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78.

I wanted so much, Vara Liso said. Do you understand?

Hari looked at her straight on. He stood perhaps four meters from her, seven meters from where the other woman lay against the half open door. He glanced at the other woman, and Liso raised the neural whip.

You dont need that, Hari said critically, as if lecturing a student. Vara Liso hesitated. Youre mentalic. You stopped her He raised his arm toward the collapsed woman. Toward Dors.

Vara Liso lowered her head but kept her eyes on Hari. She looked like a pouting child, but in her eyes was the purest hatred he had ever seen.

Everything Ive ever believed in, she said, is dead. Theyre going to kill me, just as they killed the men and women and children I found. My own people.

Farad Sinter made you do that Hari said. Didnt he?

The Emperor, Vara Liso said. She seemed ready to burst into tears, but she kept the whip high, and her finger lingered on the button. Hari could make out the setting: near lethality.

Yes, but Sinter was your-

He loved me, Vara moaned, then she dropped the whip. But a wave of grief came out of her that hit him square. The hall was filled with Vara Lisos emotions, and they were the ugliest and bleakest Hari had ever known. They struck at his own centers of ambition and need, and he could feel the bones of his innermost self cracking.

The woman on the floor stirred, and Vara Liso lifted her head and half turned toward her.

Hari made his move, using the only chance he thought he would ever get. He had had years of training in self-defense on Helicon, but his body had long since refused to answer his instructions promptly. He had almost reached Liso when she cocked her head back and screamed again-silently, and within her mind.

At Hari.

Simultaneously, Brann and Lodovik pushed against the door, nudging Dors, who could not yet conjure up the will to move.

Klia stumbled over Dors leg, fell into the Hall of Dispensation, saw Lodovik moving with inhuman speed toward her enemy, saw him raise his arm, hand open, to take the womans hand in his and spin her around

To kill her if need be, exercising that human freedom-

But he stopped before his fingers touched her, frozen by a glance.

Vara Liso knelt, rubbing her wrists and hands, and faced Klia Asgar.


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