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him against the side of the shaft. Smoke filled the air. He turned back. The vent and a chunk of the shaft were gone. He extended the trembling gun through the hole, aimed the crude weapon down at the angular silhouettes crawling with white dots of static. He squeezed the trigger again, again, and it recoiled silently in his hand.

The blasts flared white as they hit, and after the first three shots the Shadows' veils began to fail, revealing, in the plasma's flashing distortion, glimpses of that elusive enemy: a flailing black limb, an angular head, the piercing white malice of eyes. With the next blast, those eyes erupted in a great blooming white brilliance, the seething light rushing out to envelop the room, envelop him, envelop everything. He could feel it against his skin, unraveling, decohering, degenerating, and as it faded, a shriek echoed through it, close and distant at once. Then the light was gone. One of the Shadows dead.

He concentrated on the other, and within a few seconds it too blazed with a dazzling, shrieking light, then faded away.

They were gone-no static, no bodies, no sign. And Morden was screaming. With an equation of motion Galen propelled himself out of the shaft, dropped down in front of Morden, brought the gun to bear.

Morden fell silent, hunching forward, his face contorted as if in pain. His hand went to the black stone hanging from his neck, clutched it. "Well go ahead," he said. "Kill me. That's what you're here for, isn't it?"

Galen held himself in stillness, heat burning out through his skin. He allowed himself only a single thought. He would give Morden one chance to prove he was the Shadows' unwilling slave. When Morden failed, he would die.

* * *

"Before you came to us, Anna," Justin said, "before we awakened
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