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"

He could send no message to Razeel to bargain, plead, or threaten; that channel was blocked to him. All he had was the probe. And the ring. Made by Galen's mother, given to Galen's father on his birthday, his death day. It would copy any data crystal with which it came into contact. That would do him no good. But perhaps the ring held other powers-the power to generate an illusion, or a shield, or something to help Fa.

After his initiation, he had made a halfhearted, unsuccessful attempt to access the ring's systems. It would respond only to his father and to those who knew his key. Failing to gain control of it, Galen had added a probe that would respond to his own key.

Now he must discover his father's key. He visualized the equation to access the ring's systems. It requested his authorization.

He tried to think what the key might be. It had been so long since his parents had died, and he had buried the memories of them so deeply-all that came to mind was the image of their shrouded remains floating supine behind Elric as he emerged from the fire of the spaceship crash. They hardly seemed real. He didn't remember. But he must remember.

His parents had been powerful mages, highly respected, working at the right and left hand of a corporate president who had risen to great influence. What key would his father have used? It could be anything. Numbers, significant or random; letters, of any alphabet; a name or quote or phrase, in any language; an image-or any combination. He tried whatever came to mind: the name of the corporation, the name of the corporate president, the words of the Code, and on, in different languages, different encryptions.

The ring did not respond.

His father, he now recalled, had always argued against the use of significant numbers
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