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tips. The three lines of fire rose and turned back toward him, plunged into the fingertips of his other hand and blazed up his arm, joining and popping out at the shoulder. Galen's breathing grew harder, faster. The fire ran up into the darkness and vanished.

He lay in blackness, the line of fire an afterimage above him, anticipating the appearance of the next rune. He didn't know if he could stand six more of them. He remembered Fed joking nervously, If it were painless, then everyone would want to do it, right? Fed was going through the same thing.

If Fed could do it, then he could do it.

As he lay in the dark, though, something glided over his raw shoulder, faint as a whisper. He started, but the jerk of his muscles had no effect against the force holding him down. Something thin and cold and wet pushed into the tiny hole burned by the fire. It wormed inside him, deeper and deeper, generating a dull tingling that spread like goose bumps down his arm. On his shoulder, the length of its body followed into the hole, contracting and relaxing, contracting and relaxing. Its head passed his biceps and continued toward his elbow, drawing a line of coldness with it.

At the other shoulder a second invader stirred, wriggling its way inside. This was not the way it had felt when he'd entered chrysalis stage. One implant had been inserted at the base of his skull. He'd been asleep during the procedure, and he'd awoken only with a vague headache. He'd never had the feeling of something inside him, something other.

These new implants would connect to that original one, accessing all the information that had been gathered and stored while he trained with the chrysalis. Yet they felt different. These things moving inside him that were not him were wrong. They did not belong.
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