1

Nokama continues the tale…

“I hate this,” muttered Onewa. “I really do.”

The Toa Metru of Stone looked around. The other Toa were spread out on their makeshift boat, keeping an eye out for trouble. Matau was in the cockpit struggling to keep the modified Vahki transport on course. All of them were too busy to take notice of his complaint.

“I said –” he began, more loudly.

“We heard,” replied Nuju, Toa of Ice. “Other than the fact that we are sailing through a narrow tunnel in a vehicle not designed for travel by water, which could sink at any moment… what is bothering you?”

Onewa gestured at the other Toa. “This. All of this! Our city is in danger, the Matoran are imprisoned… and we are running away!”

Nuju shook his head. “Our city is shattered, Onewa, possibly beyond repair. We are doing the only thing we can do – trying to find a place for the Matoran to begin again.”

“And that’s another thing,” grumbled Onewa. “Vakama says, ‘Sail through the Great Barrier,’ and off we go. We don’t even know where we’re going!”

“We are sailing to someplace far from Metru Nui, filled with new challenges and a new chance at life,” answered Nuju. “The way will be long and filled with danger. We may not all survive to walk the surface of that land.”

“How do you know?”

“The same way I know that you will not stop complaining until our voyage is over,” said Nuju. “I know everything.”

Matau turned the wheel sharply to keep the transport from slamming into a rock wall. Even with the spheres keeping it buoyant and the insect-like legs of the vehicle acting as oars, this thing floated about as well as the average Po-Matoran. He had driven just about every kind of transport there was in Metru Nui, at one time or another, but never anything that felt like such a disaster waiting to happen.

Still, what choice did they have? They had defeated Makuta, just barely, but not before he had succeeded in draining the city’s power plant of all energy. Tremors were rocking Metru Nui, bringing down buildings and chutes. Vahki order enforcement squads were all over, still trying to fulfill their last orders: Stop the Toa at all costs! Given all that, there really hadn’t been time to stop off in Ga-Metru for a proper boat.

Be a Toa-hero, I said, Matau thought. See exciting new places! Quick-save others! Almost get crushed by a giant plant and hard-stomped by Dark Hunters! What was I thinking?

Whenua, Toa of Earth, had not spoken a word since the boat sailed through the Great Barrier and into the tunnel. Ordinarily, he would have been consumed by questions. Who had made this tunnel? Where did it lead? Were the lightstones that provided illumination a natural part of the rock walls, or had someone embedded them there?

Archivists were always asking why. That was part of their job. Becoming a Toa Metru had not dulled that part of Whenua. In fact, it was memories of his past life that weighed on him. The Archives were behind him now, having suffered who knew how much damage in the earthquake. Exhibits might have been wrecked, or worse, their contents set free.

Having spent most of his life as an Onu-Matoran, he knew his duty was to preserve and protect the living museum of Metru Nui. But as a Toa Metru, he had a greater obligation now. He had to serve and defend all the metru, not just his home. His friends were depending on him, and the sleeping Matoran were as well.

But when he turned his eyes back toward the tunnel entrance, he could not help but wish that he had been in the Archives when the disaster struck. That is where I belong, he said to himself.

Vakama, too, had been quiet since the journey began. He stood at the bow of the vessel, watching for dangers ahead. Nokama stood beside him, looking with wonder at their surroundings.

“Have you ever pondered who built all of this, Vakama?” she asked. “The Great Barrier, this tunnel… were there Matoran in the dim past who constructed these things, or did the Great Beings themselves create them?”

When Vakama didn’t reply, she turned to look at him. There was a look in his eyes she had come to know all too well in their adventures together. No enemy could strike harder at Vakama than he struck at himself.

“We did all we could,” the Toa of Water said gently. “We saved those we could save, Vakama, and one day we will save all the rest. Toa Lhikan would have been – was proud of you.”

Vakama started at the mention of the Toa’s name. Lhikan had been a hero of Metru Nui when these six had been simple Matoran. Betrayed and ambushed, he had sacrificed his Toa power to bring six Toa Metru into being. As a Turaga, he had aided them in their fight against Makuta. But it was his final memory of Lhikan which pained him the most – the noble figure taking a bolt of darkness meant for Vakama and perishing.

“You’re right, of course, Nokama. But I keep thinking Lhikan would have found a way to save the city from this cataclysm.”

“He did,” Nokama replied. “He found us. Remember what he said? ‘Save the heart of the city.’ He knew the buildings and chutes and statues were not what mattered. It’s the Matoran who gave life to Metru Nui, and the Matoran we must fight to save.”

Nokama placed a hand on his arm and smiled. “Any Ga-Matoran can tell you that you cannot sail a boat if you are looking behind all the time. You have to look ahead.”

“Then let’s do that,” said Vakama, “starting with this battered Vahki transport. It needs a name.”

He picked up his mask-making tool and swiftly seared a series of Matoran letters on the side of the craft. When he was done, Nokama leaned over his shoulder to see what he had written. It was one simple word:

Lhikan.

The voyage of the Lhikan had followed a pretty straight and level course so far. The tunnel widened as the Toa traveled further along. With no turnoffs, there was no way to go astray. But all that was about to change.

Matau slowed the boat to a crawl. Up ahead, the tunnel forked. Both passages looked the same to him: dark, creepy, and about as inviting as the thought of being stranded in a broken chute with Nuju.

“Which way?” the Toa of Air asked no one in particular.

Nokama looked at Vakama. He was straining, but his visions of the future did not come on command. They appeared at random and he wasn’t seeing anything now. “I don’t know,” he answered. “I’m not getting a feeling about either direction.”

“Too bad there are no carving-signs saying, ‘This Way to Safe Spot,’” said Matau. “I say we go left.”

“Why?”

“Because we hardly ever go left,” Matau answered, already turning the craft.

“That… that is the most ridiculous reason to choose a future path I have ever heard,” snapped Nuju. “The course of our mission is being decided by the Toa of Air’s desire for variety?”

“I say left,” Matau repeated, smiling.

The transport edged into the left passage. It was not even halfway through the tunnel mouth when the liquid protodermis all around began to bubble. The temperature shot up in a split second. Onewa glanced over the side and saw that the transport was starting to melt. He didn’t even want to think about what might be happening to the Matoran spheres.

“Back up!” he shouted. “Get us out of here!”

Up ahead, something breached the waves with a powerful roar. The Toa Metru got a glimpse of bright green eyes, a massive body, a mouth large enough to swallow the transport whole, and skin that radiated intense heat. Then the creature crashed back beneath the boiling liquid.

“Right. I definitely say right,” Matau muttered, throwing the craft into reverse. Once it was out of the passage, he turned so hard he almost split the craft in two and shot into the other tunnel.

“What was that?” asked Nuju, more stunned than he wanted to admit.

“An illusion?” suggested Nokama. “Something to make us turn back?”

Onewa shook his head. “The damage to the transport is real. My guess is the rest was real as well.”

“We’ll take turns as lookout, then,” said Vakama. “If there are things like that in here, we will need to be on our guard.”

Nokama signaled to Matau to stop the craft. “I am going to check on the condition of the spheres. If they start to leak…”

She didn’t need to finish her thought. If the spheres leaked, the Matoran inside could drown. She leaped over the side and into the liquid protodermis. It was warmer than she expected, far more than the ocean around Metru Nui had been. It was also surprisingly clear, almost like the purified protodermis that flowed through Ga-Metru.

She swam around the bottom of the transport, checking over each of the spheres. Apparently, they were well made, because it did not look like immersion in the boiling protodermis had done much harm. One of the transport’s legs had almost melted clean through and would need repairs.

Nokama was just about to go back to the surface when her eyes caught something gleaming on the tunnel bottom. She dove down for a closer look.

It was a Rahi, quite dead, but not like anything she had seen before. Long and serpentlike, its body measured a good 65 feet in length by her estimation. Its tail was covered in spikes that measured a good three feet long. Even in death, it gave off an aura of amazing strength.

What was this creature? she thought as she swam rapidly for the transport. And more importantly – what would have the power to kill it? Have we escaped the dangers of Metru Nui only to find something far worse?

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