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could search for answers. And perhaps, in time, more would learn to free their tech.

Galen heard running footsteps behind him and turned. Optima dashed around the corner and banged into him. She stumbled back, laughing, her face flushed. She wore one of the long white feather capes that the Kinetic Grimlis liked to pull out for celebrations. Beneath, a purple tunic glowed. When she saw whom she'd run into, her face fell in dismay. "Sorry." Then laughter bubbled out of her again. "Is Fed still in there? He's missing all the fun. Don't they realize this is the party of a lifetime?"

"They are deliberating," Galen said. A feather drifted down and landed in her tangled hair. Galen smiled.

"I told Fed he shouldn't have run. He's going to miss the probe-spitting contest, and he could have won that hands down. Will you tell him to come as soon as he can?"

Galen pulled the feather from her hair, returned it to her. On the back of his hand, only a slight discoloration remained of his burns. "I will."

She started toward the dining hall. With a joyous cry she jumped into the air to perform a dizzying succession of somersaults. Then she landed and turned back, swaying. "I mean, you're welcome to come too. Why don't you come down while they're-doing whatever they're doing. I'm sure they'll call you when they want you " Brilliant white feathers drifted down around her, tracing gentle arcs through the air.

"Thank you, but I don't think it will be long."

She noticed the rain of feathers and laughed. "Okay. Anyway." She ran off.

He had never been one for parties. And though the looks of others no longer discomfited him with what they might see, and the noise and activity no longer threatened his control, he was still, at base, someone who felt most comfortable in
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