In Metru Nui, Ko-Matoran were known for many things. Their devotion to learning was second to none. Their ambition to become Knowledge Tower scholars was incredibly powerful. Their attitude toward Matoran from other metru was usually cold, and sometimes bordered on rude. Since they almost always had their attention focused on a tablet, a carving, or some complicated philosophical problem, they often missed things going on around them.
That was why none of the Ko-Matoran bothered to look up and notice Toa Metru Whenua hanging on to a tower for dear life.
“I thought you were good at this,” Nuju snapped, scrambling to pull his fellow Toa back onto the roof.
“No, that’s Onewa who swings around buildings,” shouted Whenua. “I’m Whenua, who falls off them!”
With a mighty heave, Nuju succeeded in yanking the Toa of Earth back to relative safety on top of the ice-covered Knowledge Tower. Whenua immediately used his earthshock drills to dig himself handholds.
“Don’t damage the crystal underneath,” warned Nuju. “I should have gone with my first instinct and done this by myself. I knew what the consequences of this alliance would be.”
“We worked together all right in Onu-Metru. Remember? Oh, I forgot, you ignore the past, don’t you?” Whenua replied. “Besides, if you worked alone, you would probably just wind up like poor Tehutti.”
The Onu-Matoran was standing on a nearby rooftop with Ehrye, his eyes wide and confused. Ehrye had a grip on his arm to keep him from wandering off. The four of them had encountered a patrol of Keerakh, the Ko-Metru Vahki, and Tehutti had made the mistake of running. One swipe of a Keerakh staff and he lost all sense of time and place. Judging by the things he had said since, Tehutti thought he was back in the Archives cataloging a Fikou spider exhibit.
“Are you sure the Great Disk is up here?” Whenua asked, getting cautiously to his feet. The winds were strong this high up and the Knowledge Tower rooftops had steep inclines. One slip and down he would tumble again.
“You were there when Nokama translated the carving,” replied Nuju. “In Ko-Metru, find where the sky and ice are joined. Besides, Ehrye says it is near here, atop one of these Knowledge Towers.”
Nuju stood at the edge of the roof and studied the gap between this tower and the next. His first attempt to travel by ice slide had failed miserably, so he was reluctant to do it again. Better to leap and rely on his crystal spikes to stop any fall.
Taking a running start, Nuju jumped into space. He had gauged his leap perfectly, arcing down close enough to the next tower that he could catch the side with a spike and anchor himself. Back on the other roof, Whenua looked on, frustrated.
Nuju raised his free spike and fired a blast of ice. When he was done, there was a thick, frozen beam in place between the two towers. “Wrap your arms around it and slide across,” he instructed Whenua.
The Toa of Earth did some quick calculations, which included his new mass post-transformation, the thickness of the ice, and the velocity he would achieve just before he was smashed flat on the ground below. When he was done, he reported, “It will never hold.”
“Yes, it will,” Nuju insisted. “Probably,” he added quietly.
Whenua jumped, caught the ice beam, and rapidly slid across the gap. He had made it halfway when the ice began to crack and splinter behind him. He struck the side of the building and dug in his earthshock drills even as the beam collapsed completely.
“Ko-Metru needs more chutes,” Whenua muttered.
Most Ko-Matoran don’t travel by rooftop,” said Nuju. “Look below.”
Looking down was not high on Whenua’s list of things to do, but the urgency in Nuju’s voice left no room for argument. The Ko-Matoran far below looked like microscopic organisms, but those weren’t what Nuju was pointing out. No, it was the half dozen Keerakh scuttling through the crowd and heading right for this particular Knowledge Tower that had the Toa of Ice worried.
“I thought we had left them far behind,” said Whenua.
“Keerakh are efficient,” answered Nuju. “We are not where we’re supposed to be. It’s their job to change that. Keep moving.”
The two Toa Metru made it to the top of the tower. Whenua looked over the side and saw the Keerakh were climbing up the side of the building. “We have problems, Nuju.”
“Worse than you know,” said Nuju, pointing to the next tower. Three more of the Ko-Metru Vahki were gathered on its roof, waiting. “Keerakh have found a way to take the element of chance out of tracking. They simply figure out where you are going and get there first.”
“Have a plan?”
“Something like that,” said Nuju, levelling his crystal spike and sending a blast of ice at Whenua. Instantly, the Toa of Earth was covered in a thick layer of ice from shoulders to knees.
“What are you doing?” Whenua demanded, struggling in vain to get free.
Nuju ignored him and turned to the Vahki on the opposite roof. “After a long pursuit, I have caught this thief from Onu-Metru. Take him to Turaga Dume for punishment.”
The three Vahki looked at each other, obviously trying to figure out when the strange being with the twin spikes joined their side. With the closest thing Keerakh could give to a shrug, they sprang from their perch to take custody of Whenua.
In mid-leap, Nuju caught them with an ice blast and froze them solid. One swipe of his spike shattered the ice surrounding Whenua. “The Vahki have kindly provided us with a bridge. Let’s use it.”
The two Toa Metru ran across the bridge of frozen Keerakh to the next roof. Nuju looked over his shoulder to make sure Ehrye and Tehutti were well-hidden a few towers back, then turned his attention to Whenua. “Are you all right?”
“Well, I won’t be in a hurry to visit the icier parts of the Archives for a while,” the Toa of Earth replied. “Next time, give me a little warning.”
“All right. Hit the ground,” said Nuju as he dove flat on the roof. Whenua joined him just as Nuju used his spikes to create a thin layer of snow and ice over them both. “Keep quiet,” the Toa of Ice whispered.
Whenua could barely make out what was going on outside their icy shell. He spotted the shapes of the Keerakh reaching the top of the other roof. Half of them immediately went to work chipping away at the ice bridge while the other half crossed it in pursuit. One walked right over where the Toa lay, camouflaged.
Whenua started to rise. Nuju grabbed his arm and said softly, “Not yet. Wait.”
“Wait? Wait for what?”
“You’re the archivist,” Nuju said quietly. “What do you know about Keerakh?”
“Let’s see. Ko-Metru Vahki. Order enforcement technique is disorientation. Hard to hide from because they’re always one… step… ahead of…” Whenua smiled.
“Exactly,” said Nuju. “I do not know how they do it, but they do. So rather than run from
“We follow them,” Whenua finished. “And they lead us right to the Great Disk.”
Of course, following Vahki was easier said than done. In their dormant state, Vahki occupied a circular hive, with one Vahki monitoring each direction. Though they appeared to be completely inactive, Vahki sensory apparatus never fully shut down. Any sound or movement was instantly detected. When Vahki traveled, they moved in much the same way, always with an eye turned toward the flanks and rear.
For that reason, Nuju had recommended that Ehrye and Tehutti be left behind. Tehutti kept ranting about misfiled Fikou anyway, and Ehrye was in no hurry to walk into a possible Keerakh trap. So the two Toa Metru traveled alone, relying on speed and stealth to keep up with the Vahki and keep out of sight.
Their journey ended at a central tower. The half dozen Vahki paused there and began to mill around. After a few moments, each Keerakh locked its four legs into place on the icy roof and settled in to wait.
Nuju frowned. “Of course, there is one problem with this plan.”
“That’s a change – you not thinking ahead,” said Whenua. “Maybe what the Vahki need is a little disorder. Get me down from up here.”
Nuju moved to the far edge of the rooftop and checked to make sure the Vahki had not yet noticed their presence. Then he used his elemental energies to create a thick pole of ice stretching from the roof to the avenue below.
“I was thinking more like pointing me toward a chute,” said Whenua.
“This is faster.”
“Right. At least it will be over quick,” said Whenua, getting ready to ride down the pole. “When you see your opportunity, get that disk. I’ll meet you in Ga-Metru.”
Nuju watched as the Toa of Earth slid down and vanished in the icy mist. Then he went back to watching the Vahki.
Down below, Whenua was doing his best not to get sick. He was moving much too fast, with no way to slow down. At this rate, he would succeed in distracting the Vahki by making a very large hole in the street.
On the rooftop above, Nuju was counting quietly to himself. When he reached 10, he launched two more bursts of ice from his crystal spikes. They arced over the side of the building and disappeared.
Whenua saw the ice bolts approach and then pass him. The next thing he knew, he was flying down a winding ice slide that had suddenly formed around the pole. The angle of the slide kept changing so that, little by little, Whenua’s descent was slowed. He still hit the ground hard, but Nuju’s calculations were correct. The Toa of Earth hadn’t suffered any serious injury.
That’s the second time he’s surprised me today, thought Whenua. Hope it isn’t going to become a habit.
He looked around. A few Ko-Matoran had looked up from their studies long enough to notice that a Toa Metru had just dropped into their midst. It was only a matter of time before one summoned additional Vahki. Whenua went to work, using his earthshock drills to cut a hole in the street.
Once the opening was wide enough, the Toa dropped down. As an archivist, he knew the underground of Metru Nui better than any of the other Toa. Immediately beneath the streets were mechanisms designed to help keep the metru clean, protodermis pipes, and the occasional nest of rodent Rahi. Farther down would be whatever sub-levels of the Archives had extended this far, and beneath that… beneath that, he preferred not to think about.
For now, he was only worried about the immediate sub-surface. Using one drill to bore through the street above, he used the other to disrupt the cleaning mechanisms, break the occasional narrow pipe, and generally make a mess. He made no effort to keep it quiet – the more noise the better.
He knew what would be happening above right now. Ko-Matoran would be looking around in wonder and annoyance at the disturbance. The sound would be traveling up to the sensitive ears of the Vahki. They would never be able to resist the chance to clamp down on such obvious disorder.
High above, the Vahki were proving Whenua right. First one, then two, peered over the side of the roof to see what was happening below. Unable to get a good look due to the icy mist that perpetually hovered over Ko-Metru, the Vahki squad left their positions and began climbing down the side of the Knowledge Tower.
Nuju waited until they were gone, then leapt to the next roof. He was sure the Great Disk must be there somewhere, but he saw no sign of it. He scrambled to get a little higher on the inclined roof and slipped, hurtling toward the edge.
Before he could put his crystal spikes to use, he had fallen over the side. At the last moment, he reached out and grabbed a huge icicle that hung from the ledge. It wasn’t unusual to see icicles up this high, but he quickly noticed that this one was just a little different from the rest.
Frozen in its heart was a Great Disk.
Beneath the street, Whenua continued his labors, keeping an eye on the hole through which he had come. As soon as he saw Keerakh peering down through it, he knew it was time to be elsewhere. Revving up his drills, he punched a hole through the floor and then through the next level as well. Plunging through the gap, he tumbled into an Archives sub-level.
No Ko-Metru Vahki would ever find him down here. He took off at a run, following the winding corridors in the direction of Ga-Metru. If all had gone well, he would meet Nuju there with two Great Disks between them.