“Eight of us, six of them,” said Pohatu. “I like those odds.”
The Toa Nuva, Takanuva, and Toa Ignika were assembled about half a mile from the Codrex. Of the Makuta guarding the structure, only Icarax and Mutran seemed to be missing. The rest were waiting impatiently for the Toa attack they knew would be coming.
“Surprise is out,” said Tahu. “We hit them and hope some of us make it inside. Don’t get tied down by individual fights. And if one of our own falls, keep moving. Don’t stop. This may be our only shot at this.”
“Hold on,” said Kopaka. “They know we’re coming, but not when, so maybe we should announce it. Consider this…”
When Kopaka was finished speaking, the Toa took their positions. Gali had to guide Ignika to his spot and remind him what it was he had to do and when. As the Mask of Life, Ignika had never had to worry about complicated battle plans in the past. That was left to the guardians the mask created for itself.
“All right,” said Tahu. “Let’s soften them up.”
Lewa, Gali, and Takanuva struck first. Combining their powers, the Toa of Air and Water conjured a storm with deafening claps of thunder. At the same time, Takanuva used his light power to create a brilliant, blinding flash.
While the Makuta were still dealing with the assault of sound and light, Tahu used his power to turn one of the massive stalactites red hot. As soon as it glowed crimson, Pohatu brought it down in a rain of rubble on the assembled Makuta. Those who tried to fly out of the way were grabbed by hands of earth created by Onua and pulled down.
Now it was Kopaka’s turn. He knew well the resistance to cold each Makuta had. But now he combined subzero chill with Toa Ignika’s weakening of the Makuta’s life force. The enemy was slowed, but not yet out.
“Go!” yelled Kopaka. All eight Toa shot forward, protected by Tahu’s Mask of Shielding, elemental powers blasting in every direction. From the ground, Gorast fired a bolt of molecular disruption, shattering the Toa’s shield.
“Separate!” ordered Tahu. The Toa immediately peeled off from their formation, each coming toward the Codrex from a different direction and peppering the Makuta with elemental energy. The Makuta fought back with chain lightning, heat vision, and sonic attacks. Onua was the first to go down, hit by Bitil’s power scream.
Seeing the Toa of Earth fall from the sky, Gali swerved toward him. She caught him just before he hit the swamp, then struggled to regain altitude while dodging cyclones created by Antroz. “Save yourself!” Onua shouted over the wind. “Those were Tahu’s orders!”
“Sorry, brother,” Gali said, smiling. “I can’t hear you over this big breeze.”
The way ahead was littered with molten rock, tornadoes, lightning bolts, Matoran of Light locked in combat with Matoran of Shadow, and Makuta pursuing Toa. Gali dodged the cyclones much as she had once dodged water-spouts beneath the endless sea, her eyes locked on the Codrex.
Up ahead, Gorast had caught up to Toa Ignika and slashed deep into his armor. Ignika turned in midair and regarded her as if she were some interesting new form of creature he had found under a rock. Then he casually waved a hand in her direction. In response, the molten rock assembled itself into a giant, its flaming eyes fixed on Gorast. Even as the Makuta used her shattering power to reduce it to fragments, the giant caught her with a backhanded blow that sent the Makuta flying.
With the immediate threat dealt with, lgnika glanced down at his damaged armor. Employing only a minor surge of power, he repaired the armor. Then he glanced at the fallen Gorast, with an almost childlike rage. She had tried to harm him. If she so much as moved, he would do far worse to her.
“Toa-brother!” Lewa yelled, grabbing Ignika’s arm.
Ignika turned to look at him. Was this another attack? No, this was the green one. Ignika liked green; it was the color of plant life. “What do you want?” he said, haltingly.
“We have to go!” Lewa replied, pulling Ignika along. “Now, while they’re scattered!”
Tahu slammed the keystone into place, dropping the field around the Codrex. “Come on!” he yelled as loud as he could. The other Toa rocketed toward his voice. A door opened in the spherical structure, and the heroes stormed inside. When they were safely in, Tahu retrieved the keystone and darted in himself, even as the field re-established itself.
“Seal the door!” the Toa of Fire shouted. But the door had already sealed itself. Through a small window that formed in the door, they could see the Makuta circling the Codrex like hungry kavinika after a kill.
“What now?” asked Takanuva.
“Well, first we –” began Pohatu. He stopped when he realized he had to look up to see the Toa of Light. “Hey! When did you get bigger?”
“Fascinating,” said Kopaka, eyeing Takanuva, who was now several inches taller than anyone else in the room. “It’s similar to the way the Matoran of Light are taller than any others we have known. Perhaps it’s this place, the energies of it, working on their unique systems.”
Normally, Onua would have been in the middle of this conversation, but something was nagging at him. He walked slowly around the interior of the Codrex, looking at everything. When he turned back to the group, he sounded mystified and puzzled. “I know this place… why do I know this place?”
Now that he had mentioned it, the others felt it, too – a sense that they had stood inside the Codrex before, but no clear memory of when it had been or why. Lewa looked the most uneasy. “I seem to remember fighting here, arguing,” he said. “And then… it’s all a blank.”
“Maybe this is the answer,” said Kopaka. He was pointing at six empty slots that, from their shape, must have once held large, cylindrical objects. “Just about the right size for Toa canisters, wouldn’t you say?”
“You mean…?” began Gali.
“This is the place?” said Pohatu, stunned. “This is where we came from?”
When the Toa had first emerged on the shores of the island of Mata Nui a year before, they had come out of vehicles called Toa canisters. Their memories were largely a blank. They knew instinctively they had been in the canisters a very long time, but they had no idea where they had been before the island they now saw before them. Their pasts had been a mystery. Now part of that mystery had been solved.
“We all felt as if we had seen Karda Nui before,” said Kopaka. “Now we know why. At some point in the past, we came here and entered the Codrex. Then we climbed into Toa canisters to wait until we were needed.”
Silence fell on the chamber for a few moments. It was Tahu who finally broke the mood. “We don’t have time for memories,” he said. “When this is over, maybe we can sort it all out. For now, we have a job to do.”
The interior of the Codrex was dominated by complex machinery. Tahu doubted that even a skilled inventor like Nuparu would be able to make sense of any of it. But the keystones had given clear direction on what they had to accomplish here. Onua walked to the bank of machines on the far left and ran his hand across a panel. It flared to life, and as it did so, the Toa Nuva heard a harsh rumble.
Before the startled eyes of the Toa, the section of floor that had once held their canisters began to descend. As it did, it revealed a vast sublevel the heroes had never dreamed existed in the Codrex. Slowly and silently, the segment settled into place far below. The moment it did so, six huge lightstones rose out of its surface, one by where each canister had once rested, forming a circle.
Using their flying abilities, the Toa descended through the hole to investigate. So caught up were they in this new discovery that none of them realized they had company: Antroz, hidden by his chameleon power and following the sounds of the Toa’s voices and movement. He had left Radiak behind, since his ability to disguise his presence would not extend to the Matoran. That left him vulnerable, but right now, he didn’t care. He sensed an amazing source of power down below, and he was going to find it.
The chamber was laid out like a huge wheel, with the lightstone ring in the center and three spokes leading off it. The Toa landed on those spokes and then moved in different directions to explore. Pohatu reached the wide end of a spoke first. As soon as his armored foot touched a certain plate in the floor, there was a sound of machinery humming. The next instant, Pohatu was looking at a metallic cocoon that had abruptly locked into place beside him, with sound and light coming through cracks in its shell. When it withdrew, it left in its place an impressively large crimson air vehicle, looking as new as if it had been assembled the day before. It was a technological marvel, practically radiating power even while sitting still. It bristled with weaponry and the advanced engine and sleek lines hinted at enormous speed.
Pohatu turned to see that Lewa and Kopaka had made similar discoveries. Of the other two vehicles, one was green and the other blue. Lewa, in particular, was delighted at the find. Tahu was more interested in the ring of lightstones, which had been mentioned in the keystone inscriptions.
“Okay, we may have been here before,” said Lewa, smiling. “But we never saw those. I would have ever-remembered.”
Gali crouched down and read the inscriptions carved beneath the vehicles. “Axalara T9… Jetrax T6… Rockoh T3. None of those names mean anything to me. How about the rest of you?”
“Why hide things like that in here?” wondered Onua. “Were we supposed to use them somehow?”
“Look at the weapons,” marveled Lewa. “Those are for fighting!”
“Could be,” agreed Pohatu. “Or maybe escape, if everything goes real wrong.”
Kopaka gave a sharp laugh. “If ‘everything goes real wrong,’ brother, there won’t be anywhere to escape to.”
With great effort, Icarax had made his way down to the swamp. No doubt by now Toa Ignika had found the Nuva and warned them of the imminent destruction of everything. He wondered how they had reacted. Fear? Hesitation? Or a fierce determination to keep fighting? Probably the last, he decided. Toa were just stupid enough for that.
Down below, he could see Vamprah, Chirox, Gorast, and Bitil surrounding the Codrex. To anyone else, it would have looked like they were putting their all into breaking through the energy field that surrounded the structure. Icarax knew better. They wanted to get in, that was true, but when the time was right, not before. Thanks to the grand Plan of Makuta Teridax, the Brotherhood’s leader, the proud Makuta had been reduced to timekeepers.
He was surprised to see Krika hovering in the air, not far from the Codrex but not close enough to be part of the effort to break in. Icarax had never particularly liked Krika, seeing him as another Makuta who spent more time thinking than doing. But with the Plan so close to success, Icarax didn’t have the luxury of choosing his allies.
“They will never get in there in time, you know,” he said as he approached the ghostly figure.
“In time for what?” replied Krika.
“To stop them from waking up Mata Nui, of course,” said Icarax. “The Toa are about to undo the only part of this Plan that ever made any sense, while we stand around and do nothing about it.”
Krika shot an irritated glance at his companion. Everyone knew Icarax wanted to be leader of the Brotherhood, and achieving that meant proving he had a better plan than the current leader. Unfortunately, Icarax’s plans were about as subtle as an axe to the head and only half as interesting. “And what is it you expect to do about it?”
“I expect us to act,” Icarax snapped. “You know what will happen if the Toa wake up the Great Spirit. There will be no turning back then. We have to strike while his body still sleeps – we have to destroy the Codrex and the Toa with it!”
Krika was tempted to reject the suggestion completely, but he couldn’t bring himself to do it. Hadn’t he been hovering here, thinking much the same thing? The Toa were inside the structure; it was just a matter of time now. And once the Toa achieved their destiny, well, Great Beings help the world that would result from their actions.
“All right,” Krika said. “Speak. I will listen.”
Icarax’s plan was daring, bold, and naturally, incredibly risky for someone other than him. The energy field around the Codrex had to be brought down. A joint attack by multiple Makuta could do it, but that wasn’t going to happen, at least not in time. That was where Krika came in.
The field had been designed by the Great Beings to repel known forces. But Krika’s powers were the result of a mutation, something that couldn’t be foreseen. As he descended in his ghostly form toward the Codrex, he remembered Icarax’s final words.
“I will be surprised if you survive,” Icarax had said, his tone suggesting it wouldn’t be an altogether pleasant surprise. “But if you do not, at least you are dying in battle. Can anyone ask for more?”
Krika descended as rapidly as he could toward the Codrex. He could see Bitil pointing toward him. If the other Makuta guessed what he was about to do, they would try to stop him. He wasn’t going to let that happen. Icarax was right: This was the last chance to prevent disaster.
Steeling himself, he reduced his mass as much as he possibly could. This was the crucial moment. Would the field simply repel him like it did everything else? Or would his form be ghostly enough to pass at least part of the way in?
The tip of his foreleg struck the field… and made it through! Krika pushed forward, but each succeeding moment made the going harder. The field was adjusting to block him. It felt like he was trying to swim through thick mud.
When he was about halfway through, all progress was stopped. He knew he was about an instant away from being ejected from the field. The time to act was now. Willing himself to become solid, he materialized in the energy field. The pain was excruciating as the defensive shield threatened to tear him apart. Sparks flew in every direction and the only question was, which would die first – Krika or the field?
“Krika has betrayed us,” said Gorast, biting off her words. “He knew when we were to pierce the field. He is trying to sabotage the Plan!”
“Then stop him!” raged Bitil.
She was already in the air with Vamprah beside her. “It’s already too late,” Gorast said. “But we can have our revenge.”
Inside the Codrex, the Toa felt a jolt of energy as the field disintegrated. “Something’s disrupted it,” said Onua. “It’s going to come down.”
“And they’re going to come in,” added Pohatu.
“Not if we go out there first,” said Kopaka, nodding toward the three vehicles.
Lewa smiled. “I like it. I like it.”
The disruption and destruction of the field was complete. Unable to eject an object partway through its substance – Krika – the field’s energy fed back on itself. The device in the Codrex that had created the protective shield overloaded. With a blinding flash and an explosion of pure force, the field came down.
So did Krika. He fell a long way, too stunned to turn intangible, and so hit the ground hard. He ended up almost completely buried in the mud. When he had shaken himself out of his daze and crawled back to the surface, he expected to see Gorast or one of the other Makuta standing over him, ready to strike. But there was no one there.
A glance upward revealed the reason why. Gorast and Vamprah were closing in on Icarax. Their target hadn’t noticed yet, though – he was too busy destroying the Codrex.