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well, an awkward silence filling the cramped room.

"I'm sorry we have grown apart," Gowen said. "I know there are things that happened on the rim, of which you cannot tell me. I wish I understood. Even without understanding, I count myself your friend. I know that, without your help, Blaylock would not have returned from Thenothk. For that I am forever grateful."

Galen looked down, remembering how little he had cared for Blaylock's safety then.

Gowen gripped his arm, and Galen fought the urge to pull away. "Please don't do anything rash. Or anything that might bring you to harm. Blaylock speaks very highly of you, though I think you may not know it. He actually believes, of all of us, you may be closest to the tech."

A harsh bitter laugh escaped Galen, and Gowen jumped, releasing him.

"That is a compliment," Gowen said.

"I know. I'm sorry. You surprised me." Galen went to the door, pressed the control to open it. "Thank you for your help."

"I was glad for the opportunity." Gowen stepped out and bowed. "The blessing of Wierden upon you."

As Galen bowed, the door closed between them.

He straightened and stood still for a time, the exercises running through his mind, narrowing his focus, strengthening the walls around him. And then he did something he had not done since he'd arrived in this place. He knelt before the bottom dresser drawer and slid it open. Inside, the bloodstained scarf lay folded in a neat bundle, alone. It did not affect him as he feared it might.

He pulled off his gloves, set them to one side. He scooped out the neat bundle, sat with it on the bed. He ran his raw fingers over the bumpy, smudged surface.

She seemed so far away now. Her face, the sound of her voice, were lost to him. It was hard to believe that he had been
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