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tissue. He tightened his grip. As a brilliant pain shot down his leg, the racing energy faded just the slightest bit. From that thought to the next was a short jump.

"Excuse me," he said to Blaylock. He would go to one of Alwyn's sleeping cabins. There he could be alone.

Alwyn entered the room as he was leaving. "Will someone tell me what the..."

Galen passed him. The closest sleeping cabin was only a few steps down the passage. He locked the door and called the fire down upon himself.

With the first scouring he collapsed onto the bed, teeth clenched. The fire rushed over his body like living lava. He had to close down, to drive deep into himself the energy, anger, horror, memory.

With the second scouring he curled inward, the searing heat crawling over his body, raking his skin away. After all he had done, it was only the smallest fraction of what he deserved. For a moment the pain overwhelmed everything else, and he couldn't feel the restless energy of the tech. But then the moment passed, and it returned.

The third scouring enveloped him like a warm wave, and he began, at last, to relax.

The fourth carried him quietly into darkness.



* * *



The announcement was broadcast through the customs area. "Private liner Crystal Cabin is now in final check prior to departure."

The throbbing had enveloped Elric's body, and fighting it had exhausted him. Yet his task was nearly completed. He accessed the security roster of those who had boarded the Crystal Cabin. Twenty-four mages were aboard, including Gowen, to whom Elric had confided the gathering place. All were where they should be. All but Carvin.

He would join her now, aboard the Ondavi. It too was in final check.

Behind him, the butcher cleared his throat. "Excuse me," Londo said,
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