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credits," Galen said.

She nodded and opened her small handbag, pressing it into her stomach as she searched carefully through the ragged papers inside.

Galen studied her anxiously. He understood the mechanics of gathering information on people, but he often drew the wrong conclusions from that information. At least, his conclusions were often contrary to Isabelle's. Her "predictions" seemed to come out of the blue, yet her customers invariably expressed amazement at their accuracy.

Of course, Galen knew that if people expected to find a relationship between two things-between their lives and the predictions of a fortune-teller, for example-then they would find a relationship. They would ignore ten off-base statements and focus on the one that most connected to their concerns, astonished by the accuracy of the fortune-teller. But he wondered if he would be able to make that one correct statement.

He had practiced fortune-telling only a handful of times in the past, preferring to focus on the tech and its abilities rather than on a performance talent that even a nonmage could develop. Since the main qualities needed for fortune-telling were showmanship and an understanding of Human nature, Galen wasn't terribly good at it.

The woman handed her credit chit to him. He pushed it into the credit reader on the table, watched as her name and account number came up on the display. He visualized the equation for information access, then ran her name and number through various databases.

She sat. He deducted five credits from her card and returned it. She slipped it carefully into her handbag.

Her name was Mary Stein. She was married, forty-six years old. Galen quickly retrieved her financial records. She had 117 credits in her account.

"I'd like you to take
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