Part 1: the timeline
The Island of Mata Nui, Ko-Koro, Shortly after the defeat of the Bohrok-Kal...
"Are you ready?" Kopeke said.
Matoro nodded, holding his Kohlii Staff. With the Grand Tournament coming up, Turaga Nuju had chosen Matoro and Kopeke as the competitors from Ko-Koro. Now, Kopeke and Matoro were practicing, preparing to face the teams from the other villagers for a shot at the tournament.
Kopeke hurled the ball with the net end of his Kohlii Staff. Using the hammer end, Matoro knocked it back. Kopeke hit it back toward Matoro, harder than he intended, and the ball flew toward Matoro.
Then, suddenly, Matoro wasn't there.
The Island of Metru Nui, Center City, shortly after the defeat of the Morbuzakh...
"What does Dume want with all of us?" Matoro asked.
Talvi shrugged. He didn't know. For some reason, Dume had summoned all of the Matoran from Ko-Metru to the Coliseum at the center of the city. From the look of things, he had also summoned all of the Matoran from the five other districts as well.
"Well, I guess we'll fin--"
Talvi didn't hear the rest of Matoro's statement, for suddenly, he found himself in another location.
The Island of Metru Nui, Ko-Metru, Shortly after the Morbuzakh attack...
"Did you get the gear all packed?" Talvi asked.
Ihu shook his his head. He was going to need a lot of safety gear, for he and Talvi were going into an abandoned region of the city that the Morbuzakh vines had wrecked. They would undoubtably run into some dangerous Rahi, and they could only hope they didn't run into any Morbuzakh Vines.
Their mission was very important. In the rush to evacuate when the Morbuzakh struck, a memory crystal with vital knowledge had been left behind in a temple. It was up to Ihu and Talvi to retrieve it.
Ihu was just checking the supply of Kanoka disks when another Ko-Matoran walked in. Ihu recognized him as his former student, Nuju.
"Hey, guys," Nuju said. "Hey, I was wondering if perhaps--"
Ihu didn't hear the rest of his student's question, for suddenly, he wasn't there.
Spherus Magna, the new Wall of History, after Teridax's death...
Kopeke was writing the record of the ultimate battle, the fight between Mata Nui and Teridax, on the new wall of History. He paused to take a break. This had been quite a battle, and it was going to take a while to Chronicle. But this was Kopeke's job, and he would do it.
Kopeke glanced off toward the nearby jungle just in time to see a shadow dart among the trees. Curious, Kopeke got up and went to check it out. He glanced around, looking for what he had seen. He turned around to see a blue Toa running toward him.
Then, suddenly, he wasn't in the woods anymore. He was surrounded by blue. Everything he saw was blue, with the exception of the three Ko-Matoran who were also there. Kopeke instantly recognized Matoro, thought the other two were unfamiliar to him.
But that was impossible. Matoro was dead.
"Matoro? Is that you?" One of the other Ko-Matoran said. Suddenly, Kopeke realized this Matoran was Talvi. Yet Talvi looked so different, Kopeke barely recognized him.
"Yeah," Matoro said. "Kopeke, what just happened? Last I recall, we were playing Kohlii."
"Kohlii?" Talvi said. "What's that?"
"How do you not know what Kohlii is?" Matoro said.
Talvi had opened his mouth to answer when he noticed the fourth Matoran there. "Ihu?"
Ihu? The name rang a bell. Kopeke had written many stories about Ihu. And his prescence here made less sense than Matoro's. Ihu had died before the Matoran even left Metru Nui.
"Hold on," Kopeke said. "Something is seriously wrong here."
"No kidding," Matoro said.
"A shocking revelation," Ihu said.
"Let's quit panicking and figure this out," Kopeke said. "Matoro, you said we were playing Kohlii?"
"Yeah," Matoro replied.
"Were we preparing for the Grand Tournament?"
"Uh, yeah," Matoro said.
"Ok," Kopeke said. Talvi, what's the last thing you remember?"
"Turaga Dume had just summoned us to the Coliseum," Talvi said. "He didn't say why, but--"
"Good enough," Kopeke said. Subconciously, he was mking marks on the ground with his Chronicler's staff. "Ihu, what's the last thing you remember?"
"Talvi and I were going to retrieve some memory crystal," Ihu said. "Nuju just walked in when I found myself here all of a sudden."
"I remember that," Talvi said. "Nuju wanted to know if he could come along."
"All right, stop talking," Kopeke said. Did I really just say that to a bunch of Ko-Matoran? "I think I've figured this out. Think of time as a line." He drew a line on the ground, which had womehow gone from being blue nothingness to blue dirt. "Ihu came from here, Talvi from here, Matoro from here, and I came from the most recent point, right here." Talvi marked points on order on his time line. Then he drew four lines from these points to another point. "Something has pulled us out of the timeline, and now we're here," he finished.
"Wonderful," Talvi said. "How did it happen, and how do we go back to our spots in the timeline?"
"I'm working on that," Kopeke said. Something occured to him. "Talvi, who were you with when you got pulled out of time?"
"I was talking to Matoro," Talvi said. "But every Matoran on Metru Nui was there..."
"That's it!" Kopeke said. He began drawing on the ground rapidly. "Of course. Something, or Someone, is... or maybe was... or perhaps will be... hurtling backwards in time. First, they plucked me out of the time line. Then, they plucked Matoro out from a time when he was with me. Then, Talvi was plucked out from a time when he was with Matoro, and then Ihu was plucked from a time when he was with Talvi." Another thought occured to Talvi. "Then we don't really need to worry."
"Why not?" Matoro said.
"We all arrived together, and no one else is here. We need to stop this force that's pulling us out of the timeline, but I think we already have."
Part 2: the void.
"...so, basically, all we need to do is get to the exact time and place Ihu was plucked from the time line. When we get there, we catch whoever is taking us from the timeline and stop him," Kopeke finished.
"And how do you propose we get there and then when we don't know where and when we are?" Talvi said.
"I was thinking that," Matoro said. "What would happen if we tried to go somewhere?"
"Yeah, let's try that," Kopeke said. "Follow me, and stay together."
The Four Matoran had barely walked ten steps when they suddenly found themselves in a forest full of trees, as far as they could see, yet bizarrely, everything was still blue.
"Wait, what?" Talvi said. "How is this possible?"
"I don't think time and space work the same way here," Ihu said.
"So, we could go back in time and talk to ourselves here?" Talvi said.
"I'm not sure our minds could comprehend it," Ihu said. "If we could comprehend it, we maybe could do it."
"You're making my brain hurt, and we need to figure out how to navigate this place," Kopeke said. He glanced up at the trees. "Who's good at tree-climbing?"
"None of us are Le-Matoran," Ihu pointed out.
"Hey, I can climb Ice drifts in Ko-Koro," Matoro said. "This can't be much harder."
"I need you to climb one of these trees and get a look around," Kopeke said. "We need to get a look around."
Matoro nodded, and began climbing one of the trees. Kopeke listened to him climbing higher and higher. He was still confused about this whole journey, waiting to wake up, but seeing Matoro scale the tree brought back memories of the island of Mata Nui. Matoro was always such a friendly, good-hearted Matoran; why did he of all people have to die?
Then a thought occured to Kopeke. Did he have to die? He was here, and Matoro was here. Could Kopeke prevent Matoro's death? And if so, how?
So lost in thought Kopeke was that it took him a moment to notice that he could no longer hear Matoro climbing. He looked up, but he could not see Matoro. "Matoro?" he called out, worried.
A moment later, he heard Matoro's voice from far above. "You guys shoud come up here! I found a huge empty space, and a map of this place!"
"A map?" Kopeke said. "Are you sure?"
"Pretty sure that's what it is," Matoro called back. "Maybe Ihu can decipher it."
"Let's climb up and have a look at it," Kopeke said. "It can't hurt."
"Actually, if we fall while trying to climb the tree, it can hurt," Ihu said.
Kopeke looked up the tree. It was full of branches and wouldn't be too hard to climb. "We can do this," he said. "It just takes Willpower. We're Ko-Matoran; we can do this."
Kopeke's words dispelled any doubt the three Matoran might've had, and they began climbing. Kopeke let his mind wander as he scaled the tree. Would saving Matoro even be possible? He had died to save a lot of people; would preventing his death screw up the timeline?
Then Kopeke remembered Ihu. Ihu died as well, and his death didn't seem to be as significant. Kopeke began wondering about the potential effects to the timeline of saving Ihu.
The loud crack reverberated through the silence, jolting Kopeke out of his reverie. He glanced around for the source of the sound, not locating it. Then he looked down, and wished he hadn't.
A massive crack was travelling along the ground below them, slowly spreading. Kopeke could feel the tree shifting as the ground cracked. He glanced up, finally seeing Matoro at the top of the tree. Oddly, Matoro seemed to be standing sideways, as if gravity was bent. Regardless, there was no way he could reach the top before the tree fell. From their positions, neither could Ihu or Talvi.
"Brace yourselves!" Talvi cried out.
Then something really confusing happened. The tree began to break in two. Then it snapped completely, leaving the top part of the tree seemingly suspended in midair, with Talvi hanging onto it for dear life.
Kopeke and Ihu weren't so lucky. They were beneath the split, and they fell with the tree to the massive crack in the ground below.
Part 3: the map
"Noooo!" Talvi cried out, watching the tree fall. He had gotten ahead of Kopeke and Ihu, being a better climber than they were. Now, seeing the lower half of the tree falling, Talvi had the sickening thought that he was seeing Ihu die for the second time.
Talvi had not actually seen Ihu die the first time, but he had been there. He had seen Ihu board that chute. He had seen the Nui-Rama horde coming, and he had watched helplessly as they wrecked the chute Ihu had boarded.
He felt those same feelings of helplessness now, watching the tree fall. In his mind, he realized the bitter irony that Ihu had been the one to point out that they might fall.
For a long moment, Talvi just hung there, unsure of what to do. Then he heard Matoro's voice again: "Relax, they'll be fine."
Talvi had almost forgotten Matoro was there. "How can you say that?" he said.
Matoro tapped the lense on his mask. "There's a gravity field down there. It'll slow their fall to a safe speed."
"You can see that?" Talvi said.
"In case you haven't noticed, I'm kinda in a gravity field myself up here," Matoro pointed out. "I'm pretty sure I know what they look like. Now c'mon, help me figure this map out."
Talvi let out a sigh of relief. Then another thought occured to him. "Wait a minute, how will Kopeke and Ihu get up here without that tree?"
"That is why we need to figure out this map," Matoro said. "Don't worry, they'll be fine."
Kopeke was rather surprised to see that he was still alive.
He was even more surprised to realize that he was standing precariously on the trunk of the fallen tree, looking "down" at the hole in the ground leading to the forest.
This place makes no sense, he thought.
He glanced around to see if Ihu was okay. It took him a moment to locate Ihu, who was standing on the opposite side of the tree trunk, as if gravity was normal for him in that spot. Kopeke started to walk over there when he realized that, if gravity normalized on him suddenly, he woulf be falling again.
He grabbed the tree and began scaling it carefully. Halfway to Ihu, he felt a stomach-churning disorientation that made him feel sick. Then, suddenly, gravity was back to normal, so suddenly that Kopek lost his grip on the tree. He frantically scrambled for a grip on the tree--
--and felt a hand grab his wrist. It was Ihu, pulling him to safety. "Disorienting, isn't it?" he said.
"Yeah, a little," Kopeke admitted. "How are you not disoriented?"
"I was on an airship that malfuntioned once," Ihu said, pulling Kopeke to safety. "I got hit by a levitation disk, and wound up having to fix the ship in zero gravity. Wasn't fun."
Kopeke looked at Ihu. Nuju had once told Kopeke that Ihu had been the wisest Ko-Matoran he knew. Maybe Ihu could help Kopeke figure out his dilemma.
"Hey Ihu," he said. "Can I ask you something?"
Talvi stared in awe at the "map" It was unlike anything he had ever seen, with several layers and moving points. At any given moment, the map was shifting, parts of it connecting and disconnecting.
"Wait, is this place moving?" Talvi said.
"I don't think so," Matoro said. "I think it's simply a three-dimensional map trying to show a four-dimensional space."
Then Matoro pointed to a small line moving across the map. Unlike the rest of the map--well, unlike everything in this void sans the Ko-Matoran--this line was red.
"If I had to take a wild guess, I'd say this is the force that pulled us out of the timeline," Matoro said. "And this--" he pointed to a crack in the map along the straight line, "--is where we are."
"So, we're behind this force?" Talvi said. "Well, then how are we supposed to intercept it?"
"Under normal circumstances, I'd say we couldn't," Matoro said. "But these circumstances are anything but normal. This thing is moving in a straight line, but here, a straight line is not the shortest distance between two points."
Matoro pointed at another part of the map. "This leads me to here. As near as I can figure, the light blue lines represent time. If we can get to this fold in time, we'll actually jump back in time and get there before now even takes place."
"Are you sure?" Talvi said.
"Absolutely not," Matoro said. "But do you have a better idea?"
Talvi really couldn't argue with that logic. "All right, so how do we get there, and how do Ihu-- and Kopeke get here?" Talvi choked when he said Ihu's name. There had to be some way to save him.
"Actually, Kopeke and Ihu can meet us on the way," Matoro said. "They can meet us here. I can drop a note down to them telling them where to go." Matoro began carving some words on a blue rock he had picked up.
Then a thought occured to Talvi. Perhaps Matoro could help him. "Matoro, I've been thinking," he began.
"You've been thinking about Ihu's death," Matoro said. "I know, so have I."
"Really?" Talvi said. "Do you think we can save him?"
Matoro thought for a moment. "If a Muaka were to come in here right now and attack us, what would you do?"
"If it attcked us, I'd fight it off," Talvi said. "Why?"
"Something Nuju said about you," Matoro said. "Tell me, would you have fought the Muaka before Ihu's death?"
Talvi froze, remembering the mission he and Ihu had set off on. He had put up a brave veneer, but when the Rahi attacked, he had run like a coward. He had run, and Ihu had been killed. After that mission, Talvi had vowed never to be a coward again.
"I... don't think so," he admitted.
"That's what I thought," Matoro said. "No death is insignificant. You don't know it yet, but you later became a brave guardian. You even saved me once."
Talvi nodded. "What do you think would happen if we were to alter the past while here?"
"I don't know," Matoro said. "To be honest, I don't really want to find out. I just want to go back home and forget about all this confusing time-travel stuff." Matoro sat up, holding the tablet, and handed it to Talvi. "Do you think this will help those two meet up with us?"
part 4: the rip
"What is it, Kopeke?" Ihu said. "What is bothering you, friend?"
"What if..." Kopeke paused, debating how much he should say. "What if I told you that someone here is going to die soon in the normal timeline?"
Ihu did not appear surprised. "Of course," he said. "You're wondering if you can save them."
Kopeke nodded. "But... this person might have died to save a whole lot of people."
"I see," Ihu said. "I do not know how this place works, but if saving him means potentially dooming a bunch of good people, you can't take that risk." He paused then added, "Unless he saves a whole bunch of Skakdi. In that case, you should stop his death at all costs."
Ihu's joke threw Kopeke off for a moment. He had heard that Ihu had a sense of humor, but actually seeing the wise Ko-Matoran make a joke was admittedly jarring.
"Actually, you should not be sad," Ihu said. "You should be grateful! You have something many Matoran would die for: a chance to speak to someone you lost. I'd suggest you don't waste it."
Ihu's sentece was punctuated by a blue rock falling from the sky and landing at their feet. Ihu picked it up and read the words carved on it. "Hmm, it seems our friends up above know how we can get home. We need to hurry though. Let's go. And please, don't tell me who dies. I hate it when someone spoils the ending of a story."
But Ihu, Kopeke cried out silently, one of the people to die is you!
Finally, after travelling for what felt like hours, Matoro and Talvi reached the rendevous point. Ihu and Matoro were already there, waiting. By this point, the scenery around them resembled a ruined city. Talvi wondered how much of it was real, or if any of it really was.
"I guess I was right about how that map worked," Matoro said.
"That's a good sign," Kopeke said. "Now what? You're note said we needed to hurry."
"We do," Matoro said. "A gateway in time is about to open. If we get there in time, we can intercept the force that pulled us out of time." He added under his breath "I hope."
"Well, then what are we waiting for?" Talvi said. "Let's go."
Matoro began leading the Matoran along the route he had memorized. As the four Matoran walked, he saw Talvi hang back with Ihu, as if he wanted to talk but didn't know what to say. At the same time, Kopeke grabbed Matoro. "We need to talk," he said quietly.
"Let me guess," Matoro whispered. "This is about Ihu."
"Yeah," Kopeke said. "Do you think... do you think we can save him?"
"Simply put, no," Matoro said. "I spoke to Talvi about his already. Talvi was a coward before Ihu died. If saving him would affect the timeline, Talvi never learns courage."
Kopeke had his mouth open to respond when he remembered something that had happened on the island of Mata Nui. Matoro had gone missing while hunting. Talvi had gone out to find him, and he found Matoro. From things Talvi said later, he had stopped some Rahi that was attacking him.
Suddenly, it all fit together. Ihu's death had given Talvi courage. Talvi had saved Matoro, and Matoro had saved... well, everyone. Messing with any part of the timeline would mess up the whole thing for the worse.
Oh, I hate this place, Kopeke thought.
Talvi was walking next to Ihu for the first time since the mission. For days, Talvi had thought about what he would say if this happened. Now that he was here, though, he just felt at a loss for words.
Surprisingly, it was Ihu who broke the silence. "Can I ask you something, Talvi?"
"Uh sure?" Talvi said, surprised.
"Do we regret bringing Nuju along on that mission?" Ihu asked.
Talvi tried to answer, but found himself unable to speak. Hearing Ihu mention the mission brought back memories Talvi had surpressed. Memories of that fateful mission...
Luckily, Matoro sprung to his defense. "From what I heard Nuju say, it sounds like he played a vital role in that mission."
Talvi nodded weakly. "Yeah, he did," he managed to say.
Luckily, the converstion did not continue anymore, for the four had arrived at their destination. Before them was a bluish green wrinkle in the air, just floating there.
"That's the time portal?" Talvi said.
"I guess so," Kopeke said. "What did you expect, a massive black hole?"
"Actually, I kinda did, to be honest," Ihu said.
At that point, Talvi realized that the wrinkle was shrinking. "It's moving!" He yelled. "Go! Go!"
The four Ko-Matoran ran to the time portal, jumping through just as it dissapeared.
Part 5: The source
Kopeke was at the same time surprised by what he saw and angry with himself for being surprised.
He had expected to find himself in a new location entirely. But this was a time portal, not a space portal. The only sign that he and the others had gone back in time at all was subtle changes to the city ruins around them. Changes that really made no sense, now that he thought about it.
"Well, we're all here," Ihu said. "Or maybe I should say we're all now. Now what?"
"If the red line keeps with its trajectory, we can intercept it a little ways that way," Matoro said, pointing in a direction. Then he glanced at Kopeke's reaction. "Kopeke, you know what pulled us all out of time, don't you?"
"I have... a hunch," Kopeke said. "Just before I got pulled here, I caught a glimpse of a Toa running toward me. She had some kind of staff."
Ihu nodded. "Good, good. Now we know what to watch for, shall we go?"
The Matoran began walking in the direction Matoro had indicated. They hadn't gone far when gravity shifted, and suddenly they found themselves falling forward toward a buildding wall now beneath them.
"Grab something!" Talvi shouted.
Kopeke tried grabbing the ground, but failed to get a grip on the solid street. "I can't!"
"Try to control your fall," Matoro said. "There's another change in gravity there. Our only hope is to hit it!"
Kopeke saw the spot Matoro had indicated. Desperately, he pushed agianst the street, hoping to reach the gravity shift.
He succeeded. With a familiar stomach churn, he found himself landing painfully but unharmed. On the wall of a building, though, not on the ground. Talvi, Ihu, and Matoro joined him.
"Matoro since you seem to be the only one good at spotting those, keep an eye out, would you?" Kopeke said. "I'd prefer not doing that again."
"No worries," Matoro said. "We're here. Any minute now, whatever pulled us out of the timeline is soing to show up here and now. Be ready--"
"Then again, it might already be here," Matoro said.
And then they saw it: a Toa of Water was running toward them. Kopeke did not recognize her, having only caught a glimpse of her before, but he recognized the staff in her hands.
"Grab that staff!" he ordered.
The Toa of Water ran right for them, seemingly running through the air. All four Matoran grabbed the staff in her hands as she ran past. Then, suddenly, none of them were there anymore.
Part 6: the staff
Talvi knew something was seriously wrong, though it took him a moment to realize what. Then it hit him: the surroundings were red, not blue.
Of course they were. He was in Ta-Metru, on the island of Metru Nui. Were things back to normal?
Then he noticed that Ihu, Matoro, and Kopeke were there too, along with a Toa of Water and a strange red staff. Things were most definitely not normal.
Well, maybe it was time to fix that. The Toa of Water had dropped the staff. Kopeke, Talvi, Ihu, and Matoro all leapt for it at the same time. The moment they grabbed it, everything changed.
They were back in the blue void again, but they barely noticed that, for all at once, they found their minds bombarded with images. Scenes from the past, present, and future flashed through their minds, all jumbled up, and none of them could make any sense of any of it.
Except for Ihu. His mind began catalouging the knowledge, organizing it, casting aside what was unimportant. And suddenly, it all made sense.
He saw the early history of Metru Nui, but that hardly mattered. He saw the Morbuzakh vines attack. He saw himself, Nuju, and Talvi set off on that mission. He saw a pack of Kavinika attack, and Talvi fleeing.
He saw himself dying.
He saw Talvi vow never to be a coward again. He saw the island of Mata Nui. He saw Talvi save Matoro from a Muaka. He saw Matoro and five others become Toa, and he saw Matoro using the Mask of Life to bring the Great Spirit Mata Nui back to Life, saving the entire universe.
He saw all of this in an instant, and comprehended it fast. It all made sense. Everything Kopeke had assumed about the timeless void was wrong. And Ihu knew what he had to do.
"I can control this thing!" he said. "I can send you all home!"
"You can control it?" Talvi said. "I can't even comprehend it!"
"Remind me to teach you the art of mental catalouging," Ihu said. "Or do a better job than what I did. Trust me, I can do this. I'll send that Toa back to, preferrably without the staff. Any last words to each other?"
Matoro looked at Kopeke. "Do we wind up winning the grand Tournament?" he asked.
Kopeke thought for a moment. "Nope," he said. "In fact, I want you to go home and tell Nuju that."
"Uh, okay," Matoro said.
"Anyone else?" Ihu said. Everyone else was as silent as... well, as Ko-Matoran usually are.
"Okay then," Ihu said. "See you on the other side."
And that's when Matoro realized something.
The next thing Matoro knew, he was getting hit in the head with a Kohlii ball.
Of course. That's because he was on Mata Nui, practising Kohlii with Kopeke. The Kopeke of his time. The Kopeke who was now running to him, worried. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine," Matoro said, thinking. He thought about what Ihu had said. 'See you on the other side'. The look on his face, though....
He had known. He knew he was going to die.
"Kopeke, do you know anyone named Ihu?" Matoro asked.
"Well, there's Mount Ihu, obviously," Kopeke said. "But I don't know of any Matoran named that. Why?"
"I need to talk to Turaga Nuju," Matoro said. Leaving the bewildered Kopeke, Matoro ran to the Sanctum.
Nuju was facing away from Matoro, yet he heard the Ko-Matoran's approach. "Matoro," Nuju said, in his strange language. "I thought you were practicing."
"Forgive me, Turaga," Matoro said. "But I want to ask you something."
Nuju turned to face his translator. In all the time Matoro had served as the translator for Nuju, he had never asked about anything he heard. What could be bugging him? "Of course," Nuju replied.
"Did you... see Ihu die?"
The question surprised Nuju. He shook his head. "Not exactly, but I saw the Nui-Rama attack that chute, and we did find his body later on."
"Was he brave?" Matoro asked.
Nuju nodded. "Possibly the bravest Matoran I ever knew."
Matoro was stunned. Ihu knew he was going to die, and he died anyway. He died because he knew his death would lead to others being saved later. Maybe he had seen something even Matoro didn't know.
Would I be that brave? Matoro thought.