Author's Notes: I live! Wow, I can't remember the last time I posted something here . . . Well, um, anyway. On to the story. This idea has been floating around my head for a while and it just evolved into this. For those who want to know, this is AU because the Toa Metru stayed on Metru Nui after the Great Cataclysm. So enjoy!
Disclaimer: I own nothing here except plot, writing, and Mask Feeders. All the official stuff belongs to LEGO. Please don't sue.
Something was dreadfully wrong.
Toa Matau knew this as soon as he woke up. He felt odd, first of all, and second of all, everything in his room was the wrong size. It was all too big. Did I small-shrink? He thought groggily. He decided the only way to find out was to stand up and get a better view of things. This was easier said than done, especially for Matau.
Matau was probably the worst morning person in Metru Nui. He could not think, speak, or even move well until he had a good breakfast and a long time to wake up. Getting out of bed was a process, a slow process that usually took 45 minutes. Matau would first kick down the covers, keeping his eyes closed, then with the utmost care, take a foot off the bed and attempt to feel where the floor was. More often than not, he would miss the floor and fall out of bed, skipping the step of sitting up and getting both feet firmly on the ground.
Depending on whether he had feet or his whole body on the floor, his next step was to stand up or just to walk over and pull up the shades on his window. If he was able to do this without tripping on the clutter in his room then it would be an unusually good day. Once the blinds were open and the sun hitting his face full force, Matau would start to open his eyes. When this was accomplished then Toa Matau would be functional.
However, this day was different. The Air Toa had only gotten to feeling for the floor when his door burst open and there was a loud exclamation of, "Matau! Matau, I need your help!"
To the tired Matau, this translated into: "Matar, my meat you hlaa!"
Matau's eyes snapped open and he yelled something incomprehensible back, falling out of his bed in a tangle of sheets. This only startled the poor Air Toa more and he started to thrash about, thinking he was under attack. After some wild gesticulating Matau managed to throw off the blankets and strike a heroic, dangerous pose.
Breathing hard he looked around, head snapping from side to side. When he saw nothing was there he relaxed, letting out a big sigh of relief.
"Matau?" a voice said cautiously and very close to the Toa.
Without a second thought, Matau spun around and thrust out his hands, sending a gale in the direction of the voice. He was rewarded with a yelp and a crash as the intruder was blown into the wall, along with half the junk in Matau's room. The wall cracked and a groan emanated from the space but still Matau didn't see anyone.
Or . . . did he? One of the sheets had gotten caught in the gust and was now hanging in midair. Now come to think of it, Matau recognized that yelp.
"Fire-spitter?" he asked.
"Mata Nui, Matau," Vakama's voice answered, the sheet sliding off as the invisible Toa stood. "Is that how you treat Matoran who come for help?"
"Sorry," the Air Toa apologized. "But they usually are sight-visible. You should know better than to quiet-sneak up on me in the morning."
"And I would have left you alone, but I really need your help." There was a pause as Vakama climbed over various objects to stand next to Matau. "From the looks of it, you need help as well."
Picking up some of the nearest objects on the floor and tossing them to the back of the room, Matau asked, "What are you talking about, fire-spitter? Anyway, turn off your Mask and come have some breakfast with me." He started to head for the door when he felt a hand on his shoulder.
"Matau, take a look at yourself."
The Air Toa gave Vakama (or where he thought Vakama was) a look but he was too tired to argue. So he turned and walked over to his full-length mirror and his jaw dropped.
There in the reflection was a handsome, but unmistakable Matoran.
Matau took a few moments to try and convince himself to stay calm then succumbed to full blown panic. "MATA NUI, NOOOOO!" He began to wail.
"Matau! MATAU! Calm down, you're still a Toa!" Vakama yelled.
"Do I look like a Toa?" Matau yelled back, sinking down to the floor. "I'm a Matoran agaaaaain . . ."
Vakama sighed as he looked at the softly moaning Matau. Honestly, all this drama made his head hurt (or maybe that was because he had his head slammed into the wall). "Matau, how were you able to blow me across the room if you didn't have your wind power?"
The dramatic moaning and wailing stopped as the Air Toa smiled sheepishly. "Oh, my Mask. I must have left it on?" He laughed and attempted to turn it off. His frown returned as his form remained the same.
"Yeah, that's the problem. I can't turn my Mask off either," Vakama's voice said. "I can't understand it. I suddenly turned invisible last night and stayed that way." Matau looked up as Vakama gave a heavy sigh. "I spent all last night looking through my Mask-Making books but couldn't find anything."
"So, what do we do?"
"Well, seeing as you're affected too, we're going to the Coliseum. The rest of the Toa are waiting for us there. We're going to have a meeting with Turaga Dume and see if we can't figure this out."
"What? I can't go out there like this!" exclaimed the Air Toa. "What will the Matoran think?"
"Honestly? I don't think they'll notice. Besides, we have to go. It's our duty. This problem is a lot bigger than you think." There were the sounds of footsteps and the sheets shifted as Vakama made his way over to the window. He pulled back the curtains. "Look."
Matau climbed over parts of vehicles that adorned his room, looked out the window, and felt his jaw drop again. Outside was a sea of glowing Masks, everyday Matoran lifting rocks as big as houses, floating five feet off the ground, and performing other amazing feats. "It's too early in the morning for this," Matau mumbled.
The problem was indeed much bigger than Matau had realized. As he and his invisible companion walked down the street, Matau found his form constantly changing. One minute he was an Onu-Matoran with a Makiki, then a Ta-Matoran with a Hau, and then a Ga-Matoran with a Huna. "Gah! I can't control it!" he exclaimed.
"Yeah, can you slow down? I'm having trouble following you," Vakama entreated.
"This is so humiliating," Matau mumbled, changing from a Le-Matoran to another Ga-Matoran.
Vakama frowned even though Matau couldn't see it. "Hey, at least people see you."
"And that's a good thing?"
His frown deepened. "Yes. Do you know how hard it is to avoid people when they can't see you? You know, I tripped once and the Matoran kept falling over me and kicking my stomach trying to walk through me. Not to mention how many of them have accidently stepped on my toes."
Matau threw back a glance to where he thought his friend was.
"Other side," he disclosed.
Matau turned. "How about we take the chutes instead? There's one that goes directly to the Coliseum about half a bio from here."
The Fire Toa's invisible face fell. "Go through a chute station?"
"Ah, stop being a coward, fire-spitter," the Air Toa scolded. "The faster we get this problem fixed, the better."
Vakama muttered something about 'bruises' and 'a black and blue Fire Toa' but followed Matau to the station.
Nokama and Nuju were waiting for them at the entrance of the Coliseum. Both their Masks were glowing as well and Nuju had an aura of various floating objects. But Nokama seemed fine.
"Oh, good!" Matau grinned, coming out of the chute. "At least one of us is unaffected."
Nokama's expression became fatigued as she opened her mouth to reply and let out a noise that sounded half avian and half amphibian. The green and red Toa's mouths fell open.
"Neeeeever mind," Matau mumbled.
The Water Toa sighed, turned to Nuju, and looked at him pleadingly.
Nuju returned the stare, sighed, and turned back to the other Toa. "Is Vakama there?" he asked.
"Yes, I'm here," Vakama replied, sounding tired.
"Good. Onewa is waiting in the meeting room. Dume said he'd meet us there." With that, he turned and headed for the towering building. The rest of the Toa followed.
Vakama attempted to talk with Nokama, but she couldn't seem to talk in just one language. Meanwhile, Nuju was attracting objects like a magnet and Matau continued to change like a chameleon. However, Matau was becoming a little less grumpy. He found as soon as he was around his fellow Toa, he turned back into a Toa. Sure, he looked like Nuju now, but at least he wasn't a Matoran.
As they came to the entrance of the main building, they saw a sign had been posted, delaying any meetings until further notice. Also near the door was Onewa, leaning against the wall. "Oh good, you're here. I got tired of waiting so I came down to find you," he said. "Is Vakama he—"
"Yes, I'm here!"
"No need to sound so miffed."
"'Miffed?'" Matau asked.
Onewa turned to look at Matau, who now looked like the Stone Toa. "Yes, miffed, it means—"
"We know what it means!" Nuju said irritably, but Matau was too distracted to hear him.
As long as Onewa looked at him, the Air Toa found himself doing everything the Stone Toa was. He moved with Onewa, talked with Onewa and couldn't stop. It was starting to freak him out and he tried to yell unsuccessfully.
"Stop panicking!" Onewa ordered (Matau matching his voice). "It's my Mask; I can't control it any more that you can."
"Whoa, doubles," Vakama muttered.
Nokama smiled and whistled something.
The white Toa turned and translated. "Okay, that was avian; I understood that. She said our Masks seemed to react to what ever we look at. For example, Matau, you turn into anyone you see. Onewa controls anyone in his sight. Nokama's and Vakama's Masks seem different however."
"Whatever. Let's go inside," Onewa shrugged, Nuju mimicking him this time. "Vakama?"
"Yeah, yeah, I'm coming. I'll be right behind you . . . What's that look for?"
Shrugging, Onewa started to head inside the great building in front of them. "Nothing. It's just weird talking to thin air, is all."
"I'm not thin air!"
"Could have fooled me. Anyway, let's go. This whole double me thing is starting to get annoying."
Dume looked up as a knock came at the meeting room door. "Who is it?"
"Toa Metru. Can we come in?" came Nuju's voice.
"Yes, yes, come in."
The motley group walked into the room, looking very odd indeed but Dume did his best not to stare. They on the other hand, couldn't return the favor.
A tall Toa stood at the head of the table, looking through several papers in his hands, flipping through them as they cam through the door. He was decked in crimson armor, adorned with curving purple bands, carved to look like violet fire. The expression on his Mask of Regeneration was calculating as he inspected them.
"Mata Nui . . . DUME?"
The tall Toa glared at Onewa who suspiciously sounded like Matau. "Of course it's me" he said, his voice younger. "Now, if you will all stop gawking, I'd like to—"
"You're a Toa!"
"You're cute!" Realizing everyone could understand her, Nokama's expression became horrified and she clapped her hands over her mouth and blushed. Everyone stared.
Dume cleared his throat. "My Mask seemed to believe my body needed to be regenerated in the image of my Toa self. Now, if we could get down to business?"
"Where's Whenua?" Onewa asked, seating himself.
"Off on some business. I asked him to check the Archives for any references of past events similar to our situation. Now, is Vakama here?"
Matau, looking like Nokama, smiled. "Well, no one's seen him."
"Ha, ha. Hilarious, Matau. Yes, I'm here, Dume."
"Good. Have you discovered anything?" asked Dume, sitting down himself and leaning forward.
"Nothing," replied Vakama from a seemingly empty chair. "There's nothing to explain this. Masks simply don't work this way, at least, most of the ones we know of. There are certain Masks, like the Mask of Clairvoyance, that will activate without the user's urging but the spouts of activity are always short."
"Didn't you say the Vahi was leaking power when it was broken?"
"That's different. First of all, our Masks aren't broken, or at least, mine isn't. I inspected it last night. Second, even if they were broken, they wouldn't work at all, not work overtime. Remember, the Vahi's special." The chair swiveled. "You can't imagine the commotion this is causing in the Mask Making community. All sorts of theories are being revamped, especially since the Matoran are able to access the Masks' powers."
"You sound excited about this," Nuju said, eying the chair.
"Well, you have to admit, whatever this is, it's going to completely change the way we see Masks."
Onewa snorted, putting his feet on the long table. "Only you could be excited about something like that."
"Onewa, please put your feet down," Dume instructed in a bored tone. While the brown Toa complied, he looked around the room. "I think we all need to take this slightly more seriously than we are. This Mask activation is more than a nuisance, it's become dangerous." He passed out several papers to the Toa. "I got these reports just before you came."
"'Ta-Matoran ran into wall so fast he broke some bones,' 'Ga-Matoran accidently broke her friend's hand attempting to shake it,' 'Ko-Metru experiencing thievery from invisible criminals,'" Vakama read.
"Yikes." asked Matau, flipping through the rest of the papers. "No serious injuries though. That's good, right?"
"Nothing serious yet," reminded the Ice Toa. "Invisibility could be especially dangerous, exceedingly so around traffic; you can't avoid something you can't see. It's only a matter of time."
Dume nodded. "Exactly. Now, does anyone have any suggestions about how to solve the matter before it comes to that?" His eyes swept up and down the table. Nokama just shook her head, Matau had his eyes raised to the ceiling in thought, and Vakama . . . well, he was probably thinking, his chair swiveling slightly back and forth. Nuju stared straight ahead and Onewa leaned far back in his chair, rocking a bit.
They talked for a bit but with little progress. Onewa suggested the Matoran stay in their homes and Vakama said a talk about how to use Masks may help preclude accidents. But after a while it became obvious that no one knew what to do.
"Funny, isn't it?" Onewa asked, rocking the chair on its back two legs. "We can fight any monster life can throw at us but as soon as the problem comes from our own tools we're helpless."
"I just feel like I should be able to do something. This is my area of expertise," mumbled Vakama's voice, low and a bit sulky. Nokama attempted to comfort him but all that came out was a series of chirps.
Dume stood, drawing everyone's attention back to the head of the table. "Well, unless someone else has any other information, or ideas, I think we should wait to see if Whenua—" He was interrupted by the door opening and a brilliant light bursting forth from the portal.
"Guys, I found it!" Whenua's voice called from the blaze. "I know what's going on."
"Mata Nui, Whenua, can't you turn your Mask down? I'm going blind!" Matau complained, holding his arm before his eyes.
There was a thump and a yell as Onewa fell backwards, his chair slipping from underneath him.
"I'll turn it down in a moment." A sound of ruffling papers came and then light died down. Everyone took a few moments to blink away the blobs of color from their vision.
"Thank you, Whenua," Dume said. "Now, you said you found—oh." He politely turned his gaze away from Whenua's Mask-less face. The others did the same. "What did you find?"
"This!" the Archivist declared excitedly. He placed his Mask back on his face and held up his right hand in triumph. Pinched between his thumb and fore finger was a small, white worm. As Whenua held it steady, the worm squirmed, one end opening and closing in a silent scream of protest, little tendrils waving in the air.
As one, the Toa, and Dume, leaned forward for a better look.
"That?" Matau asked incredulously. "It's ugly-hideous. What is that exactly?"
"A type of parasitic Rahi."
Everyone leaned back.
"No, there's no need to worry. They move quite slowly and aren't dangerous. Just a nuisance is all. Anyway, these little guys are Mask Feeders." With his free hand, Whenua spread a bunch of papers on the table, each showing a diagram of the parasite and displaying hastily scrawled notes.
"Mask Feeders?" inquired Vakama. "You mean . . ." The Fire Toa became visible, Mask in hands. On the inside of the Hau was the same type of creature, attached to the wall and seeming to gulp continuously. Gently, Vakama pulled off the worm, placed back on his Mask, and remained visible. He whooped, grinning broadly.
"You see, they're like leeches," Whenua apprised. "They feed off the energy of activated Masks, attaching themselves into the inside of a Mask and secreting some sort of . . ." He looked at the notes and shrugged. "I don't know exactly what, but this substance activates the Mask so they can feed uninterrupted."
By now, everyone had pulled off the squirming parasites and returned to normal with great relief. Onewa squished his, flinching a bit as clear fluid ran down his fingers, and looked over at Dume. "You'll probably want to make an announcement on the screens, advising the Matoran about this."
Dume, once again in Turaga form, nodded. "I shall, in one moment. Whenua, how come this has only now come to our attention?"
"I might have that answer," Nokama spoke up. "I know of a Matoran working with Mask energies in one of the Ga-Metru labs. If these Mask Feeders were part of her experiments and they happened to reproduce and escape . . ."
"Full scale infestation," Dume finished. "Can I trust all of you to start restoring order while I prepare my speech?"
The Toa nodded. Ending the meeting, they left the Coliseum and started to round up the worms. Many Matoran were loath to give up their powers, but after a bit of persuading, and in Onewa's case mentally forcing, the Toa managed to get the city back into some semblance of normalcy.
As the eventful day wound to its exhausted end, Matau was grateful to be done with it all. Everything was back to the way things should be: the Matoran were behaving normally, Dume was back to being a Turaga (though he was sure Nokama's comment would never leave his head), and he was a Toa again. Looking at the jar full of swarming worms in his hand, he felt his stomach churn a little and the gears in his head turn. Remembering the chaos among his friends, he smiled and chuckled to himself. Maybe keeping a few of these little guys in stock wouldn't be so bad. After all, Nuju hadn't been very nice to him lately . . .
A/N: Taa daaa. The work of . . . however many months I've been gone. To those who remember my other stories, Lessons of Lhikan will be updated . . . soon. I have about one more scene to write and the chapter's done. As for this story, I appreciate all reviews so please leave me your comments!