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This paper presents a mailbox-based scheme for designing flexible and adaptive message delivery protocols in mobile agent (MA) systems. The scheme associates each mobile agent with a mailbox while allowing the decoupling between them, i.e., a mobile agent can migrate to a new site without bringing its mailbox. By separating the concerns of locating the mailbox of a mobile agent and delivering a message to the agent, we obtain a large space of protocol design with flexibility. Using a three-dimensional model based on the scheme, we have developed a taxonomy of MA communication protocols, which not only covers, as special cases, several known MA message delivery protocols, but also allows for the design of new ones well suited for various application requirements. We describe such an efficient and adaptive protocol derived front the model. The protocol guarantees reliable delivery of messages to mobile agents. We analyze the design trade-offs and performance of the protocol, using an analytic model as well as extensive simulation experiments.