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while we are gone, Elric will question the boy. Though the boy will maintain his silence, Elric's suspicions will not be soothed. He will search for more evidence, and he will find it. He will report back to the Circle that the mage couple he has been assigned to watch has finally done what everyone said they would: They have turned on each other. We will be disciplined, our influence diminished. For myself, it will be no tragedy. Perhaps a mild rebuke. But you will be reprimanded, disgraced, for what you did to the boy. They will take your apprentice away from you, and give him over to me. The corporation, also, I suspect, will be left to me."

"It was an accident."

"If you had the control of the worst chrysalis-stage apprentice, you could have stopped from hurting the boy. If you wanted to. But you didn't. You brutalize him."

"I'm a much better teacher than you would be. I teach him discipline, obedience. Of course you undermine my authority at every turn, manipulating him to your own ends, smothering him with your false love."

Galen scanned ahead.

His father came out into the living room, and there stood Elric, looking healthy and fit. Elric's sharp gaze studied something out of the ring's range of vision, his lips pressed into a thin, grim line.

Then the ring turned, revealing the object of Elric's scrutiny: a boy standing at attention, brown hair cut bristle-short, plain black robe perfectly pressed, a patch of burned skin on one hand. The boy betrayed only the slightest hint of a flinch as his father leaned in for an embrace.

Farther on, Galen found the massive spaceship, its elegant interior, curtained compartments lined with long windows at which to observe the midnight lights. The argument they'd begun in the bathroom continued as the ship rose
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