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Mystery and Danger[]

The trauma from the head blow had scattered Zartok's memories. Lihee was his friend. He had no idea how one could fall in a hole into energized protodermis and suddenly wake up on the floor of a fortress with a headache. "Lihee!" he called. "Don't worry, Zartok," he said to himself. "It's not like they're hiding from you."

Rayzok had escaped a potential rocky grave. He wasn’t in very good shape, as one might expect, seeing as he had been close to the epicenter of one of the Virus cannon detonations. Still he had been in good enough shape to crawl out of a hole and make it to his laboratory. He needed to make some minor repairs to his Accelerator.

He was scrounging around in the tech lab for parts when the thing attacked him, wrapping its claws around his throat from behind. It was seven feet tall, had black and silver armor, had a Mask of Silence, and had a large chest cavity. Rayzok peeled the thing off his neck, whirled, and hit it with a shadow blast. It laughed an intelligent and masculine laugh and returned with a blast of light. What in the world Rayzok thought. What is this thing?

"What are you?" Rayzok asked the thing. "What do you want? I'm sure that there is some way to settle your apparent problem than combat, whatever 'your problem happens to be. Perhaps I can employ you."

At this the thing laughed once more. "I don't think you are in a position to pay anyone for anything, Rayzok.” He said, gesturing to Rayzok’s charred and mangled armor. “And by the way, I quit.”

At first, Rayzok wasn’t sure what to think. He had never met this thing in his life, but then, something did seem familiar about him. Then he noted the way the thing bowed when he made his last statement. “Yarik,” was all Rayzok said.

Yarik nodded. "You figured it out. Impressive. Did you also figure out that I’m here to kill you?”

Rayzok nodded and readied his reaver. “Yes, I did figure that out. I’m smart that way.”

Yarik grinned. “Of course, but did you also figure out that Bultrox had me in his employ, and that he has been receiving updates on you for over three months?”

Rayzok snarled. “No, I did not. I don’t seem to be able to read your mind, so I had to trust you to be honest.”

Yarik shrugged. “My whole race is like that. You can’t invade our minds without permission.”

“I’ll be sure to never hire another of your kind again,” Rayzok said, firing plasma from his reaver.

Yarik laughed once more, opening up his chest cavity to admit the plasma bolt. Something seemed to happen inside the cavity, while Yarik continued talking. “Oh, I’m sure. If you ever knew who and what my brothers and sisters are, you never would have hired me. You would have begged for mercy from them.” With that, Yarik unleashed the pent-up energy in his chest out at Rayzok. The plasma’s power had been reversed, just as the shadow’s had before. Instead of being superheated matter, it was now matter chilled to Absolute Zero. The supercold blast froze the Makuta on contact, crystallizing even his Antimdermis.

Yarik smiled and closed up his chest cavity again. Turning to the shadows behind him, he said, “Well, how was that? You satisfied?”

Three pairs of eyes drew closer to Yarik from within the shadows. The owner of one pair said with a harsh, whispy voice, “Satisfactory. That’s it. He was weak, and you have failed to exact killing force as yet.”

Yarik turned back to Rayzok. “I can still kill him, if you wish.”

The two pairs of red eyes looked at each other, then the first one chuckled. The second one spoke, with a voice far deeper but less harsh than the other. “Sure you could. Look, little brother, just come along.”

“Why?” said Yarik, even as he complied.

The deep-voiced being paused for a moment before speaking, as if to choose exactly the right words, then said, “Because we need to be sure that we will not be killed ourselves when we leave, by the hand of vengeful minions of our enemy.”

Yarik shrugged. “All right.”

The red eyes drew nearer. “And one more thing.” The owner of those eyes, a tall-armored armor clad in black and blue, seized Yarik by the throat with his massive clawed hand. “Don’t – EVER – ask me why. Unless, of course, you’d like to see exactly WHY I am our order’s second-in-command?”

The first pair of eyes’ owner smiled and gestured for the other to put Yarik down. “At ease, my lieutenant. Save your rage for the Makuta himself. He is far more worth your time and energy.” His second-in-command simply opened his claw, letting Yarik drop to the floor like a pile of rubbish.

“Aw, boss,” the third pair of eyes’ owner, a bestial giant, groaned. “I wanted to see some action.”

The leader of the group, and in fact their whole organization, a sleek, muscular being in ancient ebony armor, put a hand on the giant’s shoulder. “Don’t worry, my loyal muscle. You will see plenty of action before long. It is all a matter of time.”

And with that, the quartet retreated into the shadows. They were not a minute too later, for as soon as they left the chamber, Rayzok blasted free, and immediately spun, releasing a ring of plasma at the walls. When his vision readjusted, he saw that his effort were in vain, for there was no one there. I see that all is not as it seems, the Makuta thought. Very well. It’s rather fitting, because not all is as it seems to my enemies, either.

The Makuta reached up to his mask, realizing that it was badly mangled, possibly beyond repair. No matter. He tore it off, revealing another beneath it. It was the Makuta’s true mask. The guise of Rayzok was a mask in itself, as was his deliberate conservation of power to maintain the guise. In reality, the Makuta who stood in the laboratory was one far more powerful, then Rayzok had ever been. If only the Alliance knew. It would be such a joy to see their reaction.

Oh, but they will know, Rayzok said to himself. They will soon know, and then they will know deception. They will know trickery. And they will know genius. They will be a step toward comprehending all that is me.

Levuku was reading a book. Not just any book, a book written by a very, very close friend. It was really a journal, but Levuku used it as a reference book for life. He never shared the fact that he possessed it with anyone, but he really didn't know why, other than "it's a personal thing".

He heard footsteps. He flung open his pack and threw the journal into it. It was Buraka. Her eyes were fixed on the bag. Before Levuku could protest, she had crossed the room of their stick-made outpost and opened the bag. She took one look at the cover and asked, "A journal? Why would you hide this?"

"Uhh...Yah!" Levuku stammered. "A journal! That's right!"

Buraka took a look inside, suspicious. Her eyes grew wide with surprise. Levuku gritted his teeth. "You saved this?" she asked. Levuku nodded. "This is...his journal, isn't it?" Levuku nodded again, this time almost crying.

"You can show everyone that," he said, handing her the book. "I was looking for a way to justify keeping this secret, but I couldn’t find one." Buraka nodded. They showed it to the team, and they all read the story of Levuku's treasured mentor, Kanahka.

Three days later Fajaku strode through the wrecked southeastern wing of Rayzok's Fortress. Being very small, only two feet in height, she didn't attract a lot of attention from Scropio-Spiders. She looked much like Yarik once had. This was normal. Members of her and Yarik’s race had a larva form that they began life in, and had the ability to metamorphose once in their life, taking on an adult form.

Fajaku sneaked around another corner then put her back to the wall as a Scorpio-Spider walked by. Shortly afterward, she had to repeat the process as a robot clad in black and white armor stalked by. Its presence here was puzzling. What was the Makuta up to?

Well, she thought to herself, finding that out is why the boss sent me here. She decided to try to find out where it was going. Perhaps, if it was on patrol, it would stroll past its point of origin. Fajaku trailed it for a time, but stumbled over a piece of metal litter at one point, causing a long clink. The robot whirled on her, forcing the juvenile creature to duck for cover. Twin blasts of super-compressed air struck the point where she had been, smashing into the floor with a loud noise and sending dust flying every which way. This dust was a blessing to Fajaku, for it concealed her long enough for the robot to decide that she was finished. When the dust cleared, Fajaku found that, despite her fooling the robot, she had made a beginner’s mistake: she had not sought sufficient cover. If not for the dust, she would have been spotted easily and the robot would have likely done her in.

She would have let out a sigh of relief, but that would have let the robot know of her presence. Instead, Fajaku continued trailing it. Nothing went wrong for almost a whole minute, but then disaster struck. The robot walked around a 180-degree corner, but before Fajaku could follow, a few Scorpio-Spiders skittered over and closed a massive stone gateway, blocking Fajaku off from the robot.

Oh, you big, stupid bugs, Fajaku thought at the spiders. Someday, I’ll come back here looking way different, and you’ll get your tails kicked. Fajaku glanced around, finally seeing a crack in the wall, through which she could see the robot’s feet. Hurrying over to the hole, she looked through it. Fajaku could see not only her quarry, but also several other similar robots, all milling around a few large stasis tanks, which were situated in the center of a large, circular chamber. Pieces of equipment were scattered all over the chamber’s many tables, and half-built robots were stood up against the walls. Even more interesting, and even a little scary to the young spy, was the fact the Makuta Rayzok stood at one of the tables, fiddling with a compact piece of equipment.

Wow, Fajaku thought. Rayzok himself, in the flesh. Wait. Not in the flesh. In the…the word I can’t remember right now. Fajaku knew she had to get in there, but had no idea how. The hole was far too small to crawl through, and she had no way of covertly getting past the door. It was hopeless. Fajaku turned to go back the way she had come, planning to report what she could to her leader, but she stopped after a few feet. Wait a minute, she thought. What am I thinking? Of course I can get in there.I just have to stop being a child and be an adult. Mentally and physically.

Fajaku was at the right age for her metamorphosis, and had delayed until now in commencing it because she wanted to make sure she picked a form and powers she could be happy with all her life. However, sometimes life wasn’t nice enough to let one do that. Sometimes one just has to go for it.

Fajaku glanced around. When she metamorphosed, she could decide what powers and attributes she would have as an adult, within a certain limit. Fajaku tried to decide on a power or two that would not only help her overcome this challenge, but many others in the future. She could give herself the ability to become intangible and walk through the door, but that would leave her still clearly visible. She could give herself the ability to teleport, but she would have no way of making sure she, in trying to teleport through the wall, actually made it through the wall and didn’t just get stuck in it.

Eventually her eyes settled on the hole in the wall. That was it. The power to shrink would not only allow her access to the room, but her tiny stature would also keep her relatively covert as well.

Fajaku concentrated. She pictured how she wanted to look, and she told herself what she wanted to be able to do. Her form shimmered and rippled as if it was a fading mirage. As it did so, it also began to change. Fajaku grew taller, but not very tall, only reaching about five-and-a-half feet. Her form become stronger, but still relatively slim, and more like that of her brothers. Four wings sprouted from her back, which flapped slightly as they stretched out for the first time. Finally, Fajaku’s transformation reached its finish with the addition of red and blue hues to her armor and spiked daggers to her hands.

Cool, she thought. Guess Slaryka was right on how to do that. Fajaku then reached up and touched her face. There was a mask there, just as she expected, but it was also bound to her head in such a way that it would be extremely difficult to remove. Smiling, Fajaku triggered her new headgear’s power. The new warrior began to diminish, shrinking to about a foot in height before stopping. Satisfied, she then stepped calmly and very quietly through the hole in the wall.

Immediately Fajaku knew one thing: this was a lab. It was a serious lab. There was even the smell of chemicals permeating the room, something Fajaku didn’t expect. She had to move, though, because a seemingly immense Scorpio-Spider was nearby, and it seemed to be reacting to her presence. The tiny warrior took off at a run, scurrying under a nearby table and concealing herself.

From her new vantage point, Fajaku took stock of her surroundings. There were a dozen or so of the new robots in the chamber, as well as several of the arachnids. Rayzok seemed engrossed in his work, and had his back to Fajaku. Fajaku wanted to know what he was working on, and she was sure her boss would like to know as well. Gathering her nerve, she bolted for another table. This time, she got a surprise, but not a painful one. Instead, it was a stroke of unbelievable luck. A crash sounded outside, to which all the beings in the lab reacted to, spiders, robots, and Makuta.

“Well?” Rayzok admonished his minions. “Move, you dolts! Go kill whatever made that noise. I need time to concentrate!” With that, all of the troops vacated the chamber.

Fajaku pumped her little fist in glee. Now that there were no other beings in the room, she could get a good look at what the engrossed Makuta was doing. Spreading her wings, Fajaku took to the air, hovering like a dragonfly over to where the Makuta worked. The spy floated as close as she dared to her quarry, then looked over his shoulder. He looked to be working on his wrist device, his warp machine. No big deal. Fajaku was expecting something more interesting, like a brand-new weapon that she could warn her brothers to watch out for.

That was when she noticed. The Makuta’s mask was wrong. All wrong. He was supposed to be wearing a Mask of Illusion, but, even though Fajaku didn’t recognize the mask he was wearing, she knew it was not the mask she had expected. Floating a little closer, she suddenly recognized it. Oh, she thought. Wow. Not expecting that. The boss has just got to know this.

With that, the little spy turned to go. She flew across the chamber and through the hole in the wall, heading for the outdoors. After finding her way out, she soared through the sky for a time before spotting her target. Dropping down, she grew back to full size as she fell, finally landing at the feet of her boss. With a salute, she said, “Fajaku reporting,”

Her boss smiled. “You’ve certainly grown up since I last saw you. I expect that that means you’ve succeeded at your first mission?”

"Right, boss,” she answered. “Got some nice, juicy Makuta gossip for you.”

Buraka had found a sufficiently suspicious cave. The Alliance was looking for a new entrance into Rayzok’s fortress, should they ever need to invade it and fight the Makuta again. The cave Buraka found seemed pretty likely, so she stepped inside. Immediately, she spotted red eyes looking out at her from the shadows. Before she could react, an axe flashed out of the dark and smacked her staff across the room. "Ah, the heroic team arrives,” a voice said. “You’re not Toa; are you made of the same metallic resolve they are, or do you break more easily?”

“What are you talking about?” Buraka asked. “Who are you?”

The eyes flashed. "Someone who could be said to share your goals, if not your policies.” With that, the shadowy figure lunged at her, but Buraka evaded, and now she could see her enemy. He had blue and black armor and carried a big axe. He had bluish wings, pincer-like talons, and a slightly disturbing, ebony mask. He also had a large chest cavity, but it was empty.

“Who are you?” Buraka repeated.

Her attacker sneered. “I am Trallix, the last being you will ever see."

Trallix swung his axe, planning to fling Buraka against the wall. She jumped over the tool, heading toward her staff. Trallix completed a 360-degree spin and hurled his axe at his enemy. Buraka heard it coming and leaped into the air. Her adversary responded by firing lasers from his eyes, which struck Buraka in the legs and caused her to land on her face instead of her feet. Trallix was on her in two strides and scooped her up in his claws. "Too bad you have to die," Trallix said coldly. "You might have done so much good."

Buraka squirmed. "I’m not done yet. Heroes don’t give up." She managed to maneuver her staff into the correct position to stab it into Trallix’s side, unleashing tendrils of energy into his form. The dark warrior spasmed and let Buraka go.

Buraka landed on her feet, but Trallix recovered his staff before she could attack. The female Crynok was ready to fight anew, but Trallix was through. “I will go now, freedom fighter,” he said to her with a gesture of farewell. “You have passed your quality assurance exam, and since this cave’s equipment doesn’t serve any purpose to me, I will allow you to take possession of it and its contents.”

“Wait,” Buraka started. “Equipment? What kind?”

Trallix shouldered the female aside as he started toward the nearby forest. “Find out, straight arrow. You might be surprised.” With that, the mysterious being vanished into the semi-dark forest.

Buraka shrugged. Well, he didn’t seem to want me dead, but even if he does, he let me live for now. Which means I can fight him fairly later, if need be. Best to get the others over here, though.

It didn’t take very long to find her teammates, and when she had brought them over to the cave and told of her mysterious encounter, she informed them that her visitor had told her of some equipment in the cave. That intrigued Lohrua and Suntrah greatly. Voran had Runik light a small blaze on the floor of the cave to illuminate the entire cavity.

What the light revealed surprised the Alliance. They hadn’t found an entrance to the Makuta fortress, but they had found a stockpile of spare equipment. Scientific equipment, form the look of it. Lohrua jumped right in.

“Wow,” he breathed. “Makuta-level laboratory materials! I can’t believe it! I finally have the chance to work with state-of-the-art tools and equipment. Wow.”

Suntrah was interested, too, particularly by a large stash of test tubes filled with chemicals of all sorts. He was primarily interested, however, not by innate curiosity, but by his mask, slightly glowing, urging him toward them. “Lohrua,” he said. “Mask scan, over here. These vials are setting off my mask for some reason.”

As Lohrua scanned the vials, Runik looked apprehensive. “Will they explode or something? You never know with chemicals and such. It might have been left as a trap.”

Yurdil shook her head. “I don’t think so, Runik. I respect you concern, but I don’t think Rayzok, with his seeming obsession with his work, would have left these tools in immediate danger like that.”

“Yeah, Runik,” Bartha added churlishly. “He’s so full of himself he’d never leave this stuff where it might blow up. He’s too obsessive-compulsive for that.”

Jahvoka, normally silent, spoke up. “However, brother, he could come back for this equipment. It is best not to linger any longer than necessary.”

Lorua gasped suddenly. His scan had told him something monumental with its ability to psychometrically analyze objects. The brief history that it gave him told him that this equipment could be used to run the whole conflict with the Makuta around. “Guys,” he said, “this is unbelievable.”

“What?” Suntrah asked anxiously.

“What is this stuff?” Voran inquired. “What is it meant to do?”

Lohrua turned back to them. “It’s not what it can do, it’s what it already has done.” He turned to the diminutive Toa. “Guys, this is the stuff Burtok used on you so long ago. This is the stuff that changed you into what you are.”

The Alliance as a whole was dumbstruck. Finally Suntrah broke the silence. “That must be why my mask was acting up. Lohrua, help me out. We’re reverse-engineering this stuff and turning it into its own antidote.”

“You mean?” Runik began.

Suntrah nodded with a smile. “Yes, Runik. You will be Toa in stature as well as heart again.”

It took some time, about two hours, for Lohrua and Suntrah to be done, but the two of them finally, with a little help from Panuko and Bultrox, managed to create the antidote. Lohrua’s mask confirmed that the potions’ effects had in fact been reversed, and the new formula that the vials contained would in fact return the Toa Tronux to their former stature.

As the antidote was being administered, Levuku asked Voran, “What is actually going to happen here? What will they turn into?”

Voran sighed. “I honestly can’t remember, but I do know that Bartha was not originally a Toa of Stone, and Yurdil was not originally a Toa of Water. I believe Bartha could control Iron, but I can’t recall what Yurdil’s original element was.”

“I guess we’re about to find out,” Levuku replied.

Indeed they were. Before the astonished eyes of their comrades, the four shrunken Toa began to transform. Finally they would be back to the way that Destiny originally wanted them to be.

Runik’s armor tones sharpened, his red becoming more orange, and his dark armor turning black. He grew in stature until he was about Suntrah’s and Voran’s height, his weapon enlarging as well, becoming a regal, flame-shaped sword of orange. He even gained a shield, whose edge was lined with saw-like serrations.

Jahvoka’s armor turned from a dull yellow-orange to a gleaming silver-gray, his tiny claw tools transforming into spiked tools that resonated sonic waves. The normally reserved Toa looked overcome with joy at his return to form.

Bartha changed dramatically as well. His brown and tan tones were replaced with metallic gray, his hook-like tools replaced with a majestic warhammer. His Mask of Strength radiated with newly replenished energy, making it clear that this was one Toa with whom none should trifle.

Yurdil, finally changed as well. Her tools disappeared, but new golden tones to her armor replaced them, marking her as a rare Toa of Psionics. The restored hero closed her eyes, letting her mind unleash its power for the first time in several hundred years. Her teammates’ minds were all touched by her consciousness, except for Bultrox’s whose was apparently immune to such influence. This projected her elation and relief into their minds as well, and even Bultrox could guess how happy she must be. It made them all smile to know that their teammates were so happy, so at ease for the first time in far too long.

They all knew one more thing immediately as well. Rayzok didn’t stand a chance.

Vaturi had not expected to wake up at all. She certainly hadn’t expected to awake in Rayzok’s lab, hanging over a Rahi creation vat. Apparently the Makuta decided to have some fun with what was left of his cybernetic minion. He had rebuilt Vaturi's head and torso, and apparently planned to uses the viruses in the vat to complete the rest of her body.

“Wait!” she cried out weakly. It was no use. Rayzok didn’t seem to hear her as he pulled a chain, sending his minion into the Rahi vat. Vaturi screamed as the virus covered her body. It merged, mingled with her very brain, twisting, warping, shaping. Suddenly, it was over. She was changed physically, resembling a bat-like creature, but the more dramatic change was to her mind. In that short time, she had had more than enough time to rethink her lot in life. And she knew now that she and Rayzok were through.

As she rose, the Makuta made his way over to her. “Well, well, well,” he said, in a pleasant voice. “Welcome to consciousness. As you can see, I made some improvements to you while you were out. I hope you don’t mind.”

Vaturi shook her head. “I don’t mind too much,” she said, in spite of herself. “What I do mind is our current arrangement.”

Rayzok cocked his head to the side. That was when Varuri finally noticed. He wasn’t wearing Rayzok’s mask. He was wearing the mask of another Makuta, one dreadfully familiar to the former Alliance member. “What do you mean, my dear?” he asked, almost mockingly. “How have I offended you?”

Vaturi backed off a step. “You aren’t all to blame. I was stupid to run off on my friends. I was even stupider to run off into the clutches of our greatest enemy. But, I will tell you, I am a tiny bit ticked that you treated me like dirt while I was at it, left me to die fighting my former teammates, and not even bothering to let me think you even had a shred of respect for anything honorable. Just a little.”

“Rayzok” laughed. “How cute. You amuse me when you’re angry. Now, honestly, you wish to rebel against me? You do realize that that’s suicide, right?”

Vaturi was full of pent-up emotion, but she kept it inside, as she always did. “Suicide? Whatever. We justice fighters get into suicidal situations at least every week, if not every day. It’s an occupational hazard.” She noted and readied her new, wickedly sharp, arm-mounted blades. “Now, I’m going home to my friends, and I dare you and your pompous, inflated head to stop me.”

Vaturi swung at “Rayzok.” He blocked it with his reaver, and Vaturi’s tool wrapped around the Makuta's weapon, almost like it was limp. I may have slept for a while, but metal doesn't do that, she thought.

“Rayzok” was intrigued by the blade’s strange behavior and, before it could resume its normal shape, he used shapeshifting to spin his hand rapidly. The blade stuck to his reaver and was coiled around the whirling weapon like a scroll, and began stretching. It stretched until it reached its limit, the tension sending Vaturi flying into the spinning reaver. The impact sent Vaturi flying across the lab into a wall, her weapon retracting and resuming its normal look.

As she slid off the wall and crashed onto a table, “Rayzok” said, "You see, that's why we Makuta never use our power of elasticity." He said. "It can cut both ways."

Vaturi's problem was the fact that her swords didn't seem to be able to cut anything. Then an inspiration hit her. Maybe the swords had a power that could be turned off. It's worth a try, she thought. Vaturi swung her blade, and this time no stretching occurred. She traded swings with her opponent for a short time, before he began to drive her back. That was fine, though, for Vaturi’s ultimate goal was to escape, anyway. Flipping backward, she put distance between herself and her enemy, then took off at a run. She ducked through the open lab door just before the Makuta magnetically slammed it shut.

A pair of Scorpio-Spiders stood in her way, but didn’t stay there long. Vaturi cast her elastic tool out, whipping it into and coiling it around one of the spiders. The spider snapped toward her, but she evaded it, sending it into a loop around her. Its loop ended with a crash into it partner. The impact knocked out both Rahi, allowing Vaturi to escape at last. She hurled herself out of Rayzok’s fortress, vowing that when – not if, when – she returned, she would be there to make battle, and she would not be alone.

Runik was feeling quite brave. The Toa of Fire, the leader of the Toa Tronux, had been quite timid while he was depowered, and that had come to an end. In reality, Runik had always been on the cautious side for a Toa of Fire, at least when he was commanding a team. Although sometimes rash when making decisions about his own safety, he was always careful about his teammates’ safety. When he was depowered, he just became cautious all around, regardless of whether it was for his own sake or for others’. It felt good to have his old power back, and with it, he also realized that the original alterations that Makuta Burtok had made so long ago had also affected his mind, bringing out some of his bad traits, making him something of a coward at times. Now that it was over, he was ready to show Burtok that he had failed to make a wuss out of Runik.

Also, Runik was happy for his teammates as well, especially Bartha and Yurdil. Being separated from one’s original element of affiliation was not something he could relate to, nor was it a self-alienation he would have wished on anyone else. He was glad to see Bartha creating and toying with various metallic constructs, and Yurdil exercising her telekinetic powers for the first time in centuries.

Bartha decided to start fooling around with the metals in the bodies of some of his teammates, making them move around by force of his will. His humorless, cynical demeanor had vanished, replaced with his normal good-naturedness. He was expressing his newfound good humor by making Levuku do a little dance, much to the youth’s distress.

“Dude!” he shouted. “Not cool. Not cool, dude!”

Bartha laughed and made Levuku finish up his little involuntary antics by striking a pose. “Sorry, kid. Just having some fun. I didn’t hurt you, did I?”

Levuku shook his head. “No, no hurting. Just embarrassment.”

Yurdil spoke up. “I don’t like to invade people’s minds without permission, but… I kind of need to right now. May I?”

With her teammates’ nodded assent, Yurdil let her consciousness expand, stretching out to all those in the cave. It felt good to let herself loose like this again. For far too long, Yurdil had been cut off from the mental realm. At last she had returned.

However, Yurdil’s expanded consciousness also revealed that she was not the only one returning home. “Everyone?” she began, “I just picked up a visitor. Vaturi.”

Suntrah tapped his mask. “Same here.”

The Avenging Alliance readied for attack, but Yurdil gestured for them to settle down. “She’s not here to do battle. She wants to talk.”

Levuku readied his staff anyway. “She can talk to my staff. I got no time for traitors.” Lohrua, Bartha, and Panuko either nodded or verbalized their agreement.

Suntrah stood with Yurdil. “Look,” he said. “If she truly wants to return to our cause, we have to give her another chance. The Makuta wouldn’t, the Dark hunters wouldn’t, but we need to be better than them.”

Grudgingly, the four dissenters agreed to stand down for the time being. It didn’t take long for Vaturi to arrive, though, and for their anger to be rekindled. Everyone was a little surprised by her appearance, however.

Voran put their surprise to words. “You look different, Vaturi.”

Vaturi gestured to the recently restored Toa. “Same to you. Lokk, guys, I’ve been thinking. Hard.”

“About time,” Levuku said thoughtlessly. Suntrah shot him a chastising look.

“So I think,” Vaturi continued, “That I was wrong to join the Makuta. I gave up too quick, but more than that, I abandoned all I stood for, both my ideals and my friends.” She paused for breath. It was strange and quite moving to her teammates to see her open up like this. “You guys were always ready to put yourselves in danger with me – and for me – so that we could stand for honor and justice. I missed that. I see it now. I’m not asking you to forgive me. I’m asking you to let me try again.”

Voran put his arm across her shoulders. “We will not only forgive you, but we will give you your second chance.” He turned to his teammates. “Am I right?”

One by one they agreed. Vaturi smiled a rare warm smile. In that moment, Vaturi was one of them again.

Still, all good moments cannot last forever. In this case, Vaturi had something to tell her once-again teammates.

As they listened to her story, they were shocked by what they heard. They had not been fighting Rayzok at all, but someone far more dangerous, more powerful, and more malicious. They had been fighting their original and greatest enemy, Makuta Burtok.

There was a long pause. Then Bultrox exclaimed, “You mean all this time I was trying to kill someone else, not Rayzok!?” He drew his sword. “Let me at the Makuta! No one dupes me and gets away with it!”