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The unrelenting throbbing in his head was taking its toll; his energy was not what it once had been. The plan could work if he did not fail it. Once again, he reviewed all that had been done over the last two days.

Their ships had been safely hidden away and awaited their return. He and Ing-Radi had split the group into smaller teams. They would take different transports to Babylon 5, leading the Shadows to conclude the mage ships had been destroyed as part of their attempt to disguise their movements.

Each team would subtly draw attention to its arrival. They must create the appearance that mages were gathering on Babylon 5 from different places, and that, rather than fifty of them, there were five hundred. Once all fifty had arrived over the next few days, the arrivals would appear to continue for several more days, through a combination of falsified ships' records and illusions.

Elric would serve as spokesman for the group, coordinating the deception that must fool the Shadows. Ing-Radi, who was less adept at deception, would work mainly behind the scenes. If they were successful, they would rejoin the others within fifteen days and retreat with them to the hiding place. Only through a flawless plan and perfect coordination could they prevail. The Shadows must be convinced that they had killed all the mages, or there would likely be no escape for any of them.

It had been some years since Elric had orchestrated so elaborate a deception. Of course, he had never outwitted such a sophisticated enemy, nor had the stakes ever been so high. Yet the principles remained the same. The best deception was elegant and seemingly effortless, like a simple sleight of hand, a shell game. All the elements must be set up in advance, everything prepared, perfectly practiced
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