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what it is. Tell me."

"To truly understand yourself, and to truly control yourself, you must know why you do what you do. What is your purpose? Why are you a techno-mage? You have never sufficiently answered that question. Perhaps because you've turned your back on your childhood, when those motivations were formed."

"Those years mean nothing to me," Galen said, his voice quavering. "My life began the day I came to live with you."

"That is not so," Elric said. "I have taught you, helped to guide your development. But your parents formed your foundation."

Galen shook his head. He didn't want to waste these last, precious moments speaking of his parents.

Elric's hand rose from his chest, and with a turn revealed his palm. On it lay the ring, with its silver band and ragged black stone. Galen found himself drawn back to that place, to that time so many years ago.

Elric emerged from the fire of the spaceship crash, the faint blue cast of a shield giving him the appearance of death itself. Behind him, protected within his shield, floated two supine figures shrouded in sheets. The shapes were irregular, uneven, too small.

Elric stopped before Galen and extended his hand, revealing the ring. For a moment, it seemed as if the ring were Galen's heart, ripped out of his chest, hard, shiny, and black. And though he knew it was not, Galen felt something happening inside him, felt dissolution spreading, felt himself falling apart, felt everything falling apart.

Now it was happening all over again. Everything was falling apart, spinning into chaos.

Galen seized Elric's cold hand in both of his, covering the ring. "You are my true father. You have meant more to me than my parents ever did."

"They are a part of who you are," Elric said. "You, however, are more
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