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"At last, after hundreds of years, he had reached the day where his abilities would be put to the test in the real world that lay on the other side of the threshold. There were mysteries out there, dangers and enemies lurking in the shadows, and it was now his duty to fight them in the name of justice. To prove himself against the world's deadliest horrors. He was a hero on a journey to upload his principles, to fight for justice, to protect innocence—and he would succeed.
For a brief instant, he wondered whether there was still a chance to turn aside, and he realized that there was still some fear left in him. Fairon immediately quelled it, burying the feeling and crushing it into an icy ball in his heart. There was no turning back now; he had no choice in the matter. Heroes never did.
"
Fairon's thoughts [src]

Template:Fiction The Fairon Chronicles is a novel in the Gigas Magna storyline. It is set mostly in the Matoran universe, and tells of the battles between the Order of Mata Nui and Order of Darkness during the First Order of Darkness War. It mostly focuses on Fairon, a rising star in the Order of Mata Nui, and his adventures with his companions while attempting to rescue the Great Being Brominax.

SynopsisEdit

PrologueEdit

The story opens with the arrival of Toa Flamu, an agent of the Order of Mata Nui, arriving on the floating city of Robotopolis to negotiate with the leader of the Order of Darkness, Makuta Velnax. It is revealed that Velnax is holding the Order members Brominax and Shayla hostage, and will only release them in exchange for aid in hunting down the Keeper of the Elder Prophecies.

The Order of Mata Nui sends a strike team to Robotopolis, only for it to fail to arrive. Velnax declares the Order's move an act of war, and proceeds to have his accomplice Kutrax engage Flamu so as to take him prisoner. In the battle that ensues, Flamu threatens to sacrifice himself to kill Velnax, but is thwarted when Kutrax stabs him in the back.

Day oneEdit

As the day dawns in Daxia, the Order of Mata Nui trainees known as Fairon and Rantu begin a fight with their weapons instructor Dorex, for the stakes of their official induction into the organization. The trainees are victorious, but come to learn that Toa Helryx, the Order leader, has requested to meet them in person to assign them to a classified mission.

Meanwhile, in Cronicia Nui, the captured Shayla is interrogated by her captor Acid. She manages to orchestrate an escape, killing several guards in the process, though eventually finding herself at the mercy of Lizard. However, before she can be recaptured, she escapes by shooting herself into the atmosphere on a pillar of water, though she eventually loses energy and falls.

On Daxia, Helryx gives the new members a briefing as to their mission. They, along with the agent Silver, are to travel to Robotopolis via the shuttle system, which Velnax is using to bring his troops down to the Matoran universe, and use their powers to disable or destroy the Shadowdermis-powered teleportation block system.

StoryEdit

PrologueEdit

The void was spinning. The world around him was nothing but purple and black swirls spiraling together and apart sickeningly, their light coming to his eyes from the undefined boundaries of a boundless expanse while his body turned end over end in a way that made his stomach churn.

Flamu had never liked the feel of teleportation; it was as though he were lost in one of the purple nebulae he had heard one could see through the telescope on the island of Mata Nui. The pressure, slightly above what he was used to in normal gravity, wasn't enjoyable either, but the true terror was the lack of reference points. He could be anywhere in this emptiness, not that time or space meant a thing in such infinity—for all he knew, hours had passed, but it could just as easily have been a few seconds. “Disconcerting” was too mild a word for it.

He tried to right himself, to fight the dizzying movement that was flipping him slowly throughout this portion of what scholars in his world called the Confusion Dimension, but there was nothing to push against and he continued on his inexorable path. As his nausea increased, the Toa of fire began to consider how it would seem if he vomited after arriving in Robotopolis, in front of Velnax and all his minions. Certainly, that wouldn't be good for the mission.

The mission. Some semblance of reason returned to him. He must focus on the mission, and therefore he must keep himself from vomiting.

The world around him seemed to be spinning faster, the pressure on him increasing until he felt like his chest was being crushed. His body was thrown about, limbs flailing hopelessly like a ragdoll’s, and the colors started to get thrown together into an uncomfortable black. Then there came an explosion of white across his vision, the release of the crushing weight on his body, and the sudden return of gravity as he returned to the real world.

Flamu blinked as he rested on the smooth surface, his sight blurred—there was no more to see than in the confusion dimension, or at least when it came to tangible objects. His eyes were limited to seeing unfocused grains of sand, with no way of knowing what was around him, but his mind instinctively knew. Only none of it mattered now. All there was was the pleasure to be taken in the air and light and heat that surrounded him again, and he cherished these as he took in a great sighing gulp of oxygen.

He collapsed on the floor, his lungs heaving as he took in the older, more familiar, and far preferable world as his vision focused. There was gray, he saw, a gray mass that lay in front of his head, with two dim specks of blue-green light floating eerily on its surface. And as his ears adjusted to the new environment, there was an otherworldly rhythmic noise to be heard, its volume rising and falling steadily.

This gray is refined Protodermis, he thought, compelling his brain to awaken. Those lights are the reflections of your eyes. That noise is your breathing.

He had adjusted now. He was in control. That was good.

Your name is Flamu. You are a Toa of fire. You work for the Order of Mata Nui. You have been sent to Robotopolis on a diplomatic mission.

Robotopolis!

Flamu snapped to attention immediately, jumping up as a harsh, metallic light from above engulfed him and reduced him to blinking again. He staggered, covering his forehead with one hand to block it out while the final adjustments to normalcy came over him, his senses at last operating normally. Silently thanking the Great Beings, he quickly inspected the area around him.

The area he was in—the Robotopolis control room, he recalled from the briefing—was larger than he had anticipated, a bit bigger than an Akilini field. Almost everything in the circular space was made of refined Protodermis, from the polished floor to the rows of control desks that lay in a ring around the room, where Matoran operators sat and were presumably working. All of this was contained in a perfect dome of spotless, unblemished, glass, creating the illusion that there was nothing there.

Outside, the view was truly breathtaking: a blanket of stars, innumerable white pinpricks in the blackness, dappled the sky above. Downward was the more spectacular sight, however; from the first glance it was obvious that he was on the top of a massive tower, which plunged downward for unfathomable distances until it reached ground (or whatever could pass for ground in an orbital station). From there, the ground stretched out for indeterminable distances, littered with what appeared to be buildings. Alien metal spires taller than hills and mysterious globular shapes propped on stilts popped up at irregular intervals across the land, while the rest were of ordinary design the likes of which one could see in Metru Nui, only there were many more of them. These continued in every direction until they suddenly ended, dropping off into a chasm where the vacuum of space suddenly returned, and the planet could be seen as a mesmerizing blue globe a very uncomfortable distance beneath.

“Toa Flamu,” was the sudden serpentine sneer, the being’s mouth twitching as though the sight of his dizzied arrival amused him. “It's about time.”

Having taken in all the information about the surroundings he needed, Flamu turned his attention back to the centerpiece of the room as it spoke. From his studies of the Daxian archives, he recognized this centerpiece as a Makuta easily enough: fully mechanical, with a lean black body coated from head to toe in thick red armor. His arms and legs were long and thick as tree trunks, each of them ending in a hand comprised of three sharp talons.

The Makuta sat in a large throne comprised of the same substance as the floor, which seemed to emit a slight pulsing glow in the light of the stars above. To his side stood two pairs of guards standing rigidly at attention—male Vortixx, of course; most of the major organizations predominantly had employed these as guards since the fall of the League of Six Kingdoms. A silver-armored Makuta with a long spear in his hand stood by it as well, positioned to the left of the being in the chair.

Velnax,” said Flamu coolly, standing in a relaxed position, hands clasped behind his back as he faced the throne. “I assume you know the purpose of my arrival.”

A small smile formed, visible through the mouth hole of the Kanohi Psikon that masked Velnax’s face. He reclined in the throne, appearing casual but not taking his demonic gaze off of Flamu for a second. The focused manner in which he peered at him somehow made him feel as if he were being inspected by a curious Rahi. A Rahi on the hunt, he thought, and he chilled slightly at the notion.

“Going right to business, I see,” the Makuta said. “Suppose, for the moment, that I have forgotten, Negotiator, and that I require information. That is what they call you, is it not?”

Interesting, Flamu thought. How could he know? He made a mental note of this, filing it away in the databanks of his mind for future reference. “Yes,” he said, more wary now. “My message is simple: turn over your hostages or we will strike at Robotopolis with all force necessary.”

“Hostages?” said Velnax, peering at Flamu with an air of smug indifference. “What hostages?”

“You know very well what hostages. You are to turn over the Order of Mata Nui operatives Brominax and Shayla immediately.”

“Order of Mata Nui?” The Makuta frowned, the small smile growing sickening as it spread across his face. “I must say, I thought you'd be less open about your true affiliations. Doesn't your organization make a point of remaining secretive?”

“You clearly seem to know enough about us,” Flamu replied. He remained as expressionless as he could, a quality quickly acquired even after only a few missions of peace. “We would be very interested to learn how—after you return our operatives to us.”

“You're very persistent, er…” said Velnax, clasping his armored-glove-covered hands together as he smiled slightly at the Toa. “Ah, yes. Flamu, rookie Toa of Fire, nicknamed ‘the Negotiator.’ Level Two clearance. Six missions, six successful. Currently stationed in Robotopolis. Authorization code,” he continued, and the Toa blinked in astonishment, “2918651242. So, yes, we know many things about your Order. We are fully prepared for you should you unwisely choose to invade our city. Our weapons are superior to yours—” He made a small gesture to indicate the plasma cannons in his guards' hands. “—and while my forces may not all be as well-trained, we are rather more numerous.

Kutrax,” he added, beckoning to the silver-armored Makuta beside him, “relieve Flamu here of his comlink. No doubt, it is set to record a sound file and transmit it in real time back to Daxia. I want to talk to his superiors personally, if you please.”

Kutrax nodded briskly and stepped forward silently, his spear raised as it began to glow with power. The Order member stepped backwards involuntarily, immediately realizing his mistake and cursing himself for showing weakness, but did not remove his attention from Velnax. “You are not talking to anyone except for me.”

“The decision is not yours to make,” said the sneering Makuta, resting his claws on the armrests of his throne. “I do not answer to you. You are in my city.”

“As you're likely well aware from reading my file, negotiating isn't all I'm good at.”

“Of course. But do you think I'm actually incompetent enough to surround myself with guards who can't adequately defend me?” He motioned for Kutrax to stop his advance, and the glowing of the weapon stopped. The smaller Makuta looked at his master hesitatingly, but Velnax paid him no attention, his deep-set green eyes unmoving as he gazed at Flamu menacingly. “You have never been in a serious battle before. My guards, on the other hand, I personally picked from the best of the Brotherhood of Makuta's troops some time before we defected from them. The odds do not look good for you.”

Flamu had to admit that the being was right, but he was far from prepared to show it. “Is this a threat? Remember that I am a diplomat, and I don’t respond well to threats.”

“Neither do I, Toa,” retorted Velnax. He leaned back in his throne. “Very well, you may keep your transmitter: I suppose I am better off with my voice being relayed to the Order command central anyway. Settle down, now, so we can finish with these proceedings.”

Had he been a lesser being, Flamu would have swallowed nervously; instead, he focused on the speech he’d prepared before departing the island. As he opened his mouth, Kutrax stepped back into his position, glaring at the Toa, but he ignored him. It was hard enough focusing on his duty as it was.

“The two Order of Darkness hostages will be released from confinement immediately and taken to a neutral location—to be agreed upon by both parties—under minimal guard. From there, they will be given back to a group of Order of Mata Nui operatives, who will then return them to Daxia.”

Velnax nodded. “And what do we get in return?”

“It depends.”

“On what?” The mocking look was back.

“On the level of compliance you decide to commit to.”

The Makuta laughed raucously. “Well, at least I didn’t get assigned one of the stupid ones. Tell your leaders that I will agree to your terms on one condition only: I want their aid in hunting down and capturing a being known as the Keeper of the Elder Prophecies. He is a rogue ally of my organization, and I am aware that certain individuals in their service have previously made contact.

“At the moment, this Keeper is in hiding. Having betrayed me, he knows he risks my revenge, and is no doubt utilizing all the measures at his disposal to escape us. His capture would be a matter of mutual interest to both our orders, and I hope your superiors will take this into consideration.”

Flamu carefully raised an eyebrow. It was true that he had never heard of any such “Keeper,” but of course the Order of Mata Nui had many secrets. Of course there were some things he hadn't been allowed to know; he was far from a high-ranking member, after all. Probably the ruling council understood, and so his questions need not go in that direction. “What do you mean by ‘mutual interest’?”

“I don’t need to reveal all my secrets for you,” Velnax hissed. “All I need is for your superiors to get this message, which they are at this very moment through the listening equipment they oh-so-cunningly employed to eavesdrop on me. You don't have to consider an offer you don't understand anything about.”

“As ambassador, I have the right to know anything I need to,” Flamu answered. He was beginning to get the feeling that something was going horribly wrong with this meeting, and it wasn't hard to detect why.

Kutrax began to draw his weapon. The lead Makuta shot a sharp glance at the warrior and he stood back at attention, then turned back to the Toa of fire. “He is in possession of some of the most closely-guarded secrets of the universe's workings,” he began. “At one point, he aided us intermittently, but we had a bit of what you may call a… a falling-out. He believes that he and I pursue different goals, when they are in reality one and the same. Now, if you were to aid in his recapture, the knowledge would be available to both our organizations. That is what you call mutual interest, is it not?”

“What do you intend to do with him?”

“It is none of your business.” Velnax's gaze seemed to intensify, as if he knew what was coming next.

Flamu began to tense as he spoke again. He wasn’t going to like this. “Suppose we should choose not to hand this being over to you?”

“Then we shall find him ourselves,” said Velnax, “with no help from the Order of Mata Nui. And Brominax and Shayla will die.”

Flamu took a deep breath. “If you should choose to execute the hostages, this will be seen as an act of war. The Order of Darkness shall officially be viewed as a hostile faction and full military action will be taken against you.”

“I see. How do you think that that military action will go?” Velnax sneered. He was staring at the Toa of Fire in mockery. “As you know very well, we have access to all of your information. We could sabotage any and every part of whatever strategies you have, throw your troops into chaos. We could even,” and with that he leaned forward and looked straight into the Order member’s eyes, “reveal your existence to the Matoran world. What would you do then?”

“We will do, as we have always done, whatever necessary.” Flamu gazed back, his face tightened into a grimace. He was losing control of this session, and both of them knew it.

Across the room, one of the Matoran at the control panel glanced backwards to face Velnax, the barely disguised fear evident on his face even from a distance. “Sir? We have intercepted an encoded message from Daxia. Would you like for me to decipher—?”

“No need,” said Velnax in a low growl. “Our little Toa here can do it himself. Get back to work.”

“Yes, sir,” said the Matoran quickly, snapping back to his position at the panel. The rebel Makuta gave a low chuckle, then turned his gaze back to Flamu.

“Well?”

The Toa reached down to his hip to take the comm out of its container, deciding that it would be best to take his eyes off of Velnax for a moment. It was a circular metal device that could easily fit in the palm of his hand, with a small two-color screen that displayed data. A new message was visible on it, and Flamu bit his lip slightly as he read.

DO NOT AGREE. HE MUST NOT HAVE THE KEEPER. PREPARE FOR STRIKE TEAM'S ARRIVAL.

So there was to be a strike team teleported in? Perhaps it wasn't necessary yet. There could still be time to salvage the situation.

Slowly and deliberately, Flamu put the comlink away and stood back up to face Velnax. “The decision has been made. We will not agree to your terms.”

“Ah.” Velnax's facial expression didn't change in the slightest. “I was expecting that. What a pity. We could have had such a prosperous future together.”

“So this is war, then?” said Flamu. “Are you going to kill me?”

“Kill you? Certainly not,” said Velnax. “The war hasn't started yet. You’re free to go—unless, of course, you're about to make a move right now.”

Suddenly, Flamu realized that the situation had not only gone out of control, but was starting to get dangerous. He knew what Velnax was going to say seconds before he actually did.

“And unless,” he continued, “there happens to be, say, a strike team on the way. To commit an unprovoked attack in the midst of a negotiating session would be quite a hostile maneuver even for the Order of Mata Nui, and you seem to have made a good number of those in the past. See, if you make the first attack, then the war will officially begin for the Order of Darkness.

“By the way, if you attack first, then you have to face all the combined resources of Robotopolis, and more. We will raze Daxia to the ground and grind the dead’s skulls into the rubble, then march the living into the sea. Then we will spread: to Metru Nui, to Destral, to Odina. No one will stand against our might, for we are determined and we are strong. That is my pledge.

“So it’s good that you don’t have anyone coming over here, correct?” he finished, grinning grotesquely.

“I suppose it is,” said Flamu, forcing a smile despite the fear rising up inside him. He extended an arm to shake hands with the Makuta. Distantly, he thought of Brominax and Shayla and realized his mistake: there was a hostage crisis. As a representative of the Order, he shouldn’t appear happy at this moment; he should be launching a volley of threats regarding what should occur if the prisoners should be executed.

He tricked me, blast it! he thought. He feinted and I fell for it. Now he knows something’s wrong.

Velnax’s smile faded. “And now that your puny assault team is on its way, you are going to become our first prisoner of war, though surely not our last.”

The strike team, he thought desperately. The strike team. Where are they?

In that moment, Velnax grabbed his arm and held on tightly, his grip as strong as a handcuff. Flamu moved to wrench it free, but the move was a distraction: with his other hand, he reached for one of the short knives he had mounted on his back and stabbed down toward Velnax’s arm. However, the Makuta was too quick for him, and before he could even finish with the thrust, the being’s other hand was clasped around his wrist, suspending it in the air. A short twist and the knife snapped from his fingers, landing on the floor with a sharp clatter.

“Guards!” shouted the Order of Darkness leader. Instantly, the five guards—the four Vortixx and Makuta Kutrax—sprang toward him. Within moments, his limbs were being held by the tough grasps of Velnax's servants, and he felt himself being pulled down. He struggled uselessly, body squirming and wriggling, but it was little of an impediment to the Vortixx as they thrust him onto the cold floor. One of them removed his comm, and he pushed ever harder to reach for his only means of communication to the outside world, but still he was held down.

“Shall I use the neurotoxin now, master?” came the voice of Kutrax from somewhere outside Flamu's field of vision. He turned his head, trying to at least gain full awareness of his surroundings, but an armored metal hand clutched his skull and held it in place, leaving him to look straight up at the magnificent dome of stars.

“Yes,” said Velnax. “But make sure to keep it to the right setting. We don't want him dying on us—yet.”

“Very well, my lord,” said Kutrax's voice, almost gleeful now. A pair of footsteps came in the Toa's direction, and while Flamu couldn't make out the Makuta's body yet, he could see the tip of his spear, which he immediately realized was coated in a transparent fluid. Venom, he thought in alarm, and immediately he set about responding.

“Hear that, Toa?” crooned Kutrax as he stepped at last into his vision, gently stroking his weapon's metal shaft. “Time to say good-bye.”

“Not yet,” Flamu growled. Accessing the fire power that burned inside his body, he willed his arms to suddenly heat up, the power of his mind controlling his abilities. In that moment, he felt the armor that protected his forearm begin to sizzle, and the flesh within to begin to melt, releasing a terrible odor. The fire Toa felt very little pain at this, but the Vortixx guards were not so lucky: immediately, they released his arms, crying out at their suddenly burnt hands.

He seized the moment, jumping up and delivering a powerful kick to the chest of the closest one while simultaneously unsheathing his remaining weapon, the twin of the knife Velnax had taken. He was caught by surprise and slammed backward, but it was clear that they had not been personally selected for nothing. Having overcome their pain, the other three methodically raised their plasma cannons and aimed. Flamu braced himself, until he realized that they were still waiting for orders from their leader.

Or perhaps not. Instinctively, he whipped around, his sword raised, blocking Kutrax's silent attack and pushing away the weapon with his own. A fleeting glimpse of his attacker was enough for him to orient himself, and then he used the knowledge to send his weapon in a circle, stabbing it in the direction of the Makuta's chest. As he'd expected, Kutrax was able to block, but that was all he needed: channeling the still-burning fire energy through his hand and into the weapon, a small plume of flame came out. It was far from enough to defeat his opponent—all Makuta had fire resistance power—but was certainly able to do the job of evaporating the toxin on his blade. Now we fight on even terms, he thought grimly.

“Fool!” his enemy cackled, slashing horizontally at Flamu's hips. The Toa reacted, jumping back to avoid the attack and returning to a sparring stance as he landed. “The venom will regenerate! You cannot stop me!” Kutrax stabbed at his throat, only for Flamu to sidestep, blocking downward and then turning his blade up. A small chink of shoulder armor was cut away, and the Makuta's head would have been detached from his body right there and then had the spear not still been in his hand. Kutrax slashed desperately, and once again Flamu blocked neatly.

He's not conditioned to battle, he realized. Otherwise this fight would have been over a long time ago. That made sense: until the Order of Darkness takeover, Kutrax had presided over the city in the service of the Brotherhood, and without any major conflicts to quell, the position had made him go soft. That was good for Flamu, at least; the knowledge gave him new resolve, and he used that resolve to his advantage.

Reverting from his initially cautious tactics, Flamu turned his sword into a spinning whirlwind, slashing at each portion of Kutrax's body. Clearly overwhelmed by the sudden change, the Makuta was helpless, and he succeeded in slicing off a portion of his right kneecap, revealing some of the organic tissue beneath. The shocked look on Kutrax's face had barely registered before the whirlwind became a precision strike, and the Toa stabbed down with his knife, penetrating into his adversary's foot.

As he pulled out, revealing the metallic skeleton beneath, Kutrax suddenly seemed to regain his senses. A roar of rage, and he attacked in earnest, sending wave after wave of crushing blows at him. Flamu switched to a defensive form of combat and blocked these neatly, certain now of his combative superiority. His response only agitated Kutrax further, and he lost all semblance of technique, going into a mad rage and swinging his weapon in all directions. Surprisingly, the unpredictability of the strategy was working: Flamu was unable to gain a grasp on where to attack and found himself grasping to block the wild slashes.

This needed to end, and soon. Deciding that it was time to get rid of his own disadvantage, he somersaulted away swiftly from the Makuta toward the outer corner of the room, leaving Kutrax far behind. Matoran sitting at the controls scampered away, shrieking excitedly, but he paid little attention. It was a moment later, as the fire burst grazed past his skull and he felt its searing heat, that he realized that he was not the being they were fleeing from. He had forgotten about the guards.

Blast. They must have been waiting for me to get away from Kutrax so they could get a clear shot at me. I should have known.

By the time this registered, he had managed to only just evade four more compacted bursts of sealed plasma energy. Still, he was still certain that he had the upper hand. He charged the powers he had been gathering since his escape from Kutrax and released them as a thick strand of fire, cutting a swift path through the air toward the Vortixx. To their credit, their resolve never seemed to falter as they turned their fire to the flame as it approached, but it was futile. It encircled the group, cutting through the barrels of their weapons, but not touching the guards themselves.

Satisfied, Flamu focused back on Kutrax, only to see a brilliant flash of light followed by a deafening crack, and felt the unmistakable crackle of electricity in his metal joints. Noting the burning remains of the control panel to his side only to dive forward a second lightning bolt struck nearby. He spotted its source some feet away: Kutrax was pointing his spear in his direction, his face contorted in an expression of fury.

As the spots were blinked from his eyes, Flamu recognized the increasing brightness of the speartip as a sign that another attack was imminent, and closed his eyes before the next one could struck. As expected, it came, but judging from the fact that he wasn't a pile of cinders yet, it was clear that Kutrax had missed him. Of course—lightning was a very hard power to control, especially with the presence of so much metal in the vicinity, and the Makuta clearly hadn't taken the time to practice.

Empowered by this knowledge, he stood, standing calmly as he allowed his powers to well up within him. Kutrax snarled something, but he ignored him: the decision to use lightning against him had been rash and desperate, especially from a member of a species that was renowned for its great power. He could and would be victorious here, he was certain. He would stop Velnax and end the planned occupation of the Matoran universe. There was no other chjopice: it was all up to him now.

Velnax. Where was Velnax?

Another lightning burst flashed before his closed eyelids, and sensing that his elemental power was charged, he opened them. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Velnax, still sitting on his throne, but he had no time to contemplate the matter. Some bio in front, Kutrax was charging in his direction, weapon raised to impale him, but he never reached his target. Flamu aimed his knife, feeling his innate energy pulsing, and then released it through its channel, sending a billowing burst of fire launching outward.

Kutrax's eyes lit up in shock, and he pointed his blade as though to raise a fire-resistant barrier in the air. It did little to stop the force of the massive fireball, and it impacted the shield, pushing him into the ground. The Makuta lay there, stunned, and Flamu looked from a distance at his prone form. This isn't enough for him, he decided. This isn't enough.

Before he could even think about it, he called among his fire power once again, once more releasing a fireball at Kutrax. It was deflected again, but more feebly, the field of protection seeming to flicker slightly. Then the Makuta gave a final sigh and collapsed in exhaustion, lying motionless on the floor.

Flamu stared in shocked silence at his accomplishment, blood pounding rhythmically in his ears as its nature finally hit him. What have I done? he thought. How could I do this?

Your job, he told himself, and his mood was eased. Then the noise of his gradually slowing heartbeat and the background vibrations coming from the Matoran who had remained at work throughout the fight were interrupted by another sound: that of slow clapping, which echoed eerily throughout the dome. He jerked around sharply and tensed as he saw that the sound was coming from Velnax, who had stood up from his throne and striding past the imprisoned guards as though he didn't notice them.

“Well done, Flamu,” said Velnax. “Well done. You've succeeded. Very good.”

Flamu's heartbeat increased again as the Makuta took a step in his direction, claws flexing in a faint hint of menace. He willed himself to ignore it, instead looking into Velnax's burning predatory eyes and raising his weapon, clinging mentally to the hope that the strike team would still come to rescue him, as they should have already. “I'm in no mood for compliments,” he said clearly. “You will let me go or I will be forced to kill you.”

“Kill me?” snorted Velnax, taking another pace forward. “What fantasy world are you living in? You are in no position to make demands.”

Don't move!” Flamu pointed his knife in Velnax's direction. Desperately, he began charging his own power again, hoping it would be enough against this being. Perhaps he understood now why Kutrax had been pitted against him: Velnax wanted to analyze his forms, his techniques, his combinations. He was the kind of enemy who always came prepared, and was much the better for it. “Don't move,” he added, voice quavering slightly, “or you die.”

Velnax snorted and came forward another step, glaring at Flamu like the Toa supposed he would an insolent subordinate. “I thought murder was a violation of the Toa code.”

“Killing in self-defense is not,” said Flamu boldly, holding his position as Velnax came even nearer.

“Of course. You're Order of Mata Nui. You take entire courses on loopholes. But as I said, you are in no position to make demands. As you can clearly see, you're very, very alone here, and no one is coming to aid you.”

“What have you done to them?” Flamu hissed, an edge to his voice born of desperation. He shivered a little, his sword arm shaking slightly, and he prayed that the movement was not visible to Velnax. “What have you done to our attack team?”

“They've been... redirected,” the Makuta said softly. He flicked his right arm suddenly, and a long serrated blade that had previously been hidden in his armor sprang out, which he caught elegantly in his hand. He waved it around dramatically, and the elegance and grace of the purposely slow movements immediately shattered whatever hopes Flamu might have had regarding Velnax's skill. This was not Kutrax, and should not be treated as such.

“Redirected?” Flamu recalled the lost comlink: he didn't know what the Vortixx had done with it, but he was desperately hoping it was still transmitting so the Order could learn what Velnax was doing. At the very least, should he die in Robotopolis beneath the infinite gaze of the stars, he wanted someone other than an enemy to know it. “What do you mean?”

Velnax chuckled harshly. “Attempting to buy time, I see. I expected better of you.” His foe increased his pace, having now covered nearly half the distance between them. “Let me put it like this: you are here because I wish it to be so. They are not here because they are not.”

“A teleportation blocker?” Flamu had heard of the alien device that allowed the Brotherhood of Makuta to keep visitors off the island. “How—?”

“Yes and no,” said Velnax, only a few bio away now. Toa Flamu felt the burning force welling up inside him, pushing to be released, but he kept it within him, feeling his insides physically grow slightly hotter by the second. “I have better. You see, I am in possession of the tool of the Brotherhood of Makuta's destruction. It is the end of all my enemies, be they Dark Hunters or Order of Mata Nui or Enforcers of Noctian Reign. You’ve lost already.”

Flamu prepared himself for combat, stepping back into a sparring stance. “And what would this tool be?”

“My boy,” said Velnax, grinning broadly now, “why should I ever give that information to you?

The Makuta lunged forward, a movement so sudden that Flamu barely had any time to react as the shadowy figure launched in his direction. In that moment he focused his power, activating his Kanohi mask and desperately swinging out with its energies. There was an explosive flash of light and a terrible shockwave that blasted him several bio backward, sending his body twisting uncontrollably through the air and landing face-first on the ground. Every inch of his body screamed with pain, but he ignored it casually, jumping to his feet and looking toward Velnax to see how well he had done.

Immediately, it was clear that the effect he had hoped for was just a product of wishful thinking. As he watched, the shimmering, incorporeal form of Velnax solidified, perfectly unharmed by the power of the energy blast that he'd released. “A mask of explosions,” said the being with an air of mild inconvenience. “Excellent. I like when my enemies choose not to go out without a fight.”

Flamu spat on the floor, his adrenaline rush fueled by rage. This Makuta was just toying with him—he could have been finished off easily, perhaps even before he noticed what had happened. Instead, he was being made the subject of a sadistic game, and it was an extremely undignified one. If he were to die, he wanted to die in an honorable fashion.

This is a job for someone else, he realized finally, truly aware at last of his own powerlessness. You're way out of your league, Flamu.

“Why don't you just finish me off now?” he roared, his challenge echoing across the silent room. The Matoran, he noticed, had been completely evacuated—all the better: no one to witness his death. He was just one more casualty in the war that was coming, one that would come because of him, because he had failed. “Why don't you just kill me?”

“Kill you?” Velnax said, in that same mocking tone he had already come to hate. “Why should I? You are much, much more valuable to me alive than dead. Dead, you are nothing. Alive, you will be useful.”

“Another hostage?” Flamu growled. He saw his enemy approaching him, but slower this time, to draw out his prey's inevitable defeat. “Another bargaining chip? Is that what you want?”

In his rage, he stepped backward to the metal control panel that Kutrax had struck with lightning earlier, reaching up with his knife and stabbing down into it. It cut through the Protodermis like butter, embedding its point in the charred surface. “IS THAT WHAT YOU WANT?” he roared.

Velnax clicked his tongue contemptibly. “Is that really what you believe? How foolish of you.”

An idea came to Flamu's mind. As he ripped his knife out of the panel, he contemplated its feasibility, mulling over the possibilities in his head until he reached a reasonable conclusion. “You'll never take me alive,” he proclaimed boldly.

“Oh, really?” said Velnax, a slight edge suddenly appearing in his voice. “And why is that?”

Flamu pointed to his mask. “Because if you don't let me and the other hostages go this minute, I blow this place back to Aqua Magna. No ifs, ands, or buts. Either you take me, Brominax, and Shayla back to where we came, you're going to be an emperor of a soon-to-be-dead city.”

“Ridiculous,” said the Makuta. “Look outside. There are thousands of Matoran living in this city. You're a Toa. You can't risk harming innocents.”

“You're wrong,” Flamu answered, backing slowly away along the perimeter of the glass dome. “I will do what I need to, in the name of justice and peace. I'm not going to let you or any tyrant stop me. But you're right about one thing: I am a Toa. You don't back a Toa into a corner, or bad things happen. You don't push us, or threaten us, or break us, because we always, always bite back.”

“You're mad,” Velnax laughed, though Flamu was sure now that the laugh was far from serious. “Toa are heroes. They don't destroy cities of those they've sworn to protect.”

“That's where you've made your mistake, Velnax,” said Flamu. “See, I'm an Order of Mata Nui member as well, and I am willing to sacrifice anything and everything I need to to exact justice on the deserving. You have thirty seconds to teleport me out, or you and all your friends die.”

The Order of Darkness leader did not slow in his approach. “You are mad. You'd never do this.”

A feeling of doubt entered Flamu's thoughts. Would I? Then he remembered what he'd done to Kutrax, and he knew he would.

“Twenty seconds,” he said, bracing himself.

“You're a Toa,” said Velnax again.

Fifteen, he thought. Aloud, he said, “That's the one thing you're right about, Makuta. I'm a Toa. And do you know what it is with Toa?”

“No,” Velnax growled. He stepped forward fasted, and Flamu prepared for a confrontation, readying his mask of explosions. Ten seconds.

“Of course you don't.” Seven. “But I'm a Toa, and the thing with Toa—” A few bio away, Velnax raised his weapon. “—the thing with Toa is that we never, ever—” Three. Flamu readied for the explosion, mentally readying for death. “—give—”

Then he was struck by an immense feeling of shock. He gasped, for a moment oblivious as to the cause of the sudden change, and he simply continued staring forward. Then the pain began, almost more than he had ever experienced before, but already it seemed dull, as if it were only a distant memory.

Realization came upon him, and Toa Flamu looked down to find a long, sharp, metal object sticking out of his torso, like the tip of a spear. A trickle of blood was running down his leg, and as he watched, it formed a small pool by his feet. Sickened, he collapsed.

He could do nothing but look up in vague horror as Makuta Kutrax pulled the blade out of his victim's body and wiped it clean of the blood—his blood, grinning cruelly down at him. Velnax's face joined him a moment later, the being's sword at his side.

“How true,” Velnax sneered. “Toa never give up. That, my friend, is exactly the reason your species is dying out.”

Flamu tried to use his fire powers, to retaliate, to snap back, but found that he was unable to. His responses were slowed; his body already all but paralyzed by the venom that coated Kutrax's weapon. He tried to spit out something, some final words, perhaps, a last condemnation on the Makuta, but the muscles of his mouth were locked together, impossible to move with his failing strength.

Things were growing darker now. Details began to blur out, and his eyes, locked directly in place, continued to stare at the faces of his two foes. The pulse of his heartlight was going slower and slower, and no doubt, his mental activity would soon cease. There was no need to worry now; the end was coming, and there was no need to stop it. It simply was.

The last thing Toa Flamu saw was the vile, grinning face of Makuta Velnax. Then darkness enveloped his mind, and everything was gone.

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