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I vaporized the glittering metal a.n.a.logues held in the fragments of mirror to my right. They disappeared without sound or light. I spread my hands, as in addressing the mult.i.tudes, and eliminated all the other pieces of that "cosmic mirror.

There was total darkness drawing down about me like an oiled curtain.

I made light.

With the light, I fas.h.i.+oned stairs leading upward into further regions of darkness.

I walked out of there, erasing the stairs behind me.

Outside, the world awaited me, unknowing but soon to learn*

II.

When I returned to my own body, carrying the power with me, the first thing I saw was Child's mutant sh.e.l.l convulsed with a series of hideous spasms that made it look much like the flickering, shape-changing image in a funhouse mirror. It sat straight up in bed, quivering like the shaft of an arrow. Its eyes were wide for the first time, the pulsing veins visible in the whites. Its slitted mouth worked furiously, though no words issued from it, no sounds at all. It scrabbled at its chest with two bony hands, clawed at its horrible face so viciously and persistently that blood seeped from the long red welts it carved in the flesh there.

The doctor attending the mutant grabbed it and attempted to force it backward onto the mattress, where restraining straps could be applied. But it heaved the white-smocked figure aside as if the man were so much paper, in an exhibition of strength that no one could have expected from such an emaciated body, from such skinny arms and powerless hands.

A dry rasping-hacking sound emanated from the creature's throat, but no words formed. It could have been tissue ripping under some unimaginable inward pressure rather than a conscious exercise of vocal cords.

"What's going on here?" Morsf.a.gen demanded, rising from his chair with that slow, powerful, and somehow contemptible grace of his, cutting air like a sail.

The soldier named Larry came across the room, looking confused but determined. He dropped his rifle, and reached for the mutant. The creature snapped at him, sunk teeth into his wrist, and made blood fountain up brightly. The soldier screamed, struck at the mutant's face, smashed the jawbone. The mouth relaxed, released him, but the mutant was still awake, still struggled to gain control of itself and of the situation it found itself in.

"You did this!" Morsf.a.gen roared, turning on me, pointing with a hand that trembled uncontrollably.

"No," I said quietly.

"You'll pay! d.a.m.n you, you'll see the woman raped for this, you'll see her humiliated!"

I could not even summon up the slightest bit of disgust for him. I looked with the eyes of the man I had been, but with the judgment of a G.o.d, and I could do no more than pity him. In a way, I resented my benevolence. I had longed for the power to strike back with thunder and with lightning. But now that the time had come, I found him deserving of scorn and pity more than wra

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