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numbers, and the letters, and the words that kept out anything that threatened his equilibrium. Within them he would find the answer. He added another exercise, and another, narrowing his concentration, blocking out the Shadow ships, the machine people, the planet around him, the pressure and the darkness and the hate, telescoping his attention on this one body, on this one moment, on the task that he had forgotten.

There was a countdown in his mind.

Eleven seconds.

Ten.

The White Star.

The Eye must be destroyed.

He was the Eye.

He focused on himself, visualized the one-term equation.

There was no echo from the tech, no crushing pressure of energy falling upon him.

His tech was still functioning, the brilliant yellow pulsing through him, but something was obstructing the spell. The machine would not allow him to harm it.

Galen focused on one of the machine people beside him, visualized the equation again.

Nothing.

The great machine pulled at him, requiring his full attention. He could feel himself coordinating, processing. He was losing his independence, being made into a piece of something larger-perhaps the controlling piece, but still a piece that was itself under control.

Had he come all this way only to serve at the center of the Shadows' place of power?

Wierden's faint yellow body was fading into blackness. Angrily, he focused on it, performed an electron incantation. The tech echoed the spell.

He chose as his setting a simple white room. Then he found himself standing within it, outside of space and time.

At five seconds, he had suspended the countdown.

A pillar of stone etched with runes of light ran up through the center of the room. But Wierden was not there.

"Show yourself!" Galen said, his anger growing. He
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