Template:Writer Template:Fiction Nightfall is a story serial in the Gigas Magna Storyline set in the Matoran Universe. It details Nightwatcher's mission to hunt for the Nui Stone, the rise of Dark Talon, and Leviathos' manipulation into attacking Metru Nui.
The rain fell in great clumps too large to be called raindrops. The skies above Destral were opened fully to the precipitation streaming down from the heavens, and a great massing of clouds had come together spontaneously in the sky, something that one would normally believe to be a freak of nature. As a matter of fact, it was the result of a major malfunction in one of the more important weather control systems inside the Mata Nui robot, which the Glatorian pilots stationed in the core processor were trying desperately to fix while Mata Nui made his way through interstellar space, preparing to study the planet of Rantax Magna, completely oblivious to the situation taking place inside his robot body. The Glatorian would have the problem fixed before the week was up, of course, but for now the inhabitants of most of the northern Matoran Universe would have to endure a week of freak torrential rainfall.
Makuta Antidax looked out the thick window of the fortress at the downpour, watching as one of the more cowardly guards turned and ran from his post into the Destral gates, leaving his staff behind to soak in the rain. Antidax watched as the guard raced inside, and with a frightened facial expression that one would normally have while you were being chased by a large Tahtorak herd across the Northern Continent, grabbed one of his superior officers by the shoulder and pointed upwards, shouting something that Antidax was unable to hear through the window. The superior officer was clearly greatly annoyed by this, and after shouting something that Antidax supposed was somewhere along the lines of “It’s just rain, you idiot,” he reached for his long staff and began beating the guard sharply with it on the back. Antidax chuckled to himself lightly and closed the blinds.
He turned around sharply, as if he almost expected someone to be there, and then sighed almost exasperatingly once he saw that there was not a soul present. He began pacing on the marble floor that covered the room, and at one point extended his arm to slowly lay his claws over the smooth surface of the long rectangular conference table that had so carefully been carved from the same marble as the floor. To an outside observer, the sight may have appeared strange. The table was unusually long, and there were only two wooden chairs, one on each end, facing one another.
As Antidax let go of the table with his left hand, he put his other hand to the stone wall, and stopped pacing to face it. He looked at the wall for a moment, fingering it delicately as though reaching for some hidden impression, but he found none; it was just as smooth as the table. He let go, turning around again, again looking as if he expected to see someone. He was waiting carefully, waiting for a being whom he had summoned here. He was a bounty hunter, but he was not affiliated with the Dark Hunters, as one may have thought. He had no need for a leader or comrades; he was a loner, a wanderer. Of course, Antidax found that of little importance; all he cared about was whether he was a good bounty hunter or not.
And, if even the first thing he had heard about this bounty hunter through his aides, sources, and friends (or at least that was what they thought themselves; Antidax had no friends) was true, this Nightwatcher was nothing short of being the best bounty hunter and mercenary in the known universe.
He had heard that the bounty hunter was terrible and merciless, and, to top it off, he was terribly blunt, even to the point that he would sometimes deliberately warn his target that he was coming in order to allow them to prepare defenses, and then he would arrive to tear through them. There were stories that this bounty hunter was so cunning that when he was assigned to take down an organization left from the old Barraki Islands War, he tricked its members into turning against one another until there was not a single one left, without even taking out his sword. He was supposed to be terribly powerful, too; there were rumors that, despite the fact that he was only a Toa, he had access to all of the Kraata powers (and more), but he had greater control over them than any Makuta.
But of course, these were rumors and stories, and rumors and stories could easily be made up. Therefore, Antidax did not believe a word of them. But if they were true, then this bounty hunter could succeed in his mission without any cost to Antidax (except, of course, the fee the bounty hunter asked for his services). Of course, if the stories were a large number of terrible lies, then the bounty hunter would go down — and again, it would be at no cost to his employer.
So why was he so worried?
Antidax shook himself. He was brooding again, and when he was brooding—
He looked up for a moment, and only barely managed to contain his gasp of surprise. Across from him, sitting in the chair of the conference table opposite to his, was a large, muscular, heavily armored being that completely defied Antidax’s original expectations. This was clearly no ordinary Toa; indeed, he did not look remotely like any one he had ever seen before.
He stared for a moment at the bounty hunter, who had his elbow on the marble conference table and was leaning his head on it, looking so bored it appeared to Antidax as if he was going to yawn any second. With the hand that was not supporting his chin, he was tapping his fingers repeatedly on the tabletop. He inclined his head, laying down his arm, and looked squarely back at the Makuta with a pair of chilling green eyes that seemed to reach out from beneath his mask and grab Antidax by the throat...
“Please,” said the bounty hunter smoothly in a cold voice that made it sound as if Antidax were already in his claws, “sit down.”
Too startled and flustered to register annoyance at being told to sit down in his own conference room, Antidax pulled out the remaining chair and sat.
“How,” said Antidax, hoping his voice wasn’t quavering as much as the rest of his body was, “did you get past the security system?”
“I teleported in here.”
“That’s impossible. Nothing can get past Destral’s teleportation shield.”
“Are you insulting me?” said Nightwatcher, tilting his head again in an oddly bird-like manner. “I assure you that most bounty hunters don’t react very well to being called nothing. I most definitely can get past the teleportation shield, and unless my vision is faulty, I don’t look much like nothing, do I?”
“That’s not what I meant,” stammered Antidax, though why he wanted to apologize he was not entirely sure. The bounty hunter had awakened some part of his brain that he had not felt… ever. Not even Baterra Magnus, who was probably the most intimidating being other than himself that he knew, had not been able to manipulate him in such a way.
“Good,” said Nightwatcher. “And for your information, your ‘security system’ is so awful that I believe I could breach removed without the use of my arms and legs, and just possibly my head as well. Why no one’s breached this fortress already is beyond my comprehension, or at least as close to beyond my comprehension as is physically possible.”
Antidax remembered the foolish guard outside in the rain. “I have to agree,” he said.
“Now,” Nightwatcher said, all the mock tiredness and boredom leaving his voice, “why have you summoned me here?” He blinked pointedly, tilting his head and staring at him, and it suddenly occurred to Antidax that the bounty hunter had not yet blinked at all. The realization made Antidax blink himself a few times, and Nightwatcher looked oddly satisfied by this.
“Er, yes,” Antidax responded. “I would like to send you on a mission.”
“No, really?” Nightwatcher answered sarcastically. “I thought you were going to send me to the market to buy some fish from Ga-Metru. Please, get on with it before I become annoyed.”
“Ah,” said Nightwatcher. “You’re a traitor to the Brotherhood. I love traitors. Do you know how much fun it is to watch people betray one another? So,” he added, just as Antidax had opened his mouth to continue, “I suppose you want me to bring it to you when I’m done.”
“Precisely,” said Antidax. “But please bear in mind that this will be very risky. You’re going up against the Brotherhood of Makuta, not some lowlife that someone wants dead for no particular reason. I assure you, they have hundreds of guards, and there are dangers which I do not fully understand. Probably, there are a large number of traps, and—”
“Spare me the lecture, Great Being,” hissed the bounty hunter, and Antidax felt a sudden shock; no one, no one, could possibly have known his true identity. He was one of the creators of the Matoran Universe, and had fled to it after he betrayed his brothers. Luckily, he was able to pass off well enough as a Makuta to avoid attracting too much suspicion, because, after all, not many people there knew what a Great Being looked like. “I am completely prepared to handle anything that comes my way, and more.”
“All the same,” Antidax said, “there may even be Makuta guarding the island. I don’t want you to have to go against them…”
Nightwatcher, of course, didn’t fall for Antidax’s words for a second. “That’s what you want, I suppose. You’re a traitor for the Brotherhood, and you want me to kill as many of its members as possible while I retrieve a powerful artifact, the loss of which is something that could cripple them?”
“Precisely.” Antidax nodded soundly, glad that his point had been conveyed in such few words. “Take as long as you want; I suppose that this will be a very hard mission, and I want to give you some time to prepare.
“Listen, if you wanted me to, I could teleport in, grab the thing, kill a decent number of Makuta, and teleport out. There. Job done. But I’m not interested; I want to go after the Brotherhood with artistry. Do you mind if I take, say, a week?”
“Artistry?” said Antidax, wondering what Nightwatcher had in mind. “Very well. You have one week. No excuses if you fail.”
“Excuses?” hissed Nightwatcher in reply. “Who do you think I am? Some common assassin? I am no common assassin. I am Nightwatcher. Now, I would like to know how much you’re going to pay me.”
“Ten thousand for the advance,” said Antidax. “You get forty thousand more once the job’s done, but only if it’s done, understand?”
He was expecting Nightwatcher to respond angrily and demand that he be paid more, but instead, to Antidax’s mild surprise, the Toa nodded, fixing his green eyes on Antidax intently with an almost hungry look in his eye. “That is acceptable.”
“Good, then,” said Antidax, blinking as he raised himself from his chair. In that instant, Nightwatcher vanished into thin air. Antidax looked dumbly at the chair for a moment, confused, wondering why the bounty hunter had not remained to collect his widgets.
He stood, collecting himself. There had been something so strange about him, much more than simply intimidating. It bothered him; as a Great Being, he shouldn’t be intimidated by a Toa, and he most definitely should not have been so… moved…
His thoughts were interrupted by a pair of sharp raps on the door of the room. Antidax blearily shook his head, feeling as if he had just woken from a troublesome dream, and took a step toward the door. Before he could reach it, a gentle telekinetic push from the being on the other side opened it, and his two accomplices, Velnax and Baterra Magnus, entered.
“I just wanted to see how the meeting went,” hissed Baterra Magnus, the cold voice reminding him ever so slightly of that of the bounty hunter. Baterra Magnus was, so he claimed, a being from the future, come to aid Antidax in his takeover of the universe for reasons he refused to reveal; all he was willing to say to anyone was that one day, a terrible cataclysm would occur, and he had come back in time to prevent it. Antidax was not quite sure whether to believe him or not, but he did understand that the robot was in fact willing to help him, and his mysterious abilities made him a very helpful ally.
“Remind me,” said Velnax, “why couldn’t you send me or Baterra Magnus to do this instead? I’d love to kill a Makuta or two.”
Velnax was a Kodax, a Makuta prototype, a being that he himself had created, thousands of years ago on Spherus Magna. He was terribly loyal, and he made a useful servant. One day, when the time was right, Velnax would become the acting leader of the Order of Darkness, an organization designed to… replace… the Brotherhood of Makuta. For now, he was Antidax’s spy, and when the Brotherhood sent him on missions, Velnax secretly reported to him, only to Antidax he would reveal far more than to his Makuta superiors.
To Velnax’s question, Antidax already had an answer.
“I cannot risk the possibility of revealing our order’s existence yet, or at least not until the proper time. If you were to be captured, then I would have to kill you to keep the secret. And if Baterra Magnus here were to go, he would arouse suspicion. He is not supposed to exist. No, bounty hunters are better; if they die, it shall be of no loss to us, and they can be used to do jobs that the rest of us cannot be spared to do.”
Velnax nodded, satisfied, and clasped his hands together behind his back in order to show that he had no further inquiries. Baterra Magnus piped up again, speaking in his customary raspy, guttural tone: “And in case you were wondering how the bounty hunter is to get his advance, I would like to report that he took them from your personal vault.”
“What?” Antidax spluttered, taken completely off guard.
“Don’t worry,” said Baterra Magnus calmly. “From what I’ve heard, he seems to be honest, almost to the point of insanity. He’ll never break his word. If he wants to, he’ll find loopholes, but if he says he’ll do something, he will. I’m certain that he can be trusted, at least for now.”
“I’m not,” said Antidax, grimacing. “He’s so arrogant, so sure of himself, that I can’t help but believe that he was lying. You weren’t there. He talked about killing Makuta in the way one of us would talk of killing an ant. No one is that powerful.”
“I am that powerful,” said the Baterra, looking both amused and irritated.
Antidax ignored him. “I just can’t help but believe that either he’s trying to cheat us into thinking he’s that powerful when he actually isn’t, or he actually is that strong. I don’t know which would be worse.”
“You sound worried,” said the robot perceptively. “You should get some rest. And Antidax, you sound... uncertain… of this bounty hunter’s abilities. You have yet to see what he can do. You shall see soon how strong he is.”
Antidax opened the door, stepping past Velnax to pass through the doorway, departing for the larger Brotherhood fortress. He turned around for a moment, looking in between Velnax and Baterra Magnus.
“And that,” he said, “is what I am afraid of.”
Toa Vinax slipped carefully under the electrically charged fence that surrounded the tower. He lightly stepped on the rain-soaked grass, and as he turned around his eyes gleamed in the darkness. With a wave of his hand, he motioned for his companions to follow, and one by one, the members of the Order of Mata Nui crept under the barbed fence and joined the Toa of Lightning as the rain soaked the ground around them even more thoroughly.
Without a word, Vinax and his teammates crept slowly on their hands and knees up the mud-covered slope, as silent as the night itself, while the rain poured down hard upon their backs. A searchlight passed perilously close by, and the three beings froze as the beam of light intently focused itself on the nearby grass for a moment, but then it continued on, searching through the night for anyone that dared enter Dark Talon’s domain. Vinax breathed a silent sigh of relief and ordered his team to continue, and thus the strike team silently followed their leader up the muddy slope.
At last, after a period of time that could have been anything from a minute to an hour, they reached the top of the hill, and they were able to see the source of the searchlights. Resting on top of the hill like a bird perched on the upper branches of a tree was the one building on this small island, a massive stone fortress that stretched up into the heavens, rising to touch the clouds that hovered menacingly overhead. Illuminated dimly by its own searchlights, which were prowling up and down the side of the hill like predators searching for their prey, one could see a thick, windowless spire arching into the sky, beneath it a seemingly impenetrable mass of rock, around which guards prowled with weapons at the ready.
This was the storehouse of the Talon. This was the great safe, the vault, for the largest criminal empire in the Matoran Universe. Impenetrable, it was equipped with the highest technology available, for Dark Talon had a great number of resources, and they would use them all to protect their deepest secrets. To enter such a formidable building was a thing unheard of, yet that was what the strike team from the Order of Mata Nui intended to do.
One of the strike team members, a member of the race that made its home on Stelt, looked up at Vinax questioningly from his point a few bio beneath him on the slopes. Vinax understood and nodded, and the team began to creep onward. Evading the countless searchlights and guards would most definitely be no easy task; this was why Vinax had personally been sent to lead the mission. He was not usually one for easy tasks.
Slowly, they inched across the plain, drawing ever closer to their target. Lightning flashed down from the sky, illuminating the structure and making it look even more imposing. Thunder followed half a second later, roaring loudly over the island as Vinax’s team crept, still on hands and knees, over the dirt towards the base. They had to stop more often now, laying flat and motionless on the ground whenever a searchlight came within twenty bio of them. This happened often, and after a time it seemed as if they had not drawn any closer to their goal. But it was clear that they had not been seen, or at least not yet, and so long as they were not seen their mission could not fail.
After what seemed like ages, the three beings passed close enough to the fortress that there were no more searchlights; instead, the security was dominated by groups of guards, standing silently at their posts for an invasion that probably none of them expected to come. However, Vinax knew that they could not yet reveal themselves; the guards were probably expert shots with the plasma cannons each of them had mounted on their shoulder, and if any of the strike team was seen, they would immediately send a message to the command tower — the place from which the searchlights were coming — and then a squad of troopers, or worse, would come down. The strike team would probably escape with their lives, being the skilled Order members that they were, but there would be no chance of retrieving the information.
And they couldn’t shoot the guards either. On their earlier reconnaissance missions, they had learned that all the guards were equipped with life sensors which relayed information directly back to the command center on top of the tower, meaning that if any of the guards went down, the command center would know.
Which meant that the strike team had to make its way past the guards and security system completely unnoticed, which seemed a bit of a long shot. Of course, Vinax understood the dangers, as he always did, and most of the time he knew how to get out of them.
Fifty bio from where the guards were stationed at regular intervals along the fortress walls, Vinax motioned for the two beings behind him, one Reptisapean and one Steltian, to pause. Both beings instantly did so, and asked no further questions. Up to this point, at least, they had rehearsed the mission more than once, and even had they not known what Vinax was planning to do, they still would have followed his instructions. Concentrating, Vinax closed his eyes and willed one of the lightning blasts to come lower than the rest, going down through the moist midnight air and striking the ground in a burst of electricity, just two bio from where the nearest guards had been standing. A brilliant flash lit the air for a microsecond, followed by a wall of sound, and when the strike team had blinked the spots out of their eyes the guards closest to the lightning bolt were lying on the ground, weapons thrown far away from them, unconscious from the devastating force of the lightning.
“Twenty seconds,” murmured Vinax, and that was all the strike team needed. The number was the estimated time it would take for the nearby guards to react, race to where the lightning bolt had struck, and reach them, so the strike team required no encouragement as they raced as fast as their well-toned legs could carry them towards the building. There was no door; beings who wanted to get in and out of the base were forced to teleport, using a special teleportation frequency to get through the teleportation shield, but the wall had been blasted open by the force of the lightning, allowing the three of them to jump through the hole before the guards could arrive. Quickly, Vinax and the Steltian flattened themselves to the inside wall — the Reptisapean, of course, took advantage of her species’ natural agility and flattened herself to the ceiling of the corridor — just before a pair of Vortixx guards could arrive to inspect the situation. The first one picked up the unconscious form of one of the other guards and looked at it closely. He then activated his comm device, speaking clearly into it while the strike team held their breaths in anticipation on the other side of the wall.
“Central command?” said the Vortixx. “There appears to be a situation here.”
Vinax looked towards his teammates. A quick, strained nod told them what they needed to know. If you need to, run.
The Vortixx continued speaking. “It seems that a lightning bolt has struck down here. Some of our guards are unconscious, and there’s a hole in the fortress wall.”
A garbled reply that neither Vinax nor the other two could quite make out came through the comm device.
“No,” said the Vortixx, “I don’t know how it happened.”
Another garbled reply.
“Yes, I know that your big command center is a giant lightning rod, and that it should be impossible. I’m not stupid.
“No, I don’t know how it could have happened. I’m no scientist. Are you sure there’s no reasonable explanation for this?”
The communications device gave a long, unintelligible answer.
“Okay, then,” said the Vortixx, who sounded more than a little irritated. “Do you want me to check out the hole?”
Vinax looked towards his companions. The Steltian was ready to make a break for it, but he caught his orange eyes and softly mouthed, Wait. The Reptisapean remained where he was, her camouflaging process now complete; his armor now was the exact same color and pattern as the low stone ceiling, and had Vinax not already known he was there, he was unsure whether he would have noticed the unmoving being unless he had looked very closely at that one spot from multiple angles.
“Okay, then,” said the Vortixx guard on the other side of the wall, and Vinax found himself somewhat annoyed at the fact that they were separated by a whole two feet of solid rock and the most he could do was hear him. “I’ll check it out.”
Vinax looked toward the Steltian again, but before he could turn to nod, the Reptisapean spontaneously did a very risky thing: she jumped down from the ceiling, and before the Vortixx had time to step inside to look around, she placed herself squarely between the Vortixx and the rest of the strike team. Vinax did not have time to reprimand him before the Vortixx stepped inside, and they could not possibly run without revealing themselves.
It took Vinax two full seconds to realize that the reason he could see the Vortixx was that he was looking through his Reptisapean companion. It took Vinax two more seconds to realize why the guard had not yet reacted to their presence; the Reptisapean was using her camouflaging abilities to project a false image through hr own body, so that all the guard could see was an empty corridor that faded into darkness. Of course, if the guard inspected a bit more closely, he would see around the Reptisapean’s body and be able to look squarely at the Toa and the Steltian, so all in all Vinax decided it was very lucky that the unconscious guards outside chose that particular moment to be awakened by the chilly downpour. The Vortixx rushed outside to help them, and Vinax wasted no time in rushing through the corridor towards the steps that he knew led to the main storage area. The other members of his team followed, the Reptisapean going last, ready to shield them with her illusion should the Vortixx return. However, they never saw the guard, and so they raced up the steps towards their goal.
Vinax stopped them before they could reach the top of the steps, moving his arm and pointing to indicate a small square object that jutted out from the wall. “Short-range heat sensor,” he whispered. “Gantoris, come over here and work your magic.”
The Steltian, Gantoris, nodded, and with a smile on his face stepped silently past Vinax as the Toa moved back so as to allow him to pass. Gantoris was one of the Order’s foremost electronics experts, and everyone knew it, no one more than himself. He reached into the pack that he carried on his belt at all times, reaching for a small piece of equipment. Quickly, he took out a small bottle filled with a strange orange liquid and equipped with a spray nozzle, and with one swift movement, he sprayed the heat sensor with his liquid, which fooled it into believing that the temperature remained at normal, then carefully removed the protective canister from the wall, unscrewing the bolts that held it there, to reveal a large collection of wires of all sorts of different colors. Vinax watched as he took out another piece of equipment, a small electronic device that Gantoris took wherever he went, and the Steltian pressed a button on its side, uncapping it and revealing a thin needle that came out of its top. With the utmost care, Gantoris took his device and slowly inserted it, needle-first, into the wire. The device unfolded automatically, revealing a digital display panel, and Gantoris selected a few things on the panel before removing the device from the wire, put it back into its canister on his belt, and slowly replaced the protective canister that belonged to the heat sensor. The entire operation took no more than five minutes.
“Job done,” said Gantoris in a deep voice, no longer bothering to speak in a whisper. “All the security feeds are set on a continuous loop. We can now keep going without fear of detection.”
“Perfect,” said Vinax, satisfied. “We had better hurry. There isn’t much time.”
Abandoning all stealth now that there was no chance of being detected, the Toa of Lightning rushed through the corridors, which gradually began to incline upward. They passed by numerous forms of security, including sensors and lasers, and (so Gantoris assured them) there were traps everywhere, but they were all turned off. The base’s weakness was that all of its internal security systems relied on advanced, next-generation technology, which would have been an advantage instead had there not been the problem that other beings could be more competent with advanced, next-generation technology than Dark Talon was.
At last, after a long spiral upwards and downwards that seemed to come to no end, the strike team found what they were looking for.
They stepped into a colossal room, so large it almost rivaled some of Daxia’s smaller buildings in size. Unlike the rest of the building, the walls, floor, and ceiling were made exclusively of a smooth, rare metal, which (though the strike team was careful not to touch it) appeared to be tremendously strong. But the most shocking thing about the room was not what it was made of, but what was kept inside. And that was indeed something to marvel at.
A massive sphere of glowing energy, its energies contained only by a thick glass ball that was about three times bigger than Gantoris was, lit the room, suspended on a large wooden pillar stationed at the room’s exact center. Around it was a series of dusty, organized wooden shelves, each big enough to crush Axonn should they ever fall, with thousands of wooden drawers inside them. The sight reminded Vinax of something he had seen in the Order library once. But that was not nearly the most interesting thing in the room.
Thousands and thousands of objects littered the room, suspended on shelves or more often simply laying on the floor, making the room look more like a treasure vault than anything. And while the items there were not forms of ancient currency, they were treasures in their own way, each of them priceless beyond imagining. There was a spear lying on the ground near the entrance that one would have dismissed as garbage, but in reality it was actually a terribly powerful Spear of Fusion; there was a transparent air-proof cage leaning against one of the shelves, filled with some kind of foul green liquid; there was a suit of armor leaning against one of the walls, which could have passed off as an Exo-Toa suit had it not been at least ten times as big.
“Amazing,” said the Reptisapean, her blue eyes reflecting the intense yellow light, scanning the room in a vain effort to see all the wonders that were contained there. “It makes one wonder…”
“Now’s not the time, Ion,” said Vinax brusquely, looking as if he cared nothing for anything inside their room except themselves. “We need to accomplish our mission. Time is running out.”
Gantoris stepped to his side. “Very well, then. We have what we came for. What now? How do we take all of this to Daxia without letting Dark Talon know?”
This was the part of the plan that Vinax had worried about. He had refused to tell any of his subordinates of what his eventual plans were, as he was worried that they wouldn’t react well. Now it appeared that he had been wrong, that he should have told them earlier, so as to make this news less crushing.
“We can’t. We have to destroy it,” said Vinax flatly.
Gantoris and Ion turned around to face him, not bothering to hide their obvious incredulity. Ion was the first to speak:
"We can't take this back to Daxia," Vinax answered in a level tone, looking over his teammates with stern, cold green eyes. "It must be destroyed along with the fortress."
Gantoris and Ion continued looking at him, but after a moment they nodded their heads and looked down at the floor. "I understand, Vinax," said Gantoris in his deep voice. "How do we carry out the mission?"
Vinax heaved an internal sigh of relief. Gantoris and Ion had clearly not liked the plan, just like he had voiced his doubts when being consulted for the mission, but at least the doubts had not deteriorated into open rebellion.
"One of our new protium grenades," Vinax answered, showing to his teammates the small metal globe-like object he had been keeping in his hand as they came up the hill. It was small enough to fit in the palm of one's hand, and its surface was covered in deep grooves that criss-crossed across its surface. A single small button jutted out from the globe's surface, which, if pressed, would activate the internal countdown. When the timer ran out, the matter and antimatter held securely inside the device by a magnetic field would touch when the field was deactivated, and a cataclysmic rush of energy would obliterate anything in its surroundings. "Set to fifteen minutes. All we have to do is get out of here before the time's up and—"
"Watch out!" yelled Ion, and both she and Gantoris suddenly sprinted in his direction, weapons unsheathed and at the ready. Vinax turned around, raising his sword, but suddenly his body was tightly gripped by a powerful force, and he found himself looking up at the massive Exo-Toa-like machine.
"Defense program activated," said the robot, and suddenly large creaking noises began as the robot's rusty joints and hinges began to move and Vinax felt the pressure on his chest as a metal wall began to crush him.
Then, miraculously, he was dropped. Ion, apparently, had gotten lucky and hit a weak point in the armor. He fell to the floor and did not get up for a few seconds, still unsure whether he was really still alive. Then a massive foot began to come down from the sky nearby, and Vinax rolled out of the way to escape it, getting up and grabbing one of the weapons he had dropped.
Ion and Gantoris, meanwhile, were fighting for their lives. The spiky armor that covered the robot continued to reveal weapons hidden beneath it, and a massive assortment of projectiles was being sent in all directions, which Gantoris and Ion only barely managed to avoid as they fired back with their hand-held plasma launchers. It was clear that the only reason none of them were dead yet was that the Exo-Toa's targeting programs seemed to have decayed with age.
It was clear to Vinax that there was no way to win the battle by fighting, so he began to think up an alternative solution while his teammates exchanged plasma blasts with the massive robot. Apparently, the robot did not seem to consider him a threat now that the protium grenade was—
The protium grenade...
Where was it? He looked around the floor of the room, but it was nowhere to be found; then, realizing the only plausible alternative, he looked up. And there, somewhere very high above his head, was a large robotic arm, holding a minute silver object in its hand while the other was firing massive bursts of energy from its launcher.
The plan was clear to Vinax now. There was not much he could do, so he decided to take one of the few options remaining to him.
He ran directly for the robot.
Dodging some of the more badly-aimed plasma beams from Gantoris, he raced towards the mechanical suit, stopping at its left foot, where he began to look for a handhold. The robot suddenly seemed to take notice of the yellow Toa behind it, and slowly it began to turn around, and as it stepped back Vinax decided to take his chances, and jumped for a handhold on the leg as it moved. He felt himself dangling from his hand, his fingers grabbing onto the small mechanical part as the colossus moved, and through the robot's armor he felt the impact of plasma blasts. At last, the robot stopped moving, and Vinax began to climb up the robot's leg as if it were the rock wall that was in the training area for new Order of Mata Nui members. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Ion and Gantoris on the other side of the room, hiding behind one of the shelves as the robot fired precise bursts of energy, intent on smashing Ion and Vinax for a bit.
Then, for a moment, the robot stopped moving altogether. The silence caused by the lack of plasma beams being fired was somehow unnerving, and Vinax realized that the robot was somehow planning something. He continued climbing, getting up to the top of the leg and trying not to look down.
Suddenly, just as he was reaching for another handhold, a metal hatch just above him on the pelvis area of the robot in front of him began lifting. Vinax grabbed onto it and jumped for another handhold, but he found that to be a very large mistake when he looked down for half a second.
The metal hatch contained an energy weapon.
It fired again.
Vinax let go of the robot's back, plunging down into space, but his fall was broken by a large robotic hand which reached out to grab him. He was dimly aware of Gantoris and Ion firing at the robot again, but his attention was for the most part fixated on the massive mechanical suit that was picking him up in an opened hand.
"Annoying creature," hissed the robot, bringing the Toa of Lightning up to head level to look him squarely in the eyes. "You shall be disposed of."
"I thought Exo-Toa weren't programmed for Matoran speech," Vinax responded, and with a swift movement he stabbed his sword into the robot's hand, penetrating up to the hilt. The robot roared — apparently it could feel pain as well — and moved its arm swiftly through the air, dropping Vinax—
And in the Toa of Lightning's palm was a small silver antimatter grenade.
Vinax sped through the air, looking down, and only now fully appreciating truly how tall the robot was. His fall was broken, luckily, by Ion, who jumped and caught Vinax as he fell. Vinax landed on top of her, stunned, but at least he had been spared the deadly impact.
Ion got up, apparently uninjured, and picked up the grenade in her palm, pressing the button that activated it. She helped Vinax to his feet, just in time to dodge a massive shelf with countless priceless artifacts that looked very much like it had been picked up and thrown at them.
"Gantoris!" she shouted. "Let's go!"
The Steltian followed, racing after them down the corridor at top speed. Th Exo-Toa continued hurling things at them, but it had grown clumsy and was repeatedly missing. With a frustrated roar, it ran after them as the three beings raced down the corridor, but it was too narrow for it to pass through; instead, it began firing bolts of energy from the sole arm that it could fit into the passageway. But by that time, the Order strike team had turned a corner, and were gone from view.
Vinax groaned, and Ion decided to stop carrying him and let go. Vinax stumbled to his knees, looking blearily around; he was still stunned from the impact. There was a throbbing pain in his back, and he was covered with bruises everywhere, but he had miraculously not been severely harmed after being dropped twenty bio.
"Well, that," Vinax groaned, getting to his feet and looking around at his companions, "did not go quite as expected..."
"We're still not out yet," Gantoris pointed out. "We have ten minutes."
"Wonderful," Vinax hissed.
"Do you want me to carry you?" said Ion, looking at Vinax teasingly.
"No," said Vinax. After all, he was supposed to be in charge here. "Let's go." He started down the corridor.
"What are you doing?" said Gantoris. "If we're getting out of here, we have to do it quickly." And with that, Gantoris neatly punched a hole through the wall, and without looking back at either of his teammates, jumped through the hole outside. Ion looked back at Vinax, shrugged, and followed the Steltian. Vinax, cursing Steltian arrogance, shook his head in disbelief and followed.
They were out on the grassy hill outside. The moon was already setting in the sky; Vinax was surprised at how much time had passed on their mission. Ion was already sprinting into the darkness, Gantoris following behind, and Vinax decided to take the liberty to follow.
"Hey, you!" boomed a loud voice, and Vinax did not need to look in its direction to find that it was one of the Vortixx guards. "What are you doing? Get back to your post!"
Vinax sighed in relief. They hadn't started to attack him yet. Of course, they would now...
"Sorry!" he said in a false high-pitched voice. "I quit!" He began running again, knowing full well that a large number of Vortixx were running after him — but also knowing that he was probably faster than they were. Despite his injuries, he sped at full tilt through the grass. Ion and Gantoris were no longer is sight, but that was of no consequence; he knew exactly where they were going.
Without warning, a powerful burst of energy threw Vinax off his feet. For a moment, he thought that this island had suffered an earthquake, but when he glanced behind him as he stood up to see if the Vortixx were still following him, he saw the true source of the energy; a massive fireball, gleaming a blindingly bright white, had risen high above where the fortress had been seconds before, blossoming upward towards the rainclouds, glistening with a bright flame. Debris began falling across the area like meteorites — the only parts that remained of the great citadel — and Vinax began to hurry; he was unsure if the Vortixx was following him or not, but he simply wished to get away from the scene of destruction.
In the distance, he could see the sandy beaches of the unnamed island, and Vinax raced towards them, towards a point beyond the island's teleportation field (which had probably been deactivated now anyway by the tower's destruction). Standing there, illuminated by the light of the not-that-far-away fireball, were three beings: Ion and Gantoris, his companions, and the Order operative Botar.
"You're late," Botar growled, ears twitching in irritation as he looked down at Vinax. "This mission was supposed to be over an hour ago."
"We ran into some... complications," Vinax responded. "Get us out of here."
"Gladly," Botar snarled, and one moment Vinax found himself looking back at the mushrooming pillar of flame that rose over the island, rain falling in his face, and the next he was in the dimensional void, and everything was gone.
Nightwatcher listened to the sound of the pounding rain as he sat in his underground hideout on Gaahku-Nui. It was not very large; it was about the size of a rather cheap Matoran hut. Of course, he didn't really need it. He never slept, so he never needed a quarters for the night, and he never relaxed, so there was no place to go to to find peace. No, his hideout was a midway point. He usually never stayed there for more than half an hour at a time, and that was only to deposit widgets in the virtually impenetrable vault that he kept beneath the room; no, now he was thinking.
His mind, unmatched by any other in the known universe in capacity and sheer power, processed all the data he had gathered from his experiences in the last few thousand years in mere microseconds; his thousands of missions, all his targets — he remembered in specific detail how each one of them had been dispatched, and even though thousands of years had passed, he remembered his first mission in the Night Gatherers as vividly as he remembered the previous hour. And as he looked through his databank of knowledge, he wondered what he was going to do to humiliate the Brotherhood of Makuta.
He had never liked the Brotherhood. He had a running grudge against one of the members, whom he had met thousands of years before and remained the only target he had ever failed to defeat: An immortal named Matata. After defeating Nightwatcher, Matata had "taken an interest" to him, and continued to meddle in the bounty hunter's affairs.
As for the rest of the Brotherhood, he found them to be terrible fools, prancing around and doing Teridax's bidding even as Teridax planned to eliminate them once his Plan was finished. They were weaklings, as well, though most of the more arrogant ones (which were all of them) remained ignorant of that, and still attempted to reach unattainable goals that were probably really illusions, such as "absolute power" and all that nonsense. They were, Nightwatcher had long believed, total imbeciles.
Of course, since Nightwatcher considered nine hundred, ninety-nine thousand, nine hundred ninety-nine beings out of a million to be total imbeciles, that didn't matter very much.
So now, here he was, trying to find the best way to humiliate them. He mulled the thoughts over and over in his mind, even though he had already known what he was going to do before he even started thinking. He was going to embarrass the Brotherhood of Makuta in the most humiliating way possible. He wasn't going to take them down altogether; then there would be no one left for the inhabitants of the Matoran Universe to laugh at. No, he was going to use his favorite strategy of all...
A microsecond later, Nightwatcher smiled, the crooked grin contorting his thin mouth, and stood up from his chair. Yes, that would be most satisfactory.
It was time to go to Destral.
The bounty hunter vanished without warning, disappearing into the purple void, headed for an island nearby. His scattered atoms flew through space, and had the scattered atoms had a mouth, it would have smiled all the more broadly...
The pressure of the void was gone, the vacuum no more, and Vinax could breathe again. He looked around, and saw what he expected to see: A myriad of beings of different species, walking around the island, doing their various duties, despite the heavy rain and the sweltering Daxia heat, even in the night.
"Good luck," said Botar, who was clearly still annoyed at their tardiness. The tall being walked away, ears still twitching in irritation, presumably for another mission. Does he ever sleep? Vinax wondered.
"What do we do now?" said Ion.
"We wait to be addressed," Vinax answered. Gantoris shuffled his feet uncomfortably, and the three beings stood in the rain for a short time, so much water pouring over their bodies that it began to feel like they would hardly feel different if they jumped into the sea. And still they waited, Vinax staring into the distance and clasping his hands behind his back, with the rainfall only interrupted by Gantoris' occasional shuffling of feet or a passing Order member.
"Vinax!" called a somewhat high-pitched voice from behind him, and Vinax turned to see a Gekkan stumbling towards him. "Helryx requests your audience immediately!"
Vinax felt the gazes of Ion and Gantoris boring into him; apparently, neither of them had had any idea that the leader of the Order of Mata Nui felt it her personal duty to attend to this matter. However, neither had Vinax, so he had no answers to the questions he was sure were racing through his teammates' minds just like they were his own.
"Helryx wants to see us personally?" he inquired, looking the Gekkan in the eyes as the green being slipped in a puddle and nearly fell over while approaching them.
"I'm only the messenger," the Gekkan answered. "If you want answers, you had better ask her."
"Very well," said Vinax, hiding his confusion behind a calm facade. "Would you show us to her quarters?"
The Gekkan nodded briefly and turned around, leading the strike team members through the nearly empty streets of Daxia, a sharp contrast to the hubbub that filled the Order fortress in the daytime. After they passed by a few buildings, the Gekkan turned towards a shaded alley so small that Gantoris was having trouble squeezing through. Matters were not helped by the fact that their guide kept tripping every few paces, falling on the wet pavement once or twice, and Vinax had to be especially careful not to run into him.
"Tell me," said Vinax to the Gekkan in an attempt to make conversation, "what is your name?"
"What is my—?" the Gekkan began, turning around to face Vinax. The momentary distraction was enough to send him slipping on a puddle of water, and the Gekkan had nearly fallen flat on his back when Vinax caught him by the shoulder with one strong arm.
"Thank you," spluttered Vinax's guide, who stood up unsteadily and looked around for a moment, as if he were afraid that he would suddenly be attacked bu some invisible malignant entity. "The name's Xex."
"Ah," said Vinax, suddenly uninterested in continuing the conversation. Either Xex realized this or he completely forgot about the conversation, as he began to lead them through the narrow alley. A few seconds later, they had arrived at teh other end, and Vinax, Ion, and Gantoris found themselves looking up into the great central tower of the Daxia fortress, a tall silver spire that reached up into the clouds as if it were trying to reach the stars themselves. The three of them paused for a moment, and Xex shuffled his feet, reminding them that they still had yet to meet Helryx. Vinax shook his head, clearing his mind of distracting thoughts, and found that the Gekkan was holding open a small door in the wall of the building. Beside it was a much larger one, about three times as high as either of them, which was a clear indication that Toa-sized beings were not the only sort of beings the Order employed.
Vinax stepped inside, not bothering to dry his feet, and found himself looking into a brightly illuminated silver hall with smooth metal walls that were interrupted every once in a while by the presence of a door. The corridor stretched out almost further than the eye could see, until, many bio down, it sharply turned to the left, presumably continuing onward in that direction. Ion and Gantoris stepped in behind him, and Xex slammed the door, stepping forward to guide them to their destination.
Vinax heard a soft whisper in his ear. "Where are we headed?" Ion hissed.
Vinax turned his head to look Ion in the eyes and answer. "I don't know," he confessed flatly. "But we'll see soon enough, won't we?"
From there, they traveled in silence, Xex leading the three beings through the passageway as it changed directions again and again. They saw no other beings there; the central tower appeared as empty as the streets. The only noise was that of their footsteps and breathing, until at last they reached the end of the passage, where a pair of doors were stationed imposingly, looking as if they were challenging him to open them.
"This is the war room of the Order of Mata Nui," said Xex. "Weapons are not allowed in here. I'll have to take them."
Vinax nodded, but did not move to give up his arms — he had lost his sword at the Talon fortress. Ion and Gantoris gave up their plasma cannons, depositing them on the floor by the Gekkan. Gantoris motioned to give up his pack, but Xex shoot his head. "Helryx said you'll need it."
Vinax stepped forward, pushing the doors open, and walked into the war room. It was a massive unadorned metal chamber. A large video screen fully covered the largest wall, and it appeared as if screens for the other two walls were under construction. The screen was covered almost completely with live overhead footage of the Noctian Island known as Gekkak-Nui, now the headquarters of the organization which called itself Dark Talon. Other smaller video displays closer to the bottom of the screen showed the current status of numerous other islands, notably Destral, Odina, and Daxia itself, and at the very bottom was a rapidly changing series of numbers and letters that Vinax recognized as data readouts.
In the center of the room was a small marble table — or at least it looked small compared to the oversized chamber — with thirteen wooden chairs; six on either of the longer ends and one at the table's head. Eight of the chairs were occupied, and the being at the head chair rose to greet them, stepping away from the table and walking towards the three new arrivals to greet them.
"Welcome to our war room," said the being which Vinax instinctively guessed was Helryx. She was not in possession of any of her legendary weapons — her famous spiked mace and shield — but he recognized immediately who she was all the same. Her gray and dark blue armor was scarred from countless battles, and her stern eyes gleamed sharply despite her advancing age. "I am Helryx. You are needed here."
Us? mouthed Gantoris to Vinax. Why us?
Vinax shrugged, and made his way down the six steps towards the chamber. Helryx turned her back and motioned for them to follow, and in single file they continued towards her as they approached the central table. Vinax took the chance and looked at the members of the ruling council, but they largely ignored their presence; their eyes were fixated on Helryx as she strode towards her chair. Helryx motioned for Vinax and the others to stop, and they did so.
"Members of the Order of Mata Nui," she said softly, her cold voice raised to no more than a whisper, "we are now at war.
"These three," she said, gesturing towards Vinax's team, "these three have made the first assault. There is no turning back now. We have destroyed their most precious secrets, and even though they do not know who we are, they know what we want. They shall seek us out, and we will not let them."
"We're going to war?" Ion whispered, a note of fear in her voice. She had only been recruited a few months ago; she was certainly not ready for a conflict.
"Gantoris," Helryx said, turning to the Steltian and addressing him by name. "May I have your datacard?"
Gantoris bent down and plucked the device from his pack, trying to hide his shock at being addressed by name. He held it up to Helryx for her to see and she took it, raising it up high into the air, displaying it for the council to see.
"This datacard contains all the information that Dark Talon had in its databanks!" Helryx said, her voice as quiet as it had been before, and yet in Vinax's ears it seemed as if it could have been a Tahtorak roar. "With this, we can see all of their strategies, all of their plans. We can destroy them from the inside!"
And as the council roared in approval, Vinax's heart sank. Dark Talon was a criminal empire that was just as powerful as the Brotherhood of Makuta. They raided Matoran villages, slaughtered those that dared to resist, and drafted the rest into their army or else made them serve as slaves. They were more brutal than the League of Six Kingdoms... And yet, he wondered if it was truly worth it to go to war at last...
He looked towards his companions, and he saw from their facial expressions that they were thinking the same thing...
What is going to happen now?
Antidax reclined in his private chamber, listening to the sounds of the rain pouring down upon the Destral fortress. He closed his eyes and attempted to lapse into sleep, but the rain kept him awake, and with an unsatisfied groan, he opened them again.
He stood, taking a silent step away, and reached for the wall in the pitch blackness. Darkness was not a problem, of course; he was the creator of the Makuta, and no one knew darkness better than he. He reached for the bookshelf, where he kept the chronicles of the universe, and after grasping a few seconds for the correct one, he slid it from the shelf. With a low creaking noise, the shelf slid away from the wall, and the Great Being stepped in through the hidden door, reaching back to close it behind him, the raindrops ceasing as he passed through the gateway.
It was like a gateway to another world. Gone was the decently designed but not impressive architecture of Destral, the smooth marble floors replaced by a cobblestone-paved walkway. Stalactites hung from the brown ceiling, dripping mineral water onto the stalagmites below. The area was soundless save Antidax's footsteps and the noise of the drops of water dropping down from the tips of the hundreds of upside-down pillars.
Antidax continued on his path, which slowly led downwards, beneath the island of Destral. Only a few beings in all the universe knew of this sacred place, and that was why Antidax always came down here to find solace.
The path continued downward for many bio, and eventually it slowly leveled out to become perfectly flat again. All of a sudden, it ended, opening up into a massive, almost completely empty cave. No stalactites hung from the ceiling; all the rock formations that could be seen were a group of pillars, formed when the stalactites and stalagmites had combined, scattered intermittently across the cave. Antidax let the musty cave smell invade his nostrils as he neared his destination.
At last, the damp but not muddy dirt floor ended, to make way for a great pool of silver liquid, known to the inhabitants of the Matoran Universe as energized protodermis. The pool's surface was completely still, as was the air around him. The area had been undisturbed for millennia. He stood by its surface, watching as the calm sea sat in peace...
He was jerked from his trance by a familiar voice.
"Why is it that you take so much trouble to be at peace? Boredom is bad enough without lengthening it intentionally."
Antidax gasped in surprise and swerved around. "Nightwatcher?"
"Clearly," said the Toa of Shadow in a bored voice.
"What are you doing here?"
"Standing," Nightwatcher answered. "And being irritated. Both boring activities, but sadly necessary ones."
"What do you want?"
"To experience a complete lack of boredom as soon as possible," Nightwatcher answered, clutching a piece of paper — something rarely found in the Matoran Universe — tightly in his talons. He opened his hand, revealing it as an envelope, and he threw it at Antidax, who managed to catch it.
"You are to deliver it to Teridax tonight," said Nightwatcher in what Antidax supposed was what amounted to a pleasant voice, which was a powerful low growl.
"What," said Antidax, eying the package carefully, "is inside this?"
"A very rude, blunt, and threatening message," said Nightwatcher, "which is, of course, to be expected."
"I assume this has something to do with the mission I gave you?" said Antidax, raising an eyebrow.
"Most definitely," said Nightwatcher. "I am very rudely and bluntly threatening your leader. I am telling him exactly what I plan to do. The Brotherhood has seven days before I blast through their defenses and steal the Nui Stone from them."
"You're not making any demands?" said Antidax, surprised. "Then what—"
"I have a personal grudge against that fool Teridax," Nightwatcher hissed. "Now, listen very carefully. You will bring this message personally to your leader, tell him who I am and what my plans are, or else I will do it myself, and I just might... accidentally let a word or two about your plans slip from my mouth. Understand?"
"I'm no messenger," Antidax growled. "I am a Great Being."
"But you're no fool either," Nightwatcher answered, "and I know that if you have even the minutest amount of sense, you'll do as I tell you. Good day, Antidax."
Nightwatcher vanished again as abruptly as he had arrived, leaving Antidax to his thoughts. He paused for a moment, looking again at the small sea of protodermis, and turned around the way he had come to deliver the message to Teridax.
I hired him, Antidax realized, and now he's manipulating me. He's issued a direct challenge to the Brotherhood of Makuta, and it won't go unanswered.
He wondered for a moment whether that was a good thing or a bad thing, and who it would good or bad for. Before he could reach a decision, he returned to his quarters, exiting the massive cave and leaving the great room empty once again.
Necuas stroked his blade softly as he sat in his base on Gaakhu-Nui. The sound of the rain was muffled by the thick stone walls of the top spire of the Brotherhood of Makuta outpost. He sighed and put the blade down, looking around intently in the darkness for something, anything, to divert his attention.
He had been unable to sleep recently; he knew that Dark Talon was planning an attack on Gaakhu-Nui. This was the last of the Noctian Islands that they had not conquered, the last on their unseen checklist. The criminal empire had started on Gekkak-Nui, and from there they had spread north to Noctia, where they had made their base, overthrowing the Enforcers of Noctian Reign and appointing themselves the leaders of the archipelago. They had conquered the other Noctian Islands quickly, until only Gaakhu-Nui remained to fight them.
The problem with Dark Talon might have been solved already if the Brotherhood had sent more resources over to aid them. But they hadn't, possibly because they didn't take the problem seriously. Perhaps they didn't understand that Dark Talon was no longer a large gang led by a Shadow Matoran; it was now a full-fledged criminal organization that was by now almost as large as the Dark Hunters. Or maybe they wanted to just have some fun and watch the Talon armies invade Odina, Archosa, and Nocterra before they finally stepped in and solved the problem. But if it came to that, Necuas wasn't certain whether the Brotherhood would still be able to.
He sighed and stood up, making the decision to leave. There was nothing to do here except silently wait; if he was going to wait, he supposed it would be better to get something done while he was at it. He stepped through the passageway, descending the stone steps towards the lower levels of the citadel. He nodded to an Exo-Toa guard, which saluted him mechanically in response, and then continued down.
He wasn't entirely sure what he wanted to do when he got there. All he knew was that he wanted to do something that was at least marginally less boring than sitting in his chambers all day.
Necuas reached the end of the stairwell and stopped, looking around in the faint light of one of the torches mounted on the wall. He was at an intersection between hallways, and for a moment he swerved around to see if anyone had followed him. This was a ridiculous prospect, of course, but in the last few days he had gotten used to the feeling of paranoia and now welcomed it as normal. Naturally, he saw nothing, so he continued, weapon in hand.
A few minutes later, Necuas reached his destination: another stairwell that led upwards. He climbed up the staircase, careful to make as little sound as possible as if there were some mad demon haunting the fortress. As he approached its end and it made way for a single, short passageway, he could make out a silhouette a few bio ahead. He relaxed when he realized that it was just another of the Exo-Toa guards propped up against the wall, and cursed himself once more for letting the paranoia get to him so badly.
But who could blame him? He had been cooped up here for three months, waiting restlessly for a major Dark Talon assault. He almost longed now for the attack; it had been much too long since he had seen battle. Or anything for that matter, save the dreary insides of the fortress. There had been no break in the monotony whatsoever since the Enforcers of Noctian Reign arrived, demanding help, and he had offered them shelter in there. He wasn't sure entirely why he had done it; the Enforcers could have done well enough without shelter. Perhaps the boredom was softening his heart, but Necuas dismissed that possibility as ridiculous almost immediately.
The passageway opened out, and Necuas breathed in the fresh air as he looked from the battlements to the village of Gaakhu below. He could vaguely make out the outlines of all the stone buildings, and around the center of the village was the Great Temple, where, supposedly, some of the inhabitants could communicate with the Great Spirit. A ridiculous prospect; even if the belief that Mata Nui could hear them was true, there was no logical reason that he would answer back.
He peered further into the distance, and then he could see the great silver sea, and then the faint border that divided it and the land which would have been invisible to almost anyone but a Makuta. He looked at the harbors, the barely discernible trading and fishing ships, the massive balls of plasma that were exploding into existence at the shore—
"Sound the alarm!" Necuas yelled, but before he even finished speaking, he could hear the wailing of alarm bells. The restlessly sleeping beings that inhabited the fortress were stirring now, grabbing the weapons they kept beside their beds, and rushing to action. Within minutes, they would have a legitimate fighting force, and then there would be a chance that they could drive off the Talon.
Finally, the day of battle had come. Necuas didn't know whether he should be relieved or terrified, but he had work to do and that was a fact. He cast one last glance over his shoulder as he sped down the steps again at full tilt, and there he saw, in the distance, the balls of fire produced by the Dark Talon raiders growing larger. Already, no doubt, the invaders were pouring into the streets of Gaakhu, marching grimly towards the fortress that lay directly in their path, ready to overtake it.
He didn't think that this would be his last battle. He was a Makuta, and he could teleport away if he needed to, leaving his soldiers to their grim fates at the Talon's hands. Some would have called it cowardice; he merely thought it the logical thing to do. After all, expendable soldiers were not worth nearly as much to the Brotherhood — and the war effort, if it could be called one; the Brotherhood didn't seem to care one way or another how the war went — as a Makuta.
But a Makuta's worth much less than the universe, he thought grimly, and if the Brotherhood continues to ignore what's happening here, that might be what they're going to lose.
Leviathos awoke to the sounds of battle.
Outside his small home, he could hear the battle roars of beings from several species, the crackling of flames, the screaming of someone unlucky enough to be caught outside. He grabbed the sword that he kept by his bedside and jumped up, looking around to make sure that there was no one inside their building. The room was empty, but the Noctian was far from relieved.
It was time to fight, and there was little Leviathos hated more than fighting. He had enlisted in the Enforcer military sixty years prior, during the beginning of the war with Dark Talon, and he had resigned after seeing his first action. He despised the killing committed by both sides; if there was anything he hated, it was a life being lost.
But now, he thought grimly, it seemed like he might have no choice but to kill.
Nyx was with him half a second later, having also grabbed her weapon. "Dark Talon's here," she hissed.
"I can't believe this is happening," Leviathos murmured. He edged towards the door, behind which lay a whole different world where Dark Talon mercenaries swarmed through the streets, slaying anyone who was unlucky enough to cross their path. "Nyx, stay here."
"Are you crazy?" she growled as she looked at him. Her bright blue eyes, normally calm, were shining with fury. "You're not stupid enough to go out there alone? What do you mean to do?"
"Group up with the Brotherhood and Enforcer military," Leviathos explained, edging intently towards the exit.
"And leave me here?" Nyx looked at him, tilting her head in clear irritation. "Please. Stop trying to be brave. I'm coming with you. Now, come on. We don't have the entire night." She gestured towards the exit.
Leviathos sighed. Of course Nyx was right; she was always right. She had to come along. Besides, wandering alone during a full-scale battle is never a good idea. "Fine, then." Leviathos rushed out. "I don't suppose I need to remind you to be careful."
"You reminding me?" Nyx laughed, following, her sword raised and her bright blue eyes taking in the scene around them. "When has that ever happened?"
Outside was a terrifying spectacle. Fiery explosions permeated the air nearby; probably the result of a new Dark Talon plasma cannon that the criminals were eager to test out. Noctians and Matoran were running for safety from the explosions in the general direction of the Makuta fortress; Leviathos saw as one got unlucky and was hit by a massive burst of plasma that literally came down from the sky, killing him instantly. Leviathos winced at the sight—
And then he saw the Talon approach.
They were not organized like a regular attacking force; they were simply there, a swarm of beings that charged through the island like Rahi, regarding anything in their way as something to be destroyed. They were a like faceless bunch of insects, but not even the fiercest insects would attack Gaakhu-Nui like this. Leviathos stood as if hypnotized, looking at the desecrators of Noctian land and wishing to strike out against them right now, without regard to his own life. But a sudden explosion nearby jerked him back to reality, and Nyx jerked him away from the attacking beings, running at top speed, Leviathos following, the Talon close at their heels.
There was no one in the streets; they were the last to evacuate, and thus had unluckily become the mercenaries' primary targets. He could hear them growl as they approached, as if they were Rahi predators hunting down their prey, and suddenly something flew over Leviathos' head, too close for comfort...
"Look out!" Nyx yelled, bowling Leviathos over and knocking him flat on the paved road. There was a sudden blinding flash of light