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shifted slightly over its surface, creating an evolving pattern. What was on the other side, he could not see.

Holding tightly to his exercises, he stepped into it, allowing its flowing, probing examination. At last, it pulled away from him, and he found himself inside, in a vast, dim cave filled with activity. The cave's atmosphere carried a safe mixture of gases, so Galen pulled off his breather.

As on Thenothk, the floor of the cave was polished smooth, the walls rough and unfinished. On that planet, the Shadows had preferred to operate underground, because, as he now saw, that was how they lived at home. They were creatures of shadow and darkness, mystery, secrecy, and science. As were their creations, the techno-mages.

The cave appeared to be a staging area. To his left, crates were stacked high in long rows. To his right ran a line of huge bins, the closest filled with black pods. Beside them stood several large dark spheres, perhaps twenty feet in diameter, with oily, fluid surfaces. Drakh workers moved among the rows, going on about their duties. They paid Galen no attention.

From behind a stack of crates, two angular black figures emerged, following a pair of Drakh. When he'd encountered the Shadows before, their appearance had always been veiled. He had seen only the head of one, for a moment, on Thenothk. Yet on their home, they did not hide their presence. And he recognized them instantly.

Their skin glistened a deep black. Six sharp legs scissored forward; fourteen brilliant white pinpoint eyes burned like tiny furnaces of malice, intelligence, and desire. More than that, though, they carried with them a strange sense of hyper-reality, more present, more intensely alive than anything he'd ever seen. Their sharp bodies cut through the pale illusion
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