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staff this time, and he took it in both hands. Vaguely warm, filled with potential, it felt like nothing so much as a sleeping snake. It was a snake he must learn to control, a snake that was part of him. Taking a calming breath, he visualized the equation to associate.

It awoke, echoing his equation. Its energy slipped into him. Galen braced himself for the intense parallelism he had felt before, and the staff echoed his apprehension. His anxiety increased; the increased anxiety echoed back. The echoes reflected back and forth, faster and faster, swelling in intensity, driving Galen toward fear.

He performed a mind-focusing exercise, pushing down the surge of energy and adrenaline. To his surprise, the staff's energy calmed easily. Galen realized that it was not so much the energy of the staff that caused the instability but the sudden linking, the parallelism that created the sense of an additional echo. The implants were much more powerful than the staff. Living with their restless, energetic undercurrent had made dealing with the staff easier.

The staff's menu of options appeared in his mind's eye. If the staff was like an additional arm, then the menu was like an array of tools available within reach of that arm. He held the end of the staff to the window, selected a narrow, low-energy beam. The staff echoed the command, and a narrow, yellow beam emerged. It cut quietly through the metaglass.

As it did so, Galen realized he had a message. It was from Elric. He left it. Whatever the news, it could wait until they had finished their task.

He conjured a flying platform inside the window, eased the glass onto it, and directed it gently to one side. Then he climbed in, and Isabelle followed. Galen activated his full array of sensors, alert for anything. The
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