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Chapter 7

Galen sat in his room hunched over his screen. He rocked back and forth, his hand uneasily rubbing his bare head. He had never realized how strange the lack of hair would feel, not only on his head but all over his body. He felt naked, vulnerable. The touch of his robe against his skin was a constant irritant. Perhaps part of it was the residual rawness from the initiation.

The deepest of his injuries had been healed by the Circle following the implantation of the tech. The remainder were healing quickly with the help of the organelles that were now being produced within him by the tech. The hair, it was said, would begin to grow back after a few more days. He planned to scour it regularly from his scalp as a sign of the initiation he had undergone and the Code that it embodied. Yet he would be glad to have the hair on the rest of his body restored.

Even then, though, he feared he would not feel as he had before. His body had become foreign to him since the initiation. He had thought the implants would only be involved in the casting of spells. Yet every task-breathing, walking, chewing-had been altered in some way he couldn't describe. His body felt as if it had been changed and an agitating undercurrent of energy churned deep inside him. It was disorienting, unsettling. Although he was fit, he had not yet left the house. He didn't feel in control. He knew his system was adapting, but he was uncomfortable with the process, uncomfortable with the sensations he remembered from the initiation, the tech invading him, burrowing deep into his body.

The invasion reminded him of the stab of Jab's needle-sharp sting, releasing its eggs and the virus accompanying them. Now, as he imagined it, the virus was multiplying, infecting him, and the
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