The day is filled with strong winds, whirling around like a hurricane. Ominous looming clouds reside overhead, hovering over five figures below like a gray dome. It retains the color of light ash; a symbol of an arriving storm.
The ninja are in a field of golden wheat, the grain stretching out for miles. Shoulder-deep, undulating, thick and tangled as a horse's mane. It is tall and high, but the ninja are in a bare patch of the field. Sensei Garmadon is also there.
The wind spins around, whistling in high pitch sounds that create false tranquility among the people. They are all sitting down, meditating. "To do this, you must empty your mind of all thought. In effect, you cease to exist mentally. And with no mind, no awareness of self, you disappear," the newly-dubbed Sensei instructs.
Jay and Kai open their eyes to look at him. The blue ninja's hazel eyes appear alert and wary, while Kai's warm amber orbs burn fierce and determined.
"Yeah, well, this is hard," Jay huffs, brown eyes flashing in annoyance. His freckled face is framed by dark, messy curls, and he wears a sapphire blue gi.
"Same here. Meditating is more of Zane's thing," Kai complains, gesturing to the platinum blonde as he speaks.
"This is much more than meditating, Kai. I myself have not even mastered it," Sensei Garmadon admits.
"But how would you know if it was working if your mind was empty? Cause' your eyes would be closed, so how would ya know?" Jay questions.
He does have a point.
Garmadon sighs, looking at them. "To give you ninja some motivation, the first one to master it gets $50."
Cole opens his eyes, revealing deep amethyst orbs. Hair that is as black as a seal's wet fur dances as he turns his head, glancing at the others. Quickly, he shuts his eyes once more. The other two follow his example without much hesitation.
Jay mumbles, "I believe I can, so I can, I just gotta believe, and I can do anything. Believeee believeee believeee yeah IMA believer!"
The ninja of fire snickers, peeking at him under his eyelids. Just then, Zane vanishes, before reappearing a few seconds later. Immediately, a twig cracks. Jay and Cole shoot up and run in the direction of the sound before anyone can do anything.
Another twig snaps in the opposite direction. Kai and Zane sprint to the sound without a word, Garmadon sighing at their actions.
"They never stop to think..."
The duo of black and blue push past the tall grass as they try to discover the source of the noise. It scratches them as they pass, leaving small cuts which are ignored. They also pass scattered clusters of rabbit droppings, which, of course, they do their very best to avoid. Overhead, clouds swirl and collide in vast, humid pile-ups, and flashes of lightning looking like skeletal fingers of incandescence reaching down to stroke the Earth.
Without warning, a stone slams into the back of Cole's skull, causing him to crumple to the ground like a doll. Jay's head jerks round upon hearing his friend collapse, seeing a nindroid towering over the fallen Cole. Before the blue-clad ninja can take action, he feels rough arms grabbing onto him. Jay struggles against them, shooting his right leg out but his movements are far too slow. Hands moving from his waist, the droids seize his arms, trapping them to his side.
"HEY! Let me go!" Jay cries out, but he is unable to break free. Terror washes over him, raising the fine hairs on the back of his neck as he thrashes violently. He begins to get dragged away forcefully from his injured teammate, deep into the unknown.
"LET ME GO! COOOOOLLLLLEE!"
Nindroids bind Jay to a large rock in a barren patch of grass, despite his struggles. A nindroid taller and more heavily armed than the rest approaches Jay, who he recognizes as the nindroid general Cryptor. His menacing eyes are a blazing red and his dark hood makes the rest of his features indistinguishable. And he just so happens to be carrying a knife. The blade is serrated near the handle and has a deadly sharp curve at the tip. There is a loud crack as thunder permeates the frigid air, sky rumbling above them.
The young ninja's heart is throbbing in his ears, loud and irregular, but he barely hears it, for his mind is clouded with fear. Jay can feel his lips quivering as his eyes lock on the nindroid general before him, standing there like a harbinger of tragedy.
A sudden gush of pain jolts throughout Jay's body as Cryptor plunges the blade into him. His stomach aches, his arms lose tension and his legs begin to weaken. He emits a sharp cry, blue gi already becoming stained with crimson blood. Despite the pain, Jay begins to thrash and buck under him, yet it is useless. Fear becomes a tangible, living force that creeps over him like some hungry beast, immobilizing him; his brain, holding him captive.
The android sheathes the knife and trades it out for a rusted pipe that's partially covered in dirt. Jay's breath hitches almost immediately.
He knows it's coming and his muscles tense as much as they can. The knowing doesn't soften the blow. The pipe is as hard as it looks and his leg is no ball. Jay feels the bone split into an untold number of fragments as his mind becomes inoperable. The pain takes him not far away, but deep inside himself to some primitive place that knows how to cope with the kind of pain that precedes death. The lightning ninja's vision is blotched with violent colors that move and merge without pattern or design. The wall of pain still cripples but Cryptor swims back into view. His face is just as you'd imagine it to be if he were waiting for a bus. Then he smiles in a small way before continuing his narration of the young man's torture, "Now now little ninja, it's just no fun if you don't see it coming."
Cryptor then slams his foot down onto the other's face. A loud crunching sound and Jay's nose begins to spew blood. He chokes out a few gargled noises, tongue soaked in the taste of blood. It tortures him to move, so he keeps the movements small and steady. Eventually, he just lays there, his breath wheezing and eyes closed. The nindroid general scoffs as he stares down at his defeated opponent.
A large crack echoes across the valley as the lightning returns the thunder's call.
Zane and Kai head in the direction their brothers had gone after finding nothing on their end. It is easy to follow the trail of their fellow ninja, as they had left a path of pushed aside grass.
After what has been a few minutes of searching, the two ninjas find Cole, lying unconscious and bleeding on the ground.
The brunette immediately rushes over to the black ninja in worry, kneeling down beside him. He gropes for a pulse, letting out a relieved sigh upon feeling one.
Zane follows after him, getting down next to their dark-haired friend. He makes sure that there is a heartbeat like Kai said, before shaking him, "Are you okay? Cole, can you hear me? Are you okay?"
It doesn't take long for the ninja of the earth to stir, a groan escaping his lips.
"Ugh...what...what happened...?" Cole mutters, rubbing his head as he screws his eyes shut.
"What happened? Where's Jay?" Kai asks instantly, eyes searching the other's face intently.
"Kai, you must give him time to recover. He is injured after all," Zane chides in, and the fire ninja sighs in compliance.
"Well...all I remember is walking with Jay, then bam! I was knocked out," Cole replies after a minute or so. Kai and Zane grasp either side of his arms, hefting him to his feet.
Cole wobbles for a second, before steadying himself. Just then, Zane spots something on the ground. He reaches out and picks it up.
"It's nindroid tech," he observes, examining the device. It is small and round, with a two tiny purple and red blinking lights.
The device suddenly flickers to life. It projects a dark red image of General Cryptor. "We have captured your friend. If you ever want to see him alive again, you'll have to make a trade. A ninja for a ninja; a life for a life. You have one hour. You'll find us at these coordinates. If you do not come in one hour or refuse to trade, your friend...well, there will be one less ninja for us to worry about."
The hologram shows the coordinates mentioned, before flickering off. No one speaks.
"I'll do it," Zane finally utters after a long stretch of quiet.
Flashes of lightning light up the darkened sky, followed by cracks of thunder as if to empathize the words that have just been spoken.
Cole and Kai stare at him as if he is insane, eyes wide with disbelief.
"Are you crazy?!" Kai hisses.
"No way we're letting you trade yourself, they could reprogram you!" Cole protests, making hand gestures to show how against this he is.
The ninja of ice just shakes his head, not meeting their eyes, "I've searched my database. It's the most logical choice. Besides, if they kill me, I can always be rebuilt. You are human. You cannot be rebuilt."
The duo continues to protest, becoming more agitated still, "You can't do it! You can't give yourself up to them!"
"We're not letting you do it. They could mess with your systems, or do permanent damage. We'll tie you up if we have to," Cole states firmly, crossing his arms.
He ignores them, his cyan eyes to the ground, and starts to walk off. However, he is immediately tackled by his brothers. After a brief struggle, Zane manages to throw them off before darting into the tall grass. He's gone before either of them can get up.
"Do you know where that place mentioned is?" Kai inquires hopefully, standing up. Cole shakes his head and the red ninja groans.
Jay struggles against the rope tightly binding him. He had heard what the message said, about one of his brothers having to trade themselves for him. He is tied up against a huge boulder. It is a big, brown rock with bronze specks all over it. Cryptor stands pacing in the clearing, along with a bunch of other nindroids.
One of them comes up to Cryptor. Lightning flashes in the night, making everything visible for one moment as droplets turn into a downpour. Rain becomes a steady torrent as the clouds above release their burden. The wind blows the tall grass fiercely, but the nindroids seem unaffected.
"No sign of them, Cryptor," the subordinate says, bowing to the nindroid general. There is silence for a second, except for the sound of rain and thunder. "Shame. I thought they would come. Looks like your friends abandoned you, Master of Lightning," the general sighs. Just then, Zane emerges from the grass looking pale and shaking slightly. But despite his appearance, his pale blue eyes are full of determination.
"Zane? No! What are you doing here?!" Jay screams, his eyes wide as he looks at his robotic brother.
Cryptor studies him for a moment, ruby eyes glinting mischievously. "I'm here. Now honor your end of the bargain," Zane replies stiffly.
"...Untie the blue one," Cryptor commands after a brief silence.
A nindroid does so, and Jay falls to the ground. "Scram," Cryptor snarls, his gaze never once faltering from Zane. Jay weakly retreats into the brush. But despite being severely hurt, he stays. He peeks out from his hiding spot, fearfully watching the interaction take place.
What are they going to do?
Suddenly, Cryptor charges Zane, clenching his fist and driving it full force into his shoulder before bringing his knee up into Zane's gut thrice. This elicits a sharp cry of pain from the blonde as he topples over. The other nindroids laugh, gathering around Cryptor and Zane in a loose circle.
"The original nindroid. You're nothing more than a tin can with legs." Cryptor spits with evident distaste, gaze seizing up the ninja before him briefly.
The nindroids cackle again, seemingly enjoying the 'entertainment'. Cryptor hoists his opponent into the air by the scruff of his gi, glaring at him. Zane has a trickle of oil running from the side of his mouth and dripping down his chin. They stare into each other's eyes for a moment.
"Just an old, outdated relic scrapped together by some loonie," Cryptor jeers softly with a smirk. Zane's eyes narrow and his teeth clench together at that, and he aims a hard kick at his opponent's chest. However, while that would have really hurt a human, it appears to do little as Cryptor thrusts him forwards and flings his body to the ground. Lightning splinters the darkened sky overhead. The nindroid general laughs as he strolls over, "Just as I thought. You're just a weak, pathetic rust bucket."
Jay couldn't take much more of this. He closes his eyes for a minute, trying to block out the sound, but he can still hear Zane's pained shouts and Cryptor's taunting. When he re-opens them, his face feels terribly wet, as though he were standing in a blowing gale. His brother is now at Cryptor's feet, badly damaged.
Half of Zane's face has been cut off, and his chest is torn open. He's on his knees, barely supported by his shaking arms, and he groans from the intense pain he must be in. He glances around and spots Jay, hiding in the grass. Their eyes lock. Hazel orbs meet cyan, but after a moment Zane collapses.
Cryptor swings Zane over his shoulder before he pulls out a device and presses a button, "Did it work?" The Overlord's voice issues from the device. Jay shudders. Just hearing that voice scares him. "Yes, my Lord, the nindroid came just like you said," Cryptor answers.
He knew Zane would come?!
"Good. The Mech Dragon will be arriving. Bring him to me. I want all nindroids under my control," the Overlord says. Sure enough, the Mech Dragon lands a minute later. It is a terrifying sight. It opens some sort of hatch on its hull, and the nindroids march inside.
"My Lord, why do you want the white ninja?" Cryptor asks hesitantly. He is still holding an unconscious, beat up Zane.
"Because he is one of the ninja. He knows all about them, and he has their data," the Overlord replies. "Also, he is the only ninja my powers can affect. I will show the white ninja he is fighting the wrong side, whether he wants it or not. All the Nindroids will belong to me." Cryptor marches onto the Mech Dragon along with Zane.
Zane awakens in Borg Industries. "Finally, you're awake," the Overlord says on a screen. "What do you want?" Zane asks, getting up shakily. He is still wounded, and the world spins as he stands. The Overlord just laughs in reply, "You, of course. You do not belong with the other ninja. What have they ever done for you? Besides, you are already mine. No matter what, you will join me."
"Never," Zane snaps.
"Perhaps some persuasion, then," Pixal enters the room. "Pixal?" Zane asks, shocked to see her. She gives no sign of recognition. Her eyes are blood red, emotionless. She approaches him, then attaches something to his neck. Immediately, the Overlord's voice fills his head.
You don't belong to them, Zane. They're not your family. You're a Nindroid.
Zane backs into a wall and sinks to the ground, panicking. He clutches his ears, trying to block out the Overlord's voice. But it is in vain.
They have never done anything for you. Yet you still fight beside them, you still fight against your own kind. You are the only nindroid among them. You're fighting the wrong side, Zane. Join me.
"Leave me ALONE!" Zane shouts. He wants to run, but there is nowhere to go. He is a prisoner, quite helpless in his cage of pain.
Give up. Join me. You are fighting your family, Zane. Give in. Join me. Join me...
Zane screams. Electrifying pain courses through him, contorting his body. Never in his entire life has he ever experienced such intense agony, crushing every artificial nerve in his body. Pain throbs so violently around his metal skull that he wonders why it doesn't just crack open.
If you refuse to give in willingly, I have other ways. Pain. Temptation. Reprogramming.
He feels numb; no, worse than numb, like jelly. Waves of pain wash through his mind, and all he can do is scream from the horrible pain he's in. Scream and scream and scream and scream-
And then the screams abruptly halt.
The long stretch of silence is only broken by a raspy, victorious chuckle from a computer screen.
Jay emerges from the grass looking pale and sickly.
"Jay!" Cole calls to him. Cole and Kai rush up to their grief-stricken friend.
"Are you okay? What happened?" Kai demands. Jay, after a few gasps of breath, chokes out, "I-it was a scam. Th-they p-p-planned the whole thing, th-hey knew Zane would go. It was a t-trap. Th-they said they w-w-were going to hack his systems, and I heard C-Cryptor talking to the O-Overlord. He said th-that—that Z-Z-Zane was—v-vital t-to..."
His voice breaks and he collapses. "Jay!" Cole exclaims, kneeling down. The blue ninja os pales with shock, his breaths quick and shallow. They help a shaking, shivering Jay up, and lead him to sit on a rock. "Jay, if we knew what was best for you, we would let you rest, take you to Sensei G's monastery, let you relax. But we need to know what happened. Please, Jay," Cole pleads, his amethyst eyes gazing into his friend's muted brown ones.
His soft brown eyes remain glassy for a moment, before he takes a shaky breath, "Th-they planned the whole thing f-from the start. K-kidnapping me, Kai and Zane f-finding Cole, Zane coming t-t-to t-trade himself. B-but while th-they were waiting, they b-beat me up. When Zane came, th-they let me go, but I h-hid in the grass and w-watched them. T-they were beating Zane up, and t-then the M-Mech Dragon arrived. Cryptor contacted the Overlord and t-told him they had Zane. T-then Cryptor asked why they needed him. And—t-the the Overlord s-said...said..." he suddenly gags, retching the contents of his stomach all over himself.
"Ew," Kai complains, wrinkling his nose. Cole stares Jay in the eye, ignoring the puke. "Jay, you need to tell me. What did the Overlord say about Zane?"
Jay gulps and wipes some vomit away, "He s-said t-that Z-Z-Zane was..was...'he is one of the Ninja. He knows all about them, and he has their data. I will show the White Ninja he is fighting the wrong side. All the Nindroids will belong to me,'" Jay quotes. "And that's his exact words."
Kai and Cole look at each other, and their brother suddenly groans, clutching his head. Waves of deep, throbbing pain mixed with sharp, stabbing agony assault him, and he releases a low whine from his lips.
"Jay?" Kai asks. Jay sways, before pitching forwards. "Jay!" Cole yells. He coughs up blood, chest heaving in a violent fit.
"We have to get him to the monastery. Now."