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Though glittering skin had apparently sealed the wounds, the action had not been instantaneous. Dried sprays and trails of blood stained her sides. She should be unconscious, near death. In the heat of battle, though, the tech would keep her going as long as it could, to allow her to be as destructive as possible. Just as it kept him going.

A rippling black cylinder took shape in the air beside her. Galen would not give her the chance to use it.

He focused on her, and the spheres boiled eagerly out of him. He covered Razeel, turned his attention to Elizar. The spheres flew from Elizar as fast as Galen could cast them. As one after another they imploded, a quickfire series of claps boomed through the cavern. With the collapse of one sphere, Razeel's thigh crumpled into nothingness, and the bottom of her leg fell away.

Razeel screeched, blood spattering over Galen. Her dark cylinder swooped down, its top blooming open, revealing a mouth of pure blackness. It swallowed him headfirst. The frigid blackness flowed over him, undulating down his body, sucking out his heat, his energy. The brilliant incandescence dimmed; his heart stumbled. Then the cylinder vanished. Panting, dazed, he clung to the countdown in his mind. Sixty-five seconds.

"Go," Elizar said.

And then Galen was falling.

Far below was the churning pit of the Eye. Galen tumbled downward, the time ticking away. The pit was miles deep, at least, and filled with machine people; how could he destroy it all in time, when crushing only one had disabled him? He could not.

He had sensed an intelligence in the Eye, whispering to him, reveling in the joy of destruction. The Eye was not some collective creation of machine people acting in mindless synchrony; there was an Anna at the center of this machine,
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