Four Vahki Zadakh moved cautiously through the streets of Ta-Metru. They were far from the canyons of Po-Metru they normally patrolled, but the changes in Metru Nui meant every Vahki enforcer had to do its part to preserve order.
Their goal was the Coliseum. Metru Nui’s tallest building soared high into the sky before them, though it lacked the grand appearance it once had. Now the facade was cracked and the entire structure was shrouded in webs. High levels of Visorak activity had been registered here. The Vahki’s mission was to eliminate these creatures of disorder as a first step toward pacifying the entire city.
The patrol leader signaled for the rest to spread out. It had no doubt that these Rahi would fall easily to the power of the Vahki, but tactical programming suggested that approaching from multiple angles was practical. Once all four were in their proper position, the march resumed.
The Vahki on the far left flank was the first to encounter the target. A Visorak Boggarak crawled along a web leading from the Coliseum to one of the empty Ta-Metru forges. The Vahki raised its staff and unleashed a blast which knocked the Visorak off the web. The Boggarak scrambled to its feet and glared at the Vahki. A low hum filled the air.
The Vahki took another step and stumbled. It looked down and noted that its right leg was no longer functioning properly. Somehow, what had been a solid limb a moment before was now a rapidly dispersing gas. Worse, the effect was spreading across the Vahki’s form. In a matter of seconds, it was no more than wisp of silvery gas floating in the air, its awareness dispersed over millions of molecules.
The Vahki on the right dropped down into four-legged mode, scaled a small building, and then climbed out on to a Visorak web. A quick scan revealed that there were no Visorak on this section. Traveling along the web would bring the Vahki right to what appeared to be a largely unguarded entrance to the Coliseum. Using its tools as forelegs, it began to crawl.
It had gone only a short distance when it realized that the amount of effort required to make it across the web seemed to be increasing. Energy use was up, mass had increased dramatically, and strangest of all, audio receptors were picking up a hum that had not been there before. The Vahki did a visual inspection of its structure, only to discover its outer surface was no longer gleaming metallic protodermis but solid stone.
The Po-Metru enforcer was pondering what could cause a Vahki to turn to rock when the webbing tore beneath it. The Zadakh plunged through the hole and hit the ground, smashing into hundreds of stony fragments. A Boggarak approached, kicked at the rubble that had been a Vahki moments before, and then crawled away.
The Vahki patrol leader paused. Several Visorak were on the move between it and the nearest Coliseum entrance. The Zadakh turned to tell its second in command to wait until the creatures had passed before proceeding. But its lieutenant was not there.
Puzzled, the Vahki did a visual scan to all four points of the compass. There was no sign of any of the other three patrol units. The Zadakh took a step and then paused at a strange rustling sound from overhead. A glance up revealed its source: a Vahki cocooned in webbing, being carried across the webs toward the Coliseum by a pair of Visorak.
The patrol leader did a quick calculation. Four Vahki departed on this mission. One remains, it said to itself. This will need to be reported. While success in this mission is vital, order can only be maintained if a strict accounting of the whereabouts of all Vahki is kept. New priority: prompt return to central hive.
Naturally, it would not run. Vahki never ran unless in pursuit of a lawbreaker. Faced with the disappearance of three of its kind in a matter of seconds, though, the Zadakh was perfectly willing to walk very, very fast.
It glanced behind. No Visorak were following. That would look good in the report. The patrol had obviously scared the Visorak into staying out of Ta-Metru. That accomplishment might even mean elevation from patrol leader to squad leader.
Pale sunlight suddenly gave way to shadow. The ground shook. Believing it to be another earthquake, the Vahki searched for cover. It raced toward a large green and brown structure nearby.
A second tremor struck, then a third. The building rocked so hard it almost appeared to be moving. It was only after the Vahki was safely underneath the structure that it remembered there were no green and brown buildings in Ta-Metru.
The Vahki looked up, just in time to see the massive, clawed foot of the Tahtorak descending upon it. Then it didn’t see anything else, ever again.
Forty feet above, on the Tahtorak’s broad back, Onewa winced at the sound of Vahki being crushed. He was no fan of the order enforcers, but the more he saw of the Tahtorak, the more he was starting to think luring it back to the surface had been a mistake. It had already smashed half a dozen buildings to fragments and damaged countless more, and that was with Krahka directing its journey. What would happen if it went on a rampage?
One thing was certain – Onewa had never seen anything like this beast. When the Tahtorak climbed out of the hole, he was certain nothing could be that big. The Rahi regarded Onewa as if the Toa Hordika were a light snack. The Tahtorak’s reptilian face was ringed by silver fins and his fierce jaws snapped in anticipation of a meal. His forelegs were surprisingly short, but the rest of his body was overwhelmingly huge and powerful. A single sweep of his tail was enough to turn a building into a pile of bricks.
“I want the answer!” the Tahtorak snarled. “Give it to me!”
“What is he talking about?” asked Pouks.
“I don’t know,” said Krahka. “That is all he would say when I found him down below. So I told him the Visorak have the answer, and they don’t want him to know it.”
Onewa shook his head, smiling. “If you weren’t… what you are… you would have made an amazing Toa.”
Krahka shifted her form to a perfect replica of Onewa, and said simply, “I know.”
Nuju stood back to back with Kualus as the Visorak closed in. His ice spinners had managed to hold them off so far, but each one drained his energy that much more. He had already decided that if the Visorak began spitting web, he would grab Kualus and leap, counting on his spinners to form an ice slide beneath them. Any risk was worth taking to avoid being in those cocoons again.
The building shook beneath his feet. A few seconds later, it did it again. “Is this the Visorak’s doing?” Nuju asked.
“I don’t think so,” Kualus answered. “They seem as disturbed as we are.”
Nuju glanced past the ring of spider creatures. Now the source of the tremors was all too clear, not that the Toa Hordika believed it for a moment. After all, who ever heard of two Toa Onewa and a Rahaga riding a Rahi four stories high?
“I knew being a Toa would do this eventually,” Nuju said quietly. “I have lost my mind.”
Now the Visorak saw the newcomers as well. A few of them braced to launch spinners at the oncoming Rahi. Then the Tahtorak casually shrugged, bringing down two buildings and a major chute intersection in the process. That was enough to make the Visorak fall back, forgetting Nuju and finding more defensible positions on another rooftop.
“If you lost yours, mine went with it,” said Kualus, smiling. “A Tahtorak! Imagine! I never thought I would see one in the flesh!”
Seeing that the name meant nothing to Nuju, Kualus continued, “It’s a predator from one of the lands south of Metru Nui. Down there, oh, there were whole packs of them filling the plains. Once they had eaten everything they chose to on one island, they would walk across the sea and start someplace else. But I can’t imagine how one got this far north, or why it would be traveling alone.”
The Tahtorak was upon them now. Nuju tried not to gag from the stench of its fetid breath. Both Onewas jumped off and landed on the roof, while Rahaga Pouks stayed on the Tahtorak.
“Just what Metru Nui needed,” said Nuju. “Two of you.”
One of the Onewas shifted into the form of Nuju. “Is this better?” the figure said in Nuju’s own voice.
“For obvious reasons, I prefer to avoid mirrors just now,” the Toa Hordika replied. “I had hoped to avoid you as well, Krahka.”
“I want the answer!” bellowed the Tahtorak, the sheer force of his yell almost blowing Toa Hordika and Rahaga alike off the rooftop.
“So do I,” said Nuju. “A lot of them.”
“Where are the others?”
“We saw Vakama, Norik, Nokama, and Gaaki heading this way from the air,” said Kualus. “As for Matau and Iruini… no sign.”
“They were supposed to be searching one of the hangars,” said Nuju.
“I’m guessing that one,” Onewa replied, pointing off in the distance. “The one the Visorak are pouring into.”
“We will have to go get them, then.”
“What?” snapped Krahka. “You are wasting time! Every moment you delay brings Roodaka and her horde closer to complete control of this city. What is one Toa more or less, compared to that?”
Onewa and Nuju said nothing in reply. Using their spinners to form bridges of ice and stone, they hurried toward the hangars.
Kualus looked up at Krahka. “If you can’t understand, then they can’t explain it to you.”
“Light!” Whenua shouted, pointing up ahead.
The Kahgarak paused for a moment before resuming its march. “Keep quiet,” said Bomonga. “If it hears us and turns back…”
Whenua understood, but it was hard for him to curb his excitement. A pinprick of light had appeared up ahead in a world where all was dark. The Kahgarak was moving right toward it. Whenua felt certain it had to be an exit.
Bomonga was keeping a careful eye on the creature. If that point of light was a gate, it would vanish the instant the creature passed through it. They would have to go through right behind or risk never finding the point again. He watched as the light grew bigger and brighter, mentally counting down the seconds.
“Run!” he said abruptly, racing off to reach the Kahgarak. Taken by surprise, Whenua was a few steps behind. The creature reached the light and passed through. Bomonga and Whenua dove, barely making it through before the gateway disappeared.
They hit the pavement. Compared to the total darkness they had been traveling through, the brightness of this spot was like being hit by a fist. It took Whenua a long few moments to adjust to the glare so he could see again. Then he wished he had not bothered.
Toa Hordika and Rahaga were on the ground in Le-Metru. The Kahgarak was up ahead, standing beside a powerful, red-hued figure. Visorak were everywhere, swarming into and around a tower. As soon as the spiders noticed the new arrivals, they advanced to surround Whenua and Bomonga.
“How convenient,” the figure exclaimed upon seeing the Toa Hordika. “You come to us, instead of us having to hunt you down. For that, you have the gratitude of Sidorak, king of the Visorak horde.”
“A worthless gift,” growled Bomonga.
Sidorak laughed. “Not at all. You two will be privileged to see the emergence of the Zivon into this city. It will no doubt be hungry after its journey. You two will make a fine meal, don’t you think?”
Matau and Iruini retreated further into the hangar. All their efforts to stop the advance of the Visorak had failed. Every exit was blocked by the creatures as well. They both knew that, at best, they were delaying the inevitable.
“Any last words?” Matau said, throwing another piece of equipment at the horde.
“Yes,” said Iruini. “Next time, keep the door shut.”
Matau heard a crash behind him. He turned to see more Visorak coming toward them from the rear. They were trapped between two small armies of spider creatures.
“That mud-swamp on the island up above is looking better all the time,” he said, launching an air spinner at the oncoming Visorak.
It never reached its destination. Instead, a second spinner flew down from above, striking the floor. A wall of fire suddenly sprang up, cutting off the Visorak. Matau looked up and saw Vakama and Norik standing at the top of the stairs.
Now chaos erupted in the hangar. Water, ice, fire and stone spinners were raining down on the Visorak. Battered by the sudden onslaught of elemental powers, the creatures retreated. Matau could guess why. Indoors, they were vulnerable to attack from too many hiding places. But with the Toa Hordika all in the hangar, the Visorak could go back to laying siege and eventually capture them.
Vakama, Nokama, Nuju, and Onewa assembled at Matau’s side, while Norik and Gaaki secured the doors. “Not that I am not ever-happy to see you,” said Matau, “but how did you get in?”
“I melted through the doors on the roof,” Vakama replied, his voice hard. “I am – I was – the Toa of Fire. It’s what I do.”
“Unfortunately, you made an entrance for the Visorak that we can’t close,” said Iruini. “They will be back.”
“I did what I had to do!” snapped Vakama. “I didn’t see you coming up with any great ideas, Rahaga.”
“There must be some way we can get out of here before they return,” said Nokama. “Matau, is there a way out through the Archives?”
Before the Toa Hordika of Air could answer, a tremor shook the building. Then it rocked on its foundations as the roof was torn off, sending Visorak flying every which way. Startled, they looked up to see Pouks smiling down at them as the Tahtorak crushed the hangar roof to dust in his hands.
“Oh, good,” said Nuju. “Our ride is here.”
Bound with webbing, Whenua and Bomonga could only watch as the Kahgarak opened another gateway into the field of darkness. Visorak backed away, scurrying for cover. Whenua wished he could join them as the Zivon began to emerge.
It was gigantic, a horror so great the Toa Hordika had to make an effort to keep his sanity. Even in his days as an archivist, he had never seen such a thing. Towering over the nearby buildings, it looked like some obscene hybrid of a Visorak, an Ussal crab, and who knew what else. Its head was pure spider, but the twin claws that snapped buildings in two like dry twigs belonged to a sea creature. It moved about on six legs, its scorpion-like tail lashing out to level anything that caught its eye. Even Sidorak looked like he was questioning the wisdom of bringing this thing into the world.
The Visorak were keeping their distance, those that were not running away outright. One of the spiders made the mistake of running along a web too close to the Zivon. It snapped the unfortunate Visorak up in a claw and tossed it into its gaping jaws.
“Those fools,” said Bomonga. “Those stupid fools.”
“What is that thing?”
“No one knows its true name,” said Bomonga. “It lives in the darkness we just passed through. It’s not Visorak, but it has aided them in the past.”
“It likes to keep its food source handy,” the Rahaga replied. “The Zivon eats Visorak. It has been known to celebrate a victory by devouring half the horde it fought beside.”
“Then why bring it here?” asked Whenua, shocked.
“Sidorak wants the Toa dead,” Bomonga replied, “even if he has to destroy Metru Nui and everyone in it to make that happen.”
High above, the Zivon’s eyes narrowed at the sight of the helpless Toa Hordika and Rahaga. Saliva dripped from its mandibles, falling like rain on the Visorak tower, as it lumbered toward its next meal.