Tahu, Ignika, and Gali stood alone in the Codrex. Onua had left a short time ago to join the fight. Now they stood, poised to do what they had been created to do.
“This is it,” said the Toa of Fire. “All the battles we’ve had, all the adventures, all the danger and death… all for this moment.”
“It’s hard to believe,” Gali agreed. “You know, there were so many times when I hated you – when it seemed like you were being stubborn just for its own sake. But now I realize that you were just trying to do your best. It couldn’t have been easy leading this group.”
Tahu Nuva looked away from the one who was perhaps his dearest friend on the team. For a long time, he didn’t say anything. Then he turned back to Gali.
“Do what we set out to do. If the worst happens, maybe, somehow, you’ll be safe in here. Maybe the Codrex can protect you from the storm.”
“What? Why?” asked Gali.
“Because I remember now, sister… I remember everything that happened,” said Tahu, his voice heavy with grief. “Seeing this place again awoke the memories. We were here before.”
“I know that,” said Gali. “We all felt some recognition of Karda Nui when we first arrived. That doesn’t explain –”
“No, I mean we were in the Codrex before,” he said. “Pohatu and Kopaka were right – our Toa canisters were housed here and launched from here. I led us into this structure 100,000 years ago, knowing they would be here, knowing that we might never leave again.”
He related the story to her as quickly and simply as he could. How he had learned during his team’s initial training what their true mission was and what it would involve; how he knew about the energy storm that would hit Karda Nui back then, and purposely delayed so that the Toa would be trapped in the Codrex by it; how he gave them a choice – climb into the canisters to sleep and wait for the time they were needed, or perish in the storm. The only thing he left out was that, at the time, Kopaka had known all this as well. But the Toa of Ice no longer remembered, and he saw no reason to damage Gali’s regard for Kopaka by telling her about it.
When he was done, Gali did something he never would have expected: She smiled. “No wonder you didn’t want to talk about it when Pohatu brought up the empty canister slots. Tahu, I can’t say I am okay with how you did what you did – but I understand why you did it. You had to make a hard decision, but if you hadn’t made it, we might not be here now. There might be no one to awaken Mata Nui.”
“Thank you,” said Tahu. “I should have known if anyone would understand…” His voice trailed off. “But I still need to go. My place is out there, fighting this battle, leading my team.”
“It would take the Great Beings themselves to keep you away from a fight, I know,” Gali said, laying a hand on his arm. “But, listen to me. We will make it out of here. We will win this day, and then someday we will look back on it and wonder how we survived.” She laughed. “After all, with Lewa Nuva as a fighter pilot, how can we fail?”
Tahu didn’t answer. His thoughts suddenly seemed to be elsewhere. When he returned his attention to Gali, he was smiling. “That’s it. The vehicles, like the one Lewa is piloting – that’s how we can get out of here in time.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Remember how fast they are, how they passed right through the ceiling when they launched? If they can do that, they can carry us out of Karda Nui in the seconds we’ll have before the storm erupts full-force.”
Tahu nodded toward Toa Ignika, then looked at Gali. “Give me three minutes, and then go ahead. We’re going to get home, Gali, all of us. I promise.”
Before she could respond, he was out of the Codrex. She began counting down to the moment when the destiny of the Toa Nuva would finally be achieved.
It wasn’t hard to get the shadow Matoran to chase the Matoran of Light back up to the sky. Hunting their former friends was, after all, what shadow Matoran loved to do.
Running into an angry klakk, however, was not part of their plans. Feeling threatened, the Rahi attacked anyone who came near and its sonic scream shattered the barrier that kept light from reaching the corrupted Matoran. One by one, they dropped out of the fight as the Makuta’s hold on them dwindled away. Finally, only one Matoran remained in the grip of darkness. That was Gavla, the first to fall to a shadow leech when the Makuta invaded Karda Nui.
“Can you lead the Matoran out of here?” Takanuva asked Tanma.
“I think so,” Tanma answered. “Vican says there’s a portal to the outside in the western wall – he went through it to find Icarax. Of course, there’s a Makuta base on the other side, but if we move fast enough –”
“Good,” said the Toa of Light. “I’m going after Gavla. When you get out, take the Matoran north, to Metru Nui. There are Toa there, so the place should be well-defended.”
After giving Tanma directions as best he could to the island city, Takanuva said good-bye. He headed back for the swamp, in search of the only Matoran left to be rescued. He found her wandering along the shore of a mud islet, not far away from where Vamprah stood with Chirox. Takanuva flew faster than he ever had before and grabbed her, carrying her up to the sky.
As he knew she would, Gavla fought all the way. Takanuva ignored her screams and rants, knowing that in the end she would be happy to be free of the taint of shadow. Sighting the klakk, Takanuva fired a bolt of shadow at it to bait the creature.
The klakk responded as it had each time so far, with a sonic scream, this time targeted at both Takanuva and Gavla. The Toa of Light immediately felt something change inside him, as light returned to fill the void now occupied in his spirit by darkness. It would take a while, he was sure, before his armor changed back to white and gold from white and gray – but at least he knew the damage done by the shadow leech was being reversed.
Gavla’s reaction was quite different. She howled with rage even after the klakk’s attack had undone what the shadow leech had done to her. When Takanuva moved to see what was wrong, she struck out at him with a bolt of light.
“Who asked you to save me?” she raged. “Don’t you understand? The Makuta accepted me – they had use for me – which is more than my fellow Matoran ever did! I finally found a place where I belonged, and you took it away from me.”
“But… but you were evil,” Takanuva said. “You were threatening people who had been your friends for years.”
“Friends?” Gavla said bitterly. “They were never my friends. But you wouldn’t understand – you’re a Toa. Every Toa is your brother or your sister. You all rush around thinking whatever you do must be right. Well, sometimes it’s not.”
Takanuva saw it was useless to argue. He wasn’t sure how to feel about what she’d said, angry or just sad. “Tanma is gathering the Matoran at the old village to take all of you out of Karda Nui while there’s still time. You had better go if you want to join them.”
Gavla gave him a long look, her eyes full of sadness and resignation. “I guess I will have to,” she said, as she flew past him. “You’ve left me nowhere else to go.”
* * *
From the pages of Takanuva’s journal…
It was Kopaka who stopped me… who brought me to my senses before I killed the Makuta. As they fled back to the swamp, I told the Toa of Ice what I had learned: that the Makuta wanted Mata Nui awakened, for reasons I could not imagine. Kopaka left me to warn the others, while I tracked down the last shadow Matoran needing to be saved. This was Gavla, and despite her protests, I managed to put her in the path of the klakk’s scream… and myself as well. I could feel the barrier within me shatter and the light begin to return. I was cured, and so was she… but she was not so happy about it. The shadow, apparently, had been a place she felt she belonged, and I had taken her away from it.
I sent her after Tanma and the others. They would be making their way to the western portal and escape from Karda Nui. I had to rejoin my friends.
* * *
Down below, the battle was raging more fiercely than before. Gorast, Bitil, and Mutran, with what limited assistance Antroz, Chirox, and Vamprah could provide, were trading bolts and blows with the Toa Nuva. Makuta resistance had stiffened, as they tried to force the Toa back toward the Codrex. Gorast’s strategy was simple: pen the Toa into a small area so they would be easy to destroy once Mata Nui was awakened.
Tahu and Gorast were locked in a fight, the Toa using his rotating blade to try and keep her at bay. He knew from Pohatu what would happen if she touched him – loss of control of his elemental powers. If that happened when he was near his allies, he might incinerate all of them.
“The final moments have arrived,” Gorast said. “Soon, it will be too late for anyone to change the course of events. The Plan will succeed, and the world as you know it will be history.”
“I’ve heard words like that from Makuta before,” Tahu shot back. “They were wrong then, too. Where is the leader of the Brotherhood, by the way? Too cowardly to face us?”
Gorast hissed as a fire bolt scorched her armor. “Do not worry, Toa – you will hear from him soon enough, in words like thunder.”
Tahu parried Gorast’s blow, but left himself open to a sonic attack that cracked his adaptive armor. “You fool, no one is going to hear anything if we don’t get out of here! When Mata Nui awakes, an energy storm will kill anyone who’s still here.”
“He’s telling the truth!” It was Krika, flying toward them. “I heard the Toa talking up above. Makuta Teridax has set us all up to be killed!”
Krika had done many things in his life, most of them evil, some bordering on insane. But if he had thought Gorast would ever listen to him, that was truly madness. She turned on him with hatred in her eyes, Tahu totally forgotten now, and charged. Before Krika could stop her, she had grabbed his arm and triggered her Mask of Disruption.
“Gorast, no! Don’t you understand? You’re all doomed!” Krika yelled as he felt his powers slipping out of his control.
“I only understand that you are a traitor,” she replied. “And there is only one punishment for traitors!”
Krika screamed then, as his ability to reduce his mass to intangibility ran wild. With his will no longer able to control his power, he grew more ghostly as his atoms became less and less substantial. Finally, with a cry of pure anguish, he vanished completely from view.
“Gone,” Gorast said, satisfied. “Less than a phantom, now, and soon not even that.”
Tahu fired his blaster, forming a clamp that pinned Gorast’s arms to her sides. Before she could break free, he used his elemental powers to increase the temperature around her until her armor began to soften.
“I ought to let you melt,” Tahu said. “How long would your energy survive here, with no body to possess? Krika was trying to save your miserable life, and you repaid him with death.”
“Tahu!” Kopaka shouted. “We need to get back to the Codrex. The Makuta want us to wake up Mata Nui – at least, that’s what Kirop says. Could this all be some trick?”
Gorast began to laugh. It started out as a soft giggle, then grew into insane peals of mirth that chilled Tahu’s spirit. “It’s too late, too late,” she cried. “Can’t you feel it? It has begun – the Great Spirit awakes!”
It was true. The air in Karda Nui had begun to sizzle with energy. Everywhere Tahu looked, the light was growing brighter, dispelling the shadows of the Makuta. In the distance, he could see the Matoran of Light speeding toward the west and, hopefully, safety.
“She’s mad,” said Tahu. “They all are. The Makuta have been fighting us every step of the way, and now I’m supposed to believe they wanted us to succeed all along? They have a funny way of showing it!”
“What if we’re missing something?” asked Kopaka.
“Look around you,” said Tahu. “You know what’s about to happen. We’ll have to worry about ‘what if’s’ later.”
Kopaka glanced at the still laughing Gorast, who was clearly either caught up in a feeling of triumph or completely insane. “Let’s hope there is a ‘later,’ then.”
Toa Ignika rose slowly, majestically, into the air, then descended into the center of the ring of lightstones. For an instant, nothing happened. Then energy lanced from the mask into the six crystals. Toa Ignika staggered as his body began to sparkle, each point of light scattering in a different direction. In a matter of seconds, the body had returned to the random assortment of molecules it had been before the Mask of Life created it. And then it was done, leaving only the mask hovering in the air, trapped in a nimbus of overwhelming power.
A whip of energy suddenly lashed out at Gali. But it caused no pain – instead, it was raw emotion that it carried. At first, she felt a great emptiness. Then there was the sensation of a great mind embracing awareness, reaching out to feel and experience all there was in the universe. She felt joy, a sense of triumph, even a desire for vengeance on the entity’s enemies, and something more… something indistinct and far away, which she could not quite identify. Perhaps the consciousness was just so powerful, so alien, that it was beyond her ability to understand. She hoped that was all it was.
Then there was another strange happening. The mask itself began to vibrate violently. Power was no longer flowing only from the Kanohi Ignika into the lightstones, but now something was flowing back into the mask! Worried that the energies unleashed might destroy the mask, Gali reached out to tear it free. As soon as she made contact, there was an explosion of force, and she was slammed into the wall.
When she regained consciousness minutes later, it was to see Onua standing over her. “Gali, we have to go. It may already be too late!”
“But the mask…” she began.
Onua glanced at the Ignika, which was vibrating so fast now it was just a blur. “There’s no time. Life here is coming to an end, and if we don’t leave, we’ll end with it.”
* * *
It took the Mahri a long time to make it from Artidax back to Metru Nui, and Jaller’s first thought upon arriving was that it had been way too long: Metru Nui was under attack. At least, he thought that was Metru Nui. It was surrounded by high walls with weapons mounted atop them, weapons belching fire and smoke at the attackers. The walls were manned by warriors of all sorts, none of which Jaller recognized – wait, check that. The berserker battling three opponents at once looked a lot like Hewkii.
“What’s going on?” said Nuparu. “It looks like we walked into a full-scale war.”
“It’s been going on for a while,” said Hahli, “but I think it’s come home.”
It was an awesome sight. Ships flying the banner of the Brotherhood of Makuta ringed the island city. Flying Rahkshi were assaulting from every direction, firing bolts of energy from their staffs while others pounded on the walls. In one section, a portion of the wall had already crumbled, and warriors fought in the gap, trying to keep the invaders out.
“They’re breaking through!” shouted Nuparu.
“Let’s go,” said Jaller. “We stand or fall with our city.”
The three Toa hit the gap from behind, using fire, water, and earth to tear through the ranks of Rahkshi. They made it through the wall of the city. Beyond the ranks of Order of Mata Nui agents, they spotted the Turaga manning barricades.
Jaller rushed up to Vakama. “Turaga, what’s happening? How did this battle begin?”
“We can thank the Order for that,” Vakama replied. “Now our problem is how to end it before the city is destroyed.”
“The Mask of Time,” said Hahli. “Can one of us use it to, I don’t know, slow down the Rahkshi somehow?”
“I wish you could,” said Vakama, “but the mask is gone, stolen by a Dark Hunter. He made the gap in the wall you came through.”
Jaller looked around. In his days as captain of the Ta-Koro Guard, he had learned a thing or two about battle strategy. A quick glance was enough to tell him that the Order had badly underestimated the ferocity of the Makuta attack. The Rahkshi had already gained the tops of the walls in three or four places, and in one southern section, had made it inside the walls as well. As he watched, the defenders of the gap fell back, and the invaders began pouring through.
“We need an edge,” said Jaller. “Something the Rahkshi wouldn’t expect.”
“There are more Toa coming, but they won’t get here in time,” said Vakama. “But there might be one Toa here now who could help us. Listen well…”
It was Hahli who found the Toa in question – a Toa of Sonics named Krakua. When he heard Vakama’s plan, he looked at her as if she had lost her mind.
“Let me get this straight,” he said, while blasting Rahkshi with sonic beams. “Vakama wants me to cycle through multiple frequencies until I find the one that will awaken something called the Bohrok?”
“Yes,” said Hahli. “We know – well, we suspect – the signal that awakens them is sonic, but we don’t know what it is or how to trigger it. If we can awaken the ones under Metru Nui, and if the Rahkshi try to get in their way… well, it might buy us some time for something else we’re planning.”
“All right, I’ll try,” said Krakua. “No promises.”
* * *
The storm, as most storms do, had started out small. First, the glow beneath the swamp had grown painfully bright. Then a tiny vortex of energy sprang to life just above the murky water. It rapidly grew bigger and bigger, bolts of power flying from it in all directions. Now it was spreading out across the swamp and stabbing upwards toward the sky.
Although the Toa Nuva had been expecting it, the Makuta were the ones who noticed it first. Unable to see, Antroz, Chirox, and Vamprah could only feel the power crackling in the air. Gorast had managed to free herself from the Toa and greeted the storm as if it were a sign of final victory. Bitil was not so sure, and had Gorast not been looking, he would have been winging his way out of Karda Nui.
Mutran was the most curious about the new arrival. Had Vican been around, he would have sent the Matoran into the eye of the storm to check it out. Since he was gone, along with the rest of the Matoran, Mutran steeled himself to check it out on his own. True, it looked dangerous, but it was raw power – if he could tap it, feed it into his creations, who knew what amazing Rahi he might create?
Tentatively, he flew along the very edges of the storm. Yes, it was everything he imagined it to be. The energy was devouring everything in its path: water, stalactites, Rahi beasts… everything. But there had to be a way to harness it. He was a Makuta, after all, no mere whirlwind of power was too much for him to master.
Then he saw it – the answer! “It’s so absurdly simple,” he shouted. “I can control this storm! All I have to do is –”
A crimson bolt of power erupted from the heart of the storm. In a flash, it had disintegrated Mutran’s protosteel armor and vaporized the energy being within. In a microsecond, a 100,000 year-old Makuta was gone, leaving not even a cloud of dust to mark his passing.
Now even Gorast realized something was very wrong. The storm was growing in size and strength at blinding speed. “No,” she whispered. “It isn’t possible…”
“What is it?” demanded Antroz. “What’s going on?”
“We have to get away,” said Bitil. “Curse us for fools, we’ve been betrayed!”
“Krika was right. Krika was right,” Gorast kept muttering.
“Lead us out of here,” Antroz ordered Bitil. But that Makuta shook his head.
“You, Vamprah, and Chirox would only slow me down,” Bitil replied, already in flight. “Find your own way home.”
Antroz cursed Bitil as he flew away, while Chirox sought out Gorast. But the female Makuta was making no effort to escape. She was simply standing on the shore of the swamp, transfixed by the storm – whether it was the sheer destructive beauty of it, or the elegance of the betrayal it represented, not even she could say. Perhaps it was simply the realization that her leader, Makuta Teridax, had sent her and the others to this place knowing that if their mission was successful, this storm would erupt and slay them all… perhaps it was facing that truth that drove her mad.
Bitil would try to teleport to escape the onrushing storm, but it was already too close. Waves of energy interfered with his power and he went nowhere. He pushed his flight ability to its limit, but could not outrace the vortex. And, as Pohatu Nuva once observed, the one power no Makuta had was superspeed.
* * *
From the pages of Takanuva’s journal…
The storm had begun.
It started out small, just in the center of the swamp, but grew bigger rapidly. It was terrible and beautiful at the same time, light and power released in a fury that nothing could compare to. Even I, releasing all my power in one mighty blast, could never have equalled what was going on below.
As I flew by, I saw Makuta Mutran tentatively hovering near the edges of the storm. It seemed as if he was trying to study it… the last foolish act of a wasted life. A bolt of lightning incinerated him as I watched. I didn’t have it in me to feel any regret… perhaps in some ways, what I have been through has changed me for good.
Along with my friends, I clung to one of the three vehicles discovered in the Codrex as we raced to escape Karda Nui. Around me, I could see the Makuta being consumed by the storm, and I thanked the Great Spirit I had been able to save the Matoran. Nothing could have survived this.
* * *
The Toa Nuva and Takanuva had climbed aboard the three vehicles. Their only hope of escape was that the flying craft could somehow outdistance the storm that signaled Mata Nui’s rising.
“Go!” shouted Tahu, and the three rocketed toward the western wall. Karda Nui and the storm that consumed it became a blur as they flew, three in the cockpits, the rest clinging for dear life. Pohatu spotted what he thought was the Mask of Life flying through the air… but then it was gone, and he had to wonder if it had ever been there at all. One sight he was certain of was that of the Makuta, fleeing before the storm and doomed to fail in their effort to escape.
“Tahu, the Makuta,” shouted Pohatu. “They won’t make it! Should we…?”
The Toa Nuva of Fire considered for a split second. It was against the code of a Toa to knowingly kill an enemy or allow one to die if it could be prevented. But he knew in his heart that there was no way to save the Makuta now, and trying would only mean the loss of his team.
“They lit this inferno,” he replied. “Let them burn in it.”
The vehicles were going beyond fast now and still picking up speed. They were heading for the portal in the western wall through which the Matoran of Light had escaped. But just as the vehicles approached it, a wave of energy rocked them. Suddenly, the Toa were headed for a solid wall.
“Hang on!” Lewa shouted.
The Axalara, Jetrax, and Rockoh shimmered out of existence, along with the Toa, just long enough to pass unharmed through the walls. The next moment, the Toa were racing through the darkness and hoping to find the light.
* * *
From the pages of Takanuva’s journal…
Toa operate by a code, one that says we do not kill our enemies. To do so would make us no better than them. But when Pohatu called attention to the Makuta, now in mortal danger from the storm, I have to confess – I felt nothing. They had brought this upon themselves. They had chosen to tamper with the natural order of this universe in a petty effort to seize power, and now the universe was setting itself right. And it was a universe that had no room for such as them.
I heard Pohatu say he thought he saw the Mask of Life. Gali told us of Toa Ignika’s sacrifice, his decision to give up his new “life” to awaken Mata Nui. Although Ignika could not die, as Matoro had, he still put the universe before his own needs and desires. I wondered if I would have the strength to do the same, under similar circumstances.
I thought surely we were going to crash. A wave of energy had rocked the vehicles and now we were headed for a solid wall. But at the last moment, all three and their passengers shimmered out of existence, only to reappear inside a twisting array of tunnels. How Lewa, Pohatu, and Kopaka ever managed to pilot us throught there, I do not know. Behind us, the storm had reached its peak…anyone and anything that was still inside Karda Nui was now disintegrated. The threat of the Brotherhood of Makuta was destroyed… or so I hoped.
* * *
Behind them, the storm had grown to its maximum. The Makuta, the Matoran villages, the swamp, and stalactites were gone, incinerated by the unleashed energies. And the Toa Nuva had, at last, achieved their destiny – after a thousand years of slumber, the Great Spirit had awakened.
* * *
Beneath the endless ocean, in the heart of the massive cave, energy pulsed course through rock. Machines which had sat immobile for a thousand years shuddered and slowly moved, shaking the universe. Power raced through long-disused conduits and streamed further and further from Karda Nui.
Water rippled around the barren island of Mata Nui, stripped of all life and vegetation by Bohrok hordes. Powerful quakes shook the earth, and massive megaliths of mountain and bedrock crashed into the ocean. An immense chasm ripped upward through the middle of the doomed island, each side sliding toward the ocean as something massive pushed up from below.
Far away, to the south and east and west, water foamed and boiled as underwater shockwaves spread from the movement beneath the sea. Gigantic whirlpools formed and disappeared. The sea itself heaved up towards the sky. Two halves of the island churned the already-frothing waters as they slid apart and dissolved into the maelstrom.
A tremendous head made of metallic protodermis rose from beneath the shattered remains of the once-beautiful island. Water, soil, and rock cascaded off its face as it rose higher and higher into the sky. Titanic shoulders breached the ocean, and an equally immense chest pivoted upwards. Slowly, the robot climbed to its feet and towered above the clouds for the first time in a thousand years. Yellow light gleamed from its eyes as it surveyed the ocean below.
Mata Nui had risen.