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the pain, though, overwhelmed by it.

Circe conjured a platform beneath him, lifted him from the bed. "I will help you." She folded the platform into the shape of a chair. His body slumped.

In his mind's eye, Jab remained snuggled against Fa, and Jab's regular breathing sounded softly in his ear.

Circe opened the door and, with a touch to the platform, directed it out into the empty hallway.

The warm mist wrapped around him, comforting him.

The next thing he knew, they had stopped. He floated before the observation room door. "Can you admit us?" Circe said.

Elric visualized a connection between himself and the room's systems. They requested his authorization, and he sent the key. The door opened.

Galen was not there.

The chair propelled him inside. With effort Elric turned his head back toward Circe. She closed the door behind them and, with a precise motion, touched her withered index finger to it. A pale blue shimmer spread from the point of contact to cover the door and the surrounding wall.

Elric's head drooped forward.

The platform chair turned until he faced her. Beneath the brim of her hat, Circe's face was in shadow, but for her lips. They stretched in a smile. "Galen must have gone to tell the rest of the Circle. He told me where the evidence was. If you give me access to the system, I will find it for you."

Slowly Elric felt his mind returning to him. She had conjured a defensive shield, sealing them inside. Her claim was a ruse. Circe had abandoned her commitment to good, and to solidarity. The small ember of hope she had ignited in him died.

He took a deep breath, focused through the pain, and pulled his tired body erect. "I will not give you access."

Circe shook her head with exaggerated puzzlement. "But don't you want to
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