Greybeard limped up the mountainside. He had not slept for many days, his throat was parched from the lack of water, and his body ached from head to toe. It did not help that, despite living as a pirate for most of his life, he had no experience with a peg leg. Unfortunately, a Stromling encounter left him without a right leg, forcing him to use a small piece of debris as a makeshift peg leg.
He tripped and fell to the dirt. Summoning what little strength he still had, he tried to rise to his feet once more, only to collapse once more. Two of his teammates, Alpha Team special agent Magma and D.I.N.O. Attack helmsman Bart "Helmie" Helmutson, approached the old pirate and helped him to his feet.
"Thank ye," Greybeard whispered, though it hurt to speak.
"Come on," Magma nodded slowly, though his voice carried a hint of urgency and bitterness. "It's just a little further. We're almost at the summit."
Greybeard sighed and shook his head. "Avast... I... be not thinkin' I be able to make it thar... it be too far..."
Still, physically supported by Magma and Helmie, Greybeard managed to climb the remainder of the mountainside. Upon reaching the summit, the rock flattened out and their destination was revealed: a temple devoted to Imagination, the pure and creative essence of the LEGO Universe.
The old pirate was escorted inside. Weary, he sat down upon the first chair he could find. Looking around, Greybeard saw several scientist minifigs hard at work. Some of them were operating computers which provided satellite-fed images of LEGO Planet.
Glancing at the nearest computer, Greybeard bit his lip. The images were not anything like the maps he was used to... every continent was smaller, oceans were much vaster, and most islands had been wiped off the face of the world. Overhearing what the others were talking about, Greybeard knew his suspicions were confirmed. Devastating tidal waves flooded much of the world over the past weeks, and they were continuing even now.
"So, this be it?" Greybeard murmured. It could not have been more than twelve minifigs in the temple.
Grimly, a battle-scarred pilot named Rotor nodded. "Unfortunately. This is all that is left."
Helmie blinked in surprise. "Wait... what about our teams in McKinley? Everest? Bricklake?"
"They're gone," Professor David Norman shook his head. "An earthquake just shattered the state of Alaska, taking our outpost down with it. We lost contact with the Everest headquarters about five minutes ago... but it seems that they were overtaken by Stromlings. As for Bricklake... we have heard nothing from the Gaia Squad."
Greybeard sighed. "At least all the people down in Antarctica be safe. They be far from the coast and Alpha Team built the refugee facilities with any disaster in mind, earthquakes included."
Everyone stared at the old pirate with expressions of surprise, sadness, and pity. Greybeard widened his one good eye. "No... ye mean...?"
Semick, a former Power Miner, rotated a computer-generated globe on his computer screen so that the South Pole was facing Greybeard. "This... this is what's left of Antarctica."
Greybeard was at a loss for words. He could only stare at the image on the screen with an expression of horror. A massive ocean which had never before existed now occupied the center of the continent. Only the Antarctic coast was spared, and with all the recent floods, it would not last long.
"The refugee facilities were hit with full force," Semick explained. "Stromlings, storms, earthquakes... the facilities did not stand a chance... I..." With that, the Power Miner fell to the floor and started to weep. Professor Norman laid his hand on Semick's shoulder, though his face betrayed grief as well. Looking around, Greybeard saw the same expression of sadness and hopelessness on the faces of all other minifigs.
Greybeard sighed. They all had connections in Antarctica. Family, friends, close ones... and now, they were left with nothing. Greybeard was different. "I ain't got a family," he whispered. "Nobody. I cannot even possibly imagine how ye all must feel."
"You had Frozeen, Rex, and a few others," shrugged Helmie. "They were kinda like family to you."
Greybeard stared at the floor. "Rex and Frozeen met their ends back at the Maelstrom Temple. Amanda... that lass survived long enough to help me escape that cursed island. King Joseph Race be killed by Maelstrom Dragons in Castle Cove. Aster be dead since the LEGO Island mission. Sir Robert Batrick and Edward X. Plore likely be killed in Antarctica. I... I be the only one left of me family, if ye consider friends' family." A single tear ran down his cheek, as he too felt that feeling of hopelessness.
He saw some minifigs kneeling before a floating and glowing Imagination orb in the center of the temple. Greybeard knew that they were praying to whatever deities they believed in... Builder, Creator, the First Builders, Ole Kirk Christiansen... Greybeard was always a little skeptical of these beliefs, but he knew that the current situation provided good reason for even hardcore scientists to turn to prayer.
The existence of LEGO Planet was coming to a very abrupt end.
"Ye'd think that the end of the Dino Attack be a cause fer celebration," Greybeard muttered. "Doctor Rex be killed, his organization, Xenon Elite Researchers Regarding Dinosaurs, be disbanded..."
"And it would have been," Magma frowned, "if D.I.N.O. Attack team or its allies had brought XERRD's existence to an end. If that were the case, it would have been our victory. But as it is, it was only the victory for the Maelstrom."
Rotor pointed an accusing finger at Greybeard. "It's all your fault anyway, pirate!" he snapped. "We warned you! It was a trap!"
David Norman's eyes widened. "Rotor!" he gasped. "How could you possibly - "
"No, he's right," Magma shook his head. "It is Greybeard we have to thank for all of this." Greybeard could see that the Alpha Team agent now bore scars that were not there only a month or two ago during the Antarctica mission. He wondered if these had hardened the already-serious black-ops special agent.
"Alas, thar be much truth in that accusation," Greybeard said quietly. "But if we are to survive, we must put the past behind us and work together."
"Survive!" spat Rotor. "That's a fool's hope at best! The Mutant Dinosaurs were turned into mindless powerhouse minions for the Maelstrom and laid waste to the LEGO Planet in their rampage. Their destructive nature caused them to wipe themselves out, but not before they reduced LEGO City to a pile of rubble and burned forests and jungles to the ground."
Doctor Cyborg, a XERRD scientist who defected to D.I.N.O. Attack, gestured to the satellite images on his computer. "Even with the Mutant Dinosaurs wiped out," he added, "the Maelstrom has the foothold it needed on LEGO Planet. It controls the earth, the water, even the air. Floods and violent storms left entire regions in ruin, and earthquakes opened up where they had never been before and swallowing large chunks of land. Worse, many unfortunate minifigures were corrupted into Stromlings and are finishing the job of the Mutant Dinosaurs."
"Like that Zachary kid," muttered a shady figure standing alone and isolated from the group. From what Greybeard had heard, he was an Egyptian codenamed "Dust" who was thought to have connections to the Maelstrom Temple. Greybeard and Frozeen did not know if Dust's temple was the correct one; they were able to find the temple on their own.
"Yes," nodded D.I.N.O. Attack agent Minerva Fabello, her voice quiet and saddened. "Like Zachary. Poor kid didn't stand a chance against the Maelstrom's temptations."
"Actually," Doctor Cyborg shook his head, "I believe that a XERRD scientist had infected him with a serum or something. Our research showed that he would be able to control the Maelstrom, not fall to it... I think XERRD did not want such a thing to happen."
Magma pointed to the Imagination orb in the center of the temple. "And we are here because the Imagination in this temple protects us... for at least a little longer. Its position atop a mountain should have made it safer from the floods. If any Stromlings dare to approach... may Builder show them mercy."
Greybeard glanced over at the minifigs in prayer. "It be no use, and I be thinkin' ye know that," he sighed. "All the signs be pointin' towards it... the end be comin'."
One of the computers started beeping. Doctor Cyborg glanced at it, then ran over to Magma with urgent news. "A Mutant T-Rex was just spotted near the coast!" he shouted. "It's heading right for the temple!"
Magma grimaced. He grabbed the nearest weapon, a Cosmotronic Ray with very little ammo, and proclaimed: "Then we must dispose of the wretched thing!"
He left the temple, accompanied by Doctor Cyborg, Rotor, Helmie, Dust, and Minerva Fabello. Greybeard too shared distaste towards Mutant Dinos, but something felt wrong. Frowning, he rose from his seat and limped after them.
Outside, they could see the Mutant T-Rex. It was wounded and limping, as well as dripping with water. Interestingly, the T-Rex bore blue scales and more spines than the standard Mutant T-Rex. Suddenly recognizing the T-Rex, Greybeard jumped in front of Magma with his arms out.
"Belay that!" the old pirate shouted. "This one be innocent of any crime! She be wounded and needin' our help, not our weapons!"
"Stand aside, Greybeard," Magma ordered. "We're not taking any chances."
"She be Tex!" explained Greybeard. "Helmie, ye remember that nestin' grounds in the Goo Caverns? That Mutant T-Rex adopted by that Sauro-Hunter lad?"
Helmie struggled to remember, but then slowly nodded his head. "Yes... I remember. Her exposure to Green Goo at birth mutated her even further, and somehow between that and Sauro-Hunter's guidance, she is completely free of Maelstrom."
"How do we know that's her?" Magma frowned.
Doctor Cyborg pulled out his old PDA and accessed the D.I.N.O. Attack Database. Surprisingly, it was still active. "Says here that she's the only survivor of her kind," Cyborg murmured, "the Mutant Dinos that were mutated in the Goo Caverns I mean."
"And she's a member of the Gaia Squad," added Rotor, peering over Cyborg's shoulder. "So she was in Mount Bricklake while Fabello, Cyborg, Greybeard, Dust, and I were in Adventurers' Island."
"She might have come bearing news from the Gaia Squad!" Minerva's eyes widened. "We must find out at once! Magma, listen to me, we have to - "
"I heard you the first time," snapped Magma. He locked eyes with Greybeard, then sighed. "Alright."
"I understand yer doin' what ye must to ensure that we survive fer as long as possible," Greybeard nodded, stepping aside. "But remember that our survival also depends on working together, says I."
By the time they reached Tex, she had already collapsed and was breathing heavily. She opened her eyes and saw the approaching minifigs. "Friends..." she whispered. "Please... I need help..."
"Where be our medics?" frowned Greybeard.
"Dead," Magma shook his head. "Zenna, Pierce, Enter, Return, Medic, Einstein... they've all perished."
"I may be able to help," Cyborg spoke up. "Due to my experience with XERRD, I am very familiar with the biology of a Mutant Dino."
"Come, lass," Greybeard whispered to the fallen Mutant T-Rex, his voice soft and soothing. "We must get ye to the temple." He could not help but recall that their first encounter resulted in his attempted murder of Sauro-Hunter. He had come a long way since then. Strangely, Greybeard could sense that Tex was thinking the same thing.
Supported by Greybeard, Magma, Rotor, Fabello, Cyborg, and Dust, Tex made it as far as the summit, but collapsed once more before she could make it to the temple. "It's ... no use..." she breathed heavily. "I... am too weak..."
"What happened to the Gaia Squad?" inquired Magma.
"The Maelstrom... tore Mount Bricklake apart..." she explained. "The entire region... flooded... I survived... but I was too late... to save the others..." Her entire body shook, and Greybeard realized that she was crying, just like Semick.
"I be so sorry," the old pirate murmured, rubbing her forehead with his right hand. "I know ye be connected to that Sauro-Hunter lad... his death must have been enough to horribly weaken ye."
"But I... swam... all the way here..." Tex continued.
"Swam?" repeated Dust skeptically. "All the way from Mount Bricklake? Impossible!"
"You'd be surprised," Helmie remarked. "She's got a lot in common with the titular monster from that Builderzilla movie."
"Why did you come here?" Magma questioned her, his voice tense and stern. "Do you come bearing a message? If so, say it now."
"Magma," frowned Minerva Fabello, "she's been through a lot. Give her a break."
"No..." Tex whispered. "I have to... The Maelstrom is going... to tear this planet... apart... today."
Before anyone could reply, they were approached by David Norman and Semick. "This is bad!" David bit his lip. "Very bad! Semick and I have come across recent data, and... well, you better take a look."
"As a Power Miner," explained Semick, "I know reasonably a lot about underground structures and stability. Our latest data shows that there is literally no stability in the LEGO Planet's structure anymore. It's all been destroyed by the Maelstrom."
"And look at this," Norman handed Magma his PDA, displaying the most recent satellite images of LEGO Planet. Everyone gathered around the Alpha Team agent to take a look. The LEGO Planet was surrounded by several bands of dark-purple energy.
"Look to the sky!" Rotor shouted. Greybeard glanced upward and saw that the sky itself seemed to be ablaze with purple fire. It was filled with a swirling vortex of dark clouds, lightning flashing from its center, complete with a dark purple tint.
"To the temple!" ordered Magma. "Now!"
The group rushed inside the Imagination Temple, only to see that those in prayer were stunned and silent. The Imagination orb in the center was starting to blink in and out of existence. There came a sound like thunder, and the orb vanished. In its place was something not dissimilar to a black hole, and all around it the temple began to collapse.
Magma, Greybeard, Helmie, Rotor, David, Semick, Dust, Minerva, and Cyborg rushed outside the temple seconds before it crumbled to the ground. The entire mountain shook as a neighboring mountain exploded, spraying molten lava into the air.
The group was gathered around Tex, who was still alive but unable to find the strength to stand up. "Ye didn't tell us that mountain be a volcano!" Greybeard shouted.
"... It isn't!" gaped Magma. "It has never erupted in all its existence!"
Fireballs burst out of the volcano, flying high into the sky. Heat washed over all those present as sparks and ashes rained down upon them. The very wind scorched their faces. Their mountain continued to shake, as though it too was about to erupt. "So, this is the end, then?" Helmie whispered.
Everyone looked at Magma, who for the first time in his life did not know what to do. He looked desperately at Greybeard, who looked at him with a solemn expression. The old pirate extended his right hand towards the Alpha Team agent.
Grim but understanding, Magma clasped Greybeard's hand with his own. "We're all in this together," he nodded.
One by one, the gathered minifigs took one another's hand; Greybeard gently laid his hook down upon Tex's claw. The entire group, accepting their fate, was united for one last time. Although the mountain shook viciously, they held their ground. They watched as the fireballs fell from above, bringing a fiery death with them. Every second felt like an hour.
As their impending doom neared, Greybeard knew there was one last thing he needed to do in this world. He locked eyes with every one of the other minifigs, then with Tex, then finally stared at his hook. Tears welled up in his eyes as he returned to gazing at the descending fireballs.
"Beatrice..." Greybeard whispered. "I forgive ye..."
The fireballs struck the mountainside. Almost simultaneously, the entire LEGO Planet trembled and then exploded into countless tiny fragments. There were no survivors.
The Maelstrom had finally won its ultimate victory.