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Hahli, Toa Inika of Water, was dying.

Her Mask of Power was long gone. Her armor and weapon were both badly damaged. She could feel pain inside, worse than she had ever known before, that told her time was running out on her existence. But she and her fellow Toa would not die alone – the universe would soon follow them into oblivion, of that she was certain.

The team of six heroes was on a quest to find the legendary Mask of Life, the only object of power capable of saving the life of the Great Spirit Mata Nui. Their mission had taken to the island of Voya Nui, and battle with the evil Piraka, the mad Vezon, and the Kardas Dragon. They had beaten them all and actually had the Mask of Life in their hands, only to lose it again. It had plunged beneath the ocean waves, forcing the Toa Inika to take a perilous journey to find it again.

Now that journey was over. Hahli looked up at her enemy through pain-filled eyes, and asked simply, “Why?”

“Why?” repeated the familiar voice of her foe. “You already know the answer – you forced me to do it. I would have rather had you as an ally, just like we were before. Together, we could have defeated the Barraki, retrieved the Mask of Life, and saved the life of Mata Nui.”

“Saved…?” Hahli repeated in disbelief. “You don’t want to save the Great Spirit, you want him dead!”

“Don’t be silly,” the enemy replied. “No sane being wants to see the universe crumble into ashes, which would surely happen if Mata Nui were to truly perish. No, I want Mata Nui alive, Hahli… but on my terms.”

Hahli couldn’t listen anymore. She looked around to see Jaller, Kongu and her other friends sprawled out on the floor, badly injured or dying. After the battle they had just been through, it was a miracle that any of them still clung to life.

“So what now?” she said, as much to herself as to her victorious opponent. “Without us, is the Mask of Life lost forever?”

“Not lost, not yet,” said the enemy. “If being a Toa should have taught you and I anything, Hahli, it’s that there is always hope.”

* * *

Not far away, Toa Inika Nuparu struggled to consciousness. Through blurred vision, he could see Hahli and who she was talking with. Although he could hear only snatches of the conversation, he was pretty sure the being who had struck them down was not apologizing and offering to make amends.

Nuparu reached out and felt the cold, hard substance of his laser drill. It could fire off bursts of energy strong enough to punch holes in solid rock. He knew firsthand how tough the enemy was, but had also seen the devastating power of his own weapon.

One shot is all it would take, he told himself. If anyone deserves it, he does. It’s not just our lives at stake – it’s the entire universe.

Nuparu told himself his foe was responsible for this decision, but he didn’t really believe it. The hand that struck down the Toa was not the one about to fire. It was Nuparu’s hand that would trigger the weapon in the hope of killing another being.

He hesitated. The code against killing was the most important rule Toa lived by. He had seen Toa fight Rahi beasts, shadow kraata, even Makuta himself, without ever resorting to killing force. Could he be less than they, and violate a code that had probably been in place since the beginning of time?

Nuparu took aim. Do I really have a choice? Maybe… maybe after this, I will be remembered as a failure, or worse. But I do what I do to save my friends.

In the instant before he fired, the Toa of Earth’s mind flew back to the beginning of their journey, remembering how they came to this fatal moment…

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