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Vakama’s tale continues…

After many adventures, both together and separately, the Toa Metru finally met outside the Coliseum. Each held the Great Disk from his or her own Metru. The Coliseum towered over the city. It stood at the junction of all six metru, so tall it looked as if it must touch the sky. The Coliseum was large enough to accommodate every Matoran in Metru Nui, and served as both an athletic arena and the power station for the entire city. Turaga Dume’s chambers were also to be found in this imposing building. One side of the arena was dominated by a massive statue of Toa Lhikan, the other by Dume’s box.

The Toa Metru entered the arena in the middle of a Kanoka Disk tournament. All around them Matoran surfed on disks over the undulating floor, trying to launch their Kanoka into hoops mounted high on the walls. When the players saw the visitors, they immediately ceased their game and moved aside. The floor of the arena settled back into its natural bowl shape.

Great Disks held high, the Toa Metru moved into the middle of the stadium. Quietly at first, the crowd began to chant “Toa… Toa… Toa…” Then the word burst from them in a cheer that rocked the Coliseum.

“Hello, Metru Nui!” Matau shouted, waving. Then he turned to the other Toa, saying, “I always wanted to loud-shout that!”

From high in his box, Turaga Dume watched the arrival of the Toa with surprise. He was flanked by two Vahki Rorzakh from Onu-Metru, and his huge, powerful hawk, Nivawk, perched behind him.

Dume leaned forward and said in disbelief, “Vakama?!” Regaining control of himself with some effort, he continued, “Matoran in the morning. Toa by afternoon. No wonder you have not yet completed the Mask of Time.”

“Forgive the delay, Turaga, but…” Vakama began.

“One moment we’re Matoran, the next we’re power-jolted,” shouted Matau, shaking his body to simulate the shock. “And Toa-masked!”

Nokama held her Great Disk up, followed by the others, and said to Dume, “We present you the Great Kanoka Disks as proof of our Toa stature.”

“Toa must prove themselves with deeds, not simple gifts,” Dume replied. Then, addressing the crowd, he said, “Matoran of Metru Nui! The Great Spirit has provided six new Toa who will undoubtedly demonstrate their worthiness on this field of honor!”

The crowd cheered, but the Toa Metru just stood there, stunned. All that work to retrieve the Great Disks, and Turaga Dume rejected them? One by one, they handed the disks to Vakama, disappointment and scorn on their faces. This had been his idea, and it had not worked.

“Catch this, fire-spitter,” Onewa snapped.

In the Coliseum’s control box, Matoran busily worked a series of levers and switches. The Toa Metru could hear machinery grinding and clanking beneath their feet. Then Dume’s face appeared on the giant screen overlooking the field.

“Cross the Sea of Protodermis,” he boomed, “and be honored as Toa!”

The field began to move, shift, undulate beneath the Toa Metru. They struggled to keep their balance as wave after wave passed through the ground. Then a series of large, silver columns topped with razor-sharp points erupted randomly out of the field, threatening to skewer the Toa.

Matau narrowly avoided the first thrust, saying, “Lucky I’m so quick-fast!” But that left Nuju in harm’s way. The Toa Metru of Ice leaped back, crashing into Whenua and sending them both to the ground.

“How will we survive?” asked Nuju.

“We use the mask powers the Great Spirit gave us!” answered Whenua.

“And just how do we do that?!”

There was no time for a reply as more columns shot out of the ground. Back on his feet, Nuju pivoted out of the way of a pair of them, not realizing where he was swinging his crystal spike. His Toa tool swept the legs out from under Vakama, sending the Toa of Fire to the ground. The crowd began to laugh.

Vakama shook off the impact and looked up to see a tidal wave of solid protodermis heading right for the Toa. He jumped to his feet as Nokama pointed to an archway on the far side of the field.

“Follow me!” she shouted, leading the charge toward safety.

The huge swell rose behind them, but the Toa were able to maintain their balance and slide down the side of the wave. But now more swells rose up in front of them, each larger than the last. One lifted Whenua high into the air and then dropped him on the field in a heap.

More swells pounded the Toa from every side. Even as Onewa barely dodged a twenty-five-foot tidal wave of protodermis, another hurled Nuju, Vakama, and Nokama in separate directions. Then the largest wave of all rose before them, moving forward at alarming speed and breaking up into large blocks of metal.

“Time to quick-run!” Matau yelled.

“Advance!” Nuju yelled.

“No, retreat!” said Whenua, charging backward and colliding with the Toa of Ice. They both looked up in time to see the blocks of protodermis raining down. Only swift reflexes saved them from being crushed.

“Enough!” proclaimed Dume. The Matoran in the control box dutifully shut down the field.

The Toa Metru were scattered all over the field, exhausted. The crowd was silent. Dume peered down at the six figures and smiled.

“Let us praise these jesters,” he said. “Perhaps they thought to entertain us during this difficult time…”

“No!” shouted Vakama. “We are Toa!”

“Or are they impostors responsible for Toa Lhikan’s demise?” continued Dume. “Vakama here was the last to see him!”

“Yes, but… no… not true!” Vakama stammered.

Dume’s face leered down from the giant screen. “Seize them!”

Vakama’s eyes widened as he saw Krekka and Nidhiki step up beside Turaga Dume. Could it be…?

“No, it was them!” he yelled, pointing at the two Dark Hunters. “They did it!”

Squads of Rorzakh closed in on the Toa, their staffs at the ready. The Matoran in the control box flipped more switches, converting the center of the field into a vast, metallic whirlpool. Closest to the center of the vortex, Whenua, Nuju, and Onewa struggled to resist the pull.

Nuju tried to dig his crystal spike into the ground, but the force of the whirlpool tore it from his hands and it plunged into the darkness. Seconds later, Nuju joined it, flying headlong toward the vortex. On the way, he smashed into Whenua, sending the Toa of Earth plummeting into the whirlpool as well.

Matau and Nokama plunged their tools into the protodermis to try and fight the pull. Vakama came flying toward them, but Nokama seized him at the last moment with her free hand.

Onewa was not so fortunate. With a scream of “Help!” he vanished into the whirlpool.

Nokama looked around. The Rorzakh were closing in and the three remaining Toa were helpless. Then her eyes fixed on the statue of Toa Lhikan.

“Vakama!” she shouted, pointing toward the sculpture. “The statue! Bring it down!”

The Toa of Fire nodded and went to load a disk into his disk launcher. He was half done when he realized he had one of the Great Disks in his hand. Thinking better of it, he substituted disks from his pack.

Taking as careful aim as he could under the circumstances, Vakama launched a series of disks at the base of the statue. Half of the disks contained the weakness power, half the reconstitute at random power – the combination was explosive, sending the sculpture toppling to the ground. Rorzakh scattered in its wake, some of them drawn into the vortex, others trapped beneath the weight of the statue.

“Go! Now!” said Nokama.

The three Toa scrambled over the statue, past the stunned Rorzakh, and out of the Coliseum. As they ran, Matau stole a glance at Vakama’s disk launcher. “Impressive Toa tool,” he said. “Trade?”

But Vakama was not listening. His attention, and his anger, were fixed on the Turaga of his city.

Dume turned to Nidhiki and Krekka, barely controlled anger in his voice. “The new Toa must not interfere with the plan.”

Nidhiki shrugged. “They are mere Matoran in Toa armor. As is our duty, we shall not fail.”

Krekka pondered that for a long moment before nodding his agreement.

Outside the Coliseum, the three Toa Metru paused to catch their breath.

“We have to get out of here,” said Nokama. She looked down to see a transport chute far below. Jumping into one was risky. If the speed and timing of the leap were not just right, she would bounce off the outer layer rather than passing through into the magnetized protodermis flow.

Taking a deep breath, she jumped off the ledge. An experienced diver, she kept her body as straight as could be and her eyes focused on her destination. She struck the chute perfectly, passing through the outer layer and immediately swimming smoothly in the chute.

High above, Vakama watched her dive with awe and not a little fear. Ta-Matoran didn’t go leaping around like Le-Metru cable climbers or swimming in the sea like Ruki fish. Vakama had never gotten into a chute except through a chute station. Besides being dangerous, it was a sure way to attract the attention of Vahki. It didn’t help that his mind was still spinning from the revelation that Dume, Nidhiki, and Krekka were allies.

“The Dark Hunters took Toa Lhikan – for Turaga Dume! He’s responsible!” he said.

“All because you panic-failed,” grumbled Matau. He remembered all too well what Vakama had said about standing by while Toa Lhikan was kidnapped.

Vakama made no reply. There was nothing he could say.

Behind him, Matau grew impatient. He gave Vakama a shove and sent the Toa of Fire flying. Fortunately, he hit the chute at just the right moment and made it into the protodermis flow safely. It took him a moment to adjust to the new environment. He grabbed a passing piece of cargo and let it pull him along behind Nokama.

Matau turned at a noise behind him. Krekka and Nidhiki had emerged from the Coliseum. At the sight of the Toa, they shapeshifted into a more aerodynamic mode and shot forward. Panicked, Matau leaped.

Under ordinary circumstances, the Le-Metru native was one of the best at chute-jumping. But he had never tried to do it with two Dark Hunters right behind him before. His arms and legs were going every which way as he fell. He landed with a hard splat on the top of the chute, then slowly oozed into the protodermis. Part of him was happy for the temporary safety, while part hoped no one he knew had seen him.

Turaga Dume walked silently through his private chamber. Despite the numerous lightstone lanterns, the vast room still felt shadowy and cold. Ignoring the great throne that rested on the polished floor, Dume triggered a secret door in the rear wall and passed through.

Beyond the door was a room no eyes other than his own had ever seen. Sunlight poured into the room from either side to strike a pair of huge sundials. The instruments were made of great circular plates inscribed with a language that was ancient when Metru Nui was new, and posts of a dark stone that cast eerie shadows. The plates rotated with a rhythmic clicking, bringing the shadows from the sundial posts closer and closer with each second.

Turaga Dume walked toward the darkest recesses of the room. A pair of sinister red eyes loomed in the shadows before him. A voice like thunder growled from the pit, “The Mask of Time will not be completed.”

“No,” said Turaga Dume. “But when the Great Shadow falls, the Vahki will ensure every Matoran’s fate.”

The eyes receded into the darkness. The room was silent as the grave once more.

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