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in front of the doorway showed clearly on his sensors, with no interference. Something within the doorway, some shape within the mist, was a source of static.

The Drakh sat up. "You have been most clever," he said in his arid voice. He spoke English. "I commend you." The Drakh's eyes were in shadow; Galen couldn't tell if they were open or not. But the Drakh couldn't be awake. The tranq had been strong enough-they thought-to keep him out half the day.

"I told you what I thought you wanted to hear," the Drakh said. "I hope you don't mind. I found your questions intriguing. I wanted to see what you would ask. And now I will ask. Why do you come here? Why do you ask me this?"

Except for his mouth, the Drakh did not move at all. His head hung downward, his arms limp. He looked like a marionette held up by a single string. You must follow the strings from puppet to puppet master, Elric had said.

"It was a prank," Isabelle said in a wavering voice.

Heart pounding, Galen scanned higher frequencies, searching for any kind of energy that could be holding the Drakh up, that could be making him speak. Galen almost ran past it, the energy was in such a focused, narrow band. It was exciting the lower outcropping of the Drakh's brain, the area whose purpose Osiyrin had been unable to explain.

"You are young," the Drakh said. "Forget this matter, and it will be forgotten. Or if you truly seek knowledge, join me. My associates can offer you great knowledge. The secrets of the universe. Is that not what every techno-mage seeks?"

Isabelle's blue-tinged shield suddenly unfolded and extended to form a barrier across the room, between them and the doorway. The static-filled silhouette was moving through the dim mist toward them. Isabelle's fingers worked furiously.

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