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This article was written by BobTheDoctor27. Please do not add to it without the writer's permission.
Over Your Shoulder
Over Your Shoulder
Story
Setting
Date Set
1,003 AGC
Timeline
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Over Your Shoulder is a story written by BobTheDoctor27, which takes place in Onu-Metru. It is the fourth installment in the Fractures Universe Storyline.

Story[]

Prologue[]

Every city had a cusp; its highest point, its pinnacle, just before the good part of town turns bad.

As far as Turaga Vilnius was concerned, Metru Nui was no different. The seasoned Turaga stole a glance down from the Throne Room of the Coliseum and saw the border between desirable and undesirable. It ran in a ragged irregular loop, bulging outward here and there to accommodate reclaimed blocks, swooping inward in other areas to claim inroads of its own. It was pierced in some places by gentrified corridors. Elsewhere it worked gradually, shading imperceptibly over hundreds of yards through rundown streets.

In a century or two, it would be safe for Onu-Matoran Archivists to say that Metru Nui was on the brink of a civil war. After all, this was a period of great tension. Economically, the impact of the War against the Brotherhood of Makuta had been devastating. Ko-Matoran scholars were estimating that the whole conflict had cost Metru-Nui around 4,500 million widgets per year. Catastrophic damages had been inflicted upon the leading industrial hotspots. Homes had been destroyed, factories burnt to the ground, thousands of lives lost. No island had gone unaffected by the shadow of warfare. Nobody would ever forget the disastrous genocides that had shaken the Matoran Universe down to its very foundations.

For a while the city’s inhabitants had managed to put aside their differences. Bickering between Matoran crafters and Skakdi warriors, Steltian Traders and Vortixx manufacturers, Toa and Turaga had cost the island’s survivors valuable ground in the early years of the conflict. The Vahki had been re-installed after centuries of disuse. Metru Nui had opened its gates up and, accordingly, all manner of refugees had fought their way into the golden city. Matoran laborers had wasted years building houses to accommodate an influx of the universe's scum instead of producing weapons, medicine, and armor. When the total populace of Metru Nui exceeded the amount of physical space on the landmass, the newcomers had simply been dumped in the undesirable regions. Onu-Metru had become the focal point for desperate refugees, as were some of the more uninhabitable regions of Po-Metru and Ko-Metru.

But, no sooner had Metru Nui adapted to its less than favorable circumstances, the war was won.

While peace was hard-won, the victory itself was a hollow one. For there had been no opportunity to exact revenge upon the hated Brotherhood. No humiliating peace settlement or spoils of war with which to rebuild their universe. The Matoran Universe had united in fanciful hopes of eradicating their enemy only to find the Makuta had vanished in favor of greater conquest elsewhere.

This world had become fractured.

With no mutual foe for its citizens to rally against, all sense of unity amongst the alliance crumbled at the first sound of thunder. If the first of the three virtues could not be achieved then what hope ha the other two? The residual hype left over from the dissatisfying victory was gone. The survivors were left on their final legs with dozens of islands ravaged by the blunt impact of devastation. A traveler in the wrong part of Onu-Metru was now more likely to get his throat slit than he would have been in the seediest dark alleyway in Stelt. Thousands of overcrowded refugees were beginning to notice the squalor that they had been residing in, while Matoran seemed to be entering a golden age of prosperity as their island gradually recovered.

But now everything else was in depression.

Skakdi gangs patrolled streets, fighting the new resurgence of Vahki and the Metru Nui Land Army at every opportunity. Crime was rife. Toa were few.

Turaga Matoro had tried holding things together in lieu of the late Turaga Tuyet's deposition, but the disgruntled masses of suppressed immigrants paid the bumbling codger little heed. They feared the Turaga and his new army of robotic law enforcers, but they did not respect him, not by any means. It had been a long six months indeed since the Cult of Darkness had mounted their last attack and Turaga Vilnius certainly felt the weight of the issue pressing him down. People were scared. The danger was still very real.

They were almost overdue some sort of catastrophe.

The crimson Turaga narrowed his eyes and returned to the conversation at hand. A high-ranking member of the Metru Nui Law Enforcement division was giving him and Turaga Matoro a status report.

That was something else that had changed. With the Vahki returning to the streets of Metru Nui, many former Order of Mata Nui agents, Dark Hunters and members of the Land Army had decided to lend their hands in re-establishing harmony in the city, forming the first official police force to cover the entire island.

This particular officer had spent the past few years as a reputed Order of Mata Nui agent, going by the name of Axonn. According to his recently de-classified record, he had served many centuries as a guardian of the Kanohi Ignika, devoting his life not only to the safe-guarding of the mask, but also to the protection of a nearby Matoran settlement. But, like a handful of others, he had grown tired of standing around guarding one of the Order's many glorified storage lockers.

As law enforcement official, the muscular giant before them was coated in navy-blue armor, from the soles of his heavily-armored feet to the tip of his sapphire Kanohi Rode. Crafted into his left breast plate was a gold badge, signifying his rank. He was giving the two Turaga a detailed rundown of his most recent encounter with what was assumed to be several Brotherhood of Makuta servants in Ta-Metru.

“We approached them mid-way through some kind of illicit transaction. Looked suspicious so we engaged. There were four of us against three of them,” muttered the seasoned warrior, his voice like a cascade of tumbling rocks down a cliff face. “Two Steltians and a Skakdi. Two of my officers were caught in the crossfire. I only caught a glimpse of their cargo but it seemed like they were from the high-end of the weapons market. Heavy-duty stuff. Portable, too. One Steltian slipped away but we caught the other two. They’re locked up in the dungeon beneath the Coliseum, awaiting further investigation.”

“What were they trading?” murmured Matoro softly, struggling to contain a cough. Vilnius winced at the sound.

The Turaga of Ice was unwell. His health had been deteriorating for months now. One morning he had risen from his bed only to fall right over, as if he'd put his weight on rubber legs. Medics had rushed into the chamber to find him unconscious. His personal guard, Carnac, had been an eye witness to the incident and refused to leave the Turaga’s bedside. Even now he stood next to Matoro’s throne, eyes like a Lava Hawk, flicking from Axonn to the two Vahki Bordakh guarding the doorway. Fiercely loyal. Constantly suspicious.

The Turaga High Council had done its best to keep the situation quiet. It was a delicate time and news of Matoro’s ill health could start conspiracy or mass hysteria among what was already a volatile population. Turaga Bomonga had been working particularly hard to come up with cover stories for the news reports and had filled in for Metru Nui’s leader on his usual Telescreen addresses multiple times.

But, with ever lie told to the ever-concerned public, the Turaga had grown thinner and thinner. What organic flesh showed from behind his pale armor was saggy and yellowish. He had lost weight and had become frailer than he really had an excuse to be. Now Matoro had to rely on his Fusion Staff as a walking stick; not an unusual trait for a Turaga but by no means a promising one.

Although he hadn't met Matoro until they were both faded Turaga, he had heard tales of his Toa team. The Toa Inika. A band of six rebellious heroes, who had been groomed as the prized champions of the Order of Mata Nui. It was quite an ambitious team, hand-picked by Toa Helryx herself, and consisting of Metru Nui’s finest scholars and athletes. Matoro had been an impossibly glorious hero then, with the proud, strong build of a warrior.

But the Turaga sitting on the throne beside him now, stooped and feeble, seemed like a different person entirely.

“They were not trading any goods when we found them,” continued Axonn, sensing that he should not dwell upon Matoro’s illness. “We thought they were harassing a citizen in the street. There was a fight going on. It turned out to be Toa Kualus struggling to apprehend the three of them without using lethal force. I reckon he easily could have managed that a few years ago, but because they were civilians I’ll bet his efforts to fight them were backed off to a third of what they would normally have been. He could have caused some real damage. They open-fired on us the second we arrived to back him up.”

“So it was a planned attack on Toa Kualus?” asked Matoro. He sounded dreadfully short of breath, and the effort of speaking sent him into a barrage of wet coughs that came from deep inside his chest. The former Order agent glanced at him, politely waiting for him to finish before giving Vilnius a questioning look.

“He ate some bad Bula berries,” grunted Carnac in his usual cold, steely tone. The Le-Matoran took his job seriously. Technically he didn’t have to cover for the Turaga, but he did anyway.

Axonn nodded then scanned the faces of the two Turaga.

“I filed a report on the incident myself. I am in charge the investigation into the remaining Steltian’s whereabouts and the identity of the arms dealer. I will need to meet with Toa Kualus again at some point for some further clarification. If I could just–- ”

Matoro lurched forwards in his throne; a swift, choppy movement that startled Axonn and made Carnac’s knuckles tighten on his spear. The Turaga of Ice threw his head forwards and led rip a thunderous series of violent coughs.

“I will... personally ensure... that Toa Kualus... can meet you... in the foreseeable... future,” snarled Vilnius in the gaps between Matoro’s coughing fit.

The former Order of Mata Nui agent took a worried glance at the wheezing Turaga then glanced at Vilnius patiently. He must have noted the iron in the Turaga of Fire’s voice. He just nodded and backed down.

The seasoned warrior looked around the chamber once more, sensing that Matoro was no longer fit to continue discussing the matter and that he was outstaying his welcome. Axonn performed a curt militaristic salute before turning to leave.

A cluster of other strangers were waiting to speak with Matoro. They moved forward as Axonn departed only for Vilnius to raise a hand, signalling for them to halt. The two Bordakh at the door tensed and the doorway emptied.

Carnac stepped forward and handed the weary Turaga of Ice a mug of water. The Iden-wearer smiled and drank deeply, then wiped around his mouth with the back of a trembling hand.

“Do you want to call it a night?” asked Vilnius bluntly, ever-aware of Matoro’s fragility.

“The night is young,” he muttered weakly, shaking his head solemnly.

“But you are not” boomed a familiar voice emanating from the doorway.

Vilnius turned to address the newcomer, recognizing him as Toa Danza, Toa of Stone. He was lean, broad-shouldered, and in reasonable shape.

Over the past six months, Danza had adapted well to life as one of Metru Nui’s protectors. Long-gone were the days where he was thought of as a novice. In spite of being the youngest member of the island’s Toa team he could easily give the likes of the late Toa Pohatu a run for his money at a game of Kolhii.

“You should rest,” smiled the Toa as he began his stroll into the chamber. His voice carried on down, bouncing off the walls and amplifying by the point it reached the Turaga. “This process will last a long time. The war with the Brotherhood may be over but the war on ourselves has only just started. You mustn’t exhaust yourself too early, Matoro. We will have need of your diplomatic skills later.”

“Sham!” chuckled the Turaga dryly. “You, Toa Danza, are the future. I am the past. I will not live to see the end of this threat if it drags on as long as I fear.”

The Turaga glanced out the window at the setting Twin Suns as they merged with the shimmering Silver Sea. Dark rain clouds were beginning to cover the city but, on the murky horizon, the final slivers of gingery light were fading from view. The temperature seemed to have dropped lately and the air had grown tense, as if it carried the anticipation of the cataclysm that the entire city felt.

“If I do not make my mark now, I never will.”

The Toa started to object, but the Turaga of Ice silenced him with a crooked finger.

“An old Necrofinch hates to be told how young and virile he is. I am on my last legs, and anyone who says otherwise is a fool, a liar, or both.”

The Toa of Stone tilted his head obediently. “Mata Nui help us,” he muttered, cracking a smile. “You’re starting to sound like Turaga Velika.”

“I should hope not,” sniffed Matoro. The Turaga and Toa grinned at the joke for a moment before the Noble Iden-wearer shifted on his throne. “Do you have a reason for visiting, Danza, or did you just want to admire the view?”

“I wanted to know if there was any news on the Cult of Darkness,” grunted the Toa, his tone suddenly growing serious, like the scientist he was at heart. “They’ve disappeared right off our grid. It’s like they’re keeping an impossibly low profile. I’m beginning to grow concerned.” The Toa finished speaking just as he reached the foot of the steps leading up to Matoro’s throne.

“The Cult is ancient history,” answered Vilnius. “The threat that they posed to Metru Nui's security has been dealt with. They exist in the past tense. You need to get real Danza. We have new enemies now.”

“But we only have one of them in custody,” frowned the Toa, his gaze lowering a fraction. “The rest are still out there, intent on our downfall. You said it yourself, Turaga: the Cult has been cast aside in favor of new opponents.”

“Their forces have been debilitated,” shrugged the Turaga of Fire. “Their members scattered. While the wounds of their attack still blemish our island we have more pressing matters to address. The city exists in a state of perpetual turmoil. We cannot expend resources pursuing a handful of revolutionaries, not with the universe as delicate as it currently is.”

Matoro grunted softly and reached for his Fusion Staff, his hand falling short of the handle by several inches. Carnac swiftly stepped forward and passed the tool to the Turaga.

“Have faith in us, Danza,” he murmuered. “When the combined armies of the Brotherhood fail to penetrate the gates of Metru Nui in three-thousand years, the matter of capturing this rag-tag team of radicals becomes one of national pride. The gaps in this island are beginning to close. The revolutionaries will be brought to justice, albeit with stifling bureaucratic speed.”

The Toa of Stone stood resolute, mulling the words over in his mind.

“I appreciate that, Turaga. It brings me great joy to hear that we are taking steps to apprehend these terrorists. Really, it does. But six long months have passed without the slightest whiff of a clue as to their current location, and I feel my efforts are wasted handling petty crime.”

Vilnius' hardened brow wrinkled into a frown.

“What exactly have you come here with the intention of asking, Toa? Do you seek our approval to go off and hunt these degenerates yourself?”

“I am a scientist by nature,” shrugged the Toa. “And I can't take two steps out of my home without seeing the impact left behind from that fatal day so many months ago. My interests and expertise lie beyond physical combat. I ask only to put my skills towards the justice my people have so callously been deprived of.”

Turaga Matoro nodded as he eased his way down the steps then limped over to Danza. The Akaku-wearer bent forward only for the Turaga to place a delicate hand on his shoulder.

“Rest assured, Toa of Stone, that an investigation is already underway. Keen eyes are searching the streets one district at a time.”

Vilnius' scowl deepened as he shot his fellow Turaga a questioning look. This was news to him as well. He didn't appreciate being kept in the dark.

“As for your role in this strange new world,” continued the weathered Iden-wearer, “you may come to appreciate the monotony of this life while it lasts.”

Danza dipped his head slowly, processing the words, wondering why Turaga always had to be so stiflingly cryptic.

“This investigation into the Cult of Darkness on the streets?” he asked as Matoro began to hobble away to his chambers. “Is there anything you can tell me about it to ease my troubles?”

The Turaga of Ice cracked a smile.

“It goes well.”

Chapter 1[]

Toa Tollubo, renegade Toa of Light, believed you could divide people into two categories: those who didn't mind waking up early in the morning; and those who did.

As a rule for life it had served him well. The individuals who were worth spending time with didn't go straight to sleep at sundown and wake up refreshed early the next morning. You had to watch people like that. Most days, he wasn't even an afternoon person. He considered himself to be of the opposite category: the type who liked to extract the best out of life. The artists and pioneers of free thought. Habitually, he operated at night. When else was he to find time to enjoy himself?

The Toa took another gulp of Steltian Ale then blinked in confusion, wiping the sand-colored foam from his mouth. It was annoying. The froth was getting everywhere, finding its way into the unfamiliar ridges and crevasses of his Kanohi Kiril. He wasn’t used to the mask just yet. But, of course, he had to have good reason for wearing anything to obscure his devilish good-looks. He had a famous face and this wasn’t a particularly pleasant neighborhood.

He was in a backwater tavern in Onu-Metru, slowly sinking into the hum and buzz of street life one drink at a time. Most of the establishments in this area had been constructed quickly; perhaps too quickly for their builders to focus on adding any real physical integrity in a time of mass immigration. Flimsy, poorly-made structures towered over the cramped, grimy streets. Quality had been sacrificed to produce sufficient quantity. It was easily the most poverty-stricken area on the whole island, and therefore home to most of the crime – which he supposed was why he was there.

He'd developed the habit of swapping his Kanohi and changing his color scheme several years ago, back when he was a simple Av-Matoran trying to evade the Brotherhood of Makuta and survive in the anonymity of jostling Matoran crowds. Now that he was a full-fledged Toa of Light in an unfamiliar world, the appeal of obscurity was beginning to grow on him once again. At that very moment, his Kanohi Kakama was resting on the back seat of a transporter, which he’d abandoned in the Long Term parking bay of a run-down Le-Metru Chute Station. Now he was wearing a Kanohi Kiril, one of many masks he'd acquired over the past few months. It had an interesting shape and practical applications. A useful mask. One that was worth keeping around.

The tavern was empty. Just him and the Steltian barmaiden. It was still fairly early in the morning and the establishment itself wasn't open yet, which made his presence somewhat peculiar. But he was a Toa, a trusted member of society. In the eyes of the right beholder he could do no wrong.

In recent months he had taken to roaming the streets of the various districts, chasing down what few leads existed of the elusive Cult of Darkness. He had, of course, long-since exhausted all viable avenues. All the hard evidence had proven to be inconclusive, which left him with the scraps that remained. Bits and pieces of information.

Which suited him just fine. He didn't need security footage or billing addresses to locate a target. Often times it was better to step back and acknowledge that he was perusing a single person, and the best way to do that was to scope out each Metru. He needed to understand the lay of the land if he was to find the Kinloka in their nest, something that was perhaps best done with a measure of distance from the Turaga. He was entering into the dark underbelly of the criminal world; one they were better off not knowing about.

There was, however, one saving grace in the life he had chosen. It was a dangerous path but, thankfully, it was not one he had to walk alone. He had enlisted the aid of several informants over the past few weeks, informants from all walks of life. Most of them were excitable Matoran who were all too eager to win the favor of a self-proclaimed Toa. But the most important contact of all had only recently come to his disposal: an undercover agent of the Xian Secret Service named Racasix.

Tollubo smiled to himself at the memory. He had chanced upon the Vortixx on several occasions now, almost exclusively in passing, as if the Xian were his guardian spirit watching from the shadows. Often-times her eyes were the cold and merciless, but he was sure he saw something in them when that familiar sly smile crept across her face, radiating a cunning aura and always making him aware of his own awkward presence. She was so much all at once, so many things he couldn't put his finger on. From what he could gather, she had her own agenda in mind, one that seemed to involve his continued welfare. Someone on Xia must have a great fondness for the Toa. Perhaps her employers wanted her to get close to him, to sway him towards their faction as a powerful Toa figurehead. Perhaps he should be wary of the temptress.

But the Toa of Light paid little credit to his subconscious voice as it warranted caution in the back of his mind. As he thought about her even now the weight on his heart grew. He longed for her presence and would heed no warnings. He was ready, at long last, to lay low his defenses and welcome her into his life. Perhaps he would find a useful ally in her. Perhaps he would find something more.

Tonight they were scheduled for a more lengthy encounter in one of the finer areas of Onu-Metru. As far as the other Toa were concerned, it was official business. Racasix was, after all, a valuable informant with potentially strategic information to offer. Professionally, he was obligated to meet her, but he had other plans for the evening. He had always been brave and courageous to a point beyond being a brazen Toa, but perhaps tonight he would make his boldest, most reckless decision ever.

Love. That was what they called it. For many years now Tollubo had been convinced of an error in his programming; a glitch that imbued him with the capacity for romantic affection, a sensation that his kind were never meant to have. His feelings towards a fellow Av-Matoran had been met with contempt and disgust by other Matoran. In this strange new world, that did not seem to be the case. Feels that would have been considered to be bordering upon unhealthy obsession in his own universe were practically commonplace here. For once he could be motivated by desires of the heart rather than the rigid sterility of Matoran life. This was a world where his desires did not have to be concealed. His very being had become irrevocably colored by her influence.

It was at that moment that the Toa’s concentration was shattered and his morning took its first interesting turn. A fuming male Vortixx booted the tavern’s door open and stormed in, which stunned both the Toa and the attractive female bartender. The newcomer was a strangers, wearing fresh jet-black armor. He was bulky, pale and menacing as he muttered darkly under his breath and demanded for some serious-sounding alcoholic beverage Tollubo had never heard of.

“A widget for ‘em?” he asked calmly.

The Vortixx shot a glare at him. “What?” he snapped.

“A widget for your thoughts,” repeated the Toa. He pulled out a small gear-shaped piece of the Matoran currency and flipped it at the Vortixx. He caught it and held it in his hand, confused. “You seem a little unhappy, is all, my friend.”

“Who the hell are you?”

The Toa of Light paused, debating whether or not it would be wise to reveal his identity to the disgruntled stranger. In the end, he decided no harm could come of it – he probably wouldn’t remember it in his rage – but still, he chose to give another fake name anyway, just in case.

Immediately, he felt something coming off the newcomer. Some kind of a blend of menace and confidence. Some arrogance in there, maybe. A suggestion he normally got his own way. But they were far from home. He was a city guy, used to fine dining and politics. This particular bar was primarily funded by local residents, which also explained why it was so empty: they were all at work down the mines.

“The name’s Kazaat,” lied Tollubo. “Toa of Air.”

The infuriated stranger snorted. “What? A scrawny little Brakas Monkey like you?”

Tollubo’s features darkened and he closer. “Are you going to apologize for that ill-advised remark?”

The Vortixx stared at the Kiril-wearer’s burning eyes. Reconsidering, he smiled weakly. “Please forgive me. I spoke hastily.”

The dimensionally-displaced Toa nodded as the female bartender served the Vortixx’s drink. He asked the stranger his name.

Dukran,” came the response.

“Well how can I help you, sir?”

Dukran shrugged. “I’m not sure if you can. It’s the owner of the casino across the street I want. Some rogue Skakdi.”

“I might know him,” grunted the Toa truthfully. “His name’s Hakann, is it not?”

As much as it pained him to admit it, he’d spent a great length of time in the area -- around three weeks to be exact -- waiting for something interesting to happen in preparation for tonight. So, to pass the time, he’d decided to chance his luck with the odd spell of gambling in the casino... and nearly lost Metru-Nui’s entire defense budget in the process.

The Vortixx’s eyes widened. “Well then, perhaps you can be of some use after all.”

He spoke quickly and plainly and Tollubo listened attentively. It seemed the owner of the offending establishment, that rogue, had warded Dukran into his casino several months ago, promising him fortunes beyond his wildest imaginings. Swayed by the temptation of such fine riches -- and equally swayed by the numerous female Vortixx whom Hakann had subjugated to delivering drinks -- Dukran had begun making regular appearances. He encountered many waitresses and barmaids who would normally be several tiers above him on the Xian social hierarchy and gleaned great pleasure from their servitude. A few had stolen small items of his on occasion, usually when his back was turned or when his guard was down from high-spirited drinking. But the latest had taken his personal communicator, along with a considerable number of Nynrah Credits, the preferred currency of many non-Matoran inhabitants of Metru Nui. Apparently he’d been scoring the town since dawn, trying to track her down but had enjoyed no success. Plus he hadn’t been able to locate Hakann either, which now convinced the Vortixx he was being deliberately ignored.

“The communicator’s not so important,” sighed Dukran between sips of his drink. “But widgets are widgets and theft is theft.”

Tollubo nodded. “Leave the matter to me, friend,” he muttered, looking solemn and resolute whilst smiling on the inside. This would be a welcome break from his monotonous morning patrol of the city. He’d find Dukran’s server then sort the situation out. A good deed. He could afford to do a few of them.

“Could I have her name?”




Dukran had claimed the name of the offending female was Fortha. Tollubo asked the stranger for a description of her too, since a lot of the workers at the casino went by more than one name. Armed with that information, he promised the dismayed Vortixx that he would investigate the matter fully and that he would do all within his power to return both the communicator and the stolen money, or at least he claimed. Either way, he assured the incensed Xian that he would make sure Hakann compensated him for twice the communicator’s original value. That seemed to satisfy the irate customer, and once he’d left – in higher spirits than before – the Toa of Light set off in pursuit of this elusive Fortha.

He had a good memory of faces, and when Dukran had described the female he placed her instantly. Setting off in the direction of the casino, the Toa ducked through the tavern’s door and winced as the sunlight burnt his sensitive eyes. He hadn't drunk much but the heavy beverage had taken its toll on him after only a single pint. Disorientated, and feeling far too much like an Onu-Matoran stepping out of a cave and into the open, he stumbled his was across the street with difficulty. It was still early, but there were a few customers already hard at it, gambling solemnly and without pleasure – creatures of addiction rather than the casual merrymakers that showed up later.

The staff on duty nodded politely to him as he entered. He liked this establishment. The Toa mimicked a momentary bow in reply then went upstairs to search for the Vortixx in question. Hakann exclusively hired female Vortixx, which had always struck the Toa as a questionable moral choice. The casino was frequented by menfolk like Dukran; bitter male Xians who wanted dominance over the womenfolk of their island and couldn't achieve it any other way. In any case, female Vortixx were far easier on the eye than female Skakdi, so Tollubo held no reservations.

Usually, the workers could be found on the casino floor, but their customers wouldn’t arrive until later, so most of them would be relaxing in their serving quarters behind the scenes. He found several of them in a large breakroom, chatting softly and sitting back, preparing themselves for the long day ahead before they opened up shop. They looked worried – mildly panicked even – when he opened the door without warning and entered. But when they saw who he was they smiled.

The Kiril-wearing stranger was the one who kept them in business.

“Good morning, Toa,” purred the nearest of the Vortixx, still too early in the morning for her manage much above a soft crease in her lips. “Can we help you with anything?” From his initial assessment, Tollubo decided that she was perhaps the most outgoing of the assembled serving staff. The others seemed anxious by his presence.

“Why hello there,” grinned Tollubo, addressing the group and trying his best to convey that business had brought him here. “Is Hakann here?”

“Nope,” shrugged the same Vortixx idly. She bristled with a flirtatious streak of confidence, the type only acquired through years of experience in the craft of talking to strangers. “This is his day off.”

She was met with like-sounding mutters or agreement as her fellows chimed in.

The Toa nodded. “What about Fortha?”

As soon as he mentioned her name the smile vanished from the Vortixx’s face. The others fell silent, their expressions leaden.

“What’s wrong?” asked Tollubo as the lead waitress turned away. “Do you know where she is?”

No, sir,” she answered quietly, any icy undertone to her voice this time. Perhaps it was a touchy subject. Maybe they’d had an argument.

“She isn’t in any trouble,” shrugged the Toa reassuringly, in case it helped. “At least she won’t be if I can get to her. She stole a sack of coins from some jerk in a bar. Big guy too. Could do this place some damage.” He paused to scan the faces and found little interest among them. “But I can rectify the situation, even if she has sold it on. I won’t complain or anything. If you tell me where she is I’ll – ”

But I don’t know!” snapped the Vortixx sharply.

Tollubo stared at her, bewildered by the outburst. He hesitated for a moment, recomposing himself. Perhaps he was in the wrong. Maybe he had rushed into this situation with too much haste. A clarification of some kind may be in order. In any case, the Toa decided it was best to re-examine this situation.

It was a philosophy he had tried to adopt after missing a few too many social cues in the Ko-Metru region. It often helped to take a step back and examine things from a distance. Looking around the room now, it appeared he had definitely missed one observational feature at first glance.

He'd walked in expecting to be pointed in the right direction. He thought he was going to come out again with the sack of money in hand, maybe important personal details about the target in question. But these Vortixx were rattled. Cagey. Subdued. They spoke in hushed tones. He’d never seen a Vortixx behave like that before. Female Vortixx so typically adopted quite a different persona; strong and ruthless, with a distinct lack of mercy. Weakness was not a trait synonymous with the womenfolk of the species. They were scared.

“I see,” remarked the Toa of Light, suddenly feeling very silly and unsure of himself. “My sincerest apologies, ladies. Please, think nothing further of it. I'm sorry to have intruded.” With those few words, Tollubo ducked back out through the door and into the hallway.

How could he have been so blind as to miss those indications? What had possessed him to come marching into the establishment with no more than the word of a disgruntled customer? Why did he always feel the need to act upon instinct and take matters into his own unsteady hands? He could not fathom the weight of these questions. He had simply been too eager to rush to the aid of the wrong citizen. He had misjudged the situation tremendously and, thus, he had been played like a fool.

What guarantee was there that Dukran had even had a sack of coins in the first place. Maybe he had stumbled into the tavern in a bad mood, noticed a polite and well-meaning young Toa beside him, and decided to exploit the situation for his own gains. Tollubo had connected all the necessary dots himself in hindsight. The only detail Dukran had supplied was the name Fortha. Tollubo himself had named Hakann and provided the specifics. He had let himself get too close to the matter and had thus prevented himself from admiring the larger scope of the situation: Dukran could very well have conned him.

Perhaps this was why other Toa stayed off the streets; so they didn't have to become tainted by the turmoil of needless conflicts.

Toa?

Tollubo's audio receptors pricked up at the mention of the word. He stopped in his tracks, unsure if he had heard it for real. It took another utterance for him to sense that somebody was standing behind him. The Toa of Light about-turned on his heels to see one of the Vortixx from the breakroom had caught up with him. He wondered how long she had been calling his name before he had taken notice.

Her steps were furtive as she approached him; hesitant even. She was slender in frame, wearing polished but weathered armor, striations here and there. Well-kept but patchy. She made the best of what she had. Two scratches on her brow, the plating on her left thigh in particularly bad disrepair. She had the look of a person who experienced a fair share of the world. It showed in her eyes.

“Fortha isn’t hiding, Toa,” she muttered with a hint of ice. “She’s vanished.

Tollubo blinked. “Vanished?”

The female hesitated, as if contemplating whether or not this was information she could confide in him. The Toa’s eyes narrowed, driven off-course from his search for the stolen sack of Nynrah Widgets.

“She's a friend,” snapped the Vortixx. “Friends look out for one another. She hasn't shown up for work in a few days. I've been pulling her shifts.”

The Toa of Light pressed his hands against his hips and trained his eyes on the Vortixx before him. In a casino as busy as this, surely it was peculiar that a missing server should go unnoticed.

“So, what is this? Are you reporting a crime to me?”

“Like I said, she's a friend.”

“Why tell me?”

“Isn't this what Toa do? Solve the problems that Vahki aren't willing to entertain?”

The Toa of Light pursed his lips, very aware that he was on the precipice of yet another journey that did not personally affect him. The Vortixx was, of course, entirely correct. Any Toa worth his salt knew what she was inferring. The Toa Code dictated that a Toa must Defend those who cannot defend themselves. He was obligated to take action, shady Xian or not.

But did Duty define him? Was he so base a hero that he would bow down to whatever the Toa Code demanded of him? Of course not. That was not the nature of heroism. That was not the righteous Toa whom Tollubo aspired to be. He walked his own path and he walked it well. Sometimes it ended in conflict with the Toa Code, a burden he was sure every Toa before him had been forced to carry.

“What’s Hakann doing about this? Do you think he’s responsible in some way?”

“No,” murmured the Vortixx. “He’s always been good to us. He pays us well and treats us kindly. We’re his meal ticket.”

The Toa, glancing once more at the scratches on her brow. Perhaps it was time for a different tactic.

“What is your name?” he asked as softly as he thought possible.

Hollian,” she answered uneasily.

“Well, I promise you, I will deal with this problem, Hollian,” grunted the Toa firmly. “If you believe she is missing then I will locate her, I give you my word.”

Hollian held Tollubo's gaze for a long moment, then smiled hopefully and shook her head. “I don’t know why, but I’m afraid I don’t believe you, Toa.”

She had reason to be doubtful, but it stung nonetheless. The Toa of Light smiled a ghost of a smile – barely a wisp of a grin – then spun around on his heel and exited.

He could fell the temptation dragging him in. The call to adventure was still ringing in his audio receptors, luring him down a path he knew better than to travel down. As he hurried down the stairs, he thought again of what he had seen. Even with the pieces of the road ahead fitting together in his mind's eye, one feature remained in the foreground of his attention.

The scratches.

Two of them. Atop her left brow. Barely noticeable under casual observation, oddly uniform in direction. He hadn't even remarked them until the Vortixx had tilted her head mid-way through their conversation. He'd thought them peculiar at first, thinking little of their significance. But there was something about them - the forensic detail of their spacing - far too carefully placed to have been coincidental. Barely deep enough to have woken her in her sleep.

Tollubo had seen those markings before. He remembered them well from his Matoran life.

Hollian had been marked for death by a Zeverek.

Chapter 2[]

After stopping at the nearest Kanohi outlet, Tollubo managed to purchase a second-hand mask, an emerald-colored Komau, then stepped into an alleyway so he could alter the color of his armor to a silver and black mix, just in case he was being followed. Experience had taught him it was better to live a cautious life than to lose a careless one because of some silly mistake.

Really, there should be more people like him. The universe would be a lot more interesting that way.

He didn’t have to wait too long in the lobby of The Golden Ruki. It was only a matter of minutes. Fortunately, Racasix arrived promptly at nine o’clock, looking her usual elegant best. Her sheer beauty made him feel hotter than one of Tren Krom’s curses inside.

"Hello..." he said awkwardly, a smile smiling from his lips as he struggled to control himself.

The Vortixx swooped past and left a tantalizing kiss on his cheek. “To be continued of course,” she purred, then turned with natural grace and sashayed away, her Toa-accomplice in trail like a Mahi after its herder.

Every other guy in the place had eyes tinged with green. That was the greatest thing about taking Racasix to a fancy place – he might look as shabby as a Kanohi Dragon in the run-up to having its whiskers sheared, but he still had the most beautiful female in the city clinging to his arm.

“You could have at least made the effort of buying some new armor,” she cheeped playfully as the Toa snaked a wandering arm round her lower back, resting his left hand on her hip.

“If I started cleaning my act up then, next thing you know, I’d start washing more than once a week. Might even start paying my own rent or get a proper job. You wouldn’t want to put me through that, would you?”

Oh, the horror!” she giggled sarcastically as they made their way up to the counter. A curt Steltian waiter directed them to their reserved table. They ordered before sitting, without looking at the menu.

“So how’s directing traffic flow suiting you, Toa?”

Tollubo rolled his eyes. “You afford my job too much respect. It wasn’t until recently that I began to understand why Toa Stones even exists.”

“And why’s that?”

“Because nobody would ever want to be a Toa by choice.”

After none of his usual jokes got the desired effect from the striking Vortixx the conversation took a turn towards work, which meant it was relatively short. Racasix worked as an Xian Secret Service operative, based in Metru-Nui to carry out assassinations of political opponents who posed threats to the Xian government. Her work was marked with secrecy and lies, so the Toa chose not to inquire into it.

The food arrived quicker than the Toa had anticipated. Nevertheless, they tucked in. Both of them lived relatively active lives, which demanded they ate a healthy appetite and finished their meals. So there was no talking until they’d both done just that.

Halfway through his meal, the Komau-wearing Toa stopped eating to glance around the restaurant, noting that no members of his own species were present. Metru-Nui had opened its gates to all refugees during the war, but that didn’t mean everyone was welcome. This particular part of Onu-Metru it Vortixx territory, and if you didn’t believe in the dividing line between Matoran and Vortixx then you were living in a dream world. Vicious Xian eyes glared back at him as he realized he was the only non-Vortixx in the building. The Golden Ruki was a place of money and style. He stood out in his tacky black armor and scruffy second-hand Komau like a clumsy Po-Matoran in a Knowledge Tower.

“You know what day it is today?” asked the Toa, speaking as he returned to his meal.

“The day you do your Naming Day shopping from last year?”

He shook his head. “Exactly six months since the Turaga Tuyet Dam incident.”

“You’re just full of bright conversation topics, aren’t you?”

Tollubo cracked a smile. “I try not to dwell on it, but the date got stuck in my head and I felt we should commemorate it. After all, it was the first time we met. In a manner of speaking, it was our first date.”

The Vortixx smiled and cocked her head. “You’re a strange one, aren’t you?”

“Only just figured that one out?””

“And this isn’t some ploy to win your way into my good books, is it?” she asked, half-suspicious, half-playfully.

“You mean get you drunk, harp on about the good old days and hope it leads back to my place?”

“Precisely,” murmured the Vortixx, alluringly.

They lingered over their meals, reviewing the past six months, more than enough time to get his act together. Tollubo had straightened himself out, cleaned himself up and started some serious thinking.

“Planning on recruiting any new Toa yet?”

The Toa shrugged. “We’ve got enough at the moment. The War's over. Metru-Nui’s transferring back into a peace-time state. These are the golden years.”

“And you’re planning on staying around until they end?”

Tollubo leaned forwards, giving her the close-up doe-eyed treatment. “Now why would I leave a sexy beast like you?”

The Vortixx cracked a hungry smile and threw her napkin at him. “Seriously?”

The Komau-wearer smiled and thought of his old universe. Technically, it had been an entire six months since Tollubo had arrived in this reality whilst chasing his own alternate counterpart across the dimensional plain. There was no going back to his own universe and his Shadow Matoran self remained at large. But there was something else anchoring him in position here.

Where he came from the Matoran Universe had been destroyed and its inhabitants were rebuilding Spherus Magna. The war had been won there. He was not needed. So he'd jumped when the chance to leave had presented itself on a cave wall several mio beneath the surface of Spherus Magna. Besides, he'd made himself a home in this universe, which suited him just fine. There wasn’t much left for him back in his own reality. He’d seen some horrors that would haunt him forevermore, but they were locked away in his past and he had no intention of awakening old fears. He'd never been to Metru Nui. It was like he was touring the island that he'd dedicated so many years of his life to protecting. He was at one with this reality. When he breathed in he felt the air vibrating with tangible hope. It was harmonious. This felt more like home to him than anywhere he'd been previously. He would never leave. If that made him an inter-dimensional squatter then so be it.

“I’m staying here till the end," smiled the Toa. "I failed once and because of that there’s nothing left for me in world. I’ll be damned if I make the same mistake twice.”

A waiter brought the bill and the Toa settled up, trying not to look at the figure at the bottom. Racasix offered to split it in half but Tollubo would have none of it, waving her widgets away. He hadn’t treated her yet and, after how she’d saved his life several months before just about earned her a free meal or two.

“Where are you going now?” she purred as they walked out of the building, his arm hooked around her waist and resting around her side.

“To the Archives,” he grunted. “I have to do some reading up on Zeverek and search for records of a missing waitress.”

“I’ll pay for a Chute ticket if you’d like,” offered the huntress.

“It’s okay,” he grunted. “The walk’ll do me good. I haven’t seen much action lately.”

Racasix glanced at the hazy street. “You sure? The fog’s getting pretty strong in places. You might get run over and that makes for a very unattractive corpse.”

“I’ll take my chances,” chuckled the Toa of Light, reaching up for another kiss. He closed his eyes but still felt eyes glaring at him. “See you, Racasix.”

“I hope so,” she answered seductively, her voice as saucy as ever. “Remember, you don’t need to wait for special occasions to call.”

They shared a smile before the Vortixx slipped away once again. He tried to watch her go but she was gone in seconds, disappearing into the rolling fog that was starting to choke the city. After taking in a deep lungful of the murky air, savouring the moment, he turned on his heels and started walking.

He took a turning into a side street then turned again into an alley. It was deserted. Tollubo hesitated then bowed his head, eyes closed, thinking about what horrors lay ahead of him. Work. He’d be spending the night sat under some blinking cellar light, scrolling through all manner of ancient tablets and newspapers, tracing down the lives of two unknown Vortixx, trawling through their scraps of histories based on two shreds of information: their names.

Suddenly, an arm snaked around the Toa’s neck, cutting off his air, throwing his thoughts into disarray. As his hands rose defensively, someone clutched his ankles and yanked, jerking him off his feet and toppling him over. He connected hard with the ground. His assailants were on him before the stars cleared from his eyes. One kicked him in the ribs. The other swung some sort of club hard at his head.

Acting solely on instinct, he dodged the weapon but not the clawed, scaly foot that scythed in at his face. It caught him clean in the chin, dislodging his Kanohi. It hung on his face loosely, barely connected. The club dug deep into his stomach. He struck back blindly but felt nothing but cold, heavy air.

A second later, the club slammed down on his back. He writhed. One of them went for his mask with a talon-like foot again, but he was only scraped this time. Then a barrage of blows followed and it became impossible to tell one strike from the next. The Toa’s body rocked between the kicks and the punches. The strangers – laughing and panting like Rahi – were clumsy and scuffed a lot of their shots. If he’d been in better shape he probably could’ve dealt with them. But they’d hurt him already, catching him off guard. All he could do was lie there and take it and pray they didn’t deal out any serious damage.

Finally, one of them had a brainwave. Tollubo heard the cold swipe of a blade being removed from a sheath. The metal knife was being waved in front of his Kanohi, barely an inch from his mouth.

“We’re gunna slice you up, Toa,” chuckled the one with the knife. “Cut you so bad, you won’t have a face left.”

“But I wanna cut him too!” whined the other one, pleading.

“You’ll get your turn!” snapped the first.

The Toa watched with sickened fascination, through swollen eyes as the one with the knife drew his arm back. It wasn’t the slicing that he was worried about. What terrified him was the thought that the jerk might cut him too deep. It didn’t seem like they wanted to kill him, just hurt him. He could live with the ugly wound – just so long as he lived.

There was a movement to his right. A figure darted forward silently, swiftly, almost invisibly. There was a snapping sound and suddenly the Toa’s assailant wasn’t waving the knife in his face any longer, but was backing off, screaming about a broken wrist, cradling it to his chest.

The thug holding him didn’t know what to do. He shoved his captive Toa at the mysterious newcomer, but not hard enough to create a problem. The benevolent passerby leapt over Tollubo and went after his prey, like a Rock Lion.

His head was spinning. Consciousness was beginning to slip away. Slumping backwards, the crumpled Toa saw his savior disarming the attacker who’d been holding him, beating him to the ground, then turning to wrap things up with the disabled club-wielder.

The Toa’s labored breath caught in his throat when he caught a glimpse of the mysterious stranger’s face.

T... Th...Thode?” he wheezed before the darkness finally overwhelmed him and he slipped away from reality.

The renegade Toa of Plasma just watched him suffer.




It was strange being back in the Archives.

Personally, Toa Jollun had only ever visited the city-wide museum once in his life, when he had originally arrived in the this strange universe, and even then, he hadn’t learnt much. Most of the visit had been spent fighting off Zyglak and defending novice Toa. To this day, it was still the most fun he’d ever had at a museum.

He was nearing his destination, which was somewhere in the archaeology section. Much of the Archives was divided up into various different sections storing all manner of Rahi, Kanohi, historical records, tablets, items of power, relics... the list went on and on.

All that Jollun really knew was that a particularly reputable Onu-Matoran had requested his presence that morning. He’d been trying to stop a Mahi stampede in the middle of a Po-Metru trading center when a flash of blinding light had distracted him and Toa Danza had materialized out of thin air. The rookie Toa of Stone had swiftly engineered a rock fall that stopped the Rahi in their tracks then had turned to address the Toa, claiming Turaga Bomonga was assigning them the task of travelling to meet the Matoran of Earth in the Archives. According to the Akaku-wearer’s account, the public had been requesting an exhibition in the Archives crediting the city’s newest Toa after the fiasco that took place at the Turaga Tuyet Dam. Matoran being interested in their Toa was nothing new, but now they seemed to be going to great lengths to thank their protectors by crediting them with a display in honor of their heroic deeds.

He was expected to travel across the island for an interview?

No matter what kind of an honor he was being rewarded with, Jollun still didn’t like the idea. After all, not all the island’s Matoran were too happy about the destructive nature of the island’s newest guardians. Tollubo was violent and unruly. More than once he’d gotten into fights in the street when he fans recognized him and the censorship that was covering the whole Ga-Metru Incident was only leading to more suspicion. That was why Danza was with him he guessed. His chauffer.

In this day and age one could only feel sympathy for Turaga Matoro. Over the past two months the island’s almost benevolent leader had taken to ill health and had quarantined himself, unable to perform his usual responsibilities as the island’s ruler but fighting off death with a willpower as strong and determined as a Ruki fish out-swimming the gaping jaws of a Takea shark. Now he barely left his chambers and sent Vilnius out for his public addresses in the Coliseum. Not even Jollun knew what illness had befallen the unfortunate Turaga but he prayed every night in the hopes that his begging would make a difference. At first he’d thought it had helped but now it seemed his pleading was falling on deaf audio receptors.

Mata Nui just wasn’t listening.

Even so, the Turaga was dying – it was obvious. Vilnius could try to cover it up to keep the Matoran ignorant all he liked but all the Toa now had their doubts as to what was going on. Orkahm seemed to think the Turaga of Fire was seeking to replace Matoro by poisoning him, to which Tollubo had reacted by punching the Toa of Air and ordering him never to speak poorly of his elders. Kualus didn’t really seem to care about the issue, though it was also obvious that he was in his final days of being a Toa. Perhaps he would retire and become a Turaga himself.

Danza, however, still seemed to be faithful to both Turaga, remaining unaffected by the changes of recent times. Perhaps that was why Vilnius had requested he accompanied Jollun. Personally, he doubted the novice Toa of Stone could do much other than throw a few pebbles at any attackers and it was obvious that he could easily overpower the rookie but it still felt better having a partner once again. He hadn’t seen Tollubo in months, which made Danza’s presence all the more reassuring.

Of course, rather than waste their widgets on chute rides or taxi fares, Danza had whipped out his Dimensional Horn once again and given the trumpet-like weapon a quick puff of air. A swirling circular portal had torn open in the air and the pair of Toa had stepped into it, reappearing at the Archive’s main entrance an instant later. They’d spent the next hour getting lost in the maze of museum displays, weaving in and out of tourists, staff and Ga-Matoran school trip groups. Unlike Tollubo, neither Jollun nor Danza had bothered to disguise themselves, which had attracted a great deal of attention.

Still, it appeared they were finally nearing the end of their journey. Their Onu-Matoran tour guide rounded one more corner ahead of them then stopped at a keypad in the wall. It scanned his hand and the metal doors opened up with a mechanical click. The Matoran waited outside while the two entered, passing the printing on the wall.

Dessal – Chief Archivist.

The room was fairly large for an office. It looked more like another part of the Archives, populated with two evenly distributed display cases. One case held a blue Krana Yo, the other held the dented maroon head of a Rahkshi of Sleep. Neither were of any historical significance or they would be on display. The Krana was probably one of Dessal’s first discoveries. The Rahkshi’s head was probably a victory token taken from something he’d killed during the war.

The Matoran himself was standing by a particularly tidy desk. There were no papers cluttering the office, they were all bundled away in filing cabinets. Organized. This office was strictly for business purposes. This was where a very logical, methodical Matoran worked.

“Good day, Toa” chuckled the black-armored Matoran with a flimsy, insincere salute – meant for humor, not an insult. Dessal was an important ally of the council. If the district had its own independent ruler, Jollun was pretty sure this Komau-wearing archivist would be able to weasel his way into the role. Hence it was important they didn’t annoy him… at least not too much.

“Greetings, old friend!” laughed Danza. The Toa of Stone knelt down to clank fists with his former associate. When he’d been a Matoran, the two had been close, Jollun knew that much. They had worked together on a number of archaeology-associated projects in the past, something that confused the Toa of Light given the two different lines of work the Matoran had taken.

Nothing seemed to make sense these days.

“How’s life as a Toa treating you?”

Danza puffed out his chest and returned to his feet. His Kanohi Akaku whirled into focus. “Well, the pay’s rubbish, the hours are long and erratic and everything that isn’t a Matoran wants to kill me… but otherwise alright.”

“That can’t be correct” chuckled Dessal. “I know Matoran who would sell their own Kanohi to be in your over-armored boots. Seriously? What’s it like?”

The Toa of Stone sighed then shrugged. “Before I was a Toa, I always wanted to be somebody, but now I realize I should have been more specific.”

“Surely it can’t be that bad?”

“It is” grunted Jollun, towering over both the others. “So don’t go looking for any Toa Stones.”

The Onu-Matoran nodded. He wasn’t intimidated, rather, ashamed at himself for getting carried away with conversation when there was a matter of business to discuss.

“I trust you know why you’re here, Toa?” he inquired.

“For a discussion about my history?”

“Precisely.”

The Toa nodded then sighed himself. He looked around the office, his eyes finally resting on the Rahkshi head. “You know you’re getting old when Matoran want to put you in a museum.” Dessal shrugged as he picked up a fresh stone tablet and a chisel. Danza took up his position, leaning against the desk, making a big deal over how he was now tall enough to sit on it.

“Now, of course, I know you’re from an alternate reality” explained the Onu-Matoran. “And, I believe that you know, your counterpart was a Toa here in Metru Nui. Quite a well-known one too.”

“Until he died” nodded Jollun. “But one thing I’ve never understood is the manner in which I passed. I gather it was a heroic death that ended the war but nobody had ever bothered to explain.”

Dessal nodded. “Your counterpart died six months ago, exactly one day before you arrived in this universe I’ve been told. In the closing days of the war we realized that all hope was lost. The Makuta were far stronger than our armies. They demolished entire legions of Toa, armies of Matoran, masses of Dark Hunters. The bodies were piling up. And worse still, we weren’t fighting, we were just throwing ice cubes at a raging furnace. Our tactics and war plans hadn’t driven the Makuta back. They’d left this universe on their own accord, ready to invade Bara Magna.”

“Those were dark days” muttered Danza, shaking his head. “Metru-Nui was nearly overwhelmed by the Brotherhood’s armies, Rahkshi and Visorak and Exo Toa everywhere.... and those were just the ones the Makuta left behind.

Dessal’s eyes seemed to spark with life, reliving a long-since forgotten sense of hope. “And then you arrived. A strange and mysterious Toa. A heaven-sent gift from Mata Nui. Nobody really knows where you came from. All I can remember is word of some Toa of Light devastating entire armies of Rahkshi fighting his way through to the center of the island. Of course, I’ve checked historical records. You’re intertwined throughout the history of this universe. In times of poverty and war, whenever some unfortunate Matoran was suffering in some slave trade you’ve been there.”

The Onu-Matoran lay his stone tablet aside and reached for a carving beside his desk. He grasped it firmly in his right hand then swung it up with remarkable strength. The Toa squinted at the primitive picture then knelt down to get a closer look. He was surprised, not only to see that it was a drawing of himself, but also at how radically different had he looked in it. The Toa staring back at him in the stone tablet was far bulker than he was, adorned with thick muscles and menacing eyes.

This was a figure had been hardened by years of a long and barbarous life. Firm and resolute. Blazing with glory. Radiating power. His Light Prong looked small and puny in comparison to his brutish counterpart.

“What happened to him?” he asked, carefully deciding it was best not to say me. His counterpart was just too fundamentally dissimilar.

“He sacrificed himself” shrugged Danza. “On the final day of the war. Everyone remembers it. The day Toa Jollun battled his way, through entire legions of invading Rahkshi to reach the Coliseum, to give a speech.”

The Onu-Matoran placed the tablet back on the desk then gestured towards a bookshelf full of books. Probably reference material. It didn’t look like Dessal needed to use them very often.

“Your counterpart stood in the center of the Sea of Protodermis and demanded he spoke to Turaga Matoro. After around an hour of arguing with the guards his wish was finally granted. When Matoro appeared he told him he intended to finish the war, that Mata Nui was dying and that he had been brought back to save the Matoran Universe. After some careful consideration, Matoro ordered Toa Kopeke, Toa Dalu and Toa Zaria and the Chronicler to accompany him below the Coliseum, to the Core Processor. None of them ever returned... but at least they did their job.”

“Who was the Chronicler?”

“Some guy called Solek. A Toa fanatic. I disagreed with everything he ever wrote.”

“It’ll be in the history books one day," added Danza. "Stick around and you’ll go down in legends.”

The three figures stood in silence, paying their respects to the fallen Toa, each uttering a silent prayer for the long-dead heroes who had given their lives to restore peace to their broken universe. But before any of them could finish, the stillness of the office was broken by a mechanical grind as the metallic doors peeled away once again. This time, an Onu-Matoran entered the room. Immediately, Jollun recognized him as Memel, a young and overly-eccentric archivist. The archivist wannabe ran into the room, at full speed, and nearly crashed into the display case holding the blue Krana Yo.

The Matoran of Earth was something of an oddball. He was an oddity to say the least. His eagerness and lack of evaluation has often landed the young crank in danger. Memel was synonymous for his impatience and desperation to prove himself to his superiors, who – similarly to just about every Matoran in Onu-Metru – was Dessal.

The Chief Archivist sighed as the trainee struggled to grab the display case and hold it steady. Neither Toa moved to lend him a hand as he withered and labored to return it to its original standing position. When he finished he was panting for lungfuls of air.

D… D… Dessal!” he wheezed between gulps. “I’ve found something. Something that’s gunna blow... you... away.”

The Matoran stepped forwards and reached into his pack, shifting through all manner of clutter. He rustled around through papers and trinkets, gadgets and gizmos, scraps of spare armor and what looked like soil samples in small, see-through plastic bags. Finally, his stubby, clumsy little fingers closed around something, which he pulled out and presented to Dessal. The Chief Archivist just stared at him before plucking it out of his hand, rolling it over in his fingers then tossing back at him. It bounced right out of his hands then dropped to the floor, where clattered hollowly at Jollun’s feet, allowing him to get his first proper look at the mysterious object.

It was a smooth, soil-stained piece of wood.

“What did you do that for?!” exclaimed the candid Matoran. He knelt down to scoop it up then smoothed it, as if rubbing the dirt off it. “I checked the soil-depth. It was older than Turaga Vilnius! The thing’s practically ancient!”

Dessal shook his head. “This piece of ancient timber isn’t valuable just because it’s old, rare and looks nice. It’s valuable because it can tell you about the archaeology in the garden you ruined trying to find it.”

Memel fell silent. His eyes seemed to widen as he looked down and re-examined his find. The Chief Archivist smiled a sad smile then continued speaking, this time more sympathetically. “It’s not archaeology if we accept any widget, broken tree branch or brick you find. They’d all just be trash lying around, wasting storage space and gathering dust. It’d be like sneaking a handful of Proto Drake eggs from underneath their mother, handing them to me and telling me you’ve forgotten where the nest was… which you did last week.”

The trainee glanced shakily from Dessal to the piece of rotten wood. “But…” he muttered precariously. He raised his head again, recognized the steel in his superior’s eyes, then decided adding another word to his argument would be too hazardous. Instead, he just seemed to deflate and slacken. In the end he just nodded.

“Sorry for wasting your time” he muttered, dispiritedly. With a downhearted sigh, he about-turned on his heels and began trudging towards the door. Jollun watched him as he stooped over the keypad and pressed his palm against the screen.

The doors flew backwards, but not because they were opening. A ball of orange flame seemed to engulf the corridor outside before the two metal slabs were obliterated. Shards of metal flew into the office, the remnants of Dessal’s door. Dust and smoke everywhere. Jollun couldn’t even see Memel but he doubted he was dead. The Matoran had been moving slow because of his bad mood. If he’d been moving about in his usual energetic, bouncy manner he’d have been demolished by the explosive inferno. In a way, Dessal’s scolding may have just saved his life.

The two Toa hesitated, wondering whether to confront their attackers or to beat a retreat with the Dimensional Horn. After a moment’s thought they chose to stay and face the newcomers.

When the debris settled three sleek figures marched into the chamber. Two Vortixx and a Steltian, all clad in navy-colored armor. They had thick silver helmets over their ugly heads, the words Metru-Nui Law Enforcement stenciled across them plain and obvious. Golden service badges were strapped across their shoulders and they had standard issue police-blasters in sheaths, hanging loosely around their thighs. Jollun caught Danza’s worried glanced but turned to smile at the three cops anyway.

“Help you any?” he asked bluntly.

“Toa Jollun?” grunted the lead Vortixx.

“Yes?”

“Yes, sir” snapped the second Vortixx.

The Toa sighed inwardly – scumbag. “Yes, sir” he muttered coldly.

“We’d like you to accompany us to Ta-Metru.” It was the one who’d spoken first.

“Why?” asked Danza, inquisitively. He seemed generally interested, though it wasn’t idle curiosity. There was an element of hostility, as if he were asking what made the newcomers think they could boss Toa around.

“We’d rather not tell you why until you arrive.” They clearly didn’t pick up on Danza’s tone.

The two Toa looked at each other in confusion. The Steltian beckoned Dessal over and began talking to him quietly.

“Am I under arrest?” asked Jollun, a deep frown knitting on his forehead.

“Not yet, punk” snarled the second Vortixx. Openly hostile. He was going to have that one stripped of his badge when he got back to the Coliseum.

“What if I don’t want to go?” challenged the Toa of Light. “I mean, it’s not like I have to, right?”

“It’d be better if you just did.”

“What about Danza?”

The two Vortixx exchanged bored glances then shrugged. “He can tag along if he wants.”

The Toa of Light stretched his arms out and yawned overdramatically, making a big deal out of how he so clearly wasn’t taken aback.

“Very well. I’ll come quietly.”

“Thanks” beamed the first officer toothily.

Jerk” added the second.

The two Toa turned to leave, following the two Vortixx. The Steltian stopped talking to Dessal and brought up the rear, forming a triangular cordon around the two Toa. The Chief Archivist looked numb. He was shaking his head, eyes wide with defiance.

Not a good sign.

Chapter 3[]

To be rewritten

Tollubo could tell, as he returned to consciousness, that he’d been out a long time. He was in a pitch-black room, so he couldn’t check but, according to his body clock, it could have been anything between eighteen and twenty hours.

He ran his fingers over his body, assessing the damage. Every touch produced a sting but nothing seemed to be broken. And although his bruised stomach flared agonizingly every time he breathed, he didn’t think any of his ribs had snapped. All things considered, it could have been a lot worse.

Then he remembered Toa Thode and his familiar face.

He might have caught it wrong. He’d only glimpsed the figure in the alley, he’d been thinking a lot about who this mysterious sixth surviving Toa was, and he hadn’t been at his most coherent at the time. Maybe he’d just noticed a similarity. Maybe it was just some Order of Mata Nui agent wearing a Miru. But in his heart he knew that was a bucket of Rahkshi-bile.

He got to his feet and almost fell down again as geysers of pain erupted all over. He thrust out an arm, found a wall and propped himself against it, breathing hard, letting his head clear, groaning softy.

Awake at last” came a voice from the darkness. “I thought you would sleep forever.”

The Toa stiffened. It was Toa Thode’s voice but he couldn’t see him. Not even a vague outline.

Back in his universe, Thode hadn’t been a pleasant character. Originally from the same team as Kualus, Thode had abandoned his fellow Toa after having a disagreement with the local Turaga. For a brief period of time, there had been talk amongst the other Order of Mata Nui members about him being sent to the Pit for his crimes, which Tollubo had learnt about many centuries later. However, his rebellion was perfectly timed to coincide with the Time Slip and the Order had bigger Ruki to fry scattering an entire population of Matoran across the Universe.

The Toa of Plasma had slaughtered thousands.

Countless lost souls, Matoran and Makuta alike, had met their ends at Thode’s trigger finger. The renegade had moved to Stelt then started a fresh, new career for himself, offering his services up as a bounty hunter, priding himself with no moral restrictions and being able to deal with any opponent. Some said he’d never missed a target. Others said that he slept in a bed made of Makuta Icarax’s broken armor with The Shadowed One’s head mounted on his wall.

“Where are you?” he asked desperately.

Around” replied the killer, and now the voice came from another spot. He was circling, silent, unseen, like a Takea Shark. “You saw me in the alley, didn’t you?” He sounded petulant, a dangerously irritable fluctuation in his cold, remorseless voice.

Tollubo gulped silently and felt it echo around the emptiness. He thought about lying but didn’t see the point. “Yes.”

“You know who I am? Who I was?”

Again, he considered lying but opted for the truth. “Yes.”

“I thought so.” This time the voice was closer.

With an unusual spark of courage, Tollubo stepped forwards, his hand reaching out but grabbing nothing. Nobody there. The room was full of shadows. The Toa’s head flicked left and right, not letting his guard drop.

Then the horrible face spun into view, as if it were one of his nightmares come to life. The outlandish smile of the murderer’s Kanohi Miru grinned menacingly at him. He could only watch breathlessly as the face crept further into view. No body, just the head. It couldn’t just be a floating head, but he couldn’t shake the fear that this was some ghostly spirit come to haunt him.

Years of training evaporated. Tollubo froze, arms dropping, eyes widening. Thode’s Kanohi filled his vision. The entire island could’ve gone up in flames and he wouldn’t have noticed. There was only the head.

The light snapped on.

The battered Komau-wearer had to close his eyes and shield them with a hand. He counted to twenty before opening them again. He was in a small, whitewashed room. Nothing in it apart from a tatty mattress he’d been lying on.

Just him and one of the most deadly bounty hunters ever to be spat out of Tren Krom’s backside.

Now that he saw the Toa of Plasma up close all doubt vanished. The years had barely touched him and he was exactly the same as he’d remembered from the Wanted posters that had littered his universe. He said nothing as the Toa of Light ran his incredulous eyes over him, taking in his lean, muscular frame, the slender, hooked fingers… the outlandish grin that should have been put on a Skakdi.

The monster spread his arms, his grin widening. “Got a hug for your dear ol' drinking buddy?

“This is a nightmare” groaned the Toa of Light, sliding down to his knees. He stared at the callous Toa, appalled.

“I see I have no need to introduce myself.” Toa Thode – as his savor most surely was – laughed. “Good. I hate formal introductions.”

“Why am I here?” gulped Tollubo. “Are you going to –”

“ – kill you?” finished the assassin. “No. I am not going to kill you.” He raised a hand and gestured towards a door. “I’ve had enough killing for one night.”

“Can I have that in writing?” The Komau-wearer’s chattering teeth made a mockery of the show of bravado.

“I will write it for you in blood if you so desire” chuckled the murderer. He offered his fellow Toa a hand. Tollubo refused it and struggled to his feet by himself.

“Where are we?” he asked, glancing up at the flickering lighting grid above their heads.

“A building” answered Thode vaguely. “One of my many places of work. You do not need to know more.”

“What do you want?”

“I want nothing, Tollubo” he replied smoothly, with a voice colder than most Toa of Ice. “I present myself to you as an ally.” The orange and white armored Toa rested a surprisingly cold hand on Tollubo’s shoulder. “You were looking for me. Asking questions, spreading rumors, searching for the mysterious sixth Toa in this desolate world. I’ve even heard natter that I’m being blamed for the death of Toa Helryx because of you!”

Tollubo wanted to kick himself.

“I could not stand for such slander. Normally, I would have put a quick end to your lies, but I became interested. I began following you… it’s not like you made it hard. You’ve been to the same casino every day for… what was it? Three weeks?

Silence.

“But don’t feel bad, of all the Toa in your petty little team, you were the hardest to follow.” It appeared the assassin was attempting to encourage him. “I keep tabs on all you Toa, making sure you don’t ask me to join your little band of losers.”

“Is that why you were outside the Golden Ruki when I was attacked?”

He pondered the question, then turned and beckoned for the Toa to follow, deciding on silence.

“What happened to the pair who harassed me?” he asked, shuffling after the bounty hunter, feeling like he was walking on a tightrope.

“They await our pleasure” he chuckled, sounding almost compassionate.

“They’re here?”

“I told you this was a place of work.”

Thode’s daunting fingers locked around the door handle, pulled it open and entered. It was another dark room. He didn’t turn on the light until the door was closed. When he did, Tollubo wished he’d left it off.

The two figures from the alley hung from chains from the ceiling. In the light, he could see they were both Vortixx, which made the situation marginally more pleasing. One of them hung upside down, the other horizontally.

The latter had been disemboweled and his guts trailed over his sides, like a long, grey, slimy mess that had been dumped there. His eyes had been gouged out and nailed to either side of his pelvis so he looked like some obscene creature that only walked out of Brotherhood experiment labs.

Most of the other’s face had been sliced away and a long iron stake had been driven into his groin, which was chained tightly to his arms, driving it deeper in every time he quivered.

Both were still alive.

Tollubo turned aside and retched. Thode laughed and warned him not to vomit on his feet. When he’d recovered he asked who they were.

“That was my first question too” replied the Miru-wearer. “Tell me, did you really escort a female Vortixx to a restaurant?”

The Toa nodded wearily. “Yeah... so?”

So these two fine, Xian jerks were there and took it as a personal insult. By chance they left before you then hung around and tried to, as one of them so poetically phrased it before I removed his tongue – ‘teach that damn Toa-scumbag some respect for his betters’.”

“So they had nothing to do with the Cult of Darkness?”

“Nothing” grunted the assassin, sounding almost as disappointed as the Toa of Light felt. “Still, I thought it too good to be true. Life is rarely that simple.”

The Vortixx with no face groaned and twitched in his chains. Something – it may have been the remains of his nose – slipped from his face and landed in a pool of dark blood with a gentle plop.

“For Mata Nui’s sake, will you make an end of those two?” moaned the Komau-wearing Toa.

“I have grown rather fond of them. I was thinking of keeping them on.”

Just kill them!” yelled Tollubo, fire in his eyes.

Thode regarded him coolly. “Do not adopt such tones when addressing your savior. I have some spare chains left over and a short temper for the youth of today’s Toa. Remember, Tollubo, I have been a hero for far longer than you. I am your elder, and you are never too old to receive a spanking.”

Please” he muttered sickly. “They’re of no use to us and I can’t stand looking at them like that anymore.” He felt fresh bile rising in his throat.

Thode produced a knife and held it out, holding the tip. “Care to do the honors?” The Toa of Light stared at the blade, then the Vortixx, then shook his head. “Why not? You have killed before. Why shy away now?”

“I killed when I needed to, when there was reason. This is... torture. They’ve suffered enough.”

“You will be putting them out of their misery. Is that not good reasoning?”

“They were a pair of fools but they don’t deserve to be – ”

Thode spun the knife around and reholstered it in the twinkling of an eye. “Then make no further entreaties of me. If you are incapable of dealing the final blow, I shall do so in my own time. One must never expect another to extend the hand of mercy on his behalf.”

He strolled past the sicken pair – they sensed his presence and started groaning and writhing anew – towards a door set in the far wall of the room. He followed, steering as far clear of the anguished captives as he could. He found himself in a room with a wooden desk and two leathery chairs, one on either side.

“Sit,” instructed the callous killer, taking his place at the far side of the desk. Tollubo was glad to rest but his sense of relief vanished when Thode produced a firearm and aimed it at him. “I will use this if provoked. I will not shoot to kill – it should be obvious by now that I do not wish to harm you – but I will disable you without a second’s hesitation.”

The Toa just glared at the Miru-wearer contemptuously. “How many Matoran have you killed?” Thode must have seen the threat in his tone because his expression darkened.

“I am not the villain in this piece,” he muttered dismissively, “neither in this universe or yours. If you seek vengeance, seek the architect, not the hired gun. Do not waste your hatred on a mere messenger – which is all I am essentially.” The Toa's eyes narrowed and he leaned closer. He was pondering something. "How much do you know of me?" he asked, crooked fingers rising to pick at the ridges of his Kanohi.

"Not much," grunted Tollubo. "You're an assassin. You used to work for the Dark Hunters. Everyone who knows you knows to fear you. They say you're the meanest, coldest Toa alive."

He smiled modestly, liking what he heard. "It is not an easy task, being the most feared person in an island like this. I have had to work for my reputation. But I am only an occasional assassin. When I'm in the mood, or if an old acquaintance asks. Most of the time I kill for my own reasons. I am a pioneer. I was one of this universe's first serial killers, back in the days before it was fashionable. For more than 40,000 years I've blazed trails others can only dream of. I have adopted more guises than the oh-so-benevolent Order of Mata Nui can count. I've taken life in every corner of this world, rich and poor, young and old, male and female, Turaga and Vortixx. I kill because I am a killer. It is that simple. It is who I am, what I do. When I kill, I am being true to myself. There are no hidden motives, no perverse longings. Do you think it is wrong, Toa Tollubo? To be true to oneself?"

"When you put it that way..."

"There is no other way to put it," he grunted, conversationally. "I keep notes of my killings. I write every one. I have dozens of notepads, full of times and places, names, methods, results. That is how I relax in my spare time. I write about my work then dwell upon it at length. I enjoy reading of old murders. The problem with being responsible for so many is one tends to forget a lot of the details. One death is much the same as any other. They blend."

A beat of silence.

“How can I trust you?” growled the Toa of Light.

The Miru-wearing bounty hunter laughed loudly and lowered the gun. “I said you interested me, Toa Tollubo. You never irritated me. If you had, you’d be lying face-down in some drain in Ga-Metru. You may enquire after me further if you wish, but I would not recommend it.”

Sensing he had outstayed his welcome, Tollubo slowly rose to his feet again and stared down at the assassin. It was only then that he realized he had been towering over the Toa of Plasma the whole time.

“Count to fifty as you leave” grunted the renegade, a sly smile creeping onto his devilish Kanohi. “And, Tollubo?”

“Yes?”

Count slow.

The Toa turned around and snorted as he stormed out, hating himself because he knew he was about to subconsciously start the slowest countdown of his life.




The cops transported the two Toa across the island, sirens blaring, saying nothing. They avoided the roads to police stations. Jollun checked their uniforms in the glow of the street lights. They appeared to be real but he still had a bad feeling in his gut. He and Danza had been stuffed into the back seats, neither of them were cuffed. He could maybe grab a Plasma Pistol from one of them, force them to let him and his fellow Toa out.

He was finalizing the plan when the cruiser swung onto an all-too-familiar street then stopped outside a series of apartments. He immediately let his plans drop. The helmets, navy armor and badges were all real and the Toa had a premonition of what lay in store. The dismayed faces of the staff in the lobby confirmed his worst suspicions.

By the time he reached apartment 327 and saw the horrific scene it was something of an anticlimax.

The officer-in-charge was grim when he stepped in front of the Toa of Light, not an unusual trait for an overworked Vortixx. He asked the Toa to account for his whereabouts the previous night. He responded saying he’d been in the Coliseum and that Turaga Vilnius himself could be pulled out as a witness if required.

“I hope that’s true” sighed the officer, massaging the bridge of his nose.

“Who is it?” grunted Danza, bemused. He nodded towards the corpse that was draped over the bed.

“You don’t know?”

Jollun glanced at the unfortunate Matoran. It was a female, nothing interesting about her. She’d been stripped of her armor and Kanohi then left face-down on the sheets. She bore no distinctive marks aside from a fading scare running along her right arm. In the end he just shook his head.

“She didn’t have much on her. No bags, no armor, not even an identification tag. But she did have something you’ll probably be interested in... it’s probably best left in your property.”

“A thorough frame” grunted the Toa, smiling tightly. Again, he glanced at the body. The sheets were stained with blood and tucked under the corpse’s chest was a stone tablet, looking surprisingly similar to the one he had seen in Dessal’s office not an hour before.

“You want to ID the body?” asked the chief officer. “You don’t have to. If you want to consult a lawyer...”

“The suspense is killing me” growled Jollun, cutting him short. Slowly, he edged closer to the body, feeling time contract, barely aware of the other cops clearing a path for him, drawing back from him as if he had some contagious plague. The victim was still lying face down, unsurprisingly. The killer had been brutal. He doubted even Danza would be able to make an accurate count of the puncture wounds that peppered her back.

He stopped at the foot of the bed. Reaching over, he gingerly plucked the tablet from underneath the Matoran. His right hand darted forwards before anyone could stop him. The tablet glistened sickly with thick, scarlet blood. He lifted it to the light as Danza appeared at his side.

The day in which Toa Tollubo will die is fast-approaching’ it read.

“Know anything about it?” asked the officer.

Jollun shook his head. “Never seen it before in my life.”

“You’d better put it back then. Could have prints.”

Replacing the tablet – which had unnerved him more than the body – Jollun rounded the bed, reaching a position where he could view the face. It was half-smothered by a pillow. He had to kneel down to get a decent look.

“So, what do we have here?” asked Danza, following suit and bending over the puncture wounds. This must be the former pathologist’s idea of paradise. “I’d say she was stabbed from behind, repeatedly. Not a nice way to go. That tells us the guy’s a coward because he couldn’t face her yet he’d taunting us with the death-threat.”

His words seemed to fade away into silence as Jollun went cold. He was gripped by an icy paralysis and couldn’t move. He just couldn’t believe what he was seeing before his very eyes. The sky crashed in around him.

His stomach dropped. He no longer needed to see the maskless face. He knew by her skin, strong yet soft by the touch. Skin he’d run his fingers through a thousand times. He tried not to think of her name, just her flesh, driving all other thoughts from his mind, for fear the truth would madden him.


He obsessed over the Ga-Matoran’s flesh as the law enforcement officers read him his rights and led him back down the stairs, Danza threatening them inaudibly. Her flesh as he was bundled into a cruiser and driven to a prison. Her gleaming, blood-splattered flesh as they processed his details then locked him away.

When he was finally alone and couldn’t keep the name at bay any longer, he whispered it to himself, feeling his heart wither and his world burn.

Saran...”

Chapter 4[]

Tollubo took every precaution he could when traveling back to the city. Dipping into his savings he managed to change chutes five times. He walked a couple of kio along the most crowded streets he could find. He even called into another second-hand Kanohi outlet, swapping his Komau for a surprisingly well-kept black Great Suletu. He altered his color scheme every couple of blocks, finally settling upon a black and navy spectrum that absorbed as much light as possible, allowing him to sneak around the darkened streets more easily. When he’d done all within his power he crossed his fingers and started the final leg of his journey.

He knew he wouldn’t have fooled Toa Thode for a second.




In that exact moment, yet in a very different place entirely, Toa Jollun was in serious trouble.

Before he’d had time to adjust to his cell, he’d been moved from the district’s detainment center to the dungeons beneath the Coliseum. Nobody had even managed to mount a defense. He was just thrown in with some of the most deadly war criminals known to the Matoran Universe. And these weren’t simple thieves and pick-pockets. Murderers, traitors, mercenaries and all-sorts of enemies to Metru-Nui had been locked up behind the bars of this particular jail.

By chance it also happened to be where Juulant was being kept.

Jollun had tried to dismiss all thoughts of the hatred-driven Glatorian who he himself had imprisoned here whilst his weapons were taken away and his Kanohi was replaced with a tacky, chipped, Powerless Kadin.

And just to add insult to injury, huge, hulking clamps were strapped to his feet, magnetizing him to the ground. Maximum security. It was hard enough just walking with these big, ugly, clunky additions, let alone the magnetic field that enticed the Toa to the ground. Worse still, his Elemental Powers seemed to have been blocked somehow, which was rarely a good sign.

To say the least, the dungeon wasn’t exactly a pleasant place to be. It smelled like a dozen rotting Takea Sharks on dry land. And it was unbearably noisy. Background noise was deafening with the metallic grating that was the floor. Every footstep on the metal grid was like a thousand Po-Matoran crafters drilling into his head. It was radically overcrowded and the social and ethnic tensions that were kept in control on the streets were left to rage unchecked inside. Prisoners were stacked three to a cell and the Vahki guards were shorthanded.

New guys were left to fend for themselves.

But Jollun had been through far worse in his life, so the culture shock for him was a little less than it might have been for a lesser being. He survived as the new piece of fresh meat for two hours before being escorted to the interview room by what he suspected was the only guard in the complex who wasn’t a Vahki. Apparently there was a lawyer waiting for him. That was unusual. The presence of a defense lawyer indicated that there would be a court case of some sort lined up. Surely the Turaga High Council should have filed the paperwork to bail him out by now. They wouldn’t want to leave one of their Toa locked in a dungeon, no matter how much paperwork it involved.

But there was an interviewer waiting for him, which unnerved Jollun. He found a table and two chairs bolted to the floor in a windowless cubicle. In one of the chairs was a snooty-looking Steltian Trader he’d never met. A female. She looked young and tatty. Inexperienced. Still waiting for her first big break in the world of criminal law. Considering the congested state of the prison, he very-much doubted his chances of getting out by her doing.

Not good.

“My name is Nelvik,” smiled the Steltian in the chair. “I’m a criminal defense attorney. A lawyer. Turaga Vilnius once used my firm in the past and thought we were useful. He asked me to help out here.”

That was something else unusual. Surely, Matoro could just snap his fingers and the whole dungeon would open its cells. Why was Vilnius getting involved? And why were the Turaga even going the route of a trial? That sounded far more expensive than the alternative.

Jollun said nothing. He’d chosen to remain silent the whole time. Not many people did when given their rights. Not many people could. The urge to talk was usually overwhelming. But the Toa had beaten it thus far. Absolute silence was the best approach. It was a lesson he’d learn long ago from guard duty with Glonor back in his own universe.

Say something, and it can be misheard, the Iden-wearing Av-Matoran had told him late one night. Misunderstood. Misinterpreted. It can get you convicted. It can get you killed. The guy arresting you might get annoyed. He has to tell you silence is your right but he hates it if you exercise that right. So that was exactly what Jollun did. He just clamped his mouth shut and kept it that way.

“I’m recording this conversation,” Nelvik said bluntly, nodding towards a small rectangular device resting on the table. “I take it that’s okay with you?”

Jollun said nothing.

“Have the charges been explained to you?” she asked.

Jollun said nothing.

“I can’t help you if you won’t help yourself,” muttered the lawyer apathetically.

Jollun did nothing. He just stared at her, sitting still and quiet for several long minutes. Then he leaned towards the machine and spoke his second sentence since being arrested.

They got the wrong guy,” he stated, slowly and clearly.

“So tell me about the right guy,” countered Nelvik instantly. A good courtroom tactic. She knew how to get a rhythm going. Question, answer. Question, answer. That was how to get a person to open up. Once they fell into the rhythm it all came out.

But Jollun retreated back into silence.

“Let’s be clear about this” continued the Steltian. “Are you denying it?”

Jollun said nothing.

“Are you?”

No response.

“The evidence is all there,” shrugged the attorney impassively. “It’s just about overwhelming, I’m afraid. You were her partner – her only partner. Statistically, the most likely person to commit a homicide is a former lover of the victim. You can’t play dumb now. We need to know why you did it. That’s what’s going to happen.”

Not if Jollun had anything to do with it.

“You want me to help you or not?”

Jollun said nothing.

“Maybe it was your wartime experience,” shrugged the lawyer, assuming he’d fought in the Final Push. “Or post-traumatic stress. Or some kind of mental impairment. We need to focus on the reason.”

Like talking to a brick wall.

“Denying it is not smart,” tutted the Steltian in a patronizing tone. “The evidence is right there.”

“Get Tollubo for me,” muttered Jollun.

“Who?”

Tollubo. Don’t you read the newspapers?”

“Who’s he? A friend?”

Back to silence.

“Someone you know? Someone you used to know? A psychiatrist?”

“Just get him for me.”

Nelvik frowned. “Where is he? Who is he?”

Jollun didn’t speak again. He just got up from the chair and walked over to the cubicle’s door. He pounded hard until the jailer opened up and let him back into the overcrowded corridor. Within seconds he was just another Kanohi bobbing in a sea of crammed bodies.




There was good news and bad news to be found at Onu-Metru’s eastern-most public library.

All over Metru Nui, there appeared to be plenty of citizens going by the name Fortha listed in the data logs. Most of them were Vortixx but there were also quite a noticeable number of female Matoran going by the title, particularly Matoran of Lightning, strangely enough.

A fake name. An obvious dead-end straight off the bat.

But that didn’t hinder the Toa of Light. He shortened his search to Onu-Metru, then to towns within an hour’s radius of the city. Words living that far away would turn instinctively to the industrial center when they needed something. Further out than that, maybe they wouldn’t, certainly not if they were a dancer in a sleazy, sordid casino who went by the most communal fake name he had ever seen.

But his search took a further turn for the worse when one of the wandering librarians finally informed him that, during the war, when most of the island’s current Vortixx inhabitants had fled to Metru-Nui, they had been met with blatant hostility and ignorance from Matoran immigration officials, who hadn’t even bothered with the refugees’ names and had renamed many of them. He soon discovered that Drakor and Fortha were among two of the most common examples. He had also found an account of a Vortixx in Po-Metru who had gotten angry and signed the name X, which had earned him the name Ecks.

As if his day couldn’t get any worse, it was becoming increasingly obvious that he was too late. With his patience wearing thinner-still, the Toa stumbled upon a data hub displaying the week’s latest news reports. The body of a female Vortixx had been found stuffed into a sewer two days ago, just twenty minutes from the casino.

It didn’t take a genius to guess it was Fortha’s.




At that exact moment, less than 50 kio away, in a warehouse behind Onu-Metru’s inner harbor, a considerable number of widgets were exchanged for two weapons and matching ammunition. A lot of money. Good weapons. Special ammunition. The planning for the second attempt had started with an objective analysis of the first attempt’s failure.

Their final evaluation: this time, get the right dancing Vortixx.

As realistic professionals, the two Zeverek were reluctant to blame the whole debacle on inadequate hardware, but they agreed that better firepower couldn’t hurt any. So they had researched their needs and located a supplier. He had what they wanted. The price was right. They negotiated a guarantee. It was their usual type of agreement. They told the guy that if there was a problem with his merchandise they would come back and shoot him through the spinal cord, low down, cripple him. Getting their clawed-hands on the guns was the last step. Now they were ready to go fully operational.

The transporter was waiting for the two Cult of Darkness agents. A dark, threatening bulk of a vehicle, standing almost completely invisible in the darkness of the night. They counted to three then heaved their new supplies inside, slammed the doors shut, clicked the lock, then got into the front seats. Deep tints on the windows. Dark alleyway. No problem.

“You know what?” grunted Vunto, the first Zeverek. “If we fold the seat down, we’ll fit Hollian in there with the guns. Do it all in one trip, tonight.”

“Sure,” grunted Curatio, the second anarchist. He was slightly younger than the first and bringing up a broader, slower appearance. “Is that the best body bag Mudro had to offer?”

“The best,” confirmed Vunto, settling in behind the wheel. “Depends if she’s big or small I guess.”

“Depends if she’s finished tonight.”

The lead Zeverek looked his partner in the eye. “You got any doubts on that score? With the mood Mudro’s in today?”

“So where is she?” grunted Curatio.

“She’ll be at home now.”

The engine roared into life as he spoke, shattering the stillness of the night. “Straight east, about an hour, maybe even an hour-and-a-half’s drive.”

The transporter backed out of its slot and squealed its tires on its way around the alleyway.

The countdown had begun.




Tollubo pulled the door open and thundered into the casino, pushing his way past the various merrymakers and gamblers as they jostled around. The place was just as crowded as he remembered from the night before. The same mellow spotlights were burning the eyes of various drunkards. The night was young but the place seemed about-ready to close up shop. There was a different rostrum of waitresses.

There was also a barrel-chested Steltian Laborer half in shadow behind the register. Tollubo couldn’t see his face, but he knew the bouncer was looking at him. The Toa of Light was sporting navy blue armor, the color indication of a member of the Metru Nui Law Enforcement. Not the most popular sight, in a place like that.

“Cover charge,” the brute at the register grunted. He looked to be in charge. The guy was a manager, Tollubo guessed, but not the owner. His name was embroidered on the left of his chest: Gorvus. Up close he looked sullen and unhelpful.

“How much?” grunted the Toa.

“Hundred widgets,” he retorted.

“Get lost, buddy.”

“OK, two hundred widgets.”

“Hilarious.”

“I don’t like you guys in blue snoopin’ around in here.”

“I can’t imagine why,” countered the Toa of Light, eyes narrowing.

“Look at me.”

He looked at the thug. There was nothing much to see. The edge of a downlighter beam lit up a big stomach and a big chest and thick, short, forearms. He had hands the size of a small Rahi with heavy fingers. But the laborer’s shoulders and face were in deep shadow above them. Like he was half-hidden by a curtain. Tollubo was talking to a guy he couldn’t see.

“You ain’t welcome ‘ere,” grunted the brutish employee.

“I’ll get over it. I’m not an unduly sensitive person.”

“You’re ain’t listenin’,” he bristled. “This is my place and I don’t want you in it.”

“I’ll be quick.”

“Leave now.”

“I need to speak with Hakann,” stated the Toa seriously.

“He’s in back,” growled the worker in response.

“Shall I go through or do you want to go get him for me?”

“What’s this about?”

“Personal.”

“He’s here to work.”

“It’s a legal matter.”

“I need to see your badge, mate.”

“No, you don’t,” challenged the Toa, a fierce glimmer in his eyes. “You need to go get Hakann.”

Gorvus leaned forward into the light. Slowly. The downlighter beam rode up his chest. Up his neck. Onto his face. It was an incredible face. It had started out ugly and it had gotten much worse. He had straight razor scars all over it. They crisscrossed it like a lattice. They were deep and white and old. His nose had been busted and badly reset and busted again and badly reset again, many times over. He had brows thick with scar tissue. Two small eyes were staring out at me from under them. He was maybe three hundred pounds.

The Toa of Light smiled. “This thing with the face is supposed to impress me? With the dramatic lighting and all?”

“It should tell you something.”

“It tells me you lost a lot of fights. You want to lose another, that’s fine with me.”

The bouncer glared at him.

“Or I could put this place off-limits to every enlisted law enforcement officer in Onu-Metru. I could see what that does to your profits.”

The glare was piercing.

“But I don’t want to do that,” snorted the Toa. “No reason to penalize my guys, just because you’re a jerk. So I guess I’ll ignore you.”

Gorvus sat back. The shadow slid back into place, like a curtain.

“I’ll see you later,” he muttered darkly, from out of the darkness. “Somewhere, sometime. That’s for sure. That’s a promise, pal.”

Now I’m scared,” sighed the Suletu-wearer sarcastically.

He moved on and pressed into the crowd then made it through a packed bottleneck and into the main part of the casino. It was much bigger inside than it had looked. It was a big low square, full of noise and customers. There were dozens of separate areas. There were plenty of civilians in there. Plenty of military guys too. He could spot them by their armor. Many of them were probably still enrolled in the Metru Nui Land Army. Off-duty soldiers always has a distinct appearance. They tried to look like everybody else, and they failed. They were always a little clean and out-of-date. Heads turned to look at the miscolored Toa of Light as he passed them by. They weren’t pleased to see him.

The Suletu-wearer headed for a door in back marked No Admittance that he’d passed earlier that morning. It would be an office or a lunchroom, he guessed. He knew how taverns worked. Casinos were basically the same as taverns in many respects.

It was an office, small, dominated by a large white laminate desk with oily handprints on it. Tollubo didn’t get a chance to study it in any depth though. Sure enough, a Skakdi was sitting behind it, a drink in his hand, one of his clawed feet on the desk. His expression changed from one of comfort, to surprise, and then finally to confusion. Hakann said nothing. Just looked up at him. He looked smaller than Tollubo had expected. Quieter, less energetic, duller than the average Skakdi. Deflated.

In one swift motion, the Toa reached into his pack and pulled out his Photon Bolt Launcher. He swung it underarm then aimed the barrel square at Hakann’s forehead before the door had even slammed shut behind him.

“Are you the guy who lost his communicator?” gulped the crimson Skakdi.

“People join the Metru Nui Law Enforcement for one of three reasons,” bristled Tollubo with enough grit in his voice to resurface a footpath. “They’re either diehard patriots, in need of a job, or just want a legal reason to kill someone.”

Hakann said nothing. Just stared up at the stranger holding the barrel of a gun to his head. Anger, shock, wounded pride, confusion.

“You got a transporter?”

“You’re not having it, Toa,” spat the Skakdi, taking another sip from his drink. It was a wonder none of it fell right back out of his mouth. His unnerving smile was genetically broad. “I’ve seen plenty of Toa in my time. They don’t kill. It’s not in their code. That’s the reason I’m sitting here. You don’t scare me.”

“You’re in no position to negotiate,” challenged the Toa.

“Who are you, anyway?” snapped Hakann, clearly unfazed by the barrel of the firearm aimed at his head.

“An interested party. Hollian has an assassin on her tail. It’s my intention to rectify that situation.”

“I don’t know where she lives.”

“That’s irrelevant.”

The Skakdi raised an eyebrow. “Then why steal from me?”

The Toa smiled. “Someone needs to get their transporter stolen, and your beer sucks.”

Hakann gazed at him with empty interest. “I fought in the war,” he muttered, letting his eyes drift back down to his drink. “I ended up defending the Matoran, of all people. I was an amateur Dark Hunter with a ragtag band of other Skakdi. Even then, while I believed that I was fighting the good fight, I knew it was wrong. Mata Nui knows I paid for it.”

The crimson-armored casino owner shifted his posture and raised his other leg, revealing an odd stump of flesh in place of a lower right limb. It had been amputated in the field, then a good few inches had been chopped off later in a medical bay due to infection. It was plain to see. The cut-off point was exactly halfway between his knee and the point where his ankle would have been.

“Still want to steal my transporter?” snapped the bitter Skakdi, lowering his shortened leg and returning to his brooding.

“Maybe,” Tollubo muttered. “But maybe not. We could deal. You could lend me your transporter and I could forget all about you.”

Hakann swirled what remained of his drink around in the bottom of his grimy glass. “Promise?”

“No harm, no foul.”

The Skakdi ducked down and detached a small piece of metal from his left thigh.

“Look at you Toa now,” he sneered, “robbing disabled Skakdi war veterans. How far you must’ve fallen.”

Tollubo nodded, then took the card and closed the door on Hakann without saying a word. He headed back to the corral of counters, holstering his weapon inside his pack once more, unaffected by the Skakdi’s sob-story.

The parking space in question was clearly displayed. A modest grey Motosled inhabited the manager’s space. The second he placed the piece of card against it, the transporter activated. Its engine fired up as soon as the Toa slung his leg over the other side and sat down. He adjusted the various mirrors to his own angle. He’d taken a note of Hollian’s current address several hours ago from an old survey record he’d found in the Archives database while in the library. He took it out of the pocket in his chest armor now and attached it to his handlebar. It meant he couldn’t see part of the instrument panel, but he wasn’t very interested in whatever information those dials might supply. All he cared about was how much fuel was in the tank, and there looked to be more than enough for five kio out and five kio back.

The covert habit had its advantages, but it seemed to have far more drawbacks of late. The best way to get to Hollian’s dwelling would have been to rent his own transporter. But a tall stranger who refused to carry more than a hundred widgets and didn’t have a driving license loses that option. So Tollubo had been given no choice. He’d had to rob the rich and guilty, which had cost him the best part of an hour.

Fortunately, this meant that he was still armed. His old Light Sword had been lost many months ago but he’d managed to replace the weapon with a modified blaster that channeled his Elemental Light powers, his Photon Bolt Launcher. Normally he could have stuck a weapon in his pack and boarded a Chute without any bother.

But not anymore. The whole situation with the Cult of Darkness terrorizing Ga-Metru had shocked the entire island. It had been a startling breach of defense that had put the safety of every Matoran inhabitant of the island at risk. Scared by the city’s near-collapse, security had been clamped down upon, particularly with public transport. Talk of weapons or bombs was punishable by arrest and Kanoka disks and Kolhii Staffs were considered hostile. The Metru-Nui Law Enforcement had spent the last month tracking down retired Order of Mata-Nui agents and Dark Hunters, disarming them, and moving on.

Just to make sure, the Toa checked himself out in the mirror. His armor was still black and blue against the night sky and his Suletu was still attached to his face. What a relief. There was nothing on his body to identify him as the Toa Tollubo who kept flashing up on the news lately. He’d even handed his yellow Kanohi Kiril over to a Matoran begging on the street, just in case his pack was searched.

If anyone asked, his name was going to be Teridax. Nobody had heard that one in this universe.

He rolled the Motosled onwards at a faster speed, then cruised south for several mio until the lights of the city began to ebb away, replaced by the nighttime vacuum of the natural world. No doubt Hollian’s house would be little more than a mailbox with a house number on a rural road.

But then it started to get harder. The mailboxes were grouped in sixes, clustered hundreds of yards apart, standing alone, with no obvious connection to any particular house. In fact, there were very few houses visible at all. It seemed like they were all up little rural tracks with gravel and patched tarmac, running off left and right into bunches of trees like suburban tunnels.

Finally, after twenty minutes of counting, he saw the right mailbox. It was sat on a wooden post that the weather was rotting and that had canted forward. Vigorous green vines and thorned creepers were twisting up around it. It was a large box, dull green, with the house number painted on the side in faded but immaculate freehand script. The door was hanging open, because the box was completely stuffed with mail.

The Toa slowed his vehicle, glancing at the ranch fencing and poles that hung power cables through the treetops. He came to a stop in the middle of the silent road staring at the driveway, unsure. In the end, he decided this could only be the right place and hid his Motosled in a nearby bush, then walked back towards the mailbox. He took the mail out and squeezed the door shut.

Hollian.

The boxes were all on the right-hand side, for the convenience of the mail carrier, though he didn’t see any other houses in the moonlight. The dwelling was set in a large lot, casually landscaped, placed somewhere comfortable in the region between natural and neglected. There were dark screens over the windows and door. In the gloom he could make out the shape of a transporter, a cheap one. Didn’t look like it was used often, and it had certainly been used recently. It was a hulking, cumbersome vehicle, its bonnet and trunk looking like flight decks, turning the same pitted brown color that all rusted metal goes in the end.

The house was a low one-store, the same brown as the transporter in the drive, ancient boards and shingles. As he got closer, he realized he had been wrong earlier. The yard was a riot. It was what a tendered garden becomes in fifteen untouched years of wet and hot weather taking its toll. There had been a wide path running around from the transporter to the front door, but it had narrowed like a gangplank with encroaching filth. He looked around and figured an infantry platoon equipped with Cordak Blasters would be more use than any amount of gardeners.

He made it to the door, with the overgrown, dying grass snatching at his ankles. There was a doorbell, but it was rusted solid. He leaned forward and rapped on the wood with his knuckles, unsure what to expect. He waited, enjoying no response.

He rapped again. He could hear the plant life behind him. Insect noise. The hum of electricity from the pylons running down the road.


There was a creak of floorboards inside the house. The sound was carrying ahead of someone’s footsteps and spilling out to him. The footsteps halted on the other side of the door and he heard a female’s voice, thin and muffled by the wood.

“Who’s there?” Harsh and cold. Unwelcoming.

Toa Tollubo,” he growled in response.
It was the first time he’d given his true name in months. His voice was loud. Behind him, he heard panicked scurrying in the flora. Furtive, insect Rahi were fleeing. In front of him, he heard the stiff lock turning and the bolt easing back. The door creaked open. Darkness inside. He stepped forwards, into the shadows and saw the female waiting. Hollian, for sure, looking no different from how she’d looked several hours ago back at the casino. Only... she seemed older.

Her eyes had been overgrown with cobwebs. It looked like she’d been crying a couple of hours ago. Now the tears had dried and her eyes were swollen. In her hand was a knife, probably no bigger than one of her shaking fingers. It looked pretty blunt.

“Were you going to use that?” he asked, nodding towards the blade as he kicked the door shut.

Hollian glanced down and examined the weapon with empty eyes then placed it down on a small table, unfazed. “I guess not.”

“I brought your mail,” grunted the Toa. “Your box was full.” He held up the stack of curled envelopes and waited.

“Thank you,” she muttered, something between pleasantly surprised and nervous. “It’s a long walk out there, and I don’t like stopping to get it when I drive past, in case I get rear-ended. People drive recklessly on that road. Faster than they should I think.”

Tollubo nodded. It was the quietest road he’d ever seen. A person could sleep the night out there on that yellow line, with a good chance of surviving until morning. He was still holding the mail. Hollian showed no curiosity over it.

“Where would you like me to put these?”

“The kitchen?”

The hallway was a dark space, paneled in gloomy wood and illuminated by flickering candle light. The kitchen was worse. It had a tiny window, boxed in with yellow, grimy glass. A small, wooden table sat in the center of the room, two chairs around it, standing up on short legs. The whole room smelled old, but it was clean and orderly. He dropped the mail down beside the sink. There was an unwashed plate with old, speckled utensils, just lying untouched in the sink. Hollian clearly lived alone.

“Do you recognize me?” he asked, only half curious.

The Vortixx nodded. “I’ve known who you are for a long time... you really should keep your mouth shut more next time you’re drunk in a casino.”

Tollubo grunted to himself stubbornly. “Do you know why I’m here?”

“Why else would I answer the door with a knife?”

The Toa nodded. “Well, at least that saves me an explanation.”

“I’m going to die, aren’t I?” asked the dancer with a fatigued sigh.

“Not if I can help it.”

“Right here, right now.” Hollian ignored him. “Back on Xia I worked with a Zeverek, I know much of their culture... how some of them mark their prey...”

“You’re not going to die,” grunted the Toa. “At least not yet. We all die at some point, but you’re not going to... not for a while if I can help it.”

The Vortixx only glared at him. When she spoke there was an element of hostility in her tone. “I don’t believe in false hope, Toa. I’m grateful that you’re kind enough to be here but, please, don’t treat me like a Matoran.”
For a moment, there was a flash of fire in her eyes.
“I’m not some Turaga who needs help reaching the top shelf or a Matoran who wants you to tuck them in at night” she continued, unnecessary venom in her voice. “I didn’t ask you to come here, so you’d better not hold that against me.”

“I don’t intend to,” grunted the Toa. “And I’m not that kind of Toa... I kick Turaga in the face.”

The Vortixx raised an eyebrow in surprise. Her façade slipped for a moment.

“Any idea who these Zeverek are?” he asked.

“No.”

“Do you have any enemies? Anyone you might have annoyed back in Xia?”

“I was a politician,” snorted the Vortixx. “You spend the first year wondering what you’re doing in the government, then after that you spend the rest of it wondering what everyone else is doing there. Of course I had enemies.”

“Did you do anything important while working in the Xian government?”

Hollian shrugged. “Does anyone?”
When Tollubo didn’t answer she sighed again. “I was a stateswoman. I represented my constituency in a senate. If people wanted changes in the law they complained about it to me. I would then form a bill with that change and suggest it to the rest of the assembly. Nothing ever gets done.”

The Toa racked his brains. He knew absolutely nothing about politics. Government and administration were just words without meaning to him. Plus he had little respect for the rules and regulations that bureaucracy entailed. The paperwork and formalities of office life were his idea of hell.

“Well, I doubt these guys have been hired to kill you,” he muttered. “Marking you was a warning, like they’re taunting you. Whoever these guys are, they seem to have made it personal. My guess is, this is because of some long-forgotten grudge.”

Hollian stayed silent.

“You don’t seem surprised,” remarked the Suletu-wearer.

The female shrugged. “Politics is a surprising business.”

“Like I said,” continued the Toa, “I think there’s something strange about all this. They’re taunting you, that’s for sure, but I don’t get why. They sent you a warning, but I don’t think that’s the only one. Things like this come in pairs. It’s an announcement. If they wanted you scared then they’d make sure of it by giving you more than just one warning, in case you didn't understand the scratches. They’d make your life hell, they’d do something that only you can understand.”
The Toa leaned back, resting his thigh against the kitchen counter. “But I think you know what that second warning is... I think they killed Fortha just to scare you... and I think you know why they’re after you.”

“That’s a hell of an accusation,” retorted the Vortixx, icily.

“Are you denying it?”

Hollian said nothing.

Tollubo leaned forward. “You were the only Vortixx in that casino who didn’t cry this morning. You were unfazed by the disappearance of Fortha. If it was meant as a threat then you would’ve been the first to know, hence you’d be the first to get over it.”

Silence.

“So I guess you’re feeling pretty guilty. For whatever reason these Zeverek want to kill you, it got Fortha killed too.”

“I was a politician,” shrugged the Vortixx. “I have hundreds of enemies. There’s no point speculating.”

Rahkshi bile!” snarled the Toa. “This isn’t political, this is personal. Your kind of political enemy was some Matoran farmer who you made a widget-a-week poorer by altering some agricultural subsidy. Or some pompous old senator you declined to vote with. The farmer might vote against you in some election and the senator might campaign against you but neither of them would have you assassinated. I’m no fool, Hollian.”

“I’m not a fool either,” she retorted.

“I think you are. Something’s coming back from your past and you think you can just ignore it and hope for the best? You think you can fight it off with your little knife hiding away in your little house? You Vortixx have no common sense, no perspective. That’s why the Toa always have to come over and help you in the end.”

“And you figured that out for yourself?” asked Hollian, her nose rising into the air, as if she hadn't lost any stance in the situation.

“Who else would care about a waitress in some trashy casino?”

“And what are your intentions?”

“Believe it or not, I’m here to help you,” muttered the Toa. “Not that you deserve it in any way at all. It’ll be a purely accidental by-product of me standing up against these guys for Fortha.”

“Sounds like you’re contemplating a very serious course of action.”

“People play with fire they get burnt. If these are the two Zeverek I think they are, they’re standing on top of a volcano.”

“That’s the law of the jungle.”

“Where the hell else do you think you live?”

“So you’re looking for them as well?”

The Toa nodded. “I’ve been doing my research. I keep tabs. You’ve seen the news, you know what happened at the Turaga Tuyet Dam. I’ve been tracking down Mudro and his little posy of Brotherhood rejects for months... and he just smuggled a pair of Zeverek into Onu-Metru, no doubt to recruit them into his Cult of Darkness. So don’t think I’m doing this because I feel I have to protect you. As far as I care, you’re just a sleazy, cheap taverness. You’re not going to pay me, I’m not going to feel warm and fuzzy inside. I’m doing this solely out of the kindness of my heart... because I want to carve a certain Glatorian a new rear-end for making me look bad.”

The female stayed quiet. There was another long silence. It lasted a whole minute. Tollubo watched as Hollian’s cold front disappeared and traces of her personality slowly began to bleed though.

“So you’ll know my secret and you’ll make sure I stay alive?”

“Then we can all live happily ever after.”

“You’re wrong in most ways but not all of them,” she sighed in the end. “I think I know who they are and I know what they want.”

The Vortixx reached into her pack, locked her fingers around something, hesitant, then sighed to herself and pulled it out. She placed it on the table, where it sat, shadows flickering over it in the candlelight. The second he saw it sent an icy chill down the Toa’s spine, one that gripped his very soul for a moment. The sheer sense of enormity suddenly dawned upon him.

He'd completely misjudged the situation. This wasn't personal at all.

This is the Kanohi Avohkii... Mask of Light...”




The two Zeverek found a house on the same street that was obviously abandoned. It was closed up tight and abandoned, in the middle of nowhere, only a couple of yards away from Hollian’s home, hidden from view by the row of hedges that surrounded the road. They backed their vehicle around behind the house, driving over the overgrowth, but ready for pursuit, in the unlikely even the Vortixx made it to her car. They took their new weapons out of the trunk then crept back down to the road and ducked into the undergrowth.

It was hard going. They were just a couple of mio away from one of Onu-Metru’s busiest harbors, but they might as well have been in some jungle in the Northern Continent. There were ragged vines tangled everywhere, grabbing at them, tripping them, whipping in their skull-like faces. The trees were like overgrown weeds, and their branches came out of them at crazy low angles. They took to walking backwards until they managed to get a view of Hollian’s front yard, on the fringes of the woods that surrounded her house. They were panting and gasping, smeared with moss and green pollen dust. The terrain was completely different to the barren, desolate landscape they would have found back on Mevock, their home island.

The lush, plentiful plant life was horrific.

But then their entire mission had almost been compromised when a mysterious black-and-blue-armored stranger had appeared at the front door. He’d knocked on the screen door, waited around for about a minute, then gotten invited in. It was a big wooden door, dark brown wood. The dim light in the room cast shadows a couple of seconds later, some kind of sitting room or parlor they guessed. They crouched in their damp hiding place and waited. Insects were drifting through the moist, humid air around them. They glanced at each other and listened hard. No sound.

Eventually, they eased off the ground and pushed through to the driveway. Then they ran to crouch by the window, pressed up against the wall on either side. They nodded at each other then drew their weapons and slowly made a quick circuit around the dwelling, carefully ducking windows and crossing round the back. They regrouped around the front then eased slowly onto the porch, backs pressed against either side of the front door, blasters at the ready.

There was only one exit. Now it was just a matter of time...

Chapter 5[]

“Do I even want to ask?” muttered the Toa as he plucked the Kanohi up and held it in his fingers.

“It’s probably worth knowing about,” answered Hollian with a shrug. “Around 2,000 years ago, at the end of the first century of the war, Artahka began work building a weapon that would devastate the Brotherhood of Makuta. Supported by the Turaga High Council of Metru Nui, as well as the other Matoran resistance colonies, a team of scientists and crafters, led by a Ta-Matoran named Vakama, was assembled and tasked with designing the ultimate weapon.”

“And that weapon was this? The Mask of Light?” grunted Tollubo, fiddling with the intricate Golden Kanohi, wondering what could possibly possess someone like the infamous Turaga Vakama of his own universe to deprave the one symbol of morality Matoran could still cling to.

“It’s a powerful Kanohi on the right face,” nodded the Vortixx. “Designed specifically to combat the Makuta species and protect the user. Upon activation it detects Antidermis, melts Protosteel casing, then dissolves a Makuta’s essence.”

“It didn't do that in my universe,” snarled the Toa, disgusted by the golden Kanohi. “Destroying armor? Burning Antidermis? It sounds like this Vakama guy was one sick, twisted screw-ball.”

“We were at war,” muttered Hollian. “It may not have been fair, but if it killed Makuta then it was salvation.”

“How did you even get your hands on it?”

The waitress looked away furtively.

“A friend gave it to me. A former Order of Mata-Nui agent. When Toa Takanuva was killed at the start of the war, this mask was smuggled to an Order of Mata Nui facility in the Northern Continent. But the place got compromised. There was a Brotherhood attack, wiping out pretty much the entire population of the area.”

Tollubo cast his mind back to that weekend he’d spent on the Northern Continent 6,000 years ago. His geography wasn’t up to scratch. It was hard to imagine any kind of stronghold amidst the endless sprawl of farmers.

“Let me guess,” interjected the Toa rudely. “The guards were killed, the fortress razed, and everything but the Kanohi Avohkii was plundered?”

“More or less,” shrugged Hollian. “Fortunately, some Matoran survived and smuggled the mask out of there. Then it slipped out of their possession for another 90 years before finally being ransomed to the Order of Mata Nui. My friend was the agent tasked with transporting it to the Coliseum. The second he arrived in Metru Nui, he knew he wasn’t going to make it to his destination.”

“And he happened upon your casino while running for his life?”

“He was my friend back on Xia,” implored the Vortixx emotionally. “He came to plant the mask on me then told me to hide it till he returned... but he never did.”

“So, essentially, he chose to leave one of the single-most important Kanohi in all of recorded history in the hands of a Vortixx who serves drinks to thugs for a living?”

“Yes,” sighed Hollian through gritted teeth. “He gave it to me. Because he trusted me. If he hadn't then some Makuta would have gotten his greedy hands on it and we'd never see it again.”

There was a sharp cracking sound from outside, followed by a muffled curse. Both the Toa and Vortixx’s heads snapped around in the direction of the window. Tollubo grew tense and narrowed his eyes only to close them a second later. Calling upon his Kanohi Suletu, the Toa proceeded to launch a mental sweep of the area, searching for minds to read. He tried to tune out Hollian’s confused jumble of thoughts from his mind and focused solely on scanning the perimeter.

At first he enjoyed no success, hearing only silence. But then a clutter of sounds and images flooded his mind, nearly overwhelming him with volume. It was hard to tell given his lack of experience with the Kanohi, but it seemed like there were two voices in his head. Two voices belonging to the pair of Zeverek no doubt.

Snatching up the Avohkii, Tollubo snarled and turned for the door. “They’re outside.”

Hollian nodded vaguely and glanced towards the window. “OK, so what do I do?”

“You get out of here,” grunted the Toa. “That’s for damn sure. They’re not just here for the Avohkii, they’re here for you. You’re a loose end. They’ll kill you. And you can’t make a stand here. Too lonely, too isolated. You got a place in the city? In Onu-Metru?”

“I can hide out with some friends.”

“You have exactly thirty seconds to pack,” ordered the Suletu-wearer. “Do it as fast as you can, and get out. I mean it, Hollian. If these guys are with the Cult of Darkness then they’re not playing games. They’ll go home with your head on a stick, or they won’t go home at all.” The look on his mask told her more than words. She nodded swiftly and stood up. Tollubo’s gaze followed her as she turned and disappeared into the hallway, returning moments later with a battered suitcase, which she laid flat on the kitchen table then dashed off again.

The Toa of Light turned his attention to the grubby window for a moment, eyes wide and alert, searching for Zeverek hiding in the shadows of the trees that encompassed the house. When he was sure that neither of them were in his line of sight he decided to visualize their tactics.

When it dawned on him that they could be anywhere he gave up, which didn’t take a great length of time. He just hoped they hadn’t touched his brand new Moto-Sled. The transporter had been his most treasured artifact for the last two hours.

The Toa found a light switch, intent on closing up the house only to realize that the lights were already off. For a moment his hand hovered in midair, an inch away from the switch. In the end he just grunted and carried the suitcase off into the hallway, where he stood quiet and looked around. It was a pleasant house. The air was still and smelled stale. The décor was faded but it looked like it had been plain to start with. Neutral floors, cream-colored walls, heavy furniture. There was no data hub, no books, pictures or photographs. Nothing matched. It was a comfortable place, minimalist, maybe even cozy, though he was sure Hollian’s presence ruined the warmth.

She must have bought it a long time ago. A spooky old house, out in the middle of rural Onu-Metru, mio away from anywhere, no running electricity. The place had been lived in, but not from the very start. When the Vortixx bought it she’d probably left it empty while she lived in the city with friends, like an anchor, somewhere identifiable she knew she could return to.

“I’m ready, I guess,” called Hollian, appearing in the living-room doorway. She took a single look at the Toa then sensed the gravity in his eyes.

They tip-toed through to the kitchen and bolted the rear door shut. Then Tollubo stepped into the hallway. By that point, Hollian had finished filling her suitcase with the few material possessions she had gathered. Politely, the Toa took it from her, looked her in the eye. He rested a hand on the door knob, then opened the front door.




Tollubo went first for a number of reasons. Normally, he might have let an annoying Vortixx go ahead of him, because his generation of Toa still carried the last traces of good manners, but he had learnt to be wary of displaying charitable gallantry until he knew exactly how the Vortixx he was with was going to react. And it was her house, not his, which altered the dynamic anyway. She would need to go after him to lock the door behind her. So for all those reasons, he was the first person to step out onto the porch.

So he was the first person the two Zeverek saw.

The attacker on the left went for a snapshot of a sitting position. He was tensed up and ready, so it took his brain a lot less than a second to process what his optic nerve was feeding it. He felt the front door open, he saw the screen-door swing out, he saw somebody stepping out onto the porch, he saw it was some big guy who was not Hollian. He fired his Disintegration Blaster.

The guy on the right, however, was in a dumb position. The screen-door creaked open right in his skull-like face. In itself it was no kind of an obstacle, because the tight gauze, that was designed to stop insects, could do nothing to resist a burst of energy from his launcher. But he was right-handed, and the frame of the screen was moving on a direct collision course with his gun hand as it swung around into position. That made him hesitate for a fraction of a second then scrambled around the frame.

But Tollubo was operating subconsciously, on instinct.

The Toa of Light had been one of the first Av-Matoran in existence, and his memory stretched back from over 100,000 years ago, to some of the dimmest, earliest fragments of his history. He had never known stability. He had never been educated in a school. He had never lifted a hammer and attempted to carve a sculpture. He had never worked a simple nine to five job. He had never counted on anything at all except surprise and unpredictability.

No Shock. No surprise. No gasping freezing fear or panic. No pausing, no hesitation. No inhibitions. Just instant reaction to a purely mechanical problem that had been laid out in front of him like a geometric diagram involving time and space and angles and Disintegration Blasters and exposed flesh.

The heavy suitcase was in his left hand, swinging forward as he labored with it over the threshold. He did two things at once. First, he kept going, using all the strength in his left shoulder to kick the case onward and outward. Second, he windmilled his right arm backward and shoved Hollian in the chest – catching more of her breasts than he would have liked – and shoved her back into the hallway. She staggered back a step and the moving suitcase caught the first blast of energy. Tollubo felt it kick in his hand. He jerked it right to the end of its swing, leaning out into the porch like a hesitant diver over a cold pool, and it hit the left-hand guy with a full blow to the face. He was half up and half down, crouching, unstable, and the blow from the case rolled him over and backward.

But the Toa didn’t see him go down, because his eyes were already on the other Zeverek, the one who was still looping around the screen. Smothering a grunt, the Suletu-wearer used the momentum of the swinging suitcase to hurl himself forward. He let the handle pull out through his hooked fingertips and flip him into a dive with his right arm accelerating back past him straight out across the porch. The Blaster swung around and smacked him in the chest. Tollubo heard it fire and felt the burst of energy singe his armor, searing his flesh beneath it. A bolt of crimson energy launched off sideways under his raised arm and hit a distant tree at about the same time his right elbow hit his assailant in the face. The suitcase flew out of his hand.

An elbow moving fast ahead of Toa’s full body weight could cause a lot of damage. It glanced off the frame of the screen and caught the Zeverek in his bony chin. The shock wave went back and up through the hinge of the jaw. Tollubo watched as the force was carried, undisturbed, up into the guy’s brain. He could tell from the rubbery way in which his attacker fell across his back that he was out. Then the screen door was creaking shut against its spring and left-hand guy was scrabbling sideways across the porch floorboards. His Disintegration Blaster had fallen from his hands and he was trying to desperately pick it up.

Tollubo could have finished him then and there. Had he grabbed the Zeverek’s throat in one hand, his head in another then given it a few jerks till his neck snapped then the problem would have been solved. But, instead, the Toa of Light decided to take a different approach. If he killed the assailant then everything he knew about the Cult of Darkness, all the dark and sinister secrets that would plague the Toa for nights to come, then his hopes of a sporting chance against the revolutionaries would die with the skull-faced freak.

Tensing up, the Toa willed himself to call upon his Kanohi Suletu. With tremendous difficulty, he managed to push the adrenalin out of his mind and focus his attention on the Kanohi. Within second the mental link his mask and his mind formed. There was a flash of images and shapes and lights and colors as his mind scraped against the Zeverek’s. His target obviously felt the presence as he stumbled around, in a daze. The effects of the mask were obviously affecting him, making him panic. Tollubo could sense it in the moment their minds had merged. Mustering all of his concentration, the Toa cleared his mind and tried again. Though he hadn’t had the mask for very long, on his second attempt at using it he was still able to divulge some information.

Vunto.

That must be the guy’s name’ he decided swiftly, dissatisfied. He’d hoped for more. Narrowing his eyes, he tried again. Their minds came into contact again and he felt the Zeverek’s consciousness struggled to be free of him. It enjoyed no success.

Get out of my head, jerk!’ The Zeverek stumbled and nearly fell to his knees from the connection. Tollubo just stood over him. It was no use digging for the anarchist’s immediate thoughts. They would be filled with random words, threats, challenges, anything he could think of to distract himself from bringing any valuable information to the foreground of his mind. At one point, he even caught a glimpse of an attractive-looking female but Tollubo ignored it. He dug deeper.

More tones and shades swirled into his mind. He saw images of Mevock in all its barren, craggy glory. There were frozen pictures, the Zeverek’s life cut into tableaus and freeze frames. He saw glimpses of a war of some sort, then a mad, deranged jumble of savagery and distress in the years afterwards.

But there were no more images after that. Just words.

He must be found... he must be taken, if all is to be put right. Then She will be revealed and the sky will burn.

He wanted to break away but, for some reason, he couldn’t. The connection that he had made with Vunto’s mind was too strong. An evil face burnt through the words. A Kanohi Jutlin with blazing red eyes and a mouth that looked like it was loosely stitched together opened. Blood ran from it as a soul crushing scream engulfed the Toa.

She is returning... and Judgment Day is coming...

Tollubo wrenched his eyes open and tore through the connection, leaving the Zeverek to topple over as he stumbled back. Vunto looked up, stunned. Their eyes locked for a moment before they both glanced at the Disintegration Blaster. The Toa glanced behind him as his enemy entered a clumsy dive for his weapon. Hollian was framed in the doorway, bent double, hands clasped to her chest, gasping for breath. The suitcase was toppling end over end out on the untamed grass of the front lawn, like a piece of tumbleweed.

Normally, he would have made a grab for the Blaster, stuck it into Vunto’s head and forced some answers out of him. But Hollian was a problem. He was separated from her by about eight feet, and the Zeverek was between the two of them. If he reached the skittering weapon fast enough and lined it up to his right, he would be lining up on her.

The Toa jolted and booted the unconscious Zeverek out of the way then threw himself at the door. He batted the screen door and fell inside, dragging the Vortixx a yard into the hallway and slamming the door shut with an armored foot. It kicked and banged three times as Vunto fired after them. Dust and wood splinters sprayed out into the air. Tollubo bounced back to his feet, clicked the lock shut and dragged Hollian into the kitchen.

“Can we get to your transporter from here?” he yelled.

“Through the other door” she answered in a gasp, pointing towards the other side of the house.

“How do you turn a transporter on?”

The Vortixx glanced at him guardedly, unsure whether or not he was joking and why he would pick that moment to develop a sense of humor. “It has a fingerprint scanner. I press my thumb against it and it’ll turn on.”

“How about the other door?”

Hollian tore off a piece of armor on her thigh and a small key clattered to the floor. She bent over and plucked it up in one fluid sweeping motion. Tollubo snatched it off her then about-turned, beginning a stride towards where the garage should be, recalling where the vehicle had been parked. He held the key out in front of him like a lance. He found the only door with a keyhole, checked, then slammed the key in, twisted it about and yanked it back out again.
He pushed the door open slowly then squatted down on his hands and knees, eased his head out lower than an observer would expect. There was no sign of any Zeverek. When he was sure there was nobody about he returned to his feet and waved for Hollian to follow. When she was out he locked the door silently and listened. No sound.

The transporter looked old, like it hadn’t been used in years, or – more likely – as if it had been used too much. It was rundown. Dark green with flecks of gold shining in the night. There were four seats.

“Get in the back” whispered the Toa. “Down on the floor, after you’ve turned it on.”

The Vortixx nodded then approached the transporter. She pulled open the rear door as quietly as possible then crawled into the back seat. The Suletu-wearer watched her get in then searched around for anything of use. He found a small tool bench next to the house. Opening one of the drawers silently, he found a full set of household tools, all neatly arranged. Almost spoilt for choice, the Toa grabbed a reasonably large hammer, stepped back a few steps, then threw it overarm, diagonally over the house. It went crashing into the undergrowth he’d seen on the other side. Maybe the Zeverek had hid there before he arrived. That would tempt them. It was familiar territory and their keen senses would be going wild.

He counted to ten to give the home-invaders time to hear the crash and run towards it from wherever they currently were, then Tollubo sat himself in the driver’s seat. The Xian reached across and pressed her thumb against the scanner. It bleeped and a green light flashed before the vehicle went rumbling into ignition. The engine started instantly.

It was only then that Tollubo realized he didn’t know how to drive a transporter. They didn’t exist in his universe. The transporters in this reality appeared to have been influenced by Agori inventions, which were alien to him. It was like being asked to drive an Airship.

Taking in a deep breath, the Toa tried to calm himself down. Six months ago he’d driven a Vahki Transporter from Po-Metru to the Ga-Metru while a deranged insane Steltian put a weapon to his head. It had to be easier than it looked. Thinking positively, he slammed his foot down on the pedal in front of him, gripped the steering wheel tight and hoped for the best.

All four wheels howled then bit into the smooth concrete. The transporter shot forwards out from beside the house. Tollubo glimpsed Vunto way off to the left on the front lawn, spinning to look at them. He accelerated all the way up the driveway then lurched off onto the road, taking a sharp turn to the right then roaring down the country lane. They took off in a haze of blue tyre smoke.




Toa Jollun was in serious trouble.

It had started when he stepped out of his cell. He turned right to walk down to the recreation area. The corridor was narrow. He bumped into a Skakdi, shoulder to shoulder. Then he made a bad mistake. He took his eyes off the floor and glanced at his fellow prisoner and apologized.

A bad mistake. New guys weren’t supposed to make eye contact with other prisoners, not without implying disrespect. It was a prison-thing. Jollun didn’t understand.

The guy he’d made eye contact with was a broad white-armored Skakdi. He had markings and imprints on his armor, indicating some kind of gang or tribe back on Zakaz. The Toa didn’t recognize them, so he kept his eyes on them.

Another bad mistake. He should have put his gaze back on the floor and moved on, hoping for the best. But he didn’t.

Instead, he muttered, “Excuse me.”

Then he raised his eyebrows and half smiled in a self-depreciating way, like he was saying, ‘This is some place, right?

Bad mistake. Familiarity, and presumption of intimacy.

“What’re you lookin’ at?” snarled the Skakdi.

At that point, Jollun understood completely. What’re you lookin’ at? That was pretty much a standard opener. Bar rooms, street corners, dark alleys, it was not a phrase you wanted to hear.

“Nothing” he muttered, and realized he had made the situation much worse.

“You callin’ me nothin’?”

Jollun swallowed then put his eyes back on the floor and moved on, but it was already too late. He felt the Skakdi’s piercing stare on his back and gave up on his plan to visit the recreation room. It was in a dead-end lobby and he didn’t want to feel trapped. So he walked a long counter-clockwise and headed back to his cell. He got there easily enough. This time he didn’t look at anyone, didn’t speak. He lay down on his bunk.


About two hours later, he felt OK. He guessed he could handle a little prison brawl, plus he was about the same size as the Skakdi, only slightly smaller. He wanted to speak to someone. He needed somebody to talk to. Staying silent was torture.

So he set off for the recreation area again. He knew there were communicators there.

He got there in one piece, which was possibly the biggest achievement of his life. It was a small space with four large, chunky communicators mounted onto the wall. Four prisoners were talking with four lines waiting behind them. Noise, shuffling feet, crazed laughter, impatience, frustration, sour air, the smell of sweat and dirt. Just a normal prison scene according to Jollun’s preconceptions.

But then it wasn’t a normal scene.

The prisoners in front of him vanished. They just disappeared, as if they had melted from sight. Those on the communicators hung up in mid-sentence and ducked back past him. Those waiting in line peeled away. In a half second the room went from being full and noisy to being deserted and silent.

Jollun turned around.

He saw the white-armored Skakdi. He had a knife in his hand and twelve of his Skakdi friends behind him. The knife was a metal rod, probably from the bars of a cell, that had been sharpened to a point. The other Skakdi were burly, all with the same tribal markings.

“Wait” ordered the Toa, raising his hands defensively.

But the Skakdi didn’t wait, and eight minutes later Jollun was in a coma.

He was found some time after that, on the floor, beaten to a pulp, with multiple stab wounds, a cracked skull and severe internal bleeding. Afterwards, the jail talk said that he’d had it coming. He had disrespected the Skakdi. But apparently he hadn’t gone quietly. There was a hint of admiration. The Skakdi had suffered a little, but not nearly as much as the Toa.

He was evacuated to a hospital, sewn up and operated on to relieve pressure from his swollen brain. His name was cleared when Turaga Vilnius stormed in and had him moved to an intensive care unit, comatose.

The medics weren’t sure when he would wake up again. Maybe in a day. Maybe in a week. Maybe a month. Maybe never. They didn’t really know.

There were no rules for severe brain injuries as extensive as this.




Tollubo accelerated hard for about a minute then took his foot off the pedal and spun the wheel. The transporter coasted to a gentle stop just beyond the neighbor’s driveway. The Toa struggled to maneuver the vehicle off the road and into a gap in the trees, idling backwards till he was sure he was hidden, then killed the motor. Behind him, Hollian fought herself up off the floor and stared.

“What the hell are we doing here?”

“Waiting.”

“For what? Naming Day?”

“For them to get out of here.”

The Vortixx glared at him. “We’re not waiting, Toa. I’m not risking my life. You’re clearly in over your head here. We need to go to the Metru-Nui Law Enforcement.”

“I can’t do that.”

“What the hell not?”

“Because they won’t look too kindly on me for a bunch of other stuff I’ve done.”

Hollian’s face fell. She paused. “What are you saying?”

“I’m saying it’s all-around advantageous if I stay away from any kind of law enforcement.”

She shook her head. “No, Tollubo, we need the cops for this.” He shot her a cold glare.

The Vortixx went quiet for a spell then sat forward. “You don’t want to go to them, right? That’s it, isn’t it? Not that you can’t, you just damn well don’t want to.”

Tollubo half turned in the driver’s seat so he could look straight at her. He saw her eyes drop to the burn on his armor. There was a small singe in the metal, no bigger than a balled-up fist. It didn’t look like anything to worry about. The Toa had gone around with a far bigger burn mark across his chest for days a few months ago, but it was best to take care of himself. These were dangerous times and people were depending on him now, more than ever. Reluctantly, he took off the piece of scorched armor and examined the damage. A blister was already puffing up on what organic flesh was beneath it, getting red and angry. He licked a thumb and pressed it against the burn.

“If they mess with me, they answer to me.”

Hollian stared at him dubiously. “You’re completely irrational, you know that? We need to contact the authorities. Get some real protection. The Metru Nui Law Enforcement is one of the world’s most efficient –”

“I can’t do that,” interrupted the Toa. “They’ll detain me. I’m wanted all over this universe for crimes I didn’t even commit.”

“But... we should.” She said it weakly. Tollubo shook his head and said nothing back.

The dancer fell silent for about a minute then shrugged helplessly and placed a hand on her breastbone, as if it were tender.

“You okay?” he asked her.

“You pushed me kind of hard.”

I could rub it better’ thought the Toa.

“So where are we going?”

Tollubo relaxed then smiled. “Where’s the last place they’ll look for us?”

Hollian shrugged then took a hand off her chest and rubbed her cheek. “Le-Metru?”

“Your house would be better” grunted the Toa. “They saw us run, they won’t expect us to double back.”

“You’re crazy.”

“We don’t have a choice” grunted the Toa. “I dropped the suitcase.”

The Vortixx’s eyes widened in shock but she was silenced when Tollubo put a finger to his lips. There was the sound of footsteps as the two Zeverek ran towards them only to turn into the driveway of the house and climb into a parked transporter. The headlights blinked into life with the roaring of the engine as it blinked into life. There was a rattle of big tyres as it reversed out into the road and accelerated, charging down the road parallel to their hiding place in the trees. The dark shape flashed across their view. Vunto appeared to be driving, the other was slumped on his seat, stunned.

Tollubo stuck his head out the window and listened to the sound as it died to silence.

Chapter 6[]

Fortunately, the suitcase was still there, lying on the front lawn, half camouflaged by the tousled grass. There was a dark tinge burnt into one end from Vunto’s Disintegration Blaster. No exit hole. It had been a weak blast. Probably hadn’t been set to its full capacity, which meant the Zeverek didn’t know how to handle their brand new weapons. Tollubo smiled and carried it back to where the transporter was parked with Hollian.

“We should go,” whined the Vortixx. “Grab the suitcase and let’s get out of here.”

The Toa nodded then hesitated, deciding whether or not to take orders from the former politician. In the end, it dawned on him that it was an argument that just wasn’t worth having. He opened the case. The metallic click rung out as the locks on the battered old case unclipped.

A flash of purple energy caught the edge of his vision, at the same time the lock opened. A flare in the corner of his eye. Tollubo turned his head an inch to search for the source only to be knocked off his feet. It surged through his body, frying his nerves. One moment his chest felt a little numb, the next he couldn’t feel his fingertips. His brain was besieged and he fell into a short vegetative state. He didn’t have time to scream before his legs buckled and he clattered to the ground, face-first, rendered immobile.
He lay there, paralyzed.

Tollubo!” gasped Hollian, running to his side. He could barely see her as his strength deserted him. It was like he’d fallen victim to the powers of a Rahkshi of Hunger, or a Kanohi Avsa.

It wouldn’t be the first time but it had never felt like this before.

Dark, swirling shapes flooded his vision as he fought to stay conscious. His circuitry was compromised. His mechanical parts were at war with the organic. His body was tearing itself apart. Fighting every wild spasm his body could throw at him, Tollubo flung an arm out to warn Hollian away. His eyes wrenched open to search for his attacker. A hidden sniper? A cowardly Avsa wearer? A wandering Rahkshi Vorahk? Neither seemed likely but he would have preferred any of them to the figure he now saw before him, skulking in the shadows of the trees.

Racasix.

The Vortixx lowered her Pulse Blaster, smoke streaming from its barrel. She remained in position for a moment, eying her victim through focused eyes for a moment longer, running it through her head then finally deciding she’d made a direct hit. He wouldn’t be getting up again any time soon. The same seductively alluring smile that had enticed the Toa so many times before slipped across her lips, but it seemed sad. Her eyes were chilling but not with pride. Even from this distance, lying face down on the floor, Tollubo could tell she was not comfortable. She wasn’t doing this of her own free will. This wasn’t personal. It was paining her deep inside, but professionalism smothered all regret as she strode forwards and finally stood over him, impossibly tall. Domineering.

Why did beauty have to be so evil?

“I gave you my number,” purred the Vortixx playfully. “I was hoping you’d ring. It would’ve saved you a lot of trouble.”

It was at that exact moment that the Toa’s heart broke.

Calling upon every ounce of his inner-willpower, the Suletu-wearer tried to rise. But the blast proved to have been too much. He didn’t have the strength. Instead he just slumped back down. Hollian tried to get closer to him only for another burst of dark energy to sizzle through the air, striking her square in the chest. Wisps of shadowy purple energy were swirling around Racasix’s blaster as her target slumped to the ground.

The Toa’s fractured mind burnt with anger. The Vortixx let slip a pained smile, her eyes clouded, her mind elsewhere. But then she sighed and her beguiling assassin exterior returned.

“Don’t bother getting up, honey. Have a lie in. But remember, one of us has to earn a living,” she incited sweetly. A poisonous smile that burned the Toa to his very core. So viciously perfect. So elegantly evil. So broadly wicked.
“Believe it or not, I’m here on behalf of the Xian Secret Service,” she continued, a little too insensitively. “You see, Vortixx have sharp eyes and gluttonous natures. We seek profit, wherever we may find it. And if some Toa of Light is running around with a Kanohi that will level an entire species...”

The smile of a hungry Bog Snake slipped across her lips.

“...Naturally, we want our share of the benefits.”

The Vortixx glanced Tollubo over with a half-alert eye, scanning his armor for any concealed weapons before continuing. It was a bit late to check, which meant she was confident he wasn’t a threat, or that he wouldn’t hurt her. Irritatingly, she was correct. The Toa could feel his concentration fading as his strength continued to leak from him.

“You see, throughout the history, my species have been persecuted. Vortixx are renowned for being sleazy, cut-throat, spineless traitors. We have many enemies who have stomped on us and labelled us the scum of this puny Universe. Beneath Rahi!”

A glimmer of dormant rage flared up inside the assassin, as she fixed her captive with a piercing glare before it disappeared, leaving her looking bored, as if the notion of her own race being shunned did not affect her. When she had calmed she bent down and plucking the Avohkii out of the mud, where it had fallen.
Tollubo tried to speak but he couldn’t. Every movement was a desperate gamble in his current state. He couldn’t talk, he couldn’t move, he couldn’t even wiggle a finger, let alone access his Elemental Powers.

But that was the least of his problems. His entire body felt anesthetized. A tide of mellowness was engulfing him. Was he cut? He had no way of knowing; his body was limp and growing worse by the second. The pain in his head, however, wasn’t quite as mercifully manageable. The Toa was losing his grip of the world. Mad thoughts were playing in his mind.
He opened his eyes to see a distant sun blazing in a deep-blue sky. Palm trees were throwing ragged shadows on the white sand of a beach. What the hell was going on?

For a moment, he was on some island paradise, gazing out at the coastline he’d never seen. But he couldn’t be.

Toa Tollubo shook his head violently. Which was real and which was the dream? Yes – a dream – it had to be. This was all just a delusional nightmare. He was in his bed, back at the Karda-Nui, asleep. This couldn’t be happening in real life, could it? It was too awful.

But then he saw the familiar face of Turaga Matoro and realized this was no fantasy.

He wasn’t in the Universe Core, he was in the Coliseum, and the Turaga of Ice was telling him a story, but now he looked angry.

Tollubo!” he yelled, and the sound came from far, far away. “Don’t give up! Fight!

Give up what?’ he thought, wild tremors running through his body. He could feel the last remnants of his strength deserting him. The Turaga of Ice was just a figment of his imagination. A delusion. He wasn’t really there.

I’m here, you fool!” snapped Matoro, his ghostly form shimmering in the darkness. “You have to fight it! Get up. Grab the mask and run!

He simply couldn’t do it. The Toa struggled and wriggled around, like a Ruki flipping about on dry land. There was nothing he could do but lie there. Yes, just lie there. It would be alright. He could sleep. All he had to do was gently close his eyes and surrender to the darkness that threatened to engulf him.

But then he understood. Matoro had been ill. The Turaga’s ghost before him was a foreboding of what was to come. The frail, old Iden-wearer was mio away, being rushed to a medical facility somewhere in the Coliseum, on his deathbed. He had been for some time.

Because this was the projection of his Kanohi Iden.

He shouldn’t be able to see the former Toa. Matoro’s mask power shielded his spirit from sight. Which meant he was so close to collapse that his delusional state allowed him to see the hidden Turaga.

Tollubo gained no confidence from that fact.

Can’t” wheezed the Toa painfully, a familiar mellowness rolling over him. His mind began to close and melt away and his tongue stuck fast. He had been unwillingly silenced for the first time in centuries.

He watched as the Turaga’s phantom form began to blur. There was no turning back for the elder now. He’d used his Kanohi to travel across Metru-Nui to be with him, something a Noble Kanohi shouldn’t be able to do. He had to be returned to his body or his spirit would fade into nothing. Already the white-armored figure was dissolving away into nothing.

Matoro crumpled to the ground, a pained expression across his Kanohi in the moment before the total and eternal calmness of death flooded over him. He slackened onto the ground, laying sprawled out beside Tollubo, too weak to rise. The distance from his body was draining him. He was growing fainter, shimmering away from vision, the spaces between his breathe widening until finally he appeared to melt out of existence, absorbed into the very ground beneath them.

Any dream worth having is a dream worth fighting for.
He wasn’t even sure if the words had been spoken. They were more like a gust of wind, a wintery whisper.

All there was to mark the passing of Turaga Matoro.

Tollubo pressed his Suletu into the mud. The filth got in between the ridges of his Kanohi, in his eyes, in his mouth. I didn’t matter. He was convinced that it was the wide open sky.




The Xian Secret Service Agent known as Racasix eyed the fallen Toa before her through empty eyes, standing over his battered, inert body. He didn’t so much as stir. Until a few moments ago, he’d been her lover. The closest thing to some kind of serious relationship she’d ever had. It was just bad luck that her employers wanted the Kanohi he’d been carrying. They wanted Toa Tollubo to be humiliated, taken out of the picture, reduced to nothing all over again. In this reality, her exotic dimensionally displaced partner was a war criminal. He shouldn’t be allowed the respect of being a Toa.

But that wasn’t the only reason.

There was a new player in this game. Even Racasix could feel the shift in the tides, the change in the wind, the delicate drop in temperature. The air around Metru-Nui was thick with anticipation. She could feel it in her stomach. She herself had poisoned Turaga Matoro several days ago. He should be on his deathbed within the next few hours, which meant the island was about to lose its leader. The tragic loss would spark all kinds of blame being thrown around. Rumors would spread. Riots would start. Turmoil would ensue. Peacetime laws would be overruled. Metru-Nui would slip back into some wartime, militaristic command. Factions of rebels would splinter off and the island would tear itself apart from the inside.

She’d had time to explain the whole situation to Tollubo, but not with words. Her hands were tied. She was powerless. It appeared that her employers were turning on the City of Legends. Maybe they’d been bribed. Maybe they’d sided with the Brotherhood of Makuta. Maybe they’d spent so much time in Xia that they’d lost the right to judge what events occurred in the rest of the Universe.

The forces of change were a monstrous beast, one that Tollubo probably thought he could defeat by assassinating one person and ending a revolution before it started. He’d chop off the heads of every Matoran, Vortixx and Turaga who rebelled, knowing he would end the fighting by killing the right revolutionist.

He was wrong.

She wanted to rush to the Toa’s body to bid him farewell but she couldn’t show weakness. This was her duty but all she wanted to do was to lie on the ground beside the Toa. She had to convince herself that her Xian partners were correct. Destroying Tollubo now would prevent him from becoming a monster later. He was dangerously emotional and temperamental. He spiralled into rage far too easily. For a person like him, with his monstrous history, to behold so much power in a world so close to collapse was wrong. He’d gotten too far big, far too public. She needed to change that, for his sake before he tore himself apart.

And that meant keeping face even at this point. He had to believe that he had lost her.

"Pathetic, truly pathetic,” she grated aloud to herself, in case he was still secretly conscious. “If you are an example of what this new generation of Toa are like, it's a wonder you haven't all been hunted to extinction by now.”

A sharper kick would have been better but she couldn’t manage it. She couldn’t kick Tollubo with her icicle-shaped heel. So, instead, she kneeled down and gently rolled him onto his back, placing her Pulse Plaster and the Avohkii down on the ground for a moment. In that instance she was vulnerable but no attack came. The Toa was humming merrily, debased to some primitive, gurgling, vegetative state. He obviously wasn’t going to wake up again anytime soon, but Racasix didn’t want to take any chances. Slowly, her sleek fingers slithered up his chest until they reached his tatty Kanohi, then they locked around the Mask. She tugged on it carefully until the magnetic clamps deactivated and the Suletu tore away in her hands.

If he were conscious, Tollubo would have faltered in that moment, maybe even toppled over after losing his balance. But, being out for the count, the effect of losing his Kanohi wasn’t as easy to spot. His muscles were already slack. The only noticeable change was the fact that his maskless face grew a ghostly grey color right after being exposed.

Uttering a heavy sigh, Racasix reached into her pack and pulled out a replacement Kanohi that she had brought. If she was to destroy the Toa she had to take it a step further than what was being asked of her. The Toa was barbarous and hardy. He wasn’t emotional and he refused to give in to trivial things like sentiment. But she knew that, deep down, behind his cold and uninviting exterior, he was a Toa who was ruled by the very emotions he pretended did not exist. She had to break him that way. To reduce him to nothing. To remind him of his place in the world so he wouldn’t try to rule it one day. She placed the temporary Kanohi against his face and held it there till it became magnetized, then let go.

A black Kanohi Kaukau.

Tollubo had often embarked on rants about how much he hated that particular Kanohi. It seemed it would be a fitting touch. The final crushing blow when he woke up. In a sense it was identity theft, but Racasix had never understood the concept of Kanohi. Anyone could buy a secondhand mask or scraps of a different colored armor and pass for someone else. A Le-Matoran could appear to be a Ta-Matoran for just a few widgets. How Matoran could tell each other apart was a mystery to her, but she knew the impact it would have on her former lover’s heart. The sorrow it would instill.
She took a final glance at the Vortixx he had been with, her other victim. Similarly, she was out cold, sprawled on the ground like a discarded plush doll. Racasix didn’t care about her. She would be left where she was. Hopefully the Zeverek would come back for her.

But they wouldn’t find Tollubo.

She may have been ordered to disgrace him, but he’d be killed instantly if they found him in this state. That wasn’t going to happen. Not while she was around.

Placing the Avohkii in her pack then holstering her Pulse Blaster, Racasix called upon all her inner strength and propped the Toa into a sitting position. Then she locked her arms around his chest and crossed them, dragging him backwards as she did so. She hadn’t attached the new Kanohi correctly so his mouth wasn’t in line with the mouthpiece. Hence, bubbles of saliva fizzed from all the wrong ridges and trickled down onto her wrist. Gritting her teeth, she ignored the chillingly disgusting fluid until she had dragged the Toa to the treeline surrounding the house, back to the spot she had been hiding in. There was a black canvas cloth hidden in the shrubbery that she had used to pass unnoticed by the Zeverek when they scouted the area. Again she decided to use it, but this time not on herself. She lay the Toa sprawled on his back, hesitated, then placed a stone tablet under his arm. She’d written a message to him earlier, explaining everything she knew, hoping that he wouldn’t have turned up so she didn’t have to use it. When she was sure it wouldn’t get lost if he rolled over, she closed her eyes and uttered a silent farewell before covering him with the black cloth then turning away.

The weather was not far different to how it had been mere hours ago, when she sat with Tollubo at the Golden Ruki. Cold clouds hastened on in a shadowy body, smearing across the black night sky. Vapors from other islands arrived upon the wind, which curled and panted round her as she walked on through the increasingly-tangible fog. Bushes which should have been laden heavily with leaves were suffering more damage than they should have exposed to the highest winds on a coastline. Branches creaked and moaned in the swirling breeze. Racasix slipped past the crippled tree stumps with amputations, bruises, and deep scars cut into them. Many of them were warped and choked by weeds. Each plant was wretched at the root.

As she strode off into the night, Racasix wondered how a Toa could go so wrong, and realizing with a shudder what a fine line it could be between justice and tyranny. Tollubo's life had come so close to being wasted that night, but the lives of no more Toa would be lost if she could prevent it.

Even then, she knew that events had already been set in motion.




There was a lot of debate going on inside the transporter as the two Zeverek drove down the suburban road. They weren’t sure what to tell Mudro when they handed him Hollian. He would almost definitely ask them how the mission went and that would mean having to tell the truth, under threat of torture if they were lucky.

They had failed. Someone else had dealt with the Toa.

And “Failure” was not a popular word in their leader’s vocabulary.

Perhaps it would have been better to go back and search around for traces of the missing Toa. Bringing him in to Mudro would allow them the right to lie and claim that they had overpowered their enemy. Of course, they’d torn the yard apart, kicked the door of the house down, even looked in the prickly bushes outside the house. Besides, if they had found his unconscious body, packed it into their transporter, and he had awoken in the back seat then it would be game over for both of them.

But he was still a loose end. A witness. Mudro would want him taken care of at some point. Maybe it would be better if they just dumped Hollian outside and took off. Just get the hell out of doge. It was an attractive prospect but they were fairly sure the homicidal Glatorian would find them wherever they hid. He wouldn’t necessarily do it immediately, but he would hunt them down eventually.

And that was not an attractive prospect.

So they turned their attention to their cover story. It was clear what they had to do. They made the necessary stops and wasted a plausible amount of time in a diner a couple of streets away from the Cult of Darkness’ temporary base of operations. By the time they’d battled the traffic back down to the southern tip of Onu-Metru, they had their whole story straight.




Hollian died five minutes after she had revealed where she had found the Kanohi Avohkii, which was about five minutes after Mudro had started hacking at her with a sickle.

They were in the disused warehouse which Mudro and his group had made their provisional point of residential stability. While the other Cult members were on various other missions, Mudro had remained in Metru-Nui to await further orders while some of the other anarchists had travelled to Ta-Metru, where they were smuggling in new recruits to bolster their organization.

This specific building, it appeared, had been used to store surplus Matoran armor and powerless Kanohi. It was in a run-down neighborhood which had been heavily damaged in the War against the Brotherhood. Mudro had got it cheap off some local Onu-Matoran because there was a hole in the roof that was yet to be repaired. Of course, a crack in any fortress, no matter how small, had to be accounted for. Mudro had insisted that it be fixed up.
But, aside from the property’s one glaringly obvious flaw, it had many useful advantages.

They were in an old fitting room, in the higher-end section, where noble Toa would have entered cubicles, pulled curtain rains behind themselves to try on new armor. Of course, the royal red curtains themselves had been sold for a measly profit.

But the rail itself was made of iron, grossly over-specified for the task of holding up a flimsy piece of cloth. Mudro had discovered it could take the weight of an unconscious Vortixx hand-cuffed to it by the wrists. From time to time, heavier victims than Hollian had hung there, while he asked them urgent questions or persuaded them as to the wisdom of some particular course of action.

The only problem seemed to be soundproofing. He was pretty sure it wouldn’t be an issue though. They were safely nestled in a solid building in a run-down, derelict district of Onu-Metru. There was nobody around to hear the screams and no Vahki to report noise complaints to for mio around.
Plus he’d purchased the property in the name of a ‘Toa Tollubo.’ There was nothing to trace anything back to him. Any problems would go straight to the Toa, and he had plenty of haters sending him hate mail every day.

But Mudro wasn’t the type to take an extra risk if it could be avoided. Hence the tape. Before starting an interview he always lined up seven six-inch strips, stuck temporarily to the tiled wall edges. One of them would go over the mouth. Then whoever it was started nodding wildly, eyes bulging, he would tear off the strip and wait for an answer. Any screaming and he’d slap the next piece on and resume work with his sickle. Normally he got the answer he wanted after the second strip had come off, which was a shameful waste of the other five.

Then the marble floor allowed a simple drainage option. It had been designed to afford any important guests luxury, only someone had installed a drain pipe into it, which made cleaning up considerably easier. If he called in one of the Zeverek and told them to get busy with a mop he’d be able to bring in his next quarry in for questioning just five minutes after the first.

Sensing the carnage had ceased with the dying of the screams, Mudro’s two latest henchmen slipped into his Torture Chamber and admired the body, fighting back the urge to vomit. They weren’t the best in their field, not even the best Zeverek bounty hunters, but they fitted their purpose and served him well, which was all he could really ask for in this day and age.

“Why did it take you a whole day to bring this one in?” growled the former Glatorian, his voice a deep masculine growl, like the type of guy who never wasted a word.

“We met some... complications” answered the more cautious of the two.

“It was a no-brainer,” shrugged the other. “We waited for hours, which is why we’re back so late. Problem was there was a bunch of cops there. The whole place was crawling with Law Enforcement goons. It was surrounded by Vahki and Order of Mata-Nui agents.”

“How many?” grunted Mudro bluntly.

“Oh, about a dozen of them. Maybe fifteen. They were all milling about so it was hard to count them all exactly. Some kind of honor guard. Whoever gave her the Avohkii must have tipped off another party.”

“And what happened to them?”

“They just left.”

“You didn’t think to follow?”

“No way we could have,” muttered the smarter Zeverek, with no conviction in his voice. His teammate shot him a glare. “They were all driving slow, in a long convoy of transporters. Like some funeral possession. They’d have made us in a second.”

The Glatorian raised an eyebrow and started tapping the sickle with his fingers.
“And this military armed guard, which was conveniently placed at the house, didn’t take her with them?”

The two henchmen glanced at each other.

“Nope.”

“Did they leave anyone?”

The one who’d been doing all the taking suddenly fell silent. His quieter ally had to answer for him.
“They had this one guy, but he left a while after the others,” he answered spontaneously. He was tense. “We let him go. We were watching for Hollian. It was pretty clear by that point which one she was.”

“So you broke in?”

“Pretty much,” sighed the other Zeverek, regaining his confidence, as if explaining the story was boring him. Not a wise tone to adopt when talking to Mudro.

“And who was he?” asked the Glatorian, drumming a jittery rhythm with the flat side of the sickle into the palm of his hand, only half concentrating on the lies, unfazed by Hollian’s corpse propped up behind him.

“Well he never gave us a business card,” chuckled the more confident of the two cronies arrogantly. “But he was a pretty big guy. All black and blue. Looked like he meant business, like a Toa or something.”

Mudro stopped tapping. He stood motionless and the color drained from his face, leaving his eyes wide in the gloomy light.

“Like a Toa?” he repeated quietly.

The Glatorian stood there for a long and awkward moment with those words on his lips, staring off into space. Finally he raised his sickle and rotated it in front of his eyes, slowly, examining it, allowing the thin beams of light from the dim lights to catch it in curves and contours. It was trembling, so he took it in his left hand and held it steady.

“A Toa?” he muttered again, his eyes still glued to the cutting instrument before transferring his gaze to the two Zeverek.

Leave!” he ordered the more talkative of the pair. The Zeverek blinked, glanced at his teammate, then turned and closed the door softly behind him. The second it clicked shut Mudro moved, like lightning. He strolled forwards idly then stopped dead still, directly behind the other Zeverek, who just stood dumbly.

This one was called Vunto, his personal favorite of the two henchmen, but by no means an effective asset to the group. The Glatorian watched as his servant tried to imitate a statue, too scared to move, not even to turn around and look. His eyes were fixing on Hollian’s corpse. No matter how gory it was, he still knew it was better than looking Mudro in the eye.

His throat was a fraction over five inches in diameter, assuming the neck of the average Zeverek was more or less a uniform cylinder, which seemed to be the approximation the disgrace Glatorian was going on. His sickle was a simple metal curve, generously sized. The inside diameter of the curve was four and three-quarter inches.

So he moved fast, darting the sickle out and forcing it around Vunto’s throat from behind. He stepped back and pulled with all his strength. The Zeverek threw himself upwards and backwards, his fingers scrabbling under the metal to relieve the gagging pressure. Mudro smiled and pulled harder, until the broken gurgling turned into fractured wheezing and the redness in the victim’s face turned blue. Then he eased off an inch and bent close to Vunto’s audio receptor.

“He had a bruise on his face. What the hell was that about?”

The Zeverek was coughing and gesturing frantically. The Glatorian snarled and twisted the sickle a fraction, which relieved the pressure on his voice box but brought the tip up into the soft area of his cheek.

“What the hell was that about?” he demanded again.

Even Vunto knew that, with the sickle at that angle, and extra rearward pressure was going to put the tip right through his fleshy face and into his mouth. Perhaps the circular motion might pierce the back of his throat, maybe go into his brain depending on how hard Mudro tugged. He didn’t know much about anatomy, but he reckoned he was about half an inch away from killing the henchman.

I’ll tell you,” he wheezed. “I’ll tell you.”

The blue-and-black-armored revolutionist kept the sickle in position, twisting it every time his captive hesitated, so the whole story took no more than three minutes, beginning to end.

“You’ve failed me, Zeverek,” he growled menacingly.

“Yes, I have,” gasped Vunto. “But it was his fault too! Not just me! He got all tangled up behind the screen door! He was useless!”

Mudro jerked the hook.
“As opposed to what? Like he’s useless and you’re useful?”

“It was his fault,” choked his prey. “I’m still useful!”

“You’re going to have to prove that to me.”

“How?” spluttered his captive desperately. “Please, tell me, how?”

Easy,” chuckled the leader of the Cult of Darkness dryly. “You can do something for me.”

“Yes,” he gasped. “Yes, anything. Please, just don’t kill me!”

Get me that damn Kanohi!” Mudro screamed at him.

Yes!” Mudro whimpered back.

“And don’t screw up again.”

“No,” he panted. “No, we won’t, I promise.”

The Glatorian jerked the hook again, twice, in time with his words.
“Not we. Just you. Because you can do something else for me.”

“What? Yes! Anything.”

“Get rid of your useless partner,” he whispered. “Tonight, when you take care of Hollian.”

The whimpering Zeverek nodded as vigorously as the hook would allow his head to move. But his captor forced him to face the dead Vortixx’s corpse.

“Wait until tonight,” he muttered. “Pus some of her armor back on, take her down to the docks. Then steal a boat and dump her a couple of kio out in the bay.”

“But she’ll just wash up on the beach,” struggled the victim, forcing his eyes shut.

Mudro shrugged. “I don’t care. Give it a couple of days and she’ll be all bloated up. They’ll figure she fell off a motorboat. Injuries like that, they’ll put it down as propeller damage.”

He leaned forwards and slipped the sickle away. Vunto collapsed sideways, gasping and retching on the blood-stained marble.

And bring me his right hand,” added the former Glatorian. “To prove it.

Chapter 7[]

For thousands of years Onu-Metru had stood as one of the foremost intellectual focal points in the entire Matoran Universe. The city itself was one of academic integrity, its name synonymous with scholarly and historic purity.

For buried deep in the ancient land stood the Archives; infinitely large, mysteriously unfamiliar. A fortress built under the feet of the city’s citizens. Or a library. Or a temple. It was a place of knowledge. A fountain of momentous wisdom. The rich celebration of antique Matoran history. One of the most glorious, celebrated buildings in all of Metru-Nui.

But that was just what went on beneath the ground.

On the surface, the world was quite different. The district had always been sparsely populated until Metru-Nui’s immigrant masses gravitated towards it. The entire surface had once been minimalistic. Seeing as most of its Matoran residents worked on the Archives, there had been little need to develop the actual city. Whatever buildings had been constructed were small and rarely used.

Things had changed.

There was an abandoned Chute Station to the south and a thriving harbor community along the coast. All around were decaying buildings. Some of them were warehouses. Some of them were apartments. Some were abandoned, some were not.

There were broken-down stores placed randomly here and there, but they were all closed for the night. Everything in sight was old and in ruin, almost unhealthy. This was the slums of a powerful city. It appeared that someone had once tried to make it the industrial heart of some kind of steel trade, as if it could compete with the likes of Ta-Metru, but the lost dream of a prosperous Onu-Metru had been left to die. It was now a filthy, disused wasteland. Grime and moss sprouted from every hole. Profanities were painted onto walls. Windows were smashed and boarded up. It seemed as if the entire city had been coated in a layer of soot and dirt.

The tavern known as The Foundry was in the middle of all this, tucked away under a flight of stairs and lit by a feeble and flickering lightstone on its last legs of life. It was the type of place that couldn’t be found unless it was being searched for by a person intending to do a bad thing, deep in thought and depressed. There was no name, no fancy sign. Only a tinkle of disheartening music that seemed to seep out the cracks of the pavement.

The streets were silent, shuttered and still, not even worth being patrolled by Vahki. As the two hooded figures marched down the cobbled walkway, their footsteps echoed right down the blackened road. Neither of them were comfortable with being out in such a neighbourhood, but they knew they were about to meet someone who was in far worse shape than them. Although neither of them appeared armed any local thugs would think twice before approaching them, and even then they would be wise to do so with caution.

“He’s close,” remarked the shorter of the two, his voice fractured and cold as usual.

His companion tilted his head up and examined their surroundings. When he spotted the green light of the hidden tavern he nodded a direction, then removed his cloak. His ally followed suit.

The taller of the two was a Steltian Trader, a former Dark Hunter who had once gone by the name ‘Vertigo’. He had an air of dignity about him. A moral and fair traveler with at least some benevolence. His name was Gribrak.

His partner was still fairly tall but was an entire two head-lengths shorter than him. He was a Toa of Plantlife, which was made glaringly obvious by his green and blue armor, as well as the numerous spikes which protruded out of his body. His name was Toa Tourik and he appeared troubled. His right hand was pressed against his forehead and his brow deeply furrowed. His Kanohi Elda was glowing, locked on to a target.

They debated whether or not to leave their robes outside the tavern to be picked up by one of the street’s homeless wanderers but finally decided they would need them for the return journey. Then they climbed down to the plain wooden door about five meters below the level of the pavement. Somebody must have been watching through a spyhole for it opened before they had time to knock.

“Yes?” a voice said roughly.

Friendly place’ remarked Tourik under his breath.

“Can we come in?” asked the former Dark Hunter.

“You members?”

“No.”

“Then beat it!”

The door swung shut. At the last moment, Gribrak managed to get his foot in the crack. There was a nasty crunching sound as a dent manifested itself in his armor, but then the door swung open again and they managed to push their way into the tavern. A short male Vortixx gave them an ugly look. If he ever wanted to give anyone a pretty look, he’d need some work done on his face.

“We’ve been sent here on behalf of the Toa Metru Taskforce,” grunted Tourik.

The Vortixx shrugged.
“Why didn’t you say so before?” he asked.

“You didn’t ask.”

He shot them another disgusting look.
“Instant membership – twenty widgets.” He glanced them over again. “I don’t think you guys’ll fit in here. You don’t look right.”

“And you don’t look so good yourself,” countered Tourik.

“We’re here to take one of your customers into custody,” explained Gribrak. “This entire block is surrounded by Vahki. You would be wise to let us enter... for free.”

The Vortixx snarled then nodded, a barely noticeable twitch of his head. The two travelers entered the musty pub. The Toa inhaled deeply through his nose. The sensation wasn't exactly pleasant, but it was familiar and comforting. It smelled stale and sour, underlined by the ancient dusty smell of stone and wood. It was time to unwind.

Their armoured feet clunked against the old floorboards, their robes billowing around their ankles as they made their way around the place. A wizened old Vortixx stood behind the bar, wiping the polished wood surface. Upon seeing their arrival, he gave them a welcoming but toothless grin. He was a creepy-looking Xian but he looked like a genuinely nice guy.

“We’re looking for Toa Tollubo,” repeated the Toa of Plantlife distantly. “An ugly ol’ guy about my height, probably sitting by himself in a corner, contemplating something.”

“Why d’you want to see him?” asked the bartender, his expression falling.

“To tell him that he now has something real to mope about.”

A roar of laughter, to the right, caught Tourik’s attention. His curiosity was never something that sat quietly. As he looked down the bar toward the source, he was immediately distracted by a fellow Toa only six stools down that blocked his view from the table of laughing Skakdi. He sat alone, but wasn’t as unnoticeable as he would have liked to be. He was a large guy in every sense of the word: tall, broad-shouldered, a body toned and hardened by decades of combat.

But it appeared that the Toa had made an attempt to disguise himself. He had changed his color scheme to a fiery crimson mixed with an ugly shade of brown to match the Mask of Undeath he was wearing. His sinister Kanohi was considered illegal in Metru-Nui due to its immorality, but it still made Tollubo look as though his head had been hewn from a single piece of granite, deep-set eyes burning beneath a jutted brow above thin, straight lips. His muscular body was slumped forward, his emotionless, empty eyes staring straight into his glass, mindlessly stirring the ice in circles around the last few sips of dark amber liquid.

There was more life in the eyes of Matoran on Karzahni.

“You’re a hard guy to find,” remarked the Toa of Plantlife.
He moving in to take up the seat next to him. Gribrak followed his lead and sat himself on the other stool. They sat on either side of their quarry.

“Wrong,” the downcast Toa grunted. His voice was a deep masculine growl, like the type of guy who never wasted a word. “I’m an impossible guy to find.”

“You’ve been missing for three days,” muttered Gribrak. “Are we to assume you’ve been rotting away in this charming little patch of Karzahni for that time?”

“What you assume is none of my concern, Steltian,” retorted the Toa slowly, his words slurred.

Tourik and Gribrak exchanged glances behind Tollubo’s back.

“Turaga Matoro’s dead,” grunted the Elda-wearer pitilessly, as if the words meant nothing to him. “Metru-Nui’s in uproar. There’re revolutions, riots, conspiracy theories, mass muggings and political turmoil... you missed that.”

“I didn’t want you cramping my style.”

“And, of course, you’re one to comment on style whilst wearing a Mask of Undeath.”

Tollubo’s hand tightened into a fist around the handle of his mug. A wild streak entered his stewed eyes before it mellowed and the Toa of Light calmed down.

Gribrak shot his accomplice a warning glance then reached into the inside pocket of his robes. When his hand returned to view he was holding a document folder, organized as ever. He flipped it open and handed a single colored photograph from inside it over to Tollubo. The Toa stared at it blankly for a moment.

Of course, Tourik already knew what it was: an image of a single stone tablet lying on a luminescent white surface. There was a thin measuring tape running alongside the stone artifact, indicating the scale. It looked pretty normal sized, though somewhat large for its content. It could have passed for any old historical relic sitting in the Archives if it hadn’t been stained with dried blood.

Centered left-to-right on it, an inch or so above the middle were eleven words: The day in which Toa Tollubo will die is fast-approaching. The words were crisp and bold, obviously carved by a steady, experienced hand. But, then again, it could just as easily suggest the culprit simply knew a skilled Po-Matoran artisan.

The background noise in the gloomy tavern seemed to dull down for a moment as a glimmer of soberness returned to Tollubo’s eyes.

“Whose blood is it?”

“It’s the blood of an Av-Matoran named Saran,” answered Gribrak.

“I’m guessing she’s dead?”

“No, she’s relaxing by the pool at a beach-side holiday villa on the Southern Continent,” snapped Tourik with his signature sarcasm.

The Toa of Light grunted in return, which wasn’t the response that the Toa of Plantlife had wanted.

“And this was censored from the press?”

The crimson and black-armored warrior nodded. “Whatever goes on the news goes through the Turaga High Council at some point. A group of editors, supervised by Turaga Bomonga, read everything that is sent to them and he only approves what is appropriate. Evidently they did not think this should meet public eyes. What do you think of it?”

The red-armored Toa shrugged lethargically, and nearly toppled off the back of his stool. Inebriated.

“Two things, I guess,” he groaned. “Firstly, it’s true.”

“Not if we can help it.”

“You discovered the secret to immortality?” countered Tollubo. “Everybody’s gonna die, Steltian. I am, you are, and so’s Tourik, hopefully sooner rather than later. Maybe in a hundred years, maybe in another ten thousand, maybe tomorrow, but we ain’t gonna to live forever. So, technically, it’s a statement of fact. An accurate prediction, as much as a threat.”

“Which raises our second question,” grunted Tourik. “Is the sender smart enough to have phrased it that way to avoid being punished if we capture him? To be able to say, hey, it wasn’t a threat, I was just pointing out the obvious?”

“Why’re you making such a big deal about it?” retorted Tollubo coldly. “I must get sack-loads of death threats every day.”

“A Matoran was killed over this one.”

The Toa of Light shrugged again. “I suppose it beats the damn postal service. The message’d probably have ended up in a ditch in Ga-Metru otherwise.”

His callousness offended even Tourik.

“Why’re you two stiffs still so uptight?” snarled Tollubo aggressively. “What else is there?”

“Toa Jollun is comatose,” answered the Elda-wearer bluntly, cutting straight through to the point.

His fellow Toa didn’t even look up from his drink.

“He was stabbed in a prison brawl. There’s an ongoing investigation looking into how he ended up being detained in The Dungeon in the first place, let alone how he was implicated in the murder with all his alibis. We’d hoped to tell you when you’d sobered up but his arrest is connected to this same stone tablet.”

“Or there’s always the possibility he just wanted to kick loose for a night, take his demons out on a Matoran-punchbag.”

“Unlikely,” grunted Tourik, losing patience.

“Well what’d you want me to do about it?” bristled Tollubo, several octaves louder than he’d intended to have spoken. Heads turned to face them as the scene unrolling in the sleazy bar suddenly became the most interesting spectacle in Onu-Metru.

“We want you to clean up your act,” stiffened Tourik. “I know you don’t want anything to do with the rest of this team, with your fellow Toa, that you want to go off alone. I get how it works. You go off on your own, all lone gun in the wind, putting on some bravado, pretending to be something you’re not. Believe me, I’ve been there and it’s tempting. You live on the edge, independent. It’s solitary and lethal. You feel alive. You can become a Rahi.”

“Yet at the same time, it is a suicide mission,” finished Gribrak solemnly. “You are a first-rate warrior, but you cannot stumble from one challenge to another and expect to last long. It is one thing to make your own way in the world, but there are limits. You are declaring war on the world and that is just wrong.”

The Toa of Plantlife nodded and got to his feet.

“This was a waste of time,” he scowled. “I’m going back to the Coliseum. We’ll come back and peel him off the floor in the morning.”

“I shall stay,” replied the Steltian calmly. “There is hope yet.” He regarded Tollubo with soft eyes.

Tourik shrugged then leaned inwards, whispering directly into the disgraced Toa’s audio receptor.

“You need to be careful whose toes you step on today,” he grunted. “They might be connected to the foot that kicks your rear end tomorrow.”

The Elda-wearer began his long walk back to the center of the city by fiddling with his cloak, then disappeared into the shadows of the darkened tavern.

Gribrak glanced over the Toa of Light once more. Something was not right with this picture. Toa Kualus had told him about Tollubo’s determination to track down the Cult of Darkness just three months ago, about his nights without sleep and his near-death experience. This crimson-armored warrior was an effortless hero, but he was flawed.

He was a broken Toa, struggling to find his own place in this strange dimension. Until lately he’d been coping well. Tollubo had led and assembled the Toa Metru Taskforce. He was destined for greater things. He didn’t deserve to be left behind in a place like this.

Several minutes of stillness passed after the door opened and slammed shut after Tourik’s exit. Then the silence was broken by a distant droning, that ebbed in from above their heads. It grew louder and closer in anticipation before the door was kicked open and a mob of spirited Vortixx burst in, some of them singing at the top of their lungs about some Alikini match. Many of them were already inebriated. They’d obviously been kicked out of another bar and had come to this one in search of more Steltian Ale.

The seasoned old Xian behind the bar stepped forwards to eye the newcomers. They hadn’t paid the entry fee but it was obvious that they could do the place some damage. He glanced once at the Toa and his Steltian friend sat at the counter, almost begging for help, but his silent gaze afforded him no sympathy.

Tollubo downed the remainder of his drink then banged the glass against the bar. It shattered instantly and crystal-clear shards shot out over the polished surface. The drunken band of Vortixx hesitated for a moment.

Another ,” he grunted loudly. It appeared that speech had become labor for him.

The startled barman blinked. “You’re drunk,” he countered smartly. “I can’t serve you, and you’re the least of my problems.”

The Toa of Light stared at the Vortixx, his mouth hinging open, oblivious to his two companions sat on either side of him.

“Is it because I’m a Toa?” he bristled. “Because… I’m not.”

Most of the patrons in the bar now had their eyes fixed on the bizarre crimson-armored stranger rambling on about Toa.

“You can’t get me drunk then give me slack for being drunk,” roared the Toa, slamming what remained of his glass down against the countertop again. “That’s like breaking someone’s heart then criticizing them for being upset. It’s just… not decent.”

The Vortixx wiped a cloth over the counter and nodded curtly as he tipped the shards into his other hand. He wasn’t listening. Gribrak knew he was going to regret that. Tollubo didn’t like being ignored.

“Let me explain why people come here,” bellowed the Toa of Light, at the top of his voice this time. “All these sorry rejects, they’re here because they choose to be. They get a kick out of being here. So tell me, why do people drink Steltian Ale?

He hesitated for a moment to swallow back his own bile then continued as if nothing had happened.

“Is it sustenance?”

The crimson Toa paused, as if pondering his own question.

Nope. Is it the taste?”

This time he reached for his glass again, intent on taking a large swig from it only to realize that he’d just smashed it and cursed.

“Don’t be a jerk,” rumbled a black and brown-armored Skakdi sat on the other end of the counter. His unnatural smile seemed to have sagged forwards into a deep, depressed frown. There was no joy in his eyes.

Tollubo glared at him then continued. “Is it the company of such good-natured and chivalrous fellows such as this guy? I don’t think so.”

The Toa of Light put on a show of trying to think whilst the insides of his head burnt with inner frustration. “Is it to kill pain?”

This time his Mask of Undeath lit up mockingly.

Yes,” he muttered, as if it were the most interesting thing in the world.

Then all humor disappeared from his eyes.

“That’s the business you’re in. You’re what screws this city up. You’re in the reality sucks and fantasy temporarily appears to not suck business.”

One of the Vortixx in the corner bristled and spoke up. “Just get the loser a drink so he’ll shut up already!” he growled. He was the largest of the group. His followers cheered him and laughed, clanking fists and spitting on the floor.

The Vortixx behind the counter sighed inwardly then reached for another glass only for a laser to fly out of Tollubo’s finger, shattering the glass in his hands.

“No,” stated the red-armored Toa.

“But I’m giving you your drink.”

“Have you no pride?” With a remarkable change of heart, the Toa of Light now seemed repulsed by the drink. “Either serving me is a good idea or a bad idea. Shutting me up is a terrible reason for compromising what you believe.”

“And not even an effective one apparently,” countered the same Vortixx. Again, his pack supported him with whoops and cheers.

Tollubo shot him a menacing glare over his shoulder, then slumped in towards Gribrak lazily.

“Am I gonna have to hit him?” he whispered as loudly as he could in a slurred, husky manner.

The bartender perked up. “Not a good idea,” he warned.

“But what if it’s the right thing to do?” whimpered the Mask of Undeath-wearer, as if he were about to burst into tears with an unprecedentedly sudden burst of emotion. “Compromise is never the answer.”

Shaky on his feet, the Toa stumbled off his seat and started hobbling over to the Vortixx. Walking in a straight line was enough of a challenge to him as deciphering the future from the Wall of Stars above Ko-Metru without a telescope. Once again, he was providing entertainment for the entire tavern.

Just when Gribrak thought he couldn’t be any more embarrassed, his ally stopped dead in his tracks and bowed before the lead Vortixx.

Stand up!” he challenged. “Seeing as I’m a Toa, I’ll allow you the first punch.”

Chairs scraped and the other Vortixx stood up fast. Big guys, in heavy armor. Industrial workers. Five of them, all the same. They’d probably spent all day slaving away in a local mine, supplying coal for Ta-Metru furnaces.

“Sit down,” snorted the leader of the group as he slowly rose to his feet, meeting the Toa’s challenge. “I’m not going to fight you.”

“Good.” Tollubo relaxed then stared into the stranger’s eyes happily. “Because I was kidding about that first punch.”

The Toa of Light took a wild swipe at his adversary. He was disorientated, blind and he lost his footing. The Vortixx barely had to step back, but that didn’t stop him from retaliating. A sharp kick was delivered to Tollubo’s waist, sending him rocketing backwards into the table behind him.

Rule one: Be on your feet and ready.

Rule two: Show them what they’re messing with.

Gribrak rose to his feet, slow and easy. The average Steltian was slightly larger than the average Vortixx, so he stood there facing the underlings with calm eyes, hands held loose by his sides.


Rule three: Identify the ringleader.

There were five combatants. Any group of five will have one ringleader, two enthusiastic followers, and two reluctant followers. Dirty fighting tactics had been drilled into him whilst in the Dark Hunters, as well as the legitimate ones. If he put the ringleader down, and both of the keen sidekicks, then it would be over. The reluctant pair would just run for it. In reality there was no such thing as five-on-one. It never got worse than three-on-one.

Rule four: The ringleader is the one who moves first.

The Vortixx who had hit Tollubo was a burly individual with equal height to Gribrak’s lean form. He stepped forward a pace and the others fell in behind him in a neat arrowhead formation. The Steltian stepped forward a pace of his own to meet them. The downside of a corner table was that there was no other way to go except forward.

But that was fine.

Because, rule five: Never back off.

But, rule six: Don’t break the furniture.

Break furniture in a bar, and the owner starts thinking about his insurance policy, and insurance companies require police reports, and the average Metru-Nui Law Enforcement officer’s first instinct is to throw everyone in jail and sort it out later. Which generally means: Blame it on the stranger.

“That… hurt,” the Toa of Light said plaintively from the mess he was in on the floor. Like his heart was broken. He was lying off to the side, looking at Gribrak, looking at the five Vortixx, looking at Gribrak again. His head was turning like a spectator at a Kolhii game.

Then he threw up on himself.

“Outside,” the lead Vortixx grunted.

“Pay your check first,” Gribrak countered.

“I’ll pay later.”


“You won’t be able to.”

“You think?”

“That’s the difference between us.”

“What is?”

I think.

The Vortixx snarled. “You’ve got a smart mouth, pal.”

“That’s the least of your worries.”

“Get outside, pal, or I’ll put you down right here.”

Rule seven: Act, don’t react.

“OK,” Gribrak nodded. “Let’s go outside.”

The Vortixx smiled.

“After you,” the former Dark Hunter said.

His enemy turned around and shooed the others toward the door. They formed up in single file and threaded between the tables. Their armor clattered on the wood. Other customers shrank away from them. Gribrak looked apologetically at the bartender then left a small sack of widgets on the bar before grabbing Tollubo around the waist and hauling him up.


The Vortixx were all waiting for him on the sidewalk. They were all tensed up in a shallow semicircle. There were yellow lamps on poles twenty yards away north and south and another across the street. The lamps gave each guy three shadows. There was neon outside the bar that filled the shadows with green and blue. The street was empty. And quiet. No traffic. No noise.

The air was soft. Not hot, not cold.

Rule eight: Assess and evaluate.

The big guy was round and smooth and heavy, like a Doom Viper. An unbroken nose, no scar tissue on his brows, no misshapen knuckles. Therefore, not a fighter. Probably just a linebacker. So he would use his weight. He would be a guy who wants you on the ground.

So he would start by charging. Head low.

That was Gribrak’s best guess.

And he was right.

The guy exploded out of the blocks and charged, head low. Driving for the Steltian’s chest. Looking to drive him backward and have him stumble and fall. Whereupon the other four could all pile in together and stomp him and kick him to their hearts’ content.

Mistake.

Because, rule nine: Don’t run head-on into an ex-Dark Hunter.

Not when he’s expecting it. It’s like running into a tree.

The Vortixx charged. Gribrak turned sideways, bent his knees a little, drove all his weight up and forward off his back foot and through his shoulder, straight into the ringleader’s face.

Kinetic energy was a wonderful thing.

Gribrak had hardly moved at all but the Vortixx bounced off crazily, stunned, staggering backward on stiff legs, desperately trying to stay upright, one foot tracing a lazy half-circle in the air, then the other. He came to rest six feet away with his feet firmly planted and his legs wide apart, just like a big dumb capital letter A.

Blood on his face.

Now he had a broken nose.

Put the ringleader down.

Gribrak stepped in and kicked him in the groin, but left-footed. Right-footed, he would have popped bits of his foe’s pelvis out through his nose. Your big soft heart, an old Dark Hunter instructor had said. One day it’ll get you killed.

But not today, the warrior thought. Not here.

His attacker went down. He fell on his knees and pitched forward on his face.

Then it got really easy.

The next two Vortixx came in together shoulder-to-shoulder, and Gribrak dropped the first with a head butt and the second with an elbow to the jaw. They both went straight down and lay still. Then it was over, because the last two guys ran. The last two guys always do.

Grunting triumphantly, he turned back, kicked the three downed aggressors onto their sides and checked to see if they were still breathing.

There were four neon shadows and four inert figures lying on the ground.

Gribrak sighed in disgust.

Toa Tollubo was snoring onto the pavement.




At the exact moment the Toa blacked out on the floor of the street, only one of the two Zeverek had a face.

They’d done exactly what Mudro had ordered. They’d sailed together ten kio south of the Onu-Metru coast, out into the black waters of one of the Archives’ many harbors. Once they’d lost sight of the coastline they’d stopped and worked together to unzip the rubber body bag and lower Hollian’s mutilated, cold corpse down into the oily swell.

The second Zeverek had turned to Vunto with some cheap joke on his lips and was shot full in the face with his teammate’s Disintegration Blaster. Then again, and again. The slow fall of the body caused the three separate craters to appear in his head. His face was all one big fatal wound, black in the darkness.

His arm was leveled up across the metal rail and his right hand was severed at the wrist with a stolen cleaver. Three hacks were required to remove it.

Messy and brutal work to start with but the hand went into a plastic bag and the body was left to slump backwards into the water without a sound, less than twenty yards away from the spot where Hollian’s body was already sinking.

Story Notes[]

Characters[]

Promotional Images[]

Trivia[]

  • Over Your Shoulder is the current twenty-ninth longest page on this wiki.
  • Over Your Shoulder was named after a lyric from the song "Ghost of Me" by Chris Daughtry, the same artist better known for composing "Crashed", the song that was used to widely promote the Toa Mahri in summer 2007.
  • The blue Krana Yo that was featured on display in Dessal's office was a personal reference to BobTheDoctor27's own BIONICLE collection, as the blue Yo was both the first Krana that he obtained with his first Bohrok set, and his favorite specific Krana throughout his childhood. However, as it was never attached to a host, the Krana should have become inactive. Interestingly, however, it remained blue, something that intrigued Dessal and prompted him to keep it for his personal display, remarking the Krana as something of an anomaly.


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