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169 Pages

Class: Story
Status: Complete
Author: Hezekiah
Availability: Into the Universe: Hezekiah's Tale can also be found here.
Author's Notes: Note: This story was written over a period of time, so the quality of writing changes somewhat.

Prologue: King HezekiahEdit

"Hezekiah was twenty-five years old when he became king of Judah, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-nine years."- II Chronicles 29:1a

B.C. 715. Hezekiah's Palace, Jerusalem.

Twenty-five year old King Hezekiah looked out his window toward the setting sun. A new day, according to Jewish faith; more importantly, it was the Sabbath. In other words, it was his day off. No more political troubles for a whole day. He yawned. The Sabbath was not a moment too soon. Hezekiah grabbed a scroll and unrolled it, beginning to read. His political opponents thought his love of fiction and habit of reading it before bed ridiculous, but they did not have to rule a nation as he did. He read aloud. "The four explorers were jubilant; they had found the Imagination Nexus. They took a lander and cruised down to the temple guarding the Nexus. They walked forward into the shrine. Doctor Overbuild thought of a robot dog-" Hezekiah paused, confused, but soon continued,"-and it appeared at his feet. Duke Exeter and Hael Storm imagined their greatest desires, a magnificent castle and a sleek schooner. The Baron, in an act of foolishness, imagined a creature of chaos. This massive, purple spider erupted from the Nexus, smashing Doctor Overbuild's dog and glaring at the Baron before pulling him into the Nexus. The Nexus changed from bright white to deep purple and smashed through their ship, hovering above. The chaotic force is known only as Maelstrom, even today."

At this, Hezekiah's room flickered as a flame, but he was completely absorbed by the story, and he failed to notice.

"The three remaining explorers fled, but they vowed to stop the Baron at all costs. They and the Baron's old friend, Vanda Darkflame, established the Nexus Force to fulfill their goals."

Hezekiah's room violently flickered. He noticed that his room was distorting and grabbed his sword: long, slightly curved, and with gold leafing throughout. The round sapphire in its pommel resonated with energy. Hezekiah looked again at the scroll.

"Assembly. Paradox. Sentinel. Venture," he read, and then he noticed new words appear. "Now your adventure begins, HEZEKIAH!!!!"

At this, Hezekiah's room disappeared into blackness. He felt a brief falling sensation, and then knew no more. His sword remained tightly in his grip.

Chapter One: Venture ForthEdit

AD 2010, Tuesday October 12. Venture Star, LEGO Universe.

Hezekiah shifted in his bed. He yawned loudly; then he got up. He lumbered over to his mirror. He brushed his jet-black hair and looked at his brown eyes. He quickly changed his pajamas for his white tuxedo.

"Let's see," he said. "What did I do yesterday?" Hezekiah thought hard. He remembered reading about the four faction leaders, but that was all. "I can't remember. Either I've been bored to death, or I've had amnesia." He glanced around. Where was he? ...The Venture Star, of course! It was only the most luxurious and famous ship in the Universe. He grabbed his sword and strapped it to his back, hilt on the right.

A loud bell pealed seven times. His stomach growled loudly in approval. When had he last eaten? Hezekiah dashed out of his room and down a short corridor into the dining hall. He grabbed a tray and piled pancakes, a sausage, bacon, and eggs on it. He then drowned his breakfast in an ocean of syrup. He sat down and stuffed himself.

After finishing drinking a glass or three of milk, Hezekiah headed for the ship's gym. As he stepped into the hall, he heard a loud explosion. The ship rumbled, knocking down several minifigures. Red lights flashed, and sirens blared. "Attention! Our ship is under attack! Please, remain calm. There are more than enough life-ships for everyone. Head to the nearest teleporter," the ship's first officer ordered. Minifigures calmly stood up and walked to the teleporters, women and children first. Hezekiah decided to check on the captain, Rob. He dashed to the bridge, wary of a breach.

"Captain! Are you okay?" Hezekiah asked, finally arriving.

"I'm fine, but our ship's hull is deteriorating. It's done for. You'll have to go, too, sir," Rob said, glancing at his visitor.

Hezekiah nodded and walked into the captain's teleporter. He appeared in the hangar and grabbed a thinking cap off a rack. He noted the helmet's odd, flat top with a blue lightbulb sticking out. He put it back, shrugging, and walked over to a Classic rocket.

An evacuation master signaled for Hezekiah to take off. Hezekiah climbed in, sealed his cabin, and fired up his rocket's engines. He shot out of the hangar, but his tailfin was clipped by debris. Losing control, he guided his rocket toward Avant Gardens. He could get his rocket fixed there, and find out what to do next. He looked at his hull sensor. It was far too red.

Chapter Two: En Garde!Edit

AD 2010, Tuesday October 12. Avant Gardens, LEGO Universe.

Hezekiah's rocket started burning up upon entering Avant Gardens's atmosphere. The incredible speed shredded his tailfin into scrap metal. Hezekiah was barely in control. He checked his altimeter, then smashed the cockpit window and bailed. His rocket continued and slammed into a building in the distance. He himself thudded into the ground.

Hezekiah stood up and groaned. He surveyed his surroundings. Stromlings, Maelstrom-infected minifigures, plagued the area around a damaged refinery all the way up to a fortified wall. A broken road led somewhere. He was in a kind of valley, with snowcapped mountains in the distance on either side. A forest seemed to grow higher up. He looked back to the refinery. A particularly ugly Stromling was fighting against a tired researcher in light armor. Hezekiah grabbed his sword with both hands and charged the infected one. The creature spun around to smash face-first into Hezekiah's extended blade.

"Thank you, but what is a rich man like you doing here? Oh, and my name is Wisp Lee," the researcher said.

"Hezekiah. My liner was forced to abandon ship. An infected ship called the Venture Explorer attacked."

"Well, another Maelstrom ship blasted my refinery/research center to flaming ruin. See it?" Wisp asked, pointing to a building behind him. "The blast was followed by Maelstrom goo. Most of my crew was infected. This place is obviously not safe. I just fought my way out looking for survivors when that beast attacked me. I don't have a gun, but I grabbed some stun grenades. They're all flash and bang, but that should scare the Stromlings away. Will you escort me to that wall? Sentinels are defending it."

"I'll do what I can," Hezekiah said. He and Wisp sneaked toward the camp, eyeing the Stromlings. Wisp threw a grenade at any Stromling that got too close. They were at least thirty yards from the camp when everything went wrong.

Wisp spotted a large mech. His eyes widened, and he whispered, "It's M1-K3Y! Run to the camp!" He and Hezekiah dashed, but the mech was faster. It aimed its missile cannon, and opened fire. A rocket flared to life, followed by several more. Hezekiah braced himself.

Just then six shots rang out. The mech exploded, along with its missiles. Dashing toward them was none other than Johnny Thunder, the famous explorer. He spoke. "Johnny Thunder here, and if it's mechs you fear, you want me near! Mikey is no more. Was he giving you trouble?"

"Mikey? We were attacked by M1-K3Y… Oh. Excuse me. I am Wisp Lee and this is Hezekiah. Thanks," Wisp said. Thunder nodded, then he dashed toward another mech. Wisp guided Hezekiah into camp. Sentinels not on guard milled around, polished blades, and greased armor while one man looked at a map. Wisp approached him.

"Commander Strongheart? I am afraid your fort will not stand up to the things we were researching. We had-" Wisp started.

"That's nice and all, but our communications array was destroyed by a missile of some kind. No reinforcements," Beck Strongheart said. Hezekiah paled. Was that his? It had to be his... rocket.

"I have some guards at the site. As if it couldn't get worse, our supply ship with engineers was shot down and crashed into the sea."

"Wisp?" Hezekiah murmured, "I think this is my fault. Will you help me fix them?"

"Yes," Wisp said. "It's the only way I'm getting medical attention." He spoke louder. "Commander Strongheart, I used to work in communications before I became a researcher. I could remedy the situation."

"Go ahead," Strongheart said. "The dishes were in an outbuilding. Opposite the labs."

"Yes, sir. I-"

"Were in?" Hezekiah interjected.

"Yes," Strongheart said, "Now the dish fragments are all over the map. We need at least three dishes to contact the Nexus Tower." Hezekiah exchanged a glance with Wisp; then they walked to the outbuilding Strongheart had mentioned. It was a wreck. The Sentinel guards stood firm, rifles ready. Any Stromling that got too close would wish it had not.

Wisp approached first. "Guards, I am Wisp Lee. Commander Strongheart sent me to rebuild the dishes. However, I can't do this alone. I need cover, and someone to watch the dishes." A guard nodded and motioned for six guards to follow himself and Wisp. The Sentinels filed in behind Wisp. Hezekiah stood to the side, looking for pieces.

"Wisp! One right here!" Hezekiah exclaimed, pointing to a pile of dish pieces on a nearby ridge. Wisp and his squad ran over.

"Nice, Hezekiah! I have some plans," he said, handing Hezekiah an instruction booklet. "Help me build this one in case we get separated." Hezekiah nodded and started building. He and Wisp carefully built the array, one brick at a time. They soon finished. The commanding guard motioned for two of his troops to stay near the dish. They would soon move it into the outbuilding.

"Hezekiah, take three men and look by that cave. I'll take two and look around here," Wisp said. Hezekiah nodded and dashed off.

He slowed down when he saw what lay between him and the cave: a horde of Stromlings. He drew his sword and ran forward, the Sentinel trio blasting. Hezekiah's blade flashed and slashed but there were far too many enemies for him to make a difference. He ran back to where the Sentinels were gunning. One pointed. Hezekiah looked. More Stromlings were pouring out of the cave. Hezekiah lowered his blade. The Sentinels surely could not defeat the leigons of angry Stromlings.

The gem in Hezekiah's sword started glowing blue. He raised his sword up without knowing why. The gem kept glowing brighter. The light quickly became blinding. Then the sword fired a pulse of light out of its tip. The beam swept into every Stromling. Each disappeared. Hezekiah grinned and spotted a communications dish, guarded by turrets, to the left of the cave entrance. The Sentinel guard leader motioned for his two soldiers to start moving the dish. The guard leader followed Hezekiah back to the outbuilding, where Wisp waited.

"Glad you're back. We fixed a dish too, so I should be able to get an airlift. What was that light? Some flare?" Wisp said.

"My sword, but I really don't know what happened. It was too bright to see," Hezekiah said.

Wisp handed Hezekiah a scrap of paper. "That's my connection number if you ever need to radio me. By the way, I have a letter I need hand-delivered." Wisp pulled out an envelope. "Will you take this to Nexus Jay? You can't -can't- miss him."

"Is he here in Avant Gardens?"

"No, he's at Nimbus Station."

"I'll do it," Hezekiah said, tucking the letter and Wisp's number into his inside pocket.

"Best of luck." Wisp turned to a Sentinel guard. "Call in a medical transport. I need a ride."

Hezekiah walked into the bustling Sentinel camp. He knew Nimbus Station was a short flight from Avant Gardens, but the launch road was destroyed. He would have to find another path. He walked up to a knight.

"Sir, which way to the Avant Gardens launch pad?" He asked.

"Through this tunnel and past the monument," the knight said. "But the monument is under construction."

"Thanks!" Hezekiah walked into the tunnel. It was lit by dim lights overhead. Fortunately, it was short, so the tunnel got a fair amount of sunlight. Hezekiah climbed up two steps and saw a deep pit. He looked for bricks. There were some against the wall. The pit already had columns; all he needed to do was build a top. He set to work, quickly finishing and dashing across. He looked up and was amazed. A giant statue of the famous Captain Bob wielded a sword against a Maelstrom magician. He smiled. Everyone knew Bob's story. But this was not the time for that. He continued down a gentle slope to the base of the monument and approached an Assembly supervisor. "Excuse me, but is there a way over the monument? I need to get to Nimbus Station," Hezekiah said.

"Name's Rusty Steele. As for your question, you'll need to climb over the monument. I'm sure you saw the road," Rusty said, half-laughing.

Hezekiah nodded and started up a crude path marked by lasers and barricades.

"I wasn't serious! Rusty said. "The monument is workers ONLY!" Hezekiah ignored the shouting supervisor and kept walking. "I'll get him," Rusty said to an advisor.

Hezekiah reached the top of the starting slope and turned onto a path marked by yellow barricades. He ran up the incline. Well, he tried. Every time he reached the top, he was blown away by a cooling fan. Hezekiah looked back and saw Rusty watching, just a few yards behind.

"You don't give up, do you? Well, how about I show you the way up?" Rusty asked. He walked near Hezekiah and stood on a round pressure switch. The cooling fan shut down. "Hurry!" Rusty said, quickly dashing up the slope. Hezekiah sped after him. They took a right turn and then walked down a straightway. A dead end greeted them.

"And this leads where?" Hezekiah asked. Rusty grinned, and then pointed at a rock face. "Nowhere!?!" Hezekiah shouted. He turned to storm off, but before he could, he heard a loud crash and whirled around. He saw a large hole where Rusty had gestured. He dashed over.

"Rusty?" Hezekiah called.

"On the other side of the tunnel. Come and see!" Rusty replied.

Hezekiah crept through the tunnel, wary of his jagged surroundings. He heard a rumbling noise and dashed out, fearing a collapse.

"Ah. You're here," Rusty said. "You see this elevator?" He pointed. "It's the best. It works every time you use it. EXCEPT OF COURSE WHEN I NEED IT!! Some prankster destroyed the platform!"

"Let's build," Hezekiah said. Rusty nodded. Brick by brick the elevator platform emerged from the pile of bricks.

"Now to the top," Rusty said. He and Hezekiah stepped on the platform, Rusty threw a switch, and the elevator climbed up groaning chains. As it reached the top, Hezekiah shoved Rusty onto a scaffold and jumped next to him. He turned around to see the elevator flying higher and higher, chain snapped. It slowed near the top of its arc, and then fell to its doom.

"What in tar-? Thanks, uh… What was your name?" Rusty asked.

"Hezekiah," Hezekiah said.

"I think we can see the problem with that elevator. Come, I'll show you down." Rusty led Hezekiah on the scaffolds around the head of Bob's statue. He stopped Hezekiah on top of a yellow square; then he pulled a lever.

Flying. Hezekiah had always wanted to fly. But not like this. He started to fall, only to be violently shoved upward by a massive fan. He landed hard on concrete. Rusty landed lightly next to him. "Well, this is it, Hezekiah. See you in the universe."Hezekiah waved at Rusty and walked down an undamaged part of the launch road. He noticed a guard frantically waving at him, but Hezekiah ignored him. The guard frowned and turned away.

The short road opened up into a huge amphitheater. A pirate and ninja argued, a cowboy chatted with an astronaut, and an uninfected mech chased a monkey. The pirate noticed Hezekiah. "You there!" he said, "Who's better at racing? Pirates? Or ninjas?"

"Ninjas, captain," answered Hezekiah, grinning. The ninja thumbs-upped Hezekiah.

"Why, you land-lubber!" roared the pirate, who pulled out a blade, "I'll teach you!" The pirate charged at Hezekiah. Hezekiah looked around for a stone. Seeing one, he pitched it at the pirate's wooden leg. The stone splintered the peg leg, and the pirate slammed face-first into the ground. He rolled over to see Hezekiah's blade in his face.

"So, do you concede?" asked Hezekiah.

"Con-what?" asked the pirate.

Hezekiah rolled his eyes. "Surrender." The pirate looked at Hezekiah's blade and nodded feverishly. Then the pirate started crawling over to a shop to buy a new leg. Hezekiah followed. "Storekeeper, do you sell rockets?" He asked.

"1,500 a pop. You buyin'?" the vendor drawled.

"Yes, I‘d like a Classic Rocket," Hezekiah said. He counted out three five-hundred coin bills. The storekeeper handed him a model rocket. "You lied!" Hezekiah shouted.

"Naw, just you put it on the launch pad. You‘ll see."

Hezekiah ran to the launch pad and placed the model. The toy glowed blue, then transformed into a full-sized rocket. Hezekiah jumped in and took off. Destination? Nimbus Station.

Chapter Three: The Nimbus HubEdit

AD 2010, Tuesday October 12. Nimbus Station, LEGO Universe.

Hezekiah's rocket coasted through the air and slowed to a stop. He hopped out and the rocket shrank to pocket size. Hezekiah put it away. He liked his pocket rocket.

Hezekiah proceeded down a densely wooded path carved into a hill from use. He could not tell what time it was; the forest was dense enough to block the sun. He noticed the path widening ahead. Hezekiah stepped into the open and observed a round plaza with four towers, stairs leading up to each. Near each of these four-story towers was a small shop with a colorful logo. A few minifigures bartered and sold items in the center of the plaza. One exquisitely dressed man sold parrots for absurd prices.

Hezekiah walked down a flight of steps and almost knocked over another minifigure, clad in light bulletproof armor, combat pants, and a mining helmet with a scanning device. The minifigure sized him up. Hezekiah reached over his shoulder for a sword.

"No need for that!" the minifig exclaimed nervously. "I'm ‘Nexus' Jay Dö hnson! I'm on the lookout for potential Nexus Force recruits."

"Hang on," Hezekiah said, pulling out Wisp's letter. He handed it to Nexus Jay.

Nexus Jay read the letter, murmuring as he went. "It looks like Wisp recommended you to join the Nexus Force. He applied you on conditions of conspicuous gallantry and exemplary service under abundant opposition… Yeesh. I hate official blather. Well, how about I tell you about the four Factions?" Hezekiah nodded consent. "First, we have the noble Sentinels, Knights and Samurai of exceptional valor-"

As Nexus Jay droned on, a flash of some kind entered Hezekiah's mind. He saw two great armies marching toward each other in a desert. Bronze armor and shining swords rang out in the blazing sun. A loud trumpet sounded out a charge, and a line of chariots-

"So," Nexus Jay continued, "Will you join the Sentinels?"

"No," Hezekiah said, unnerved by the images. What had he been doing before he got on the Venture Star?

"Well, then the Assembly's Engineers and Summoners must be your style! They have-"

Another image raced into Hezekiah's mind. Craftsmen of all trades tirelessly worked on repairing a large temple. Two men raced toward him. "My liege! We were not expecting you! The work is progressing as we speak. Let me show you the craftsmen-"

"So, will you join the Assembly?" Nexus Jay asked.

Hezekiah realized that the Factions somehow created an image in his mind. Curious, he quickly shook his head.

"Ah. You must be Paradox material! The Space Marauders and Sorcerers-"

Hezekiah saw more images. A squad of the same, ancient soldiers he had seen before smashed down a door. A witch lived in this oddly-built house, and she threw a purple glass at the men. One shouted out. "Powers of the darkness will not save you!" He thrust a spear; it traveled-

"Will you join the Paradox, the careful researchers and fierce warriors?" Nexus Jay asked.

"No," Hezekiah answered. One faction left.

Nexus Jay sighed. "Looks like you're going to be another Venture punk. I had hope fpr you… Anyway, the Venture Faction consists of greedy Buccaneers and foolish Daredevils. These lowlifes-"

A new scene greeted Hezekiah's eyes. It was the same temple from earlier, but this was before the repairing the previous image presented. The temple was decaying from years of disuse. Three men smashed open the gates. One turned to Hezekiah. "This place is a mess. Your father Ahaz… I can't believe it. At least he didn‘t destroy this place." Hezekiah and the three men walked forward. All of the temple's valuables were gone. Incense burners were trashed. Only the-

"Will you join the Venture League?" Nexus Jay asked. He looked hopefully at Hezekiah. Nexus Jay must have preached how evil Venture was while Hezekiah was having his "flashback".

"I'm in," Hezekiah said. Nexus Jay smacked his forehead.

"No no no! Arrgh!" Nexus Jay said. He glared at Hezekiah, then handed him a compass with a skull logo in the center. "Take this to the matching store and ask for a Faction kit." Hezekiah grinned at Nexus Jay and strode off to the store with the same logo. He went down a short flight of stairs, circled the central plaza, and ran up some steps to the Venture store.

He stopped in front of the Venture store's booth and greeted the salesman. "Hello! I'd like a Faction kit."

The vendor smiled. "Just joined today, did you? Let me get your stuff. Daredevil or Buccaneer?"

"Daredevil," Hezekiah instantly replied. The shopkeeper disappeared, rummaged around, and then reappeared with the kit. He handed Hezekiah a helmet, jumpsuit, boots, and two flareguns. "Come back if you get promoted!" the vendor said. Hezekiah nodded and ran into the tower next to the shop.

He emerged, wearing his brand new Daredevil armor. He carefully reattached his back sheath for his sword. He looked at his reflection in one of the tower's windows. Yep, he was ready. He walked away from the shop, heading toward a path marked by an iron arch soaring overhead.

He walked the short path and turned to see an area marked by an orange Mobius Triangle, also known as the Assembly logo. Robotic dogs patrolled the area, apparently looking for something. Hezekiah spotted and approached an orange-clad wizard. This wizard wore an orange, pointed hat, orange robes, and carried a staff with an imagination orb on the end. Hezekiah greeted him. "Wizard, what goes on here?"

"I greet and help prepare new Assembly workers here. You probably want to know where the launch sites lead to. That one leads to Starbase 3001," he said, pointing. "This launchpad leads to Nimbus Isle; that one to Nimbus Rock. That far-off launchpad behind the trees leads to Pet Cove."

"Thanks," Hezekiah said. He walked toward the "hidden" launchpad. It was a short walk; the only things worth noting were a doghouse without a dog and a birdbath. He stopped in front of the first site. No. Hezekiah thought he'd rather go to Pet Cove. It sounded pleasant and bore no chance of him getting shot down. He walked to the hidden pad, placed his rocket, hopped in, and blasted off.

Hezekiah loved the feel of his rumbling engines shoving him into space. He grinned, then looked back. Nimbus Station was just a dot. He checked a meter. He was outside of Nimbus's gravity. He fired up his ion-burst relativity drive and vanished into space.

Hezekiah emerged from warp space an hour later. Pet Cove's rings prevented further warp travel. He noted that the rings were more like an asteroid field than anything. He took control from the autopilot. "Destination: 15 minutes," beeped his computer.

Hezekiah's rocket suddenly pitched downward. He looked at his radar. A huge Maelstrom ship loomed behind him. It had a sloped front, seven huge turrets, an elevated bridge, and sloped panels hiding the engines. His radar alerted him to cannons and missiles that would penetrate his shields. Hezekiah coolly rerouted power to his rocket's reactor, causing the lights to dim considerably. He jerked his craft down and to the right, trying to hide behind an asteroid. He felt a shock wave as the asteroid he was hiding by exploded. He stared at his controls. Absolutely no weapons.

The giant starcruiser continued firing in Hezekiah's general direction. Hezekiah's rocket pulled ahead of the machine, but the Maelstrom ship was quickly closing the distance. He thrust forward into Pet Cove's atmosphere. He hoped that his ship would survive the reentry.

The Maelstrom ship plowed through the atmosphere, undeterred. A missile flew from its bow, glancing off Hezekiah's rocket and knocking off a stabilizer fin. The rocket dove, nearly hitting the water surrounding Pet Cove. Hezekiah wrestled his rocket to a shaky but level position. He glanced up to see a high island cliff zooming toward him. Alarms inside his rocket blared. Not only was he about to crash, but his rocket was burning up. He sent a distress call and yanked his joystick. His rocket barrel rolled upwards. He punched the canopy and bailed.

Hezekiah's rocket spun crazily and flew through the glass windows of Pet Cove's lighthouse, destroying the beacon, and then exploded in midair.

Hezekiah faceplanted himself into the ground. He got up and looked to sea. Yup. The Maelstrom ship was still pursuing. He saw some coin-operated binoculars and stared through them. He read the ship's name. "Nexus Force… Wait. Hmm. Goes Boom!?!" he said. He looked around and saw a woman on the main island of Pet Cove. He dashed down a steep rope bridge, pointing and shouting out, "The Maelstrom is coming!"

The woman whistled and a horde of dragons rose from the seas. She clucked her tongue and pointed where Hezekiah had. The dragons shot off. Hezekiah paused. This place was strange.

"I'll call reinforcements!" she said, then ran off.

Hezekiah glanced back. This will not end well, he thought. The dragons were tiring already; Pet Cove's fate seemed sealed. He saw small craft exit the NFGB. Landers! Hezekiah ran for the cover of the lighthouse.

Chapter Four: The Battle of Pet CoveEdit

A.D. 2010, Wednesday October 13. Pet Cove, Lego Universe.

The Nexus Force ships had arrived in gathering gloom. The Space Marauder Cruisers had immediately attacked the Nexus Force Goes Boom, destroying the landers. It was now after midnight, but the fighting continued on. Hezekiah had rested a little, but woke up when he heard heavy fire. He walked out of the lighthouse and spotted some Assembly Engineers unloading a ship. He walked over to them.

"Excuse me," Hezekiah began, "What is being unloaded?"

A Rank III Engineer wearing one of those weird helmets with half a visor turned to him. "Sorry Venture punk, I can't tell you! We gotta get these unloaded and ready before the NFGB comes back!"

"May I help?"

The Engineer looked taken aback by Hezekiah's request. "Uhhh… Sure. Take out any imagination tanks and add them to the stack."

Hezekiah nodded and walked up the Assembly ship's cargo ramp. The cargo hold was dimly lit by red emergency lights. He searched around, but only found one imagination tank. It was about the size of a scuba tank, but its shining grey seemed to emit a bluish light. He clumsily carried the bulky container down the ramp and set it next to the other tanks.

"Alright, Venture. You're not as lazy as others. Go help the engineers setting up a cannon!" the head Engineer barked. Hezekiah nodded and walked over to the cannon, nearly falling over in the darkness.

"You there!" another Engineer bellowed. "Lift here!" Hezekiah walked over and grabbed the spot. The Engineer took another grip and looked around to make sure his Engineers and Hezekiah were ready. "Lift!" The cannon slowly lifted off the ground. Hezekiah grinned. The workers carried the cannon over to a truck crane that clamped around the cannon and lifted it toward its mount. Hezekiah watched it climb slowly when he heard a snap. He looked at the crane's chain. Then he looked up to see a heavy cannon falling toward him.

The sapphire orb in Hezekiah's sword began to glow. Blue light spread across his body. Feeling a rush of strength, Hezekiah lifted the cannon and set it in position. As the Engineers stared, Hezekiah fell to the ground, unconscious.

Hezekiah woke to see the light of day shining into a medical tent. He sat up.

"Ah! You're awake! An Engineer wants to see you, Hezekiah. Are you ready to see him?" said a Sentinel medic.

"Yes," Hezekiah said, and the Sentinel pushed through the tent door. The head Engineer from that night walked in the tent.

"Well, you're awake. You've been out for a few hours. Name's Chase. Captain Chase. But no time for chitchat. What happened with the cannon? The Engineers can't get their story straight."

"Where's my sword?" asked Hezekiah.

"Over by your armor," Captain Chase said, pointing to a neat stack of Venture gear.

"Well, all I remember is that cannon weighing nothing. And then I'm here."

"Interesting. Well, if you're ready, I need you to come with me to a meeting. Jack Strongheart is briefing us on our attack."

Why? thought Hezekiah, but he said nothing. Instead, he nodded and got up. Chase ducked out of the tent.

Hezekiah emerged from the tent a few minutes later, in full armor and his sword on his back. Chase was waiting for him. "This way," Chase said. Hezekiah followed Chase onto a small shuttlecraft that vaguely resembled a flying saucer.

The shuttle took them to a Space Marauder Cruiser waiting in orbit. The shuttle docked and released its passengers. Chase led Hezekiah through a series of corridors and into a large conference room. He seated Hezekiah next to himself and another Venture. A Sentinel in Knight armor stood up. "Attention everyone," he said, "I, Jack Strongheart, have been placed in command of this operation. I have called this meeting to discuss the abandonment and destruction of Pet Cove." Several minifigures' eyes widened.

"We have all seen the NFGB's firepower. It is merely a matter of time before they overrun our position. I am afraid we cannot allow a new outpost for Stromlings," he spat.

Several of the seasoned commanders nodded, and Jack Strongheart continued. "As much as I regret this choice, I believe our best bet is to sink Pet Cove." The room became dead silent. "We simply cannot hold off the NFGB forever. I will take a Paradox strike team to mine the islands."

The lights flashed once and died. Hezekiah's sword started glowing blue. Jack's radio beeped. "Commander! The NFGB destroyed our cruisers! Our battery is under fire! It's com… Pet… Repeat! ...Cove ...lost! Wait- what? No...no... no! Jack! Get-"

Dull red emergency lights flickered on. The ship lurched. "We're falling in toward the planet!" Jack said. "Get out! To the shuttles!"

Chase and Hezekiah ran back the way they came, hearing cannon fire and the dull thud of boarding craft.

"This way's a shortcut," Chase said, pointing to a room. "We can cut to the hangar."

Chase dashed off with Hezekiah following. They weaved through barracks, kitchens, and game rooms. Chase led Hezekiah to the left and stopped suddenly. A Maelstrom mech stared at them. It was none other than M1-K3Y. The mech signaled and more mechs cut off the minifigures' escape.

"Chase? We're surrounded," said Hezekiah.

"Slash us an opening in the ceiling!" Chase said while activating his heavy turret. Hezekiah drew his blade and jumped onto a pool table. He cut a triangular hole into a duct and jumped in. Chase glanced up to see Hezekiah's boots vanishing into the hole and planted a laser turret before jumping up into Hezekiah's tunnel.

"Out of the frying pan and into the fire…," Chase murmured as he observed flames in front of them in the duct. He tossed a Notion Potion at the fire, creating a small opening. The fire quickly blazed the hole shut. Chase tossed a larger one, and the fire went out.

"Good work. Now, we'll be re-entering the atmosphere soon. The hangars are a few rooms ahead."

Hezekiah led Chase through the cramped duct. When they reached the hangar, Hezekiah cut another hole in the duct and jumped out.

An army of Spiderlings hissed at them. These corrupt creatures were purple with four black legs. Orange eyes glowed out of a twisted body. The spiders wielded web spitters and energy cannons. Chase and Hezekiah dashed toward one of the few remaining shuttles as the Spiderlings started firing.

"Get in the shuttle! I'll blast them!" Chase roared. Hezekiah scrambled up the boarding ladder and clambered into the control cabin. He heard Chase's turrets blazing and a low hum. Hezekiah hit the ignition.

"Good!" Chase's voice came in a little fuzzy over the radio. "Whirl that tub around and blast these spiders!" Hezekiah grabbed the joystick and slowly turned the Assembly shuttle around. He did not bother to aim before firing.

"Coming aboard!" Chase radioed. Hezekiah smirked and continued firing to cover Chase's retreat.

Chase dropped into the copilot's seat and took control. He revved the engines and prepared the ion-burst relativity drive. Only then did Chase realize that he was still in the hangar. He swerved the ship out. Hezekiah looked back at the Nexus Force fleet. He looked harder. There was no fleet. All ships were destroyed or burning up on reentry. Chase rotated the Paragon Warp panels and fired up the ion-burst relativity drive. The shuttle shot into warp space.

Chapter Five: UpgradeEdit

A.D. 2010, Thursday October 14. Nimbus Station, LEGO Universe.

The return to Nimbus Station was eerily quiet. Chase and Hezekiah had easily escaped the NFGB, something Hezekiah had thought impossible. When asked, Chase just said, "They were on a coffee break," but Hezekiah wondered. Chase had broadcast a report of the fall of Pet Cove to all radio stations.

The shuttle hovered over Nimbus Plaza and dropped a ladder that Chase and Hezekiah climbed down. A small crowd of minifigures formed a semicircle around Chase. Chase built a platform and stood on it. "If I may have your attention: Pet Cove is lost to the Maelstrom. Many were lost in a valiant effort to destroy the Maelstrom's greatest warship. Hezekiah here helped me escape. I would be among the infected or smashed if not for him. As such, I, with full authority of a Captain in the Engineer Corps, promote Hezekiah to Daredevil Rank II," he finished, lifting Hezekiah's arm. Many in the crowd nodded slowly. "I must speak with Doctor Overbuild. Farewell, and never give in!" The crowd steeled themselves as Chase climbed back into the shuttle. Chase blasted off to Assembly Headquarters.

Hezekiah walked over to the Venture Vendor. He had not expected to be promoted so soon. "Rank II Daredevil equipment and munitions, please…. And I need a rocket," he finished.

"You got promoted by Captain Chase, you lucky duck! Let me get you the works." The vendor disappeared into the depths of his shop and returned with a Rank II Daredevil kit and a classic rocket. Hezekiah took the gear and disappeared into a changing room, emerging with his shiny new armor, sword still strapped to his back. He admired his reflection in his glossy flareguns.

As for what to do next, Hezekiah was stumped. "Combat in Avant… No. Pet Cove… Infected." What happened to the dragon lady? he thought. Hezekiah walked the circuit around Nimbus. He saw a pair of skull torches. "No thank you, cannibals!" He continued until he saw a box hanging from a parachute in a tree. "Skydiving?" He kept walking past that path and continued until he way a steep path marked with bowls of fire. Hezekiah proceeded, curious. He scrambled up the incline, over a bridge, and up to the top of the doubling path. He looked down. The view of Nimbus Station was amazing. Everything seemed so small. The stars shone in brilliance above. They reminded Hezekiah that it was night at Nimbus. He stifled a yawn. He'd rest on the way over. He set down his new rocket, climbed inside, and fell asleep. His destination? A place called…

Forbidden Valley.

A last thought turned out the lights. Why was the Valley... Forbidden?

Chapter Six: When in Forbidden Valley...Edit

A.D. 2012. Thursday October 14. Forbidden Valley, LEGO Universe.

Hezekiah awoke as his rocket entered Forbidden Valley's atmosphere. He guided it through the clouds and emerged over a refinery. He glanced and saw no good place to land among the jagged stones. He flew over a small hill and a HUGE tree, but still no place to land. Then he spotted a rocky outcropping. It was just wide enough for him to land. Hezekiah grinned, but frowned quickly. No fuel. He guided his gliding rocket as much as he could before it nosedived into the ground. Hezekiah clambered out and ran up a stony path as his rocket exploded. Hezekiah looked down and then up really quickly. The path was suspended over… nothing. Hezekiah looked forward, slightly sick, and saw a huge troll. It was guarding a gate made of shining blue energy. Hezekiah scanned the area for another entry, but there were none. He turned back to the gate and noticed something: a ninjas on each side, to the right and left. Surely such a large beast needed no assistance.

An idea formed itself in Hezekiah's mind. He drew his sword and charged at the gate.

The two ninjas stared as a Daredevil, sword extended, plunged through their gate. The ninja on the right looked to the ninja on the left and shrugged. It could not have happened. The gate was impassable.

Hezekiah stood on the other side, quietly laughing at the ninjas' strange antics. He turned to see an elderly minifigure drawing water from a well and a path extending into the distance. He walked over and greeted the man.

"Not many," the old one creaked, "No. Never before has one, not of the ninja, entered through Ravencloud Gate. Your blade is mysterious, young traveler."

Hezekiah suddenly asked, "Do you know this blade?" He held it out as the man shook his head. Hezekiah sheathed his sword.

"I know of one who might," the old man began. "He is Master Fong Shader of the Great Tree. The way to the tree is on this path… but beware. Darkness older and fouler than Chaos lingers here…"

Hezekiah nodded slowly. "Thank you." He walked on the path the man had mentioned. He continued across the dry rocks until he reached a broken bridge. The bridge had stood over a deep fissure, thousands of miles deep. Hezekiah picked up a stone and tossed it down the pit. He turned to leave when the same stone flew out of the pit and conked his helmet. An idea came to Hezekiah's mind.

He jumped into the air above the chasm. A swift updraft slammed into him and carried him across. Hezekiah continued on the other side of the gap until he reached a shallow, round pit of Samurai statues. These were statues of the samurai of old, brave and noble warriors. He jumped down the short ledge and strode through; he even stopped to draw a moustache on a statue or seven. Hezekiah was about to climb up the stairs when he heard the crash of a gong and clanking of armor. He whipped out his flareguns and whirled around. Several of the statues had transformed into Dark Ronin. Dark Ronin looked like a floating suit of samurai armor, corrupted by the Maelstrom. Hezekiah grinned and started blasting.

One by one the Ronin fell, smashing into purple goo and iron chunks. Hezekiah looked at the smashed statues and heard a strange, leathery noise. He shrugged and walked over to the stairs.

Out of nowhere a minifigure tackled Hezekiah. Hezekiah landed face-first and threw his attacker off. Hezekiah looked at his foe. The opponent sprang up, Knight armor clanking. Hezekiah could not make out the minifigure's face. Hezekiah heard a roar in the sky. A Maelstrom dragon dove toward them.

Hezekiah did not think. He shot. The flares from his gun ripped through the dragon's wing. The dragon roared in anger and landed, unable to fly. Hezekiah's attacker ran straight at the dragon, shield forward, sword extended to the right. Hezekiah spotted some Dark Ronin flying toward the stranger. Hezekiah thought with his flareguns again, burning down the Ronin. The stranger had a clear path now.

The stranger shouted a loud war cry and jumped into the air. The knight's broadsword flashed up and sliced through the dragon's armored belly. The minifigure jumped off the dragon and, with a quick flick of the wrist, smashed the blade down on the dragon's nose. The dragon melted into a purple puddle.

The stranger turned back to Hezekiah. "Thanks for blasting those Ronin back there." That was man's voice.

"Glad to be of service, …" Hezekiah began.

"Mario, but everyone calls me PowerMiner," PowerMiner said. "And you are…?"

"Hezekiah."

"Well, no offense, but I saw you and the Ronin. You're new to these parts. What say you stay with me for a while? I can show you the ropes."

"Thank you. I'm looking to see a Master Fong Shader."

"This way, then," PowerMiner said, starting up the staircase. Hezekiah followed. This valley seemed so… dead. So much stone, no plants. Hezekiah grimaced. What kind of valley was this? The Valley of the Shadow of Death? He and PowerMiner jumped across another updraft and walked down yet another dead stone path.

Hezekiah was following PowerMiner so intently he almost failed to notice the change from stone to root. He looked up. The Great Tree loomed over their heads. Hezekiah remembered it from his crash-landing, but it was bigger than he thought possible. PowerMiner stopped. "Y' know, I just realized that you're Venture, Hezekiah. These parts, the average ninja hates Venture. You may want to use your other armor."

Hezekiah's Daredevil armor glowed green and vanished, revealing his white tuxedo "Okay. Ready." PowerMiner started again; he and Hezekiah climbed up the stone steps wedged into the Great Tree that coiled around it like a choking snake. They eventually reached the large platform built into the tree. Hezekiah scanned the area. There were several large branches leading to ninja masters. A large bell shrine stood next to a ninja salesperson. PowerMiner walked to a ninja in master robes standing outside a dojo.

"Sir PowerMiner!" the ninja said, "It is indeed good to see you. And who is this?"

"Hezekiah," PowerMiner answered.

The ninja turned to Hezekiah. "I am Master Fong Shader," the ninja said. "What faction are you in?"

Hezekiah exchanged a glance with PowerMiner. Neither one had been expecting Master Shader to be so forward. "Venture, Master Shader," Hezekiah said as his armor reappeared with a green flash.

PowerMiner quickly interrupted. "Master Shader, Hezekiah is a good minifigure. He is not like the other Venture. He-"

"I will not train an impertinent Venture Daredevil in MY dojo!" Shader roared. "Do you remember Darkstriker?"

PowerMiner shuddered. "The Maelstrom spy?"

"Yes! HE WILLINGLY JOINED THE MAELSTROM! I DO NOT WANT MY TEACHINGS FALLING TO DARKNESS!"

"With all due respect, Master," Hezekiah nervously began, "I did not come for training, although I would like to know how to defeat an armed opponent without using my guns. I came to see what you could tell me about this." Hezekiah drew his blade and handed it to Master Shader. It glowed softly in the ninja's hands. "I'll tell you all I know about it."

Master Shader's expression changed. He carefully examined the blade as Hezekiah explained the sword‘s mysterious properties and how it saved his life several times. When Hezekiah finished, Master Shader said, "I am sorry, Hezekiah, but I have not seen the likes of this blade before. I'll sketch it quickly… There. Done. What can you tell me about it?" Hezekiah quickly related what he knew. Shader frowned, then said, "Well, you are not a common Venture fool. As for blade to blade combat, follow me! " Master Shader winked and jumped off the edge of the tree‘s platform. Hezekiah and PowerMiner dashed down the stone stairway in hot pursuit.

Master Shader was waiting at the bottom of the steps. When he saw the Daredevil and warrior, he dashed down another stone path with a statue of an equestrian. Hezekiah and PowerMiner jogged after him. When they reached the path, Hezekiah and PowerMiner caught a glimpse of Master Shader smashing some Ronin before turning out of sight. Hezekiah muttered something about peaches and raced after the vanishing ninja. He and PowerMiner ran the turn and jumped through another updraft. They glided through the heated air and landed on the other side, next to a high ledge. Master Shader was already up there, and he motioned for them to join him. PowerMiner and Hezekiah scrambled up the side of the ledge and stood next to him. They observed the hill, its stairway, its tombs, and its Maelstrom guardians.

"This place is called Cavalry Hill. As you see, Maelstrom Horsemen ("Ronin on horses," whispered PowerMiner,) guard this place, although no one knows why. A few Ronin run around, probably target practice for the Horsemen if they get bored. The five Maelstrom-infected tombs must be hiding something…. Ah yes. If you will be so kind as to draw your sword, then I will show you a mastery of the art." At that, Master Shader jumped down near a Ronin. The Ronin snarled and thrust. Master Shader parried and grinned up at his spectators. Then, in a mind-bending blur of swordsmanship, Master Shader disarmed and de-helmeted the Ronin in a matter of seconds. Hezekiah jumped down, brandishing his sword at a Ronin.

"Block his thrust!" Master Shader said while demonstrating the move on another Ronin. Hezekiah pulled up his blade and smacked away a cruel katana blow.

"Good! Now slash up from your right to your left," the ninja said, demonstrating on the Ronin he was toying with. Hezekiah slashed up and across. The Ronin slid back to avoid the worst of the blow.

"Now a two-handed cut!"

"Stab!"

"Dodge left, but keep your sword extended!"

"Pivot, then slash!"

"Jump over its low sweep!"

"Pull the blade up and smash its neck!"

Hezekiah's blade connected with the battered Ronin and smashed it. Its helmet rolled on the ground, Maelstrom-free. Hezekiah picked it up and replaced his Daredevil helmet with the Ronin Helm. He did not like it and tossed it back.

"You are very good... for an untrained swordsman. Take down a horseman! They have shuriken and lances."

Hezekiah rushed at the nearest Horseman. He jumped on the horse's back and stabbed the rider, instantly smashing it. Three other horsemen charged down the steps at him. Hezekiah flung his blade like a boomerang. The leader and his left rider ducked, but the left one fell to the blade's sweeping arc. Hezekiah ran at the right horseman and dashed up his lance. The Ronin pulled out a long knife and slashed at Hezekiah. Hezekiah flipped off the horse and landed in front of the leader's lance tip, catching his sword. The leader's horse reared up. Hezekiah ran under it, smashing it with a quick stroke. The right rider threw shuriken. One dug into Hezekiah's hand. Hezekiah pulled it out and threw it. The shuriken flew into the leader and smashed it. One rider was left. Hezekiah ran at the horse head-on. At the last second, he jumped up and did a midair flip. His blade crashed through the rider's armor. Hezekiah landed lightly on his feet. He checked his sword. It was glowing brightly. He walked over to Master Shader and sheathed his sword.

"Master, may I borrow your sword?"

"Certainly!" Master Shader said, handing Hezekiah the blade. Hezekiah walked over to a Ronin. The Ronin slashed wildly. It took all of Hezekiah's focus to block each blow. Hezekiah tried a thrust, but fell short. His slash was too slow. His stab was pathetic. Hezekiah drew a flaregun in his left hand and smashed the Ronin.

Hezekiah walked back to a stunned Master Shader. "Master, I am hardly an excuse for a swordsman. It seems my sword helps me fight."

Master Shader slowly said, "It seems this sword has some power…" Shader pulled out his scroll and jotted down some notes. He looked up. "Oh well, you and PowerMiner had better get some rest."

Hezekiah looked to the west and saw the sun sinking toward the horizon, casting everything in a red wash. He sheathed his sword and followed PowerMiner and Master Fong Shader to the great tree of the ninjas. Master Shader insisted that they stay in his dojo. Hezekiah took off his armor and lay down in a bunk. He was so tired.

PowerMiner lay in the bunk below him. "Hezekiah?"

"Yes?"

"You really can't swordfight without your sword?"

"You said it." Hezekiah turned in his bunk.

"I wonder… Is that blade Mythran made?"

"What do you mean?"

"I'm thinking you have an artifact of unique origin. It may be the work of the Mythrans! Or maybe one greater."

Hezekiah thought about that. He had never seen a Mythran, but if PowerMiner thought it was from a more powerful entity, well… What could that mean? Was he… Hezekiah fell asleep before he finished his thought.

Chapter Seven: ...Be like the Ninja?Edit

A.D. 2010. Friday October 15. Forbidden Valley, LEGO Universe.

Hezekiah awoke at first light. He listened for the hustle and bustle of the Great Tree's warrior ninjas. Huh? This was odd. Absolute silence reigned. "This is strange," Hezekiah said. "PowerMiner, are you awake?"

"I am now," PowerMiner groaned.

"Listen."

"To what? There's- Oh."

Hezekiah jumped out of bed, threw on his Daredevil uniform, and strapped on his sword. He burst out of the dojo only to find that the Great Tree was deserted. Not a ninja was in sight. Hezekiah felt a hand press on his shoulder and whirled around.

PowerMiner stood behind him, also looking concerned. "I tried hailing the Paradox Refinery, but all I got was static. You start for the refinery; I'll follow once I find a crossbow and some bolts."

"A Paradox Refinery?" Hezekiah asked

"They used to have two, but their Avant Gardens facility was destroyed. This is their primary plant."

"No ninjas, and a Paradox refinery? Sounds like a Maelstrom outbreak."

"But why weren't we roused?"

Hezekiah could not answer the question. He shrugged, then asked, "Which way to the refinery?"

"Down the far path. It's just past the one that leads to Cavalry Hill. You should see a statue of a dragon."

"Got it," Hezekiah said, beginning to descend the tree's stairway. He walked past the path to the hill and strode up the path of the dragon. It was like most other paths in Forbidden Valley: fairly boring, drab stone, and extending over thin air. Hezekiah turned right and saw another tomb guarded by ten Ronin. At the opposite end of the "tomb clearing", Hezekiah noticed another gate, identical to the Ravencloud entrance. Hezekiah looked at the sign telling the name. "So. This is the Fallen Gate." He took a step into the clearing.

Several Ronin homed in on Hezekiah. He shrugged and blasted them with flareguns, easily beating the first three. The rest were cautious. Hezekiah was reckless. He drew his sword and sprinted past them, ending with a jump through the gate. He skidded to a halt just in time to avoid falling off the end of a path. He sheathed his sword and slowly crept to the right. He kept on like this until he heard the whir of Ronin activating. Hezekiah muttered something about unholy guacamole before dashing off the end of the path and landing on a trampoline. He soared through the air.

Hezekiah landed hard and skidded into a sign. "Paradox Refinery," he read. He glanced around. No minifigures or Maelstrom. The Refinery appeared to be in working order. Hezekiah climbed the curved stairway leading to the main entrance and looked again. Nothing. Hezekiah looked down a kind of trench that lay in front of the refinery. He grinned at an unusually colorful statue at the end of the trench. The miniature dragon was painted bright red. Its maw was wide open, showing a small jet of flame. Hezekiah quickly approached the figure. He read the inscription. "In honor of Numb Chuck, Slayer of Dragund. Be warned: Dragons' Den ahead."

Dragons? Hezekiah thought back to the evil creature he and PowerMiner had fought. It was by no means a pleasant creature, but Hezekiah's curiosity beat out his fear in the end. He walked into the dragons' den.

Hezekiah hid behind a rock and surveyed the area. Three dragons lay on stone pedestals, extended high over a pit of Maelstrom goo. A large shadow oozed across the top of the cave. It dropped three strands of darkness. On each, a small shadow quietly crept down. Hezekiah remembered that his helmet had a scope and zoomed in. The shadows were ninjas silently descending the ropes. The ninjas jumped onto the backs of the dragons and dispatched them with a quick blow to the neck. Apparently the dragons had a weak spot.

With the area secure, the remaining ninjas dropped ropes and scurried down, hurriedly setting up an amphitheater and forming a semicircular audience. Two large, vertical banners were set up on either side of a raised platform. The left banner had Japanese script; the right banner had a picture of a Paradox Eye being stabbed by a katana. Six honor guards took up positions around the platform. One last ninja dropped down from the top of the cave and neatly landed on foot.

This last ninja spoke. "Brethren, our crusade against Chaos has begun! Forbidden Valley is purged from Maelstrom and Paradox and outsiders!" The ninjas cheered loudly enough to wake the dead. "With our homeland safe, we can use it as our base of operations in our grand effort to save the Nexus Force and Imagination! But we must not destroy the Paradox yet. No, brethren, we must retake our ancient territory of Gnarled Forest back from our even older enemy: PIRATES! And better still, we will frame the evil Paradox by using stolen Paradox equipment! The Pirates and Paradox shall PAY!" The ninjas cheered louder than before, if that was even possible. Any dead they had wakened would be running to their graves.

Hezekiah felt a nudge and whirled around to see PowerMiner behind him, wielding a crossbow. PowerMiner tapped the side of his helm. Hezekiah quickly activated his radio.

"Did you hear that? The ninjas are going to take over Gnarled Forest!" Hezekiah said.

"No, I just missed it. I ran in and almost ran back out. They were cheering loud enough to wake the dead and send them back."

"They are going to use Paradox ships and weapons to frame Paradox!"

"Hmm. No one will believe that the ninjas are operating independently of Paradox. We'll need to get a recording of this to Vanda Darkflame, Paradox Leader."

The dead-awakening-and-putting-back-to-sleep roaring died down. "We begin today! Hone your blades and prepare the gunships!" bellowed the main ninja. He signaled a guard.

"So says Dunamis, lord of the ninjas!" the guard cried. At this, the ninjas dispersed and started milling around.

"That was Master Fong Shader!" said PowerMiner. "Let's get!"

Hezekiah and PowerMiner sprinted out of the cave, running like madmen. They hurried into the refinery. PowerMiner ran right inside a Sentinel Cruiser. The cruiser was long and thin and a beautiful blue all around. They strapped in and took off, PowerMiner flying. Hezekiah took off this helmet and glanced at the radar. "Dragon rockets, clearly ninja forces, are closing. 60,000 feet."

"Just hang on. I can get us out," PowerMiner said.

"50,000. These guys are fast!"

PowerMiner opened the throttle all the way. "Now, where is that keypad…"

"40,000."

"Uh-oh! This model is a newer one! I wasn't trained for these."

"30,000."

PowerMiner flipped a switch; a keyboard appeared. He began typing a code.

"PowerMiner, they're at 25,000," Hezekiah said.

"Yes, they are."

"20,000."

"Aha! Location locked. I'll just fire up the ion-burst relativity drive." The drive began its activation sequence.

"10,000.…9,000.…8,000.…7,000.…6,000.…5,000! They are in range!" The ship's lights flashed. "Shields down!"

"And off we go!" shouted PowerMiner, and the ship vanished into warp space.

"Please don't do that again."

"Hey! It's a new model! I flew older craft… We'll arrive at Gnarled Forest in about half an hour. This ship is fast! I'll contact some friends…"

Hezekiah watched PowerMiner walk out of the cabin and disappear into the radio room. "Can I fly next time?"

"Not a chance."

Hezekiah looked ahead into the void of warp space. Thirty minutes…

Chapter Eight: Forest of SecretsEdit

A.D. 2010. Friday October 15. Gnarled Forest, LEGO Universe.

The borrowed Sentinel cruiser dropped out of warp space. PowerMiner checked the scanners. No enemies were nearby.

"So… Where are we meeting your friends?" asked Hezekiah.

"Place called Brig Rock. It's a prison run by pirates. They have ninja prisoners, so we'll likely see a ninja offensive," replied PowerMiner.

"Great. We escape only to be… What's that on the radar?" Hezekiah said in alarm.

PowerMiner stared in shock. It was not possible unless- "It's a hole in warp space. A hole that size means a whole fleet is coming. I'm going to set us down." PowerMiner pushed the joystick, angling the sleek cruiser downward.

"You may be too late. They've launched fighters," Hezekiah said. "There must be hundreds!"

"Relax. It must be Paradox ships that got wind of the betrayal."

"Then why go to Gnarled Forest?"

"To intercept the ninja fleet of stolen Paradox ships."

"Where is the other end of the wormhole?"

"Forbidden Valley… Ah," PowerMiner said, realizing what he said.

Hezekiah zoomed in on one of the ships' logos. "It has a Paradox Eye being slashed by a katana. Familiar?"

"Dunamis."

"Look! There're three Space Marauder Cruisers inbound, being led by a ninja warship."

A voice came over the radio. "Sentinel Cruiser: standby for inspection. Your ID number matches that of a stolen ship."

"It's Master Fong Shader!" PowerMiner said. "Stolen, eh? I'll land this tub. Just you-"

"Slow for boarding," Shader commanded. PowerMiner fired up his engines and shot toward the planet's surface. "Sentinel ship! SURRENDER OR DIE!" Shader roared. PowerMiner grinned at Hezekiah.

A blast rocked the Sentinel cruiser. One of the engines sputtered and died. "I'll crash-land us near Brig Rock," PowerMiner said, face stonily set. "We'll make it to my friends."

"Alive?" asked Hezekiah.

"Your guess is as good as mine."

"Thaaat's reassuring."

PowerMiner could see the Pirate Cove now. "Hezekiah? I'm not going to be able to set us down. Prep your eject." Hezekiah's hand moved to the lever.

"On three," PowerMiner said.

"One."

"Two."

"Three!"

Hezekiah pulled the lever and blasted out of the doomed starship. The cruiser continued flying to Brig Rock and fell out of sight. Hezekiah saw a pulse of light and a plume of smoke rising over Brig Rock. He shuddered.

Hezekiah and PowerMiner lightly touched down near the top of a stairway, overlooking Brig Rock. Hezekiah scrambled out of his seat and looked around. The explosion had clearly smashed any Maelstrom or minifigure unlucky enough to be fighting there. Two stone pillars rose in the middle of the blast clearing. These were of weathered stone and clearly ninja in design. For that matter, so was the staircase he stood on. Hezekiah grimaced at the twisted, burning metal that had been his getaway. The empty pillars and melting metal reminded Hezekiah of the Launch Road in Avant Gardens. Hezekiah wondered how his friend Wisp Lee was doing. Would he see him soon? With all this destruction and the ninja invasion, there was no chance. Hezekiah turned his thoughts back to Brig Rock. There were three sides and three exits: the jungle, the stairway up a cliff he stood on, and a path burned into the jungle. "What now, PowerMiner?" he asked.

"If you would be so kind as to send up a signal flare..." PowerMiner said. Hezekiah loaded up a high-powered flare into his left flaregun and sent it skyward. He squinted to see in the harsh light. Three minifigures dashed away from the pillars and ran for the stairs. How had they survived?

As the newcomers reached the stairs, Hezekiah's flare burnt out entirely. The harsh, red light faded. PowerMiner greeted the minifigures. "Mysterygoo!" he said to a Rank III Buccaneer, "I thought you'd be scared off by our little entrance."

The Buccaneer doffed his three-cornered hat and grinned. "Now, now. You of all people know that I'm better than that." Hezekiah studied the Buccaneer's armor. Mysterygoo wore the previously mentioned hat, a captain's fancy black shirt, brown pantaloons, a bandolier belt with a skull epaulet over one shoulder, and carried a wicked cutlass and cannon of a pistol, all adorned with the green logo of the Venture League.

Another of PowerMiner's friends, a Paradox Rank III Space Marauder, spoke. His voice sounded distorted. "What shot you down?"

"Ninja ships stolen from Paradox, Lightwave," PowerMiner said. That last bit was likely for Hezekiah's benefit.

Hezekiah looked at Lightwave's armor. It was black and purple with red trim. His helmet was of strange design, somewhat similar to an astronaut's or pilot's. A purple scanner hovered over one eye. The helmet completely hid Lightwave's face. Even its visor was tinted black. Lightwave had heavily armored shoulder pads, and wore a spacesuit-like… spacesuit. He wielded a rocket launcher and carried a blaster strapped to his side.

"I'm sure you know that Paradox is going to get all the blame for invading sovereign territory. It'll be just like old times," Lightwave said. He turned to Hezekiah. "Were you in the Faction Wars?" Hezekiah quickly shook his head.

"Nasty business," the third minifigure, a Rank III Assembly Summoner, said. "In fact, it was so gruesome, all accounts of it were destroyed. It's the cause of one of the few Nexus Force cover-ups. Mysterygoo here founded the Order of the Four Factions during the infighting. Our ranks swelled for a time, full of minifigures tired of ceaseless fighting. We used our influence to end the warring and arguing, but I often wonder if we succeeded at all."

While the Summoner had been speaking, Hezekiah had studied his armor. The armor looked like something from Egypt. The Summoner's suit was the classic Assembly orange and white. His hood was similar to a Pharaoh's hat, yet it was not. He wore white robes with a single Assembly Mobius Triangle. Instead of shoulder pads, he wore a long cloak. He wielded a white staff with a blue orb at the tip, and carried a container of some kind, also with an orb, on a strap over his shoulder.

"What happened to the Order?" Hezekiah asked.

The Summoner looked sheepishly at Mysterygoo. "It's just us three and PowerMiner now." The Summoner looked up. "Looks like we weren't the only ones to notice Hezekiah's flare." Everyone looked up to see a Ninja lander heading toward the area.

"If the ninjas are anything like what we've been told," Mysterygoo began, "We have no escape. Our rockets would be shot down in a matter of seconds. Michaa? Options!"

"Well, we need to get to the jungle to avoid detection, and Lightwave needs a disguise." The Summoner grinned. "There's an abandoned Assembly research facility near the Elephant Escarpment!"

Lightwave sounded dismayed. "Shard told me the place was a new Paradox installment. We run experiments there."

"No. It's one of the facilities that Assembly had before the Faction Wars. We had to abandon it after the Wars because Assembly was accused of spying on Venture operations."

"In any case," Mysterygoo said, "Let's move."

Lightwave took the lead, dashing down the stone steps and sprinting up the jungle path. Hezekiah and company ran in hot pursuit.

The jungle path was long and twisted. A few wild animals, namely warthogs, were chasing a knight in Rank I armor. They and the knight stared at the multicolored blur that was the minifigures.

The small band rushed into a clearing. Elephants grazed on grass and drank from a pool. On one side of the clearing towered a granite escarpment. In front of it was the pool. To either side were paths into the jungle, and directly opposite was a sheer cliff. Lightwave waded by the drinking elephants and pushed against the rock.

To everyone's amazement, a panel made to look like rock hissed and slid back. Hezekiah sloshed through the pool and stood dripping next to Lightwave. Lightwave walked in and motioned for the others to join him. They all splashed over and walked in. "Grab on!" Lightwave said, and the room shot downward at an insane speed. The machine stopped suddenly. Two doors opened; Hezekiah, Mysterygoo, Michaa, and PowerMiner stumbled out, staring.

A brightly lit laboratory stretched as far as the eye could see. Brightly colored liquids filled huge tanks and large vats. A cage contained a strange red and black creature. A Paradox researcher ran over. "Lightwave! You didn't tell me you had friends!" He turned to the rest of the minifigures. "Welcome to the… Paradox Underground Labs… Is that you, Hezekiah?"

Hezekiah did a double-take. "Wisp Lee!"

Wisp grinned. "Good to see you! Already Rank II!"

"Yep. I was promoted by Captain Chase."

"Great!" Wisp turned to Lightwave. "So, why'd you come?"

"Ninjas have revolted and taken over the Paradox Refinery at Forbidden Valley. They stole Paradox ships and equipment; they've just started attacking Gnarled Forest as we speak," Lightwave answered.

"So, they're trying to frame us., eh? I'll send a transmission to Nexus command," Wisp said before turning to a console. He flipped a switch. "Dead! All comms down." Wisp picked up a microphone. "Attention all personnel: initiating base lockdown sequence. Finalize your work, then get to the ships. The base is under attack." Red lights pulsed as sirens sang their urgent melody. Researchers sprang into action. Glass tubes descended into sealed chambers. Displays shut down. One tank full of green liquid was loaded onto a truck and shipped further in.

Lightwave tapped his helmet, which disappeared in a purple flash. He smirked. "That tube holds the most interesting thing here: nuclear nucleotides. They're a kind of virus. Right now it has the power to stun Stromlings, but I know of research on altering it so that it provides a stamina boost to minifigures. It would be very potent, so we have to destroy or remove the ‘tides."

"Interesting," said Michaa. "What is that for?" he asked, pointing to a blue screen.

"Our fifth attempt at creating a space-bending bricklink."

They walked toward it as the labs continued to empty. Hezekiah, although unsure why, drew his sword. He moved its tip toward the humming blue.

"Don't do that!" Wisp shouted, running at Hezekiah for a takedown.

Hezekiah pushed the tip of his blade against the light. The five adventurers and Wisp Lee vanished into a blue realm. They fell, fell, fell, and fell until they emerged in Nimbus Plaza.

In the middle of a mob.

Chapter Nine: DetourEdit

A.D. 2011. Saturday October 15. Nimbus Station, LEGO Universe.

The six minifigures stared. They and the four Faction leaders stood in the center of Nimbus Plaza. Dr. Overbuild of Assembly fame had built a shield, keeping the mob at bay. The leaders whirled around in surprise to see Hezekiah and his friends.

Mysterygoo assessed the situation. An angry mob surrounded them. These figs wanted to attack the four Faction Leaders. He and his friends were trapped, and the Faction Leaders were drawing weapons. "Whoa! What's going on here!" he asked.

"If you really can't tell," Dr. Overbuild began, "we're surrounded by an angry mob! To think that Valiant weapons could do so much damage!"

"What is a ‘Valiant weapon‘?" Hezekiah asked.

Hael Storm, Venture Leader, stared at them. "Wha' rock‘ve ye been hidin' under? They're two-handed weapons we released f'r attackin' the stronger Stromlings on Crux Prime! Unfortunately, we ‘overpriced' ‘em. These ones took over the Nexus Tower in protest!"

"Overpriced?" Michaa asked.

"175,000 each, plus 500 tokens," Duke Exeter, Sentinel Commander, said. "There is one valiant per specialty, for a total of 12."

"Tokens?" Michaa asked.

"Yes," Vanda Darkflame, Paradox Leader, said. "Surely you know about tokens! You bought your faction gear with money and tokens!" Seeing their confused looks, Vanda said, "Wisp, you spoke when we introduced them!"

"I did?" Wisp said, looking at her.

Vanda looked at him before turning to Lightwave. "Allow me," she said. She flipped open a service hatch on Lightwave's armor and inserted a small monitor. "Odd. No update data since 10/15/10."

"We were promoted to our ranks," Mysterygoo said.

"Ah, the old system," Duke said. "We still use it, but rarely."

"How do we get tokens?" asked Michaa.

"You smash a number of enemies, and then your armor awards you a token. Of course, some enemies are harder and drop more tokens."

Wisp stared at Duke. "What year is this?"

"October, 15, 2011," the knight replied.

Hezekiah's group was silenced. "That sure is a unique blade, Hezekiah," Wisp said.

"One of a kind," Mysterygoo agreed.

"What of the ninja threat?" asked PowerMiner.

"They took over Gnarled Forest, and threatened Nimbus Station for a time. We have a peace treaty for the moment," Duke said, "but it expires soon. As for retaking the lands: no one will support our efforts. And worst of all, the average Bob fig blames Paradox. Vanda leads Paradox in name only. All members have disappeared. But why do you ask? You know all this!"

The Order members looked at Mysterygoo. "We're from 2010," he said.

"Ah," said Duke. "That's not something you hear every day."

There was silence for a few minutes before Dr. Overbuild said, "The shields are going to give. Is there a way back to 2010?"

Mysterygoo stabbed the spot where they had emerged. It glowed blue and revealed a portal.

"We'll take that as a yes," Vanda said. "Let's see what we can fix in a year of time."

"Paradox can explain the situation," Duke said.

"We can launch a broadside against Forbidden Valley!" Hael said.

"Above all," Dr. Overbuild said, "no Valiants."

All ten minifigures entered the portal and shot toward Gnarled Forest, 2010.

Chapter Ten: Skies of WarEdit

A.D. 2010, Friday October 15. Nimbus Station, LEGO Universe.

The ten minifigures emerged back in the Paradox Bunker of Gnarled Forest. Wisp looked at a display and said, "2010 again!" Hezekiah and the Order members smiled. Wisp led the group deeper and deeper into the labs until he came upon a blast door. He quickly opened it with a retina scan and walked into a hangar. The minifigures walked in and admired the various ships, but one stood out from all of them. It was a Venture Daredevil Heavy/Assault Cruiser called the Conqueror's Song. The C.S. was a massive delta with the command bridge in the nose and was colored in the traditional Venture style. The minifigures scrambled into the sleek ship. Hael Storm assumed the position of Captain. Duke Exeter took the helm; Vanda Darkflame and Dr. Overbuild took Weapons Systems and Communications, respectively. Wisp and the O.F.F. settled themselves in the war room, just behind the bridge.

"Ahoy, mateys! We be leavin' this Port-O'-Call rightaways!" Hael radioed. Mysterygoo fired up a holographic projector for the others before turning to his tablet PC. The display he set up showed the same view Hael got as he captained the ship. "He-arr we go!" Hael said.

The ship's engines flared as Duke guided the ship out of the hangar. The magnificent craft soared into the skies above the jungle. "Castin' off fer Nimbus Station!" Hael bellowed as the ship's Ion-pulse Relativity Engine powered it through warp space.

Back in the war room, Hezekiah, Wisp, and Michaa were trying to figure out how Hezekiah's sword worked. After a few minutes, Mysterygoo looked up from his tablet and interrupted. "That's enough! Once we get to Nimbus, Duke's going to send a transmission to explain what happened.

The giant starcruiser descended until it hovered mere inches above the waters near Red Blocks, Nimbus Station's huge outdoor theater. A gangway ran out of the side of the Conqueror's Song, and the minifigures walked into the sounds that defined Red Blocks. The music was different today. A small orchestra played instead of the usual metalheads. As the conductor saw the four Faction leaders, he whipped up "Hail to the Chief." Duke pushed through the crowd and stood up on center stage. He flipped on a transmitter and said, "Fellow citizens, it is my terrible duty to announce a rebellion on Forbidden Valley." He held all attention now. "The shadowy ninjas have smashed all Nexus Force personnel on the planet. They have taken all they can, including Paradox Space Marauder-class cruisers. They also are invading Gnarled Forest, and all efforts to hail our soldiers has proved worthless. Paradox had full faith in these ninjas, but they all along were treacherous enemies of the Nexus Force. Enemy number one is a ninja known only as Dunamis."

"Our plan to defend Nimbus Station is to divide into groups. Dr. Overbuild will lead Assembly in fortifying. Vanda and Paradox will identify stolen equipment and help defend. Hael and I will lead Venture and Sentinel in a ship-to-ship assault on the traitors. To aid your efforts, all Nexus Force members are being promoted one rank. Arm up and move out!" Duke hopped off the stage and began to climb up a ramp out of the theater. The Faction leaders, Wisp, Hezekiah, and the O.F.F. members quickly followed. The crowd stood stunned until their training kicked in and led them out.

Hezekiah listened to Duke's detailed plan. Duke ordered Dr. Overbuild to build a massive cannon in the center of Nimbus Plaza. After the battle, Vanda was to research using Maelstrom as a weapon against the Ninjas. Hael was to launch cruisers immediately. Crew would be ferried onto the ships and into fighters or stay as crew.

Hezekiah turned his attention to the starry skies. He was dead tired. He muttered something to Mysterygoo, then headed to his barracks in the Venture building. He went to the general barracks on floor B1 and fell sound asleep.

A.D. 2010, Saturday October 16. Gnarled Forest, Lego Universe.

The next day, the sun shone brightly above Nimbus Station. The sky was a brilliant blue. Hezekiah quickly exited his barracks and walked over to the Venture Vendor.

"I need a flight suit," Hezekiah told the Vendor.

"Here," the Vendor said, pulling out twin blue hoses. "Let me see your helmet."

A few minutes later, Hezekiah's helmet had twin oxygen hoses flowing from a panel on his back that fed into his mouthpiece. Hezekiah waved thanks at the Vendor, activated his radio, and then walked down the steps toward Nimbus Plaza. His radio crackled.

"Hey, Hezekiah! WHERE ARE YOU! This is Wisp! We need you at RACE PLACE! UNDERSTAND?!" Wisp bellowed.

"I just got up. Where is Race Place?" Hezekiah asked

Wisp seemed to calm down. "It's behind the Sentinel Vendor. Meet PowerMiner there."

"Got it."

Hezekiah looked behind the Sentinel Vendor. A large iron arch held a flaming wheel up for all to see. That had to be Race Place, with its infamous race track. Hezekiah skirted the center of the plaza, dominated by a huge Assembly cannon.

Hezekiah met PowerMiner sharpening his Knight III sword. It was tempered blue steel that glowed when carried by a soldier of imagination. PowerMiner grinned and led Hezekiah down a small, grassy path into a clearing. Hezekiah reeled from all the new sights. Three Vendors were acting like the Three Stooges, arguing over the best prices. A minifigure was assembling a Bolt Ox racecar. A gate to the Vertigo Loop racetrack towered over the clearing. PowerMiner walked up to a gate guarded by a Nexus grunt and was quickly admitted. Hezekiah followed through to see dozens of shuttles, each flying to a different cruiser. PowerMiner pointed out an Assembly Vatonage attack shuttle and walked toward it. The two climbed in. After a few minutes, three more minifigs climbed in and the shuttle took off.

Some seconds later, the Vatonage-class entered the hangar bay of the NFS Imagination. Hezekiah and PowerMiner were assigned to a two man Sentinel Interceptor. It had a split wing that joined behind the cockpit. The engines hummed and turned slowly. Hezekiah climbed into the pilot's seat. Whatever PowerMiner may have personally thought, he climbed into the copilot seat without a grumble.

The interceptor silently exited the hangar and fell in behind three others. The flight began a circular sweep of Nimbus Station. As they circled, the acting commander ran them through basic flight drills including evasion, targeting, maneuvering, and following orders.

A few orbits later, the wing's radios crackled to life. "Darkflame to all flights: enemy cruisers spotted exiting warp space. Regroup at allied cruisers and attack."

"You got that?" the wing commander asked. "Let's go!" He led his wing toward the NFS Imagination.

"Fight-arrs leavin' them ninja cruisers!" Hael Storm radioed.

"We've got you covered," the wing commander replied. "Follow me, all wings!"

The interceptors soared toward the enemy, keeping in pairs. Hezekiah and PowerMiner flew wing to a Paradox pilot. "Stay right on my wing, Venture," the pilot ordered. "We're going for 9 o' clock fighters."

"That you, Lightwave?" PowerMiner asked.

"PowerMiner? I'm with Wisp. You with Hezekiah or Mysterygoo?"

"Hezekiah."

"Here we go!"

The two interceptors approached a formation of twin shuriken-shaped ships and a dragon-headed landing craft. Hezekiah and Lightwave fired off several quick laser bursts while Wisp and PowerMiner locked on to the lander. A pair of Imagination torpedoes finished it off just as the ninja star-ships exploded.

The defenders looped around. Assembly's ground cannon was obliterating any ninja craft that approached Nimbus Station. Unfortunately for ground crew, more landers were coming than the cannon and auxiliary AA guns could handle. Six Sentinel Interceptors formed a delta formation and shot at the landers. Hezekiah and Lightwave covered the delta's six.

After the interceptors beat off most of the landers, a Venture Light/Strike Cruiser called the Concord Hymn flew past Hezekiah and Lightwave, requesting escort. Hezekiah took up position behind the Hymn's right wing while Lightwave circled, chasing and destroying ninja attackers.

"Pilots," the Concord Hymn's captain radioed, "I am making a direct attack on the ninja capital ship, Vengeance. Get ready!"

The Hymns engines pulsed as it dove through the chaos toward its chosen target, much larger than itself. Lightwave took up the left wingman position; Hezekiah drew back somewhat to cover Lightwave and the Hymn. Several ninja star-ships launched from the Vengeances starboard hangar bays and flew straight at the Nexus ships, hoping to slice them up with the ninja star-ships' sharp edges. The Nexus pilots dodged as copilots fired weapons. The Concord Hymn fired an Imagination torpedo at the hangar bay and ripped it to shreds. It swooped toward the bow command bridge and opened fire.

The Vengeance's defensive systems fired heavy flak at the three attackers. Hezekiah's shields short circuited; PowerMiner frantically attempted in-flight repairs.

PowerMiner was too late to save the ship. A ninja missile, shaped as a katana, shredded off the interceptor's left wing. That would not be a problem in the vacuum of space if the craft had not been leaking Imagination, leaving a bright trail among the stars.

"Concord Hymn! We can't stay with you!" Hezekiah shouted.

The rear bay doors opened on the Concord Hymn as it caught the interceptor with a grapple. It pulled Hezekiah and PowerMiner into a small hangar. The doors swung shut behind them. Hezekiah and PowerMiner scrambled to two Sentinel Air/Space Force HyperJets in the hangar. The doors opened, and the jets whooshed out.

The Concord Hymn exploded behind them. Hezekiah checked his radar. The battle was still at a stalemate, no major cruiser-to-cruiser actions had occurred. Hezekiah swung around and headed for the Vengeance's engines.

"What are you doing?" PowerMiner shouted.

"Stay on my wing. We're a diversion. If we can keep enough attention at the stern, the ninjas won't notice a craft destroying the bridge," Hezekiah replied. The twin jets climbed toward the target.

Three ninja star-ships flew up behind the HyperJets and opened fire, herding them toward the Vengeance. One of the pilots must have informed the Vengeance, because all available defenses fired at the jets.

Hezekiah quickly discovered an unfortunate fact of life: being caught between enemy fighters and heavy flak in an unshielded HyperJet was madness. While evading, Hezekiah saw, out of the corner of his eye, a ripple slipping toward the Vengeance's bridge. Two beams of Imagination tore through the bridge, and it fireballed. Hezekiah and PowerMiner flew off while their distracted pursuers were caught in the chain blast. The pilots flew toward the command bridge of another enemy cruiser called the Purge. The nimble jets flew past enemy shielding and each dropped twin I-bombs on the bridge while the enemy fleet fell into confusion. Hezekiah kept forward and dropped two more I-bombs on the engines. He dove to the left as the whole ship started exploding.

Nexus Force ships seized the opportunity and rushed forward. Ninjas saw that they were outgunned and outmaneuvered, so they retreated to Gnarled Forest, but not before an Assembly Electron class cruiser blasted three stolen Space Marauder Cruisers into individual pieces.

Hezekiah and PowerMiner flew into the Conqueror's Song and climbed out of their spacecraft. A battered Assembly Vatonage fighter and Venture Avenger touched down. Michaa, Mysterygoo, and, oddly enough, Wisp Lee stepped out. Wisp quickly explained his ejector seat had malfunctioned and Mysterygoo had picked him up.

"Good job, O.F.F., but this isn't over. Get some grub and rest if you can," Mysterygoo said, and then he exited the hangar. The rest of the Order, Wisp, and Hezekiah followed him to the mess hall. Michaa grinned while Hezekiah and PowerMiner related their stories as they ate. "In-flight transfer, eh?… Well, we were up against six of the ninja star-ships. Vatonage-class anything is built for speed and power, not maneuverability. If Mysterygoo wasn't there, I'd be toast. He unleashed a barrage of missiles from his heavy fighter and tore them to pieces," Michaa said.

After eating, the five adventurers headed to the Song's barracks to get some sleep. Everyone easily fell asleep, except for PowerMiner and Hezekiah.

"Hezekiah?" PowerMiner asked.

"Yes?"

"Where's Lightwave?"

Chapter Eleven: In the Valley of the NinjaEdit

A.D. 2010. Sunday October 18. NFS Imagination, NImbus Station, LEGO Universe.

It was the next day. Everyone was preparing for more fighting, and Chase greeted Hezekiah.

"Are you ready, Hezekiah?"

"Yes."

"Good. Follow me." Chase led Hezekiah from the NFS Imagination's reception room to the hangars. PowerMiner, Michaa, and Mysterygoo were waiting by a ship.

"Found him, Mysterygoo," Chase said. "Did you get the orders?"

"Yes. The fleet is to launch momentarily. You'd better get to your ship." Turning to Hezekiah, he said, "It's a good thing Chase found you. We might have left you behind."

"From what?" Hezekiah asked.

"We are launching a strike against Forbidden Valley. The ninjas naturally assume we will attack Gnarled Forest and recapture it before any action against their home. We are striking both places at the same time. We ourselves are going to the Valley. Our group is smaller, so the ninjas will think that we are a diversion and ignore our advances. They'll never guess that our ‘full assault' is merely a feint. After we clear an area, Paradox is going to send their prototype active armor and an operator, codenamed Brick Fury. We will have to strike fast and hard before the ninjas can mount a defense."

"Got it."

"This ship is what we'll be taking." Mysterygoo gestured to a Sentinel Cruiser identical to the one PowerMiner had crashed.

"Only if PowerMiner doesn't fly," Hezekiah joked. Mysterygoo gave him a silencing look and climbed up a ladder to the ship's cockpit. Michaa, PowerMiner, and Hezekiah climbed up a ramp to the ship's small passenger cabin. All the minifigures strapped in, and Mysterygoo gently guided the craft into space. Several other ships awaited, but they took off for Forbidden Valley once they saw Mysterygoo's cruiser.

"Mysterygoo, will we be warping?" Hezekiah asked.

"Nope. Too big an energy signature. If we want to have a quiet entrance, we fly through real space," Mysterygoo replied. "Cloaking in 3...2...1...Cloaked."

Hezekiah, with nothing else to do, took off his new armor to observe it. His helmet was similar to a BMX helmet, but it also sported a blue "Mohawk" of four spikes. He shoulder pads would protect his neck and shoulders adequately against anything. He looked at his fireproof, bulletproof, mostly-Maelstromproof jumpsuit. Not much to it, he thought. He drew his flareguns. He could see his reflection in their shiny black surfaces. These could shoot much larger flares, but the best improvement was two barrels per gun. Hezekiah had also been given four high-burn Nova flares, only for emergencies. Hezekiah put his armor back on and loaded his flareguns before holstering them. Hezekiah pulled out his sword and checked it, still perfectly polished. He looked a little closer at the runes engraved in the golden hilt. They seemed to morph into intelligible letters, but faded out before he could read them.

"Are you sure the Nexus database has nothing about these runes?" Hezekiah asked Michaa, passing him the sword.

Michaa grabbed the hilt. "No. These are unique, as far as we know. It's strange that Master Shader knew nothing about it." The sword suddenly increased its weight and slipped through Michaa's hands, glowing blue and hovering just above the floor. Hezekiah picked it up. It was light and balanced, as usual.

Michaa stared. "How did it do that? It suddenly weighed as much as the monument in Avant!" Hezekiah offered no explanation.

PowerMiner remarked, "That blade can't just be a regular sword."

The minifigures were interrupted by Mysterygoo calling, "Hey guys, brace yourselves. We're here."

The Sentinel cruiser jerked and fell straight downward. It shot through the atmosphere like a red comet. The scorched craft landed at Cavalry hill; its passengers and pilot ran into the open, weapons primed. No enemies greeted the strike team, but no one doubted some ninja or other was watching.

"Form up. Another ship is coming," Mysterygoo said.

As if on cue, a Sentinel Talon dropship prototype touched down. Captain Chase, Wisp Lee, an Assembly Rank III Engineer, and a Paradox Rank III Sorcerer, wearing the usual pointed hat and spiked armor, and wielding a dragon-headed staff and lantern, walked out.

Captain Chase, highest in rank, took command. "Everyone," he said, "establish a secure communications channel." When everyone had, he added, "This place is crawling with ninjas. We need to hold and take Ravencloud Gate until another Talon prototype can drop off Brick Fury. Keep your weapons ready, and smash in one hit."

Chase led the group out of the hill's area and approached the Great Tree. Everyone stared. The Great Tree was gone. In its place stood a black castle, weapons poking out over the battlements. Searchlights swept the area, looking for intruders. No true ninjas would be spotted, just enemies and impostors. Chase frowned. "Hezekiah, fire a single Nova flare at the fortress. Hezekiah blasted a Nova flare at the fortress. He grinned as the flare burned through the wall and exploded, taking down the whole castle.

"Run!" Chase yelled. The eight minifigures took off, running along the destroyed castle. They crossed a new bridge and ran down steps into the Ronin Pit, now filled with sand. The group ran halfway through this Zen garden when they heard a noise like waves of the sea.

The minifigures turned to see the sand forming itself into a golem. Hezekiah fired off a Nova flare at it and turned it into glass. Wisp shattered it with a pistol shot.

Chase turned and led the minifigures out of the pit and to Ravencloud Gate. Three turrets rotated to greet them. Hezekiah loaded his third Nova flare, but Chase motioned for him to stand down. Chase and the Sorcerer ran up and built a Maelstrom-fortified turret. Wisp and the Engineer built a land cannon.

The enemy turrets opened fire, smashing rocks and signs along the path. The Nexus turret and cannon returned fire while the builders ran for cover. The Sorcerer jumped up and fired a hyper-velocity bolt of lightning at the ninja turrets. Unfortunately, the ninjas had surge protected their turrets, which quickly smashed the Sorcerer.

"How will we hold this?" Hezekiah asked.

Chase ignored the question. "Wisp. Fire a rocket at the near turret."

Wisp fired a rocket from his launcher, then quickly reloaded. This time, he fired a Maelstrom-infected brick at the second turret, which began firing at the third as the infection spread. The third turret and the Maelstrom turret smashed each other.

"Ninjas inbound!" Mysterygoo called.

"Turrets!" Chase commanded. The existing Nexus artillery rotated to face the Ronin Pit. The Engineer and Chase placed two more turrets and two Personal Fortresses to try and stem the tide of ninjas.

The minifigures took cover, ready to stop the ninjas approaching from the Ronin Pit. Three black shapes appeared and were blasted by the six turrets. Red ninjas flipped over the front turrets and were smashed by the land cannon and Maelstrom-fortified turret. White ninjas flipped all over the turrets and behind the cannon, where they were smashed by the Personal Fortresses.

Finally Master Fong Shader and Numb Chuck Norse destroyed the turrets, cannon, and fortresses, and an army of ninjas ran in. The seven soldiers sprang out and started smashing startled shinobi. Hezekiah backpedaled and sniped by flare from a distance. Wisp joined Hezekiah with his rocket launcher, firing regular rockets. PowerMiner, Mysterygoo, Michaa, Captain Chase, and the Engineer were fighting for their lives. Michaa summoned a vampiric land squid that ate ninjas. The Engineer made the mistake of getting into a fight with Numb Chuck Norse and was quickly smashed. They Nexus Force minifigures were losing ground fast.

"The dropship is coming!" Wisp yelled, struggling to be heard above the clamor of battle. A Talon prototype was barreling toward the group.

The Nexus soldiers fighting hand to hand were disarmed. PowerMiner's sword was taken, leaving him with just a shield. Mysterygoo's pistol jammed; his sword was taken. Mysterygoo threw a monkey bomb to distract the ninjas while he and PowerMiner ran to Hezekiah's position. Chase and Michaa followed; Michaa quickly summoned a dragon to cover their retreat.

The dragon blasted an opening just large enough for a Talon. The craft hovered in midair. A door slid open, and twin cannons greeted the ninjas, smashing all of them. An armored figure, twice as tall as a normal minifigure, hopped out. The cannons were this fig's arms. The dropship took off. The minifig in exo-armor turned to face Captain Chase.

"Agent Brick Fury, reporting for duty."

"You made it," Wisp said. "Just in time, too." He quickly briefed Brick on the situation. "And we're expecting another attack soon," he finished.

Brick Fury frowned. "These batteries will only last a while. If we get to the Refinery, I can keep this suit running indefinitely."

"It's settled, then," Chase said. "We'll have to take the Paradox Refinery."

"What of the ninjas?" Michaa asked.

Brick Fury raised a cannon.

"Everyone: check your armor and find your weapons," Mysterygoo ordered.

Hezekiah reloaded his flareguns and inspected his armor. It was still in perfect condition.

A few minutes later, Mysterygoo said, "Time's up. We have a refinery to capture."

"It's go time," replied Brick Fury.

Chapter Twelve: Revenge of BrickEdit

A.D. 2010, Sunday October 17. Forbidden Valley, LEGO Universe.

The group of seven stood atop a series of cliffs, looking down at the Paradox Refinery. A garrison of ninjas openly guarded the area, some carrying submachine guns in addition to katana. Two watchtowers scanned the area, possibly searching for Brick Fury and team.

"How are we going to crack this coconut?" Mysterygoo asked. "Michaa?"

"Hmm. It seems too well built to use a Nova Flare. A blast like that could also release any Maelstrom contained for study or refinement, leading to more problems. We don't have the firepower for a direct assault…" Michaa continued like this for a while.

"Wait," Brick Fury interrupted. "Do you hear that?"

The minifigures whirled around, weapons drawn. Four ninjas, clad in white, greeted them.

"What is the meaning of this?" the lead ninja asked.

"What does it look like?" Chase answered. "We're obviously reporters from the New Brick Standard."

A fire lit in the ninja's eyes, and he drew his katana. "You mock me."

"No, really?" Chase said. "I was thinking more like I was mocking you."

The ninja was furious. "Why are you here? We have no quarrel with you, just the Paradox in your group."

Brick Fury fired directly to his right and left, smashing two hidden ninjas in midair. Wisp leveled his Space Marauder Blaster at the lead ninja while Brick Fury finished off the ninja's companions. "Why?" Wisp asked.

"You fools would not understand," the ninja said, a dark gleam in his eye. He drew a short knife and smashed himself.

"Well," Chase said, disgusted, "That makes a fine mess of things. They probably know we're here."

Michaa thought for a minute. "We may as well jump right in. If Chase can build some turrets and I can summon some beasties, we should be able to even the odds. Brick Fury, you'll have to use your range to your advantage. No Nova Flares or big explosions if we can help it."

"Sounds good," Mysterygoo said. "Form up. We'll use the bouncers."

The minifigures made a beeline for the bouncers and jumped on them, quickly soaring toward the refinery. Chase landed first and built a Personal Fortress to blast an opening. Michaa landed second and summoned flying electric eels. Brick Fury jump-jetted down and opened fire from midair. PowerMiner, Wisp, Mysterygoo, and Hezekiah rolled upon touchdown and began smashing nearby ninjas.

"Quick! Take the stairs!" Chase roared. The strike team ran up the stone steps to the clearing in front of the refinery and slashed, dashed, sliced, diced, and blasted enemy ninjas. The ninjas with sub-machineguns let out a guttural roar and fired explosive rounds at the minifigures. Brick Fury fired several bursts and smashed the ninjas in the watchtowers. PowerMiner rammed three ninjas with his shield, bowling them over, and then smashed them with quick thrusts.

Seven ninjas cornered Mysterygoo. Hezekiah activated his suit's "fig-on-fire" plasma coating and tackled a ninja, lighting him on fire. The ninja laughed maniacally and punched Hezekiah straight in the jaw, smashing his helmet. Hezekiah shut down fig-on-fire and smashed the ninja with the butt of his left flaregun. Mysterygoo lunged at another ninja and skewered him. PowerMiner blocked a flurry of shuriken from a green ninja and shoved him off a cliff. He lunged and shield-slammed two ninjas fighting Hezekiah and Mysterygoo. Mysterygoo and PowerMiner engaged a pair of ninjas in sword-to-sword combat. PowerMiner expertly disarmed his opponent with a flick of the wrist and plunged his sword through, smashing the ninja. Mysterygoo shoved his opponent's blade to the right and leveled his gun at the ninja.

"No fair!" the ninja said. "I'd have you beaten!"

"Pirate," Mysterygoo said, then fired his pistol. To Hezekiah's amazement, a great white shark came roaring out of the barrel, and ate the ninja, and then looked for more snacks.

Michaa summoned a golem of pure steel that marched forward, bashing ninjas. A red ninja with a flaming spear spun his tool into a tornado of fire and melted the golem into slag. Michaa summoned a giant lobster made of rock to crush the threat.

Up above, a ninja gunship flew toward the battlefield. Brick Fury and Wisp fired rockets up at it and knocked off two antigravity pods. The ship lurched at an odd angle and slammed into the mountainside. One of the pods crashed through the refinery's roof. The other one smashed ninjas behind Hezekiah. Hezekiah quickly loaded his flareguns and examined the pod. Several wires stuck out. He quickly touched two together. Hezekiah and the pod shot high into the air. Hezekiah tweaked the wires and descended to about thirty feet. He shot flares downward form his unique vantage point, creating explosions and general mayhem behind enemy lines.

The minifigures on the ground now stood in front of the refinery, still fighting, but the enemy was giving way. Hezekiah tweaked more wires and crashed through one of the watchtowers. He jumped off as the pod slammed into the ground in front of his friends. He took over a roof cannon and blasted an opening for Brick Fury to join the other minifigures. The others quickly fortified the pod as a makeshift wall, building turrets and adding braces. Hezekiah Daredevil-jumped down to them.

Just as the action finally wound down, the refinery doors burst open behind the minifigures and more ninjas, led by Numb Chuck Norse, quickly drove the minifigures back down the path to the dragons' cave.

It was by no means a clean sweep. Each minifigure knew that if he retreated to the cave, he was as good as dead. Mysterygoo noticed a series of ledges near the path. "Brick Fury!" he called, pointing to the ledges.

Brick Fury nodded and ran up the path onto the first ledge, still blasting ninjas. He sprang form stone to stone until he was at the mouth of the path and started blasting ninjas from behind.

The minifigures took advantage of the confusion to plow through discombobulated ninja ranks and take up positions around Brick Fury. The ninjas fell like a forest of trees. Brick Fury slowly lowered twin red-hot cannons.

"This area is secure," Chase stated. "What's our status?"

Brick Fury climbed out of his armor suit and checked a gauge. "70% power, 62% munitions."

"Mysterygoo broke a wrist," Michaa said. "I'm going to set it, but he'll need to stay out of major battles."

"My Space Marauder Blaster is empty, but that shouldn't be a problem here. I still have my Brick & Wesson for immediate use," Wisp said.

"No injuries, but my left shoulderplate is loose and my backplate has a hairline crack," PowerMiner said.

"My helmet was destroyed. My shoulder and kneepads are pretty beat up, but my real concern is my flare count. I've only seven regular and two Nova Flares."

Chase frowned in thought. "Brick, suit up. The rest of you do what you can in five minutes. I'll be right back." Chase turned and walked into the refinery.

Hezekiah walked over to where Michaa was binding Mysterygoo's wrist. "Why don't you just use Imagination to heal it?" he asked.

Michaa looked up at Hezekiah, then back down to the wrist in question. He tightened the bandages. "I don't think anyone's done anything of that kind before. I'll look into when we get back." Michaa wound Mysterygoo's wrist one last time and looked up at the stormy sky. "Looks like we're in for a good soak."

Chase walked back out carrying some snacks and sodas in a cardboard box. "More inside," he said through a mouthful of chips. He swallowed. "Smashed a vending machine," he explained. Chase glanced at the sky and then at his watch. "That's a nasty wind picking up. We'll have to spend the night in the refinery. Hopefully that gravity pod didn't turn out the lights."

The minifigures walked into the refinery's lobby. The lobby was a square room dominated by a semicircular reception desk. Two couches faced a blank red-and-white wall. A snack-covered table stood behind the couches. The minifigures ran to it and dug in. Everyone was still hungry after the snacks were gone. Chase micro welded PowerMiner's backplate while PowerMiner and Mysterygoo searched the room for metal. Wisp walked behind the receptionist's desk and flipped on a computer. "All right," Wisp said, "It looks like this place is mostly intact." He flipped a switch and holographic "windows" showed the storm outside. He flipped another switch and closed the blast shields around the door. "I can't signal the fleet because any ninjas will get here first. We'll have to wait for the Sentinel Samurai at dawn." He flipped another switch and two television displays slid out of the wall in front of the couches. A pool table emerged on the left side opposite the couches. "We might want to find a rations locker. There seems to be one on the third floor."

"What about another vending machine?" Michaa asked.

"One's down the hall to my left…" Wisp said. Michaa ran out of the room.

It was nearly 2100 hours, so everyone settled in. Mysterygoo flopped down on a couch and started channel surfing. Hezekiah (having found a new helmet) challenged PowerMiner to a game of pool. Wisp, Chase, and Brick Fury (not suited) looked over plans of the refinery and discussed the possible locations of ninjas or Maelstrom still in the building. Michaa came in with more snacks and sealed the blast shields for the hallways and sat next to Mysterygoo.

At 2200 hours Hezekiah and PowerMiner had finished their game of pool. The each built a chair and joined the others watching a movie called "Brickheart".

At 2300 hours Brickheart was over and Mysterygoo and Chase volunteered first watch. Wisp, Brick Fury, Michaa, PowerMiner, and Hezekiah went to sleep.

Chapter Thirteen: Night DazeEdit

A.D. 2010, Monday October 15. Forbidden Valley, LEGO Universe.

A loud explosion rocked the refinery's lobby, startling everyone awake. As Hezekiah jerked on his helmet, the left hall's blast door exploded inward and a trio of Maelstrom-infected ninjas flipped in. Wisp fired off his Brick & Wesson and smashed a ninja. Another ninja sprang PowerMiner and used its two katana against PowerMiner's one sword. Hezekiah hurled his sword into the ninja's back. PowerMiner slashed the Maelstrom creature's "head" off, but the beast kept fighting until PowerMiner sliced it to ribbons, leaving a purple puddle. PowerMiner snatched Hezekiah's sword off the ground and smashed the last ninja.

PowerMiner handed Hezekiah back his sword and strapped on his shield. "Night vision!" Chase barked. Everyone activated their night vision sensors.

"All right," Chase began, "We know in the stupid horror movies this kind of thing happens, and the people split up. You are not those dimbricks and will -WILL- stay together. Hit the lights, Wisp." When the switch flipped, no lights flickered on. Chase groaned. "We'll be staying here."

"To be overwhelmed?" Mysterygoo retorted. "We have to take the fight to them!"

"You are in absolutely no shape to fight, Mysterygoo!" Michaa snapped.

Mysterygoo had a scathing reply ready, but the main doors burst open behind them, and a group of ninjas charged in. Wisp, Brick Fury, and Chase retreated to the left hall as Michaa, Mysterygoo, PowerMiner, and Hezekiah were forced down the right.

Hezekiah and the Order members ran down the blackened hall, searching for a side passage. They came to a smashed vending machine. Michaa quickly shoved it aside, revealing a hidden passage. He motioned for the others to follow him past it and took off.

Mysterygoo was first to notice an open side passage and dragged PowerMiner through. Michaa kept forward, oblivious, and Hezekiah had to follow him. As he had never seen a horror film, he was not quite sure, but he assumed this was the "brickwitted" behavior Chase had warned against.

Hezekiah and Michaa came to a stairway and quickly dashed up. Michaa exited at the first door, but Hezekiah was sure he was the fringe of Michaa's cloak going upward. He ran to the top of the stairwell and entered a security room. He sat down and worked some magic.

The first thing Michaa noticed was Hezekiah's absence. The second was a display flickering to life. The words "BEHIND YOU!" appeared. Michaa whirled around to see twin Maelstrom-infected… something… coming at him. He lashed out with his staff, smashing them. He turned to the screen.

"IT'S HEZEKIAH. GO UP THE STAIRS TO TOP ROOM. OUT." Michaa turned and crept up the stairs.

Wisp, Chase, and Brick Fury fought in a huge mess hall. Food and ninjas were everywhere. Wisp kept launching pineapples from his rocket launcher, leading many ninjas to a fruity end and creating a layer of goo to slow down ninjas. Chase built a Personal Fortress and gunned down sneakier ninjas on the ceiling. Brick Fury sniped ninjas from behind a table barricade.

Lights snapped on and blinded everyone as a blast door slammed behind the ninjas. Turrets rose from the ground and started pummeling ninja troopers. Brick Fury and Chase ceased fire; Wisp threw a last, rotten tomato.

A panel lit up, providing a map and route to Hezekiah's command post. The figs looked twice and ran the path.

PowerMiner and Mysterygoo stood inside a semicircle of ninjas. The ninjas were driving them into a corner, in spite of their best efforts. Once in the corner, two walls slid in front of them, sealing them in. The last thing either saw was a white flash.

PowerMiner and Mysterygoo walked out of the corner into the control room, where the others waited.

"So…," Mysterygoo said, "Now what?" He leaned against a panel and hit a red button with his elbow. A bright light filled the room.

The minifigures teleported into a regal chamber, twice as deep as it was wide. It was red and gold with intricate dragons and Japanese script in gold adorning its walls. A throne faced the opposite wall. It turned around, revealing a seated ninja, clad in black. "Master Fong Shader! I trust you-" (he saw the minifigures) "-Have come to surrender?"

Brick Fury answered with a burst of cannon fire. The ninja laughed as he flipped through the air, easily dodging each shot. A missile simply passed through him. He grinned beneath his hood and fired a beam of nearly-white energy at the minifigures. "I, Lord Dunamis, will not be dealt with so easily."

Wisp fired a single Imagination bullet at Dunamis. It hit him, creating a blue splotch on his robes before fading. The ninja seemed distracted by it for a second, but he quickly intensified his attack. A pulse hit Brick Fury and shut down his armor. Brick pushed a button, and several bolts exploded, leaving an opening. Brick jumped out and drew two automatic pistols, sprinting toward Chase's turrets.

The ninja laughed and fired off a wave that knocked everyone to the ground. And another. And another. Minifigures stood up, energy knocked them back. With each new wave, the whitish energy grew darker.

A ninja burst in, quickly hurling a sai knife through the other ninja's energy wave. "I am the true Dunamis! Your rule is over, IMPOSTOR!"

The false Dunamis laughed. "You fool! Your name might mean power, but the true power is mine!" He transformed into a glowing purple winged ninja. He twirled a shinobi-gatana into a torrent of Maelstrom energy, knocking all but Dunamis down. Dunamis threw another knife and smashed the impostor with one blow. The impostor's pieces reassembled into a demented Brick Fury, wearing a ninja hood. The impostor fired maelstrom beams from its cannons. Dunamis threw a shining blue knife at the impostor. The knife created a box of blue light around the impostor and teleported him away. As he disappeared, he shouted, "This isn't over, Hezekiah! I will return!"

Hezekiah was confused. No one had said their name or his name, so how did the false Dunamis know?

The minifigures stood up, most groaning. Dunamis looked over them. "Just because I saved your life does not imply any love for the Nexus Force or Paradox. I need to speak with my men and Duke Exeter."

Chase tossed Dunamis a transmitter. Dunamis flipped it on and quickly conferred with his generals in Japanese. He twisted a knob and hailed Duke.

"Dunamis to Exeter," he began, "This is the real Dunamis. I have overthrown a Maelstrom impostor of me and end his declared war on the Nexus Force."

"Wonderful news," Duke said. "We need all our allies in this new fight. Maelstrom forces from Pet Cove are assaulting Nimbus Station, led by the Nexus Force Goes Boom. Our airborne forces are too spread out to stop their landers. I'm having all attacking forces to return and defend."

"I am sending aid. Explain to your men."

"Excellent, I- BREACH!"

Dunamis quickly hailed his generals and ordered a strike wing to lead heavy cruisers into battle. He ordered his admirals to activate the true ninja starships and turned to the minifigures. "You heard the Duke."

Chase saluted and exited the chamber with his men. They teleported back to the refinery, and then hailed a ride on a Sentinel Samurai scout craft. The group climbed aboard, related the Duke's orders, and headed for Nimbus Station.

Chapter Fourteen: At the CruxEdit

A.D. 2010, Friday October 22. NFS Imagination, Nimbus Station, LEGO Universe.

By the time Hezekiah and company had arrived, the Nexus Force, aided by the ninjas, had destroyed most of the Maelstrom fleet and even began to chip at the NFGB before it fled to the heart of the Maelstrom.

Pet Cove had been I-bombed, clearing out the Maelstrom.

Duke Exeter and Dunamis had met in person to resolve the war and prisoner disputes.

Brick Fury returned to his base, wherever that was.

Captain Chase returned to his position as shock team leader of the NFS Assembly.

Wisp, although disappointed, had to return to the Avant Gardens Laboratories and clean up the mess there.

As for Lightwave, he was still missing. This concerned Mysterygoo, and he could not think of anything else until Dr. Overbuild called them to a meeting on the NFS Imagination. The minifigures now sat around the conference table with Dr. Overbuild at the head.

"As you know," Dr. Overbuild said, "this time-stream is quite different than the one you rescued us from. However, a new threat we never faced is rising on a 'recently' discovered planet chunk. This is the largest remaining piece of the planet Crux, called Crux Prime. We've tracked a Space Marauder's distress beacon to the northern area. The planet is highly volcanic with many lava flows, but we seem to have detected snow in some places, likely bad readings. Duke believes that the planet is the ideal site for my planned Nexus Force Tower Head Quarters to replace the NFS Imagination."

"In short, we would like you to land on the surface, aid Commander Jack Strongheart's forces establish a base, and investigate the distress call. In the time since Pet Cove was I-bombed, we have rebuilt the lighthouse (I hear Hezekiah crashed into the old one) and added an underwater Assembly base. You will go there and take a submarine, and launch from the sub to a stealth ship. This is not a public military operation, so you can't count on help from forces already deployed. On a side note, have you kept up with the campaigns?"

"We've only been out of action four days, Overbuild," Mysterygoo said. "Of course."

"Then you know that Commander Beck Strongheart's forces have liberated Avant, Paradox is cleaning their old refinery/laboratory, and that the Maelstrom is contained to the cave systems?"

"Yes, Overbuild, we even know-"

"That Venture has had hard fighting in Gnarled Forest, but is steadily cleaning out the jungle?"

"Yes, we-"

"Know that Forbidden Valley is clear except for the Dragons' Cave? Well, the known areas."

"YES!" the minifigures shouted.

"Excellent. I'm sure you know why we can't really help much then."

"Understood," Mysterygoo said.

"You may leave when you are ready."

"Oh, we're ready."

A few hours later, the Order and Hezekiah touched down on the lava fields of Crux Prime. The group exited the stealth cruiser, followed by Commander Jack Strongheart and his chief engineer.

Mysterygoo pulled a map out of his bandolier. "All right! The coordinates are northeast from here. We may -I mean may- be seeing Lightwave soon, but don't get your hopes up."

"Right you are, Mysterygoo," Jack said, walking over. "We'll need to head northwest of here. Our scouts report a better site for our base."

"What vehicles will we use? Anything fancy?"

"Nope. Just jeeps."

Mysterygoo nodded and led the Order members and Hezekiah back into the ship. Several jeeps had been unloaded and waited by the ramp. The three Order members, Hezekiah, Jack, and Jack's chief engineer piled in and headed northwest.

The jeeps passed over dead, rocky terrain covered in black rock. The ride was short, and they soon arrived at their destination: A huge ravine large enough for ten Red Blocks stadiums. Its entrance alone was wide enough for fifteen Sentinel Crawlers (large, articulated, armored attack vehicles) to pass through comfortably. It was deep enough to only need shielding across the top. Jack scrutinized it with a tactician's eye before giving his approval.

Forty minutes later, two large Sentinel Crawlers arrived and dropped off the first batch of bricks to build a launchpad. Sentinel engineers quickly began their construction. A set of stealth helicopters flew in and lowered turrets around the top of the ravine. Engineers ran piping between these and the first floor of the command building being built near the launchpad, also being rapidly assembled. More engineers began building a pair of gates across the opening.

After more crawlers came by, and most of the initial setup was completed, Mysterygoo asked, "Will this be the whole base?"

"Negative," Jack replied. "It will be a starting point. We'll expand once we're recognized as an official military operation worthy of further funding. You know how castles are built, right? This will be like a keep. I've named it Sentinel Sigma Base, at Point Sigma."

"I see."

An engineer ran over. "Commander Sir! Incoming stormfront. Heavy snows likely."

Jack muttered and then said, "So that's why Venture scouts reported snow. Tell everyone to get in the base ASAP. I don't want to deal with living popsicles."

The engineer saluted and ran off. Jack turned to Mysterygoo. "Ironic, eh? Getting snowed in at a lava field..."

"You said it. In the meanwhile, I need to see to my men."

"I must as well." The two walked into the barracks pod, current residence until the barracks were finished. Jack turned left; Mysterygoo walked right to the O.F.F. Room. Hezekiah polished his armor as Michaa and PowerMiner reviewed maps of the area around the distress call. It was in a valley, surrounded by high mountains and volcanoes.

Michaa turned to Mysterygoo. "It may not be possible to reach the area before an eruption."

"Well, we have to wait," Mysterygoo said. "Snow's coming down pretty thick, and winds are rising to blizzard levels. Hopefully the shield gets up tonight."

"Will the storm pass over soon?" Hezekiah asked.

"Afraid I can't say," Mysterygoo answered. "In any case, we'll have to stay put. We don't know about any natives."

"Natives? What could possibly live here?" PowerMiner scoffed.

"That's what worries me."

A.D. 2010, Saturday October 23. Crux Prime, LEGO Universe.

Hezekiah sat around another conference table, this time as one of many. Jack Strongheart sat at the head, pointing at a holographic map.

"The skies are clear, but the land remains frozen," Jack began. "In fact, near surface lava flows are entirely frozen for now. Due to these extreme conditions, engineers have developed something I call 'Crux Prime Active Armor'. It protects from the elements and projects light Imagination shielding over your armor."

"Any word from Nexus High Command?" an officer asked.

"I gave a progress report, but all I've been told is to keep our operation under wraps."

"What of the distress call?" PowerMiner asked.

"We've received a second, weaker signal in the vicinity of the first. I am dispatching your team to investigate."

"Do we get Crux Prime Armor?" Hezekiah asked.

"Way ahead of you. It's already in your barracks. You'll also get three conversion snowmobiles for your search. These have twin machineguns and Imagination rockets. I believe that is all?" Mysterygoo nodded. "Well," Jack continued, "your orders are to investigate the distress call. I have nothing to add."

"We'll try to keep in touch," Michaa affirmed.

"You'll need luck with the weather," Jack wryly replied.

Hezekiah glanced down at his shiny new Crux Prime Armor as he and the other shot out of Sigma Base's large gates. After some debate, he and PowerMiner rode solo while Mysterygoo and Michaa shared a larger ride. The machines glided over the snow effortlessly. Hezekiah revved his engine and pulled in front.

PowerMiner drifted up next to him. "Wanna race?" he radioed.

"You're on! We start at the next call from Mysterygoo!"

"What's going on-" Mysterygoo began. PowerMiner and Hezekiah shot off, leaving a cloud of snowflakes behind.

"Better catch up," Michaa teased.

"Oh, I will," Mysterygoo said, grimly. He pulled the throttle, roaring after the other snowmobiles.

Hezekiah and PowerMiner raced neck and neck, each pushing his machine to its limits. They rushed up and down snowdrifts and into the occasional concealed valley. PowerMiner burst into the lead, but stopped short. Hezekiah drifted to the side and braked hard, throwing up a cloud of snow. He looked ahead.

Before then the snow had melted, and water coursed through a canyon on the right. More importantly, the land in front was a lava field.

Mysterygoo's snowmobile caught up and stopped. He flipped a switch and his machine's tracks and engine reassembled themselves into a pair of turbofans. The machine hovered just off the ground.

"Why did you think they're called conversion bikes?" Mysterygoo asked. "Come on!"

Hezekiah and PowerMiner hopped on their snowmobiles and hit the convert. Their snowmobiles each gained one turbofan and lifted into the air. Mysterygoo powered ahead.

Hezekiah checked his new helmet's heads-up display. The HUD reported a distance of thirteen miles to the Crux Mountains' foothills and another fifty-one to the approximate location of the signal. Hezekiah increased his speed and overtook Mysterygoo. He flicked his eyes at the HUD's radar. A black dot followed them at a distance of three miles.

"Mysterygoo, we've got company."

"Michaa has been tracking it for a mile now."

"Did we invite anyone?"

"No, and no Maelstrom here. It couldn't be Nexus; it would have called us by now. Arm your guns. You too, PowerMiner."

All three conversion bikes deployed front-facing machineguns. Mysterygoo's also sported a chaingun for the rider.

They continued for about three minutes before their pursuer overtook them. It was a black, hooded and cloaked figure. The figure fired a burst of green lightning at them, knocking Hezekiah low enough to skim the foothills. Michaa opened up with the chaingun and knocked the figure off his machine, which vanished instantly. A puff of smoke formed under him and solidified into another. The rider fired a wave of energy and burst ahead, quickly vanishing toward the mountain passes. Hezekiah started to pursue, but Mysterygoo ordered him to stand down.

The minifigures landed on the foothills and converted the machines back to snowmobiles. They continued to make good time. Hezekiah checked the HUD again. 12:00 noon, it reported; sunny;-58 F; 49 miles to the location.

Hezekiah was fighting the wind and his machine on the mountain passes, struggling to keep away from the cliffs. The others fared no better. Mysterygoo, now leading, ordered a halt.

"If anyone was out here, they're dead now!" he radioed. "We're heading back."

"We can't!" PowerMiner shouted. "We can't abandon Lightwave!"

"We'll have to," Mysterygoo said, sadly.

"Yes, Mysterygoo," PowerMiner said. He turned around and prepared to leave.

Hezekiah saw a flash of lightning and heard a roar of thunder. That sound should have caused an-

"AVALANCHE!" Hezekiah yelled. Snow poured down the mountain, sweeping away the minifigures. It wrenched Hezekiah from his snowmobile and tossed him into the icy wind. He landed in a poof of snow. It was too cold for his infrared detectors to pick up anything. A thought popped into Hezekiah's head, and he fired a Nova Flare, his third, straight up.

A wave of intense heat washed over the half-frozen PowerMiner. He slowly stood up. The valley they had fallen into was now a steaming sauna, bathed in red light. He saw Hezekiah running over to him, followed by Michaa, Mysterygoo, and... Lightwave?

Lightwave had been weathering the storm in an underground cavern when the he felt the heat. He ran out to see his friends standing in a formerly snow-filled valley. PowerMiner was standing up, and Hezekiah, Michaa, and Mysterygoo ran over to him. Lightwave sprinted after them.

"Are you all, all right?" Lightwave asked.

At the sound of Lightwave's synthesized voice (he was wearing his helmet) the others turned. "Lightwave! You're alive!" shouted Michaa. Lightwave smiled behind his helmet's faceplate. He glanced at his scanners. Something was wrong with the particle stability of the nearby atoms.

"Guys," Lightwave said, "we've company."

As that last word lingered in the air, a minifigure appeared in the valley. Everyone drew weapons.

"Well done! I was wondering when you would notice me!" the minifigure said. It was Dunamis's impostor from before, wearing infected Daredevil III armor. He laughed. "You fools! Did you think you can fight me? Think again!" He fired a pulse of Maelstrom energy straight up, sealing them in a dome of Maelstrom. "Of course," he continued, "My quarrel is not with you. It is with Hezekiah." He fired a pulse of Maelstrom energy and knocked everyone but Hezekiah down.

"You will not harm them!" Hezekiah said, more boldly than he felt.

"I do not care about them, Hezekiah, only you."

"Who are you?"

"I am Tzidkiyahu, or Zedekiah in the common tongue. I was known as Darkstriker to Master Fong Shader. And now you will ask why I want you. It is simple. Our kingdom, though I ruled many years after you, fell because of your arrogance! You boasted to the Babylonian emissaries about our kingdom and our success, and from then on they plotted to conquer us. After the previous king was gone, I swore fealty to the Babylonian emperor, but I lied! I fought against him to liberate our people! The prophet Jeremiah stood against me, but could that fool stop me? No! And then the Babylonians took over! They massacred our people and destroyed our land of Judah! They lay siege to Jerusalem! I, even I-"

"I am no king," Hezekiah said, "You are insane."

Zedekiah roared at him. "I was saved from a Babylonian death by the Darkitecht himself! He promised me revenge on you, vengeance for our people! I swore to him true loyalty, and now I have it, Hizikiyyahu!"

Hizikiyyahu. The name was Hezekiah's name in his native tongue, Ancient Hebrew. It was a key, unlocking the secrets of his sudden arrival on the Venture Star and his faction flashbacks. He drew his sword. He could read the glyphs now. Its name was The Secret of the Light. Hezekiah thought the name was fitting. It shone, covered by the fires of Imagination.

Zedekiah was visibly stunned. "The Darkitecht said you would be weak!" He drew his own sword. "No matter. My revenge will be this much sweeter!" He blasted forward, faster than any minifigure.

Hezekiah parried the blow and rolled to the side, springing up and sweeping his blade. Zedekiah flipped backwards over the blade and slashed high. Hezekiah dropped to all fours and sprang up again, slashing for Zedekiah's faceplate. Zedekiah formed a barrier of that green lightning to block the blow. He used this power to hold Hezekiah in midair. He aimed his sword, preparing to finish Hezekiah. "This is the end, Hizikiyyahu!" he shouted.

Just as the blade slashed forward, a rocked knocked Zedekiah away. Lightwave kneeled, launcher over his shoulder, and fired another rocket. Zedekiah snarled and stood up, transforming into a monster between minifig and dragon. He blew fire at the revived minifigures, concentrating in on Lightwave. Lightwave's armor could not withstand the heat and melted off him, leaving him in Space Marauder coveralls. He ran, but not fast enough, and fell to Zedekiah's clawed hand, unconscious.

Hezekiah saw this as an opening and hurled his sword at Zedekiah's toothed maw. Zedekiah's last expression was one of shock. He smashed, leaving behind only some poor Daredevil's armor, now uninfected. Hezekiah looked at the armor. Zedekiah had only come for him, he reasoned, so why others have to die? He looked up at the dome. It still hovered ominously. He raised his sword and shouted loudly.

A brilliant light, like that of the Imagination Nexus shot out of Hezekiah's sword. It crashed into the Maelstrom dome and incinerated it. A bolt of pure white slammed into Lightwave's armor and drew it back together into a shining white with crimson trim.

Lightwave woke up. "My head hurts."

"A Maelstrom Dragon got you, remember?"

"Yes, and... Why is my armor so white? I haven't scrubbed it like this in months!" Everyone laughed, . Mysterygoo quickly rebuilt the snowmobiles, and they all rode back to base.

A could of Maelstrom energy floated over the site of Zedekiah's defeat. "You served us well, Zedekiah. We thank you for buying us time." The could revived Zedekiah and sent him though a portal, back to Judah, 586 B.C., just as Nebuchadnezzar broke through Jerusalem's defenses, forcing him to relive that awful moment.

"Now it is time. The portal is opened. We must summon Inkorabiz, first of the Maelstrom. We will have Crux Prime, and we will have it soon."

The cloud vanished.

Chapter Fifteen: Heavy AssaultEdit

A.D. 2010, Sunday October 15. Crux Prime, LEGO Universe.

It was yet another day at Sigma Base. Hezekiah had officially been adopted into the Order of Four Factions yesterday, and carried the O.F.F. insignia near his Venture tags. He now patrolled the lava fields with Lightwave, who had been asking about Hezekiah's sword when a purple Maelstrom portal opened up in the distance. A massive Maelstrom Spider, the first Maelstrom creature, walked out, followed by Stromlings of all sorts and war machines. The spider stood at least five times as tall as any minifigure and dwarfed its Spiderling cousins. Its numerous, orange eyes stood out from its purple body as it scanned the landscape. It noticed Hezekiah and Lightwave's magma bikes and screeched an order.

"We have to get back to Sigma Base," Lightwave said. Hezekiah nodded and floored his magma cycle over the lava flats.

The lava bikes quickly returned to Point Sigma and Sigma base at high speed. Sigma Base's defenses had been roused. Assembly Engineers and Sentinel engineers fortified the outer walls. Sentinel Crawlers slowly headed for the impending battle. Thunder rang out as forked lightning struck the portal. Rain fell in sheets.

Hezekiah and Lightwave pulled in and ran to the command room. Commander Jack Strongheart greeted them. "We are aware of the Maelstrom presence. Our cruisers are currently holding back the NFGB and other ships, but landers are slipping through. I've already called more fighters."

"The Spider Boss is with them," Lightwave flatly added.

Jack seemed unable to speak for a moment, but he quickly said, "This changes things. I'll call Nexus High Command. You report to Captain Mysterygoo." That was right. Hezekiah was still wrapping his head around Mysterygoo's new promotion. At least Mysterygoo's wrist had healed. Hezekiah and Lightwave quickly saluted before dashing off.

O.F.F. rode with Sentinel Knight Squad 42 in a high-speed version of a Sentinel crawler. Squad 42 was commanded by one Lieutenant Bronson Jarls. Their goal? To reach Sentinel Point Zeta before the Maelstrom. The rain was coming down even harder, and dropping temperatures signaled sleet or snow. Hezekiah looked down at his monitor of the battlefield.

The main Maelstrom forces formed an arrowhead and plunged into Sentinel lines. The battlefield had zero cover, leaving the Sentinels open to attack from all sides. Sentinel attack crawlers launched rockets deep into enemy lines as soldiers fought forward, inch by inch. Sentinel aircraft battled Maelstrom landers battled for air supremacy. The Maelstrom forces finally broke Sentinel lines and charged forward.

Just as lines broke, a division of Venture cars, trucks, motorcycles, and helicopters surged over the horizon and roared toward the Stromlings' flank. It was led by a Venture Buccaneer in a black roadster with a Nexus Force flag out the passenger-side window. That Buccaneer… Was it?… It could not be! Was it Murphy? Hezekiah would have to find out after the battle.

The Stromlings regrouped, and heavy cannons rained Maelstrom goo down over the Venture team, smashing less wary drivers in a splat of purple. The Buccaneer's headlights retracted and twin rotary cannons slid out. The Buccaneer's division quickly deployed weapons and drove through enemy lines into the core of the Maelstrom army.

A tap on his shoulder snapped Hezekiah back to attention. The crawler stopped, and the warriors inside ran out. Zeta base was fighting off the usual Maelstrom enemies found in the Caldera Mar basin. A Sentinel ran over. "Commander Rex Strongheart, at your service."

Lieutenant Bronson Jarls presented Rex a holographic map of the battle. "You'll need to stay alert," he said. "Commander Jack Strongheart requests that you recall all Nexus Force personnel in the Caldera Mar basin to Point Zeta. Things could get ugly real fast."

Rex looked at the crawler. "I'll set you up with a Sentinel Hawk. You'll get back faster." Jarls nodded. "Hangars are this way," Rex said, walking away.

A few minutes later, Squad 42 and O.F.F. rode a new Sentinel Hawk gunship. Its twin propellers sliced the air, pulling the plane forward. Several fuselage- and wing-mounted turrets rotated, seeking prey. Three Talon-class heavy dropships followed behind and above. These touched down at Point Sigma, each deploying a Paradox agent in Fury armor and a bipedal Sentinel war machine armed with I-bombs. The six ran into battle, and the Talons took off for Point Zeta. The gunship turned to the battlefield and rained Imagination pulses on the Stromlings while dropping high-yield explosives.

Several mechs on the battlefield, led by M1-K3Y, fired Maelstrom blasts at the gunship, frying the electronics. Out of control, the gunship flew through the Maelstrom portal.

The inside of the portal was a dark, swirling vortex of purple chaos. The gunship crashed into the ground, slightly sinking. Sentinel Squad 42 ran out, swords and energy bows drawn. O.F.F. raced out behind them.

Nothing greeted the warriors, and many sheathed their weapons. Jarls frowned. "Form up," he said. "There's bound to be something."

Unfortunately for Jarls, he was right. A giant leg smashed him. All eyes turned to see Inkorabiz, the Spider Boss, first of the Maelstrom. Inkorabiz roared at them.

Arrows stung Inkorabiz's eyes, followed by a bust of flares, a missile, and a shark. The Sentinels charged forward, hacking at the beast's legs. Inkorabiz roared again, and the Maelstrom vortex changed into a large cavern. The spider jumped up a wall and blasted webs from the ceiling. Minifigures quickly activated their air filters as Inkorabiz spat venom at them.

O.F.F. regrouped behind a large rock. "What are we going to do?" Mysterygoo asked. "Michaa?"

Michaa thought. "This place can't sponge a Nova Flare. This will turn into a loss unless we do something like fixing the Hawk."

"What about fixing the guns?" Lightwave asked. "We could get some online and use them for artillery!"

Michaa nodded. "We'll have to try." Lightwave sprinted for the downed gunship, with Michaa, Mysterygoo, PowerMiner, and Hezekiah not too far behind.

The O.F.F. members ran into the gunship's cargo bay. Michaa ran into the cockpit and brought the poor machine back to life. Mysterygoo and Hezekiah ripped panels off the machine, exposing wiring that Lightwave and PowerMiner began to re-rout, sending full power to the turrets.

Michaa rotated an upper turret and began firing Imagination pulses at Inkorabiz. Inkorabiz turned from the Sentinels and fired webbing toward the ship. Hezekiah and Mysterygoo activated a makeshift shield generator to block the attack.

Enraged, Inkorabiz ignored the Sentinels entirely and jumped toward the gunship, bouncing off the field. Michaa got a second turret online and began to fire it in tandem with the first.

Trapped between twin turrets and a mob of Sentinels, Inkorabiz used a Chaos blast to stun everyone and change the terrain to a dense forest. It lurked in the trees, just out of range. Michaa pulled a third turret online.

Inkorabiz jumped out and smashed half of the Sentinels instantly. The other half smashed one of Inkorabiz's four legs. The crippled spider used pure Chaos to heal itself, replacing the leg with a heavily armored one, spiky and buzz saw-tipped. It cut down brave Sentinels until none remained. The creature pounded on the shield dome.

Mysterygoo turned to the others. "How will we beat it if it has smashed so many?"

Hezekiah looked up. "We keep fighting. It's weaker now."

Mysterygoo nodded slowly. "Yes... We're going out to support Michaa's cannons. PowerMiner! Open that hatch! Michaa! Let down the shield and show that beast the power of Imagination!" he roared.

The O.F.F. members quickly ran out, except for Michaa.

Inkorabiz was confused. How could four stand where many had fallen? It shook itself and swung its saw leg at the group.

On Mysterygoo's signal, the warriors broke formation and took cover in the trees. Michaa opened up with a fourth turret and chipped away at the Spider Boss's main body. It roared again, this time in pain. It crushed a turret just as Michaa activated a fifth.

Mysterygoo fired a shark form his position that ate Inkorabiz's largest orange compound eye. Inkorabiz tried to focus its other eyes, but seemed unable. It fired another Chaos blast, changing the scenery to a seashore.

Michaa did not raise the shields in time, so all turrets stopped on the beached gunship. Inkorabiz took the opportunity to smash it as Michaa fled the ship.

Now without cover, the minifigures split up, each firing for the creature's bad eye. Mysterygoo, Hezekiah, and Lightwave fired with their usual weapons at the spider; PowerMiner used his crossbow; and Michaa blasted with a rifle from the gunship. Inkorabiz seemed ready to give up.

To the minifigures' surprise, Inkorabiz created four Spiderlings with saw legs and attacked Michaa, who seemed least skilled with his weapon. Michaa quickly summoned a whale that landed on top of Inkorabiz, pinning it. The others smashed their Spiderlings and ran over to Inkorabiz's head section, slashing, blasting, and stabbing it. Inkorabiz let out a pitiful wail and smashed. Michaa's whale vanished.

"We did it!" PowerMiner said. "We beat the Spider Boss!" Their surroundings changed back to the Maelstrom vortex.

A sound of one person applauding reached their ears. The minifigures turned to see the Darkitecht smiling and clapping slowly. He wore a black top hat and cape with high neck. He wore a black tuxedo as well. His red eyes shone; his grin was simply skeletal. "I did not think you had what it took to succeed," he said. "I must congratulate you. Then kill you." He drew out a cane with a Maelstrom crystal at the end. "Prepare your pitiful defenses."

PowerMiner recklessly tried to shield-slam the Darkitecht. The Darkitecht sidestepped and tapped PowerMiner with his cane, knocking him senseless and throwing him aside.

"Who's next?" the Darkitecht taunted. "The magician? The astronaut? The pirate? Or maybe the ki- Daredevil?"

Hezekiah noticed the gunship's pieces still lying around. "Cover me!" he radioed, starting to build.

The Darkitecht laughed mildly, and then fired a bolt of energy at Hezekiah. Michaa jumped in front and shuddered from the impact. Mysterygoo fired sharks while Lightwave fired missiles. The Darkitecht, amused, blocked each attack with a shield of Chaos.

Hezekiah quickly continued to snap bricks together, building a catapult. He finished and hopped in, flinging himself at the Darkitecht, sword drawn. It was a huge gamble.

The Darkitecht responded by knocking out Mysterygoo and Lightwave. Michaa frantically summoned every creature imaginable, The Darkitecht smashed these and knocked out Michaa, all while blocking Hezekiah's thrust.

"You wonder why I didn't smash them, Hezekiah. It is because I will infect each of them and put you in a cage with them." The Darkitecht laughed. "Come on! Fight me!"

Hezekiah drew his flareguns and aimed his left. The Darkitecht blew up the gun. Hezekiah checked a flare on his belt. It was his last Nova Flare! Its label read, "Prototype HyperNova flare. DO NOT USE!" Hezekiah loaded it and fired it from his right gun.

The Darkitecht hit Hezekiah with his cane, nearly smashing him. Hezekiah lay limp on the ground. The flare's intense heat woke the others, and they saw it plow through the Darkitecht's shield before exploding in his face. They cheered as the Darkitecht reeled, disoriented.

PowerMiner ran over to Hezekiah. Hezekiah was barely breathing. He looked at PowerMiner for a few seconds before recognizing him.

"T-take m-my sword, P-PowerMiner," Hezekiah feebly ordered. "I'm not going t-to m-make it. My time is u-up."

"You'll be fine," PowerMiner answered. "We'll get Dr. Overbuild after we smash the Darkitecht!"

"No, Mario, I won't. H-here. Take my sword. Smash the v-villain."

PowerMiner drew his sword with his right hand and picked up Hezekiah's sword in his left hand. He touched the blades together.

A brilliant light shone, and the swords became one flawless blade, golden with silver leafing and a jewel-studded pommel. The sword radiated Imagination.

"Go get him. You have to get him be… be… b-" Hezekiah started. At the last b, Hezekiah breathed his last. He vanished into a burst of light, leaving his armor and weapons behind. The light floated onto the sword, making it shine even brighter.

PowerMiner gritted his teeth. Hezekiah's last command rang in his ears.

PowerMiner turned and shouted, "For Imagination! And Hezekiah!" He ran at the Darkitecht. The Darkitecht was still off-balance, but parried PowerMiner's blow. PowerMiner led into a flurry of attacks so fast his blade could not be seen, just a swirling trail of Imagination. The other Order members watched in awe as PowerMiner whittled away at the Darkitecht's defenses until he held him at sword point, Darkitecht pinned to the ground.

"Go on, kill me!" the Darkitecht taunted.

PowerMiner shook his head and fired a concentrated beam of Pure Imagination. The Darkitecht let out a long, piercing scream.

As the light faded, the one sword split back into two. In place of the Darkitecht stood a very confused Baron Typhonus.

"Quick!" Michaa said. "The portal's closing!"

PowerMiner scooped up the remains of Hezekiah's gear and ran with Baron Typhonus after the others. They dashed out of the portal and onto the battlefield, now Maelstrom-free. PowerMiner walked off by himself.

When PowerMiner was alone, Hezekiah's blade flickered to life. It projected an image of Hezekiah, now wearing tan robes and a purple cape, holding a crown with both hands.

"Hezekiah! Is it really you?" PowerMiner asked.

"Yes, and no," Hezekiah began. "You are just seeing a projection of me. I have come to tell you not to worry about me, for now I return to my kingdom, Judah. We may yet meet again, my friend, comrade, and brother." Hezekiah smiled and saluted PowerMiner. PowerMiner saluted back. Hezekiah touched his sword and picked up a projected version of it. He waved and vanished.

PowerMiner turned and trudged over the frozen ground, heading back to Sigma Base. He would write a record of Hezekiah's adventures, and he would call it "Hezekiah and the Fall of the Maelstrom". For now, though, PowerMiner had to return to the base before any more unusual weather. He hummed the Nexus Force song, LEGO Universe, and looked over his shoulder one last time. He would later swear he had seen Hezekiah, carrying a Nexus Force banner.

Epilogue: King AgainEdit

"He did what was pleasing in the LORD's sight, just as his ancestor David had done."- II Chronicles 29:2

B.C. 715, Hezekiah's Palace, Jerusalem.

Hezekiah still saw PowerMiner, but he now fell once again though time and space. He landed with a thud and sprang up, sword drawn. He surveyed his surroundings. He stood in his royal chambers. His scroll of the Four Explorers lay on the floor. Hezekiah turned around. He had sprung up from his bed.

Was it all a dream? No, it had been too real for that. Hezekiah checked his sword. Near the crossbar was a single engraved brick, a two-by-four. Hezekiah snatched up a pen and opened a new scroll. He had to record these adventures, but he would write it only in the royal code. No man would believe him. He could not build a giant LEGO brick, either. His people would eventually proclaim it a god and start worshipping it. Hezekiah dipped his pen in ink and began to write.

"Into a New Universe: The Chronicle of Hezekiah, King of Judah as written by Hezekiah, King of Judah. This occured in the first year of my reign..." Hezekiah's pen would scratch on through the night. It was not work; it was simply a tale to be told, for no man worked on the Sabbath.

A.D. 2011, Saturday December 3. Crux Prime, LEGO Universe.

After the eradication of the Maelstrom in the known Universe, Crux Prime had shifted to a world as green and pleasant as Avant Gardens. The Nexus Tower had been built to organized the final assaults, but it now served as simply as a capitol building.

Today a monument/museum for the battle of Point Sigma would open, and PowerMiner had been asked to speak. He stood from where he sat in Caldera Park and walked to his car. He drove to the site.

What he saw shocked him. A huge statue of Hezekiah, sword drawn, was the centerpiece of the facility. He laughed. "If only Hezekiah could see this now!"

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