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course and was preparing to form a jump point for the drop into normal space. Elric's ship would follow.

He formed the jump point, an immense vortex of orange with a tiny heart of blackness at its very center. With a great rush of speed he was sucked into it. For an instant the ship's readings went blank, and he lost all sense of direction or movement.

Then the calm blackness of normal space appeared around him. He looked anxiously toward the jump point behind him, now a swirling blue. From the eye of the vortex Elric's ship emerged.

They were on the outskirts of the Selic system. Here all the mages were gathering in preparation for their flight to the hiding place. The system and those surrounding it were unoccupied, unfriendly to life and of little commercial interest. The gathering place was on the fourth planet, where two hundred years ago a religious cult had built a retreat. Poor organization and corruption had left many of the loyal believers without food, and those who hadn't been able to flee on the few available ships had died after a brief descent into cannibalism.

Elric had commented that he hoped their use of the facility would be more successful.

Blaylock had discovered the unused facility some years ago, and had proposed it to the Circle as the perfect place for the mages to cloister themselves from outsiders and focus on realizing their destiny: forming a perfect union with the tech. Although the Circle had rejected his proposal then, they had realized Selic 4 was the perfect place for them to gather now in secrecy. The facility had required numerous repairs and upgrades to sustain them for even this short time, but under the direction of Blaylock, the work had quickly been completed.

As Galen's ship moved past the massive fifth planet,
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