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expanded, becoming feet, tens of feet. Blaylock turned toward him, and Blaylock's forehead stretched high, snaking upward as if it had become ductile.

Above, the black spikes of the Shadow ship began to waver. Galen accessed his sensors, found massive energy, massive instability concentrated in the spherical membrane. Within the membrane he could no longer see the point of red light; inside was uniform darkness. The sphere suddenly began to contract, revealing a clean, scalloped edge where it had cut into the ship. The blackness within it faded toward grey.

If the membrane retained its integrity, as he hoped, then the section of the ship within the sphere would fade and vanish, pinched off into a separate universe, an unstable one in the midst of collapse. As this new universe imploded, the spherical section of the ship would be crushed to nothingness.

If instead the membrane failed, its energies might fly out like a mini Big Bang. The contents of the two universes would mix, and if the physical laws governing them differed, they could trigger a huge chain reaction of destruction.

The sphere was continuing to shrink, fading to the pale grey of the glowing night sky behind it. The energy levels dropped to a more normal range, as if the membrane and what was within it were vanishing from existence. Time snapped back to its regular pace, and Galen's lung retracted to its normal size. He gasped.

The small, pale sphere faded away, and a great rolling thunderclap split the air. For a moment, in the aftermath, he couldn't hear anything. Then, out of the thick silence, arose a shriek.

The Shadow ship climbed higher, a spherical area cut from the front edge of its body. Galen stood, his brief sense of normalcy vanishing in a strange rush of sensation. At the same
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