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stop you."

Elric gave a single nod.

"How do you know you can trust me?"

"Because you believe in good, as do we. And because you still dream."

John laid the orange blossom on the desk. "Tell me your plan. Don't leave anything out. If it breaks no laws, as you say, I'll give you everything you need."



* * *



Galen's thoughts still felt fuzzy, disjointed. Hunched over on the floor, he panted in short, shallow breaths, each one stabbing sharply into his side. His sense of balance remained uncertain. He needed both hands braced on the floor to keep from falling over. Carefully he pushed himself back until his good leg was folded beneath him. His bad leg remained splayed out to the side. When he tried to bend it, an incredible pain shot through him.

"Another one bites the dust," Bunny said. "You guys are getting a bit boring at this point. There's no challenge."

"Leave us," Elizar said. "Galen and I must speak privately."

Galen struggled to focus, to understand.

This was how they'd subdued Kell, he realized. And he'd walked right into the trap.

They must have done the same to Blaylock. But for some reason Blaylock's higher brain functions had been shut down along with the tech. Why? He remembered Gowen saying something-something about Blaylock's health. 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. Perhaps Blaylock's brain had become so linked to the implants that only its most basic processes could function without them. In that case, if the tech was turned back on, Blaylock might recover.

Being without it was an awful, sickening sensation. Galen might have imagined a simple loss of power, a return to the way his body had felt before receiving his implants.
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