The Toa Empire universe…
Toa Tuyet stood over the battered, semi-conscious body of Takanuva, Toa of Light. He did not stir. Being blown through half-a-dozen walls by a focused tidal wave would do that to you. Tuyet smiled.
“Pathetic, truly pathetic. If you are an example of what Toa are like in your universe, it’s a wonder you haven’t all been hunted to extinction by now.”
The ruler of the Toa Empire slipped off her Mask of Intangibility, and replaced it with the Kanohi Olmak, the mask Takanuva had come seeking. This mask alone had the power to open gateways to inter-dimensional space, and it was Takanuva’s only hope of escaping this twisted world.
“Your friends outside are dead, or soon will be. I admit I was surprised to find they still had some fight left in them after 3500 years. But, they can’t be allowed to rob the Matoran of the peace I have brought them.”
Takanuva managed to get to his hands and knees, rubble sliding off his back as he did so. He looked at Tuyet with eyes that held equal parts of contempt and pity.
“Peace?” he said in disbelief. “Is that what you call perverting the Toa into secret police, terrorizing the villagers, killing anyone who opposes your rule?”
“I did what had to be done. I made the world right. And who are you to judge me? You are nothing but an alien from some other dimension.”
Takanuva hurled a blast of shadow at Tuyet, temporarily cloaking her in darkness. By the time she could see again, he was gone. But his voice came from high above her, saying:
“That’s true, my world is messier than yours, more dangerous in some ways. But it is a world that’s better, because you’re not in it, Tuyet.”
The Toa of Water unleashed her power, bringing the ceiling down, but Takanuva was not there. Instead, he sprang from the opening at the far end of the hall, hurling blinding light at Tuyet as he made a grab for her mask. She spun, caught him by the arm and threw him hard to the floor.
“I have hundreds of times your power. You are nothing but a lightstone to be ground to dust beneath my heel.”
Takanuva attacked again, hurling bolts of shadow and light. To his amazement, Tuyet parried them with ease. Seeing his surprise, she laughed.
“You know, we had no Toa of Light in this universe. We didn’t need one. And in a few moments, we will be back to being without one.”
Takanuva charged. The next few seconds were a blaze of battle. Lasers turning water to steam, waves crashing against walls, a race to see what would happen first: Takanuva drowning in the tide, or Tuyet drowning in darkness. When the fight was through, Tuyet stood once more triumphant.
“Enough! I have wasted enough time on you. Your rebellion is finished, and now, so are you.”
Tuyet was about to strike when a strange sound penetrated the damaged Coliseum. Takanuva raised his head and glanced at a hole in the wall. He saw hundreds – no, thousands – of Matoran marching toward the building, all of them armed. In the distance he could see airships and sea-going vessels carrying other Matoran, Dark Hunters, Vortixx and others. All of them were descending on the city, their eyes fixed on the Coliseum.
“Still think the rebellion is over?” Takanuva asked. “Or maybe it’s just beginning.”
“The fools. With my power, I can sweep them all away in a flood like no one has seen before.”
Takanuva looked right into Tuyet’s eyes.
“Then who would there be left to protect? Who would you have made your perfect universe for?”
“Very clever, Toa. True, a universe with only drowned Matoran would not be of much use to anyone. But they must be taught respect.”
“Why? If they’re so ungrateful, why not use your mask to travel somewhere else? Some place that needs you. Start over again, in another Metru Nui, one where they might welcome a ruler like you.”
Tuyet glanced down at the street. The mob was coming closer, and though she could easily kill them all, it would leave her as the ruler of an empire of corpses. Perhaps Takanuva was right. At the least, she could leave and return with an army of Toa from another dimension, enough to stamp out every last visage of rebellion in her own world.
She turned away and activated her mask. A portal into inter-dimensional space opened before her and she prepared to step in. That was when Takanuva made his move. He somehow managed to hurl himself at Tuyet, snatching the mask from her face. For the second it lost contact with her, its power shut off and the portal began to close. Takanuva, mask in hand, dove through, but Tuyet was not about to let him escape so easily. Even as he cleared the portal, she grabbed on to his leg, trying to follow him. She blasted him with hard bolts of water, catching his hand and tearing the mask from his grasp. It floated away into the space between dimensions.
Takanuva turned back. What he saw horrified him, but his shout of warning came too late. Tuyet was halfway through the portal, trying to drag Takanuva back in. She was so consumed by rage that she never noticed the portal closing until it was much too late. She screamed as reality slammed shut on her body, leaving her upper half in the void and the lower half in the Coliseum on her world. Mercifully, death came instantly.
Takanuva hovered in space for a long moment. He wondered what would happen in Tuyet’s universe with her gone. Would the Toa become protectors again? Would the Matoran take control? Or would some group of the Dark Hunters and Makuta become new dictators? Perhaps someday, if he was able, he would return to find out the answer.
He turned his head away from the remains of Tuyet, wondering how a Toa could go so wrong, and realizing with a shudder what a fine line it could be between justice and tyranny. Tuyet’s life had been wasted, but the lives of no more Toa would be lost if he could prevent it. With grim resolve, he resumed his journey to Karda Nui.
* * *
Axonn was drowning. The greenish-black fluid filled his mouth and lungs before he could react. His mighty arms flailed about, trying to find something to grab on to, and failing. As he sank further toward the bottom, Axonn knew that here, in the birthplace of the Makuta species, he was going to die. Then he was suddenly rising rapidly up through the murky liquid. A strong hand had a hold of him and was yanking him away from his fate. A moment later he felt the hard stone of the floor beneath him. He choked and gasped. When the colors finally stopped swirling in front of his eyes, he looked up at his rescuer. Brutaka floated three feet off the floor. Green fire crackled from his eyes and the tips of his fingers. His armor had cracked in numerous places as the tissue it covered expanded. An aura of pure power surrounded him, so bright that Axonn had to raise a hand to protect his sight.
“Axonn,” said Brutaka, “we are glad to see you have… survived.”
“We? Brutaka, what’s happened to you?”
“I… we are the essence of the Makuta species. We know what they were meant to know, but have forgotten. We see the error. The flaws. So much to repair – but it cannot be done.”
Axonn stood, ax at the ready. He knew the effects Makuta antidermis had on Brutaka: absorbing it somehow made him stronger – but he had never seen or heard anything like this. It was Brutaka’s body and Brutaka’s voice, but the words did not come from his old friend.
“Spherus Magna, the Shattering,” Brutaka muttered, seemingly more to himself than to Axonn. “The three that must be one, the two that must make them one.”
Brutaka abruptly reached out and seized Axonn’s arm in a grip of iron. His touch burned, but Axonn fought back the urge to scream.
“He must remember, he must be made to see, or the journey of 100,000 years will be for nothing. He hides beneath, preparing to meet his destiny. We must go there, we must right the wrong – so many wrongs – before the Shattering can end.”
Ancient climbed a low rise, stepping carefully to avoid tripping over the rubble that was once a Xian factory. He had been searching for the Shadowed One for the better part of an hour. They were supposed to be discussing the defense of the city, but the Dark Hunter leader was nowhere to be found.
He was concerned. Toa Helryx had asked Ancient, her spy within the Dark Hunters, for regular reports on the state of things in Xia and the Shadowed One’s actions. She fully expected a Brotherhood of Makuta attack on the island, and he was already overdue with his latest dispatch.
Ancient reached the top of the rise. The first thing he saw was the Shadowed One, standing amid a pile of debris. He was holding a small chest, which was open, and staring at the contents with a nasty smile on his face. As Ancient drew closer, he noticed two other things: a dead Vortixx on the ground, his face encased in crystalline protodermis – and just what was in the chest: three vials.
“What have you found?” asked Ancient. “And why would a Vortixx be foolish enough to challenge you for it?”
The Shadowed One looked up, surprised. Then, seeing it was Ancient, he visibly relaxed. “A most amazing thing,” he said. “Have you ever heard of Makuta Kojol?”
Ancient nodded. He knew the story from the Order of Mata Nui: Kojol had been visiting Xia to discuss having a virus added into a weapon the Vortixx were building for the Makuta. During his visit, he was “accidentally” killed by a different virus. Except it was no accident, but an Order operation to remove him.
“He brought any number of viruses with him when he came to Xia,” The Shadowed One continued. “Some were never found. The story was they were incinerated along with his armor. But they weren’t, and I have found them.”
Ancient tried not to look as worried as he felt. Weapons like this in the hands of the Dark Hunters was a disaster in the making.
“Excellent,” he said. “We could ransom these for a good price.”
“Ransom them?” said the Shadowed One. “No, no, I intend to make use of them. I will learn what they are and what they do, and then Helryx and the Makuta will answer to me! But I will need time… a great deal of time – and privacy to work. No one must know I have them. That is why the Vortixx here had to die. And it’s why…”
Two beams of power lanced out of the Shadowed One’s eyes, striking Ancient. The veteran Dark Hunter vanished, disintegrated by the force of the blast.
“Apologies, old friend,” the Shadowed One said, “but you know the old saying: ‘A secret shared is no longer a secret.’”
Vezon stalked through the halls of the fortress of Destral, following Makuta Tridax and doing his best to remain unseen. The walls of the ancient structure shook from a ferocious pounding – the Order of Mata Nui had launched its attack on the Makuta base at last. His mission was simple, purposely, so that even his deranged mind could keep it straight: he was to follow Tridax, find the means the Makuta used to teleport their island from place to place, and then disable it. He would then be most likely killed by Tridax, but then, no plan was perfect.
At first it seemed like all was proceeding as expected. Tridax made his way to a sub-basement, seemingly oblivious to being followed. At the bottom of the basement was a massive chamber. What waited within that chamber staggered even the deeply disturbed Vezon.
The walls towered forty feet, all around. Lining them were stasis tubes, close to one hundred. And each tube was occupied by an identical figure. A few had armor of jet-black, most white-and-gold, but it was obvious they were all the same being. They were in some kind of stasis.
Tridax walked to the center of the room, where a small table sat. On the table was a Kanohi mask. Tridax reached for it, then suddenly whirled and hurled a blast of shadow at Vezon. Before he could dodge, the shadow had pinned him to the wall.
“Did you think I could not hear your clumsy attempt to follow me?” said Tridax. “Very well, Skakdi trash. You want to learn the most powerful secret of Destral? You want the satisfaction of knowing what hides here before you die? Look around.”
Vezon did, but he didn’t learn anything more by doing that.
“Quite a collection,” he said. “I prefer seashells, myself. Sometimes leaves. Oh, and the heads of my enemies, though those take up so much space.”
Tridax smiled and held up the mask.
“Do you know what this is? A Kanohi Olmak, the Mask of Dimensional Gates. One of only two known to be in existence. Not long ago, my fellow Makuta Mutran and I began experiments to develop a creature called a shadow leech – a creature that could drain the light out of others and turn them into beings of shadow. That was what sparked my idea. I knew the mask could reach not only other places in this dimension, but other realities as well. And so I have begun traveling to those other realities and collecting the Toa Takanuva of each, bringing him back here, and feeding his light to my pets. When I am done, I will have an army of Shadow Toa, all made from the most dangerous enemy of the Makuta.”
The walls shook again.
“I think you’d better hurry up and finish then,” suggested Vezon.
“No need,” said Tridax. “I have only to release the Shadow Takanuva I have already made, and they will dispose of the attackers. And then I can go back to work in ernest. And then I can…”
Tridax stopped at the sound of crystal shattering. Startled, he let his shadow power lapse. Vezon slumped to the ground, but not before he saw the Makuta looking at his arm in horror. Something was dissolving his armored gauntlet before his eyes, and his antidermis was leaking out into the air.
Two beings stepped out of the shadows. One was a Matoran, the other another species, very tall and very dangerous in appearance. He looked at the Makuta and laughed – a harsh and malicious sound.
“The most dangerous enemy of the Makuta?” said Tobduk. “Get ready, you’re just about to meet him.”