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filaments spread from its plump body in a web, intertwining themselves with the ship's systems, with the ship itself. Galen touched the warm translucent surface. A subtle light glowed from within.

It carried Elizar's DNA, and during Elizar's training as an apprentice, it had grown into an echo of him, mirroring his brain structure, his patterns of thought. It had become a part of him, an extension of him.

Galen had last seen Elizar a month ago, through a probe, in the Thenothk system on the rim of known space, thousands of light-years away. If Elizar was still there, or at any distance from the ship, he would have only the most tenuous connection to it.

Yet even a tenuous connection could carry sensation. The sensation of a single hair being pulled from the scalp, the sensation of a needle-thin sliver slipping under the skin. The sensation of the devil walking over his grave.

Galen's heart pounded, the pounding echoed back to him by the tech. He had agreed to leave Elizar behind, to run with the mages to their hiding place.

But here was one piece he did not have to leave behind.

Galen removed his hand from the soft silver surface, took a step back, then another. The hatred welled up in him, no longer willing to be buried or contained. Energy bloomed through him. Fire raced along the lines of the tech. Heat spilled out from his skin. He visualized the equation.

A fireball appeared in the air before him, coruscating with light. He formed an equation of motion, hurled the fireball at the chrysalis. Fire splashed across the silver form and the interface pane. The chrysalis made a slight, squirming movement.

He formed a second fireball in the air. Shot it at the chrysalis. A third ball. Slammed it into the fiery recess.

The wormlike form was black,
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