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and he straightened, wanting to reveal no sign of weakness. They proceeded together toward the hatch with swift, authoritative steps, and most moved out of their way.

As they emerged into the busy customs area and waited to be cleared by security, Refa passed by him. The Centauri lord was boarding his personal transport. Everything was falling into place for the next step in Elric's plan: they must plant an idea. That was all.

Beyond the security checkpoint stood Londo and his attach©, Vir. They had just finished saying good-bye to Refa. Londo looked like a peacock in his pretentious pseudo-military garb, with its gaudy gold braiding, epaulettes, and buttonholes, and an ostentatious golden starburst brooch that echoed the mages' ancient influence. Londo's hairline was receding, a great tragedy for a Centauri male, whose status was reflected by his hair. To compensate, his hair was erected in a great fan around his head, higher than Lord Refa's or even the emperor's. Though Londo did not realize it, the hair served as his own personal black halo.

Beside him stood Vir, subservient, his clothes more understated, his crest of hair trimmed shorter. He was a nervous, overweight man who had not yet been tested and so did not yet know who he truly was.

Elric presented his identicard, flicked a probe onto the security guard, and pretended not to notice as Londo and Vir noticed him. Londo's expression revealed that his presence had elicited the desired reaction. Vir said something, and Londo responded. Elric accessed the probe on Vir, which had been planted on his cheek, and received an unflattering profile of Londo.

"-seen one in years," Londo said. His voice carried the thick accent of the northern provinces. "They almost never travel. They don't like to leave their
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