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" Gowen glanced nervously toward Blaylock. "In his quest to become one with the tech, he has encouraged his systems to intertwine with it more intimately than most of ours do. I fear the destruction of his place will lead to the failure of his body. He will not make any concessions. He treats himself harshly."

Blaylock's voice rang across the hangar. "Gowen, if you have need to discuss me, do me the courtesy of speaking in my presence."

"Yes, Blaylock," Gowen called.

"His hearing seems unimpaired," Galen said.

Gowen started across the hangar toward Blaylock, looking anxiously back at Galen. Galen gave a single nod. He doubted that either he or Blaylock would return from their task, but he would do his best to keep Blaylock well.

Gowen smiled, nodding back.

As Gowen bowed before his teacher for a final good-bye, Galen saw that Elric had joined Blaylock and the others. After a few moments, Elric took his leave from them, coming toward Galen. His movements again seemed stiff, brittle. He looked tired. Galen met him.

"You will depart?" Galen asked.

"Yes," Elric said.

They stood in silence. Galen didn't know what to say. There was so much he had never said. It was too late now. There was no time.

"Do not make me see you to the other side," Elric said.

Galen nodded. He didn't want to let Elric go. He wanted to run with Elric to the hiding place, to keep Elric safe there.

"Galen!" Blaylock's voice carried across the hangar. "Come."

He had failed to say the words to her, and they had haunted him ever since. Yet still he could not say them to Elric. She was wrong. She had said he could transcend himself, but he could not. He was who he was.

"Be careful," he said, beginning to move toward Blaylock. The words sounded empty, weak.

"I am glad
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