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expression came over Fed's face, but he said nothing.

Galen closed his eyes. "I'm tired. Let me go. We will follow you."

"What do you mean, 'we'?" Fed said, but Galen heard nothing more. He was back in the comforting embrace of the ship, drifting into a peaceful half sleep.

They would follow Fed, and they would go home.



January 2261



Chapter 21



Galen lay in bed, replaying his life. So many of his memories had been boxed up in coffins and buried in the walls of his tunnel vision. When he'd joined with the tech, those walls had peeled away, leaving the memories lying before him, exhumed from their hiding places, bare and raw. He took time, now, to relive each, to embrace his past rather than hide from it, to see it in all its hideousness and pain and failure and love and beauty.

For the first time he thought of Isabelle, and Fa, and Elric not as threats to control, but as who they had been, and what they had given him. No agitating undercurrent rose up to fuel his grief, yet the grief remained, sharp and deep, resonating through him.

Those losses were great, the wounds open and fresh, yet he would not hide from them. Besides, he was no longer able. He had relinquished control, given himself over to the tech, and to life. Whatever life brought him, good or bad, pain or joy, he would face it, and question it, and learn all he could from it. He would hide in tunnels, walk in circles, no longer. Finally, he could move ahead, into uncertainty.

Who he was, more than ever, was a mystery. He was not the mage he had once dreamed to be, a masterful figure who controlled events, manipulated perceptions, healed wounds, imposed his design upon the universe. He was not the agent of chaos that the Shadows had conceived, embodied in seven basic postulates.
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