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you will not question me! You're my apprentice. She's nothing to you!"

Each told him the sins of the other, the corporate machinations, the elaborate deceptions, the ruthless power plays. Each tried to secure his allegiance. Perhaps they'd once had love, of a sort, but they'd become locked in an endless battle for power.

He paced back and forth around his bed, hearing the crackle and whine of energies in the living room. His father yelled, more furious than ever. Shifting light leaked beneath the door, the red of scouring fire struggling for dominance with the blue-white of lightning. Galen did not want to hear, did not want to see. Yet he could not be still. This fight seemed different, their attacks more vicious, more determined.

He wished he were a mage; then he could stop them. Then he could make them stop.

His mother's vibrant, angry voice: "I will not be treated this way!" A brilliant blue-white flash beneath the door, burning an afterimage in the darkness. An answering roar of red, and she cried out.

Galen punched the door control, ran from his room. As he raced toward them, neither seemed injured, yet in the brilliant blaze of their attacks, he barely recognized them, their faces painted in harsh patches of light and shadow, features cast into distorted shapes, filled with hate. He came between them, and the fire struck him.

Later, his mother's fingers dug into his burned arm, healing him. "We will have our revenge, my darling. Don't you worry."

In the heightened reality of an electron incantation, Elric's hand rose from his chest, and with a turn revealed the ring, with its silver band and ragged black stone. It carried a secret. A secret he knew.

Galen entered the lab where his mother sat working.

"I'm busy," she said. "Go away."

He
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