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conjure a misshapen sphere? Isabelle took the sensor-pad from his hand.

"Excuse me," Galen said, and entered the training area.

Kell took Galen's seat on the bench and exchanged a few words with Isabelle. She nodded, and he generated the shield in her place.

Elric took hold of Galen's chrysalis. "Control. Presentation. Originality."

Galen focused inward, slowing his breathing, relaxing his muscles, straightening his posture. He closed his eyes, picturing his mind as a blank screen on which equations could be written.

He did some warm-ups first with balls of fire. He maintained control, although Kell was sitting right in front of him, his intense dark gaze distracting.

Galen tried to ignore him and went on to conjure his tribute to Wierden. He knew Elric would be impatient, but he wanted to show Kell-and Isabelle-that he could do something. Isabelle held the sensor-pad up to study his work. The tribute came off perfectly. Isabelle and a few others clapped; Kell showed no reaction.

Elric cleared his throat impatiently. Galen could visualize him with the three frown lines between his eyebrows. No point delaying further; it was time to try the equation he'd discovered, the one with the single term.

He didn't bother with any fancy gestures. If the spell did nothing, he'd look even more foolish. He closed his eyes, saw the blank screen. On it, he imposed the simple equation.

He expected the faint echo of confirmation from the chrysalis. Instead, the instant he visualized the equation, energy surged up around him in a massive, overwhelming wave. It seemed to gather itself, for a moment. Then it fell upon him, layer upon layer upon layer, the energy crushing him with suffocating concentration. He gasped, his eyes snapping open.

The molecules of the
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