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with the reality. If they abandoned the galaxy in its time of greatest need, the order Elric had thought they were would cease to exist.

Blaylock had averted his eyes as Alwyn's recording played; now he looked up, and his gaunt face seemed shaken. He spoke slowly. "Elric, I understand your impulse. It is difficult to see a galaxy about to descend into war and chaos, and do nothing. I, too, have feelings for these beings. Yet war and chaos will come no matter what we do. They have come before, and they will come again. We have devoted ourselves to learning and understanding. If we abandon that now for war, then who is ever to bring greater understanding to the universe? Who is ever to break the cycle of war and death?"

Blaylock had great dreams, Elric thought, but the reality was that billions would die, and he would have the mages stand by and do nothing. "I do not think," Elric said, "that the cycle can ever be broken. Only that we must do good to the limit of our abilities. As for any understanding we may someday offer the universe"-Elric straightened, determined to say at last what none of them would say-"it seems likely to me now that all paths lead to our end."

Herazade brought her palms flat against each other, raised her praying hands to her lips. "I support Blaylock's plan. Create a place of safety, to which we can withdraw as soon as possible."

"I as well," said Ing-Radi. She extended a hand toward Elric. "I am sorry, Elric. We have a responsibility to our order, to keep them safe. I believe, against this enemy, we have no choice."

"Then it is decided," Elric said. They would hide and let the galaxy burn. His vision of the techno-mages, if it ever had been reality, was no longer. He felt himself drifting away from them, even while he knew he must
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