The gold Rahkshi moved carefully down the tunnel. Every one of its senses was on the alert. There were still intruders in its territory, and that was very bad. Intruders made loud noises and tried to drive the Rahkshi away, unless the Rahkshi struck first.
It could not hear the six from before, but it could smell them. They were no longer together and their scent carried traces of fear. That was pleasing to the Rahkshi. When the ones from up above carried fear into the tunnels, they were easier to find and easier to drive off.
The Rahkshi tried hard to remember how it had come to live in this place. But it could not. It had a vague memory of once living someplace else, then a long journey to the land above. But there were too many others there who tried to capture it. The Rahkshi escaped and fled down, down into the cold, welcoming dark.
The creature paused as it sensed another presence up ahead. Another Rahkshi, but not a threat. It stayed close to the wall as it moved forward until the other came into view. It was the orange Rahkshi from before, but now it was stretched out on the ground and not moving.
The gold Rahkshi crept closer. Why was the other so still? Was it hurt? Had the cold sleep overtaken it? No, the wormlike kraata inside was only stunned. Still, it wondered what could strike down a Rahkshi like this. Not one of the little ones from above. Not one of the six.
Wait! There was a scent in the air, strong and not unfamiliar to the Rahkshi. It had encountered a creature before with this scent, long ago when it first came to the tunnels. It sifted through dim memories trying to bring the image of the creature into focus.
Then suddenly the Rahkshi remembered it all. And with the memory came something else, something none of its kind had ever felt before…
Onewa pulled himself painfully up to his hands and knees. He wasn’t sure how long the world had been black, or exactly how he had wound up on the tunnel floor, unconscious.
The sight of scorch marks on the stone wall started bringing it all back to him. He had been exploring the tunnel when someone came up behind him. It was Vakama. The Toa of Fire seemed distracted, but he agreed to help Onewa check out some of the side passages. The Toa of Stone went back to work and then…
He did it! Onewa realized. I felt the heat, and then the next thing I knew stalactites were falling down all around me.
The Toa of Stone glanced up, already knowing what he would see. The stalactites had not broken off naturally – well-placed fire bursts had melted them free from the ceiling.
Onewa didn’t know why a fellow Toa Metru would try to harm him, and he didn’t really care. All that mattered was finding Vakama and showing him just what stone could do against fire.
In another tunnel not far away, Nokama too was awakening. She still ached from the fireflyer stings, but it was nothing she couldn’t survive. No, she had something far more important to worry about.
In her mind, she went over every detail of her encounter with the insect-controlling Rahkshi. She recalled its every movement, its reaction to her, even the way its armored head had opened to allow the kraata inside to screech.
But it never made a sound, she realized. When the armored plates opened… there was no kraata inside!
Nokama was no Rahkshi expert. She had seen them in stasis tubes in the Archives, like any other Matoran, and one of them had run amok once in Ga-Metru before the Vahki brought it down. But she knew enough to be certain that a Rahkshi without its kraata was just an empty, if still frightening, suit of armor.
So that wasn’t a Rahkshi, she thought grimly. Not unless they grow them differently down here. I’d almost think I had imagined the whole thing, but the stings are real. It was something that looked like a Rahkshi, had the powers of one, and…
Once, a long time before, Nokama and some of her friends had been playing near the canals on the border of Ga-Metru and Ko-Metru. Nokama had slipped and fallen in. The current had swept her into the other metru. The liquid protodermis had turned frigid when it traveled through Ko-Metru, and by the time she was rescued, she was half frozen. But that chill was nothing compared to what ran through her now.
If it can look like a Rahkshi, what else can it look like? she asked herself, already breaking into a run. Or… who else?
Vakama was furious.
He had awakened to find Nokama gone. Apparently, the Toa of Water thought she had finished him off. He was on his way to prove her very wrong.
Toa Nuju had been walking for a very long time. At least, it seemed that way. As much as he disliked agreeing with Matau on anything, he was no more comfortable underground than was the Toa of Air. He missed the spires of Ko-Metru, the clean, crisp air, and most of all, the sight of the stars streaking by overhead. He belonged atop a Knowledge Tower, keeping watch over his metru, not wandering around Onu-Metru maintenance tunnels looking for leaks. Really, was this work for a Toa Metru?
Still, at least these narrow passages gave him an excuse to get away from the other Toa. If he had to listen to more arguing, or another one of Matau’s bad jokes, he was going to freeze the whole lot of them. Maybe after they presented themselves to Turaga Dume at the Coliseum, he could go his own way and simply be the Toa of Ko-Metru.
His planning for the future was interrupted by a tremor that shook the entire tunnel network. This was followed by what sounded like a rock slide not far ahead. Images of the whole place coming down and trapping the six Toa Metru flashed through his mind. Nuju raced ahead, hoping he was wrong about what he had heard.
It was almost worse than he had expected. A whole portion of one of the walls had collapsed, and the glow from the lightstone revealed Matau half buried in stone. Nuju tried to freeze the rocks, with the idea of shattering them once frozen, but his power was too weak. Instead, he had to remove them one by one as he dug out the Toa of Air.
Matau revived just as Nuju finished. His eyes sparked to life and he hurled a mini-cyclone at Nuju. The Toa of Ice was blown back, but not hard enough to injure himself. “What was that for?” he demanded.
“Nuju? Is that you?” asked Matau.
“How many Toa of Ice do you think are walking around down here?” Nuju said, giving Matau a hand up. “What happened to you?”
“Onewa,” said Matau. “He’s mad-crazy. I said hello and he brought the wall down on me.”
“That doesn’t sound like him,” Nuju said, frowning. “You, maybe, but not him. Did you say anything to anger Onewa?”
Matau shook his head. “No. He waved and slide-down came the rocks. And look at this!”
The Toa of Air pointed to a spot high on the partially ruined wall. Nuju leaned in close and saw it was a burn mark. “He did that, too,” insisted Matau. “Whoosh, hot-flame.”
“All right. We had better find him,” Nuju replied. “Before he finds someone else.”