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At last, as they each split into three and pushed into his fingertips, the movement slowed, stopped. His hands and arms tingled, infused with the cold. The tech was inside him now, waiting.

Above him, a line of fire appeared and twisted into the rune for secrecy.

The pressure holding him down suddenly vanished. Galen's gasp turned into a huge ragged inhalation. The desire to run was nearly overwhelming, though he felt too weak to move. Were they giving him a chance to leave? Was this another test?

The rune descended and unraveled, the end of the line of fire raised, poised to strike. Galen realized what was wanted of him. With numb fingers he turned himself onto his stomach. The pressure returned, and with it, the fire.

The pattern was repeated for each of the seven runes of the Code as Galen watched the lines of fire reflected in the table and panted against its surface. Twin tunnels were burned across the back of his shoulders, one down each side of his spine, and four from the base of his skull up into his brain.

Each time the formation of the tunnel was followed by the insinuation of the tech, cold, thin, and wet, contracting and relaxing, pushing inside him, stretching the skin of his back, sending prickles like tiny needles down his spine, driving the cold in intricate coils through his brain and settling there, making his body its home.

He sensed something then, like an echo of an echo of an echo, the faintest hint of what he had felt with the chrysalis. The echo carried his revulsion back to him.

The pressure lifted, and Galen's head fell to the side in relief. Numbness spread through his body.

He was not who he had been. He was not himself anymore. He was something that was part himself and part other.

He was a techno-mage.

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