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It had been three days since Spiriah’s takeover of the team’s vessel. Since then, they had steered a course for the island of Zakaz, surrounded on every side by boats filled with murderous Zyglak. Spiriah had been acting every inch the captain of the ship, ordering the others about and being particularly hard on Brutaka. Through it all, Brutaka said nothing and made no attempt to strike at Spiriah.

“To think, we were beginning to feel a little afraid of him,” Takadox said, gesturing toward Brutaka.

“Speak for yourself,” Carapar replied.

“Home,” beamed Vezon. “True, I’ve never been to Zakaz… I’m not even really one of the native species… in fact, they’ll probably kill me on sight… or worse, tie me upside down over a spiked dagger plant… but at least I’ll die at home.”

Roodaka had abandoned any hope that Brutaka was going to act and concentrated instead on Spiriah. “The Brotherhood has overextended itself in recent years,” she assured him. “Warring with Dark Hunters and Toa… they are weak. If you struck at them now with your army, you could take over Destral and rule the universe. Of course, you would need someone by your side who knows all the factions and how best to use them…”

Spiriah looked at her as if she were something stuck to his boot. “I would sooner offer my neck to a dull axe blade than trust you, female. Your name has become another word for ‘treachery.’”

“Better that than being another word for ‘failure,’” Roodaka muttered.

The conversation was ended by the appearance of land off the port bow. It was the island of Zakaz, in all its ruined “glory.” A handful of Dark Hunter vessels could be seen in the waters nearby, on patrol. At a word from Spiriah, the Zyglak vessels attacked. Taken by surprise, three of the Dark Hunter ships were sunk immediately. The others beached on the shores of the island, only for the crews to be slain by a mob of Skakdi natives.

Spiriah laughed at the sight. “The Skakdi believe they know what savagery is,” he said. “But they have never met the Zyglak. And the Makuta believe they know all the colors and shapes of revenge… but I will introduce them to a shade darker than even they could imagine.”

The mini-armada surged forward, Zyglak already preparing to storm the beaches. They were still 500 yards from shore when the first Zyglak ship suddenly lurched and began to sink. This was followed by another and still another. Soon, Zyglak vessels on every side were taking on water, gaping holes torn in their hulls below the water line.

Takadox rushed to the rail. He caught a glimpse of beings just under the water, attacking the Zyglak craft. From a distance, they almost looked like his old ally, Ehlek. Whatever they were, they moved like fish underwater and the ships were no match for their claws.

Shocked by the abrupt annihilation of his force, Spiriah was unprepared for Brutaka’s attack. An energy blast knocked him off his feet, a well-placed kick kept him on the ground, and then Brutaka’s blade was pressed against his chest armor.

“Go ahead,” Brutaka said, coldly. “Use one of your powers. Think you can do it before I rip open your armor? And how long do you think your energy will last out here, with no body to occupy? Or maybe I should just throw you overboard right now.”

“How…?” Spiriah began.

“How did I deal with the Zyglak?” said Brutaka. “Simple. You have friends; so do I. Mine are a species of water dwellers who were specially modified by my employers to kill Makuta. They live off the coast of Zakaz, and right now they are practicing their skills on your Zyglak. You don’t want to look… it’s messy.”

“Wait a minute,” said Takadox. “Not that I am complaining, but how did you manage to get in touch with these ‘friends’ of yours? You never left the ship.”

Brutaka hauled Spiriah to his feet. All around, the ocean was littered with wrecked ships and dead Zyglak. “Spiriah had his friends following us. And I had someone following us since we left Stelt, just in case of emergency… and here she comes now.”

The others turned to see a small skiff approaching from the east. Its lone pilot was a female, lithe and well-armed. As she came alongside and clambered above the ship, Roodaka noticed that her left arm was completely mechanical. For a moment, she almost felt sorry for Spiriah.

“This is the last member of our team,” said Brutaka. “Treat her as you would me… and be sure she will treat you even worse than I do. Her name’s Lariska.”

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