Matau reached the top of the staircase even as the first Visorak began pouring into the hangar. There was no time to make a plan. Instead, the Toa Hordika launched air spinner after air spinner, summoning hurricane winds to blow the spider creatures away. At the first opportunity, he wrenched the door shut and shoved a pipe through the handles to bar it. The Visorak immediately began pounding on the other side, denting the metal of the hatch.

Somewhere, another window shattered. Matau looked down and could not see Iruini. This is very dark-bad, he thought. Too many open-ways to keep closed. We will never keep the Visorak out.

“Matau! Help!”

The voice did not belong to the Rahaga. It was Nokama!

“Matau! Let me in! Please!”

The Toa Hordika raced down the stairs. The pleading voice was coming from the other side of the main doors. Nokama and Gaaki would be trapped out there among the Visorak.

“Hang on, Nokama! I will let you in!” he shouted, already pulling apart the barricade Iruini had erected.

“Hurry! They’re everywhere! I –” Her words were cut off by a scream.

Matau was about to push aside the last pile of debris when Iruini slammed into him, knocking him off his feet. Though small, the Rahaga’s strength was surprising as he managed to pin down the Toa Hordika.

“Don’t open that door!” Iruini shouted.

“But Nokama –”

“Matau! Please! They’re killing us!” Nokama pleaded from outside.

“That’s not Nokama!” said Iruini. “It’s a trick. If you open that door, we’re as good as dead!”

“Matau! What are you waiting for?”

Nokama’s words pierced Matau’s heart. She was a friend, and at times he wished she could be more than that. He could not leave her outside to die, no matter what the consequences. He knew her voice. It was her. And why should I believe some Rahkshi-headed freak over my own instincts? he asked himself.

Matau threw Iruini off and ran for the door. The Rahaga scrambled to his feet and went after him.

“Ask her something!” Iruini said. “Ask her something only she would know!”

Nokama screamed again. Matau pushed Iruini away. “This is no time for a quick quiz! She is dying!”

Matau tore away the last of the barricade. Ignoring Iruini’s protests, the Toa Hordika undid the lock and flung the door open.

A dozen black Visorak stood on the other side. There was no sign of Nokama or Gaaki. The lead Visorak, Oohnorak, gnashed its teeth, but the voice it produced belonged to the Toa Hordika of Water.

“Thank you, Matau,” said the Visorak in Nokama’s tones. “We knew we could count on you.”

At that moment, the real Nokama and Gaaki were crossing back into Le-Metru. They had successfully hidden the Masks of Power for loading on the airships later. Now they traveled through the waterways, breaking the surface occasionally to scout the area.

It was Nokama who first spotted the tower. It looked like a bad imitation of one of the Coliseum towers, but as she drew closer, she saw the truth was far worse. The tower was made of debris and Visorak webbing. Cocoons containing various Rahi hung all along the sides. At least a hundred Visorak of all types swarmed over the structure, reinforcing it. At the top of the tower stood a powerful crimson figure, obviously directing the horde. This was no Visorak – he stood on two legs and towered over the spiders, wrapped in an aura of command.

“Who is that? What is that?” whispered Nokama.

“The who is Sidorak, king of the Visorak hordes. He commands them in the field,” said Gaaki. “A good tactician, brutal, his answer to everything is overwhelming force. That has worked well for him… so far.”

“And that tower? I am no expert on Le-Metru, but that wasn’t there before.”

“The Visorak build them as bases,” the Rahaga answered. “Staging areas for attacks. My guess is they know Matau and Iruini are here. They are planning a devastating strike to capture them both.”

“This is a disaster,” said Nokama.

“No,” replied Gaaki. “This is an opportunity. You must learn to know the difference, Nokama.”

Nuju and Kualus spotted the tower as well, from high above. Nuju immediately began urging his Gukko bird down toward a nearby rooftop. Kualus watched him, shaking his head.

“That’s not a very good idea,” said the Rahaga.

“Scouting out the enemy’s location and gaining knowledge is always a good idea,” said Nuju as his winged mount dove.

“I didn’t mean that,” Kualus yelled after him.

The Gukko came in for a perfect landing on the roof of an abandoned vehicle factory. As soon as Nuju had dismounted, the bird flew off again. The Toa Hordika looked around for the best vantage point from which to monitor the tower. Before he could find it, six Visorak Roporak suddenly appeared around him.

“That’s what I meant,” Kualus shouted from above. “Invisibility. I really hate that.”

“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Onewa asked for the fourth time.

Krahka had led him to the edge of a massive hole in the center of Ta-Metru. Onewa had never seen the spot before, but Nokama and Matau had told him what had happened here. While searching for the missing Toa Lhikan, they and Vakama had encountered a rampaging monster called Tahtorak. Using weakness disks, they had succeeded in causing the pavement to give way beneath the beast, but not before it had destroyed a large section of the metru.

“Do you have a better one?” asked Krahka, transforming herself into a winged insect four feet in length. “We need allies against Roodaka.”

“And we can’t be too choosy about them,” said Pouks.

Onewa looked down at the tablet in his hand. He had been wondering ever since he encountered Krahka in Po-Metru just how it was that he had so conveniently discovered Makuta’s lair. For that matter, the tablet had been strangely easy to find as well.

“Speaking of proof,” he began, “you planted this, didn’t you?”

Krahka shrugged. “Yes. Roodaka wanted you to learn the truth about yourselves, for her own reasons. I was told to deliver it to you.”

“Truth? What this says… this has to be a lie,” insisted Onewa. “If it isn’t…”

Krahka looked down from where she hovered in the air. “The only deception was in how you found it. The words are real, their meaning is real. That is why Roodaka considered it her ultimate tool against you.”

“Well, she had that right,” Onewa muttered as Krahka vanished down the hole. “When the others find out about this… even if we win, we lose.”

Whenua and Bomonga had been following the Kahgarak for what felt like years. At one point, a noise to the right distracted the Toa Hordika and he almost lost sight of their quarry. Had Bomonga not grabbed his hand and pulled him ahead, Whenua might well have been completely lost in the darkness.

“How much farther?” he asked.

“No way to know,” replied the Rahaga. “It may be lost, trying to find a way out.”

“Just like us. And if it can’t find an exit –”

“Then neither will we,” said Bomonga. “Ever.”

Roodaka sat on Makuta’s throne, impatient. Sidorak had left some time ago to oversee operations in Le-Metru. By now, he should have returned with at least Matau and Iruini, if not the whole miserable group of Hordika and Rahaga.

Unless he has bungled it, she thought. If that is the case, then Makuta will be displeased. Once the master of shadows is free again, Sidorak will be out of favor and I will rule by Makuta’s side.

She smiled. Ever since she and Sidorak had turned six Toa into wretched, twisted Rahaga, they had been competing with each other for Makuta’s favor. So far, neither Sidorak’s victories in the field nor Roodaka’s subtle schemes had secured either one the role they coveted: command over all of Makuta’s lieutenants. She knew that the battle for Metru Nui might be her last chance to seize power from Sidorak and secure the right to rule by Makuta’s side. She was determined to succeed, even if she had to crush the king of the Visorak hordes in the process.

Her dreams of destruction were interrupted by the approach of a single Visorak Roporak. She recognized it as the one she had ordered to keep watch on Krahka. The news it related came as no surprise.

“Of course, she betrayed me,” said Roodaka. “It is just what I would have done. She is not as different from me as she would like to believe.”

The Roporak continued its report, detailing how Onewa and Krahka had left together, apparently planning to follow the horde to Le-Metru. Sidorak had summoned Visorak from all over the city for a strike against a Toa and Rahaga hiding in a Matoran airship hangar. Even now they were assembling at the tower in Matau’s district, waiting for the order to advance.

“As usual, Sidorak would topple a building to swat a fireflyer,” said Roodaka. “But in this case, he may have blundered on to a plan. The movements of the horde will attract the attention of the other Toa Hordika. They will race to Le-Metru to save their friend, like flies hurrying into a web. And you know what happens when something is caught in our web, don’t you?”

The Roporak nodded.

“Go to Le-Metru. Find Sidorak,” Roodaka ordered. “Tell him to summon a Kahgarak and have it open a portal. The time has come to unleash the stalker in the shadows, the Zivon, once more.”

The Visorak turned and fled the chamber. As it raced across the webs heading for Le-Metru, it could not suppress a shudder. In the past, the hordes had done many things that other species might view as monstrous or evil, and they had done them happily. But releasing the Zivon for any reason – that was beyond horror, beyond evil. That was madness.

It will surely mean the end of the Toa Hordika, thought the Roporak. Let us hope it’s not the end of the Visorak as well.

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