The light of the twin moons glistened over the land, casting eerie shadows at they fell on the jagged landscape. Stones of every shape and size rose above the river, as it gurgled through the canyon.

A lone figure jogged down the gorge, his short yet powerful legs pumped rhythmically. Starlight gleamed off his great-styled Mahiki as his deep green eyes scanned the rocks around him. Eventually, he slowed his pace and stopped in front of a large boulder. Crossing around to the back of the enormous rock, he shifted the soil aside, revealing a Kanohi-sized tablet. The figure picked it up.

"Let's see," said the figure, noting the carvings on the tablet, "I need three moon crystals, five rubies, two green emeralds, and a handful of gold. Hmm, I should also look for another source of sapphires. Gorge three is running low."

Marking out his route on the map, the Po-Matoran placed the tablet in his pack and fastened it securely to his back. Bracing his legs, he took a few deep breaths. Then, like a ball shot from a cannon, he launched himself into the air. Soaring high above the crags below, he reveled in the feeling of the air rushing past him, until gravity took over again. Flipping in midair, he braced his arms as he fell towards a rock spire. As the point of rock came within a foot of his face, the Matoran grasped it with his hands and pushed off. Flying upwards once more, he aimed his body towards another boulder. Leaping from its top, he bounded towards a ravine where he knew he would find moon crystals. Jumping off another boulder, he shot towards two crags that came within half a bio of each other. Arching his back and twisting his body, he slipped between the two outcroppings, knocking a small rock from one of the faces.

Landing with a thud, he straightened up and looked around. Dozens of crystals gleamed in the moonlight, even brighter than normal, now that it was nighttime. The Po-Matoran clamored up the rock faces, leaping from handhold to handhold.

As he chipped the crystals out of the rock, he smiled. To anyone but him, this canyon was one of the most treacherous places within three hundred kio. Landslides were a daily occurrence and the rocks were extremely unstable. However, his reflexes, agility, and balance were second to none, allowing him to pass through the canyon with ease and gather the abundant riches that it produced.

As the night wore on, the Po-Matoran's pack filled with the gems and metals he needed. As the first rays of dawn shone in the sky, Nixan closed his pack and leapt homeward. With the grace and skill of a mountain Rahi, he bounded towards the canyon's mouth. The sun was just peeking over the horizon as Nixan arrived at the place he had recently come to call home, the village of Umai.

Set near the great Lake Istenek, Umai was home to roughly three hundred beings called Vonatii. Vonatii were tall creatures with savage looking claws on their hands and feet, but were known to be great scholars. They were also one of the few species other than Matoran that wore Kanohi masks, but very few could even work a Noble Mask.

As the village came into view, Nixan dropped into a jog and trotted the remaining distance. A few of the villagers were up and about, but an air of quiet still hung over the small town. As Nixan arrived home, he deposited his pack in his main room and made his way to his wash room. Thanks to the work of an ambitious Vonatii, the village of Umai had running water. Using the power of the river itself, water was pumped into a holding tank and let out through a series of pipes for the villagers to use.

He closed the curtain around his shower and turned on the faucet. He smiled as he felt the dust and dirt run off his armor and down the drain. As a Po-Matoran, Nixan had never been very fond of water, but he still appreciated the convenience of being able to clean off while in his own home. As he continued to rinse off his armor, he heard a floorboard creak. Pushing back the curtain, he saw no one.

"Strange," he thought.

He turned his attention back to his shower when suddenly a shadow loomed over him. Slowly, he turned around and saw the curtain get thrown back.

"Hey Nixan!" shouted the Vonatii standing there.

Getting no response, the Vonatii opened his eyes. He looked up and saw Nixan braced in a corner against the ceiling, panting.

"Krenshar!" said the Matoran. "Don't…do that!"

The Vonatii smiled up at him mischievously, "What's the point of having a Huna if I can't have some fun with my roommate?"

Nixan sighed and dropped down. He turned off the shower and grabbed a heatstone.

"So," asked Krenshar, as Nixan dried himself off, "did you get what we needed?"

"I did," said the Matoran. "They're in my pack in the great room." Sufficiently dried, he set his heatstone down. "Now if you'll excuse me, I need to get some sleep."

"Sweet dreams, jumpy," Krenshar smirked as he went to grab the bag of gems.

Nixan flopped onto his bed as exhaustion quickly overtook his body. In the next room, he could hear Krenshar inspecting the gems and metals he had collected. As was customary in Vonatii villages, the beings lived two to a house. This was intended to encourage friendship, but at times, it could be a bit of an annoyance.

As sleep overtook him, the Po-Matoran smiled, "At least, Krenshar can have fun. I can't say that for half the Vonatii here."

* * *

The sun had fully risen and was climbing up the sky when two Matoran appeared over a nearby hill. The Ga-Matoran's deep yellow eyes took in the sight of the village before her, and she continued down the slope.

The Xi-Matoran beside her spoke. "Are you sure this is the place?" she said.

The Ga-Matoran turned and stared at her.

The Xi-Matoran looked away sheepishly. "Right, stupid question, sorry."

The Ga-Matoran turned back towards the village.

"One of us is here," she said.

"So what will we do if we find him?" asked the voice again.

"Not 'if,' 'when,'" said the Ga-Matoran, "and when we do, we must convince him to join us."

"But what if he's happy here?"

"Whether he is happy here is not our concern. His presence is a danger to the villagers. The Brotherhood will find him, and they will destroy this village for sheltering him."

* * *

It was mid-afternoon when Nixan woke up, the sounds of metal striking metal reaching his ears. He got out of bed, and, after adjusting his mask, he made his way to the back of his and Krenshar's home. Opening the door to the shop, he saw the Vonatii bent over his work desk, hammering out a piece of gold metal.

"How's it coming?" yawned the Po-Matoran.

"Not bad," said Krenshar. "I've already gotten three orders done, but there's still five left."

"Geez, you'd think being a jeweler would be less stressful." Nixan picked up a set of tools. "So which ones have you not done?"

"Well, you could –" A knock at the door cut Krenshar off. "Here, just check the list; I'll get that."

The Vonatii got up from his bench and left the shop. Nixan picked up the list. Three rings, a bracelet, and a necklace still to go.

"Better get started," he thought as he picked up his tools. A moment later, he felt a claw tap his shoulder. He looked up at Krenshar.

"There's someone here to see you," said the Vonatii.

Puzzled, the Po-Matoran got up and followed his friend. As he approached the front door, he saw a pair of Matoran standing there. One, a Xi-Matoran, looked a bit nervous and kept glancing over her shoulder. The other, a Ga-Matoran, stared at him, and a slight smile crept across her face.

"Hello, Nixan," she said, "remember us?"

Nixan stared back at them. "Do I know you?" he asked.

The Ga-Matoran replied, "Well, you did."

Suddenly, the Ga-Matoran's eyes began to glow. A deep yellow light shone from her eyes, and a moment later, Nixan's eyes began to shine the same color.

After a few seconds, the light faded, and Nixan's eyes changed back. A look of amazement rose on his face.

"You're…you're Nui-Matoran!" he stammered.

"They're what?" asked Krenshar.

"Get inside quick," said Nixan.

The four beings entered the house, and Nixan closed the door behind them. As he joined the others in the great room, he held his forehead, as though what he was seeing made his head hurt.

Nixan sat down and said, "I…I knew one other escaped, but two more…"

"And there are more," said the Ga-Matoran.

"More of what?" asked Krenshar. "Can someone please tell me what's going on?"

The Ga-Matoran turned to the Vonatii and said, "I'll do better. I'll show you."

Her eyes began to glow again, and suddenly, Krenshar's mind was filled with thoughts that were not his own. He saw himself being dragged away by Rahkshi. He felt himself being put through a thousand kinds of pain and unnatural power coursing though his body. He felt his mind being twisted into the Makuta's service. He saw himself being taken somewhere else. He felt his mental restraints fall away as a Makuta tried to kill him and saw himself fleeing for his life.

As quickly as the thoughts came, they stopped. Krenshar looked at the Ga-Matoran.

"Who are you?" he asked.

The Ga-Matoran replied, "My name is Kyueni, and this is Taluu. We, along with Nixan and many others, were kidnapped by Makuta and given great power. Only twenty-three survived the Makuta's experiments, and we were forced to serve the Brotherhood. Whatever the Makuta used to brainwash us eventually wore off, as one of the 'Nui-Matoran,' as we came to be called, broke free of it and killed his Makuta guardian. When my guardian tried to kill me, I used my powers to escape. Taluu and Nixan did the same when their guardians attacked them."

"Nixan," said Krenshar, his voice telling he was a bit hurt, "why did you never tell me this?"

"Because I wanted to forget it," replied the Po-Matoran, his voice a bit melancholy. "After getting away, I wanted things to just go back to the way they were, but I knew it could never happen. I moved here to try to get away from my past."

"So, you're agility and whatnot aren't just from practice?"

"No, before the experiments, I was about as agile as a rock. Everything you've seen me do, I could only have done because the Makuta changed me."

An air of quiet hung over the room as the shock of the situation sank in. Nixan looked up at the other Matoran.

"So why did you try to find me?" he asked.

"Because of what happened to our village," said Taluu, speaking for the first time. Holding her hands forward, an orb of light appeared between them. The glow spread across the room until everything was enveloped by it. Krenshar looked around.

"Where are we?" he asked.

"Still in your home," said Kyueni, "but with Taluu's powers of illusion and sound creation, she has made it appear like the village we once called home."

The two male beings looked around. To the right, they could see down a street to the seashore, the sounds of sea Rahi flowing into their ears. Matoran walked about the sandy streets, chatting and going about their day. There were mostly Ga-Matoran, but a few other tribes could be seen here and there. A Le-Matoran was advertising exotic fruit, his voice thick with chute-speech. Two Po-Matoran rode atop a cart piled high with stone, goading on the large Ussal that pulled the cart. And a Xi-Matoran was chatting with a Ga-Matoran as they sat underneath a shade tree on the outskirts of the village.

"That's you two," said Nixan.

"It is," said Kyueni, "after I escaped from the Makuta, I stowed away on a ship and got off in this village. I instantly sensed Taluu's presence and, after introducing myself, decided to stay nearby."

"We lived in this village for almost three years," continued Taluu, "but then," the sky began to darken, "the Brotherhood found us."

Everyone looked up and saw an airship the size of the village blocking out the sun. An eerie silence fell over the village as its bay doors opened up. Rahkshi by the score dropped from the ship, landing across the village. Moments later, a floating platform dropped from the ship, carrying an Aviena and two Cuartan.

"Alright, where are they?" said the Aviena. "Bring out the Nui-Matoran, and no one gets hurt."

The real beings looked back and saw that the illusion's Nui-Matoran had disappeared.

"Where'd you go?" asked Nixan.

"We ran," said Taluu, shame filling her voice.

"I formed a mental shield around us, while she hid us from view," said Kyueni. "We ran away from the village, leaving our fellow Matoran to die."

"The airship left shortly thereafter," continued Taluu, as the illusion began to fade. "We knew then that we could not stay anywhere for very long. And we needed to find the other Nui-Matoran that had escaped."

"Why?" asked Krenshar.

Kyueni turned to Nixan. "To persuade them to join us," she said. "Regardless of how we got our powers, it is our duty to use them to protect those who cannot protect themselves."

"Hold on," said Nixan, rising from his chair. "You want me to just drop everything and leave?"

The Ga-Matoran nodded. Nixan shook his head.

"But I have responsibilities, obligations. I can't just up and leave."

"All things happen for a reason, Nixan," said Kyueni, "and you receiving your powers is no exception. You cannot just hide away when there are others who need your help. With great power comes great responsibility."

"I never wanted to be a hero. I still don't," said Nixan, anger rising on his voice. He shook his head, "No, I'm staying here."

"Nixan," said Krenshar, "maybe you should –"

"No Krenshar, I've made my decision." He turned to the other Matoran. "You two can stay here tonight if you wish, but don't count on me coming with you tomorrow morning."

The Po-Matoran stormed back towards his workshop. Moments later, the sounds of metal striking metal could be heard.

Taluu just stared after him. "How can he say that?" she murmured.

Krenshar sighed. "I'm sure it's hard for him to hear," he said, "and while I agree with you two, I still think it should be up to him to decide."

* * *

As night fell, the moons were rose over the horizon, their glow casting dual shadows across the village. A lone figure snuck between the buildings. His elongated clawed fingers curled around the long sword at his waist. His deep orange eyes glowed in the dark as he peered through the window before him, and he nodded at what he saw.

"The targets are currently asleep," he said, quietly. "However, two other beings are nearby. With so many unknowns, I will attempt tomorrow." Turning away, the being walked back the way he had come.

* * *

The suns were rising over Umai as the two female Matoran prepared to leave.

"Are you sure there's nothing we can say to get you to change your mind?" asked Taluu.

Nixan shook his head. "No, there isn't, and I'm sorry for my outburst last night. It was rude of me. You were only doing what you thought was right."

Kyueni's deep yellow eyes stared back at him. "Well, we appreciate your hospitality," she said. She turned to her companion. "Let's go."

Krenshar waved to the departing figures. As they turned a corner, he turned to Nixan and said, "You know, that Taluu was awfully cute."

"Krenshar!" exclaimed Nixan, his mask turning a dull red.

"I'm kidding," the Vonatii replied as he turned back to their home.

The two beings returned to their workshop and began to work. As the afternoon approached, Krenshar put the finishing touches on a ring.

"Well," he sighed, leaning back in his chair, "this has been a productive day."

Nixan set his tools down and took off his apron. He rubbed the soot off his hands as he walked away from the furnace.

"I think that's enough for today," he said. "Do you think you can deliver the finished ones? I'm going to go for a walk."

"Into the canyon, I take it?"

Nixan chuckled. "How'd you guess?"

As Nixan jogged away from the village, his mind was filled with thoughts of his visitors. The thoughts Kyueni had fed him had brought his memories of the experiments to the surface. The pain, both mental and physical, that he had felt then was still all too real to him, even after ten years.

"I feel like I let them down," he thought. Now that the village was out of sight, he leapt into the air and bounded between rock formations. "I mean, I know I can't just up and leave, but there had to have been something I could have done." His thoughts faded as he landed on a stone pillar and stared over the landscape.

Something caught his eye on the road leading north of the village. Bounding closer, he saw something shining in the sunlight, flickering as it moved around. A voice suddenly called out in his mind.

"Nixan!" The Po-Matoran heard Kyueni's voice in his head. "Taluu and I are under attack. Please, help us!"

Nixan hesitated for a brief moment, then leapt off towards the shining spot. It did not take a genius to figure out that was where the two females were fending off their attacker.

Moments later, he had left the gorge behind and was running at top speed. His eyes and mind were so focused on reaching his friends he did not notice the blur approaching on his right. The blur rushed towards the Po-Matoran and caught him up. Nixan looked up to see Krenshar, his face covered with a Great Kakama.

"She called you, too, eh?" said the Vonatii.

"You're…wearing a Great Mask?" asked the Matoran.

"We all have secrets, you know," Krenshar smirked.

Instants later, they arrived at the scene of the action. Taluu and Kyueni were locked in battle with a Skakdi. His long sword reflected his red armor and organic tissue as he swung at the two Matoran. Kyueni's eyes flashed as she exerted her mental power over the Skakdi, but he seemed unaffected by it, and Taluu's illusions shriveled into nothing as he hit them with his eyebeams.

Losing no time, Nixan and Krenshar launched themselves into battle. Krenshar grabbed Nixan by his legs and spun him around at high speed. As the Vonatii let go, Nixan curled into a ball as he hurtled towards the attacker. At the last moment, he uncurled, his feet connecting with the Skakdi's chest. The combined force sent the Skakdi flying backwards. The red being struck a nearby cliff side with a sickening thud. As he fell back to the ground, his eyes flared to life.

"I have encountered new adversaries, adjusting combat tactics," he said in a deep, almost robotic voice.

As he stood back up, his sword flared with energy. Swinging it in front of him, a blade of energy leapt from its end and flew towards Krenshar and the Matoran. Krenshar changed to a Mask of Shielding and jumped in the way of the oncoming energy.

Nixan turned to the other Matoran. "Get somewhere safe. We'll hold him off," he said. As they ran off, he charged in to help his friend.

By now, the Skakdi had Krenshar locked in a hold, as he pressed the sword closer to the Vonatii's throat. Krenshar hardly dared breathe as he held the blade away, barely able to keep it at bay. Nixan slid between their legs and rebounded off the cliff side. His foot caught the Skakdi across the jaw, causing him to lose his grip on the sword. The Matoran had almost reached the ground when he wrapped his legs around the Skakdi's leg and twisted in midair. The sudden jerk on his leg caused the Skakdi to fall flat on his face. Krenshar gasped for breath and switched to a Kanohi Pakari. He threw a punch at the downed Skakdi, but the crimson creature rolled out of the way just in time, causing the Vonatii to leave a small crater in the ground nest to him.

"The Matoran shows abnormal agility levels. The Vonatii shows abnormal Kanohi strength," the Skakdi said in his monotonic voice. As he rose to his feet and fended off the two beings, he continued, "Hypothesis: currently engaging Nui-Matoran and Zorjic monk. Further enquiry required for confirmation. New objective: disable and detain adversaries for study."

Krenshar tried to throw another punch. "This guy talks pretty weird," he said.

Nixan dodged a pair of flying energy blades. "Almost sound like a robot," he replied.

"Such a statement is not far from correct," said the Skakdi, parrying a hard blow from Krenshar.

"What does that –" Crack!

Nixan was cut off by a loud crack. Looking at the Skakdi, he saw a large stone fall from his head as he collapsed into unconsciousness. The Po-Matoran looked up and saw Kyueni and Taluu, standing on the cliff top.

"Nice work," said Krenshar. He switched back to his Kakama. "I'll get some cord to bind him. Maybe we can find out why he's here."

As the Vonatii zoomed off, Nixan turned to Kyueni.

"I saw you using your powers," he said. "Did you see anything in there?"

The Ga-Matoran shook her head. "No, it's a though he has no mind. I'm not sure how that's possible, but there were no thoughts to read."

"How strange," Taluu replied. A moment later, Krenshar returned, carrying a roll of stout cord.

"Help me tie this guy up," he said.

Nixan flipped the unconscious being over and helped his friend bind the being.

"Tell me something, Krenshar," said Nixan. "I heard this fellow say something about a Zorjic monk. Do you know what he meant?"

Any explanation the Vonatii would have given was cut off by a groan from the bound Skakdi.

Before the captive could get out a word, Krenshar had hauled him to his feet and thrust him against the cliff wall.

"Okay pal," he said, "spill it. What's your deal? Are you just some lowlife kidnapper, or are you working for the Brotherhood?"

The Skakdi remained emotionless as he looked up at his captor. "Currently incapacitated. Captors demand information. Weighing options…" After a few moments, the Skakdi looked at his captors and said, "Providing desired information decreases chances of inflicted pain and increases chances of survival. Thus, desired information shall be provided.

"I am Kreba, a Skakdi currently employed by the Brotherhood of Makuta. I was selected for this assignment for two significant reasons. The first, my eyebeams permit me to distinguish between the Xi-Matoran's illusions and reality. The second, I was influenced differently than the majority of Skakdi. When Makuta Spiriah conducted experiments on the population of Zakaz, the majority of my species was driven to the threshold of insanity. My psyche, however, gradually dissolved, eventually destroying my emotions and personality, leaving only cognitive functions and motor skills. As such, I am unaffected by the Ga-Matoran's psychic abilities as she requires the former qualities to manipulate an individual.

The red being turned to Nixan. "The possibility of the arrival of both another Nui-Matoran and a Zorjic monk were not factored into the Brotherhood's preparations as such an event is severely unlikely."

As the Skakdi finished, the other beings looked at each other.

"So what should we do with him?" asked Taluu.

"If I may speak, I suggest I join you," said the Skakdi.

"What?" asked Krenshar. "You're joking right?"

"I am incapable of fabricating humor. I cannot defeat the four of you in battle, as can be seen, and should I return to the Brotherhood having not completed my assignment, I will in all likelihood be terminated. Thus, to increase my chances of survival, joining you is the best option. The Brotherhood will no doubt believe I have been slain and send someone else to complete the aforementioned task."

The other beings turned away.

"Well, he may be longwinded, but he might be useful to us," commented Nixan.

"Us?" asked Kyueni.

Nixan nodded. "When you called me, I hesitated, knowing if I helped you, I'd be stepping into the hero role. But then I realized that you were right. I might not like how I got my abilities, but it's still my obligation to use them to benefit others. If I don't, I'm no better than him," he finished, gesturing to their captive.

Krenshar nodded. He was about to speak as Taluu cut him off.

"I don't think Kreba's evil," she said. "He's just doing the most logical thing; at one time, that was probably joining the Brotherhood."

"Correct," replied the Skakdi. "Now, if you would kindly untie me, we must be on our way. The greater distance we place between us and this location, the less likely we will be discovered by another Brotherhood agent."

Krenshar untied the Skakdi who nodded.

"So," asked the Vonatii, "where are we off too, Kyueni?"

The Ga-Matoran started heading north down the road again; the others following closely behind her.

"We're going to Aleris."

"The mining city?" asked Taluu.

"Indeed," replied Kreba, "and may I inquire as to this choice of destination?"

Kyueni nodded as they continued walking. "I can sense other Nui-Matoran there. And while the Brotherhood cannot outright attack such a large city, their lives are still in danger."

"What will we do when we find them?" asked Nixan.

As the village of Umai fell below the horizon, Kyueni smiled at her companions. "I think we'll figure that out when we get there."

* * *

Bionicle (c) LEGO

Story and related characters (c) me

* * *

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