Garan and his team of Matoran had taken refuge beneath a rocky overhang to wait for Balta. They had heard the shouts of their foes and spotted a strange glow on the horizon. At one point, Kazi insisted he had seen one of the false Toa fly straight up into the air and then drop back down again. This was dismissed as ridiculous, since none of the invaders could fly.

The stillness was broken by the harsh sound of metal striking rock. It repeated again and again, coming closer each time. “It’s one of them,” said Piruk. “It has to be!”

Garan went into a crouch, ready to fire a pulse bolt. He signaled the others to take up positions among the rocks. If they had been trailed by the enemy, they would go down fighting.

A sudden movement up ahead caught Garan’s eye. He took aim and was about to fire when a familiar voice whispered, “Where are you, guys? It’s me!”

Balta stepped into the moonlight. He held one of the spheres in his hand. The other Matoran rushed to greet him, but he shook them off. “There’s no time,” he said. “Thok and Vezok are right behind me. Take the sphere and head for safety.”

“Aren’t you coming?” asked Dalu.

“Someone has to lead them away from you. I know these rocks. I can lose them and then circle back and find you again.”

Dalu looked like she was going to offer to come with him, then thought better of it. Had their positions been reversed, she knew what her answer would have been to such an offer: “I can move faster on my own.”

Garan took the sphere. “Be careful,” he said. “We’ll be heading for –”

Balta cut him off. “Don’t tell me.”

It took Garan a moment, but then he understood. What Balta didn’t know, the false Toa could not make him tell. The two Matoran shook hands. Then Balta climbed up the rocks and disappeared. Garan started in the opposite direction, the others following. If any of them noticed Dalu’s frequent backward glances, they were wise enough not to say.

“How long does it take to track one Matoran?” said Thok.

“Too long,” replied Vezok. “Too many places for one to hide. I say we go back, grab one of the others, and bring him to Zaktan. I doubt he can tell one of the little creeps from another.”

A small shower of pebbles hit the ground somewhere off to their right. Thok gestured for Vezok to go to the right, while he went left. He slipped around a large outcropping in time to see Balta scrambling up the slope. “Matoran!” he shouted.

Balta looked behind, his eyes meeting Thok’s strangely glowing orbs. The Piraka’s spell-binding vision power took hold. The world began to spin around Balta. Unable to keep his balance, he tumbled back down the rocks.

Thok was on top of him in two long strides. The Piraka raised a fist and brought it down. Balta barely managed to get his twin repeller tools up in time. When Thok’s blow met the Matoran’s tools, the force ricocheted backward, sending the Piraka sprawling.

Balta took off running. He had spotted a cave not far away and hoped it would be deep enough and dark enough to conceal him until the false Toa gave up the chase. Luck was running against him, though, for Vezok spotted him even as he dashed inside.

“He’s a small one,” the blue Piraka muttered, starting after him. “Might have to throw him back.”

Vezok entered the cave, showing unusual caution for a being so powerful. He had heard from Avak how annoying these little Matoran could be. He had no intention of being taken by surprise by one and having to listen to Hakann’s mockery for the next few centuries.

It was not a very large cavern and had only a few tunnels branching off it. It took Vezok only a few minutes to search the entire place, but he saw no sign of the Matoran.

For a moment, his mind flashed back to his days as a Dark Hunter. His trainer, Nidhiki, was teaching him how to unlock a vault without leaving any trace. Time and again, Vezok tried and failed, his hands too clumsy for such delicate work. Finally, furious, he had smashed the vault into shards. Nidhiki had wisely declared the test over and passed Vezok.

Direct approach works best, the Piraka said to himself as he exited the cave. Glancing around, he spotted a boulder just the right size. With a mighty heave, he began to roll it toward the cave mouth. Trapping the Matoran inside wouldn’t get Zaktan the answers he wanted, but it would keep this particular villager from causing trouble ever again.

Maybe Thok and I can make a little wager, Vezok thought. Will the Matoran suffocate before he starves, or starve before he suffocates? And just how long does it take for a Matoran to die?

Onua Nuva peered over the edge of the crater. Reidak lay at the bottom, battered and bruised, but still smiling. “Had enough?” the Piraka said.

“I think I am supposed to ask you that,” Onua replied. “What are you, and why are you fighting us?”

“My name is Reidak. I’m a Piraka. Does that name mean anything to you?”

Onua frowned. Piraka was a Matoran term, but one that was rarely used. Loosely translated, it meant “thief and murderer,” and it was so vile a term that the Matoran considered it an obscenity. The Toa of Earth couldn’t imagine why someone would voluntarily brand himself a Piraka.

“Why are you on Voya Nui?” he asked.

“To steal,” answered Reidak. “I steal for a living. Oh, and one more thing –”

The Piraka slammed his weapon against the side of the crater. The ground beneath Onua’s feet suddenly turned to quicksand, rapidly dragging the heavy Toa under.

Reidak’s grin grew broader. “I kill Toa for fun.”

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