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stood. "I have no time to reschedule with you, Captain. We will leave this place shortly. Unless you intend to stop us."

John took a breath, and his lips rose slightly. "Please sit," he said, and they both did.

John continued. "I have no intention of detaining your group. I'm afraid some people won't be satisfied with the answers you've given me, but that's going to be their problem. I believe you've dealt with me honestly, and as you said, you are free to go where you want."

"I will not thank you for allowing us to do what it is our right to do. But I will thank you for the friendship you've extended me." Elric paused, noting John's smile. "Unfortunately, Captain, there are others who would stop us from leaving. They seek to use our power for their own ends."

"Do you mean Ambassador Mollari? I think you scared him off."

"He is but one of many. I'm afraid I must ask for your help, Captain. Or we will not leave here safely."

John's face hardened. "Who's threatening you? I'll call in security, you can swear out a complaint, and we'll have them arrested."

He knew so little of what the mages faced, of what he himself would soon face. "A confrontation would be too dangerous," Elric said. "You don't want this station to become a battlefield, nor do I." That possibility would seem very real to John after the Drazi episode. "We have a plan that will allow us to leave safely and peacefully, but we require the assistance of you and your security team. I assure you that no laws will be broken. We plan a simple misdirection, a sleight of hand, so that our enemies cannot stop us."

John picked up the orange blossom on his desk and twirled it between his fingers. "Like this."


"You realize that not only am I not supposed to help you, I'm supposed to
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