A small force of twenty Matoran had gathered at the edge of the city, staring out into the depths. All were silent, clutching their weapons nervously as they waited. The mood was dismal, ominous. Idris doubted anything could improve morale at this point.
The primal screams of the monster outside didn’t help.
Idris stood at the front of the formation, armed with her Disk Launcher and Electro-Blades. Her gaze swept back and forth across the ocean floor, searching for any sign of the blue monster she had seen earlier. In the short time it had taken her to rally the Sentinels it had vanished into the sands, hidden in some crevice or cave. It was raising hell, wherever it was. It was driving the Sentinels crazy, not being able to see it while it was roaring it’s head off. And they were on edge enough as it was.
“Where’s Kaira,” she muttered to herself. The old Ce-Matoran had said she had had an idea on how to fight the creature and had waddled off towards the Hall of Gifts. No one had seen her since.
Idris turned towards the voice to find Kaira standing right beside her, holding a strange looking device in one hand and a translucent sphere in the other.
“What took you so long?” Idris demanded, snatching the items out of Kaira’s hands and examining them skeptically.
“Those were not where they belonged,” the Ce-Matoran said, indicating to the items she had delivered. “It seems our resident archivist is not as infallible as he would like us to believe.”
“Navek’s organizational abilities are a matter to be discussed another time. What am I holding?”
“A projectile weapon, used to launch spheres like that one,” Kaira explained. “They seem to be able to pass through their target, allowing them to deposit whatever they’re carrying directly inside their target.”
“What do they carry?”
“Without the benefit of a thorough examination, I’d have to assume some sort of venom or similar substance was the intended cargo. During the short time I had to test them, I discovered that once a sphere’s contents have been released into the target it creates a vacuum that will absorb the first substance it comes into contact with. In most cases, this would be air. Unless intentionally filled with another substance, it will stay in this ‘empty’ state.”
“And this helps us how?”
“When Lemiddus saved Kyrehx, he pulled a few squid into the air dome with him. They dissolved in seconds. I tested this on bits of the specimen Defilak brought me and got similar results.”
“So the air is toxic to ocean-dwellers?”
“How many of these launchers do we have?”
“I’m not sure. Navek was looking for more when I left. We had at least five already, including this one.”
“Take two Sentinels back and bring us everything and bring us everything you can carry.”
Kaira muttered something irritably under her breath as the Ga-Matoran waved two of the Sentinels from the back of the formation. “Accompany this Matoran to the Hall of Gifts. Do exactly as she says, and return as soon as possible.”
We’re going to need as much help as we can get.
Dekar watched in horror as Lemiddus went down. The Fa-Matoran’s body was charred and blackened, fried by the energy blast Kyros had inexplicably fired from his fingers. His heartlight flickered sporadically as he collapsed, his eyes staring blankly ahead of him.
The Po-Matoran was vaguely aware of Defilak rushing past him, shouting all manner of obscenities at Kyros. Behind him he could hear Feton shutting down the submersible’s surviving systems, seemingly oblivious to what was happening outside. But Dekar paid no attention to this. His eyes were locked on Lemiddus’ body.
Sarda’s Kanohi Huna dropped to the floor as Dekar rushed forward, catching Lemiddus just before he hit the ground. To his surprise the Fa-Matoran’s body was warm. He was alive, for now.
“Lemiddus,” he asked softly as he could manage. “Lemiddus, can you hear me?”
For a second there was silence. “Y…ye…y…yes…” the half-dead Matoran rasped.
“Don’t worry, we’ll get you help.”
“Geh…get the m…mask. Destroy…it.”
“Kyros h…has it. Can…can’t let him…keep it.””
“I…I think I understand,” Dekar replied.
Lemiddus smiled weakly. “Tell…tell Kyrehx…what happened…to…to me.”
“I will. You’ve done good soldier.”
Lemiddus’ eyes rolled back into his head as his body went limp in Dekar’s arms. His heartlight flickered one last time, then blinked out forever. He was dead.
Dekar knelt beside the corpse, staring emptily at it. Another Sentinel fallen, another disaster he could not have predicted. Kyrehx attacked. Sarda devoured. And now Lemiddus, murdered in cold blood by the leader of Mahri Nui. Three good Matoran selflessly putting themselves in harm’s way for the good of the city. All fallen in the line of duty. The duty he had given them.
He knew he shouldn’t, couldn’t blame himself for their deaths. But it was so easy to. So simple to say it was his fault.
But Lemiddus’ death wasn’t his fault, was it? Kyros had killed him. It was his fault, not Dekar’s.
Dekar lay Lemiddus down gently on the ground, then rose to his feet, grabbing Lemiddus’ odd looking projectile weapon as he did so. He spun in the direction he had last scene the Ko-Matoran. There he was, glowing mask in hand, backing a furious Defilak into a corner. Dekar moved in.
Aiming the launcher at the back of Kyros’ head he approached the Ko-Matoran slowly. “Don’t move,” he growled, “or I’ll shoot your head off your shoulders.”
Kyros froze where he stood.
“Turn around and put your hands above your head.”
Slowly, the Ko-Matoran obeyed, affording Dekar his first clear view of Kyros’ condition. For a second it was Dekar’s turn to freeze as his blood ran cold at the site before him, shocked by the eerie appearance of the Matoran who stood before him. He shook it off.
“Now drop the mask and step away.”
“Ok.” Kyros complied. The Kanohi fell to the floor with an ominous clatter. As soon as it was on the ground, energy blasted from Kyros’ fingertips, flying towards Dekar almost too quickly for the Po-Matoran to react. But centuries of life on the edge had sharpened his reflexes. As soon as his brain registered the threat he threw himself to the side, barely evading the blast. He used his momentum to roll into a crouch, bringing his weapon up to bear as he did so.
But Kyros was already on the move. He scooped up the strange mask and bolted for the door. Dekar quickly readjusted his aim and squeezed off a shot. A strange, spiked sphere detached itself from the front of the launcher and flew after the Ko-Matoran.
The projectile missed it’s mark by a hair, crashing instead into a pile of junk just ahead of Kyros. It exploded on contact.
That was unexpected, Dekar thought just before the shock wave threw him off his feet. He lay there, not moving, listening to the whistle of the shrapnel flying through the air around him. He felt one piece dig into his thigh.
Wincing, Dekar rose to his feet, clutching his injured leg. The smoke was dissipating, and surveyed the scene. The warehouse was intact, but the interior was a mess. Smoldering chunks of metal were scattered among toppled piles of scrap and tools. Several workbenches had toppled over, spilling their contents across the floor. In the midst of this stood Kyros, the air around him crackling with blue light. A force field, vaporizing anything that touched it. As Dekar watched he let the barrier disperse.
The two stared at each other across the room. For a second, neither moved. Then Kyros turned to leave.
“You’re a murderer Kyros!” Dekar called after him. “A cold-blooded murderer!”
Kyros walked on.
“I’ll find you! And I’ll finish what Lemiddus started! You have my word!”
Kyros walked out of the warehouse.
Dekar stared after him, seething. He knew he had to let him go, but he’d promised Lemiddus he’d destroy the mask. He would hunt Kyros down and make sure that the Fa-Matoran’s final wish was carried out. He swore it.
“Sorry about the mess,” he said, turning back to face Defilak.
The Le-Matoran scowled. “I can clean it up later. I just wish you’d given Kyros what he deserved in the process.”
“Trust me, when I find him, I’ll give him hell.”
“Only if you quick-beat me to him.”
Dekar shook his head. “No. I’m declaring a state of emergency. You’re in charge of the city now.”
“Me?” Defilak gaped.
“Yes. I watched you in the submersible. What you did was crazy. Some might have called it suicidal. But you did it, and you got us out of there.”
“Not all of us.”
“That’s not the point. We need someone like that to take charge, someone who not afraid to do what others would call mad. Someone crazy enough to ram a sea monster with a battered submersible.”
“I’ll…think about it.”
A rusty orange face poked out of the submersible. “Hey, I- What the hell happened out here?”
“Kyros happened,” Dekar said.
Feton scowled. “Well, there’s something you need to see. Our Toa is awake.”
Kaira had only been able to find five more launchers, bringing them to a grand total of ten. To be honest, Idris had expected there to be less. Why so many had been discarded by the residents of Voya Nui was beyond her, but she wasn’t complaining. The Ga-Matoran had already armed her best marksmen with them, complete with a set of five spheres apiece. They would have to make every shot count.
The new weapons had done little for moral, however. Not with the monster still roaring out among the subaquatic dunes.
The outer limits of the city had already been evacuated. This confrontation was bound to get messy, and Idris didn’t want anyone getting caught in the crossfire. There were barely a hundred Matoran left in Mahri Nui. Lives were precious. She didn’t want to lose any more than absolutely necessary.
She turned to the assembled Sentinels, taking a moment to look them over. A mosaic of expressions met her gaze. Some were determined, ready to fight for their home. Others appeared grim, accepting their fate as they saw it. A few were unreadable, their masks giving no hint as to what they were feeling. But there was one thing true for every Matoran present. None looked afraid.
That wasn’t to say they weren’t. Anyone who wasn’t afraid in such a situation was either a fool or a madman. But the Sentinels hid it well. They boldly went to face the dangers that awaited them. They would not cower in the face of death.
“Sentinels!” she called. “The time of battle is almost upon us. We will enter the ocean and surround the target, then open fire with our new weapons. Anyone not armed with a launcher will pair up with someone who does and keep the creature away from them at all costs. Once we have exhausted our supply of ammunition we will move in and finish it at close range. Understood?”
The answer came in the form of several grunted “yes”es and a lot of nodding.
“Good,” Idris paused for a moment, uncertain of what to say next. “I… I would like to say it’s been an honor serving with every one of you. -”
“Idris!” a voice called from somewhere in the formation. “The roaring. It’s stopped.”
Idris froze. The ocean was indeed silent.
“Nobody move! And not a sound out of any of you!”
Slowly, she turned to face the ocean. Peering through the bubble’s membrane, she scanned the sea floor for any sign of it. Not only was the bay silent, it was empty. Nothing moved.
Then the sand exploded in front of her.
The creature suddenly loomed in front of them, sand sliding off its scales and dispersing into the water as it regarded the Matoran. Its claws clacked together slowly as it flexed its fingers menacingly. Idris could’ve sworn she saw a forked tongue dart out between its teeth and slash across its upper jaw. Like it was licking its lips.
“Out of the dome!” Idris ordered. “Lead it away from the city!”
Twenty-one Matoran dove into the water. Idris led the charge, curving around the creature and reforming their formation behind it. Four rows of five, those with Air Launchers in the back, the other up front. Just to the right of the phalanx Idris tread water. Lifting her hand above her head, she signaled the marksmen to load. A moment massed. The creature had turned around to face them again and was charging. She swung her hand forward.
A volley of ten spheres converged on the creature. Two missed, passing through the gaps between appendages and crashing harmlessly into the sand. The rest crashed into the creature, depositing their deadly load of oxygen inside its body.
The monster froze as the spheres passed through it. For a fraction of a second nothing happened. Then the points of impact began to darken to a crisp black and crumbled into dust. The holes began to grow, rapidly devouring the creature’s body. The Matoran watching expectantly, daring to hope that the battle might be won so easily.
Then it stopped.
The edges of the holes sparked with blue and yellow energy, then they started to shrink. New flesh began to grow where seconds before it had been disintegrated. The creature was being healed.
Idris has seen that energy before, back in Kyros’ hut. She had watched it dance across the Ko-Matoran’s body. It had come the mask Lemiddus found. The mask that had killed Kyros had made this monster.
Before she could fully comprehend the implications of this line of thought the creature charged again. It would be on top of their position in seconds.
She signaled frantically for them to scatter, her hands cutting through the water with swift precision. The marksmen rearranged themselves into a rough semicircle around the creature and opened fire. For the next minute spheres of air rained on the creature in four haphazard waves of nine, most making their mark and depositing their toxic cargo within. The idea was that all forty spheres would do too much damage too be repaired and they could finish the beast with their blades.
Forty spheres should’ve been fired. She had counted four waves of nine. That made thirty six. Four were missing. One of the Sentinels hadn’t fired.
Idris spun, looking for the missing Matoran. She found them a ways to her left, the Le-Matoran marksman struggling with his launcher as his Po-Matoran companion held her weapons in a ready position, ready to ward of the monster if it came near. They appeared to be fine, for the moment. Just a launcher malfunction.
The last of the spheres cut through through the creature, leaving it looking somewhat akin to the exotic holed cheeses of Stelt. For a moment all was silent, or at least as silent as it could be with the waters so disturbed. Idris found herself daring to hope that they might have mortally wounded the beast, a hope ripped to shreds as neon blue sparks crackled along the edges of the wounds.
The monster let out a feral roar, a sound eerily distorted by the water. Then it charged, its eyes ablaze with anger. There was no time to signal a retreat. The beast was too close. She had no choice but to watch as the Sentinels tossed the launchers aside and readied their Electro-Blades for combat.
It reached them in seconds. Sparks flew as the Matoran fell upon the beast, cutting and slashing wherever they found an opening. But the wounds caused by the last volley of spheres had healed. There was no piercing its hard exoskeleton now.
Idris swam in their direction kicking frantically through the water, knowing that she would make no difference. They were doomed. Already, three Sentinels had fallen at the creature’s hands. She couldn’t tell if they were still alive.
Mata Nui have mercy on our souls, she thought grimly. Let us die quickly and honorably.
Just as she was about to join the fray a sphere shot through the water and carved a tunnel through the beast’s forehead. It screeched in pain and lashed out wildly, felling another Sentinel. For a second it looked as if the wound would miraculously do what the others had failed to do, but in seconds the healing energies were crackling around the edges.
Taking advantage of the momentary blindness of the creature, Idris signaled for the Sentinels to withdraw. They saw and obeyed, swimming away as fast as they good. All but one made it out unscathed. The poor soul was smashed down to the ground by the beast’s flailing arm. He lay motionless in the sand.
Idris turned in the direction the sphere had come from just in time to see two Matoran swimming towards the creature. Paka and Aescela, the pair whose launcher had malfunctioned. They must’ve gotten it working, and just in the nick of time.
But why were they swimming towards the monster? It was distracted, they needed to use this time to regroup. She waved in their direction, hoping they would get her message. Aescela turned to look at Idris, a determined look on her Kanohi. She shook her head and swam onwards.
Then Idris understood. They were going to keep the creature occupied for as long as they could, giving the rest of the Sentinels time to regroup and plan a second attack. Idris began to back away, signalling the rest of the group to retreat to the relative safety of the air dome. Paka and Aescela had made their choice, and there was nothing in Mahri Nui that could stop them.
With grim anticipation she watched from the air dome as they engaged the creature. Paka launched another sphere, this one through it’s leg. As the beast yowled Aescela darted in, jamming one of her Electro-Blades into the rapidly closing hole. It continued to heal around the weapon, leaving the blade embedded in the limb. Aescela flicked the weapon’s power setting up to maximum and propelled herself back towards Paka. But the creature was quicker than she anticipated. Its hand slashed through the water, one its clawed fingers impaling her leg and dragging her down.
Shaking the injured Po-Matoran from its hand, the creature glanced down at it’s leg, an expression reminiscent of a grimace on its face. An extremely pained grimace. The looks on its face could only been described as pitiful. Sad.
Idris felt sick. This was just an innocent creature, unwilling transformed by Lemiddus’ mask into a regenerating monster. That was why it had come to the city. It was after the mask. And they had tried to kill it.
She dove back into the ocean, taking a fresh air bubble with her. She had to find a way to get the creature to leave, or somehow understand they were just defending themselves. Maybe, just maybe, no one else had to die today.
The creature was moving towards Paka now. In the absence of Aescela to distract it flew straight at its chest. But the creature intercepted it with its wrist, taking the toxic dose of air there and allowing the projectile to pass harmlessly through its torso.
The hand floated to the ground, severed from the wrist by the sphere. Sand exploded upwards, creating a veil around the two combatants. Idris kicked harder, trying to reach the battle in time. She peered through the curtain, trying to make out what was happening.
As the sand slowly began to settle back onto the ground, two silhouettes became visible through the veil. The massive shadow of the creature loomed over the Le-Matoran, who was backing away in a panic. But Paka wasn’t fast enough. The creature snatched him up in its good hand, staring intently at him.
Paka appeared to stop struggling as the creature lifted him up to eye level. The two stared each other down, neither wavering. Paka did not cower under the enormity of the beast, he looked it in the face without fear.
Then it bit his head off.
Idris bit back a scream. It had bitten his head off. As if he were simply prey, food to be consumed.
All thoughts of making peace with the creature vanished from her mind. It had just eaten a Matoran while she watched. Bitten the head off one of her fellow Sentinels. She was no longer on a mission of peace, she was going to give the monster hell. No holds barred.
In that moment she had an epiphany. Here, at the bottom of the sea, cut off from civilization, the Matoran were nothing more than prey. The larger, more vicious creatures could hunt them whenever they pleased, kill them at their leisure. But it didn’t have to be that way. The Matoran didn’t have to just lie down and wait for the predators of the depths to kill them. They could choose not to be the prey, to fight back. They could become the predator.
Drawing her weapons from their sheaths, she charged the creature as it discarded Paka’s decapitated corpse to the side. Her first objective was to draw the beast away from the city, get it somewhere where she could engage it without having to worry about endangering the city and anyone attempting to retrieve the fallen and any loose equipment.
Quick as a Takea Shark she darted past the creature and scooped up Paka’s launcher and last remaining sphere from the sand. One shot left. She’d have to make it count, though she had no idea how. Glancing over her shoulder she confirmed the beast was on her tail. Mission accomplished. Now it was just it and her, alone at the bottom of the sea.
Then the water grew cold and thick, making her movements slow and sluggish. She looked around in confusion, looking for an explanation for the sudden change of temperature.
She soon found it. A towering figure, clad in white, standing between her and the creature. The water around him shimmered with thousands of tiny shards of ice, sparkling in the few rays of sunlight that had managed to filter down to this depth. He was unarmed, yet power seemed to radiate from him.
It was a Toa. An honest-to-Mata Nui Toa. And he was in Mahri Nui.
The creature skidded to a halt in front of the Toa, looking him up and down, sizing him up. The Toa simply watched it, arms hanging loosely at his sides, waiting.
The beast took a step forwards. Instantly, the Toa lunged, a spike ice ice forming around his forearm and fist as he threw a vicious uppercut at the creature’s chin. The spike slammed into the creature’s shell with enough force to drive right through the exoskeleton, impaling the beast’s head. The Toa snapped the spike at the base and jumped back, leaving it embedded in the creature.
The creature thrashed wildly, clawing at its chin as it tried to pull the weapon out. As Idris watched, it slowly dragged the spike out, discarding it to the side and shaking itself like a Hydruka would shake the water from it’s body after returning to an Air Dome. Energy crackled around the wound, closing it in seconds.
Scowling, the Toa created two short, sharp blades of ice in his hands and charged the creature. They clashed in a flurry of strikes, too fast for Idris’ eyes to follow. Ice glinted and energy crackled as the two Titans clashed beneath the waves.
Idris stood rooted to the spot, her eyes seeing nothing but the fight. In comparison to other battles history had seen this one was nothing spectacular, but to a Matoran who has been cut off from society for centuries it was truly a sight to behold.
As she watched, the Toa thrust his blade into the creature’s chest and slashed his arm down, cutting a gaping hole across its torso. For a second Idris caught a glimpse of a small, fist-sized organ pulsing repeatedly, every pulse sending tiny sparks of energy across a web of dark lines to different parts of the body. The healing energy. Earlier the beast had sacrificed its hand to keep Paka’s sphere from going through its chest. Perhaps there was some importance to that small, insignificant looking muscle?
Suddenly an idea popped into Idris’ head. One of those odd, very out there ideas when you have no other options. It was crazy, but if her theory was correct it would work. Now all she had to do was attract the Toa’s attention.
As if to grant Idris’ request the creature’s fist slammed into the Toa’s abdomen, sending him flying backwards, landing roughly in the sand just to Idris’ right. The Ga-Matoran quickly propelled herself in his direction, waving her arms frantically to get his attention. He looked at her in confusion, uncertain of what she wanted. She began to tell him her plan, using large, exaggerated gestures to be certain he saw.
Comprehension dawned on the Toa’s Mask of Intangibility. Rising to his feet he charged back towards the creature, this time a single razor sharp ice dagger in his hand. He fell upon the monster in seconds, and the titanic battle resumed.
Idris scrambled as close as she dared to the fight, trying not to be noticed. Taking a second to make sure the sphere was properly loaded, she prepared to take the shot. She would only get one chance at this, she had to make it count.
Then the Toa saw an opening. With a quick flick of his wrist he jabbed the dagger at the creature’s chest, somehow slicing through the exoskeleton like it wasn’t there. As he jumped out of the way Idris brought her launcher up to eye level, locking the pulsing organ in her sights.
Her finger rested on the trigger, ready to fire the sphere and end it once and for all. But she found herself hesitating. This was just an innocent creature, twisted by that ■■■■■■ mask into a monster. Could she really end its life? Yes, it had killed Paka, but that had been in self-defense. Just like the Sentinels had defended themselves.
Revenge was wrong, but she had a duty to protect Mahri Nui. But did that duty require cold-blooded murder on her part?
Before she could make up her mind she felt her finger contract, pulling back on the trigger. Time seemed to slow as the sphere cut through the seawater towards the creature. Idris watched as it passed through the exposed tissue and muscle, carving a tunnel through the monster’s chest. The pulsing organ disintegrated in a puff of black dust.
The creature froze, as if it were uncertain of what had just happened. Energy crackled along the edges of the wound, but noticeably less than before. It grew dimmer and dimmer, the healing slowing as it did so. Then it stopped, winking out for the last time. The creature wavered, then collapsed face first into the sand.
Idris spun, finding the Toa just in time to see his Mask of Intangibility reappear on his face. She couldn’t be sure what he had just done, but she had her suspicions. She charged furiously in his direction, anger building inside her. She didn’t know what she would do when she reached him. Fortunately she didn’t have to. Her next breath filled her mouth with seawater. Her air was gone.
She grasped at her neck reflexively, reality crashing down on her like a tidal wave. She was still too far away from the city. She wouldn’t be able to swim there in time. She was dead.
Black spots speckled her vision. Pain racked her body, as if every bit of her being was dying. She had inhaled some of the seawater, and now it was mutating her. Changing her into who knew what.
She collapsed onto the seafloor, her thoughts a jumbled mess. It was hopeless. She had seen what happened to Matoran that had been mutated by the water. They lost themselves, became monsters, cannibalistic animals, to the extent that Dekar had been forced to order that any Matoran who started to mutate without a solid chance of finding air needed to be put down on the spot.
Her hands grasped wildly around for her Electro-Blades. She refused to become a monster, she wouldn’t allow it. Lifting the weapon to her chest, she prepared to save herself from a fate worse than death.
Something knocked the blade from her hands and grabbed her up off the seafloor. Idris felt herself being carried by two huge hands, hanging limply in her rescuers arms. Through her clouded vision she saw the Toa’s face, staring ahead with a grim look on his face. She tried to scowl at him, but she was too weak.
Suddenly she was inside an Air Dome. She felt herself being laid down on a cot, felt the water being forced from her lungs. She coughed once, then twice. Water trickled down her cheek, and the pain seemed to recede. She gasped as air found its way back into her and she felt herself returning to normal.
The back spots had vanished from her eyes, clearing her vision. She looked up to see two faces looking down at her. The Toa and Kaira. Kaira was busying herself looking Idris over, making sure she was fine. The Toa was just looking down at her, speaking softly.
“My name is Glace. I’m from Metru Nui. I’m here to help.”
Idris felt unconsciousness closing in. She didn’t care, she could use a nap. Looking up at the Toa, her eyes meet his. With her last waking breath she gave him the message she had wanted to back out in the ocean.
Sleep had never felt so good.