This, Lewa Nuva decided, had been the worst day of his life.
Bad enough to run into six Makuta wannabes who smiled while they were pounding you into oblivion, and having one of his air katana snapped in the process. Even more disturbing was being defeated and losing his Kanohi mask, along with those of the other Toa Nuva. But now the six most powerful heroes in the universe – at least, in his opinion – were under attack by five very angry Matoran.
And worse – we’re losing! he thought.
“Nice bunch of villagers they have here,” he muttered, ducking under a pulse bolt. “I don’t think they much crave-need protection. I think we do.”
Tahu Nuva threw up a wall of flame, temporarily cutting the Toa off from their attackers. “What do you want us to do?” he snapped. “Unleash our elemental powers and maybe kill them? Our best bet is to stall for time until we can find a way to prove to them who we are.”
“When did you become so cautious?” asked Lewa.
“Maybe I’ve grown up,” answered Tahu. “And before you question the wisdom of that, I’d remind you that I’m not the one missing a Toa tool because he charged into battle not knowing what he was up against.”
“Enough!” yelled Gali. “You may have grown smarter, Tahu, but evidently your mouth hasn’t shared in the learning. And as for you, Lewa – aaaaahh!”
Gali Nuva suddenly dropped to the ground, hands clamped over her eyes. An instant before, Dalu had used her bizarre abilities to enhance Gali’s sight far beyond its upper limits. For a brief moment, she could see everything – every atom, every molecule, from Voya Nui across the entire plane of existence. Then her sight pierced into other dimensions as well, places where concepts of time and space as she knew them had no meaning. She had immediately closed her eyes tight, but even through the protective lids, she could still see!
“So much… so beautiful… and so terrible…,” she cried. “Beyond anything even the Great Beings could imagine…”
“What’s wrong with her?” said Pohatu, kneeling beside the Toa Nuva of Water.
“I don’t know,” said Kopaka quietly. “But I can only guess those Matoran are somehow responsible.”
The Toa of Ice started forward, heedless of the wall of fire. Tahu reached out to stop him, but Kopaka shrugged him off. “I have had enough,” said the master of the winter storm. “And more than enough.”
To Tahu’s amazement, Kopaka proceeded to walk through the fire. If he felt pain, he showed no sign of it. The Toa of Fire immediately doused the barrier and watched as his brother Toa marched toward their attackers. Pulse bolts and hurled boulders struck him dead-on, but never once did he waver.
“Back him up,” Tahu told the others.
“But you said –” Lewa began.
Tahu cut him off with a heated glare. “I said back him up.”
He glanced up to see that Kopaka really needed no help. The usually cool and collected Toa had given in to an icy rage that showed no signs of abating. He had already flash-frozen three of the villagers, with only the Ga-Matoran and Onu-Matoran still fighting.
“Do it while they are still alive,” Tahu said. Pohatu, Onua, and Lewa dutifully charged forward, as much to restrain their fellow Toa as to fight their attackers.
Tahu cradled Gali in his arms. Once, when he had been poisoned by a Rahkshi and driven to violence against his friends, it had been Gali who fought to bring him back. It had been her healing powers that had helped to save him. He had no such abilities – fire destroyed, it did not create or heal – but he would not leave her side, not until this crisis had passed.
Her eyelids flickered and then opened. But the light in her eyes was different now, and frighteningly so. Tahu imagined it was how his must have looked when he was sickened and out of control. One glance was enough to see that madness had claimed Gali Nuva.
“I can still see!” she shouted. Before he could react, she had summoned a fist of water from thin air and slammed him with it. Then she sprang up and ran headlong away from him, back in the direction of the volcano. He jumped up and started after her, realizing with dread that she was running straight for the Piraka.
Behind him, the Matoran and the three Toa Nuva were at a standoff. Left to his own devices, Kopaka would have long since ended the battle. But Onua and Lewa had intervened and kept him from using killing force on those the Toa had vowed to protect. Now heroes and villagers stared at each other, waiting for someone to make a move. Only a few yards separated them physically, but the gulf between them was vast just the same.
“Who are you?” said Garan. “And don’t try to tell me you are some new kind of Toa. I have heard that one before and it cost me almost all of my friends.”
“Whether you believe it or not does not alter the facts,” replied Onua. “We are Toa Nuva, from the island of Mata Nui.”
Garan snorted in derision. “Toa what? Island of what? Not only are you lying, they are not even good lies. There is no such thing as a Toa Nuva… and no island of Mata Nui exists, or we would know of it. You are allies of the Piraka, aren’t you, come to help them subjugate our brothers and sisters?”
“The Piraka are no heart-friends of ours,” said Lewa. “We have been fighting them.”
“A falling-out among thieves,” spat Dalu. “I say we take them, Garan, starting with frosty over there.”
The four Toa Nuva readied for battle. Garan and Dalu did the same, even knowing they had little chance of victory. Both sides teetered on the precipice of tragedy, neither willing to lower their weapons and back away.
“Wait! Stop!” The Matoran and Toa turned to see Balta running at top speed down a rocky slope. Dalu broke into a grin, confident that with her Ta-Matoran friend present, they might win after all.
“Another one,” grumbled Lewa. “We are going to spend all day fighting Matoran, while the Piraka wander free.”
“No one is going to fight anyone,” Balta said to him. He turned to his friends and said, “You’re making a mistake. These aren’t our enemies. I am not sure who they are, but I know that a battle now would be a terrible error.”
Garan looked at Balta closely. He showed none of the signs of being controlled by the Piraka. The Onu-Matoran wanted to believe that these strange, maskless beings were potential allies, but he needed more than just Balta’s word. The realization saddened him. There was a time when any statement of fact by any Matoran would have gone unquestioned, but the Piraka had brought many changes to Voya Nui.
Sensing the moment of crisis was at hand, Onua Nuva threw his quake-breakers onto the ground. Then he removed his Nuva armor and tossed that aside as well. “There. No mask. No weapons. No extra armor. I’ve seen what your pulse bolts can do, Matoran, so use one now if you want war so badly. Kill me and my friends, and see if it gets you anywhere nearer to freeing your island from evil.”
Garan looked up at the stranger. If he was a Toa, then his black armor marked him as a Toa of Earth, the protector of Onu-Matoran everywhere. He had the power to down both Matoran with one swing of his mighty arm, yet he was leaving himself open to attack. The Matoran considered, nodded, and then threw his own weapons on the ground as well.
“What are you doing?” Dalu protested.
“What someone had to do,” Balta told her. “We already have a battle on our hands, one that has been thrust upon us. We don’t need to go looking for another.”
“I think we have much to talk about,” said Onua Nuva. “Starting with anything you know about these Piraka, anything that might be a key to defeating them.”
The notion of defeated Piraka was very much on Hakann’s mind as well. Despite Zaktan’s orders, the crimson-armored Piraka had no intention of scrambling over this pile of rock to search for escaped Toa Nuva. He would sooner have frolicked in the surf with hungry Takea sharks.
Instead, he doubled back and made his way to the stronghold. As he expected, Zaktan was already there, once more muttering in low tones to the vat of virus that dominated the central chamber. At times, Zaktan acted like that container of viscous goo was his best friend in the world.
Well, it’s certainly his only friend, Hakann thought. But what do they “talk” about, I wonder?
He crept closer, staying to the shadows. Hakann’s eyes widened at the sight he beheld. Zaktan was not alone in the chamber, but was deep in conversation with a powerful armored figure who looked like he could snap a Toa in two with no effort at all. He was tall, clad in blue and gold armor, and wielded a twin-bladed sword. There was something about the stranger’s mask that made even the hardened Piraka shudder.
As Hakann watched, Zaktan fired one of the zamor spheres into the mysterious giant. Strangely, the sphere did not seem to have its usual effect of sapping the will. In fact, the giant actually appeared to be stronger and fiercer after absorbing the virus into his system.
Zaktan spoke again, in words too soft to hear. The giant nodded and departed. Hakann wasted no time in making his own way out of the stronghold and picking up the newcomer’s trail. If the leader of the Piraka had found a secret weapon in this powerhouse figure, Hakann wanted to know about it.
Zaktan watched his newest pawn leave. Then he remained very still, as if lost in thought, until Hakann had left, too. Of course he had known that the treacherous Piraka was present and spying. He would not have lasted long as leader of this murderous little band if he did not always know what was going on around him.
Now Hakann would follow the colossus named Brutaka in an effort to discover his identity and connection to Zaktan. And with any luck at all, his curiosity would be satisfied… maybe even before his existence was terminated.
Gali Nuva had lost track of how long she had been running. She didn’t know where she was or why she was here. Even if someone had explained it all to her, it would have done no good, for her mind was aflame with madness. No rational thought need apply.
There was no plan behind her flight. If allowed to, she would run until she reached the shore and then swim until her arms and legs grew so tired she sank to the bottom.
It was only the sight of a powerful figure standing in her path that brought her to a halt. She didn’t recognize him, but he looked like an enemy. Certainly the huge axe he carried did not spark trust. She gave a yell of rage and launched a water blast so powerful it would tear the armor off a foe.
The figure waited a moment or two, then swatted the blast away with his axe as if it were no more than an annoyance. Before Gali could attack again, he was in front of her, reaching out to touch her maskless face.
“Your friends have need of you,” he said. “And by the power of Mata Nui, you will return to them, whole and sane.”
Pure power flowed from him into the Toa Nuva of Water. The madness and pain fell away in an instant, leaving her sharp mind intact. Only the memories of what had driven her to madness were blocked off from her.
“Who are you?” she asked.
The figure backed away. “Go back to your comrades. They will be worried for you. If it is the will of Mata Nui, we will meet again.”
Gali Nuva was tempted to ask more questions, or even follow her newfound friend. But something in his manner said that neither would be welcome. Instead, she turned back and headed for the scene of the Toa Nuva-Matoran struggle. Her madness may have been gone, but there was a great deal more insanity on this island to be confronted and overcome.