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to access the data his father had stored. But the ring had refused to respond. Just as Elric's probes were keyed to respond only to him and those who knew his code, the ring was keyed to respond only to its owner, his father. With an odd sense of relief, Galen had at last given up and had added his own probe, which only he could access.

The mages had learned to make probes very small and very smart. They required none of the tech of the Taratimude within them. Yet as a probe that would covertly observe and record its surroundings, the ring was a rather awkward device. A probe could be made now as small as a grain of dust, and those made by Circe and some of the other mages would cling to any surface, or move to a well-lighted location, or follow other directives. A ring was much more conspicuous and impractical. Yet perhaps he could find some use for it.

He forced the overstuffed valise closed and sealed it.

"You need one more thing," Elric said.

"I can't fit another thing," Galen said, turning to face Elric.

Across his open palms, Elric held a staff. Given during the welcoming ceremonies that ended the convocation, a staff or other gift of magic was a teacher's acknowledgment that his apprentice had become a mage. Elric nodded.

Over four feet long, the staff was a lustrous black, with golden etchings of circuits in finest filigree. It fit perfectly into Galen's hand, warm and smooth and balanced, as if a new limb had sprouted there.

"Associate," Elric said.

Galen looked to the chrysalis on his table, found that it was missing a small piece from the end of its "tail." Elric had incorporated it into the staff, making the staff a part of Galen, an extension of him. The staff was a combination of the advanced tech of the Taratimude, which powered the
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