This article was written by Maccy1949. Please do not add to it without the writer's permission.
|The Stories of Xhio: Book 3|
The Stories of Xhio: Book 3: Darkness Falls
|Setting||Maccyverse - Xhio|
|Date set||A few months after Book 2|
Book 3 of The Stories of Xhio. It will be told in chapter form, like the second book, but will be slightly more intense and darker than the first two books. It is the finale to Maccy's Stories of Xhio storyline.
It had been a few months since their arrival on Xhio, but the Toa Hagah were making progress.
Trudging through the sands that slowly turned into mud, caused by the rainfall of the past few days, the Toa slowly became adapted to the then-harsh environment. In the front, Norik, the leader and the Toa of Fire, covered his mask with his hand to shield the glare of the sun. Nearby, Gaaki, the Toa of Water, glanced curiously at him.
"Do you see anything?" asked Gaaki.
"Yes, what appears to be a small village," came the reply. Sure enough, Gaaki saw a village in the distance, barely noticeable on the horizon, but the outline of huts were faint.
"Norik, for the sake of the Great Spirit, we've been through a bunch of small villages, and none of them were the right one. Are you absolutely sure about this one?" griped Toa Bomonga of Earth from behind the two. Toa Kualus of Ice and Toa Pouks of Stone nodded at this, exhausted to reply. They were all clearly getting tired of walking.
"I can sense his energy. I know he's there," said Norik, voice of determination.
"Well, there's no use arguing. Let's go see," said Gaaki, hoping to quell any arguments that might arise. Her brothers had squabbled a little while ago, most likely due to the heat, and Gaaki was starting to get worried that their journey might've been all for nothing.
But, with a slight sigh of resignation from Bomonga, off they trudged once more, desperate to find their brother-Toa.
Where was he?
Where was Iruini?
Inside a laboratory in the mountainous regions of Xhio, while there was some activity, one room had no activity at all. Cylan quietly hung from the shackles on the wall in her cell, her senses attempting to adapt to the few months she had been abducted. Her gun had been taken, and her friends had no idea where she was. She had no idea if they were even looking for her. Would they even come? Did they even care?
"You do realize no one's coming for you, right?"
Zharena, the mutated Toa of Psionics, quietly stood in the doorway.
"What do you want..." muttered Cylan.
"Oh, nothing much. I just want to watch you suffer, like I did."
"Excuse me?" asked Cylan.
"My entire team. Killed in action. By him. He murdered all of them in cold blood, and he forced me to watch. And then he spared me, he took me in. He helped me realize my true purpose, how corrupt the Toa were, what my true power lied in," said Zharena.
There was a moment of silence before Cylan spoke. "I am sorry for your loss."
"You don't need to be. I'm over it," said Zharena, but her voice seemed to say otherwise. Or was that just Cylan's mind messing with her?
"Are you going to kill me? Just get it over with," sighed Cylan.
"I'm not going to kill you," said Zharena. "Not yet. There's work to be done, boss' orders."
"Well, then let me help him a bit," said Cylan before kicking Zharena in the stomach.
Zharena groaned in pain, kneeled on the floor.
"You can go tell your boss that my friends are coming for me. Expect resistance," said Cylan.
"A-alright then..." groaned Zharena, slowly walking out.
"So they ARE coming for her."
"Y-yes, Teridax," said Zharena, wincing slightly. Her stomach still hurt from the blow. Cylan had kicked her hard. "She's said that her friends won't go easy on us, that we should expect resistance."
"Good. Good. Let them come. We will be ready for them."
Mitalma, who had been standing in the corner quietly, spoke up. "What about the General?"
"He was useless. Weak. Pitiful. So I disposed of him," said Teridax.
Tazerok leisurely strolled in, grinning to himself about his accomplishment. He immediately stopped and walked back out upon seeing Teridax. He'd had many bosses over the years, many targets and many bullets had been fired.
But this boss was one he didn't like.
Siela and Neia quietly sat in their hut, lamenting over the events of the past few months. Cylan had been taken, and some of the Toa had gone missing looking for her. Tezun and Jekkai had went out and had not returned. They had been presumed missing in action, but was it possible they were...?
No, don't think that. They're alive somewhere, thought Siela.
But what if... No, that's not possible. Don't think that, they'll be found.
"Hey, guys. What's going on?" Ferrum's voice came in through the doorway, interrupting Siela's thoughts.
"Oh, hey, Ferrum. Any news on the others?" asked Neia as the two Matoran stepped outside, looking up at the Toa of Iron.
Ferrum just hung his head sadly in response. Siela and Neia both shared a look of sadness, before Siela turned to Ferrum.
"Don't worry. We'll find them. We'll find all of them. We promised that." assured Siela.
"I hope so..." sighed Ferrum. The desperation was wearing all of them down, they were all worried for their teammates, their friends.
All of a sudden, a villager came running up to the hut, one by the name of Elisis, a friendly Ga-Matoran who routinely carried a small spear. She wore a simple azure mask, reminiscent of a Kaukau. She was also very intelligent, and one would tend to find her at the village library, quietly writing down some things she had seen in a book she had named "The Chronicles of Xhio". She had stated it was "basically a collection of stories placed down in one, almost like a biography of the planet itself. Think of it like someone's writing down everything you say and do, but it's not creepy."
Stopping to catch her breath, muttering something about "people with Kakamas having no idea what it's like," she finally said, "Guys! Guys! There's some Toa in the village square!"
"Are they our friends? Jekkai and Tezun?" asked Neia.
"Afraid not, they look different. They have a lot of armour on, mostly metallic shades. But they want Iruini," said Elisis.
"Iruini? Why?" asked Neia.
"We're not sure, but bring him anyways. You never know what they might want."
With Elisis leading the way, they were not five steps into the village square before Iruini gasped.
"What? What is it?" asked Ferrum.
"It... It can't be... It... It can't..." said Iruini in disbelief.
The large red and silver-clad being, to the looks of Siela and Neia, the leader of the group, turned to Iruini and both the being and Iruini's eyes grew in shock and surprise.
There was a moment of silence before Iruini ran over to them and grinned. He nearly embraced Norik, but stopped himself. He didn't want to make it awkward, as pleasing as the moment was.
"I can't believe it, you're all here! You're all here!" said Iruini. Siela and Neia were pleased, they had never seen him so happy.
"We're glad to see you too, brother," said Kualus, giving him a fist bump.
Pouks spoke up from the side. "We've been walking for days, weeks, perhaps even a month, trying to find you."
"Do you have ANY idea how tired we are!" yelled Bomonga, but calmed down and said, "But it is nice to see you again, I'm glad the fire-spitter over here was right." He gestured to Norik, who just rolled his eyes and shook his head in amusement.
"We were a bit worried. It's not like you to just go off like that." said Gaaki.
"I was helping these Toa," said Iruini, pointing to Ferrum and Akirak, the latter who had just shown up.
"You must be the Toa Xharios. We've heard about you, but we didn't know he was here." said Norik, gesturing to Iruini.
"We never knew he even had a team before us," grinned Akirak, which got a chuckle out of everybody.
The two teams exchanged greetings and introductions.
"Oh, and this is Siela, and Neia," said Ferrum. The two Matoran waved quietly. The Toa Hagah waved back, then turned to Iruni again.
"So, you were saying you have a bigger team normally." said Bomonga.
"Yes, two of our members have went missing, and another is captured." grimaced Iruini.
"Maybe we can help you. You've been there for us when we needed you, whether it was fighting the bugs, or the Dark Hunters. Now we're going to return the favour," said Norik. The other Toa Hagah agreed in unison. Iruini grinned at his teammates, old and new.
"Well, then," he said, "Let's get started."
Elisis, who had been silent for the entire reunion, said, "I'd better get back to my book, then. Hey, um, can I write about this? This is good material."
This statement was met with confused stares, followed by a long, awkward pause.
"I'm trying to become a writer, okay?" said Elisis in exasperation.
"Oh. Well, in that case, go ahead," said Iruini. "And I do hope to see the book when it's done."
Elisis smiled. "I'll lend you all a copy," she said before rushing off to the library to write.
Iruini watched her go before turning his attention back to the group.
"Now," said Iruini. "Where were we?"
It had not been a good day for Cylan.
Cylan had been stuck to the wall for a while now, and her captives came by every now and then, sometimes to gloat, others to see if she was still breathing. Occasionally, Navlax would come in and just stare at her. She'd do nothing else, just stand there, staring at Cylan. She seemed to be studying her.
How creepy that was...
And, of course, Tazerok came by, holding her gun, flaunting it around like a trophy. How she wanted to take her gun from his bony hands, and just nail him in the head, watching his body fall with a thud to the ground. How that would feel, to just watch him cower in fear, making him regret he had fought her...
But, of course, as much as she wanted to, she could not.
Even Mitalma stopped in a few times. Mitalma was the one she had seen the least. His figure was brutally mutated, with half of him being fully mechanical, half of him organic, and he acted like two separate beings, almost. But while he was nearly two separate beings, he was not two separate personalities and he showed no compassion or regret to Cylan's capture. He held a rifle in his mechanical hand, nothing in his organic one. You could see the gears turning and the organic material churning in each side of him. Cylan nearly winced in disgust at this. He spoke not a word to her, but his eyes seemed to say everything.
Who in the name of the Great Spirit had done this to him?
Zharena came in, too, but stayed cautious, wary that Cylan might kick her in the stomach again. Other than that, she rarely did much. She kept her distance, which Cylan thought was a good decision. The former Toa of Psionics seemed to be dividing in half, similar to Mitalma, half of her becoming more savage and disfigured, with her limbs turning black and her armour spiking.
Each time, they would tell her that no one was coming for her, that she would be stuck with them for a long time, and soon her friends would join her in death, along with everyone else. Cylan was confused at that, but thought nothing much of it. Hours passed by like days, days like years.
Yet Cylan, ever the determinist, still quietly waited for her friends to come rescue her. She knew they would, and she knew they were looking for her.
But would they be in time?
The Toa decided to split into small search parties; one to find Cylan, and another to find Tezun and Jekkai. Norik, Akirak, Bomonga, and Pouks went to find Tezun and Jekkai, everyone else went to find Cylan. With everything set, each team bid each other farewell and set off to find their teammates.
"Do you think they're coming for us?"
Jekkai shot a questioning look to Tezun. The white-clad Toa of Ice had to wonder why such a thing would be asked. Surely they would come for them.
His fellow red and gold-clad Toa of Fire, who had used his powers to start a small flame to keep the two warm (which Jekkai found somewhat ironic, seeing as he was a Toa of Ice, yet the heat seemed to be the best thing ever to him) wasn't one to doubt his teammates, yet here he was, questioning their possible arrival.
"Well," said Jekkai, "we're in the middle of a forest. They could look anywhere and get it right the first try."
"Perhaps..." said Tezun quietly. "Or they could get it wrong and never find us."
"Shut up. They will," snapped Jekkai, getting impatient with his teammate.
As Jekkai quietly laid on the ground to rest, he heard Tezun muttering and quietly rolled the thought around in his head.
"I hope so."
"Bomonga, try not to use your mask. We don't want to make this more complicated."
"Shut up," was the reply to Norik's statement.
Norik chuckled to himself as he hacked through the vines and branches of a lush jungle, Akirak keeping an eye out for her brothers, her Void Mace at the ready. They had been walking for a few hours, their feet making prints in the wet ground.
"Do you smell that?"
"Hm?" asked Norik.
"Smoke." said Akirak.
"Smoke? That'd odd, we're in a forest, far from... Wait. Where's there's smoke..." said Norik, clueing in.
"There'll be..." said Akirak.
"Fire," the two said simultaneously.
The group immediately ran in the direction of the scent, hacking down branches and vines as quick as they could.
Ferrum's group was not doing so well with their search. With no leads, no traces, or anything vital that would help them, they were walking blindly. Footprints being left in the muddy terrain, the group quietly trudged on. Beyond them was a small cave.
"Look at that," said Neia, pointing to a tattered, rusted sign, covered with vines and thorns. She gently brushed them away with her hand. The sign merely read AR E L L O A ES. Obviously there had been more letters, forming a complete sign, but that was then. Most of the letters had appeared to have faded or been rubbed off.
"What do you think that means?" asked Kualus.
"Wait, there's some sort of machinery over here... Embedded into the wall." said Iruini.
A button and a console were indeed embedded into the wall. Siela walked over and pressed the button down. A small screen lit up, displaying a Matoran being filmed. The Matoran appeared male, but his element was unknown as the picture did not have much colour, being faded and the screen occasionally flickered.
"Here at Arsenal Laboratories," the Matoran was saying, "We make only the finest technology for the Matoran Universe, whether it's vehicles or gadgets, we'll make anything we put our minds too."
"Seems like Arsenal was popular back then. Look at all the locations." observed Gaaki. She was right. Locations had been put everywhere, from on Xhio to those on Spherus Magna and some others located elsewhere in the Solis Magna System, and even those that had once been in the Matoran Universe.
"Our top scientists and researchers work hard every day to bring you only the best in what we do," continued the Matoran.
"Alright, I've heard enough of this crap." snapped Neia, turning the screen off.
"Looks like all of this technology belongs to Arsenal." observed Iruini. Looking around the cave, they could see more tech into the walls, buttons, control panels, screens. A small button on the farthest wall read Power Control. Gaaki walked over and pressed it. Immediately, everything in the room came to life; the screens, the lights, and the monitors all lit up. The Toa and Matoran each glanced around in wonder, mesmerized by the sudden atmosphere change.
"Arsenal Laboratories. Dedicated to helping you, and each other," a screen was saying. Neia nearly punched it in anger.
"Do those things ever shut up?" she grumbled.
"Wait, guys, look at this," said Ferrum. He pointed to a monitor that displayed certain sections of a lab somewhere. There was nothing of interest on it, save for a single, blinking green dot. It was located in the lower levels, in a wing labeled Discontinued Area, with small rooms along the wing. By the looks of it, it appeared to be prison cells.
"That one. That has to be her," said Ferrum, voice full of determination.
Siela asked, "Are you sure? It could be a decoy, or just another active piece of machinery."
"We don't know that until we see for certain," said Iruini. "Let's go check it out."
And with that, they started to head to the lower levels, curious of what would await them.
Deep in the lowest levels, Navlax stood over a monitor, quietly looking for any signs of...
Aha, she thought. There you are. I see you... You can't see me, of course, but you soon will...
"Teridax, sir? You might want to see this."
Navlax's voice was not afraid, nor angered. Rather, she appeared calm, yet sinister. Her gaze was aimed at six green dots moving towards the lower levels of the facility. Teridax appeared behind her, staring over her shoulder at the screen.
"Proceed." said Teridax.
"They're here," grinned Navlax. "Shall I give the signal?"
"Yes. Let them know."
Navlax grinned, then took out a small communicator and spoke into it.
"Show them no mercy."
And with that, Tazerok, Zharena, and Mitalma headed to intercept the targets.
No mercy would be given, indeed.
"How long have we been walking?"
"About an hour," came the reply. Akirak was getting exhausted. Would Jekkai and Tezun even be found? The black and purple-clad Toa of Void, along with her fellow Toa-brethren, trudged through the leaves, over the muddy, wet ground. As the scent of smoke grew more intense, occasionally the group had to put a hand in front of their masks to shield the smell. A dim light slowly grew brighter in the distance; a fire.
We must be getting closer... thought Akirak. Norik, a few paces ahead of her, held up a hand to stop.
"What is it?" asked Bomonga.
"Be ready. You never know if there are enemies or allies," replied Norik. He must have been in similar situations, Akirak observed.
He slowly pulled down the vines and the group of Toa burst forward to find two other Toa sleeping on the ground. Akirak just smiled and nearly laughed.
"Wake up, you idiots," she grinned.
Slowly, Tezun and Jekkai awoke, rubbing dirt out of their eyes, adjusting to the sight. They were certainly startled to see Akirak, and three other Toa, one of Fire, one of Earth, and one of Stone. Standing up now, the two were speechless.
Akirak walked towards them...
And promptly slapped them both across the face.
"Ow! What was that for!?" exclaimed Tezun.
"That's for making us think you were dead," said Akirak. "But I'm glad to see you two are alive."
"We didn't find her. She could be anywhere," sighed Jekkai.
Suddenly, a small communicator rang. Akirak plucked it off her hip and spoke into it.
"Akirak, it's Ferrum. We think we found where Cylan is. Sending our coordinates now."
"Alright, we'll meet you there. Oh, yeah, we found Tezun and Jekkai."
"Glad to see they're alright," said Ferrum. "We'll see you all there."
Akirak disconnected and turned to the others. "The others think they found Cylan. These coordinates Ferrum sent to me correspond to a underground lab in the mountains. Arsenal, it's called."
"Well, no time to waste, then. They'll need our help," said Pouks.
Norik and Akirak led the group off to the cave entrance. As they walked, Jekkai turned to Tezun and whispered,
"You owe me some change, you know that, right?"
Tezun sighed. "Yeah, I know. I'll give it to you later, after this is all done and over with."
Akirak overheard the conversation behind her and shook her head in amusement.
Looks like they're back, too, she thought.
Slowly progressing through the corridors of Arsenal, the other group felt as one, anxious, nervous, but ready to fight if required. Flickering lights and distant hums of still-operational machinery made the mood even more ominous, sparks gently floating to the ground and then going out, like a weakling who had just been permanently silenced by a Great Being itself.
Siela shuddered at the thought. She glanced ahead to see Ferrum slowly leading, his sword and shield out. Each of them stayed close to one another, for fear of wandering off into a dark hallway. Another flash of light and a whir made her heart give a quick leap in her chest. She glanced over beside her at Neia. She too seemed cautious. Siela stuck out her hand gently to Neia, who glanced down at it in uncertainty, before taking it. Their fingers grasped around each other tightly, refusing to let go. The two of them each felt better at the comfort of their partner.
"Is this awkward for you?" whispered Siela.
"No, it's alright. I'm glad you have my back," whispered Neia, a smile under her mask.
"I'm glad you have mine," Siela whispered back.
Gaaki quietly looked at the two Matoran, and realized the two more than likely had feelings for one another. Were they already in a relationship?
No, push that aside. You can ask them later, if they don't mind, thought the Toa of Water. She observed Iruini beside her. She was glad to see her brother-Toa again, after all this time. She cared for him, no, she cared for all of them. She enjoyed her brothers' company, no matter if they pester her to no end.
Up ahead, Kualus glanced around at the abandoned halls and machinery. They astounded him. He was very impressed of what these Matoran scientists had made, all by their tiny little two hands. From weapons to transportation to gadgets and trinkets.
Suddenly, Ferrum stopped. He didn't need to say anything, as everyone else already saw it.
"Why, hello again," grinned Tazerok. He took out his gun, reloaded it, and aimed it at the group.
"I'm afraid you're going to have to come with me now."
"We'll die before surrendering!" yelled Ferrum.
"So be it, then." replied Tazerok. "I'll grant your wish, Toa of Iron."
And with that, a single shot rang out, echoing among the walls.
What followed next was worse.
As Akirak and the other group rounded the corner, having found the cave entrance earlier, they heard a loud bang, followed by a small ping, then another loud bang, but yet this time, it was followed by a gasp. The Toa glanced around for a few moments, uncertain of what just happened, before Akirak eventually broke the uncomfortable silence.
"Crap, I bet that was Tazerok." grimaced Akirak.
"How do you know?" inquired Tezun.
"I just... have this feeling," replied Akirak. Her stomach felt queasy, as if it had flipped upside down.
As they quickly rushed off down the halls, racing past malfunctioning machinery and broken lights, whirrs and clicks occasionally emitting, with the lights flickering, sparks showering down on them, the Toa still had a feeling of dread, that something had gone horribly wrong.
Tazerok raised his gun and smiled at what he had just accomplished, his laughing drowning out the sound of a Ga-Matoran sobbing. While his first shot was blocked by Ferrum's shield, Tazerok fired a second shot that nailed Ferrum in the chest, piercing a small hole in him, and eventually ending up in the wall at the other side of the hallway. The Toa of Iron's eyes widened before glancing down at the hole in his chest, glaring at Tazerok, and falling to the floor.
As Ferrum laid on the ground, his sword and shield fallen out of his grasp, his breathing raspy and slow, blood dripping out of the hole, Neia stood at his side, gripping his hand tightly, tears streaking slowly down her Kanohi.
"No... Please... Don't leave us." she whispered, fearfully. This wasn't happening. She was dreaming. But she knew she wasn't, she knew her friend was dying before her eyes.
"Hey, it's... it's okay," wheezed Ferrum. "I... I didn't... really want... to be part... of this... anyways." He chuckled slightly, staring at Neia, attempting to reassure her that he would be fine, even though he knew both of them understood that was not the case. He started to remember past things he had done with her, while they were Matoran; going out to explore nearby deserts and forests, pretending they were offworld, searching for new life. He missed those days, where everything was carefree and they could do what they wanted.
So this is what dying feels like, thought Ferrum. It feels nice... I don't feel anything, I thought I would...
He looked over at Siela, who was also doing her best to comfort Neia. He knew they would keep each other safe.
"Siela... take care of her... alright?" coughed Ferrum. Siela slowly nodded, her eyes filling up with tears as well.
He then looked at his fellow Toa, teammates or not. "It's... been... an honour... to fight... alongside... my brothers... and sisters," he said. It was at this moment that the other group had found his body laying there, their mouths open in shock. Akirak looked like she was going to faint, Jekkai and Tezun looked solemn, and Iruini looked like he had lost his old team all over again. He smiled sadly at them, before returning his gaze to Siela and Neia. He then remembered Cylan. She'd never see him as a living, breathing being again. He hoped she was still alive, that the others would get her.
Ferrum then slowly allowed himself to leave his body, his eyes closing, his heartbeat fading. While he was sad at dying, he still felt contempt, knowing he had done the best job he could as a leader, as a Toa. Then he lay still, eyes firmly shut, heartbeat stopped, his Kanohi powerless, never to be used again.
Neia quietly rubbed her eyes, wiping her tears away, before slowly turning to Tazerok, more mad than she had ever been in her life.
"Why, you son of a..." she said quietly, before walking up to him. Tazerok laughed.
"And just what are you going to do to me, little water lady?" asked the Zeverek.
"This," replied Neia, before kicking him in the stomach, casuing him to kneel on the ground. She took this opportunity and punched him in his skull-like, pale head. He uttered a single grunt before going unconscious. Neia flicked her wrist back and forth, trying to regain feeling in her hand. While Tazerok had deserved that, her fist stung from the blow.
"Die in Karzahni," muttered Neia. By this time, Siela had run over to her.
"You alright?" she asked.
"Oh, yeah, I'm good. That hurt, though, but he sure as hell deserved it," replied Neia.
Siela nodded in agreement, grimly, as the remaining Toa came over to join the two.
"So," said Iruini, "are we going to finish what we came here to do, for Ferrum's sake?"
The group nodded as one, and hurried off to find Cylan, fearing that she had not suffered the same fate of Ferrum.
As she hung on the wall, arms and legs still cuffed, Cylan felt a strange feeling in her heart, like something or someone close to her had just... vanished. She felt uneasy, yet she put it aside. After all, her teammates would be alright.
They're strong, they'll survive them, right? thought Cylan.
Her thoughts shifted back to worry as she blacked out once more, her eyesight attempting to focus, but failed. Her translucent-green armour remained the only light as a faint, otherworldly-like glow in the darkened cell.
Navlax stood in the doorway, her yellow eyes staring at the Toa of Electricity, before focusing her mind and activating her Kanohi. Cylan didn't move for a few seconds, until she started twitching, her hands trembling, her mouth quivering.
"No," she whispered fearfully, over and over again. What she was seeing was a hallucination of everyone she cared about; Siela, Neia, her teammates, and those who were friends back on Spherus Magna, dying before her eyes, while she was powerless to stop them from ceasing to exist. Her whispers turned to screams as she started to sob in despair, as Navlax, still focusing her power, grinned slyly, yet wickedly.
"This will be fun," whispered Navlax to herself.
While Cylan hadn't suffered Ferrum's fate yet, what the Toa of Electricity was experiencing was a fate worse than death itself.
As the Toa and Matoran ran down the corridor, passing by rooms with strange machinery in them, the group suddenly came to a halt. Zharena stood at the end, half of her severly mutated, corrupted by darkness. Her left shoulder armour was spiked and rigid, her left limbs a mixture of black and gunmetal. The group cringed slightly at the sight.
"I'm afraid your run ends here," snarled Zharena, raising her sword and claw. Her voice was full of hatred, and sounded eerily distorted.
The Toa put up their weapons, defensive. Siela and Neia put up their fists as well, eager to fight. Zharena charged at the group, raising her sword, only to be matched by Tezun's twin fire blades. The impact send a loud clang that reverbed around the walls and echoed for a few short seconds. Jekkai then swung his own ice blade at Zharena's leg, encasing it in a small wall of ice, only for her to break it within moments. The Toa Hagah each raised their staffs and struck her, but they too did little effect. Siela and Neia got a few punches in, but were just kicked out of the way by Zharena.
"Leave me, Matoran. My fight is with the Toa, not you," said Zharena.
Well, that was enough for Neia. She charged at Zharena again, only for Zharena to pick her up and hold her sword against Neia's throat, daring someone to attack.
"One advance, your friend here dies," said Zharena. Siela gasped, while Neia struggled to free herself, but to no avail. The Toa stood in place, weapons at the ready, but no one moving a single muscle.
Except for one.
Akirak slowly snuck up behind Zharena and struck her in the back with her mace, causing Zharena to stumble, Neia falling out of her grip. Zharena fell to the floor, her sword aiming towards her. She emitted the most bloodcurling scream of fear and rage as the sword penetrated right through her skull, slicing her Kanohi in half, as blood started to pool on the floor. Neia raised her fists again, but Iruini stopped her.
"Leave her, she's as good as dead," grimaced the Toa of Air. As the group walked off, Zharena slowly raised her claw, trembling, but it eventually collapsed, laying still as a rock. Audible gasps were heard for a minute, but they gradually stopped before all sounds of breathing ceased entirely.
"Is it ready?"
Teridax turned to look at Navlax, her expression impatient.
"Not quite. It will take more time to set," replied Teridax.
Navlax grimaced and walked off into a small room, that conviently happened to be soundproof so Teridax would not hear her. She tended to get upset at her leader often, and retreated into the room to curse him out without him knowing and speculating she would betray him.
"HOW HARD IS IT TO SET A BOMB THAT CAN RESET THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE!?" screamed the female Makuta, slashing nearby consoles with her claws, sparks and metal flying everywhere. Teridax had taught her that anger could be used as a weapon, a power. The plan was for them to set off the bomb, causing the universe to implode on itself, and finding a way to leave Navlax and Teridax the only survivors, letting Teridax accomplish his goal of ruling the entire Matoran Universe again, and the entire universe itself along with it.
Teridax, meanwhile, was setting the bomb to detonation. He knew they only had one shot at this, and he also knew the Toa were coming. He had figured the Dark Hunters had not done their job properly, as one monitor nearby showed Tazerok's unconscious body laying in a heap on the cold metal floor. Teridax sighed. Out of all of the three, the Zeverek showed promise of sorts, being a trigger-happy mercenary with a wicked grin plastering his face most of the time.
As for Zharena, he merely had used her; she was no real purpose to him, he was only seeing if a Toa could be corrupted, and it seemed to have worked on Zharena.
For Mitalma, however, Teridax did not know his status. Mitalma could be dead for all he knew, and he didn't care about that either. The Dark Hunters were pawns in the game, and Teridax had a feeling he was about to announce checkmate.
"All of this will be worth it in the end... Just one hour remains, and this whole universe will be reset, and I will finally reign again. Even my brother will be helpless to stop me," grinned Teridax.
"Those Toa are foolish. They don't know what kind of power we have," said Navlax, who had rejoined him.
"Their weaknesses will be their demise," replied Teridax. Everything was slowly falling into place, a giant puzzle nearing completion.
Cylan quietly hung on the wall, her mind attempting to stabilize itself after the hell it had been through. Her entire body was rapidly trembling, and tears could be felt on her face behind her Kanohi. She sighed to herself. That experience had been painful, yet she managed to realize that Navlax had given her a hallucination.
She also realized that was Navlax's mask power; giving people nightmarish visions that reduced them to a sobbing, shuddering wreck of a being. But she pushed that thought aside for later and got back to asking the important question: Where in the name of the Great Spirit himself were they?
They should've been here by now, thought Cylan. But I don't even know if they're looking for me.
She realized she'd have to take matters into her own hands. She focused her scope on the shackles on the wall, and quickly wiggled her arms, trying to free them. At first it didn't seem to work, but she felt one of her hands start to slip through. She wiggled them harder, making her arms sore, until finally, the right hand came out. She leaned down slightly and started to undo the leg shackles, slowly and quietly loosening the bolts that held her. Eventually, she got her right leg out, followed by her left leg. Last but not least, she got her left hand out, and she fell to the floor.
The Toa of Electricity was free.
After a minute of attempting to stabilize herself and get the blood flowing back into her legs, she was able to stand up and walk around, getting her joints working again after being rendered useless for so long.
It feels good to walk again, grinned Cylan to herself.
Cylan glanced at the floor, where her gun laid in pieces, the only working parts being the barrels that slowly hummed with electric currents, an occasional zap every now and then. She started to think of possible ways to reassemble it, but realized that she had a much simpler way. She grabbed two of the bolts from her shackles and fastened them to the barrels of electricity, creating small, duel-wielded electric pistols, controlled by her own Elemental power, like her rifle.
She then noticed some discarded armour nearby, slightly rusted, but they'd work. She put them on as shoulder plates and allowed herself to enhance the armour, making it fit her more properly, making it look like a part of her. Her "upgrades" complete, she sprinted out of the cell, a huge smile on her.
It was time to stop this once and for all.
It wasn't the group who ran into Cylan, rather, it was the opposite: she ran into them. Everyone immediately skidded to a halt before staring at each other.
No one moved a muscle for a solid five seconds before Neia uttered a simple, "Holy crap."
The Toa Xharios embraced Cylan in a large group hug, who was overjoyed to see her teammates again, but stopped when she noticed someone was missing. Her heart started to sink as she saw that the Toa of Iron was not present with the team.
"Where's Ferrum?" asked Cylan, only to be met with saddened stares. Cylan then realized exactly what had happened, what she had felt earlier.
"Why, that bloody son of a-!" yelled Cylan, much to everyone's shock. Cylan had never used such language before. She had changed in the while she was held capture. Her temper had increased, and she looked weary. Small red rings circled her wrists and ankles, dried blood on them stained from being held by the shackles. Akirak walked over to Cylan and placed a hand on her shoulder in silent comfort.
"We'll find them," assured Jekkai from behind them. "We'll find them and kill them."
"Kill them? Isn't that sort of wrong for a Toa?" asked Norik.
"Let's just say I've learned things from an... old friend," sighed Jekkai. He hung his head sadly, his blue eyes closing, tears slowly falling.
"What's wrong?" asked Kualus.
"Nothing, it's just... another friend of mine, a mentor, told me that the world will test you in many ways. If you fail, there is no point in going forwards.
"And I think that's important here; we've lost a leader, a friend. We can't lose anyone else. Not today."
Tezun quietly put his hand on Jekkai's own shoulder.
"We have all suffered losses. Jekkai is right. We can't lose anyone else today, or we will never forgive ourselves," said Tezun. The Toa of Fire stared at the Toa of Ice in sympathy, before embracing him as a brother. The Toa of Ice, stunned for a moment, slowly returned the embrace.
Siela and Neia gripped each other's hand.
"You know, whatever happens, I'm glad you're here with me," said Siela.
"Me, too," sighed Neia. They smiled at each other, then turned to the Toa.
"So, let's go end this," said Siela.
Each of the Toa nodded, one by one, smiles slowly spreading across their faces, determined, ready to fight again.
"It's nearing 90%."
Teridax just sighed. The bomb seemed to be taking forever to load, but atleast it was almost finished. Soon, he could achieve everything he wanted, that he was unable to before. He could reign the entire universe, and no one could stop him.
Navlax stared at him. He used "I" earlier, she thought. Not "us", "I". Aren't we mentor and apprentice? Aren't we Makuta? Are we not both to reign?
Is he using me too?
Navlax realized that, being used or not, Teridax wouldn't let her bask in the glory. He'd reign over her as well, he'd reign over everything. Navlax also realized that she had always hated Teridax, even while serving him. She was merely a pawn, like the Dark Hunters, in the game.
But she didn't want to stop him just now. First the bomb had to explode.
Then she had to make sure she was the only one left standing in the rubble of a universe.
The two teams rounded the corner, sprinting down the hall when they came to a large room. A reactor, placed in the middle like a spotlight, glowed ominously, with the power surging inside of it, one of the few remaining functioning pieces of property in the entire laboratory.
"This could come in handy," observed Bomonga. The Toa and Matoran took mental note of this reactor, putting it aside for a later time. They also hooked up a small remote to an explosive charge planted on the reactor, just in case. Then they resumed their run, through the corridors.
"When I was in the cell," panted Cylan as they ran, "Navlax, she's another Makuta, she always came in from the left. It has to be nearby. They said something about everyone you care about dying, as well as everyone else. What do they mean by that?"
"Well," said Norik, "A weapon of mass desctruction would have to be used. Something powerful enough to obliterate a planet, a galaxy, even."
"It must be a bomb, then. A thermonuclear bomb, of sorts," said Gaaki.
"Crap, we're running out of time," cursed Tezun. "We have to stop that bomb, quickly, or we're all goners."
And yet by some sheer coincidence, they ended up in the very room where Navlax and Teridax were setting the bomb. Navlax turned her head, allowing the rest of the group to get a first look at her. She then raised her hands to her temples and focused her eyes. Immediately, the Toa and Matoran started to gasp, one by one, as their vision was replaced with their teammates dying before their eyes.
Navlax knew nothing hurt more than witnessing someone you care about dying before you, and you being powerless to stop it. She focused even harder, giving everything she had in that mask.
Siela and Neia had it the hardest, witnessing each other dying. In the vision, they screamed the other's name, only for silence to fill the void. They started to sob, kneeling on the ground.
But something felt wrong...
They looked down at their hands, to find another one entwined with it. They realized they were hallucinating, and they had to snap out of it. They concentrated hard. Navlax, noticing this, had the visions of Siela and Neia call out desparingly to the other, but that didn't shake them. Finally, Siela and Neia snapped back to reality and looked at each other, grateful that their partner was there beside them. Then they nodded at each other and ran at Navlax.
The Makuta smiled wickedly and readied her gauntlets, then realized they weren't charging her, but the bomb itself.
So she allowed them to pass and continued to play with the minds of the Toa, who were now screaming in agony.
Teridax's eyes went wide with rage. His mouth opened slightly, his teeth bared, lips in a snarl. He started to open his mouth, but kept it closed. He would deal with her later. Instead, Teridax advanced towards the Matoran, who had reached the bomb. He wasn't about to let all his hard work be ruined by two Matoran. As they started to defuse the bomb, Teridax loomed behind them, a shadow of darkness towering over. As he spotted a nearby blade, Siela and Neia were almost done. Sweat started to brim their foreheads and hands as Teridax picked up the blade.
Just as Siela and Neia finished the last arrangements, they felt a blade go through them.
Blood poured out of their wounds as the two fell onto the floor, slipping away from reality. Teridax then pushed the button to detonate. Navlax then stopped her Kanohi powers and the Toa slowly reentered reality, only to be met with the sight of Siela and Neia's bodies on the floor, and the timer counting down.
"No...," whispered Akirak.
"FOOLISH TOA! You have arrived at your demise, and you will get front row seats to the destruction of your universe! I will reign supreme, and all of you will perish! Those who survive, we'll see what happens then. Thus," said Teridax as the timer reached five, "I bid you... adieu."
And nothing happened.
Teridax's smug grin faded instantly. "NO! THIS IS NOT POSSIBLE!" screamed the Makuta, his voice full of rage.
"Iruini, now!" shouted Norik. Iruini hit the button on the remote, causing the charge to go off and the reactor started to malfunction, causing a chain reaction that would inadvertently lead to the destruction of the lab. Iruini grabbed the bodies of Siela and Neia and the Toa sprinted.
"NO!" roared Teridax. "YOU WILL PAY FOR THIS! ALL OF YOU WILL!"
As Teridax cursed at the Toa, Navlax slipped into the room silently. Just as Teridax noticed and ran for the room, Navlax closed the door.
And locked it.
"Open this door, right now," growled Teridax.
Navlax thought about it for a second and smiled before replying,
And then all Navlax heard after that was a loud bang.
The Toa quickly evacuated the lab, fearing it could go off any minute. As sparks flew around them and the lights quickly shut off, the Toa spotted the cave entrance and leaped out. They ran to the village as Arsenal Laboratories, or, what was left of it, exploded behind them, leaving only a trail of smoke and a smell of burning metal.
They ran to Siela and Neia's hut where Elisis was waiting. She hadn't seen them in a few days and came to check on them, but when she saw the bodies, she knew what happened. Putting a hand over her mouth in shock, she looked up at the Toa, her eyes full of despair. Iruini then handed the bodies to Elisis, who gently laid each body in each of their beds. She then closed the door behind her and went to attempt to console the Toa.
Jekkai and Tezun had been wrong.
They had lost another friend that day. Two of them.
But this loss was even more painful.
When Siela and Neia came to, they saw that they were no longer on Xhio. In fact, their spirits were on a course to the Red Star, where beings were sent when they died to never return. The Star had been malfunctioning for years, and any hope of it working again was slim. The two Matoran looked at each other and embraced, tears of joy in their eyes knowing they had done their job, at the cost of their own lives.
"So, even though we're dead, want to hang out later?" asked Neia, trying to lighten the mood.
Siela laughed and said, "Sure, I'd love that."
"We have a lot of time to be together, you know," said Neia.
"Yeah, I know. But we'll figure something out," replied Neia.
"We always do," smiled Neia.
But then the ride seemed to stop as the two slowed down until they were just floating in space. Siela and Neia looked around, confused. Out of nowhere, a voice came to them.
"Why did we stop?" asked Neia. "We're dead, aren't we?"
The voice paused before saying, "Not quite. Your bodies are just in limbo."
"So, we can... go back?" asked Siela, hope in her voice.
"If you want," replied the voice.
"Um, there's someone we'd like to bring with us, if that's okay?" asked Neia.
"I'm afraid this is for you two only. Your friend is dead, you two are not," said the voice, sadly.
Neia lowered her head before asking, "Can we atleast see him?"
The voice seemed to sigh before saying, "You may. But after then I need to know your decision."
Siela and Neia slowly floated down to the Red Star, looking for a certain Toa of Iron. It didn't take long for them to find him, and Neia ran to him and embraced him tightly. Ferrum was surprised to see them here, but he hugged her back nonetheless.
"What happened? How'd you get here?" asked Ferrum.
"We died," replied Siela, bluntly pointing out the obvious, which got a chuckle from Ferrum.
"No, I mean, how did you die?" said Ferrum.
"Oh. Well, we had to defuse a bomb, and Teridax stabbed us, and Iruini set off an explosive charge. Next thing we knew, we're headed here," said Neia. Ferrum merely blinked, taking all that in, before smiling.
"So you saved the universe, then," said Ferrum.
"Huh. I guess we did," said Siela. "That's an accomplishment."
Neia then looked up above the Red Star and realized the voice was still waiting.
"Um, Ferrum," said Neia. "We're... not exactly dead yet. We have a choice to stay here or go back."
Ferrum looked sad at this, but slowly broke out smiling again.
"Go," he said.
Neia looked at Ferrum.
"Go," he said again. Neia hesitated before hugging him tightly one last time as Siela smiled, coming over to embrace the Toa of Iron as well. The three embraced for a long time before he let the two go.
"Sorry I didn't believe in you guys at first," admitted Siela.
"Hey, there are Toa teams who have recieved the same reaction you had," laughed Ferrum before waving. Siela and Neia waved back before floating back up, Ferrum watching as they left.
"We've made our decision," said Siela.
"And what will that be?" said the voice.
"We're going home," said the two in unison, a grin on each of their faces. And if they didn't know any better, there seemed to be a grin on the voice as well.
"Very well," said the voice. Siela and Neia gripped each other's hand while looking down, and there was Ferrum, still waving. The two did a final wave back at him as the Toa of Iron below fought to hold back tears. He knew those two would be great Toa someday. He was proud to have been friends with them.
Then Siela and Neia looked up and closed their eyes as everything went white.
When Siela and Neia came to, they were in their beds in their hut. They rubbed their eyes before looking at each other.
"We're alive," grinned Siela.
"Damn right we are," replied Neia, grinning as well.
The two stepped outside to find the Toa Xharios and Hagah, whos eyes all lit up at the sight as they rushed over to them. The Matoran gave each of the Toa an embrace before Siela and Neia turned to Akirak, Tezun, Jekkai, and Iruini before Siela said, "We saw Ferrum."
Akirak smiled and asked, "How's he doing?"
"He's... He's doing pretty fine, actually," said Neia, looking up at the skies above. Just then, Elisis came up to them, a pen in one hand, a sheet of paper in the other.
"I'm writing down what it was like for you two to be dead," she said before breaking into laughter. Siela and Neia chuckled along with her, as did the Toa. Then Norik turned to Iruini.
"You know," he began, "the ship that brought us here, it still works. You want to come home with us?"
Iruini stared at the Toa Hagah, before staring back at the Toa Xharios, who nodded in encouragement to go. Iruini grinned at them before turning back to Norik and replying, "Yeah. I'll go home." Gaaki couldn't contain herself any longer and ran up to Iruini and hugged him, Iruini chuckling and embracing her back.
Jekkai then stepped forwards. "I'd like to come as well," he said. "I... have friends I'd like to see again."
Akirak, Tezun and Cylan stepped forward as well. "We'd come too, but we have a planet to protect," said Tezun. "But we wish you all the best."
The two Toa teams came together as a group and bid each other farewell, hoping to see each other again. Then the Toa Hagah, along with Jekkai, went off to find the ship.
Tezun chuckled. "He's going to drive them crazy, I bet."
"Oh, they'll be fine," said Akirak. Cylan nodded beside her.
Siela and Neia looked at each other and held hands.
"So, what do we do now?" asked Siela.
"I don't know, what do you want to do?" replied Neia.
"Ah, we'll just make something up as we go along," grinned Siela. The two laughed and ran off, Elisis and the Toa following them, looking for a new adventure to begin.
A new story to tell.
In the rubble of Arsenal Laboratories, all seemed still and quiet. The smoke was clearing, and the fires were slowly extinguishing. Then a hand slowly crawled out of the rubble.
Navlax pulled herself out, before noticing the flesh and armour on her lower left arm was gone, only pure bone remained.
"No matter," said Navlax. "This will be no big deal to me. I have other things planned."
She walked over to Teridax's corpse before noticing his mask was still on him, completely intact. She slowly removed it, finding another intact item: a container. She put the mask in the container and sealed it before walking off.
"Now that he is gone, I can begin something new. I can lead the Makuta the way I want do."
"You will not be avenged, Teridax. This is not for your sake, it is for my own. It is time for me to do what I want, create my own path without you telling me what to do.
"They don't know what's coming for them," said Navlax as her mouth started to tilt upwards in that all-too-familiar smile. Navlax, leader of the Makuta, she thought. I like the sound of that.
Then she spread her wings and took off to the skies, a laugh escaping her throat as she flew higher and higher, away from the planet Xhio and off to claim the title.
"They don't know, indeed..."
- The Toa Xharios
- Makuta Teridax
- Makuta Navlax
- "General" (mentioned, deceased)
- The Toa Hagah
- This is the conclusion to the Stories of Xhio storyline.
- The original Generation 1 Toa Hagah missions were referenced in Chapter 2.
- Maccy has said that some characters will die.
- Elisis belongs to Invader39. Her entry is on account of Invader winning the Cover Contest for Books 1 and 2 of The Stories of Xhio. He won by default because he was the only one who entered.