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Joint Effort[]

Bultrox was a very happy Runask. For those familiar with him, this could only mean that something very, very bad is about to happen to someone that he did not like. They would be right in assuming this, because that was exactly what was about to happen.

Faxhuun had been preparing for a counter-assault on Makuta Cekadax’s fortress for the past day or two, giving orders and consulting strategists nonstop. He had been speaking to Jardel quite often, getting inside information on armaments, defenses, and the like, in addition to any knowledge Jardel had on Ikirro, Recapar, or Cekadax herself that could be used to the Order of Altronia’s advantage. Meanwhile, no training matches were happening, since Faxhuun figured everyone’s battle skills were quite honed from the conflict a few days ago, and because he knew very well that they all – with a few exceptions, like Bultrox – needed their rest.

Bultrox had been trying to coax Liakatus into a training match, which the Ice Toa would normally agree to, but he was currently acting as Faxhuun’s chief assistant strategist and was far too busy to slug it out with his friend. Bultrox decided that his spare time would best be used sharpening his blades and offering his help to anyone who needed it in preparing for the upcoming attack. No one had needed help yet, but that was fine by Bultrox. There were always more beings to offer assistance to.

After going through almost the entire staff of Altronia Fortress, Bultrox came back to his team’s barracks to see what was going on. There wasn’t much to speak of. Suntrah was sitting, staring into space thoughtfully as he always did when no one needed him for anything. Levuku, Vohk, and Ferrak were all asleep, as was Lohrua, but the latter kept stirring from rolling over onto his metal bandage cover. Panuko was writing something in a small book, and Vaturi was in a conversation with Rewta, while the other Toa Tronux chatted amongst themselves. Shortly after Bultrox’s entrance, Rewta glanced at him and apologized to Vaturi before walking over to Bultrox.

He greeted her with a nod. “Hey.”

She gave a small wave. “Hi there – Bultrox, right?” When he nodded, she continued, relieved that she had gotten his name right. “Good. I’m a little new at the names and all, you know.”

“No big deal,” he said with a side-smile. “So, you need me for something?”

“How did you know?” she asked.

“I got a vibe,” Bultrox answered with his flat tone unchanged. “And I’m a little happy about that, because I’ve been looking for something to do all day.”

“Well,” Rewta began, gesturing to her new teammates. “So have we. We’ve all recovered fully, because, I don’t know, for some reason the mercs weren’t trying too hard to kill us or something. Anyway, we’ve gotten permission from Rajal to train, but he’s busy, as is Sybeko, my former trainer.” She looked cautiously over at Suntrah, and added, “And we think Suntrah deserves a decent rest. All this has been hard on him. So, in looking for someone who doesn’t need a rest and has real trainer material, we thought of you.”

Bultrox grinned again. “Well, it appears you six are good at recognizing true talent.” He paused to let Rewta know that that was a rare joke, to which she responded by grinning and rolling her eyes. When she was done, Bultrox fell serious again. “I’ll do the best I can.”

Faxhuun stood on the wall of his fortress. He, too, had needed a rest, so he took one, traveling to the top of his fortress’s wall, directly above the gate. He stood, staff in hand, staring out at the landscape. Snow still coated the dusty ground, glittering as the sunlight of a young dawn poured down from the sky. A chill breeze whipped by the aged warrior, but his almost youth-like vitality and battle-toughened form warded off the discomfort.

Faxhuun had traveled here with two purposes, the first of which was to gather his thoughts. A lot had been traveling through his mind for the last few days, and he needed to get his mind in order if he were to prevail. He had won battle after battle, and survived his losses, by having a clear mind running only a few thoughts at a time. If his mind was chaotic and congested, so were his strategies. One wins a fight with simple, but well-constructed strategies. Thus, some time to himself to clear his mind of unnecessary issues and trivialities was paramount.

Good thing, then, that he had his mind all cleaned up when Recvak approached. “Sir, all previous orders have been or are being carried out. Is there anything else?”

Faxhuun said nothing for a while. Then he turned around with a look of satisfaction and said, “No, there is nothing else.”

Recvak was about to go when Faxhuun added, “Except to give the order to move out.”

Recvak started, then nodded. “Yes, sir!” he said. He was about to follow his leader, but realized that Faxhuun must have been looking for something. Scanning the skyline, he spotted several dark shapes among the clouds. At once Recvak realized what they had to be.

They were more Yelnir ships, carrying with them reinforcements in the form of more Vahki drones.

Five Hours Later… Once again, Panuko found himself in this situation. He was lined up with dozens of well-trained Toa, similar beings, Vahki drones, Yelnir Commanders, and Zallirix, trudging through ankle-deep snow.

Yet, there was a new element or two to the situation. First off, it was almost noon, so the clear sky allowed the marginally and mercifully warm sunlight to shine down on the glitter-like crystals. Second, he and the others were not on their way to fight a defensive battle, but launching a counter-assault on Cekadax.

As a logician and scholar of sorts, Panuko saw this as a prudent, yet daring maneuver. Seeing as Cekadax’s army was made mostly of mercenaries, many would be willing to desert if they decided that their promised wages weren’t worth the peril. By pushing hard and fast, Faxhuun’s forces could perhaps scare some of their foes into leaving. Another reason the maneuver made sense was that letting the enemy have a chance to recover and rest up was unwise. True, they were barely recovered and rested up themselves—and, in fact, some weren’t; they had to leave Lohrua behind, for instance—but best not to let the enemy any more chance than was absolutely necessary.

Panuko was well-prepared for this fight. He was an intelligent, well-versed being with centuries of skill under his belt. He had previously been one of the most competent members of the Crynok Militia on his home island, Rayuna, and in fact still retained his position, even though he was not active. He was one of the most skilled fighters on his team, even if not one of the most powerful. He was somebody that not many people would like to fight.

Yet, in some sense, he was still unprepared. He was not quite ready to put his neck out there again, and he doubted that he was alone in that feeling, but more than that, Lohrua’s injury, not to mention Vaturi’s seeming death in the last fight, had shaken him. Logic dictated that, out of a random sample, one or more of his teammates should have died in that battle, and it was almost certain that the same would be true for the upcoming one. In the past, Panuko had let his brain do almost all the work, letting logic and reason dictate most of his actions. After some time in the militia, his grip on a reason-centered philosophy weakened, but held, and he still saw logistics as a good guide for one’s life. At this point, however, while he saw that logic and reason told a being some things, it was apparent from his experiences with these miraculous being he called teammates that they couldn’t tell a being everything. He and his team should all have died five times over. Their enemies far outclassed them in power and smarts, and had tools and weapons that were far superior to theirs. Why, then, did Panuko still live to think these things?

When Panuko first asked himself this question, it pained him to realize that he had no idea. This irritated him for some time. Eventually, he became fine with the fact that he could not logically discern his teammates’ survival. The important thing was that they had survived. They had won time and time again, if not always by victory, then by survival, through which they kept their purpose alive as well.

At one point Panuko wondered if perhaps the fact that they were defending Mata Nui’s ideals and standards was any clue as to why they still fought on. He decided at that moment, not using logic but simply common sense, that it was a distinct possibility.

It was also a distinct possibility that he would not leave this battlefield, and Panuko was more at peace with that than he was with another possibility. What bothered him, truly, was that one or more of his teammates might not leave this battlefield. After seeing Voran overcome with Makuta-induced rage, Vaturi nearly killed, and Lohrua sliced but good, Panuko wasn’t sure he could take it if there were to be a loss. Yet, he somehow knew that they had been allowed to live this long for a reason. They were supposed to take part in something important, and Panuko would be there to do whatever he could. That was more than a possibility, it was a fact.

These thoughts had occupied Panuko long enough for his feet to carry him to the vicinity of Cekadax’s fortress, alongside his friends, allies, and Zallirix. Already the Yelnir ships were there, raining Karzahni down on the fortress from their cannons. Now the enemy had been properly softened up for the arrival of the Order’s army. Some members of that army were here to avenge their fallen comrades, some were here because they hated the fortress’s occupants, and some were here merely because they were told to be. Panuko was here because destiny had led him here. He didn’t know why, but, unlike his younger self would be, he was at peace with not knowing why. All that mattered was that he and his friends were here, and that destiny had something in store for them. It was time to meet it.

As Cekadax’s remaining forces poured out of the structure, war cries on their lips, and Faxhuun ordered the attack, some roared right back, some groaned, and some remained impassive. Panuko smiled. He was ready. His friends were ready. It was time to do their duty.

The battle erupted quickly. With Cekadax’s fortress on the horizon, the Order of Altronia’s forces and their allies were within spitting distance (for those who could spit) of their goal. Both sides charged straight into each other. The wall of Toa and Vahki drones on the Order’s front lines plowed into the mercenaries on the enemies’ side. Many small skirmishes ensued, but they were not the center of the action, at least not for the mercenaries.

With Burtok absent, Cekadax now felt cause to consult with someone who was actually a competent warrior among Makuta, her brother Ikirro. The ancient fighter suggested many a clever strategy and troop formation to his sister before setting out to join the fight. After having the fortress’s gates sealed behind her troops, Cekadax telepathically ordered her commanders to in turn order certain troops to form a line just behind the central conflict. These mercenaries had previously been equipped with spears and full-body shields, the latter of which were aligned side-by-side to form a wall of metal bristling with six-foot spines. The commanders then ordered the other troops retreat behind the wall, while the wall charge the Altronian troops.

Faxhuun and his troops watched their enemies part like a curtain, and the metaphorical main event take center stage as the wall of weapons bulldozed into the relatively disorganized Altronian troops. Yes, her forces were outnumbered and badly spent from their last fight, but Cekadax was determined to fight to the last, and Ikirro’s brilliance gave her a new edge to make of for the one she had previously lost.

Faxhuun rallied his troops. He shouted orders. He tried to maneuver them as best he could. Nothing worked. Any soldiers who tried to get around or fly over the wall of mercenaries were spotted and fired at until they either retreated or were killed. Things were not going well.

Still, a good tactician like Faxhuun knew that many times an opponent’s strength can also be a weakness. If the wall of warriors was dissolved somehow, Cekadax’s defensive line would be broken and the Order could assault her fortress. The trouble was that the wall was so well-maintained and well-defended that it would take a monster to break it up.

Something caught Faxhuun’s eye. It was a glint of metal, a pinpoint reflection of the sun’s radiance. Looking in the direction from which it came, Faxhuun saw a dark shape in a grove of trees off to the side of the enemy’s front line. It was also closing the distance between itself and said line quickly. The shape came into the sunlight, and all watching knew exactly what was about to happen, but also knew that there was nothing anyone could do about it.

The dark shape had been Yaltrax, the Hokanuka Order’s pet monster, charging full tilt at the enemy phalanx. The sapient beast plowed into the enemy formation, a force field projected from his horns tearing into their ranks from their right, scattering warriors and weapons to the wind.

With the enemy’s phalanx dissolved, the Orders forces surged forward, joined by several other dark shapes emerging from the trees.

The Hokanuka had arrived.

Faxhuun smiled. Zalkatrex comes through when he’s needed, that’s for sure,he thought. Then he paused, confused. Zalkatrex wasn’t with his troops. Their leader obviously didn’t accompany them for every outing, but Zalkatrex missing a battle this grand wasn’t his way.

That was then Faxhuun realized he hadn’t. He saw a dark, spider-like shape dig its six blades into the fortress wall and scale it in record time before dropping over to the other side. Zalkatrex was up to something special. The same thing Ikirro had done to the Order of Altronia. He was going to open the gate.

Runik ignited a mercenary to give himself a breather. His opponent noticed that his bandolier was on fire and began trying to put it out. If the mercenary had been smart, he would have tried to take it off, but he was determined to save his utility harness. It was special to him.

Runik took a few deep breaths, then slammed his shield into the mercenary’s face, knocking him to the floor. Another mercenary charged up to face the Toa Tronux of Fire, but a few quick maneuvers of the Toa’s flame sword spelled the end of whatever threat that mercenary would have posed.

Bartha was moving at a steady pace. Slow and steady was his attack plan right now. He was advancing slowly and steadily thundering enemies into the air with his warhammer. He brought his hammer up, then brought it back down, the massive weapon landing a brutal blow to a mercenary’s head.

“Okay, I cringed from just watching that,” Rewta said as she dived out of the way of an opponent’s Rhotuka spinner.

“Sorry,” Bartha smiled as he shattered an enemy’s shield with his warhammer. “I gotta do a head-bash every once in a while for kicks.”

Rewta morphed her arm into a cable and wrapped it around her enemy, then sent an electric pulse through her body to shut her enemy’s nervous system down. “See,” she replied, “I prefer flashy lightning as a way of getting kicks, not ruthless violence.”

Bartha reared back and swung, his weapon swatting his opponent into one that was coming up behind Rewta. “I’m a guy, what can I say?”

Another enemy soldier entered the fray, this time on the wing. He looked like a massive, humanoid bird of prey, one eight feet tall with giant bladed wings and electro-rocket launchers on his shoulders. Bartha barely caught sight of him before he slammed the Toa of Iron to the ground. Rewta fired a lightning bolt, which was only absorbed into the mercenary’s wings. The mercenary took flight, but remained near the ground, swooping over to grab Bartha’s hammer. Rewta barely blocked the attack that followed, but the weight behind the hammer blow sent her to the ground.

There was a sudden burst of sound, one that vibrated the mercenary’s wings. With less control, the mercenary was forced to slow down his rapid flight. A more concentrated burst followed, this one slamming into the winged soldier and knocking him out of the air.

Toa Jahvoka then rushed in with his spike tools to start a melee skirmish with the mercenary. However, the merc had had enough. He began to take off, wordlessly as ever, when suddenly he let out a terrible noise and fell to the ground. Apparently he had been attacked, and he didn’t look like he was getting up again. As Bartha retrieved his hammer, he saw Yurdil coming up, with Runik following.

“Thanks for taking him down,” Bartha said. “Didn’t want him to leave with my hammer.”

“Sure thing,” Yurdil nodded. “A good mental attack can work wonders.”

Runik was about to say something when there was a rise in the volume of the commotion around them. Everyone was reacting to something unexpected. As the five Toa Tronux turned to look, they saw that the gate to Cekadax’s fortress was opening.

“How?” Bartha asked, surprised.

Xovar chose that moment to arrive on the scene. “Look up there, metal-head,” he said, pointing to a dark shape inside the fortress. “Some thing got inside and opened it up. Nasty-looking, too.”

Runik smiled. “We’ve seen that thing before, unlike you, and I assure you that it is not just some thing, it is some one. Someone very important, and very formidable.”

Suntrah rushed up to the Toa Tronux, followed closely by the rest of the Vindicators and the Universal Alliance. “We’re going inside!” he shouted.

“Get over there!” Lihee shouted.

As Runik heeded to his teammates’ calls, he saw that the vast majority of the Order’s troops were doing the same. As soon as the gate opened, Faxhuun had ordered his troops inside. Now the positions of the two armies would be reversed, with the Orders of Altronia and Hokanuka playing defense and the Makuta’s forces playing offense. The vast bulk of the Order’s army managed to get inside the fortress gates in the wake of Yaltrax’s attack, from which the opposing force still had not recovered.

Runik also saw that the teams were right behind Faxhuun as he led the army into the fortress. As soon as they got to the nearest of the inner doors, Faxhuun shouted at the troops to invade and infiltrate, looting and smashing as much as possible while he sought out the Makuta.

The army’s members seemed only too happy to do so, if only in revenge for how they had been treated just a short time ago. They went to work, while a small group, namely the Alliances and Zallirix, followed Faxhuun. He had chosen them because not only had they been close by and easy for him to get the attention of when he was looking for a support group they, but they were formidable as a unit. Faxhuun was brave, but he wasn’t stupid; he wasn’t going to fight two Makuta and Recapar alone.

At any rate, his search would be short. Jardel had informed Faxhuun, among other things, exactly where Cekadax, Ikirro, and Recapar should be. As Faxhuun made a beeline there, the Alliances and Zallirix tagged along, the Alliances having flashbacks to Makuta Burtok’s lair on Crystal Island.

“This is eerie,” Vaturi commented.

“What is?” Jahvoka asked. He was nearest to Vaturi, so he took the responsibility of engaging in conversation with her.

“This whole place,” she said, gesturing to the cold, dark fortress around her. “It’s insufferably dark, just like Burtok’s. Why? Why consult him for interior lighting?”

Jahvoka shrugged. “The Makuta are creatures of darkness. They don’t need to be told to light a room dimly; they will do it just because it is their nature.”

“That’s dumb,” Vaturi quipped.

“Hardly,” Jahvoka replied. “In fact, it’s quite wise. With a few exceptions, it puts them at an advantage against us. After all, beings of darkness can see quite well in low light.”

Vaturi looked at Jahvoka. “Wow. You’re, like, really smart.”

Jahvoka shook his head. “Not really. I just focus on my important thoughts, and leave the unimportant ones for when I’m not trying not to die.” If this conversation would not have ended naturally right there, it would have ended there anyway. A disturbing interruption followed Jahvoka’s words. Out of the shadows, a large, winged, dark shape stepped out of a neighboring hallway. Faxhuun readied himself, conjuring a nimbus of flame around his hand. “Who goes there?” he called in an intense tone.

“Someone you’ve met before,” hissed Trallix, stepping into the light.

Faxhuun lowered his guard. “Ah, just you. I assume you’re here for blood.”

Trallix shook his head. “Makuta don’t bleed.”

“You want the Makuta?” Faxhuun asked. “Which one?”

Trallix smiled. “The one Zalkatrex leaves for me. He’s already at our destination.” With that, he led the way for the remainder of the journey. Said remainder was actually rather short. A few more turns and the group was at Cekadax’s war room. As per Trallix’s word, Zalkatrex was already there, but he had not defeated any Makuta yet. Instead, the team walked in on a shocking scene. They watched in surprise as Cekadax unleashed an impossibly large shadow blast that sent Zalkatrex slamming into the opposite wall, despite his blocking and absorbing most of the blast with his swords.

“Master!” Trallix shouted.

“Lieutenant,” Zalkatrex groaned. “I entrust the destruction of Cekadax to you. I will better serve our cause in the field.”

“As you wish,” Trallix replied as Zalkatrex made his exit. No one tried to stop him, for the Alliances, Faxhuun, and Zallirix entered, right on Trallix’s heels. Ikirro glanced toward the approaching Order of Altronia members, as did Recapar and Cekadax. “Ah,” he said. “Now things will get interesting.”

“Indeed,” Cekadax smiled.

Faxhuun glanced at Cekadax. She seemed to be wearing more armor than usual, and said armor glowed slightly, as if it was infused with pure power. That’s probably because it is, Faxhuun thought. That’s usually why things glow. “I see you brought some company, Toa,” Cekadax snarled. With a quick mind read of everyone she could access the mind of, she added, “And rookies, I see. This will be over quickly.”

“Don’t take us lightly,” Lihee growled. “We took on and banished Makuta Burtok.” Cekadax’s response was surprising, for it was voluminous laughter. “Oh, really?” she taunted. “See, I just got finished frying him a few days ago.” Seeing the astonished faces of most of her enemies, she crossed her arms in pride. “He was but a pretender to the position of warrior, unlike myself.”

“Are you quite finished, sister?” Ikirro cut in. “The main reason you will never reach my level of accomplishment as a warrior is that you hardly remember to shut up when it is needed.”

“Oooh, burn, lady,” Vohk teased.

Cekadax whirled. “You know what, brat? I’ve got something for you.” She turned to Ikirro. “Deal with them. I will take the Toa and Hokanuka.”

Ikirro shrugged, then turned to Recapar. “Assist my sister. She may need it.” Cekadax growled at this as she turned to fight, to which Ikirro responded with a slight grin. Then he turned to his nineteen enemies, conjured his teleportation power, and said, “Let’s take this outside.”

Once the teleport had completed, the teams found themselves outside the fortress, with Ikirro standing among them. It took a second for everyone to realize how bas that actually was, then Lihee shouted for Choro to get down before a plasma burst took his head off.

Ikirro snapped into motion like a runaway machine. He immediately charged shield-first into Thravak, knocking the powerful Skakdi for a loop. Ikirro swung his sword at Panuko and Levuku, who were nearby, but they managed to activate their respective mask powers and escape in their own ways. Ikirro didn’t even hesitate. He just whirled and let his laser vision slice through the air, cutting a swath through the space that was occupied by Suntrah’s head a moment earlier.

The first to attack Ikirro was Bultrox, but his attack didn’t go well. Right after the laser vision blast, Bultrox took to the air and swooped down at Ikirro. Ikirro didn’t hold back. A high-power blast of molecular disruption immediately dissolved Bultrox into a pile of dust.

“No!” Suntrah shouted.

Don’t worry, Suntrah, Yurdil’s mental voice assured him. I can still sense Bultrox’s mind. He still lives, even as a pile of shapeless matter. We need to give him time to regenerate, though.

Got a plan? Suntrah addressed Yurdil mentally.

No. Was hoping you did, Yurdil responded bleakly.

Suntrah noticed that Ikirro was turning his attention back to him, so he went on the evasive. Heat beams melted the snow and fused the sand to glass where Suntrah had been. Suntrah put on the brakes so that the heat beams fired at a point ahead of him didn’t actually connect.

Runik, Bartha, and Xovar unleashed their powers. Tendrils of metallic protodermis reached from the ground to sheath Ikirro in their substance. Vines grew up and began secreting acid on the exposed parts of Ikirro’s armor. Fire slowly heated the metal sheath, gradually baking its captive. The Toa’s powers held Ikirro for a moment, but then something began to happen. First the vines began to recoil, as if Xovar’s control over them was being usurped. Then Bartha’s prison began to shudder. Finally, with a surge of fragmentation power, Ikirro’s metal jacket exploded, metal shrapnel flying every which way. Those in the vicinity dove for cover at the metal shards sailed by them, a few pieces embedding themselves in the sandy ground.

“Congratulations, my enemies,” Ikirro growled, scraping acidic residue off his shoulder. “You have officially ticked me off.”

Ikirro charged up his sword with power, then slammed it into the ground. An explosion rocked the area as a chasm erupted into existence from the end of his sword and out fifteen feet. With his opponents dazed, Ikirro teleported around the battlefield and landed a blow to each, knocking each of them around. By the time he was done, he was not they only one ticked off, however.

Zartok had had enough of being pounded. He took to the air and rained down bolts of disintegration energy down on Ikirro. The Makuta teleported to evade them, but one of those teleports put him in the way of an enthusiastic Zallirix. The maniac latched onto Ikirro’s back and tried to remove his mask. He came close, but Ikirro sent a surge of electrical power through himself, which jolted Zallirix enough to entice him to let go.

When Ikirro was done with his momentary distraction, he turned to see a warhammer being swung at his face. With no time to react, he received the full force of the blow and was knocked into the air. Before he even reached the ground, however, Ikirro whirled to face his enemies, but was once again met with an attack as Suntrah’s devastating black lightning lanced toward him, sending him into convulsions. Suntrah readied another blast, but Ikirro was ready. Seeing not only the formidable opponent before him but also his friends rushing up to him from the sides to back him up, Ikirro decided to take care of all of them at once. When Suntrah fired his blast of antimatter lightning, Ikirro fired one of his own blasts of traditional lightning. The result was a blast of pure energy that blinded and distracted all the nearby heroes. Ikirro was spared from the blinding burst, however, for he closed his eyes right before it occurred.

Ikirro teleported again, this time to deal with those further away from him, who had not had to deal with the blast of light in its full intensity. He first met Jahvoka, who immediately threw up a sonic wall. He then thrust his hands forward, sending the wall of sound into Ikirro. The Makuta was shaken, but not downed. As Jahvoka launched another wall, Ikirro fended it off with his shield even as he blocked an attack from Levuku with his sword. Seeing Vohk careening toward him from the side, he willed the youth to slow down, removing his threat for the moment. Yurdil launched a number of metal shrapnel pieces at Ikirro with telekinesis, but the Makuta’s power scream shattered them before they reached him.

Unfortunately for the Makuta, Ikirro had been too busy dealing with these assaults to notice Ferrak coming up from behind. The Nurtox drove a fist into the Makuta’s back, knocking him to the ground. As Ikirro stood up, Thravak rushed up and grabbed the Makuta’s wrists to distract him while Rupiku tried to accomplish what Zallirix had failed to do earlier: removing Ikirro’s Kanohi mask. The Makuta phased out of tangibility, leaving both of them grasping at empty air. He moved away from them, then solidified his body and landed a hammer blow on Thravak with the hilt of his sword. Rupiku rushed at Ikirro’s leg, but he simply kicked the Matoran away.

Some of Levuku’s acid shot toward Ikirro, from which the Makuta teleported away. He had intended to rematerialize right behind Levuku, but the Crynok had teleported as well. He had teleported to a space a few feet away from Ikirro, and when Ikirro tried to strike him, another teleport caused him to miss.

Ferrak tried to land another punch, but Ikirro smashed him aside with his shield, even as he did the same to Thravak with his sword. Vaturi and Choro joined the fray, both with speed that made it hard for Ikirro to evade them completely unscathed. Suntrah and Lihee even got in on the action, Suntrah landing a kick and Lihee landing a few fire bolts. Even with the small amounts of headway they were making, it was obvious that Ikirro was still coming out ahead. Everyone was tired and sore, and no one would be walking away.

Zallirix leaped toward Ikirro’s feet, but met nothing solid. Panuko matched Ikirro’s density, but then the Makuta teleported Panuko into the air fifty feet above the ground. Zallirix pulled away, and Ikirro solidified once more even as Lihee, Thravak, Ferrak, and Levuku all attacked him with their weapons. A stab from Lihee was blocked with Ikirro’s shield, slashes from Thravak were parried, Suntrah’s lightning was evaded, and many more blows were countered with magnetic or sonic force.

“Done yet?” Ikirro asked as he continued to fight.

“Nope,” Lihee smiled.

“You will be soon, you know,” Ikirro reminded him.

“Oh, we know,” Suntrah agreed. “Everyone pull back!”

All those who were engaging Ikirro at close quarters retreated a few paces. The Makuta tried for the eleventh time to read their minds and find out what was going on, but the infernal Toa of Psionics was blocking him. Come to think of it, he hadn’t seen much of her during the fight. And the team did seem to be making room for someone. Ikirro wondered who it could be.

He got his answer when a livid Bultrox, with only his upper body, head, arms, and wings regenerated, dropped from the air, bellowing with rage, and stuck his sword into Ikirro’s armor.

Ikirro screamed in pain, but managed to throw Bultrox’s torso off him. “I should have finished you before,” he said. He began to conjure multiple powers at once. “I will wipe you all out!”

That was when Ikirro noticed that the teams’ Toa were absent from his view. He whirled around just in time to see Suntrah shout “Fire!”

Elemental power was unleashed from all the Toa Tronux and Lihee with ill abandon. The Toa had thrown off their “no lethal force” policy in order to fulfill their more important policy of getting the job done. A tsunami of raw strength slammed into Ikirro, knocking him back into, and through, the fortress wall, and through a few more walls behind that one. Masonry caved in behind him. Rock dust obscured the view. No one could glimpse the Makuta’s fate, but they all knew it was unlikely that they had defeated him.

“What now?” asked Choro. “We get ready for more?”

Suntrah laughed coldly. “Karzahni no!”

“Did we win?” Vohk asked.

“No, Vohk we survived. But that’ll change if we don’t move,” Suntrah answered. ”Yurdil! We need mental cloaks! Everyone! Get out of here as fast as you possibly can!”

No one even considered arguing. Both teams and Zallirix took off as fast as they could for the relative safety of a section of Cekadax’s fortress that had recently been secured for the Order of Altronia. When they arrived, they found that not only were there Order agents there, but a Hokanuka as well.

“Watch out, Toa!” the Hokanuka warned his companions in a sharp voice.

“Hold it!” Suntrah said, holding his hands up. “We’re on your side!”

The Hokanuka turned to the Order of Altronia agents, who nodded their agreement. With a nod, the Hokanuka continued. “Well, then, my name is Lukanov. You look like you’ve been through quite a fight.”

As the Vindicators and the Universal Alliance sat down, Suntrah nodded. “Fighting a Makuta, actually.”

The Hokanuka’s eyes widened. “Impressive. Which one?”

“Ikirro,” was all Suntrah said.

The Hokanuka smiled. “Then consider yourselves fortunate to even be alive.”

Suntrah nodded. “Trust me, we do.”