The minutes before the blast…

Gresh was the first to see the band of Skrall approaching from the west. Like carrion eaters, they had come to finish off the fallen. He felt a fury grow inside him that he had never known before.

He turned and headed for the Skrall. The last time he had faced this many warriors on his own, he had been beaten and badly wounded. But that was before Mata Nui had gifted him with the elemental power of air. Now he was ready to blow the Skrall back to the Black Spikes… and it would be a pleasure.

He was about to launch his first attack when he spotted something in the hand of one of the Skrall. The warrior was carrying a piece of golden armor.

So, Gresh thought, it belongs to them. Some kind of weapon? Then they are the last ones who should be allowed to have it.

Concentrating, he summoned hurricane-force winds that whipped sand at the oncoming Skrall. One gust tore the piece of armor from the Skrall warrior’s hand and sent it flying toward Gresh. The Glatorian snatched it out of the air, stashing it away with his other piece.

Three Skrall had battled their way through the windstorm and were coming for him. Gresh smiled.

This was going to be fun.

Not far away, Takanuva was dodging the heat vision of the yellow Rahkshi. In the past, his light powers had been enough to stagger these creatures, but not this time. Makuta had evidently created improved Rahkshi models.

Right, he said to himself, as another Rahkshi blast sliced a nearby rock in half. Like they needed improving.

Takanuva fired a laser at the Rahkshi. The creature countered it in midair with his heat vision. It was a stalemate at first, then slowly Takanuva started to gain the advantage. The Rahkshi hissed in anger.

Okay, maybe this won’t be so hard after all, thought the Toa of Light.

He caught a glimpse of yellow out of the corner of his eye. Another Rahkshi was charging at him from the left. Before he could react, it hit him broadside with a blast of searing heat. Takanuva cried out and fell.

The two Rahkshi closed in on the fallen Toa. Takanuva knew he had to take a chance. There was a new trick he had been working on for some time, but he had no idea if it would work in combat. He was going to have to find out.

Concentrating, Takanuva used his power over light to create a hologram between the two Rahkshi. He didn’t have the skill yet to make it perfect or very imaginative – all he could manage was a duplicate of himself. If the Rahkshi looked closely, they would see it was transparent in too many places. But in the midst of battle, they weren’t going to take time to examine the sudden appearance of a new enemy.

The creatures whirled as one and shot out beams of heat vision at the light image of Takanuva. They passed right through the light image to strike the Rahkshi. Before they could recover from the shock, Takanuva used his lasers to slice through the creatures’ armor. Both crumbled to the ground, dropping their staffs.

Takanuva got to his feet. One of the Rahkshi was reaching out for its weapon. The Toa stepped on the Rahkshi’s armored hand, shattering the metal into fragments. The two kraata slugs that had controlled the Rahkshi crawled out of the helmets, only to meet their ends by the power of light.

The Toa of Light grabbed the piece of golden armor. He headed back toward the battle, never looking back at the shattered remains of the Rahkshi. But in his heart, he made a vow that this would be the last fight with Makuta. The time had come to crush this evil once and for all.

“I’ll crush you!” bellowed Nektann.

Tahu barely blocked the Skakdi’s blow with his sword. He had spotted Nektann in the midst of the battle, hanging onto a piece of golden armor. At least three Toa and a dozen Matoran and Agori lay dead around him. A wave of heat had driven the other Skakdi and Rahkshi away from his side, but Nektann hadn’t fallen. Instead, he seemed to actually welcome Tahu’s attack.

“Go ahead, Toa,” the Skakdi taunted. “Use your flame power. Use your mask. You ‘heroes’ can’t win a battle with just your strength and your wits, right?”

Tahu gave a grim smile as he bored in on the Skakdi. Enemies had done this to him before – try to strike at his pride, make him sloppy, try to get him to make mistakes. But it hadn’t been so long ago that Tahu had fought others of Nektann’s kind and suffered a bitter defeat. If it hadn’t been for a brave group of Matoran villagers, he would have died. The experience made him take a hard look at himself. Nektann was about to regret that.

“This is the part where I’m supposed to say, ‘I don’t need my power to deal with you,’ right?” said Tahu. “I take it as a challenge. Can I outfight you?”

“You can’t, and you know it,” growled Nektann. “That’s why you have to cheat.”

Tahu triggered his elemental power, heating up his sword to several thousand degrees. His next blow melted right through the Skakdi’s weapon, cutting it in half.

“Look around, barbarian,” Tahu said. “All around you, warriors are fighting and dying. This isn’t a game. There are no rules. It’s not about honor, or pride, or who’s better – it’s about winning.”

Disarmed, Nektann still smiled that ruthless Skakdi smile. “So. You did learn something from your enemies, Toa. Maybe we won in the end, then – we made you like us.”

“Not like you. Never like you,” Tahu said. “You fight to take lives. I fight to save them.”

Nektann charged, slamming into Tahu and carrying him into the midst of a fight between Glatorian and Rahkshi. “Go ahead, burn me. But your Toa power will burn your friends too.”

“You still don’t understand,” said Tahu, as he flipped the Skakdi over his hip and slammed him to the sand. “You and your kind were what I was created to stop. You’ve terrorized villagers, murdered Toa, and now you serve a monster that would enslave worlds. I’m going to do whatever I have to.”

Nektann shot up faster than Tahu could have imagined, grabbing the Toa by the throat and lifting him off his feet. “You don’t have the guts, any more than those Toa I killed, or the villagers who had more courage than sense. Some of them didn’t even have time to scream before they died.”

The Skakdi squeezed harder, starting to choke Tahu. “Talk, talk, talk. That’s all Toa are good for. Try talking when I’m crushing your –”

Nektann stopped. Something was very wrong. Tahu’s eyes were gleaming and blistering heat was running down Nektann’s arm. Before the Skakdi’s eyes, his armor began to melt. It fell in molten drops to the sand, first his gauntlet, then the plate on his arm, then his chest armor. Tahu never moved, never spoke, as he fed his power into Nektann’s armor.

“What are you doing?” shouted the Skakdi. “My armor–!”

“Be grateful you were wrong,” Tahu said, as Nektann fell to the ground in a mass of liquid metal. “Be grateful I never learned from my enemies how to kill. You’ll live, Skakdi, but you won’t forget.”

Tahu picked up the Skakdi’s satchel and removed the piece of golden armor. “And, Mata Nui help me, neither will I.”

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