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of company, and he found his body going tense. "My boy. Look who's here. Elric has come for a visit."

Elric came about every three months, on some sort of mage business.

His father released him and stepped aside.

"Hello, Apprentice," Elric said with a nod.

He bowed. "Hello, Elric."

Elric was not unpredictable and emotional like his father, but still he was frightening, with his powerful voice and cold, commanding presence.

His father snatched up his hand, as if seeing the wound for the first time. "What have you gotten into now, you clumsy boy?"

He knew better than to answer.

"Never mind. Your mother and I have business to discuss with Elric. Make yourself scarce until dinner. Then Elric has offered to watch you while your mother takes me out for my big birthday surprise."


It was that night, that night they died. He turned away, finding himself back in the blackened observation room, Circe's eyes on him, Gowen bent in concentration.

Galen stumbled, disoriented, and sat hard on the floor. He was panting, heart pounding. The ring-he had watched her make it, had seen the unusual design but failed to understand.

We will have our revenge.

She had not forgiven his father. The ring was not her peace offering. It was her weapon.

Unbeknownst to his father, she had provided herself her own menu of options, with her own key. The ability to copy any data crystal was simply a misdirection from the true purpose of the ring: the electrical storm. On his finger, the ring served as her own Trojan horse, taken within the defense of his shield, available for use at her whim.

But his mother had never used the ring. They had died in fire, died in a spaceship accident.

Of course, there was one way to know for certain.

He accessed the observation
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