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what would you want? What would you want the power to do?"

The conversation had turned from Tilar's regret and curiosity to something else, something Galen didn't understand.

"For a techno-mage," Galen said, "can there be anything greater than to master control of the tech?"

"That is what I asked you," Tilar said.

Isabelle's hands closed into fists. "I would heal my mother."

Tilar smiled, and he didn't seem half as drunk as he had before. "I always dreamed of ruling an empire, as did Kwa-kiri and Neldonic. Or at the least to be like Frazur, who gave his blessing to the first emperor of the Centauri Republic and became the power behind the throne. As he said, 'Magic enables clever men to dominate others, become kings, set up the first states, and become immortalized as gods after death.' " His gaze lingered on Galen, almost as if in challenge. Then he took a long drink from his glass. "Instead, I issue orders from a barstool."

Isabelle was staring down at her fists, preoccupied.

"We should be leaving," Galen said. "The hotel seems safe for now, and Burell will be waking up soon."

Isabelle stood. "Yes. We should get back to her."

"Perhaps I'll see you again," Tilar said.

"Will you be long on Zafran 8?" Galen asked.

"My schedule is unpredictable. But I would imagine a few days more at least"

Galen dipped his finger into the packet of probes. He realized he should have planted a probe on Tilar earlier, when Tilar had first come over. The Centauri would be suspicious of any body contact at this point. Elric always told him to plan ahead. But Galen had been so surprised, he hadn't thought to plant a probe.

"It was good to see you again," Galen said.

"You'll pardon me if I don't stand," Tilar said. "My legs no longer seem to be functioning.
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