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one panel. Nothing. No discernible gap, no screws that he could undo. Every panel fit flush to the next. If not for the unique lighting patterns on each panel, he wouldn't have known they served a separate purpose. And everything was red now, which made it even more difficult to see the difference.

This would be a great way to go, he thought. Trapped in the claustrophobic confines of some miniature call girl's boudoir. In the past, Vance had the opportunity to consider his own death on numerous occasions, and this was certainly not the end he envisioned for himself. As he ran his fingers down the edge of one of the other panels he heard a soft click. The panel gave slightly under the pressure of his fingers, and he dug his nails beneath one edge. Gently he forced the panel back, and it twisted on an invisible hinge to reveal wires. Had they been different-coloured wires, Vance might have been infused with some hope. Even if he could not decipher what each one did, he could have experimented with them. Unfortunately the wires were all an identical pale blue. Each one was a simple neon strip with coruscating light flowing through it.

At first the situation seemed hopeless, but then Vance realised the flowing light meant there had to be some power left. Perhaps the shutdown of systems was allowing the Nial to repair itself of whatever problem afflicted it. Maybe there was hope yet. With no other course of action open to him, Vance decided to fall back on his lessons, which had not let him down yet. Crossing his hands over his chest, he closed his eyes and began to control his breathing. In the shortest time it had ever taken him, Vance found himself in a meditative state, achieving total calmness of body and mind.

In no time at all, Vance opened his eyes to see the
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