Toa Onewa and Ahkmou walked side by side through the Po-Metru sculpture fields, Vakama and Nuhrii bringing up the rear. The journey had been made largely in silence, with the exception of Ahkmou giving directions to the hiding place of the Great Disk. They had already taken a few wrong turns thanks to the Matoran’s “forgetting” exactly where it was concealed.
“It’s not far,” Ahkmou said.
“That’s the tenth time you’ve said that,” Onewa replied. “I’m beginning to think you don’t want us to find the Great Disk.”
“Of course I do,” said Ahkmou. “Okay, so maybe I wanted them for myself at first. But now I realize that you six Toa need them to save the whole city. I wouldn’t get in the way of that. Only, what are you going to do with the Great Disks once you have them?”
Onewa shrugged. “I don’t know. This is Vakama’s plan. I suppose we’ll give them to him.”
Ahkmou chuckled. “I see. So he gets all of you to go out and gather the six most powerful items in all of Metru Nui, and then you just turn them over to him? No questions asked? I wish I had thought of that.”
I bet you do, thought Onewa darkly.
“So who’s this four-legged friend of yours? The one who likes pushing Toa into furnaces?” asked the Toa of Stone.
“He’s no friend,” answered Ahkmou. “We were… business partners. He asked me to get him the Great Disks. Doing it seemed like a better idea than having him angry at me. He didn’t say why he wanted them.”
“And you didn’t ask. What did he promise you in return?”
“Protection,” said Ahkmou. “Something we both need right now. Look!”
Po-Matoran were running from the Sculpture Fields in a panic. Only two things had been known to make crafters move that fast: quitting time and a rogue tunneler. Unfortunately, it was too early for work to be done for the day.
Tunnelers had been a problem in Po-Metru for as long as Onewa could remember. They were lizard-like Rahi, normally about twice as long as Matoran were tall, with an appetite for solid protodermis. They had been known to dig up into warehouses and consume everything from raw protodermis blocks to finished tools. Rarely did they pose a real threat to the Matoran workers, but every now and then one went bad and began rampaging through the work areas.
Vakama and Nuhrii had caught up now. “What’s going on?” asked the Toa of Fire.
“A little problem,” said Onewa.
“A big problem,” corrected Ahkmou.
The tunneler had emerged from beneath the surface into the middle of the Sculpture Field. It was bigger than any Onewa had ever seen, easily three times the size of a Toa. Worse, its scales were mottled with dark patches and its eyes were red. In a tunneler, both were sure signs of madness.
“Maybe I can scare it off,” suggested Vakama. Before Onewa could stop him, he had lobbed a few small fireballs in the direction of the tunneler. Not wanting to hurt the beast, Vakama had aimed well over its head.
If the tunneler could have smiled, it would have. As the fireballs approached, it reared up on its hind legs and purposely let itself be hit. An instant later, it had transformed from a creature of scales and claws to a monster of flame.
“We’re not in your metru, Vakama. Fire’s not the answer to everything,” Onewa said sharply. “Tunnelers absorb whatever power you throw at them. We’ve gone from a menace to a catastrophe.”
All around the creature, sculptures had begun to melt. Every step it took left a charred footprint in the soil. Even at a great distance, the two Toa Metru could feel the heat.
“If that thing makes it out of the Sculpture Fields, all of Po-Metru could burn,” said Onewa. “Let’s see if it wants to play catch.”
The Toa of Stone lifted a huge boulder and prepared to throw it. Vakama couldn’t understand his strategy – most of the rock would melt before it ever reached the tunneler, and what was left wouldn’t do any damage.
Onewa tossed the boulder. It began to glow and melt as it got closer to its target. But enough made it through that the tunneler had to bat the fragments away with its tail. As soon as rock met tunneler, the creature transformed again, this time becoming a thing of stone.
“Well, that helps a little,” said Onewa. The tunneler brushed lightly against a massive sculpture, and the statue crumbled from the blow. “Or not.”
“I have an idea, but we’ll need Nuhrii and Ahkmou’s help,” said Vakama. He turned around and saw both Matoran were gone. A moment later, he heard the sounds of a struggle from behind one of the sculptures.
The Toa of Fire looked behind the statue. Nuhrii had Ahkmou pinned on the ground. “He was trying to run away again,” said the Ta-Matoran. “But he brought us here. Seems to me he should help us get out again.”
“You’re both going to help. Here’s what we’re going to do.”
The tunneler slowly blinked its stone eyes. Two of the little ones were still in its sight, jumping and yelling in a language it didn’t understand. The two larger ones had disappeared. Ordinarily, there was no cause to harm little ones, unless they got in the way of a meal. But these two were annoying with their noise.
With a snarl, the tunneler lumbered forward to silence them.
“Now!” shouted Onewa. He slung his proto piton onto a nearby statue and he and Vakama swung from their perch high above. As they passed over the tunneler, Vakama unleashed a quick, intense fire blast at the ground.
Fire met sand right in front of the creature, fusing the ground into glass. Startled by the light and heat, the creature whipped its tail forward, striking the new glass surface. That was all it took for the tunneler of stone to change to a tunneler of crystal.
The creature spotted the two Toa Metru and started to take a step forward, only to be stopped by the sound of a sharp crack. Its new glass body wasn’t strong enough to support the tunneler’s size. Every move it made caused another hairline fracture to appear, so the tunneler wisely decided to stay still.
“That should keep it occupied until the Vahki arrive,” said Onewa. “Then the archivists can decide what to do with it.”
Onewa looked up at the tallest sculpture he had ever seen. It looked like an upside down mountain, balancing on its peak. Nokama had said that the Toa must seek a “mountain in balance” if they were to find the Po-Metru Great Disk. This certainly looked like the spot.
“It’s up there,” confirmed Ahkmou. “Embedded in a jagged hole near the top. Good luck getting it out.”
The thought of the climb made even the Toa of Stone a little dizzy. He had no doubt he could get up there. It was getting down that might pose a problem.
“Are you sure you want to go up there alone?” asked Vakama. “I could –”
“No,” Onewa replied. “If I have to be concerned about me falling, I don’t want to have to be worrying about you falling too. Besides, if I don’t make it down…”
Vakama nodded. Risking both Toa Metru would be foolish. Someone had to be left to get the Great Disk if Onewa failed.
The Toa of Stone dug one of his proto pitons into the side of the sculpture and began to climb. Vakama, Ahkmou, and Nuhrii watched him as he slowly ascended, each alone with his thoughts.
Onewa moved slowly, but steadily. His new body was far stronger than his Matoran form had been but still his shoulders and arms already ached from the effort. And there was still so far to go.
His thoughts drifted back to the Great Temple and the moment he and the others had become Toa. He had certainly never imagined, when he brought the Toa stone there, that his whole life was about to change. Nor would he necessarily have picked his five fellow heroes of Metru Nui. Vakama was too much of a dreamer, Nokama seemed a little stuck on herself, Matau was simply annoying, and Nuju and Whenua argued constantly.
Still, they must have been chosen for this honor for a reason. Just as a Po-Metru crafter carefully selected the right tools for a job, so the Great Spirit Mata Nui must have had a plan in mind when he chose the six. But what it could be, Onewa had no idea.
Then an awful thought struck him. What if they were not the Matoran meant to become Toa? What if there had been a mistake? An accident? What if one or more of them got Toa stones when they were not meant to do so? What would that mean for Metru Nui?
The idea disturbed him so much that his hand slipped off his proto piton. He caught it, just barely, and decided to stop worrying about what might have been. Things were the way they were. If a crafter got handed a badly made tool to carve, well, he worked with what he was given. Onewa would have to do the same thing.
He was nearing the top now and could see the Great Disk. Getting it out without bringing the slab of protodermis down on top of his head would take skill.
Onewa planted one proto piton, tested to see if it was firm, and then let go of the other. He took hold of the Great Disk and gave a tug, but it wouldn’t budge. Another, and another, and still it wasn’t going to move.
The Toa of Stone saw only one chance. He was going to have to use both hands. He crawled as far up to the top of the sculpture as he could and let go of the piton. He grabbed the Great Disk with both hands and pulled with all his strength. It gave just a little. Then a little more. One more tug would do it –
It was free!
Onewa felt a split second of triumph. Then he realized the slab was teetering in his direction. That was the good news. He was also falling to the ground, far, far below.
Desperately, he reached out and grabbed one of his pitons. The force of his fall tore it loose from the sculpture, but at least now he had a tool. Now if only he could think of something to do with it.
Down below, Vakama watched Onewa’s fall with horror. None of his disks would help in this situation, and melting the slab wouldn’t save the Toa of Stone. But there had to be some way his elemental power could help.
Then he remembered something from his lifetime spent around heat and flame. He reached out with his Toa energy and began to heat the air beneath Onewa. Hot air would create an updraft that would slow the Toa’s fall, Vakama was almost certain. It wouldn’t save him, but it might buy him time to save himself.
Onewa felt his fall slowing slightly as a blanket of warm air surrounded him. He didn’t know if it was Vakama giving him this chance or something else, but he was determined not to waste it. He slung his proto piton and caught it on part of the sculpture, twisting his body so he would swing rather than just stop abruptly. The sudden deceleration still felt like it would tear his arm off, but his new Toa strength won out.
He paused to catch his breath and make sure the Great Disk was safe. That’s when the shadow fell on him. Onewa looked up to see the massive slab falling right toward him.
He dove headfirst off the sculpture. He tossed his piton ahead of him, felt it catch on the sculpture, and swung around and down. It was now only a short drop to the ground. Onewa hit the sand and rolled, grateful to be back on solid ground.
Then the shadow came again, and he heard Vakama shouting, “Watch out!”
The huge slab of protodermis crashed to the ground with a force that sent tremors throughout Po-Metru. When the cloud of sand finally cleared, there stood Onewa, unharmed. Miraculously, the portion of the “mountain” that had come down on him contained the hole that had housed the Great Disk.
From his vantage point, Vakama smiled. Someday, if Onewa allowed it, this would be a wonderful tale to tell.