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level of integrity, and any irregularities. At this scale Galen's shield-before it collapsed- looked like a rigid blue grid with fairly large square openings in it. The screen on the pad, though, showed a solid, blue field.

Amazed, he magnified by another one hundred. The bluish surface was still solid, yet he could see now that it was made up of tiny threads of energy. They were woven together, warp and woof, so tightly as to leave no opening. The strength and elegance of it, the simplicity, awed him. The woven shield was self-contained, complete, a work of art. He had no idea how it had been conjured, but the concept now made sense to him in a way it hadn't before.

Using the sensor-pad, Galen searched for a connection between the shield and its maker. Perhaps he could receive further guidance from whichever master had made it. He found a tiny thread of energy extending from the shield, followed it carefully. It led to the intertwined hands of the person sitting to his right. The strong, slender fingers made slight movements, maintaining the shield with diligent care. The mage wore a black robe, and Galen was amazed to see she had a chrysalis. She was an apprentice like him. Yet he didn't recognize her. Long strawberry-blond hair was tucked behind her ear, which stuck out at an odd angle. A muscle traced the line of her neck. She turned to him, a curious expression on her face. "Hello," she said.

Suddenly he wanted to know everything about her, about the spells she performed, how she had learned to do them, what she liked to eat, what shapes she saw in the stars, whether she'd ever been in love, and why she wanted to be a techno-mage. He was filled with a great care and tenderness toward her, for her jug ears, her warm gray eyes, her strong, slender hands. He didn't
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