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strong."

Galen looked down the corridor. "Alwyn was devoted to her."

"Coming here is particularly difficult for him."

"Then he should leave, as soon as possible. He needs to return home. That will help him as well. It is painful for a mage to be separated from his place of power."

"I could take him there and come back to help you."

They had reached the door to the suite. Galen faced her. "He needs your help," Galen said. "I do not."

"Will you at least allow Alwyn to work with you a little, before you send him off?"

Galen nodded.

G'Leel inserted her keycard. The door opened, and Alwyn stood anxiously, beer bottle in hand. "I'm sorry. I get carried away sometimes."

Galen entered. "As do we all."



* * *



Anna was receiving some strange optical input. Rather than seeing through the surface of her skin, both inside and out, the imagery arose from only a single position. The input was of poor resolution, and as her attention fell on various objects, she was unable to magnify the image.

She had been in darkness for a time she could not measure. Now she emerged, disoriented. It felt as if pieces of herself were missing, and others rearranged. She was not as she had been.

She had regained other senses, though they too were strange. She remembered, vaguely, feeling this way before. During the horrible time when she'd been separated from the machine. She was small, nearly incapacitated, her capabilities extremely limited.

Over her stood two technicians, their long gray fingers fluttering. They were in a small, brightly lit white room crowded with crude devices. One of the technicians was turned away, making adjustments to the devices. The other arranged shiny, primitive tools on a tray to Anna's side.

Then she sensed it, pulsing behind
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