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Gali glanced at Tahu, wondering what the Fire Toa had in mind. She gasped as she saw his mask begin to glow a fiery orange and morph into an odd, primitive shape.

“Tahu!” she exclaimed. “What are you doing?”

“Something I hoped I would never have to do,” Tahu replied hollowly. “Something that could mean the end of everything. I call upon – the Great Mask of Time!”

Gali felt her heart constrict with terror. “Then you may have doomed us all,” she whispered bleakly.

She was distracted by an echoing voice drifting up from the cavern below. “Free us, my children!” it wailed joyfully.

“Yes!” a second voice joined the first. “Unlock this prison, my children, and set us free!”

“The Bohrok queens,” Tahu said. “I’m going in.”

Without waiting for agreement, he levitated downward. Gali followed along with the other Toa. Soon she was low enough to see into the cavern beyond the cube, where the enormous, monstrous forms of Cahdok and Gahdok were barely visible beyond a hazy wall.

The Bahrag soon spotted the Toa Nuva as well. “You are too late!” Cahdok howled, her words slightly garbled by the mass of protodermis that was holding her hostage.

As her feet touched the stone floor, Gali glanced worriedly at Tahu. He was standing beside her, his head bowed in concentration.

“Gali, I must use this power,” he said. “I must master it – or all is lost.”

“But if you fail,” she said urgently. “Mata Nui will fall. All of reality may be undone!”

The Vahi glowed brightly. “Then I will not fail,” Tahu said grimly.

Gali held her breath as a ripple of energy radiated out from Tahu’s mask. The air seemed to quiver as the time energy moved through it.

The Vahi’s energy struck the Bohrok-Kal just as they raised their clawed arms to move the icons into place. Their movements slowed more and more, until the motion was barely perceptible.

“It’s working!” Onua cried in relief.

For a moment, Gali shared his joy. Then she glanced at Tahu. His hands were clenched into fists, and every muscle of his body quivered uncontrollably.

“I can’t… hold back time… much longer!” Tahu gasped, his voice twisted with exertion. “Go! Get our symbols back!”

The other five Toa Nuva leaped forward as one. As Gali headed toward the Nuhvok-Kal, she could see its krana-kal. Despite the time slowdown, it still appeared to be pulsing evenly.

Gali paused, staring at it as it shimmered and glowed. Was the time mutation playing tricks with her eyes, or was it – changing?

“Hold on,” she said to the others. “Something’s happening. Their krana-kal are changing – turning silver.”

Kopaka moved forward for a better look. He was stopped a short distance away, as if he’d just run into a wall. “A field of energy surrounds them,” he said grimly. “In the final moments before they complete their task, they must be protected from all harm. Even the slowing of time could not stop it.”

“Forgive me if I test your theory,” Onua said, hurling a chunk of stone at the Bohrok-Kal with all his might.

ZZZZZZZZZK!

The stone struck the force field and disintegrated. Gali shook her head worriedly as she glanced at Tahu, who was still shaking with the effort to control the Great Mask of Time.

Lewa shuddered. “It’s over,” he said. “Even when we still had our powers, we were barely able to fightsnare the Bahrag at their ordinary strength. We’ve failed. Failed our villages, our people…

For once, words seemed to desert the Air Toa, and he merely shook his head to complete his point. Gali glanced around the group. The other Toa Nuva looked just as dejected as Lewa. Onua was staring in disbelief at the spot where the stone had disintegrated. Nearby, Pohatu was shifting his weight nervously from one foot to the other. Kopaka said nothing as usual, staring fixedly at the Bahrag in their glutinous cage. And for the first time since she’d known him, Gali saw defeat lurking in Tahu’s eyes.

But Gali herself was not yet ready to give up. Unity – duty – destiny – so far, the Matoran creed had never failed them.

“Remember,” she said thoughtfully, “we have always had the most success when we have been willing to dig deep inside our hearts and risk everything – even our very selves…”

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