Onewa, Toa of Stone, ran at full speed through the Sculpture Fields of Po-Metru. Unfortunately, full speed was not all that fast. His new body was built for strength, not sprinting.
I need a Mask of Speed, he muttered to himself. If a Toa of Stone has to do this sort of thing, he needs whatever help he can get.
He pushed the thought of masks out of his mind. He had no idea what Mask of Power he was wearing, what it might do, or even how to make it work. He hoped that eventually that would change, but for now there was no point in worrying about it. Onewa had a mission to perform, so, legs aching and heartlight flashing rapidly, he kept running.
The Sculpture Fields were home to hundreds of statues, most of them far too big to fit in even the largest Po-Metru warehouse. Onewa’s goal was one particular work of art, with a very unique feature: a Matoran named Ahkmou was sitting on top of it.
“Hey, Onewa,” the Matoran shouted. “What gets harder to catch the faster you run?”
Onewa glared at him. “My breath! You can do better than that, Ahkmou.”
“Well, hurry up and get me down from here!” the Matoran replied. “You can, can’t you?”
“Just stay there. I’ll get to you.”
As he ran, the Toa of Stone thought back to how he had ended up here. His first stop had been Ahkmou’s home, but the Matoran wasn’t there. Carvings were scattered all over the floor, furniture was thrown about. Onewa worried that Ahkmou had been kidnapped.
A visit to his workplace had turned up no sign of him either. The other carvers said that their coworker had been jumpy lately, especially after he got a visit from two strangers. One had four legs, the other was a giant, and neither looked like he was bringing good news.
Onewa frowned. The description sounded a lot like the hunter Vakama claimed to have seen, although there was no telling who the brute with him might be. Still puzzling over that, he opened Ahkmou’s carver desk. Inside, it was a jumble of items. Onewa spotted not only Po-Metru carving tools but equipment from Ta-Metru, maps from Le-Metru, and assorted items from other parts of the city. It wasn’t illegal to have any of that, of course, but why would a Po-Metru carver need it?
Then again, maybe it all means nothing, Onewa thought. The two strangers could have been some new kind of Vahki that Turaga Dume has put in service. The items in his station could be souvenirs of some kind. I mean, what are the chances Ahkmou has a Great Disk and hasn’t told everyone he knows about it already? I don’t think Vakama had a ‘vision’. I think he was just seeing things.
There were still questions to answer, though. Onewa had stumbled on a hidden map of the Sculpture Fields on his way here. One spot was marked, and it was the very same spot at which Ahkmou was waiting now. Who wanted him to go there? And why?
Onewa reached the base of the statue. It was a very long way to the top. Taking a deep breath, he dug his two new tools, called proto pitons, into the stone and began to climb.
Ahkmou leaned over the side and watched. Then he said: “So how did you do it? Really?”
“How did I do what?”
“Make yourself look like a Toa.”
“I don’t just look like a Toa,” Onewa snapped. “I am a Toa!”
“Oh,” Ahkmou said, so quietly Onewa could barely hear him. “I see. You must be one of the six, then. And you were looking for me? Is that why you came out here?”
Onewa dragged himself a little further up the side of the statue. “Yes. I came out here because a fire spitter has been standing too close to his forge and told me I should. He said you had a Great Kanoka disk.”
Ahkmou shook his head. “I don’t know anything about any disk. I’m a carver.”
With one last effort, Onewa pulled himself to the top of the statue. He lay there, panting for a moment, before looking up at the Matoran. “So how did you get up here?”
Ahkmou stood up and backed away a few steps. Suddenly, he seemed nervous. “I – um – I just came up to…” The Matoran’s eyes went wide. “Nidhiki!”
Onewa turned around just in time to catch a fleeting glimpse of a four-legged creature on the field below, vanishing behind a statue.
“Who is –” he began, looking back at Ahkmou. But the Matoran was gone. Onewa leaned over the side and saw Ahkmou climbing swiftly down on a series of spikes wedged into the statue.
“Hey! Come back here!” the Toa shouted, but Ahkmou was already leaping from statue to statue, heading for the exit from the field.
Onewa gave a growl of frustration and started after him. He had just begun the climb down when he noticed something carved into the top of the statue. It read: PO-METRU CHUTE 445.
All right then, Ahkmou, the Toa of Stone said to himself. I may not be as fast as you, but now I know where you’re going.
Getting out of the Sculpture Fields would be a great deal harder than getting into them had been, that much Onewa was sure of. The ground between his location and the exit was unstable, thanks to years of tilling the soil to recycle protodermis. Half the statues were sinking, and the other half had already disappeared in the marshy ground. Normally, only hopping from one sculpture to another would make for a safe exit.
Onewa paused halfway down the makeshift ladder and began whirling his proto piton. “Toa don’t hop,” he said. “Not when they can do this.”
As smoothly as if he had been doing it for years, Onewa slung the piton toward another statue. The edge of the sharp tool caught the stone and held. After testing it with a few tugs, Onewa stepped off the climbing spikes and swung through the air.
He looped in a wide arc around the sculpture, even as he readied his other piton. At the apex of his swing, he tossed the second piton and watched it bite into another sculpture. “Yes!” he bellowed, smiling. “Who needs chutes? This is the way a Toa should travel!”
Ahkmou elbowed his way through the crowd at Chute Station 445. This was the busiest station in all of Po-Metru, linking as it did to all other districts. Getting through it was a nightmare. Ahkmou knew that was most likely the reason he had been directed here. In this mob, anything could happen, and no one would ever notice.
Well, this is one Matoran who doesn’t intend to mysteriously disappear, he thought. I’m catching the next chute, and then let them try and find me.
Ahkmou felt only one twinge of regret as he headed for the chute to Ta-Metru. He had hoped to somehow get his hands on the Po-Metru Great Disk before he left. But when Toa Onewa showed up, running suddenly seemed like a better idea.
“At least I lost that big akilini-head,” he grumbled. Then he cast a quick glance to make sure Onewa hadn’t followed him. “Why anyone would make him a Toa, I can’t –”
Still searching the crowd for Onewa, Ahkmou slammed right into a pair of pillars and fell over. He sat up, brushed himself off, and was about to snarl something about idiots putting pillars in the middle of a chute station when he noticed something very disturbing.
They weren’t pillars. They were legs.
Toa Metru legs.
Ahkmou looked up into the smiling face of Onewa. “Going somewhere?” the Toa asked.
“Just – just back to work,” Ahkmou stammered. “Can’t, um, spend all day sitting on statues, you know.”
“That’s funny,” Onewa replied, gesturing to the nearby chute. “I didn’t know they had moved your carver’s table to Ta-Metru.”
The Toa reached down and gently grabbed Ahkmou, lifting him into the air. “Why don’t we try this again? Hello, Ahkmou. Where are you going? Why did someone leave a note for you on top of a sculpture? And where is the Great Disk?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about! Put me down!” Ahkmou shouted.
Onewa noticed a Vahki responding to the disturbance. The crowd parted to let the security enforcer through. He considered just bolting with the Matoran, but sudden movements would be sure to provoke a pursuit, and there wasn’t time for that.
For his part, Ahkmou had not even noticed the Vahki. His attention was riveted by the sudden appearance of Nidhiki, who was watching the action from a shadowy corner of the station with a sinister grin on his face. The Matoran frantically weighed the choice between an angry Toa or a smiling, four-legged hunter and found it wasn’t any choice at all.
“Okay, tell you what,” Ahkmou said quickly. “I’ll help you find the Great Disk, but we have to go now. Understand? Now!”
Onewa glanced at the Vahki, who was still a short distance away. When he looked over his shoulder to make sure the other direction was clear, he spotted Nidhiki withdrawing into the shadows. The Toa’s eyes narrowed at the sight of him.
“Sure, Ahkmou,” Onewa said quietly. “I think I do understand.”
“One of them is lying.”
Vakama’s words were hard, but his tone was very soft. The Toa were sitting in the shadow of the Great Temple, sharing tales of their adventures. When the stories were finished, it didn’t take a vision to know something was very wrong.
“What’s that you’re whisper-saying, fire-spitter?” asked Matau.
Vakama glanced at the six Matoran, who were standing off the side and looking uncomfortable. “It’s just – look at what happened. We went out looking for six Matoran, and each of them was gone. They were lured away and promised whatever they wanted most in return for a Great Disk. Meanwhile, we ran into ‘accidents’ and sabotage every step of the way. Someone didn’t want us to find them.”
“And you think one of the Matoran betrayed the others?” asked Nuju. “What about that four-legged monster and his friend? Couldn’t they be behind all of this?”
Vakama hesitated. Nokama leaned over and said: “Go ahead, Vakama. Tell us.”
“I’ve seen the four-legged one before,” Vakama said quietly. “His power and his rage were… frightening. I don’t think he would bother with such elaborate methods to lure the Matoran. He would have just taken them.”
“But which one can it be?” Nokama asked. “They all knew where to find a Great Disk. They all had reasons to dislike one of us. If anything, we have too many clues: notes from Ahkmou to Vhisola, notes from Vhisola to Tehutti, Ta-Metru tools, Le-Metru chute maps. Where do we start?”
“You are looking at what they have in common, Nokama,” said Whenua. “When an archivist is trying to solve a mystery of the past, he looks for what is uncommon, out of place. What is different about one of them?”
Nuju frowned. “Old methods won’t solve this, historian.”
“No, Whenua has a point,” said Nokama. “For example, each of the Matoran recognized us as Toa Metru. Someone must have told them we had transformed. But none of them ever referred to six Toa, did they? Each Matoran only seemed to know about the Toa from his or her own metru. So maybe –”
“You’re wrong,” cut in Onewa. “I didn’t mention it before. I didn’t think it was important. But when I talked to Ahkmou on top of the sculpture, he said something odd. He said: ‘You must be one of the six’. And he seemed to know our four-legged friend. He called him by name – Nidhiki.”
All eyes went to the Po-Matoran, who was standing apart from the others. “From what you said, Onewa, Ahkmou was the only one who lied about knowing the location of a Great Disk,” said Nuju. “All the others practically bragged about it.”
“Ahkmou’s name was on the note to Vhisola,” said Nokama.
“There was protodermis dust from Po-Metru near the sabotaged vat controls,” said Vakama.
“Ahkmou was asking Ehrye about the Great Disks,” added Nuju.
“Orkahm said Ahkmou need-wanted his disk very badly,” said Matau.
“And Ahkmou knew about Nui-Jaga, enough to use the idea of one to lure Tehutti to the Archives,” finished Whenua.
There was a long, uncomfortable silence, finally broken by Nokama. “Do you think…? Why would he do that?”
“I say we ask him,” said Onewa, rising. “And then we haul him to the Vahki.”
“No!” snapped Vakama. “We mustn’t!”
“Fire-spitter, I am getting tired of you giving orders,” Onewa growled, taking a step toward the Toa of Fire. “Who made you leader? Maybe it’s time we found out just which is more powerful, fire or stone!”
Nokama stood and placed herself between them. “Stop it! Metru Nui is in danger. This is no time to fight among ourselves!”
“If you had something besides rocks in your head, carver, you would understand,” said Whenua. “Even if Ahkmou is the traitor, he is still the only one who knows where the Po-Metru disk is hidden. We need him. But if you feel like you can’t keep an eye on him, well, I –”
“Listen, you dusty librarian, I found him, and I can keep him in line!” snapped Onewa. “At least until I have the Great Disk in my hands.”
“Our job has just begun,” said Nokama. “If Ahkmou has betrayed Metru Nui, he is a danger to us all, and so is that Nidhiki. Maybe they are working together, or maybe not, but we must beware of both.”
“Or maybe they need to beware of us,” answered Onewa.
“Nokama is right,” said Vakama. “We have to find the Great Disks before it’s too late. And we have to keep an eye on all the Matoran while we’re doing it. The Morbuzakh is not our only enemy.”
Their conversation was interrupted by the ugly sound of a protodermis structure snapping in two. They turned to see Morbuzakh vines hauling the broken remains of a small Ga-Metru temple into the sea.
“As if we need more than one, with that thing around,” said Onewa. “Let’s go. We have disks to find and a really nasty weed to rip out by the roots.”