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about."

Elric paused at one of the stalls to finger a wind chime made of hanging glass teardrops. He must draw attention to his hands, so that when he produced the particular item for John, the sleight of hand would create the greatest degree of surprise. "Captain, do you believe there is such a thing as magic?"

"When I was twelve, I used to sit in my dad's garden, the air filled with the smell of orange blossoms, watching the sky, dreaming of faraway places."

Elric betrayed no reaction to the mention of orange blossoms, but he was pleased. John had mentioned them in a message to his father, one of the many messages Elric had watched. An orange blossom, carefully preserved, was one of the objects he carried in his robe. He removed it from his pocket.

"Back then," John continued as they wound their way through the wares, "I think I believed in just about everything. Now, I don't know. I do think there are some things we don't understand. If we went back in time a thousand years and tried to explain this place to people"-he gave a soft laugh-"they could only accept it in terms of magic."

Elric picked up a crystal with the same hand that held the orange blossom concealed. "Then perhaps it is magic: the magic of the Human heart, focused and made manifest by technology. Every day you here create greater miracles than the burning bush."

John smiled. "Maybe. But God was there first, and he didn't need solar batteries and a fusion reactor to do it."

Elric enjoyed talking with him. It seemed ages since he had engaged in a simple conversation that did not involve death or Shadows. But of course the conversation was all about death and Shadows. The content was simply disguised. This man, as pleasant as he was, had the power to ruin their plan.

Elric tried, for
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