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I should be locked away in a laboratory somewhere."

"How do you know," Isabelle said, "that she cannot change?"

"People are what they are." Galen took the crumpled napkin, looked toward the door. "She has married three husbands who abused her trust. She will not change. I am bad with people. I will not change."

"You don't believe people can transcend themselves? That they can learn and grow and become greater than they once were?"

"I believe we can learn. But I believe, at base, we will always be the same."

"I believe that people can transcend themselves," Isabelle said. "In fact, I believe the universe is designed for the express purpose of helping them do so."

Galen turned to her. "Are you saying you believe in God?"

"If God is what we call the mind who designed the universe, yes."

The death of his parents had taught him that there was no God. "But how can you believe in God? We simulate miracles. We create the appearance of magic. We, more than any others, know that no true magic exists."

"The true magic," Isabelle said, "is science. Science reveals a consistency, a design underlying all things. I see evidence of God every day, in every thing. This universe did not arise by chance. There is a pattern. It is a pattern I would like to learn to weave."

"But the existence of scientific laws doesn't mean there has to be a God. Matter itself dictates them."

"What is matter but an expression of God?"

Debating the existence of God with Isabelle-as doing anything with her-carried an element of pleasure. But the topic was one that had always made him uncomfortable. Even angry. Had God then killed his parents to fulfill some cosmic pattern? The tech within him echoed his anger, surging with agitating energy. He enunciated harshly. "Would you admit
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