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at our rendezvous?"

"I am the ship."

Fed pulled at his bushy beard. "Are you all right? Have they done something to you?"

Galen smiled. "I am the best I have ever been, Fed."

Fed let out a short laugh. "What, no 'Federico'?"

"Too tired. And I don't need that anymore."

"Need what?"

Galen closed his eyes. He wanted to go to sleep in this nice, comfortable chair.

"Listen, is it safe to approach the ship? Are you alone?"

Reluctantly, Galen opened his eyes. "I am not alone. I will never be alone. But it is safe."

Fed grimaced. "A bona fide speech, and I have no idea what it means." He dropped into the chair opposite Galen's. "You've got to help me out here, Galen. I know you're smarter than me. I know you're a better mage than me. I want to trust you. I do trust you. But I don't know what to do. I don't understand."

"Yes, that's the beauty of it."

Fed bowed his head, shook it back and forth. "When you don't make sense anymore, then I think the entire galaxy must have turned upside down. I'm crazy for even hanging around. Anyone else would have run straight back to the hiding place at the first sign of that Shadow ship."

"Better to be too crazy than too sane."

Fed's head came up. "I never thought I'd be wanting to slap some sense into you. Okay, here's the deal. I'll dock with it, if I can. You come into my ship, and then I'll try to blow the damn thing up."

"No. It must come with us."

Fed's knee bounced nervously. "You're kidding, right? We can't take that back to the hiding place. The Shadows could track it. Or it could send some kind of signal to them."

"It won't betray us."

"How can you know that?"

"I know."

Fed studied him. "The Circle is going to flay my butt for this."

"Blaylock will understand."

A strange
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