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up his own glass and, with a halfhearted smile, drank deeply. Strangely, the second glass seemed to counteract some of the side effects of the first, and his throat cleared once again.

'Anyway,' began the Ambassador, 'I was in the Emperor's Palace on Centauri Prime as a young man, when I saw one of the courtiers, a beautiful specimen, staring at me rather suggestively:'

* * *

Vance glanced at his watch, noting through a Brevari-in-duced fog that it read 1857. He had no idea how much he had drunk, but the room slid around him in a manner that suggested it might have been a drop or three too much. Londo had regaled him with tales of the Centauri Empire for almost two-and-a-half hours. Vance wasn't sure if he'd actually managed to speak a single word in that time, but he didn't mind. The bombastic Centauri had certainly taken his mind off his concerns.

'My apologies, Ambassador, but I must leave. I have a rather important dinner appointment.' Londo stopped halfway through a rendition of a particularly bawdy Cen-tauri drinking song. He smiled and clapped Vance on the shoulder. Vance realised the shoulder ached and wondered how many times this Centauri had struck him there. He imagined he was getting a taste of what Randell felt like after a sparring match.

'Nice talking to you, my friend,' Londo said.

I bet it was, thought Vance as he stepped away from the bar. The room began to tilt slightly, and Vance steadied himself before continuing. He could only guess what the Colonel would say when he turned up in this state, but what the hell. A grown man could do whatever he wanted. A corporal in EarthForce, about to be promoted into the best covert operations unit in the galaxy, answered to no one. Nobody could intimidate him, not even his father.

The journey
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