For the first time since his killing of Botar, that teleporting tool of the Toa, Icarax was having a good time.
He had savored the sight of the energy field collapsing and allowed himself a moment to decide just how best to destroy the Codrex and the Toa inside. With that done, Mata Nui could never be awakened and the great Plan of Makuta Teridax would die a quick death. He finally settled on the direct approach: a surge of gravity to crush the structure and its occupants like a madu fruit.
The metal of the Codrex was already starting to buckle with a most satisfying crunching sound. He could imagine the panicked Toa inside, frantically using their powers to try to stave off doom. That might even work for a while, but eventually the power of a Makuta would be too much for them.
And then, oh, and then, Mata Nui will sleep forever. Makuta Teridax will be blocked, his grand plan in tatters. If the Brotherhood still wishes for universal domination, they will have to do it my way – with thunder and protosteel.
Icarax increased the output of force. He was impatient to see the Codrex flattened and the matter of Teridax’s leadership settled once and for all. He would be a just ruler, a fair ruler – only a handful of Makuta would have to die horribly for their loyalty to the fallen Teridax. Mounting their Kanohi masks on poles around the fortress of Destral would serve as a warning to anyone else that might show poor judgment in the future.
And speaking of fools, thought Icarax. He had caught the approach of Vamprah and Gorast out of the corner of his eye. This, he decided, was going to be fun.
While not panicked, the Toa Nuva and Takanuva were certainly worried. The roof and walls above were starting to cave in.
There was no need to talk. They knew what they had to do. Onua, Pohatu, and Kopaka created pillars of earth, stone, and ice to try to brace the roof. Lewa increased the air pressure along the sides of the chamber in an effort to force the walls back into shape.
“It’s not working!” said Pohatu. “We need to think of something else!”
“We have to take the vehicles and get out there,” Kopaka said to Tahu. “It’s the only way. Maybe we can buy enough time.”
Tahu looked into the eyes of the Toa of Ice, with whom he had frequently clashed over the past year. He saw the determination in them and knew he couldn’t talk Kopaka out of his plan. “I’ll go, too,” said the Toa of Fire.
“No,” said Kopaka. “If this doesn’t work, you will need to think of something else.” He turned to the other Toa. “Who wants to go for a ride?”
“I wouldn’t miss it,” answered Lewa. “If I gave up a chance to fly-ride one of these beauties, Turaga Matau would never forgive me.”
“I’ll go,” offered Pohatu. “I’m no use in here. Besides, this place gives me the creeps.”
Lewa was already climbing into the cockpit of the largest craft, the red Axalara T9. “One question. How do we get these things out of here?”
“Well, this button says, ‘Launch,’” said Pohatu, seated in the Rockoh T3. “Maybe the wall opens or something.”
“Then we’d better go while there still is a wall,” said Kopaka.
Before the question could be debated further, the figure of Antroz suddenly appeared, descending from the upper level. Following the sound of Kopaka’s voice and the power radiating from the Jetrax T6 that the Toa of Ice stood near, Antroz headed for the cockpit of that vehicle. He landed at the controls, and the instant he did so, beams of force shot from the console and into his mask. Suddenly, he felt at one with the ship. He could see what its scanners could see, react as fast as the ship’s systems could do.
With a shout of triumph, he launched the Jetrax. It surged forward, brushing against one of the lightstones as it did so. A spark flared, sending energy coursing through the ship and making its armor glow yellow. Then the Jetrax shot straight up through the hole leading to the upper level and right for the solid ceiling.
Just as it was about to strike that barrier, the vehicle and its pilot shifted out of phase, becoming ghostly in appearance. The next instant, Antroz and the Jetrax T6 passed unharmed through the ceiling. Antroz found himself in a bizarre series of metallic tunnels that wound and twisted for an impossible distance. His link to the ship made navigation easy, but he wondered just where these tunnels would lead to. Those questions were cut off by the discovery that Lewa and Pohatu were in pursuit, the Toa of Air in the Axalara T9 and the Toa of Stone in the Rockoh T3. Antroz laughed – they would catch him, all right, but they might not be very glad they did.
* * *
From the pages of Takanuva’s journal…
We barely had time to marvel at the vehicles we discovered in the depths of the Codrex – for there were three – before disaster happened. A red armoured Makuta suddenly appeared in the cockpit of the Jetrax T6. Before we could react, he had flown off! Pohatu and Lewa wasted no time in leaping into the Axalara T9 and Rockoh T3 and heading off in pursuit, leaving the rest of us to wonder what would happen next.
* * *
Back in the Codrex, there wasn’t time to be shocked over what had just happened. The force of gravity still threatened the structure. The pillars created by the Toa were shattering. And they had barely begun the process of awakening Mata Nui. But Takanuva’s thoughts were elsewhere.
“I have to go out there,” he said quietly.
“We need you here,” Gali answered. “If the Makuta should break in –”
“The Makuta need to pay for what they’ve done!” Takanuva suddenly raged. “Destroying Ta-Koro… killing Toa Lhikan, and who knows how many others… corrupting innocent Matoran… they need to be crushed! And I have the power to do it – with my light energy, I can shred their armor and incinerate their energies!”
It was Tahu who grabbed Takanuva and spun him around. “Listen to yourself!” the Toa of Fire said. “Lost in fury, steeped in violence… you sound like a Makuta.”
Takanuva shuddered. He knew Tahu was right. Ever since the attack of the shadow leech on Metru Nui, he had been fighting against the dark side of himself. Now it seemed like he was losing.
“All the more reason for me to leave,” he said. “What if I lose control in here, with all of you? And there’s more… I put two and two together, Tahu. I know I had to have been a Matoran of Light once, long before I ever lived on Metru Nui. Otherwise, I couldn’t have become a Toa of Light. I don’t know what happened or how I was made to forget that, but those are my people out there.”
Tahu nodded. He knew he would have said the same thing if there were Matoran of Fire outside the walls of the Codrex.
“If they are out there when that energy storm hits, they are all dead,” Takanuva continued. “I won’t – I can’t – let that happen. I have to find a way to get them out of Karda Nui.”
“You’ll never make it,” said Gali. “The Makuta will destroy you before you’re six steps from the Codrex.”
“Oh no,” said Takanuva, with a grim smile. He held out his hands, one crackling with light energy, the other with shadow. “Trust me – they’ve never seen anything like me before.”
* * *
From the pages of Takanuva’s journal…
I knew I had to go back into the swamp. In the moments after Pohatu and Lewa left, I found myself filled with rage. The Makuta had to pay for what they had done, both here and in the rest of the universe. I existed to destroy them – I knew that now. More, I knew that at some point I must have been a Matoran of Light (even if, for some reason, I didn’t remember being one). That meant those people were my people out there, fighting for their freedom. Although Tahu and Gali tried to talk me out of it, I left the Codrex and headed back to the fight.
* * *
The three vehicles had emerged from the Codrex into Karda Nui.
“Look out, Brotherhood of Bats and Bugs!” shouted Lewa, knifing through the air in pursuit of Antroz. “Here comes Lewa, king of the sky!”
Lights began to dance in Lewa’s eyes. It took him a moment to realize that his mask had changed shape again, and the points of light he saw represented Makuta in flight. His Kanohi now had a built in scanner feature, and that was not good news for his enemies.
Lewa spotted Bitil moving to intercept. The Toa of Air flipped a red lever on the cockpit console. The side panels of the ship dropped down, revealing two Midak Skyblasters. Lewa veered right and dove toward, firing light spheres at the Makuta. Bitil immediately summoned duplicates of himself from his past in an effort to outnumber and overwhelm the Toa.
“Yeah, I heard about that quick-trick you do,” Lewa yelled down at the crowd of Bitils. “You know, making doubles of yourself. Go ahead, I won’t worry-mind – just gives me more targets!”
As it turned out, Lewa had laughed a little too soon. Half the Bitils unleashed magnetic power that pinned the Axalara in place, while the other used laser vision to start shearing the vehicle’s armor off. Lewa’s air power was enough to blow some of the Makuta away, but the rest hung on and pressed their attack.
Pohatu saw what was happening. Steering his craft toward the battle, he rammed the Rockoh into the mob of identical Makuta, scattering them like pebbles in a rockslide.
Antroz had slowed the Jetrax to see what had happened to his pursuers. He was so engrossed in the battle that he did not realize until it was too late that Radiak had climbed on board the vehicle.
“What do you want?” Antroz snarled.
“To help,” answered Radiak. “To aid you in destroying the Toa Nuva and seeing the great Plan succeed.”
Antroz frowned. The process of corrupting these Matoran had worked well, but at times their parroting of trite Brotherhood phrases grew tiresome. “Does it appear I need your help?”
Radiak looked confused. “But… but your sight… I mean… you said we would go into battle together…”
“I no longer need you to be my eyes,” said Antroz, hurling him out of the ship. “You’re just excess baggage now.”
Kopaka, newly emerged from the Codrex, spotted Radiak falling. He knew from Onua what happened to anyone who fell into the waters of the swamp, how they were mutated and twisted by that murk. So he never hesitated, soaring to catch the shadow Matoran before he hit the swamp.
There was a sudden burst of light from the direction of the Codrex. Then Takanuva was flying toward Kopaka, dodging bolts of shadow as he came. The Matoran Photok, Solek, and Tanma were right behind him. “I’ll take care of the villager,” Takanuva said. “You go after your ship.”
“Take care of me?” laughed Radiak darkly. “You can’t even take care of yourself! Toa of Light, hah! You look more like a Toa of Twilight to me.”
“Shut up, Radiak,” Tanma said. “That isn’t you talking – it’s what the shadow leech did to you.”
“And I like it,” Radiak said, with a sickening smile.
“Enough,” said Takanuva. “This is my job, Kopaka. Go and do yours.”
* * *
From the pages of Takanuva’s journal…
Kopaka had preceded me out. I caught up to him as he was pursuing the Jetrax and tangling with Radiak. I offered to deal with the shadow Matoran so he could go after the vehicle. Radiak jibed at me, calling me a “Toa of Twilight.” I had to fight down an urge to show him just how much light power I still had. But seeing him reminded me of something else – that he wasn’t a shadow Matoran by choice. He had been corrupted by the Makuta, and it was up to me to find some way to save him and the others. More, I had to get them out of Karda Nui before the energy storm hit.
* * *
Inside the Codrex, Gali, Onua, and Tahu labored as Toa Ignika watched, puzzled. What they were trying to achieve was not, in itself, enormously difficult. According to what was inscribed on the keystones, the presence of a Toa would send multiple pulses of energy through the lightstones to awaken Mata Nui. Each one had to be progressively stronger, acting like a jolt to the Great Spirit’s system. With luck, they would shock him awake.
There were problems, though. For one thing, there was no telling what would happen to a Toa in the middle of all that. Plus, sending one pulse after another took time, and time was in short supply.
“There has to be a faster way,” said Tahu.
Onua nodded. “I’ve been doing some math. Ignika says when his mask goes from silver to black, we’re all doomed. At the rate it’s changing, we won’t make it in time.”
Gali glanced at Tahu. His eyes were narrowed and there was a gleam in them she recognized all too well. It usually meant he was about to suggest something incredibly dangerous and utterly insane.
He didn’t disappoint her. “Then we need to do it all at once – one massive jolt.”
“That would wake him up,” Onua agreed. Then he added, quietly, “Or kill him.”
Gali looked again at the lightstones. “Impossible,” she said. “We’ll blow up all this and the Codrex and maybe all of Karda Nui.”
“If we build up the power through the lightstones, yes,” Tahu said. “But what if we had another source? Something so incredible it could feed all the energy we need into this system, all at once?”
“Sure,” said Onua. “But where are we going to find something like… that…” Onua’s voice trailed off. He turned to look at Toa Ignika. Tahu and Gali were already doing the same.
“Come here, brother,” Tahu said to Ignika. “We need to have a little talk.”