Justice is Served
Lohrua reflected on what he was doing and why. He was marching, along with the rest of his companions, the Avenging and Universal Alliances, to a Makuta fortress with the intent of fighting their greatest and most deadly antagonist, Burtok. Burtok was an expert in high technology and robot making, as well as a chemist, which just made him more difficult to deal with, as if he wasn't hard enough already. It was a good thing that Lohrua knew a little about technology, then. And analyzing it, he added, tapping his mask.
Vaturi was uncomfortable. It was more than just marching along with a large group of armed warriors whom she had betrayed, no, it was also the pain, the mild cramping pain that afflicted her whole body. It must be from my sudden change of shape and powers, she thought. Being turned into a batlike monstrosity will do that to you. She had blades that were fused to her hands and a set of dark gray wings on her back. Worse, her mask now had changed its power and shape, now sporting fanglike designs, and she didn't know its power, either. None of this was at all comfortable.
Bultrox was very irritated. Not only had it been revealed that the whole team had been tricked for several months, but it had robbed Bultrox against revenge against Rayzok, and Rularx, another Makuta with him, for destroying his home island and capturing his army of Runask. Bultrox had been a general in the Runask army, but that didn't stop Rayzok his partner Rularx from taking the whole island captive and building a fortress on it. Burtok has robbed me of revenge, and that means he is my new target, Bultrox thought angrily.
Thravak was wondering why he followed Lihee at all. He had once been a general in a Skakdi army that was destroyed by Makuta Chirox and his army. Almost all of the Skakdi were captured and/or killed, but Thravak stayed alive. He had found Lihee and agreed to follow his leadership. He didn't know what he signed up for when he agreed to that. He had been almost maimed by a Makuta, killed by a huge Rahkshi, and almost smothered in arachnids. Yet somehow he felt a satisfaction at doing good for the universe as a whole. Just goes to show, he thought, Toa sure are persuasive.
It didn’t take long for the group to arrive at the fortress. The original gate was in shambles, and after Fajaku and Vaturi escaped, the current portal inside had been filled with masonry. Thus, the Alliances had to make their own. Voran sic-ed Bultrox, Levuku, and Suntrah on this task, Runik told Bartha to join them, and Lihee said the same to Thravak. The group of five destruction experts managed to smash a hole in the pile of masonry that ringed the fortress, and did it in record time. The twin teams then entered the volcano-embedded castle, ready for whatever might occur.
One thing they were not ready for was the light. Last time they had been here, the Makuta had had all of his hallways shrouded in twilight, since he liked it that way and the Scorpio-Spiders could see in the dark. This time, however, the halls were well-lit. No one was sure why this was, but they decided it was best to relish their good fortune rather than question it. Once inside, the fortress didn’t look all that different from the last time they saw it, but that was to be expected. The explosions that caved the structure in occurred on the outer ring of the compound, since that was where Burtok’s Virus Cannons had been located.
“Still nice in here, as always,” Choro commented.
Suntrah readied his rifle. “Not for long, it won’t be.”
The teams made their way cautiously to the center of the compound. They all knew where Burtok’s lab-sanctum-thing was. They were in no hurry to make it there quickly. They had been preparing for this battle for days since Vaturi had come back, and they had all been mentally prepared for this day for almost a year. It was time for Burtok to be no more, and they were going to do it right.
Every once in a while Suntrah’s head darted toward the shadows. The Runask’s mask was faintly illuminated, signaling that he sensed something that no one else could. He apparently was convinced that there was something -- or someone – in those shadows, but was unsure what. Suntrah continued to grow more uneasy as the team proceeded.
Voran simply walked in front. He knew where they were going. He knew what they had to do. That was all that mattered right now. They had to end the Makuta’s threat somehow, and they were going to do it. They would leave here either victorious or on their way to their graves, no matter what they would face today.
Slaryka was curious. Those seventeen, they seemed like they were on a mission. One of them looked remarkably like the person Trallix claimed to have fought in a cave, and the rest of them looked like what Zalkatrex had described as the local anti-Makuta resistance.
Interesting, the stealthy being thought. I hope, for their sake that they don’t interfere with our little mission here. Even if they do, at least we’ll have quite a show.
Slaryka was on orders to stick strictly to reconnaissance, and monitor current events in Burtok’s fortress. A tiny army of freedom fighters marching to battle against an egomaniacal Makuta scientist was certainly more interesting than Slaryka could have hoped for. Still, it meant that soon he and his brothers and sister would have to take action sooner than anticipated.
The spy turned to the shadows, intending to tell his leader of events. As he began to move toward his secret entrance to the fortress, though, he heard footsteps coming right for him. Fortunately, his naturally keen senses also told him that the owner of the noisy feet was Zalkatrex himself.
“Good,” Slaryka said, with a quick salute of recognition. “Now I don’t have to come to you.”
“I know why you’re coming for me, Slaryka,” Zalkatrex assured him. “Trallix has already informed me that the resistances left their residences. This is the only place where they could have gone.”
Trallix, Yarik, Fajaku, and a massive beast strode into view behind Zalkatrex. “We’re ready to do battle,” Zalkatrex hissed. “We came here to sharpen our claws, so let us do so. If this little team of renegades is ready to eliminate the Makuta as well, then by all means let them, but not until after we’ve had our fun with him first.”
And so the five creatures moved out, traveling deeper and deeper into the corridors of the fortress.
Burtok was ready. The Makuta slapped the Time Dilation Accelerator to his arm, grabbed his copy of the late Rayzok’s Shadow Reaver off a nearby table, and made sure his true, newly exposed make was well-fitted. Once he felt he was prepared, the Makuta crossed the floor of his lab and used his magnetic power to open the door. Immediately, he saw his loyal Pneuma-Toa standing guard. The Pneuma-Toa were black-and-white robot drones equipped with blades that fired bursts of super-compressed air. The robots were also equipped with a spin attack, with which the robots could cause momentary cyclones.
“There are intruders on the premises,” Burtok said to his minions. “You know what to do.”
The robots headed off immediately, ready to fight. As they went, they urged their brethren to join them as they made off to confront both teams of invaders.
Burtok smiled, but did not join them. He had something to take care of before he joined the fray. Still smiling, Burtok activated a small panel that deactivated the several stasis tanks in his lab. They were massive cylinders, and had to be, for they held the Makuta scientist’s latest project.
Burtok began to chuckle when he saw the clawed hand strike the glass of one of the cylinders. He chuckled more deeply when the hand was joined by another, curled into a fist, which smashed the glass to tiny fragments. A massive, reptilian creature strode out, dripping with the chemical cocktail it had been bathing in for weeks. Its faceplate opened, letting the massive worm inside it screech in triumph.
Yes, my pets, Burtok thought to his titanic Rahkshi. Go and wreak utter havoc in my name. I will join you as soon as I pick something up. With that, the Makuta departed through a portal, and the six Rahkshi departed through the door. Both were ready to cause chaos.
Yaltrax was also ready to cause chaos. He was the massive brute who had been tagging along with Zalkatrex and his followers. He was also itching to fight, and Zalkatrex was simply taking too long. Besides, these little people marching to fight the Makuta were just going to be a pain later, so why not demolish them now? But no, Zalkatrex said “Wait.” Yaltrax hated waiting.
That was when he saw his chance. A horde of robots had rounded a corner, taking the marchers by surprise and forcing them onto the defensive. The warriors were far from outmatched, but they were still thrown off guard, and now would be the perfect time to take them out.
As if he were a telepath, Zalkatrex approached and put a restraining hand on Yaltrax’s shoulder. It was known to both that if Zalkatrex wanted to hold Yaltrax back, he would fail miserably, but the ancient warrior commanded a great deal of respect, and Yaltrax didn’t want to completely rebel against his chosen master. Still, it was hard to hold himself back. Being a beast by nature, Yaltrax couldn’t resist a good scrap.
Zalkatrex was about to assure Yaltrax that they would be fighting before long, but then something occurred that even he wasn’t expecting. Six fifteen-foot high Rahkshi tore around the corner, staffs at the ready, and waded into the fight to back up the losing robots.
Yaltrax felt the hand leave his shoulder. He smiled. Time to rumble.
Lihee was as surprised by the appearance of the giant Rahkshi as anyone, and he immediately told Thravak to head over to them first. The mutant Skakdi happily obliged. Lihee turned back to the robots, but there were only two left, as opposed to about ten when he last looked away. Apparently the giant Rahkshi had surprised the robots, too, and as they were adjusting their strategy to compensate for the new arrivals, Zartok and Suntrah, in the air, managed to trash several of the Pneuma-Toa with a hail of disintegration bolts and bullets.
It’s good to have Zartok on our side again, Lihee thought.
The Toa of Fire dove to both evade a bolt of lightning from one of the giant Rahkshi and get in front of Rupiku. The Po-Matoran was catching his breath and needed cover.
“This could be bad!” Lihee told the Matoran.
“Yeah, got that,” Rupiku replied. “Maybe you should let someone toss me at one of them so I can grab on and wreck its joints!”
By luck or design, Bartha rolled out of the way of a staff thrust and ended up right by the two of them at that moment. Lihee recalled that, on their way to the fortress, Bartha had mentioned that it felt good to have his Mask of Strength back to full power again.
“Hey, Bartha!” he called. “I need to ask you something!”
“What?” Bartha asked.
“How’s your pitching arm?” Lihee replied.
Bultrox was a bit ticked. After all, being stepped on, kicked, and swatted into stone walls by giant Rahkshi wasn’t exactly pleasant. Still, his ability to heal made it not as much of an issue as it would have been to most. The Runask charged up his Disruptor Sword, and struck the electric Rahkshi in the knee. He began carving away at its joint with the blade, before something slammed into him and tossed him the length of the room. He almost crashed into Lohrua, but his teammate telekinetically slowed Bultrox down so that he just dropped to the ground lightly.
The other Runask was looking shocked about something, but Bultrox couldn’t see what. He turned, and noticed, finally, what had struck him.
It was large. It was about ten feet tall, smaller than the Rahkshi, but it looked far more powerful. It had a pair of massive horns on its head, large talons for fingers, claws on its massive feet, mandibles jutting out of its mouth, wings, and a long tail ending in a modified club that seemed to sport some kind of launcher.
As Bultrox watched, the beast grabbed the electric Rahkshi by the legs and tossed it to the ground. It then proceeded to leap onto its chest and strike it over and over, causing dramatic damage to the creature’s armor.
“What is that!?” Lohrua asked, stunned.
“Dunno,” Bultrox answered. “It could be the relief we need, or just another world of pain for us all.”
As the two Runask watched, the beast managed to get his claws on the inside of his enemy’s armor, and, with a small effort, tore the metallic sheet off. With a thrust of its hips, it then drove its clawed hand deep into the Rahkshi’s exposed chest mechanisms, grabbing hold of as much as it could hold, and tearing a large wad of material out.
Bultrox got to his feet. He wasn’t about to let that thing take out the Rahkshi. It was Bultrox’s Rahkshi. He took to the air, his blade-like wings beating rapidly, and shot over the beast and landed on the Rahkshi’s head. With savage speed and ferocity, Bultrox sliced the top headplate off and skewered the exposed Kraata with his sword.
Once more, Bultrox was sent careening across the space. “Hey!” he shouted when he skidded to a stop on the stone floor. “Quit it! I thought you were on my side!”
The beast, shockingly, replied. “Guess not,” it – no, he – said with a shrug.
Suntrah had been watching this while fighting another Rahkshi. Now that his enemy had been taken down by the combined efforts of Thravak, Rupiku, and Bartha, he trained his air rifle’s sights on the beast. There was a harsh click as he cocked the mechanism. Suntrah’s eyes narrowed as he prepared to fire a special canister at the creature, one armed with an energy pulse intended to paralyze an enemy.
A pair of laser bolts struck the rifle, burning a pair of smoking holes in it. Suntrah looked where they had come, only to see the person that Buraka claimed to have encountered standing there, eyes gleaming.
“I wouldn’t, Runask,” Trallix said as he prepared his axe. “Leave our pet alone.”
“That’s your pet?” Suntrah asked. “What is it? What are you?”
The question wasn’t answered by Trallix. It was answered by another, one who had yet to enter the battle. He did, however, in a dramatic fashion. One of the Rahkshi was currently unchallenged, and began to advance on the various fighters. Suddenly, in a dark blur, a new being appeared in its path. He was a tall, muscular being in ebony armor with a strangely shaped head. As Suntrah watched, he sprouted four new arms to add to his original two, and drew six weapons, which he twirled with obvious skill and control. The Rahkshi attacked. The new arrival was gone, ducking to the side impossibly fast. The Rahkshi struck again, but this time the new being brought up all six of his arms, and, amazingly, blocked the massive creature’s attack.
Now he went on the offensive. He ducked between the creature’s legs and sliced at its ankles with his blades, severely damaging the joints. As the creature buckled, the new being leaped onto its back and began ramming his blades into it, over and over, until it fell with a resounding thud. He then detached himself from the Rahkshi and casually walked away, not tired in the slightest.
“Woah,” was all Bultrox said.
“What are you?” Suntrah asked the new being.
The being held a blade in the air. “We are the Hokanuka, the bane of Makuta everywhere!” he announced. “We come to make war, and we do not tolerate nonsense. I, Zalkatrex, First of the Order of the Hokanuka, advise you to leave peacefully, and let us handle this.” His face twisted into a purposefully intimidating snarl. “Or you might not live to fight another day.”
Suntrah flew down to flank Voran, who had also, along with Lihee, Levuku, Panuko, and Vaturi, managed to take down a Rahkshi. “Think we can take these guys?” Suntrah asked.
Voran looked around. Out of nowhere, three more Hokanuka had appeared to join the fight. There was a short, blue-red one that flitted around like an insect, striking with disproportionate strength. Another, in black and silver armor, was under attack from the Toa Tronux, and kept absorbing their powers and attacking with the powers’ opposites. Yet another, sporting red and black as his chosen colors, struck with the deadly precision of a master assassin. Trallix responded to an attack from one of the Rahkshi by landing an axe blow to its head so hard that the weapon lodged in the inches-thick metal covering the creature. Meanwhile, the fortress’s troop of Scorpio-Spiders had finally showed up, and were attacking anything that moved.
“No, I don’t think we can,” Voran said finally. “Pull back. We need to focus on taking out the Makuta anyway.”
Suntrah nodded and signaled to his teammates that it was time to fall back. Lihee, seeing this, got the idea and did the same to his teammates as well.
Zalkatrex, even in the midst of battle, noticed the sudden shift in personnel positions, and didn’t like it. “Slaryka! Cut them off!” he barked at one of his followers.
The red-black Hokanuka who wore spiked armor and ridged mask nodded. Spreading his wings, Slaryka took off, flying in an arc over the battle to where the teams were regrouping.
Voran started as Slaryka landed in front of him with a soft thud.
“Going somewhere?” Slaryka asked calmly.
Voran smiled. He could see that all of his sixteen comrades had now joined him. “Yes, and you can’t stop us,” he said flatly. “Stand aside.”
Slaryka shook his head. “See, there’s a problem. We were here to have some fun with Burtok, but if you leave the battle, we’ll have to waste our time on overgrown worms and mutant spiders.”
Lihee sighed in relief. “Oh, good. For a moment I thought you were here to kill us.”
Slaryka raised one of his swords. “We’re not?”
Suntrah shook his head. “If you were, my mask would let me know. Come on. Let’s try to work something out.”
Bultrox nodded. “After all, ‘The enemy of my enemy is my friend.’”
Slaryka smiled coldly. “That’s a stupid saying and you know it. The fact is that we Hokanuka have a reason for being here, and we don’t want you to interfere with it.”
Suddenly, Yurdil’s voice was heard through the commotion. “Guys! They aren’t real! I can’t sense their minds!”
Voran smiled. So did Slaryka. “Well?” the Runask asked.
Slaryka smiled. “Think I’m an illusion?” he asked calmly. “You can find out, if you want. If you fight me, we’ll all see that I am no illusion.”
Suntrah had had enough. He lashed out with his powers, encircling Slaryka in a black lightning tendril and yanking him toward the team. The Hokanuka was met with a telekinetic push from Lohrua, which hurled him over the team and into the fray behind them.
“Move!” Suntrah shouted, and the team began to rush down the hallway toward Burtok’s lab.
“Wait!” Slaryka called, propping himself up on his elbow. “You don’t understand!” It was too late, though. They were gone. Sighing, Slaryka got to his feet. He hoped that they would fare well, but he knew that it was unlikely. Little did they know that the Hokanuka’s plan to attack Burtok first would have been far safer for the Alliances than what they were doing now. By forcing the teams to fight Burtok’s beasts, they would have a higher likelihood of survival, and the Hokanuka would get their training time. It would have been a win-win. Too late, Slaryka thought. Guess if they insist on doing it the hard way, you can’t do much about it, can you? Slaryka got to his feet to find Zalkatrex standing there, momentarily not fighting the giant Rahkshi around him.
“Don’t worry, Slaryka,” Zalkatrex assured him. “The battle will still go our way, with or without them. I’m flexible. I’ll find a way to get us some training time. Even if the local rebels trash our main target before we can, which I doubt, we can still use them for practice targets.”
The rebels made it to Burtok’s lab. Even thought they had all individually been in this room before, they hadn’t truly realized that it was large enough to admit all seventeen of them at once with this much room to spare. Still, the thing that surprised them more than the size of the lab was that Burtok was absent.
“Where is he?” Choro wondered aloud.
“He should be here,” Panuko agreed. “It doesn’t make sense for him to be gone.”
Voran wasn’t about to lose the opportunity to let the team gather their bearings. “Whatever the reason, the fact is that he isn’t. Right now let’s focus on what is. Yurdil, what do you make of the Hokanuka?”
Yurdil shrugged. “It was weird, like I couldn’t even sense that their minds existed.”
“Mental shields?” Lohrua offered.
“If so, those are some serious shields,” she answered. “Most times, when I try to invade a shielded mind, I can still sense its existence. Not with those guys.”
“What about their ‘pet’?” Suntrah asked.
Yurdil shook her head. “He’s too close to a Rahi for me to get anything. It’s all a monochrome jumble.”
“About the big guy,” Levuku spoke up, “I recognize him from Kanahka’s journal. He’s a beast that Burtok made way back when. He was supposed to mow down the original Avenging Alliance, but he was too smart and willful, so he rebelled in record time and decided to try to destroy everything in his path. He eventually left the island, but only after Burtok and the Alliance fought him off together. I think his name was Yaltrax.”
“Well,” Voran began, “We don’t know why they’re here, aside from Slaryka’s word that they’re here to train against Burtok.”
“That’s crazy,” Levuku piped up.
“Sure is!” Rupiku agreed. “You can’t ‘train’ against a Makuta! No one is that good of a fighter!”
Lihee said, “I’m not so sure. I think I should remember someone who was that good, but I can’t right now.”
Runik and the Toa Tronux nodded their assent. “Same here,” the Toa of Fire agreed.
“But I do know this,” Lihee continued. “Zalkatrex took down one of those Rahkshi without breaking a sweat. Trallix beat Buraka aside effortlessly from what you’ve told me, and of course, let’s not forget what he did to that Rahkshi earlier. Even the little one is insanely strong. She just socks those spiders every which way. I don’t know if we can trust them, but we at least need to be wary of them. I’m sure of that.”
Voran nodded. “Indeed. They should be done with those Rahkshi soon, and then will be after us, I’m sure. If someone could close those doors behind us…”
Bartha and Thravak turned to close the giant iron gateway into the lab, but before they even made it to the door, it closed on its own.
“I’ll take care of that for you,” came a strong, commanding voice.
The freedom fighters whirled to see Makuta Burtok, Time Dilation Accelerator on his arm, standing in a portal toward the back of the lab. He had one arm behind his back, obviously hiding something from view.
“I see everyone made it to the party,” the Makuta said. With a quick scan of their minds, he added, “Even those who I never expected to show.”
“We’re here on a mission, Burtok!” Voran announced.
“We’re here to end your plans for good!” Lihee added.
“We’re here to make sure justice is served!” Runik shouted.
“And we’re here to kick your protosteel backside!” Levuku couldn’t resist adding.
Burtok took his arm from behind his back, revealing that he held a staff with twin orange, spherical matrices on either end of its handle, which crackled with energy. It was a weapon called the Matrix Staff. This artifact had been placed on Crystal Island by messengers from Artahka the Builder many millennia ago, back when the brotherhood of Makuta was a force for good. Burtok was appointed, as the region’s Makuta, to guard the staff. It was apparent he still remembered where it had been hidden.
“Well, if you’re so determined to wipe me out, let’s not waste any time,” the Makuta smiled. “I’ve waited a long time to do this.” With that, he swung the Matrix Staff into the ground. A massive energy ring erupted from where the staff had impacted the floor, knocking all the heroes to the floor.
Even as they rose, they began to realize the ugly truth. Burtok hadn’t really been doing his best to annihilate them before. He had just been trying as hard as he thought was necessary. This was the real deal. Burtok really wanted them dead, and he, just as much as the Alliances did, wanted this conflict to be over.
The heroes barely had time to stand before Burtok attacked again. The Matrix Staff had been brandished at them, and now more rings of electricity-like energy were pouring out of the staff, slicing through the air toward them. This time, however, they were ready, and managed to either block or evade the energy waves. Burtok then added his Makuta power to the mix, plunging the area into a dense fog through his ability to control the weather, then cloaking his enemies in illusions. He next prepared to hurl lightning bolts at his confused foes.
Much to his surprise, however, the illusions were quickly dispelled. Yurdil, whose powers rendered her immune to mental tricks, projected reality into the minds of her teammates to free them from Burtok’s illusion. She then lashed out at Burtok himself, sending mental energies lancing into Burtok’s mind. The Makuta’s fierce willpower kept him conscious, but the assault removed his ability to maintain the fog. Once their vision was clear, Suntrah and Voran attacked, sending both normal and black lighting attacks at Burtok. The Makuta turned intangible at the last moment, then spread his wings and took to the air, firing bolts of fragmentation, plasma, and electricity from his hands while sending energy waves from the Matrix Staff.
On top of all this, Suntrah’s mask began to glow, which caused him to frown. “Great,” he announced, ducking aside to avoid another energy wave. “The Hokanuka are coming.” He sensed them draw nearer, until he knew that they had to be behind the door of the lab. Nothing happened for a moment, which was surprising, but the true surprise was when their pet beast, Yaltrax, suddenly bashed through the door in one blow. With the gate down, the Hokanuka filed into the chamber, Zalkatrex in the lead.
“I tracked you by your stench of deceit, Burtok,” the beast said to the Makuta.
“Yaltrax,” the Makuta breathed. “So you have returned to your master, though not to fight alongside me, I am sure.”
Yaltrax shook his head. “Got that right. I’m here to kill you as much as I can.”
Burtok smiled, momentarily halting his assault. “Well, I suppose it’s time you met some of my other creatures. Get ready to learn why they replaced you!” With that, the Makuta drove the Matrix Staff into the ground again, but this time held it there, so that continuous waves of energy shot through the room. They hammered the walls of the lab until, finally, the walls to the sides and the back of the lab gave way.
To the shock of everyone there, the space behind the walls was crawling with Scorpio-Spiders. It was their nest. Immediately, the room was flooded in waist-high spiders. With even the Hokanuka reeling, it was clear to everyone that this was truly where the battle began.
Thankfully, Lihee offered to devote his team to taking out the Scorpio-Spiders’ nest’s core, which let the Avenging Alliance deal with the Hokanuka and the Makuta. It turned out that there was going to be more to deal with, however. Suntrah had noticed that one of the Hokanuka, the black-silver one with no weapons, only claws, was absent. As soon as the spiders poured into the room, the last Hokanuka, entered the room, with a couple giant Rahkshi right on his tail. Apparently the Hokanuka hadn’t dealt with them, but had brought them in to the main battle. Suntrah had no idea why.
“Yarik!” Zalkatrex shouted at the Hokanuka. “Lead the Rahkshi over toward the rebels! Get them distracted!”
Even as Yarik nodded and obeyed, Suntrah reflected. He used to know Yarik as Burtok’s little minion, the gopher who was always running errands for his master. Even though Suntrah didn’t necessarily consider the Hokanuka to be allies, he did take satisfaction in the fact that Burtok had been had.
Burtok hurled darkness at his enemies, particularly at Yaltrax. Apparently the Makuta didn’t feel confident facing the beast in one-on-one battle. Yaltrax put is arms up to shield his face, his thick armor blunting the blasts. He returned fire by hunching over and curling his tail over his head. The launcher mounted on the appendage fired, launching a spiked ball at high speed. The projectile whizzed toward the Makuta, who teleported out of the way. The ball struck the wall, exploding with surprising force, sending rock shrapnel flying every which way. The rocks shattered upon contact with the floor, creating more debris that had to be evaded. Alliance members, Hokanuka, and spiders alike all had to move or feel the consequences.
Burtok was now toward the front of the lab, by the metallic doors. Zalkatrex located him in record time and acted on his findings, grabbing a knife from the bandolier around his shoulder and hurling it at Burtok. The Makuta raised a hand, and the knife slowed to a halt in midair. Zalkatrex followed it up with more knives, but Burtok wasn’t going to waste time slowing them down. He instead activated an intense magnetic field around Zalkatrex, sending his knives hurtling back toward their master. The Hokanuka dodged the blades, barely, and they embedded themselves in the floor, halting their motion.
“Swift, aren’t you?” Burtok said. “I’m glad the dreaded leader of the Hokanuka isn’t a pushover, like I thought you would be.” As he finished, he fired a bolt of darkness at Zalkatrex. Much to his delight, the Hokanuka didn’t flinch, simple standing in place to receive the blast.
“Check that,” Burtok sneered. “Guess you got lucky with the knives.”
“Guess again, Makuta,” Zalkatrex said, none the worse for wear. “You’re the pushover here.” With that, he fired twin bursts of light from his middle pair of blades.
Burtok gasped, but managed to escape harm by conjuring a portal in front of himself, into which the bolts of light vanished. The Makuta then fired off a few more energy waves from the Matrix Staff. The energy waves forced all who were aware of the Makuta’s location to break off their scrutiny, an opening the Makuta used to teleport once again.
The Makuta now hovered over the thickest concentration of Avenging Alliance members. With a smile, he opened another portal aimed at Voran. The bolts of light fired from the portal, exiting the pocket dimension Burtok had opened to store them. Voran barely saw them coming before they slammed into him and knocked him off his feet.
The giant Rahkshi he had been fighting now turned to strike a final blow, but a fireball from Runik fired across the creature’s line of sight got its attention. A hammer blow from Bartha knocked it out cold. A sonic wave from Jahvoka tore through it, ripping its armor to pieces and killing the Kraata.
The Toa didn’t have any time to rest, for Burtok was only warming up. The Makuta hurled plasma at Voran, aiming to eliminate him. The plasma halted in midair, being held in place by Yurdil’s telekinesis.
The Makuta shrugged. “That’s the way it has to be, then,” he said as he fired a bolt of fragmentation at Voran. This power couldn’t be halted by telekinesis, or really by any other force anyone knew. Time seemed to slow down as the bolt honed in on Burtok, but a green blur intersected it and received the blast.
“No!” Runik shouted as he watched Bultrox explode into tiny pieces. The enraged Toa of Fire unleashed his power at Burtok, sending waves of heat and flame at his foe. Burtok countered with waves of energy from the Matrix staff, which knocked Runik for a loop. His flames dissipated in the absence of a controlling will.
Bartha leaped at Burtok, rearing his warhammer back, ready to strike. The Makuta was done, however. He turned intangible to allow Bartha to pass through him, then, as the Toa hit the wall, he teleported Bartha to another location of the fight, right between a Rahkshi and Trallix.
Burtok then began teleporting his foes around at random, changing their locations at most inopportune times. He then magnetized a Scorpio-Spider to Slaryka’s back, allowing it to continue to attack him over and over.
“Yarik!” he called to his nearby partner. “Help me out!”
Yarik shook his head. “If you’ve got a problem, don’t come crying to me. I’ve got things to do.”
Burtok then began to start playing with the weather, conjuring mini-storms in the lab that lanced bolts of lightning out at his enemies. The little female Hokanuka was struck by one bolt, which knocked her from the air. Buraka saw that a spider was waiting for her to land, expecting an easy target from the momentarily unconscious Hokanuka. Buraka lunged and touched her energized staff to its armor, sending energy coursing through it. The Rahi screeched and dropped to the floor. Buraka rushed to the fallen Hokanuka, rousing her with a shake.
“What?... Who are you?” the female asked.
“Someone who couldn’t bear to see another killed in her sleep,” Buraka answered, gesturing to the fallen spider. The little Hokanuka got to her feet. Buraka asked her, “Are you people here to kill us?”
The Hokanuka shook her head. “No, as long as you stay out of our way. The boss wants to get some training time in with Burtok. You know, so we can have some practice against a less-formidable Makuta so we’re kind of prepared for the real deal.”
Buraka blinked. “Burtok isn’t formidable?”
The Hokanuka turned to fend off a pair of spiders. “According to the boss, not as much as some he’s met. Course, he met them right before he killed them. He wants to give me, Slaryka, and Yarik some training against Burtok. He really doesn’t care if you kill him afterward.”
Buraka swiped at one of the spiders with her staff. “I guess that makes sense,” she said.
The Hokanuka swung her fist, clobbering the other spider with her impressive strength. “Thanks for the save, anyway. My name’s Fajaku.”
“Buraka,” she replied. The two parted way then, each moving out to continue their respective missions.
Suntrah had had enough. Burtok had to be taken down now. Already, the Hokanuka had spelled the end of a number of spiders, and Yaltrax had done in one of the giant Rahkshi singlehandedly, but with the recent loss of Bultrox and Burtok’s playing with the local environment, things were getting out of hand. The Alliances had been meeting power with power, when they needed to counter power with strategy.
Finally, an opportunity to plan arose. Lihee unleashed a burst of pent-up energy, the result of absorbing hundreds of Scorpio-Spider electro-balls with his shield, at the spiders’ nest, obliterating its supports and a bunch of spiders simultaneously. With the spiders hurting, the Alliance could catch up to Burtok’s lead in this race to the battle’s conclusion.
“Lohrua!” Suntrah shouted. “Get over here!” As the Runask arrived, Suntrah began briefing him on his plan. “I think I can upset the Matrix Staff’s energy cores with a burst of black lightning, but I need an opportunity to hit it.”
“Okay,” Lohrua conceded. He watched as Burtok vanished into a portal, only to reappear behind Trallix and fire a bolt of darkness into his back. Another portal jump and the Makuta was disintegrating the floor underneath the Toa Tronux, causing them to tumble to the bottom of a brand-new pit and land on each other, putting them at the mercy of Zalkatrex, whom they had been trying to keep from attacking any of their teammates in his efforts to get to Burtok. “And we need to get rid of that Accelerator, too,” he added.
Suntrah mulled this over as he landed a hook kick on a Scorpio-Spider, then flipped it over his shoulder onto another of its kind. “Well, then we’ll make those two happen at the same time,” he decided finally.
“How?” Lohrua asked.
“Let’s just say I’m glad I asked you to come over here,” Suntrah replied.
At Suntrah’s behest, Lohrua extended the power of his staff of Telekinesis, targeting the Time Dilation Accelerator on Burtok’s arm. His power ripped the device off its owner’s arm.
Burtok didn’t miss this action at all. In fact, he was enraged by it and immediately halted his assault on the other members of the team to try to recover his machine. The device snapped into Lohrua’s hand, even as Suntrah fired a few small bolts of black lightning into the staff’s momentarily stationary energy cores.
Burtok drew closer to Lohrua, who realized very quickly that Suntrah’s plan had one flaw in it: what exactly was to stop Burtok from taking his machine back? Finally Lohrua decided that he had to throw the device to another one of his teammates. He chose the only one close enough not only receive the device, but also see it coming.
“Levuku!” he shouted. “Catch!”
The young Crynok did indeed see the Accelerator coming his way, and did in fact catch it. He also saw the Makuta bearing down on him. “Crud,” he muttered.
Burtok flew toward Levuku. “Come, give it here, boy. We both know you can only hold onto it for so long!”
Levuku smiled. “Maybe so,” he said, right before he teleported away. “But I can sure—“ another teleport – “make it Karzahni —“ another teleport —“for you to catch me!”
Burtok roared in rage. Bands of power, in the form of darkness, electricity, and Matrix Staff energy, rippled out from the Makuta, flattening Panuko and Vaturi, who were nearby. The Makuta teleported to Levuku’s location, only to see the youth wave and teleport again. It soon became a game of “Teleport Tag” as the two contestants popped into and out of existence around the battlefield. Finally, Levuku seemed to be tiring. He held the Accelerator out, aiming it at Burtok.
The Makuta smiled. “You don’t even know how to use that, you idiot.”
Levuku shrugged. “Don’t need to. It held you still long enough.”
Before Burtok could inquire what Levuku meant, a green blur tackled him and tried to force its blade into his side. Bultrox’s healing powers had managed to regrow his body from the pieces he had been blown into. Not only that, he was quite ticked off by the experience.
Levuku tossed the Accelerator back to Lohrua, who was approaching the scene with Suntrah. “You know how to work it?” he asked.
Lohrua smiled and pointed to a particular sport on the device. “See that?” he asked sarcastically. “That’s called a button. You push it. Things happen. Try it someday.”
Burtok had broken free of Bultrox’s grasp and blasted him with a bolt of confusion, momentarily putting him into a paralyzing stupor. A magnetic yank ripped the Accelerator out of Lohrua’s hand and put it back in the Makuta’s. Another portal opened behind the Makuta, this one glowing in a multitude of colors.
The Accelerator transported the user to one dimension, then back to the original one, but in a different location. Burtok was apparently choosing a different transition realm than the black, lightless one he had been using until now.
“So close, but so far, Suntrah,” the Makuta teased. “Maybe next time.” He began to step backward into the portal.
Suddenly a Rhotuka spinner, fired from Voran’s staff, shot through the air, just as the Makuta stepped into the portal. The spinner unloaded a large amount of electric power into the Time Dilation Accelerator, frying its internal mechanisms, even as the force of the spinner knocked it out of Burtok’s hand and onto the floor. The portal began to close rapidly.
“No!” the Makuta howled. “It can’t end this way!”
Unfortunately, it did. The portal closed with Burtok locked in the other dimension. With no way to get back, the Makuta was effectively shut out of the world forever.
The battle seemed to stall for a moment. The Hokanuka, particularly the ever-vigilant Zalkatrex, had been watching events and were quite surprised that the Avenging and Universal Alliances had beaten them to defeating Burtok. Yaltrax was irritated that he didn’t get his chance to pound his old master, but didn’t care too much about the loss. The rest of the Avenging Alliance and the Universal Alliance as a whole were both pleasantly surprised and relieved that the threat of Makuta Burtok was no more.
Bultrox snapped out of his stupor as soon as the portal closed. “What happened?” he asked Suntrah.
“We won,” Voran answered with a smile. “Burtok’s own weapon was his undoing.”
At first Bultrox was disappointed that he didn’t get to exact the revenge on Burtok that he had wanted to, but found satisfaction in the fact that he had been part of the effort to lock the Makuta away in another dimension. Finally, he just said, “Cool. What now?”
Suntrah gestured to the Hokanuka, who had regrouped to discuss matters. “They’re the only real threat here now,” he answered. “If they are even a threat.”
It was true. Without their Makuta’s control, the Scorpio-Spiders quickly stopped going on the offensive. Looking more confused than anything else, they did their collective best to find an exit, but there was none to be had. Without the help of Burtok’s chaos-sowing, the spiders’ enemies were having no trouble cutting the vicious Rahi down. The Hokanuka had stopped fighting and had retreated into a huddle just to the left of the massive metallic door, completely cutting off their fights with Alliance members.
The Alliances, once the spiders had been eliminated, regrouped. Yaltrax tried to attack the Toa Tronux, but Trallix ordered the beast over to the huddle.
“Good job, you guys,” Lihee gasped, panting hard.
“What happens now?” Panuko asked.
Voran looked at the Hokanuka. “I’m not sure right now. We’ll let them make the first move.”
Runik nodded. “And while we do that, an information exchange would be a good idea.”
Suntrah spoke up. “Agreed. I’ll start. It turns out that the black-sliver Hokanuka with nasty claws is Yarik, Burtok’s once-tiny minion.”
“Really?” Panuko asked, intrigued. “Interesting. I also noticed that Zalkatrex, Trallix, and Yarik displayed a common power, the ability to absorb an opponent’s power and counterattack with its opposite.”
“I saw that, too,” Yurdil agreed. “Maybe ‘Hokanuka’ is their species name.”
“You sure?” Choro asked. “They don’t look anything like each other.”
“Well, that doesn’t really matter, now, does it?” Vaturi pointed out. “I mean, I’m sure that Yarik is the only member of his race that can transform.”
“Vaturi has a point,” Lohrua agreed. “Maybe they can all do that. Maybe it’s a metamorphosis of some kind.”
“What else?” Suntrah asked. “Any weaknesses?”
Thravak spoke up. “Yarik is a blowhard with a major ego problem.”
“That doesn’t count, dude,” Choro told him.
“But he doesn’t take ranged attacks well, I noticed,” Thravak added.
Rupiku chuckled. “Did you notice that before or after he sent you flying across the lab?”
Further discussion was cut off by an alert from Lihee that the Hokanuka were approaching, Zalkatrex in the lead, flanked by Slaryka and Trallix, and followed by Yarik, Fajaku, and Yaltrax.
Zalkatrex got right down to business. “Apparently we underestimated you,” he said in his deep, hoarse voice. He almost sounded like a large serpent when he spoke, as if he was hissing and speaking at the same time. “You have my congratulations for managing to take down the Makuta. You have done the Order of the Hokanuka a disservice by depriving us of quality training time, but the good of having one fewer Makuta in the universe outweighs any inconvenience that might be.”
“Good to hear it,” Voran said.
“You here to kill us?” Lihee asked. “If so, you might want to start now. You’re giving us a chance to catch our breath.”
Zalkatrex regarded Lihee with a look that said, “Don’t you talk to me of strategy.” “We have no intention of ending your lives as of yet. That may change, but don’t expect us to change our minds anytime soon.”
“Speak for yourself, Zalkatrex,” Yarik spoke up. “The way I see it, they’re just more loose ends.”
“Yaltrax,” was all Zalkatrex said. The beast then seized Yarik by the neck and held him in the air. Zalkatrex continued speaking. “Excuse my insubordinate follower. He is a novice to the ways of our order.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Voran assured him. “We have one of those people, too.”
“Hey!” Levuku shouted.
“If it suits you, we will now go our separate ways,” Zalkatrex continued. “Unless you would like a collective job offer.”
“You want to hire us?” Runik asked, confused.
Zalkatrex smiled slyly. “No, not me, but one of my allies. He is a Toa of Fire, much like you, Runik, but far older, and the leader of far more fellow heroes.”
“He gave you the ability to make us such offers?” Voran asked, suspicious.
Zalkatrex nodded. “He has asked me to look out for any raw talent I can find on my journeys. You seventeen fit his parameters nicely.”
Zalkatrex turned to leave. Trallix lagged behind for a moment. “I would advise you to take my leader’s offer,” he said. “You’d be a league of idiots to go against the might of the Brotherhood with so small a team.”
“You sure?” Suntrah asked.
Trallix’s expression remained flat and cold. “More sure that you can know. Burtok was only taste, and a deceptively bland one. The Brotherhood is far more powerful than you can imagine.”
Trallix turned to leave as well, then paused to add a few words. “So I suggest you join our Toa ally. At least then you would have a slim chance of surviving your fight against evil.”
The Universal and Avenging Alliances were silent as the five Hokanuka and Yaltrax broke down the door and walked out of the lab.
Zalkatrex was ready. Those twin teams had taken his advice and agreed to join him and his brothers on their way back to Altronia, the Land of War. In the distance, the local volcano erupted, sending lava down the slope, covering the abandoned Makuta fortress in molten rock.
A very satisfied-looking Yarik strode flamboyantly up to his leader and grinned. "What shall I do now?" he inquired.
Zalkatrex's eyes narrowed. "What have you done?"
"Solved a little pest problem," Yarik said, gesturing toward the volcano, which erupted as he spoke. "I locked Fajaku in a closet near the lab. She was getting annoying."
Zalkatrex snarled. "That is the most idiotic reason to bump off a Hokanuka sibling I have ever heard, and I've heard them all." Yarik's smile faded as Zalkatrex spoke. "Go right up to that mountain and dig your sister out, and I'll give you a promotion."
It is hard work digging through still hot dried lava, believe me, and you've never had Zalkatrex egging you on like Yarik did. Yarik finally scraped through the wall of rock surrounding the wrecked fortress and fished Fajaku out. His claws were hot and dirty from digging, and his back was scraped from Zalkatrex's egging. The crafty Hokanuka emerged from the fortress cave carrying a partially suffocated Fajaku in his arms.
Zalkatrex took Fajaku from him. She was choking, but alive, and would live to fight another day. Her hand was badly burnt from apparently having the closet she was trapped in compromised by lava. The armor was burned off, and her organic tissue was badly charred. They would need to replace her hand as quickly as possible.
"Good work Yarik," Zalkatrex said coldly. "Although I fear that far too many undesirable qualities have worn off on you from all that time around Burtok" With that said, the eighty thousand-year-old Hokanuka sliced his katana across Yarik’s throat, slaying him instantly. “You have served your purpose,” Zalkatrex whispered, “but you spelled your own doom by becoming the very thing we Hokanuka live to eradicate.”
Zalkatrex left Yarik’s body to be collected by Trallix and tossed into the sea as they sailed from the island the next day.
“Yes, Levuku?” he answered.
“You okay?” Levuku asked. “You know, after all that’s gone on?”
Voran sighed. Sometimes the youth was not careful with his tongue, then he would come out and say something very thoughtful. “Yes, Levuku. I’m fine. Miraculously, we all are.” Voran looked out at his team, gathered farther down the beach than he and Levuku were. “Lihee’s arm is beat up pretty good, Suntrah’s rifle is trash, Vaturi’s mutated, and your glider was destroyed, but overall, there wasn’t much damage done to us.”
Levuku sighed and hung his shoulders. “Yeah, I’m a little bummed about the Trallix shooting my glider, but oh, well. I got along fine without it before.”
Voran nodded. “The only one who took any kind of lethal force was Bultrox. Bultrox the Unkillable Runask.”
Levuku looked up. “Yeah, I mean, really! Why can’t he die? It’s not like I want him to, but still.”
Voran smiled. “Yes. Not only has he proved that he is difficult to destroy, he has proved what kind of fervor he has for our cause, and exactly what he’s willing to do to fight for good.”
Levuku looked out at the beach as well. His teammates, some old friends, some former enemies, were all talking among themselves and generally relaxing. They could finally afford to do such things, now that Burtok was gone. Levuku turned to Voran again. “Voran?”
“Yes?” the leader of the Avenging Alliance replied.
“What happens now?” Levuku asked.
“We’ll take Zalkatrex up on his offer,” Voran answered. “We’ll travel to this island of Altronia he mentioned earlier. We’ll find this Toa of Fire and see if we can join him in his fight against the Makuta.”
Levuku looked uncertain. “And what if that doesn’t work out?”
Voran turned to his young teammate. “Don’t worry about it, Levuku. Whatever we’ll face, we’ll face together, as a team.”
Come the dawn of the next day, the Alliances and Hokanuka would work together to build a boat that would take them to Altronia. They would set sail before the day was out, Voran knew. They would set sail from the very beach that Voran stood upon at the moment. They would leave this land of Lightning Crystals, this Island of Power, and set sail for Altronia, the Land of War.
Voran smiled. “Whatever lies ahead, whatever lies behind, we’re a team. We’re sworn to defend the Three Virtues of the Great Spirit. Unity, Duty, Destiny will guide us. We will stand united and accomplish our duty, even as we set out to find our destiny.”