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would be no sudden loss of eyebrows to draw attention to what he'd done.

He made the plan in a moment, visualized the blank screen in his mind's eye, imposed the equation upon it. The tech eagerly echoed the spell.

A ball of brilliant blue light appeared above him, shot downward. Fire rushed over his body like living lava, searing him, consuming the hair from his body. His skin screamed with pain. He gasped.


The blue fire fell upon him with ragged claws. They raked down his skin, scouring the outer layer away. Galen stumbled, doubled over.

His hands quivered, red, raw. The touch of his robe against his skin awakened pain in countless nerve endings. He had forgotten how much it had hurt.

The tech raced, eager to bring the fire down upon him again. Galen forced the screen in his mind's eye blank. It already hurt like hell, and now he realized that, sharing a room with Fed, it would be hard to hide the damage he had inflicted upon himself. Much of his epidermis was gone, burned away. Soon would follow inflammation, and some weeping of the skin. He realized the irony. He had wanted to become a mage to heal.

He slowed his ragged breathing, trying to calm himself. This had to be one of the stupider things he'd done.

Yet it had helped. As he straightened, he found he was no longer shivering. And the pressure to act had lessened somewhat. The agitating energy of the implants had faded, overshadowed now by pain.

He had released some of the anger, and he had hurt only himself. It hurt so much, he could think of little else. If he could not fade like a ghost from the present, he could at least distract himself from it.

Trying to move normally, he went out into the passageway, walked back toward the Circle's meeting room. He would wait for Elric,
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