“What about this one?” asked Nuju, pointing to a metallic door that looked thick and solid.
Whenua turned, looked, and shook his head. “No. It’s not behind that one.”
“How do you know?”
“Because I know what’s in there. Leave it alone.”
Nuju glared at the Toa of Earth. Back in Ko-Metru, Nuju had been an important scholar with vital responsibilities. Now he was a Toa Metru, reduced to tramping around dark, musty Archives looking for one relic among thousands. So far, he had been squeezed in an Ussal crab claw, weakened by a frost leech, stepped in something whose origin he really did not want to know, and gotten hopelessly lost at least twice. He was covered in the dust of the past and he did not like it.
“Whenua doesn’t seem to have any idea what is down here,” Nuju muttered to himself. “So how does he know the Great Disk isn’t behind this door?”
Checking to make sure the Toa of Earth was otherwise occupied, Nuju grasped the handle of the door and pulled. Surprisingly, it wasn’t locked. It took his eyes a moment to adjust to the even deeper darkness behind the door. Once they had, he noticed something that seemed to be shimmering. Could the Great Disk create an effect like that?
He took a step inside, then another, before his progress was stopped by a clear wall. No, it wasn’t a wall. It was the side of a tank filled with liquid protodermis. He pressed his mask against the glass, trying to see what, if anything, was in there.
Suddenly something slammed hard against the inside of the tank, right where Nuju was standing. Before the Toa could react, it had circled and smashed into the tank wall again, this time creating a hairline crack. On its third pass, Nuju got a good look at it, and wished he hadn’t. The creature was long, serpent-like, with powerful forearms and, most disturbing, two heads. Both heads featured narrow greenish eyes and a fanged mouth.
Nuju jumped back as it struck again. Now protodermis was starting to leak from the tank, but this was something he could handle. A minimal amount of his power was enough to freeze it and seal the crack. But his presence had obviously disturbed the creature, so he felt that he had better leave.
He turned around. Whenua was standing in the doorway, watching him.
“Done?” asked the Toa of Earth. “Listen, I know you don’t like it here. It’s not neat and orderly like Ko-Metru. Archivists don’t sit in clean towers studying all day, they are out getting their hands dirty. But we have rules here too – like don’t annoy the two-headed Tarakava, if at all possible.”
Nuju nodded. “It does seem… excitable.”
“Last ones to excite it before it came here were two Ga-Matoran in a fishing skiff,” Whenua said, turning and walking away. “They were lucky to make it out of the sea. The skiff wound up as sawdust.”
Nuju said nothing. He followed behind Whenua, reminding himself that even in a place devoted to the dead past, actions could have consequences.
Whenua stopped at another doorway. His expression was troubled. “It could be in here. It probably would be in here, the way things are going. But, by Mata Nui, I hope it’s not.”
This door actually had a sign, which read “Keep out.” Nuju wondered what could be behind there that would worry Whenua so much. After all, two Toa Metru should be able to handle anything.
Whenua hesitated before using his earthshock drill to punch through the lock. “I hope we’re ready for this. The last archivist that came down here hasn’t spoken a word since. Screams a lot, though.”
Nuju readied both of his crystal spikes, in case his ice power would be needed. Whenua slowly opened the door and the two of them stepped inside.
They found themselves in a large, brightly lit room. It was completely bare. There was no sign that any creature lived there, or ever had lived there. Nuju frowned. This didn’t look very frightening at all. What had Whenua been so worried about?
Both Toa Metru whirled at the sound of the door slamming behind them. Even more surprising, Nuju could see the hole made by Whenua’s drills disappearing. They were locked in.
“What is this?” asked Nuju.
“No one knows exactly,” said Whenua, looking all around. “Our best theory is that this creature has some connection to the random reconstitution disk power.”
“What creature? There’s nothing here!” said Nuju.
“You don’t understand,” Whenua replied, as the lightstones suddenly began to dim. “This Rahi isn’t in the room. It is the room!”
The floor beneath Nuju’s feet began to shift. A pair of clawed hands emerged from the stone to grasp him around the ankles. A much larger hand sprang forth from one of the walls and narrowly missed grabbing Whenua. The room echoed with a low, ominous rumble that sounded like the breathing of a massive creature.
The Toa of Earth dove toward where Nuju stood. Spikes shot out of the walls just above him, but Whenua was too nimble to be caught. He grabbed the two hands holding Nuju and wrenched them free. The roar in the room grew louder and angrier.
Now the floor was rising fast, sending both Toa toward a crushing end against the ceiling. Nuju fired streams of ice from his crystal spikes, forming thick pillars to keep floor and ceiling apart. But he knew they would not hold for long.
“We have to get out of here,” he said.
“Any ideas?” asked Whenua.
“I was hoping you had one.”
Whenua smiled. “Maybe I do. You can do ice, but what else can you do?”
Nuju needed no more prompting. He gathered his energies and concentrated on conjuring a storm. It was incredibly hard, unskilled as he still was in the use of his elemental powers. But little by little the air began to turn colder, and a chill wind started to blow through the confines of the room. Moisture in the air condensed into droplets, which then froze into crystals of snow.
Nuju strained to lower the temperature more, and then still more. Beside him, Whenua shivered, frost forming on his mask. It was an open question who would succumb to the storm first, the Toa Metru or the creature that had trapped them.
Then Whenua was pointing to something on the far wall. Nuju strained to see through the snow and ice. It looked like an opening in the wall. As the two Toa moved toward it, a wave passed through the floor beneath them, hurling them toward the gap. They flew out of the room and crashed against the wall of the hallway. Behind them, the gap closed again.
Whenua groaned and brushed the ice off his body. “I guess it worked. This hasn’t been as easy as I thought it would be.”
“Maybe that’s the first lesson in the life of a Toa,” replied Nuju. “Nothing is easy.”
The Toa of Ice was starting to feel he was walking in circles. This sub-level of the Archives seemed to go on forever, and he felt certain they had seen some of these doors before. But Whenua insisted that wasn’t so.
“If it’s here, we will have to find it soon,” the Toa of Earth insisted. “We have explored almost the entire level. I don’t think –”
He stopped abruptly and cocked his head, listening to something. Now Nuju could hear it too – the steady tramp of feet from somewhere in the halls. The footsteps were too heavy to be Matoran, and anyway archivists avoided this section.
Whenua glanced at Nuju. “We just ran out of time. The Vahki are coming. Someone must have heard all the noise down here and called for them.”
The Toa of Earth started frantically opening doors. “We’re down here without authorization, planning to take an artifact. Never mind that it’s in a good cause. You know the Onu-Metru Vahki. The Rorzakh will chase us through this entire place and all the way back to the Great Temple before they give up!”
Nuju had to admit he was right. Even in Ko-Metru, Matoran knew never to get a Rorzakh on their trail. There was no risk they wouldn’t take to get their job done. There was even a story that a Rorzakh had once plunged into a mine shaft, in free fall, to try and catch a lawbreaker.
The Toa of Ice started pulling open doors on the run. “I never imagined being a Toa would involve searching for so many things. I thought Toa had everything they needed.”
“Maybe not,” said Whenua. “Maybe Toa are just the only ones who have the power to find what has to be found.”
The Toa of Earth yanked another door open. An avalanche of Metru Nui artifacts tumbled out, knocking him off his feet and burying him beneath a pile of tools, masks, stone tablets, and more.
For a moment, all was silent. Nuju took a step toward the pile when the artifacts started to shift. Then Whenua’s hand shot out of the pile, holding the Great Disk.
Nuju smiled. It was time to gather the two Matoran and head to Ko-Metru where, he was certain, the search for the Great Disk would proceed in a much more orderly way.