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the ship. In the past, the additional echo had often threatened his control, sending thoughts and feelings reflecting back and forth between ship and implants, building in a rapid, swelling reverberation. Now he felt only the elements of his mind-focusing exercise echoing back to him, orderly, reassuring.

A menu of options appeared in his mind's eye. He lowered the ramp, climbed it beside Blaylock. They passed into the ship's plain, black interior, and with the whisper of silk Blaylock's shield withdrew.

"Elric would want a long life for you," Blaylock said.

Galen set his things down against the wall.

"I opposed him in many things, and I regret nearly all of them. He advocated revealing the origin of the tech long ago. I thought it would encourage capitulation to those instincts. You have proven me wrong. And Gowen paid the price for my lack of faith."

Blaylock did not understand. The instincts were there, and the mages were succumbing to them. Knowing the truth would make no difference. "Elric once said this, and I agree with him. All paths lead to our destruction."

"In that, I will hope he was mistaken." Blaylock studied him in silence. When Blaylock spoke again, his voice was harsh. "If you do not return, Galen, your loss will be sorely felt." He withdrew into the air lock and bowed. "The blessing of Wierden upon you."

Galen inclined his head. He closed the door and turned his mind to departure, selecting one option after another on his menu, the ship eagerly echoing his commands. Quickly he powered up the engines, activated the sensors, checked the long-unused systems.

When everything was ready, he contacted Blaylock and Herazade, directed the ship to accept their control. In his mind's eye, the sensors provided an image of the space all around
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