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as if he were a cork about to break free to the surface of the ocean. And then the constricting blackness unfolded from around him and he did break free, into the vastness of space once again. As the string carried him toward the spidery black shape of a Shadow ship, he quickly studied the positions of the stars, struggling to commit enough to memory that he could discover the location of the ship.

The shifting black Shadow skin enveloped him, and with a jumbling rush of images he plunged into the recipient. A brilliant, seething light surrounded him, and the string circulated through it, intertwining with other word strings, curling, twisting. He was inside a Shadow.

It was time to go back.

He imagined himself back in his body in the caf©.

Still the string pulled him through the rippling, oozing brilliance.

In his mind's eye, he visualized the quenching spell that would dissolve this conjury. Yet the tech did not echo his command, and the original equation remained.

He turned, tried to pull himself back along the string the way he'd come. Working against the string's movement, he couldn't even hold his own.

The only chance of returning would be if this Shadow replied to the message of the other. If this one was sending such a response, he must find it.

As his string curled past another, he grabbed on to the new message, releasing the old. He listened for a few seconds to the words it held, then threw himself at another. With growing anxiety, he flung himself faster and faster from string to string, until he nearly missed it.

-strike will be a complete surprise. They will-

He had barely enough time to hope he was right before the string pulled him up out of the Shadow's body and out through the hull of the ship. Then the blackness wrapped tightly
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