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inert too." Burell's uneven green eyes pleaded with him.

Panic welling up, Galen grabbed Isabelle, driving her back into a table covered with equipment. "Wait!" he said. "Stop!"

"We have to try it! I have to try!" Isabelle ripped her arms free. The blue tinge of a defensive shield snapped over her body. With a flash of her fingers she conjured a fireball in one hand. Her eyes shone with reflected flames, and her lips articulated with fierce precision. "Don't stand in my way."

Galen's body raced with the instinctive need to defend itself, just as it had with Elizar. He had no talent for shields. The only defense was a counterattack. Galen fought the urge, the sudden surge of energy driving through him like a cataract.

"You would invade me against my wishes?" Burell said.

"I can't let you die. I have to heal you. I've waited too long already." Isabelle's face was flushed.

The fireball's heat burned into Galen's skin. He held tightly to the racing energy searching for outlet. He must keep control.

Anger rose within him, anger that she would dare to threaten him. She knew what he could do. Her shield would be no defense against it. Why would she tempt him?

"You can't heal me, Isabelle. This is no disease of the body. If you try to heal my implants, if your tech connects to mine, yours will become inert as well."

"You don't know that," Isabelle pleaded. "You have to let me try."

"I can't. I couldn't stand to lose you. You are the one beautiful thing that has come out of my life. The one thing that tells me why I was here at all. I'm so proud of you.

"My time is passing. But yours is to come. That is my great joy. Please don't take it from me."

Isabelle shut her eyes, and tears ran down a face hard with anger. She closed her hand over the fireball,
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