Disclaimer: Song belongs to the All Insane Kids, story and characters belong to me, Bionicle belongs to Lego. Nothing new.

Hero

The Toa flitted through the smoky black of Ta-Metru, her armor choked by ash and the scars of war. What color wasn't layered over with these marks of battle her power manipulated, hiding her true colors by bending the dim light, forcing it to reflect a different color of her element. Despite the fact she was trying to be calm, her heartlight – flashing with effort and fear – her breathing, rasping and labored as it was, and her frightened eyes betrayed how scared she really was.

Normally, the Metru of Fire was a safe refuge for her, even though the smoke and charcoal made her cough so often her friends would wonder if she had allergies. Now, with all the darkness around, it was as dangerous as the rest of the universe was, and for all she knew, there was an enemy in every shadowed alley, and each shadow had eyes and a malicious drive of destruction.

As if to emphasize this point, a traitorous cough escaped her mouth.

As you're on your way back home

Something catch your eyes untold

She froze like a Rahi deer in the glare of a lightstone, as motionless as a Po-Matoran statue in her hunched position. Behind her Hau, the eyes of someone that was being hunted flitted around, even as the echoes bounced off the walls of the forges and furnaces, somehow still active despite the fact the Ta-Matoran were gone.

She was a fool to return to this new City of Darkness, pursuing a fear that other Matoran were trapped inside the walls of this metropolis and in the hands of the Makuta conquerors, when all her friends had left with those they protected. But none of them had the courage or the power to return and search; only she had the clout to counteract the shadows, if only for a short time. She rose back to her full height, eyes still darting around, and continued to move through the city streets; her involuntary signal had not given her away. Or rather, she hoped it hadn't.

This time, she made a point to be ready to cover her mouth, in case she coughed again.

Her slender fingers gripped her longbow in one hand, stroking the energy arrow that hummed on the taut string. Beneath the thin membrane of protodermis was pure elemental energy, charged to the strength she had wanted. And with the shadow all around, the Toa – she called Shiri – had charged them all to a point that they could kill weaker beings and badly wound those stronger than she. Toa Code or not, she wasn't afraid to kill in this situation; the law of the jungle was the only thing that mattered now.

Figure of darkness lingers here

Her other hand absently traced her mask, and for an instant anger filled her mind, directed at Mata Nui himself; he whose symbol she bore upon her face. Could he not see they were suffering? Could he not tell they were in danger, and needed his aid? Did he simply not care, so long as they still followed him?

It didn't matter now. Shiri shook her head to clear her thoughts, and her anger melted away as quickly as it came. She needed to focus on looking for Matoran that had been left behind in their haste to abandon the city. It was rather probable some of them had been trampled by the crowds heading for Ga-Metru, and if she found them, she would bring them with her. Her friends and their fellow refugees were south, on the island of Shi-Nui and planning to continue south. That's where she had been ordered to meet up with the rest of her team once she had finished her work.

A tiny fairy-light appeared before her with a muttered word. Hopefully, any Matoran in the area would be drawn towards her photokinetic display like moths to a lightstone.

It would also draw her enemies. Her grip tightened on the worn metal of her bow in response to that thought.

A small scuffling noise entered her keen ears, and she spun around. A battered Ta-Matoran crept out of an alleyway, his red-tinted eyes flicking as he moved timidly towards her.

"Shiri?" he asked, shivering in spite of the heat that surrounded him. "Is it you? Or is this just another dream?"

"It's me," the Toa assured him, kneeling down and placing her hand down on his shoulder. The gesture assured her as much as it assured him; she now knew he was not an illusion. "We need to leave, and fast. Do you know if there are any others here still?"

He shook his head frantically, his mask a blur. "I don't know, I don't know!" he cried, cringing back like his ignorance would be punished. At the same time, though, he gripped her arm tightly, like the Toa of Light would condemn him to be abandoned in this terrible new city that had replaced the Metru Nui they had both known. "Can't we go now, please?" he begged, any courage long since drained from him.

Tremble as you get the fear!

Somehow, the knowledge he was as scared as she was calmed Shiri. While she knew there was no shame in feeling afraid, she had to stay calm for him. "We will," she promised him, even as she beckoned to her bobbing orb of light. It floated into her palm almost cheerfully. Softly, she breathed on it, and the tiny sphere expanded to the size of a ripe Madu.

Granted, breathing on her orb wasn't required, but even as an Av-Matoran she had enjoyed spicing up mundane actions with unneeded theatrics. Becoming a Toa and being on enemy turf had not changed that part of her.

Like the expanding orb had been a prearranged signal, other Matoran crept out of their various hiding places, as battered as the Ta-Matoran was; scars from the trampling they had endured during the mad rush to flee. By the time they had stopped emerging, there was about a dozen Matoran of seven different tribes gathered around her.

"Do you know if there are any others?" she repeated. The result was the same as before: a fearful negative. Shrugging, she muttered another word and her orb split into six identical copies, which at her command darted off on their merry ways. Any Matoran that saw them would instinctively follow the light, and would follow back to the shores of Ta-Metru where her small ship was moored. She just hoped that she would have enough room on there for all the refugees that her orbs lured out.

Carried along the cornerstone

Fearing you've been left alone

"Come," she said, beckoning to her small following, who fell into step beside and behind her as she began to retrace her steps. All the while, her eyes never stopped moving – from the alleys to the rooftops, to the empty doors of forges.

Most of the way back to shore – a few more Matoran had found their way to her group during their trek – Shiri felt something that wasn't quite right. As a Toa of Light, she could get a sense of what a being's inner light was like – it had been her "talent" of sorts when she had been a Matoran – and had been amplified by her evolution.

What she felt was a void of shadow, and it was heading her way.

"When I give the word," the Toa said softly, not breaking stride or turning her head, "make for the shore. Get on the ship. Don't wait for me; just get to Shi-Nui."

If her parade of Matoran were concerned about her sudden demands, they kept it to themselves. Shiri kept walking casually for a few more steps, mentally pinpointing where the void was coming from – all the while tightening her grip on her bowstring – before spinning around 109 degrees to her left and released her arrow of light down an alleyway. A scream of pain emanated from the darkness it had been swallowed up by.

"Run!" she bellowed, yanking out another arrow from her quiver.

Her Matoran charged past her like the waters of a river surging around a rock in the way, heading towards the shore even as she fired again. Another explosion came from the alley, even as red eyes rapidly bore down on her from the other side of the passageway. She just barely managed to switch on her Hau as a retaliatory blast of shadow splattered against it. Wheeling around as a pair of red eyes glared out at her, she tore off through the streets, heading the opposite direction of her Matoran, her passing making ash from the fires rise up in snow-like flurries as she tried to lead it away from the tribesmen.

Who will lose, who will prevail?

Who will tell the final tale?

A snarl behind her and heavy, running steps told her that the enemy was in pursuit. She attempted to get a good look over her shoulder at what her enemy was, but she couldn't get much of a view, and anyway the fear that filled her blurred her vision.

Abruptly, that fear turned to self-focused anger: anger she knew came from herself and not from a Makuta's influence. What sort of coward was she, to run away from an enemy when her people needed her to fight to the finish, even if it meant her death? What kind of hero was she?

Even as the thoughts swirled through her brain, she found herself whirling around on the heels of her boots, and a blast of white light nearly blinded her as laser beams raced out of her fingers. All five blasts of pure light struck the black, shapeless enemy that was bearing down on her, which howled and – abruptly vanished, like it had never existed. As her enemy vanished like smoke and mirrors, Shiri felt the world around her ripple, and her world seemed to change – if only slightly. She was still in the deserted Ta-Metru, was still standing on the same, cobblestone street that she had been running on before she had blasted her enemy.

Here it goes again

The Toa of Light sighed, a hard huff as she realized how she had been duped. An illusion, that she and the Matoran that surrounded her could see – or maybe it only had existed for her – and real enough that she would pick up a shadow signature if she was using her talent. It had done its job pretty well: it had tricked her into sending the Matoran to the boat without her, and by now they had probably made it there. A quick scan confirmed that they were too close to it to prevent them from leaving.

Just more proof that, even with all her strengths, she was not cut out to be a hero.

Do you know

What it takes to be a hero?

Why had she been picked again? Oh yeah, they had needed a new Av-Toa after their first one had been ambushed and killed. And she had been conveniently walking by when that choice had been made. Flattering as the offer had been at the time, she knew that she was just Shiri. If anyone, Tanma or Radiak should have this position of Toa, not her.

She was no hero. She was simply a pretender, someone trying to fill a role she could never maintain, Destiny be darned.

When you've lost

A piece of love

A piece of you

Her self-belittlement was interrupted by a wave of sleepiness. Suddenly, she found it harder to keep her eyes open, despite the fact she had last slept nearly three hours ago. A yawn involuntarily escaped her lips, even as a panicked thought told her to fight it. Don't succumb!

Why not, though? the part of her that was tired complained. Just rest. We'll feel better after a nap.

Inwardly, Shiri knew that if she fell asleep, she probably wouldn't open her eyes ever again – or worse. Struggling to keep her sagging eyelids from sliding down all the way and leaning against the wall for support, she lifted her right fist up and made a flash of white light explode out of it like a flash grenade.

Her lethargy didn't vanish on the spot, but it became noticeably easier to keep her blue eyes open. The moment they did, it revealed an interesting sight: another dark being about three bio away from her, its face and figure indescribable. Its clawed hands were outstretched, reaching for her mask and weapon.

Another illusion?

Maybe it was, but this one looked too real for her to doubt it.

Fear shattered her sleepiness into a thousand dull-edged shards. In the past, she had laughed at stories where beings ran from one misfortune to another, but with it happening to her… She silently vowed to never laugh again about this sort of thing.

Do you have

What it takes to beat the fear that's

In your heart?

The creature – whatever it was – recovered quickly. Its fist swung for her mask, aiming to shatter the Kanohi and weaken her (assuming it didn't break her skull with it), but the Toa of Light managed to dodge the blow. As she spun away from it, she realized that she was much faster than the creature: the advantage of speed was hers. Bolstered by that thought, she dropped down and rolled under the being's two legs, thankful that it was much taller than she.

Whirling around as she stood tall again, Shiri was just in time to see it lumber its way into turning in the tight space. "Not fair! You moved!" he whined. The look in his eyes expressed disappointment that he had been cheated of his prey, but there was a stupid yet menacing expression on his face that made her both want to laugh and feel a dread chill.

To grow up strong

And undo wrong

To grow up strong

And undo wrong

Judging from the speech impairment – and the fact it looked like a living brick wall – Shiri correctly guessed that she was facing a lower-class Steltian, possibly one that had been physically enhanced by the Brotherhood. Even though she knew that it would be able to shatter her body with one good punch, she felt her chances of getting away from this encounter alive had improved. After all, what chance did a bruiser like him have of outwitting a Toa?

"Catch me if you can!" she cried brazenly, suddenly bold, even as she tore off down the street. It led northeast – towards Ga-Metru. Maybe she could steal a boat there and use it to escape this deathtrap of a city, with any other Matoran that followed her orbs joining her. Even as she fled, the pounding of her enemy's footfalls following her, she mentally reprogrammed the balls of light she had sent out, so they would lead to the Metru of Water's ports instead of the Ta-Metru coastline.

Walkin' down that well-worn road

Somethin's changed, but who would know?

After about five minutes or so of running, it occurred to the Toa of Light that she ought to have made it to the bordering canal by now. She hadn't been that far from it to begin with – only about 1.5 kios away, actually – and she was a fast runner to boot, even without the talents others of her tribe had. Suspicion crawled in her brain. Was she being duped again?

Then she saw it: a turn in the road, which went in the direction of the closest bridge over the canal. A smile brightened her face; she was on the right track.

However, when she rounded the corner, she came face to face with – a dead end. She'd been fooled again! Panic welled up in her, even as the thunderous footfalls of the Steltian got louder and louder.

Calm down! she ordered herself, as ruthlessly as she could. Just get rid of this wall!

Thought became deed, and suddenly there was a hole blown in the wall, just big enough for her to fit through. The fact did little to hearten her spirits, though: he could easily enlarge it. She scrambled inside to find herself in an abandoned forge, the flames still wildly reaching towards the sky with red and gold fingers. Black smoke billowed from it, making her lungs ache as she coughed multiple times in rapid succession.

A smash came from behind, and she barely rolled out of the way as fragments of solid protodermis flew away from the wall behind her. Climbing back to her feet, she saw the Steltian brute shove his way through the now-enlarged hole.

Shiri's eyes flicked around madly, trying to see a way out. There was none: the fire was behind her, more buildings flanked the forge, and the brute was before her. She was trapped.

The smile you get; a poisoned well

The color you once knew is killed

He smiled, but there was a menace in that smile that made her feel greater fear. Then before her eyes, his body rippled and changed. He became stronger, much taller, and his unintelligent eyes became intellectual beyond the realm of a Toa's understanding. He became [i]she – the appearance of a Steltian bruiser had been merely a disguise for her. The shadow that Shiri felt radiating off her was pure, untainted, but more than even a Makuta should have.

Something stirred in her brain – a phrase her fellow Toa had used to describe such beings – but fear made her brain sluggish and refuse to function as it should. It would have to wait for later – if there was a later.

Another shiver filled the air, and Shiri clenched her eyes shut as she felt the power of her adversary's illusion power engulf her. If she opened her eyes, she would be blinded to any attacks that the other female would launch at her. At least by relying on her ability to sense personal light and shadow signatures would give her a chance to fight back.

And as you realize what's wrong

The dirt under your feet is gone

With her vision replaced with her sense of light-shadow perception, she saw her enemy's left arm swing down towards her face; a black blip standing out against a grey landscape. There was nothing attached to the hand – objects didn't give off signatures that she could trace – but it was too much to hope that the Makuta-being was unarmed.

She dove to the side, rolling away from the point of impact. However, her inability to see objects with her power was still a hindrance; she smacked her head against an obstruction of some kind. The shock forced her to open her eyes, only to stare back at her enemy, whose scarlet orbs were bright, malevolent stars in the midst of the smoky air.

At the worst, least-helpful time imaginable, she remembered the term her friends had coined to describe powerful shadow-brings: Halflings, creatures born from the union of antidermis and the shadowy essences of Toa in the midst of energized protodermis, and utterly indestructible save through the Toa that spawned them. Not even a Toa of Light could destroy one, not without killing the Toa in question. At least, that was what she had been told in the past.

"I'm screwed," she muttered.

Then a blast of electricity from the hands of her tormenter wiped thought from her mind, except for an astonishing flash of intuition as it wracked her limbs and forced her into a mock-bow before her foe: she knew this lightning.

The enemy looks in your eyes

And now it's time to make it right

Audra, a Lightning Toa that had been her closest friend on the team before she vanished mysteriously. It had been suspected that the Brotherhood had had a hand in her disappearance, and now she knew it was true. She'd recognize this taste of lightning anywhere; recognize the pulse of her darker persona in the other female.

Something in the back of her brain cautioned her that she was dangerously close to falling over the edge as a new plan was conjured up in her mind, but she shoved it aside. This was suicide, she knew, but what did she have left to live for? The Matoran she had been sent to save were on their way to Shi-Nui, and she was facing an enemy that could not die. She couldn't make it right out of sheer will, but she had to try.

You better make it right!

Not even bothering with closing her eyes – she didn't care about illusions now – she grabbed a fistful of energy arrows out of her quiver and flung them at her enemy. Even as her bow clattered to the ground, now abandoned by its mistress, Shiri made the light energy contained within the thin membranes rip out of them prematurely, controlling her native element and making it ram into the armor of her enemy, lasers blasting holes through protosteel and flesh, crazed; not even bothering with strategy, just wanting to do as much damage as she could before she died.

Not exactly the death she would've wanted: fighting on a battlefield, giving her life to save others. Instead, she was on her knees before her executioner, blindly firing light beams at her enemy, trying to buy the escaping Matoran some extra, hard-earned time.

But then again, it was part of the job that was "Toa." You had to be willing to die for your cause, willing to lose it all to protect those who could not do the same.

Do you know

What it takes to be a hero?

When you've lost

A piece of love

A piece of you

She was running low. Shiri could feel the hollowness of her body as she recklessly poured out energy towards her enemy. But nothing mattered to her, nothing but the primal, arcane satisfaction that she got from dealing wounds, unhindered –

Then a flash of pain overwhelmed her, and all was black and grey.

Do you have

What it takes to beat the fear that's

In your heart?

Where was she?

She felt free, like she had been released from a prison, but at the same time there seemed to be a feeling of enclosure. The emptiness she had been feeling pouring out her power had vanished, though the void wasn't gone completely. She was alone, wherever she was, but it looked familiar. A metalworker's bench, scattered tools, that powerful female: she could see them, but they seemed blurred, like she was standing on another plane of existence, like she had stepped outside her body with an Iden.

To grow up strong

And undo wrong?

To grow up strong

And undo wrong!

Was that her body, slumped on the floor before the halfling, blood leaking out of a neck wound? No matter how she tried to focus, she just couldn't seem to make out the color of the body's armor; wasn't able to tell if it was her natural white and gold. Maybe it was this world she was in that made her see only greys, blacks, and whites . . .

Tired. Again, that tired feeling that the Makuta-being had invoked in her earlier. She had slept earlier . . . but what good was it here, when flesh didn't exist?

Rest, commanded some unseen entity, in a tone that was not to be ignored. Shiri couldn't bring up the energy to protest. She sank backwards, fading into the darkness of the spirit realm she was now part of. Unknown to her, she was unconsciously waiting for a command that would draw her back into the world of the living and exist again to fight the darkness again . . . and to avenge her own death.

XxX

-Inferna