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what would happen to Elric? Would he die, and would the universe continue along its maddening course of chaos and death?

He didn't want Elric to be gone, as others had gone, leaving only a painful hole in memory. Whether Galen came back from the rim or not, Elric had to be all right. He had to. Galen stared up at the countless stars.

Please don't die, he thought. Please don't.



February 2259



Chapter 7



Elric stood at the window as the transport approached Babylon 5. Bathed in light, the station was five miles of spinning metal, containing one quarter of a million beings. As a construction, the space station was primitive. As an idea, however, Babylon 5 aspired to the highest goal: good. It had been designed to promote communication and understanding between various species, to prevent unnecessary conflict.

Unfortunately, not all conflict was unnecessary.

While most on Babylon 5 remained unaware that the first skirmishes of a great war had already taken place, the influence of that coming war spread all around them. Here the early stages were fought quietly, in microcosm. Intelligence was gathered, alliances formed, alliances broken. Plots and counterplots were launched, some successful, some not. The mages' deception would be among them.

Yet this could be no ordinary deception.

The mages were more powerful and advanced than any but the Vorlons and the Shadows. Over their history, the mages had performed successful deceptions on members of nearly every intelligent species-save the Vorlons and the Shadows. Techno-mages were adept at manipulating perceptions, at influencing thoughts, at using the desires of others for their own ends.

Yet Elric could not manipulate the perceptions of the Shadows, when they could penetrate his illusions.
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