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strength only comes from conflict." She smiled. "They want to release our potential, not bottle it up."

He raised a glittering black hand to his face, followed the subtle, shifting patterns. This, finally, was what he was. A barely Human device designed to fight, to kill, and to survive. A pestilence of chaos and destruction.

He conveyed himself a few yards farther from the cave-in. He aimed his palm up at the ceiling near the blockage, chose another of the basic postulates, one he'd derived from spells that accessed external devices. Perhaps it would allow him to fire the beam. He visualized the equation.

Whispers reached into him, circulated through him, winding along the burning lines of his tech, reveling in the joy of destruction. Chaos is the proper state of being, the state in which all impulse is freed to act. Chaos is the way to strength.

He had connected to the Eye. Information filled his mind's eye, lists written in the Shadows' language, and as it scrolled down, he translated what he could. Here was the heading SHIP COMPONENTS, and beneath a list of numbers and names. Then a heading that roughly translated as MACHINE COMPONENTS, but below just numbers. A third heading, something like SUBSTRATES, and more numbers. Below, even more headings.

He could access the Shadow machines. Perhaps he could even control them, as Elizar had done.

He dissolved the spell, banishing the whispers, and chose another basic postulate, this one derived from spells for using internal systems, such as his sensors. In a burning, beautiful rush, the beam shot out from his palm, blasted into the tunnel ceiling. His heart pounding in elation, he quickly corrected his aim, ran the beam along the area near the rockfall. Huge slabs of stone dropped down from the ceiling, increasing
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