Chapter 26 – Open Eyes

Atilucen stood at the entrance to what looked like a pod floating in the air. It promptly crashed out of the sky and landed on the ground with a sickening crunch.

The Skakdi at Atilucen’s side snickered. “Makuta likes his berries bitter, Muaka sweet, Hoi turtles red, Lohrak blue…excellent. I was afraid we were going to arrive a little too early. The Kestora must be able to finish their nap.”

“This is urgent,” Atilucen said. Him and his group walked down the hill toward the downed craft.
“You don’t have to come with me,” Atilucen said. Then he thought better of it. All of them were here to fix the tsunami problem, just like he was. Quantrasil was getting to him, making him think it was his thing.

“We’re going,” everyone said. Great, Atil, way to show off how much the other guy got to you. Toughen up. You’re the leader.

They boarded the airship. “I’m sorry, oh great-“ he cut off upon seeing the Agori. “All of my levitation disks just disappeared. I was just sitting here and-“

The levitation disks returned, and the craft rose into the air. Atilucen looked to see the damaged bottom healing itself.

“What is that?” Atilucen said.

“Old-style regeneration disks,” the Vezon figure said with a grin. “Stealing Kanoka disks is fun.”

“Maybe some other day,” Atilucen said. “All aboard everyone, and find something to grab onto. That doesn’t move,” he added, looking at the vast array of moving parts around him. He opened his sketchbook and began to draw a diagram of the system…

Meanwhile, the rest of the Matoran pressed against the cockpit. “Geez, a little space?” the pilot complained, which led to them taking up positions further away.

“Atilucen,” Hahli said. “Control your people.”

He nodded, dazed. “Everyone clear out.” he said, taking a position in the cockpit and shooing the other passagers away. Some climbed cargo davits for a better view. “I used to pilot one of these!” one of the Le-Matoran said.

Atilucen grinned. It was good to know that he had backup. He turned back to studying the propulsion system…

“Atilucen!”

“Sorry. Just a few more lines, okay? I have to understand how this technology works.”

He drew as quickly as he could, writing, scribbling in projected figures…

“Atilucen, please!”

* * *

By the time Atilucen finally paid attention to where the Vezon guy was taking him, they were high above the island that his boat was moored to, the island of “Mata Nui”. For a second he wondered if Vezon Nui – a name that the Matoran had adopted for him that Atilucen found catchy – was trying to put them back at square one and tell them to leave.

Then: “How did this big ship fit through the tunnels? How did we get up here?”

“Easy,” Vezon Nui said. “Robot have two eyes. One eye open, we fly through.”

“We were in the robot’s head.”

“Right,” Vezon Nui said. Then, seeing Atilucen’s nervous glance at the boat below, he added, “Relax, mechanic. We’re not going to that rat trap.”

He turned, as if addressing some unseen being. “Decloak.”

The airship flooded with red light.

It was a scene that filled the Agori with a mixture of awe and horror. A giant red thing lay in the sea water, like a ball toy in a puddle. Black structures criss-crossed the thing, where the innards – loads of tunnels with mysterious devices and beings crawling to and fro – made the whole thing look like a wound on a dead person that was filled with ants.

He closed his eyes for a second, nonono…and then opened them. They were much closer now. Why was so much of this place reminding him of his past. Everything screamed that he needed to get out of here now.

But I can’t do that.

And it wasn’t because he cared about tsunamis anymore, he realized. The real reason I can’t back out is that I lied to these people, and now if I back out, I will have no choice but to reveal the truth.

The truth of what I’m trying to…get away from. Find at the bottom of the sea. The real reason I’m out here.

And I’m scared that I’ve found it.


* * *

Belocka was shoved in a cell, her bag of provisions still in her hand, covered in spiky glass she had made in order to stop the guards from stealing it. The door clanged shut. She was alone.

Quickly, Belocka made a glass piece in the shape of the guard’s key. It was a simple matter to push the key into the lock and turn. I hope the glass doesn’t break. The lock was heavy, and Belocka gritted her teeth. Her fingers hurt from turning the key…

Click.

Thank the Great Beings.

Instantly she was hit by a projectile and thrown to the back of her cell.

Revision: The Great Beings can go die in the Shattering.

She braced herself for another attack, only to find that one wasn’t coming. “Come little one.” A voice boomed.

“Never,” Belocka hissed. Her skin flickered. She jumped.

For a second she saw the speaker, an old weathered being. He looked old and tired, as if he had seen his fair share of battle and war, all for no reason. He reminded Belocka of Tajun’s old war commander, the man who tried to negotiate a peace between the tribes, all for not.

Her skin flickered again.

“What is that?” he said. A scientist’s curiousity, amusement perhaps?

“It’s a…power,” Belocka said. “One that I’d just as soon do without.” Why lie?

He nodded, and Belocka noticed that his form resembled that of a dragon. Like those who fought in the war.

Those memories are okay. Those are safe memories. It’s what I did afterward…no, what I did afterward was good and I should have done it. It’s what happened afterward…no…


“What sort of power?” the being said. “Why should I trust you?”

Belocka smiled. “You shouldn’t.” Actually, it’s better to have a mix of trust and mistrust, and have people trust you on some things and not others. That way they will be clear on what they don’t trust you on so you aren’t floating around trying to figure out how not to offend them. Or if they trust you on everything, it’s too tempting to take advantage, and they give you too many expectations with that trust…

“You’re smart, for a poor Steltian prisoner.” Belocka got up, and walked to the bars. The being made no move to attack. “You’re not from here, are you?”

“No.” Again, why lie?

Belocka sighed. Despite her nap on the boat, she didn’t feel like doing what she would normally do – weave a big web of lies and manipulation to try to get what she wanted.

That’s because I’ve got nothing to hide. I’m not sure how to handle this, exactly.

Her hand reached out for the old dragon, and her skin glowed bright as healing power washed over the old dragon, restoring his form. He looked on at her in shock.

Why did I do that? Ah, yes, to manipulate him to let me go. Yes. That’s why I did it.

But that reason felt hollow in her mind then, as she sat down with exhaustion. There were other reasons, like Why not? and her sympathy for the old being.

Sympathy was a weakness, she knew. But since when did that matter? It was just a healing power. She would get strong again in a few minutes. Was he manipulating her?

Did it matter if he was?

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10 Mar 2017, 19:21 #27

Chapter 27 – Broken Universe

“We have to convince them to stop – that doing this hurts people in ways that they couldn’t possibly imagine,” Galari said.

Krakua shook his head. “How are we going to convince all of these people?”

Galari sat down on the beach. Krakua sat down next to her.

“What happened in your universe, where you came from?”

“You already know.”

“And you already know what happened in my universe?” Galari said.

“Not exactly. Mata Nui’s not in a coma, and he fought Makuta, paying attention to the inside world instead of focusing too much on the stars. But why the craziness?”

“The Mask of Creation,” Galari said. “It’s energies leak into this universe, inspiring Matoran to create new things more than they normally would. But the universe is running out of resources to create those new things. Mata Nui plans to raid other universes for resources to create more, starting with yours.”

Krakua thought about that. “Are you sure that you haven’t been brainwashed by Makuta? This seems like one of his tricks.”

Galari shook her head. “You don’t understand, Krakua. Makuta is trying to stop this crazy Great Spirit gone mad. He’s on our side.”

Our side?” Krakua winced. He wasn’t sure he could trust the strange Toa yet. Even though she could have shielded herself from the use of Krakua’s telepathic mask and so far…hadn’t.

Anything Makuta does is ultimately wrong, Krakua thought. He wants to rule by oppression, and use this robot to conquer other universes. At least, that’s what he wanted to do in my universe before Mata Nui killed him.

These Matoran could use some discipline, Galari thought back. They have been enjoying themselves for the past thousand years and getting robots to do their work. The robot is slowly falling into disrepair, and it’s wasting away because of the stress these additional creations put on it. We have to stop this before it is too late.

* * *

The airship coasted to a stop though what appeared to be a loading dock. Atilucen got off the airship, walking past a number of people who looked dazed and confused.

“Revivies,” Vezon Nui said dismissively. “The teleportation system is broken, so we’ve had to bring them back the old-fashioned way, by airship.”

Atilucen sighed. He was starting to feel tired, even though it was the middle of the day. It was the probable heat of entering a red-hot star, he decided, that was making him feel drowsy.

Got to get to the repair site…

“Atilucen, are you all right?” Hahli said.

“Yes, I’m fine,” he said.

“You don’t sound like it.”

“Bothering me about it won’t make me feel any better,” he said. Vezon Nui chuckled.

“Show me the job,” Atilucen gestured to Vezon Nui. The group walked through a maze of hallways, dodging a bunch of dazed “revivies” and some other group Atilucen didn’t recognize. It was clear that the members from the old robot didn’t recognize them either, which Atilucen thought was odd.

Vezon Nui, for his part, could not stop talking about what a glorious challenge this was and how glad he was to have Atilucen here, and on and on, but Atilucen heard none of it. Meaningless talk might have irritated him before, but he was getting to be so morose that even that minor irritation didn’t even register. The unfulfilled longing for resolution gnawed at him, and it was all he could do was just to put one foot in front of the other. And just when he thought he couldn’t take it anymore and was going to turn around…

He stepped onto a catwalk in front of him to see a mess of mangled machinery. To the right, a busted-up control panel hung by two cables into empty space, dangling over a hole in the red flesh. Red energy crackled over the hole. Atilucen picked it up – aside from a burned-up lever and a bunch of melted-in buttons, it was no use.

And then he looked down into a giant hole. A huge cone of a giant thruster had exploded, fusing metal to the sides of one thruster and poking holes inside of another. Well, now that he looked more closely, that was more of an understatement. Both of the existing thrusters looked like he would have to disassemble them at least part of the way to make sure that he knew what to repair in each one.

“I can’t do this,” he burst out. How am I supposed to build an entire thruster from scratch, plus repair both of the others in any sort of reasonable amount of time? By the time I finish, the entirety of Spherus Magna will be eroded by the waves.

As if to hammer the predicament home, Atilucen could see a giant wave forming through the gap in the star. It launched away, heading for the coast of Spherus Magna.
“Oh, yes you can,” Vezon Nui’s voice hissed with delight. “And you will. Otherwise I will destroy your precious planet, starting with your life. I’m sure everyone back home will learn about how you failed them.”

Atilucen hauled off and punched him in the face. “Then so be it.”

“Atilucen!” everyone shouted.

But Atilucen ignored them all, walking the pathway out of the Red Star. The wrongness of everything and everyone crashed down on him.

He found himself at the loading dock.

An airship was waiting.

He slipped in the back of a crowd of revivies. They didn’t say much, still lose in their haze of trauma and memory.

He felt like he fit in at that moment, although he couldn’t imagine why. What is wrong with me?

If the job had been easier…

If there was some other way…

Then maybe I wouldn’t feel like this.


He found a rope. Was it the memories that he kept trying to escape from so long ago? Was that why he was so morose that he couldn’t even work anymore?

Why am I doing this?

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09 Apr 2017, 05:35 #28

Chapter 28 – Belocka’s Story

“Who are you?” both the dragon and the Agori said at once.

Belocka shrugged. “I don’t know anymore.”

The dragon shrugged. “I’m a Makuta. They used to call me Miserix.”

“You can call me…” she paused for a second, the name “Belocka” frozen on her tongue. She really needed a better name. But all the names that she could think up sounded worse than the one she already had.

The Makuta coughed.

She smiled. “My name sounds stupid. Not all important like Makuta Miserix.”

The dragon smiled, amused. “It’s not important anymore.”

“So what’s your story, big guy?”

“I think you’re the prisoner, so you should go first. If you don’t mind, little lady.”

Belocka snorted. “Why should I tell you anything?”

Miserix considered this. “While you were taking a little nap, I was buying you for quite the price. Apparently the Vortixx hauling you wanted a steep price. You stole something quite valuable and destroyed it, and they were looking to recoup their revenue loss. I believe I am owed something for my trouble.”

Belocka smiled. He was quite the benevolent being, if a little malicious. “You’re looking for a little more than a story, otherwise you wouldn’t have paid.”

“Ah yes. But I think the story will help me decide what my next course of action will be.”

* * *

Over 100,000 years ago…

The morning sun shone bright as Belocka swept off the path in the garden using a broom. It had been one of her father’s punishments that the very young Agori had taken to liking, so much that she did it even when her father wasn’t after her.

It gave her a chance to take with the old gardener Agori that pruned the leaves. He was a wry old soul that frequently gave her advice on evading her father’s standoffish plans to turn her into a refined young lady. This morning, however, was different, for as she finished sweeping the path, the old gardener approached holding someone’s hand.

Someone about her size.

“Belocka, this is my son. Belocka, this is Atilucen. Atilucen, this is Belocka. I work for her father.”

Belocka extended a dusty hand to the boy. It was how her father taught her how to greet strangers.

He took it.

“Let’s play sword fighting!”

Atilucen grinned.

* * *

A hour of playful roughhousing later, they flopped to the grass, looking up at the sky. Belocka wondered if clouds were dreams.

“Time to go, son.”

“Can I stay just a little bit longer?”

“No son, I’m done with my work on the garden now. I’ll bring you back another time, okay?”

Belocka waved goodbye. But her mind was already working on a plan…

* * *

“I’m afraid there is little I can do for this one, sir. Her penmanship is impressive, but other than that, she will not sew a straight seam, her cooking is deplorable, her poise is sloppy…she is simply wild.”

Belocka shrugged. “Her opinion of me is too rigid. Her system of learning is entirely too systematic and does not take into account my finer qualities.”

“What finer qualities?” her father demanded.

“My great intellectual aptitude,” Belocka said. “I’m impressed by Angonce’s analysis of our planet. According to his calculations, the long held theory of Spherus Magna being the center of the cosmos is incorrect, and Spherus Magna orbits Solis Magna, not the other way around.”

“She has far too many strange ideas in her head,” the tutor said.

Belocka looked at her father. “There will be no punishment today,” her father said. “I want you to reflect on your actions and apologize to this lady. You will not be tutored further until you learn to behave.”

* * *

“I want to go to the library! Can I take him to the library?”

“Of course you can, Belocka,” The wise old gardener smiled.

The two Agori ascended the steps, letting themselves into the large cavern lined with books. Atilucen looked on as Belocka grabbed a copy of Legends of Spherus Magna, Volume 5. “I haven’t read this one yet! Have you?”

Atilucen just shoke his head, a forlorn expression on his face. Belocka opened the book and began to read the first chapter, excitedly sounding out words that were hard to pronounce. Atilucen listened.

“Here. You can read chapter two.” She handed the book across to Atilucen.

Atilucen looked at the page. He wasn’t doing anything. In fact, he looked terrified.

“What’s wrong?” Belocka said.

“I—I—I” Atilucen stammered. “I can’t read.”

“I’ll teach you. Here, this is an I, and this word is ‘was’…”

“I was”

“Yeah, you’re doing great. Reading isn’t that hard. It’s just a matter of knowing what sounds the words stand for.”

* * *

“And that’s how we got started,” Belocka said. “I taught him how to read and eventually, he taught me math. That’s how he got into mechanics. We did all sorts of experiments together. And pranks like the time we dumped mud all over the waiter who was serving my least favorite dish that night.”

“And that’s why you’re here talking to me?”

“Sort of,” Belocka said. “I haven’t finished the story yet. You see, when I got older my father was trying to marry me off. I spent so much time wandering the streets doing stuff. I had a bad reputation – just pranks really, but my dad didn’t like it.”

“I wanted to go to more advanced school instead. I wanted to go design machines and go fight in the war. Atil got to fight in the war, but he said he hated it. He said it was killing people for no reason and he wanted it to stop.”

“So what?” The dragon started to look irritated. Belocka decided to hurry.

“That’s when the two of us decided to build a boat. We wanted to escape together…just take a refuge on the high seas until the war was over. I said that if I wanted to marry anyone, it would be him, and he said that he wanted to marry me, more than anything else.”

“Unfortunately, I didn’t really want to marry anyone. That was my father’s plan. And he was keeping a close eye on me at the time and only let me out to see suitors. And he would never let me marry the gardener’s son anyway, even if I wanted to.”

“This meant that Atilucen had to do all the work to build that boat. I couldn’t do anything. It was awful. And Atilucen wanted my marriage as payment for the boat. So, on the night we were to leave, I told my father that Atilucen planned to take advantage of me, and my father went down with me to the wharf where my boat was tied.”

“You still haven’t explained anything.” The Makuta growled, yanking Belocka’s arm. “What are you even talking about?”

“I’m getting there! I told my father about me and Atilucen’s ‘wedding’ plans on the wharf. He was angry with me, but he was even angrier with Atilucen since I painted myself as the victim. So I got onto the boat and sailed away, leaving Atilucen behind.”

“That’s when Spherus Magna shattered. There was some silvery stuff in the ocean that hit me and the boat sunk, transforming into glass. I transformed too – I felt some part of me change. I’m guessing that’s the part that heals people and makes glass.” She lifted up a glass sculpture of Atilucen, perfect in every detail.

“The dome descended, taking me and some air with it. The ship’s stores didn’t transform or destroy, so I ate those for awhile. After awhile the silver fluid made food – it was tasteless, but it was food.”

“And then I sat in that dome for a very long time. I don’t remember most of it. Most of the time I was hallucinating.” She smashed the sculpture, letting the pieces lie on the floor.

“And then?”

“There was an earthquake, and a tunnel that led to the sky here. Then I fell out of it and hit some black stuff, and then rowed to Stelt, and the rest you already know.” She decided that the Elastican wasn’t really important.

“Hmm. Interesting.”

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17 Apr 2017, 20:27 #29

Chapter 29 – Atilucen’s Story

Standing at the back of the airship, Atilucen heard shots. But he knew that they weren’t real.

He wished they were, wished that he could feel the digging of Thornax into him, a time bomb to herald his demise. But all he felt was the lurching of the airship leaving. He reached for his book of diagrams, only to realize that he didn’t even feel like that anymore.

An image immediately surfaced, two bodies blown to pieces on the seashore. The gruesome deaths that he had to live with.

He felt rope lingering in his hand. He pictured himself dangling from the rafters of the airship above, but he immediately shoved that away. That was long ago. I’m stronger than that now.

Am I? he wondered. She lied to me!

He sighed. He did not really want to enter this land of blame, injury, and self-doubt that was inside of him. But this place was determined to bring it back up.

Minutes passed. His gaze narrowed on the rope. Then he saw the island below. He walked, shoving his way through the crowd, every person he pushed aside feeding his rage. He lashed the rope to a strut and opened the airship hangar doors. Soon he was flying out above the wretched island, holding onto the rope. As the ship descended, Atilucen let go at just the right moment, landing on his feet with a minimal fall.

It still hurt.

The pain felt good.

He lack on his back looking up at the sky, trying to not remember, not remember, not remember.

Felt the tears.

I’m alone. Maybe just one time…

He rolled over, letting the tears slide off his face. Through the blurriness, he saw blue, and felt cold. He shivered, and got up, heading for the rocky region of the island…

* * *

“I’m telling you, he’s the enemy,” Belocka’s voice said. “He doesn’t let me fight in the war, he didn’t let me go to school until I forced him because he had no choice, and he won’t let me be with you. I could just kill him. If he were dead right now, my life would be so much easier.”

“Killing is wrong,” Atilucen said.

“Says the guy who has killed a bunch of people in the war. What is one more?”

“That’s different.” Atilucen didn’t have the heart to tell her that his role in the war was more about delivering supplies to troops on the front lines. “I have a better idea. Spherus Magna is a big planet. Why don’t we just run away together?”

Belocka’s eyes lit up, then faded. “Where would we go, Atil? The war is everywhere.”

Atilucen thought about it. “We’d take a boat out to sea, towards the Southern Reach. Tajun still holds the seas.”

Belocka smiled.

In truth, Atilucen thought Belocka’s complaints were petty and unnecessary. He thought – I thought – that her father was just trying to keep her safe, even if he was prickly about doing it.

But I was sick and tired of the war, so I just wanted to get away, even alone. And I thought I could rescue her from her predicament at the same time.

“I’m going to have to build the boat for us,” I said. “That’s not free, you know.”

Belocka looked at me inquisitively, a mischievous look in her eye. “I can get you money.”

I shook my head. “That’s not what I want. I want you. I want you to marry me.”

I noticed a shadow come over Belocka’s face then, before it was replaced by an even bigger smile. At the time I thought it was because I would violate her father’s wishes on the matter and she would suffer disgrace as a result.

I was wrong.

“Deal.”


* * *

So Atilucen – I – built the boat for her on my off hours. It quickly became my obsession, a distraction from my horrible day job. When it was done, a year or two later, her and I snuck out at night to practice sailing. I remember those nights together, me dreaming about her and me together forever. It was stupid – I was young and naïve, thinking I could buy a life for a boat.

And then the day came when we were to leave…


Atilucen rode his cart, driving it out to the sea. He saw her standing there.

“Not so fast.” A voice said from the shadows, “You’re not taking my daughter away from me.”

A revolver, pointed straight at his face. An arm grabbed his.

Atilucen pretended to faint. He lay on the ground as Belocka climbed aboard, running away from the man who wanted to imprison her. Desperate, he tried to run after her, but it was too late as the thugs descended upon him, grabbing him. In the confusion, he grabbed the man’s gun and wretched it away.
It fired. The bullet went through the man’s skull, the end of his life at Atilucen’s hand. Angry, the outraged Agori grabbed a Thornax launcher, exploding another being’s face. He kept reloading and shooting both until there was no one left alive on the beach but him.

And that was when he screamed.

And that was when the planet shattered.

And that was when he ran for his life.

In a soul-wrenching instant, everyone and everything he had worked for was gone. Forever, he had thought. He did his best to move on, to accept the loss and face the new problems that came with surviving on Bara Magna.

Until now, when the moon that his love, the love of his life was on, came to rest against his home planet again. It threatened to bring the memories back. The sadness back. The longings back. And he had done his best to fight back. Because he was stronger than his own mistakes, he thought. He was so young then, and he was older now.

Logic dictated that Belocka was dead. And he wanted to believe that, to know that, because it would avoid a confrontation he dreaded. How was he supposed to tell her that he had killed her father? He wanted her back, he allowed himself to admit.

In spite of the lies, he wanted her back. But he would never be able to have what his heart cried out for, he knew. She was gone, whether dead or alive, so far gone. A loss.

But I still can’t believe.

He was an engineer. He had to see the dead body with his eyes, hear the words condemning him with his ears. Why his mind demanded this, he had no idea.

It’s because the longing, the sadness is too great.

But that wasn’t the real reason, he knew. It was a stupid possibility that his mind wouldn’t give up on. The odds were too slim, and why was he looking for this?
I want her to forgive me.

The fact that the odds of it were so slim was not an encouragement. It just made him even more sick at heart.

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Joined: 04 Dec 2016, 01:55

28 May 2017, 03:22 #30

Chapter 30 – The Island of a Thousand Gains

A Ko-Matoran was sitting alone in his room, avidly shooting at make-believe enemies using his video game controller, his eyes riveted to the screen.

“What are you doing?” the Psionics Toa demanded. When the Matoran in the crystal room didn’t respond, she stomped in and ripped his headphones off. The Ko-Matoran looked up from the daze of his game, stunned.

“I was just about to beat level 47.” He complained.

“Shut up.” The Toa snapped. “I need you to do some real work.”

He sighed, his brain slowly recovering from the abrupt dopamine shutoff. She shoved his way past him and began scrolling through the star logs. The service Vahki charged with the task the Matoran would have performed didn’t even look up.

“Will you pay attention?” she snapped as the Matoran stumbled over. “Mata Nui’s systems are very slowly but surely deteriorating thanks to linear automation malfunctions. A Toa that lost power recently got it back and escaped from jail. And a new hero is coming that will save us all.”

“What?”

“Get real, messenger.” The Psionics Toa said, slapping a scroll into his hand. “Take it to Turaga Dume. If you don’t, I’ll make sure you don’t have a mind left next week. And I want that log transcribed and checked against all the star patterns. Make it thorough and complete. I’ll be back in a week. If you ever want to play video games again, you will do exactly as I say.” She took the video game console out of the wall and walked off with it.

Galari took a chute, and then another. She threw the video game console in the garbage, a smile on her face. He would have to earn money to get a new one. He was going to be learning a hard lesson or two.

* * *

Elsewhere, Hafu was dodging Vahki that kept running into him. “Stupid machines can’t carve,” he grumbled. “Nothing beats a good Hafu orginal.”

“Indeed,” Galari said. A bunch of Vahki smashed into some inferior sculptures nearby, causing them to fall to the ground as smoking wrecks, guided by the wise old woman’s telekinesis.

Krakua stood not too far away. Does she not support the work of Makuta or what?

He wasn’t sure he trusted the old Psionics Toa at all, still. Even after she had showed Krakua the diminishing power levels and “shamblies” – people who were so hard up to get pleasure chemicals that they stole from others.

On the surface, this universe was a beautiful song. It had its problems and flaws, sure. But no universe was perfect. He would have loved it more…if it didn’t come at his own universe’s expense.
Oh yes, he reminded himself. That part.

* * *
A single Matoran was looking over the science experiments of several Vahki, while another machine was downloading knowledge into members of the hive.

Meanwhile, Ga-Matoran were splashing about in the protodermis falls, shrieking with delight. A few more were fanning themselves under a canopy, sprawled out on lounge chairs. A few more were cheerfully betting on boat races off the left.

None of them noticed the Toa crawling under the laboratory tables until it was too late. A sonic vibration shattered two containers of chemicals, leaving the Ga Matoran to gasp in shock as a Sonics Toa ran away from an explosion.

As he did, he noticed a black Matoran running after said Sonics Toa. Suddenly, the air crackled with heat as flames lanced across his back. The Toa retaliated in the general direction of the blast, his Kanohi already picking up on the thoughts of his attacker.

He was invisible. And he was terrified.

Unfortunately, Krakua didn’t have the luxury of sticking around – he dived into the canal to put out the flames. He was no Toa of Water, but he didn’t mind swimming at all. The rush of sound in the water made it easy to navigate.

He altered the sounds to make his own kind of sonar. Surface. Breathe.

Down. He saw the black Matoran looking at him from the other side of the canal. He seemed strangely reluctant to swim, but Krakua wasn’t taking the risk. He ducked off into another canal, happily heading for the ocean. The ocean currents had their own beautiful rhythm. A new beat. He was ready.

* * *

“Greetings, Matoran of Metru Nui.” Krakua said, testing out the Coliseum’s sound system. That was when his stage burst into flames.

“Huh.” Krakua said. “This is cool, man.” He turned up a mild rock beat. “Sweet pyrotechnics.”

“Krakua, get out of there!” Galari said, telekinetically moving him off the platform.

“Not before I finish my speech,” Krakua said. Galari stopped lifting him up, leaving him about three feet above the flames. “Yes, right there. This is awesome!”

A bunch of Matoran cheered, while others hissed. Those knew what was coming – and didn’t like it one bit.

“Today I am announcing that the city of Metru Nui is in a state of active war against Makuta, who is disguised among you as an ordinary Matoran. He and the rogue Matoran Quantrasil have been working to reprogram the cities’ Vahki enforcers. Others, of a much more rogue sort, wish to destroy them.”
A bunch of boos and hisses followed that bit of news.

A Kanoka disk appeared out of thin air and headed for the Sonics Toa – Galari quickly got him out of the way.

“Rest assured that me, Toa Krakua, and our team of Toa are doing everything we can to stop this evil from disrupting the peace and joy in our city. But in the meantime, we ask you to return to your jobs until this crisis has passed.”

“How long?” one Matoran demanded.

“We don’t have any time projections at this time. We ask that you look for the evil Makuta and his associate Quantrasil and report them to us as soon as possible, so we can arrest them and bring them to justice. And if you could inspect your nearest Vahki hive and repair it, we would really appreciate it.”
He paused for effect. “Think of it as a real adventure.”

“That’s a really cheap way to get us to do what you want!” someone in the crowd shouted.

Krakua shrugged. “Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, guys. I tried.”

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