Toa Nokama twisted her body to avoid slamming into a freight sled. Behind her, Vakama and Matau did the same while trying to maintain their grip on items flying through the chutes. It was the height of the Metru Nui traffic rush and freight convoys were roaring by at alarming speeds.
Still, her Toa strength and agility made it a task she could handle. The real challenge was figuring out where in Metru Nui to go that the Vahki could not follow.
Inside the Le-Metru control room that governed the chutes, a very frightened Matoran looked for help – but there was none coming. The Matoran’s name was Kongu, and in ages of work he had never run into anything more dangerous than the occasional force sphere or chute breakdown. Now, held in the grip of the Dark Hunter called Krekka, he knew the true meaning of fear.
“The entire system will explode if I reverse the flow!” he cried.
In the background, Nidhiki hissed. Krekka raised a powerful arm so that Kongu could get a hint of his fate if he refused to cooperate.
“Then again, it might work,” Kongu said weakly. His hand slammed on a button, and with a great whoosh the magnetized protodermis pumps that powered the chutes began to reverse.
The Toa’s journey came to an abrupt halt. All forward motion stopped in the chutes at once, leaving heroes, Matoran, and freight sleds hanging suspended in the energy field. Vakama and Matau looked at each other and shrugged.
Then, with an earsplitting roar, the flow of the chutes suddenly reversed itself. The Toa tumbled backward, out of control, smashing into the walls as the transport system picked up speed. There was nothing to grab on to, no way to gain traction. Even thinking was difficult with the constant collisions.
Nokama somersaulted end over end, catching a glimpse of a freight sled spinning madly and heading in her direction. At the last moment, she and the other Toa flattened themselves against the walls and took only glancing blows from the vehicle.
This can’t go on, thought Nokama. It’s only a matter of time before something strikes us… or worse, we end up back where we started, in the hands of the Vahki.
With that fate in mind, Nokama dug her twin hydro blades into the bottom of the chute. Holding on to the blades with one hand, she grabbed Vakama with the other. Then Vakama grabbed Matau, linking them all together in a chain.
His motion stabilized, Matau freed his aero slicer and carved a hole in the bottom of the tube. He looked up to see another out-of-control freight sled bearing down on them. In the instant before it would have struck, the three Toa plunged through the hole and into space.
Now they hung in midair, high above Metru Nui. Nokama clung to her hydro blades, while Vakama held on to her ankle. With his free hand, he clutched Matau.
“Everyone all right?” asked Nokama.
Matau looked up from where he dangled above the city. “Oh, sure-fine,” he said sarcastically. “Just enjoying the view.”
Nokama looked down at Vakama. The Toa of Fire was staring off into space. “Vakama?” she said.
But Vakama was no longer there, at least not in his mind. He was lost in another vision…
He was standing next to Toa Lhikan. But as Vakama moved to greet his lost friend, the Toa suddenly transformed into a blinding burst of energy. The sphere of light hovered in the air for a moment before launching skyward.
Vakama lifted his gaze to watch it streak across the night sky. As it sped across the blackness, the energy field shifted and changed until it resembled the shooting stars studied by Ko-Metru scholars. But it was no random astronomical event – no, it looked more like an arrow pointing toward…
With a start, Vakama snapped out of his trance. Nokama was looking down at him, concerned.
“Another foreseeing?” asked the Toa of Water.
Vakama nodded, a little embarrassed.
“How about less vision-seeing and more Toa-saving?” shouted Matau.
Nokama glanced up to see that her hydro blades were losing their grip on the chute. Fighting to stay calm, she began to swing, the movement of her body forcing the other Toa to move as well. Slowly they gained momentum, arcing toward a nearby support tower and then back again. With each swing, the hydro blades lost a bit more of their grip.
At the apex of the next swing, the Toa tools suddenly came loose. Nokama hurled herself through the air and grabbed onto the support tower. But the jolt rocked Vakama and Matau, causing the Toa of Fire to lose his grip. The Toa of Air plunged toward the ground far below.
“Matau!” cried Vakama.
But the Toa of Air could not hear him over the sound of the wind rushing in his ears. Arms and legs outstretched, he was desperately wishing he had mastered his Great Mask of Power. Unless, of course, it was a useless-dumb power like water breathing, he thought. But if it was something like levitation, that would be really welcome-fine right now…
Even as the thought crossed his mind, his fall became a controlled glide. His aero slicers caught the wind, acting like wings. A broad grin broke out on Matau’s face.
“My mask power!” he yelled happily. “I can –”
The updraft became a downdraft without warning, sending Matau crashing headfirst into a massive screen. “Unnngh! Wind-fly,” he groaned.
As he slid down the screen, Turaga Dume’s face glared down from it. “All Matoran should be on the lookout for the false Toa,” ordered the elder of Metru Nui.
Up above, Nokama felt her heart sink. Somehow, she did not think this was what Lhikan had in mind when he gave them the Toa stones.
Nokama took a swift look around. No, there were no Vahki Keerakh in the area, or even many Matoran, for that matter. This seemed like a safe spot for the three Toa Metru to pause and try to sort out what had just happened.
Matau spent the time recovering from his “solo flight.” Nokama had made a point of not teasing him about it, since the Toa of Air seemed to feel bad enough already. Vakama was off by himself, doing something with a pair of Great Disks.
Nokama approached in time to see him move the disks together until they touched. Then something strange happened – the disks softened and began to merge together. Vakama quickly pulled them apart again, puzzled and intrigued.
“Huh?” said the Toa of Fire, not looking up.
“What was your last vision?” Nokama asked.
Vakama pointed up to the sky. A yellow streak of light could be seen against the blackness. “That! Toa Lhikan’s spirit star. Each Toa has one. As long as it burns in the night sky, Toa Lhikan remains alive.”
“It is headed toward Po-Metru,” said Nokama.
Matau had joined the group now. He glanced up at the spirit star, shrugged, and said, “What about our captured Toa-brothers?”
Vakama shook his head. “Only Toa Lhikan can stop Turaga Dume and free the other Toa.”
“And how do you propose we quick-catch a spirit star?” demanded Matau.
Nokama scanned the area. Down the road, she spotted a Vahki transport vehicle moving slowly through the metru. The long vehicle was propelled by a series of insectlike legs. Its cargo was a collection of large silver spheres. Only a single Vahki was present, serving as driver.
“Perhaps a way has been revealed, rider,” Nokama said, smiling.
Toa of Water and Toa of Air took off at a run for the transport. When they had gone a few steps, Nokama looked back to see that Vakama hadn’t moved. He was still toying with the two Great Disks.
“Vakama!” she shouted.
Startled, Vakama returned the disks to his backpack and ran to catch up. As the transport rumbled by, the three of them leaped into the back without being seen. They settled themselves down between tall stacks of silver spheres, the like of which none of them had ever seen before.
“What are these?” wondered Vakama.
“Storage containers,” replied Matau. “But most odd-looking.”
Vakama brushed his hand against one of the spheres, and his mind exploded…
Without warning, the sphere sprung open, revealing a Matoran in a coma-like slumber. The next moment, the Matoran’s heartlight faded to black. Before Vakama could react, the Matoran’s mask began to blur and morph, transforming into that of Turage Dume. A pair of red eyes blazed at Vakama from Dume’s Kanohi mask…
The Toa of Fire returned to reality with a start. Another vision… and if it were true…
He shoved Matau aside to get at the nearest sphere. “Hey! Are you cross-wired?” Matau snapped.
Vakama threw the sphere open to find… nothing. Nokama joined him to peer into the empty container. “What’s wrong, brother?” she asked.
The Toa of Fire stared hard at the darkness in the heart of the sphere. “Nothing, sister. Nothing at all,” he said finally.
Matau met Nokama’s eyes and spun his hand around, a not-so-subtle way of saying Vakama was crazy. Nokama frowned, part of her wishing she could believe that. It would make things much simpler. But deep down she had a feeling that the situation in Metru Nui was far worse than any of them knew… except, perhaps, Vakama.