Nokama raced through the tunnels, fighting down her panic. A Rahkshi that wasn’t a Rahkshi… what if Nuparu had not been Nuparu? What if all of this was an elaborate trap for the Toa Metru? Bring them down into the dark, separate them, and then…
No, she told herself. Get ahold of yourself. Of course, Nuparu was really who he seemed to be. The crisis down here is real, but so is the danger if I don’t find the other Toa Metru soon.
Nokama’s wish was granted in the next moment, as a fireball whizzed past her. It was too far away to be meant as anything but a warning, but it still made her ready her hydro blades. Her eyes struggled to pierce the darkness to find the source of the flame.
“This time you don’t catch me by surprise.” Vakama walked out of the shadows, disk launcher raised. “I don’t know why you chose to turn on us, Nokama, but you’ll never win.”
“Wait! You don’t understand!” Nokama shouted.
“You should have made sure I was defeated, Nokama,” the Toa of Fire said as he launched a Kanoka disk at the Toa of Water.
Nokama didn’t hesitate. She dove aside as the disk narrowly missed her. An instant later, it struck a stalagmite and shrunk it down to the size of a pebble. Nokama gasped.
“Vakama, don’t make me defend myself,” she cried. “Please listen to me!”
“I’ll be glad to, once I know you’re wrapped up tight,” the Toa of Fire answered. He bent down and placed his palm on the stone floor. Nokama’s eyes widened as the rock began to glow red, the wave of heat heading right for her.
“That… does… it!” Nokama said, launching herself into a flip. In midair, she hurled blasts of water at Vakama. Caught unaware, the Toa of Fire was swept off his feet and hit the ground hard. Nokama twisted her body and landed behind him.
But Vakama was ready for her. Guessing correctly where she would land, he rolled and came up launching another disk. This one found its target and Nokama felt an awful weakness overtake her. She dropped to her knees, barely able to hold her tools aloft.
The Toa of Fire got to his feet. “Stay down, Nokama. Please.”
Nokama lifted her head and looked at Vakama. A horrible thought struck her: How could she know if this was really her friend? Maybe whatever impersonated the Rahkshi was after her again, this time in the form of someone she trusted. If that was the case, she couldn’t afford to lose this struggle. Who knew what this… whatever it was… might be planning for the other Toa Metru?
Nokama struggled to draw on her elemental energies. If she could flood the tunnel, she could escape and warn the others. But she moved too slowly. Vakama had another disk ready, and was about to launch.
A sudden tremor rocked the tunnel. Rock rained down on the Toa of Fire, knocking him to the ground. Nokama looked past him to see the source: Onewa, eyes gleaming, proto pitons driven into the ground.
“Get away from her, Vakama,” he snarled. “Time to put out your fire.”
Nuju and Matau felt the tremor and immediately quickened their pace. “Do you have a thought-plan on what we do if Onewa’s really turned bad?”
“We stop him,” Nuju replied.
“No wonder you were a quick-smart scholar,” Matau said, making no attempt to hide his sarcasm. “Then what? Give him to the Vahki? How will that make the rest of us Toa-heroes look?”
Matau had a good point. Nuju hated it when that happened. He could just picture showing up at the Coliseum to meet Turaga Dume, five Toa Metru with one tied up for delivery to the order enforcement squads. What kind of confidence would that inspire in the Matoran of Metru Nui? They would be finished before they even got started.
Another tremor shook the tunnels. “Let’s worry about that when we capture him,” said Nuju. “If we capture him.”
Vakama was in the middle of a nightmare.
On one side, Nokama had recovered from her bout of weakness and was sending spheres of water in his direction. On the other, Onewa, apparently infected with the same madness she was, was bringing down half the tunnel. All the while, the Toa of Stone was ranting some nonsense about Vakama ambushing him.
Vakama still had no idea what was wrong with the two of them, but one thing was certain, he could not defeat two Toa Metru. It was all he could do to dodge Nokama’s powers while melting the stone Onewa rained down on him. He wondered where Nuju, Matau, and Whenua were, or whether they had already fallen to their traitorous “friends.”
There was no way Vakama could keep dodging forever without making a mistake. Moving to avoid flying rock, he placed himself in the path of one of Nokama’s water bursts. The impact sent him to his knees. Onewa moved in for the capture.
“Maybe Turaga Dume will know how to heal whatever’s wrong with you, fire-spitter,” said the Toa of Stone. “Now I’ll take the disk launcher.”
Onewa reached for Vakama’s Toa tool. But before he could grab it away, a sudden gust of wind lifted the Toa of Stone off his feet and hurled him down the tunnel. Vakama looked up to see Matau and Nuju standing nearby.
“Surprise,” said the Toa of Air. “We followed your earth-shakers, Onewa, and got here everquick. Now why did you drop a wall on me?”
So I was right, Vakama thought. Something is wrong with Onewa. Matau just proved it!
Nokama rushed to help Onewa up and the two of them stood together. “You’re wrong, Matau. It’s Vakama that has turned bad, not Onewa. You have to help us stop him.”
“No! Onewa has tricked you,” answered Matau.
“Something is very wrong here,” Nuju said, just loud enough to catch everyone’s attention. “Vakama took me by surprise, and Nokama says he did Onewa, too. But Matau says Onewa is the culprit… an Onewa who has the power of fire as well as stone.”
“That’s crazy!” snapped Onewa. “I haven’t even seen Matau since we split up!”
“And Nokama challenged me,” said Vakama. “This place must be driving us all mad.”
“I suggest we stop fighting until we figure out the truth,” said Nuju.
Slowly, reluctantly, the other Toa Metru accepted the wisdom of his words. They lowered their Toa tools and eyed one another warily. Onewa and Nokama stood on one side, Nuju and Matau on the other, and Vakama in the middle. But the voice that finally broke the uncomfortable silence did not belong to any of the five of them.
“About time,” said Whenua, walking down the tunnel. “I thought I was going to have to wade into the middle of all of you.”
The other Toa Metru all began talking at once, either warning Whenua or trying to explain how the conflict started. It was impossible to make out anything in the chaos of voices.
“Enough!” Whenua shouted. “You’re all wrong. All of you were ambushed by another Toa Metru… and none of you were.”
“What are you talking about?” demanded Onewa. “I know what happened to me.”
Only Nokama seemed to understand. “Of course… the Rahkshi I saw –”
“Let me guess,” said Whenua. “It looked like a Rahkshi, but something was off.”
“Yes! How did you know?”
“It’s called a Krahka, and I encountered it, too,” the Toa of Earth explained. “A very dangerous Rahi. She defends herself by mimicking the appearance of an enemy, so well that she adapts their powers and abilities, too.”
“That explains ‘Onewa’ using stone and fire powers at once. This Krahka must have adapted Vakama’s powers and then his,” said Nuju.
“But why is she after us? What did we do?” asked Nokama.
Whenua frowned. “This is her territory. We’re intruders. Maybe she wants to drive us out.”
“So what do we do? Run back up to Metru Nui because this thing wants us to?” said Onewa. “What about the Archives? What about the flooding?”
Whenua didn’t have an answer for that. It was Vakama who finally said, “We stick together from now on. That way we can’t be taken by surprise.”
“That’s quick-smart,” said Matau. “And maybe we should hunt-track this Krahka before we worry about the leak.”
“No!” said Whenua. “I think we need to get out now. You don’t know what a Krahka is capable of.”
The Toa Metru looked at one another. It was Whenua’s metru, and they had planned on letting him take the lead. But Toa running from anything, for any reason, felt wrong. Nuju put their feelings into words, saying, “Are we going to the Coliseum, then – or fleeing to it?”
Nokama looked at Vakama, thinking, This is the time. Step up and be a leader. Make this decision.
But Vakama didn’t speak. Instead, it was Onewa who said, “No mindless Rahi is going to make me run. I say we go on, capture this thing, and then do what we set out to do here. Who’s with me?”
One by one, all of the Toa Metru stepped forward. Whenua was the last to join the group. “All right, if we are going to do this,” the Toa of Earth said, “then I better act as guide. I can take a guess where the Krahka might be hiding.”
The six Toa Metru started walking through the tunnels, Whenua in the lead. Matau and Nuju trailed along behind, the Toa of Air looking puzzled.
“If this Krahka can seem-look like anything it’s seen… how will we know when we have found it?”
It was a very good question. Nuju wished he had a very good answer.