Chapter One - On
Niha's eyes flashed open, looking around, scanning her surroundings, taking in as much information that she could, so as to orient herself. She was upright, her back leaning against a vertical metal surface. It was cold. She tried to move, but she was secured in place by metal bands around her waist, wrists, and ankles. The room was bright, very bright, and white. Everything seemed very clean and organized. Springs, pistons, gears and wires were all sorted neatly in little metal trays, and everything looked glossy and streamlined. There were four beings in front of her. The tallest one, a black and silver being, stepped forward, and spoke.
“Artificial Toa Prototype 001, can you hear me?”
Maybe this being could help her out of her restraints. “Yes, I can hear you, but I would like it if you called me Niha. Will you please help me out?”
The being smiled. “Yes, Niha. I'm sorry about the bands. I didn't know what you'd do when I turned you on, so I kept you secured to this operating table.”
Niha was puzzled. “What I'd 'do', sir? What do you mean?”
“Well, this is the first time I've turned you on. You've only been assembled for a few days, now.”
“Assembled? Turned on? I don't understand, sir.” Niha was very confused. If a person is alive, they are“born” and they would “wake up”.
The being seemed uncomfortable. “First, Niha, you don't have to call me 'sir', you can call me Mersery. And before we discuss your creation, let's get you off this table.” Mersery waved his hand over Niha, and the metal bands opened up. “You can get off now.” Niha stepped off the table. Mersery motioned over to the other three beings. He pointed to the being that looked much like Mersery. “This is Vantelic. He helped me build you. He doesn't talk much, though.” He then walked over to a shorter being, who wore black and grey armor. “This is Krakua. He is one of the very few Toa in our Order.”
Toa? Order? Niha wanted to learn more. She opened her mouth to ask about it, but Mersery stopped her.
“You'll learn more about our world later.” He then put his arm around the third and final being, who looked female and wore blue armor. “This is Helryx. She's in charge. She is another Toa. She has requested to fill you in on who you are and what you're a part of now.”
Mersery went to the door, but stopped to call Vantelic and Krakua. “Come on. Helryx wants to speak to Niha alone.” Once the three males left, Helryx reached out for Niha's hand. Her grip was strong and reassuring.
“Your hand is cold. Do you know why?” Helryx asked.
“Your hand is cold because you are not alive.”
This confused Niha very much. If she could think, feel and talk, how was she not alive? “What do you mean, ma'am?”
Helryx smiled sadly. “Watch this.” She pulled a knife from her belt, and poked a hole in her index finger. A crimson drop of something came out of the hole. “This is blood. All living things need it to survive. Now, I'm going to do the same thing to you. This will hurt, but only a little bit.” Helryx held Niha's hand out, and pricked her finger. Niha bit her lip as a small burning sensation ran up her arm. As soon as the feeling occurred, it disappeared. There was no crimson on her finger as there was on Helryx's. Niha was disappointed, but she still didn't understand.
“If I'm not alive, how can I see, and think, and talk?”
“Because we built you in a way so that you can. The only thing separating me from you is blood, though, so don't worry. Let's show you where you'll be learning and living around headquarters.”
“No questions right now,” Helryx interrupted, “you'll learn everything within a matter of weeks. Come on.”
Helryx lead her out of the room, and showed her around the entire building. There was the development wing, where Niha had just been. Helryx told her that it was where new technologies were made. Next was the training wing.
“This is where you'll spend the most time. Here you'll learn everything about the world, and how to combat it. No questions!” Niha shut her mouth. The next wing was the practice wing. It was much like the training wing, but Helryx said that full-fledged members had access to every weapon, vehicle, or mission simulation available.
The final wing was the dormitory, where everyone slept. Helryx showed Niha her room. It was small, with a bed, a map of the world, and a desk. She was glad she had a place to call her own, though. She already loved her room.
“Training starts tomorrow in the morning.” Helryx said. “In the development wing, room twenty.”
“Wait!” Niha shouted. Helryx looked surprised. “I mean, wait. Earlier you talked about the world. Can I see it?” Helryx's features were neutral, but Niha thought she saw a hint of a smile on her face.
“Follow me,” she said.
Niha followed her to the center of the building, called the Hub, and then to a pair of heavy metal doors. Two guards stood on either side of them.
“Niha and I are going outside for a moment. Please open the doors,” Helryx asked them.
“Yes, ma'am!” The guards said in unison. One of them entered a password into a key pad, and the large metal doors opened. Niha and Helryx walked through them, and stepped out onto the sandy ground. Niha looked around. The headquarters building was placed in a rocky valley between two sets of mountains. They were beautiful, Niha thought. She could just see the sun peeking over the hills, shining it's warm rays over everything.
“I like the world,” Niha said. “It's beautiful.”
“It isn't as beautiful as it once was, Niha,” Helryx said.
“How so?” Niha asked, wanting to hear more.
Helryx seemed to look weary. “The world used to be alive. I'm afraid that it's now dying.”
Niha couldn't grasp the concept. How could something so beautiful, so holy, so perfect, be dead? How could the world be lifeless? How? “It...it can't be! How can a world die? How is it possible?”
Helryx lowered her head. Niha could see she was obviously in pain. “I...don't know. I am unsure how a world can die, but I do know who is responsible.”
“There is an organization that was once a noble and powerful group of people called the Brotherhood of Makuta. They were responsible for creating the wildlife of the world, but that...has changed.
“No more than four months ago, the group proved to be traitorous. Somehow, some way, they caused a great earthquake that caused much damage, the extent of which we don't know. Now, the world's death is imminent.”
“How can we stop it?” Niha asked. A cold hand had closed around her, and she supposed that it was fear. The death of a world was unthinkable.
“I don't know that either, but our job is to find out.”
“I promise I will do my best to serve your Order, if that's what you want,” Niha stated, sure of her destiny now.
Helryx looked at Niha, no humor in her eyes, no look of reassurance. “There is no turning back if you choose to serve my Order, Niha. Are you willing to make that sacrifice? You will have no freedom, no mercy, and no break. You will be a slave to the will of Mata Nui.”
Niha didn't know who Mata Nui was, but she was sure that if Helryx believed that following his will would be for the best, it must be for the best. “I am willing.”
“Then be ready tomorrow morning for accelerated learning. It takes place in room twenty of the training wing.”
And she was there. She was there every morning for three weeks, learning about the history of the universe, about the history of the Order of Mata Nui, about the history and legends of Mata Nui, about the history of the Toa, and everything else. She learned about the Time Slip, the uprising of the League of Six Kingdoms, and the earthquake that fatally wounded the universe, which was called the “Great Apocalypse.” She learned about Lesovikk and the First Toa Team, she learned about Tren Krom, she learned about Artahka and Karzahni, and she learned about the Dark Hunters. She learned about Metru Nui, and Voya Nui, and Xia, and Destral, and Daxia, and Stelt. She learned about elemental powers in Matoran, Toa, and Turaga, and she learned about powerless, great, and noble Kanohi Masks. She learned about the Vortixx, the Skakdi, and the Zyglak. Niha learned about many other things as well, but they were not as important.
The one thing she hadn't learned about was combat and defense, which she was eager to learn. The day had come, and her excitement couldn't be contained. She was in courtyard twelve, the beginner's combat area. Eolas, the teacher, was going over hand to hand combat.
“Fighting is all about focus, knowing what your opponent is going to do as soon or before he does. Plan quickly, and if you are able to throw something in their face to startle and buy you time to deliver some elbow and knee strikes to sensitive areas.
“If you ever happen to be weaponless, and you end up on the wrong side of a bad guy's fist, don't consider yourself helpless. You may learn martial arts, if you like, but you don't need to know it to beat somebody twice the size of you. Instead of using a bunch of complicated blocks and punches, just focus on your more natural motor movements. Things that you can do without thinking about it. Things like pushing, walking, and simple punches.”
Niha was taking everything in. She was memorizing every word Eolas said.
One of her fellow trainees raised his hand. “What do you target?”
“Well,” the teacher said, “you need to aim for the head. Everything you throw at your opponent, aim for the head. Whether it's a punch or a push, either one will work more effectively when applying them to his head. If you want to get him on the ground, just give a good hard push, with both your hands, to his head. Any questions?”
No one answered, so Eolas clapped and said, “Okay! Let's take turns, and we'll have two of you fight at a time. Let's have Barom and Viosan fight first.
Niha watched each pair of members fight. They were sloppy, she thought, but she didn't voice it aloud. Maybe that's just how living beings worked. Maybe they couldn't remember things as well as she could. Maybe a brain wasn't as effective as a computer when it came to memory.
“Okay, let's have Gorand, and, let's see...Niha!”
Niha felt nervous. She walked up to Eolas, as did Gorand. He was huge.
Gorand threw the first punch, which Niha ducked. She rolled between Gorand's legs and gave a shove to his back. The hulking Order member nearly lost his balance, but regained his footing just in time to receive a flying kick to his face. A metalic clunk! was heard, and Gorand was out cold.
Everyone was quiet. Niha was breathing hard.
“Niha,” Eolas said, “I think you'll be under the care of a new teacher from now on.”
Niha was worried. “Did I do something wrong?”
“Gorand wasn't a trainee. He's one of our best operatives. You did something very good.” He paused, then said, “It's time to meet Widsith.”