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The Shadow of His Thoughts page1
The Shadow of his Thoughts
by J. Michael Straczynski
page 1
The dream was the same.
It was always the same.
       The chakat lay on the ground before him, its four 
legs bound by ropes, horns scratching the dry ground beneath its head. The sun was hot overhead.
       A voice, always the same voice, whispered from 
behind Londo.  You know what you have to do. 
What you have always done.
        Londo stared at the creature, and its gaze met 
his own.  The eyes that looked back at him were fierce, proud, unbowed.  And somehow familiar.  In the 
dream it said to him, soundlessly and wordlessly but 
with absolute clarity. 
It is duty. You cannot fight duty.
       I can't do it, Londo thought back, and looked 
down.  The sword was in his hand.
       Yes, you can, it thought at him, and it struggled 
to raise its head, exposing its throat.  Waiting for the 
death blow.
       Sobbing, Londo brought down the sword, and 
watched the life fade away in the creature's eyes.
 

Tears fresh on his face, Londo awoke to the 
sound of bells.  Bells that had tolled for one hour 
each morning every day for the last six days.  Six 
days since he had taken on the role of emperor; six 
days since the bombardment of Centauri Prime had
left vast tracts of the capital city devastated and in 
flames. All work stopped while the bells tolled, and the 
world was momentarily united in silence for those who had 
died in a conflict that should never have happened . . . a conflict that had been secretly engineered by that alien 
race known as the Drakh to produce rage and resentment 
in his people -- emotions that he would have to nurture into something darker with the passing of years.
     That was, after all, his job. 

     The title of emperor was just a cover, also arranged by the Drakh . . . a means to an end.
      But I 'm not supposed to think these things, he reminded himself as he felt the presence of the Keeper 
stirring at the juncture where his shoulder met alien flesh, where nerves and neural pathways merged so that his will was no longer entirely his own. He was able to shield 
only his most private thoughts; if he subvocalized or 
brought his thoughts to the surface, theKeeper could sense the shape of them, and relay them by telepathic link to the Drakh, working quietly in the recesses and ancient tunnels beneath the royal palace . . . building a future for his world whose shape he did not like to consider for too long.  But 
at least it was a future, which is more than his people would have had if he had refused to accept the Keeper.
       No one else could see the Keeper unless it allowed 
them to see it, which was usually a prelude to extermination. He, on the other hand, could see it all the time, but tried desperately not to let his gaze wander in that direction 
more than necessary.
       Denial had always been one of his greatest strengths.
       The bells stopped.  Had it really been an hour already?  He closed his eyes as he did when he was a child, against mornings that came too soon, hoping somehow that the day and his responsibilities would disappear, and he could be free.  It was a fleeting hope and, like all hopes, daily crushed under the weight of the waking world.
      He opened his eyes, the moment passed, and Emperor
Mollari the Second rose to begin the seventh day of his rule.

Minister Vole was wringing his hands again, one 
over the other in a motion so tight that Londo couldn't tell where one hand finished and the other began.  "I'm sure His Excellency was informed --"
       "If I had been informed, then I would know.  Since 
I knew nothing of this until you mentioned it, then either 
I was not

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