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an eighth of an inch across.

He sent a quick message to Isabelle. I've made a tiny hole in the wall. If you can push your shield through it, you might be able to break open a larger hole.

Her eyes flew wide and she turned to him. Her face was flushed and shiny with sweat, and the muscles in her neck stood out with tension. Spikes skated over the surface of her shield. She looked to the wall. The shimmering blue of her shield extended to the hole there, pouring itself through.

The buzzing of the spikes intensified. Then suddenly they broke off their attack, unsuccessful, and flew back into the mist. Galen aimed his staff toward the front door. If its fine beam could break through the reinforced wall, perhaps it could also break through Elizar's shield. There was so much energy and activity in the room, Galen's sensors were of little use, but he believed Elizar was still there.

He fired the beam.

Something slid over Galen, like a scarf slipping over his face. It was Isabelle's shield, he realized. It no longer protected him. A rumble grew in the wall behind him. The floor shook. As Galen looked over his shoulder, the wall exploded in a great hail. He jerked his head back around, raising an arm to protect himself. Something heavy slammed into him.

He found himself again on the floor, which now seemed to be tilting beneath him. His ears were ringing, and the air was heavy with dust. The fine beam still shot out of his staff. He stopped it, grabbed the staff, and dragged himself out from under the rubble.

Isabelle, he wrote.

She, too, was pulling herself free. In the dim light, he saw a trickle of blood running down beside her eye. He pushed the debris away from her, glanced toward the wall. The hole was about a foot above the floor, big enough to crawl
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