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Contents: Back Cover - Synopsis - Questions - Analysis - Notes - Author


Written by Jeanne Cavelos
Release date: April 1997
ISBN: 0-440-22348-2 (US)
ISBN: 0-7522-2339-9 (UK)

Anna Sheridan receives an assignment to study the ruins on Z'ha'dum. John Sheridan takes command of the Agamemnon. Babylon 5 goes online and sees the arrival of its first residents.

Reader reviews, and online ordering, can be found at Amazon.com.


Back Cover

The Darkening Light

Anna Sheridan has two passions-- her husband, John, and the mystery surrounding some intriguing artifacts found during a mission on a distant planet called Z'Ha'dum. Now she gets orders to become the science officer on the follow-up mission scheduled for the spaceship Icarus. Happy, young, beloved, and brilliant, never has a woman had so much to live for. Or so much to lose.

The Shadow Within

While John, recently promoted to the rank of captain, struggles with his new command on the Agamemnon, Anna begins to assemble her science crew... and makes her first mistake. She signs on Dr. Morden, a highly credentialed translator whose heart hides a weakness that can cost Anna her life... or her soul. Her second mistake is to underestimate the danger on Z'ha'dum. What is awaiting the Icarus near the rim of known space is an unimaginable horror. What is awaiting Anna Sheridan is an explosive destiny... and a dark future that can crush her husband's dreams and a terror that can come back to haunt us all.

Synopsis

The book begins with Anna Sheridan studying an artifact found on an Interplanetary Expeditions (IPX) dig at Theta Omega 2, a planet once inhabited by the J/Lai, an offshoot of the Brakiri. It appears to be a biomechanical device, halfway between machine and living organism. As she studies it, she briefly makes contact with a quasi-consciousness in the artifact. She tells Dr. Chang, the head the expedition, but is unable to duplicate the effect for him.

They hire Terence Hilliard, a commercial telepath, to make contact with the artifact. As soon as he tries, the artifact activates, overheats and explodes. Hilliard is seriously injured, and falls into a trance-like state, repeating over and over again, "I am the machine." Anna and Churlstein, another IPX scientist, take Hilliard to Geneva City Hospital. As he is being tended to, they are approached by Donne, a Psi Corps representative looking into the incident. Donne insists on speaking to Anna privately; Anna tells Churlstein to go back to the lab and make sure nothing is touched before she returns.

Donne takes Anna to Hilliard's bedside. His physical injuries are superficial, but his brain is locked into a rigid, cyclical pattern. Donne says that Hilliard will be moved to a Psi Corps facility and dismisses the doctor, then questions Anna about the incident. Donne indicates that nothing can be done for Hilliard.

Back at the lab, the remains of the explosion have been cleaned up and all of Anna's reports and test results are gone. Dr. Chang tells her he has been ordered to take over the testing of the remains of the J/Lai "mouse" and related artifacts. He allows her to take her computer, with her notes in it intact, and a fragment of the mouse. Anna has dinner with Liz Sheridan, her sister-in-law, before leaving for Station Prime, where she and her husband are planning to celebrate their anniversary.

Meanwhile, John Sheridan has been in command of the Agamemnon for one month, and is struggling with a badly disciplined crew. He chews out Lt. Spano, a weapons officer, for not following regulations. Corchoran, the first officer, tells him they will be inspected when they arrive at Station Prime. Later, Corchoran suggests that the crew is envious of Sheridan's war record; the previous commander of the Agamemnon, Capt. Best, humiliated them by retreating at the Battle of the Line.

At Station Prime, orbiting Centauri Prime, Anna checks into the honeymoon suite of the Imperial Hotel. John calls her there to tell her he'll be delayed by the inspection. Then Chang calls, saying that an IPX probe has discovered the remains of a new, unknown civilization on Alpha Omega 3. An RNA scan of microorganisms there indicates they are related to the "mouse" from Theta Omega 2. Chang asks her to be on an expedition there, which begins in 10 days. Anna is surprised by the short preparation time but agrees to go.

General Lochschmanan's inspection of the Agamemnon goes well until the weapons bay, where the optical system has been left on line, creating a danger that the ship's laser cannons could fire if there were an explosion or fire on board. The Agamemnon fails the inspection, and Lochschmanan orders Sheridan to get the crew into shape as soon as possible. Sheridan cancels leave and institutes a heavy schedule of drills. The ship is also being outfitted with a new stealth technology.

John calls Anna and tells her that he won't be able to make it; Anna does not tell him about the new expedition. She checks the roster for the expedition and sees two non-IPX personnel listed on the archaeological team: Donne, and a Dr. Morden, an Earthforce linguist who six months previously took leave of his job and moved to Station Prime. Anna becomes suspicious of Morden's credentials and visits him. He works for an Earthforce division called New Technologies, and claims to have been called up by his superiors and added to the mission out of the blue. She notices an Anfran love stone in his collection of artifacts, and learns that it was given to him by his wife. He moved to Station Prime after his wife and daughter were killed in a terrorist attack on the Io jumpgate. Anna resolves to try and help Morden get on with his life.

Spano arrives late for a drill and Sheridan confines him to quarters. After the drill, Sheridan speaks angrily with Ross, the weapons chief, who is about to punch him when Lochschmanan arrives. Corchoran routes in a call from Anna. John speaks to her hurriedly, learning about the expedition, and returns to speak to Lochschmanan.

At the IPX mission briefing, Chang introduces the members of the archaeological team, then shows them pictures of the planet, including a series of inscribed pillars and an egg-shaped biomechanical structure which has biological similarities to the "mouse". Afterward, Anna learns that Donne and Morden have a deep distrust of each others' organizations. On the Agamemnon, John Sheridan gives Ross, Spano, and Watley, another weapons officer, a choice between transferring off the ship or being court-martialed if they continue to perform poorly.

As the Icarus leaves Station Prime, Donne asks Anna to try to make contact with a fragment of the mouse. She does so, experiencing an impression that it is still partly alive. Morden shares some preliminary translations with Chang and Anna: the pillars appear to say, "every light casts a shadow," and the largest inscription on the egg is "what is desired" or "all that is desired."

John Sheridan is woken up by a message from Lochschmanan. Homeguard, the group responsible for the Io jumpgate attack, is planning to blow up Babylon 5 during its dedication ceremonies with nuclear devices obtained from the Narn. The Agamemnon is ordered to intercept the Homeguard ship carrying the bombs.

Twenty days from Alpha Omega 3, Anna uses the IPX probe's remote control to explore a cave near the planned landing site, and finds two artifacts similar to the "mouse". Meanwhile, the Agamemnon stages a mock battle against the Hyperion. The Hyperion takes out the Agamemnon's targeting system. When Sheridan orders the weapons officers to fire manually, Ross does not fire, and the Hyperion goes on to "destroy" the Agamemnon.

Sheridan orders Ross arrested. He goes to Ross's quarters to see him detained, and finds him drunk and threatening to shoot himself. Ross tells Sheridan about his experience at the Battle of the Line. The Athena, Capt. Best's previous command, where Ross was serving, had its automatic targeting system knocked out. He fired at a fighter that appeared to be trying to ram them, and realized a moment too late that it was one of their Starfuries, trying to make an emergency landing. The resulting explosion disabled the Athena and killed 35 crewmembers. Sheridan takes the PPG away from Ross and gives him another chance.

The next day, Anna discovers that the IPX orbiter at Alpha Omega 3 has lost contact with the surface probe. The orbiter's log indicates that Chang was controlling the probe at the time. The probe logs have been erased back to when he used the probe the previous day. Anna tells Chang about this, and he orders her to give no indication that malfunction could have been anything but an accident. He also gives her a PPG, telling her he has another for his own defense.

Anna attempts to send a message to John on New Year's Eve, but the communications system is unable to send it. Hidalgo, the captain of the Icarus, tells her that the comm system just malfunctioned. Anna attempts to remove her message from the outgoing queue, and discovers Chang has also just tried to send a message, to Galovich, the mission's supervisor on Earth. She copies the message and views it. Chang is reporting that Donne and Hidalgo are planning to smuggle artifacts to Earth for Psi Corps to study. He also refers to the Shadow ship found on Mars, and a hypothesis of Morden's, that it returned on automatic.

Anna returns to the ship's New Year's party and tells Morden she has a present for him. They leave the party and she gives him the Anfran love stone, which she had taken from his quarters the day before and had put on a necklace. Morden is shocked that he went an entire day without noticing it was gone, and puts the necklace on to assure that he will never forget it. Anna asks him what he knows about Mars. He tells her about the Shadow ship discovered by IPX. When the ship was excavated and first exposed to sunlight, it transmitted a message. Morden was on a team from Earthforce New Technologies sent to study the ship at IPX's request. Anna tells him what she knows about the probe problems, and the smuggling arrangement between Donne and Hidalgo.

As B5's dedication ceremony approaches, the Agamemnon passes an inspection and is dispatched to intercept the Homeguard ship. Kosh Naranek contacts Delenn and tells her that a human expedition is going to Z'ha'dum, and it must be stopped. He directs his own ship toward Z'ha'dum, expecting to arrive just before the Icarus.

After planetfall on Alpha Omega 3, half the archaeological team, including Chang and Donne, go to investigate the egg, while Anna, Morden, and the others head for the cave where she found the mice. Morden has refined the translation of the pillar inscriptions to "Every light carries a shadow." Arriving at the cave, they find that the mice are gone and the hole they were removed from has been partially filled in. Anna, Morden, and Dr. Favorito explore deeper in the cave, and find a corpse that appears to be a biological creature inside a biomechanical one. As far back in the cave as they can go, they find a black sphere blocking a passageway. Anna tries to take a sample of it, but find her hand passing inside it, and then feels something waking up inside it. She jumps back and runs away, pulling the others along with her.

Delenn, on authorization from the Grey Council, contacts Sinclair at Babylon 5 and tells him the expedition is in danger and must be recalled.

Anna, Morden, and Favorito emerge from the cave into a sudden storm. They and their support crew head for the egg to rejoin Chang's group, but the egg and the entire group have vanished. A scan shows one link nearby; heading for it, they find Chang, who has been shot. Anna gives Chang's PPG to Morden. The two of them find a crevasse underneath where the egg had been, but it is too small for the egg to have gone through it.

At Babylon 5, Sinclair has contacted Senator Hidoshi about the expedition and been referred to President Santiago's science adviser, Dr. LeBlanc. LeBlanc is unaware of any expedition near the rim, but promises to check on it. The Agamemnon observes the transfer of explosives from the Narns to the Homeguard ship. Just before it comes out of hiding, Ross reports that the weapons system is nonfunctional. A component has been removed from the optics system.

On the Icarus, Hidalgo announces that communications have been restored. Anna has taken charge of the archaeological team, and splits them up for a search of landing area. She gives her PPG to Dr. Razor, who is on the team that includes Hidalgo, and tells him about Hidalgo's plans for smuggling artifacts. She sends a message to Gulovich, and then searches Donne's quarters. Inside a roll of lingerie, she finds a collection of small body parts and a Psi Corps badge with a black square in the center. She recalls that a patch of Chang's hair was missing, and concludes that Donne killed Chang and took the hair for her collection.

When Anna returns to her quarters, she finds Morden waiting for her. He already believes that Donne killed Chang. When she wonders why Psi Corps is going to such lengths, Morden tells her that not only was Hilliard affected by the mouse, but every telepath at or below his P-rating within a three-mile radius was left in the same state. Psi Corps covered it up, but Earthforce-- or at least Morden's division-- quickly figured out what had happened.

Dr. LeBlanc calls Sinclair back and tells him the expedition will not be recalled. She suspects that it may discover something powerful that can be used against the Minbari. Sinclair tells Delenn the news, and she informs him that sending any further ships to Alpha Omega 3 will be considered an act of war against the Minbari.

Sheridan orders Corchoran to interrogate the weapons officers about the sabotage, but Spano is missing from the mess, where they had been ordered to wait. Spano is tracked down in the gym. He complains that he was bored. Ross reports that the primary mirror in the optics system has been destroyed. Spano repeatedly denies sabotaging the system, but finally admits that he left his post during his watch to get a snack. Sheridan charges him with insubordination, desertion of post, and dereliction of duty, and has him confined to the brig.

Anna decides to make contact with the creature inside the sphere. She and Morden return to where it was, but it has vanished. In the passageway beyond, they find a generator that could have come from the IPX probe. As they talk, Morden suddenly reaches for his PPG. Anna knocks him down as he fires, and the blast triggers a cave-in. Donne appears and tells Anna that Morden destroyed the probe.

Ross tells Sheridan that the optics damage is worse than he thought, and he can't repair it on his own before the Homeguard ship reaches Babylon 5. Sheridan grits his teeth and assigns Watley and Spano to help him. Spano, feeling chastened, suggests that Sheridan consider people who had previously served as weapons officers. He specifically mentions Corchoran. Sheridan asks Corchoran for information on officers who had been weapons officers, but Corchoran does not send it. Sheridan orders security to detain Corchoran.

Anna realizes that Morden had been aiming at Donne. Donne says that Morden hid the mice; Morden says that Psi Corps wouldn't have left anything for Earthforce to study. The three of them search for another way out of the caves, going through a section that appears to have been artificially enlarged. Donne believes that the egg was sending out a telepathic attraction, which she was able to block once she became aware of it. She says that when Chang's group reached the egg, some of them climbed into openings in it, and the openings vanished. When everyone except Chang and Donne had gone into the egg, it reached for Chang. Donne shot him, and it lost interest. It didn't appear to notice her, possibly because of her blocking. It then changed shape and oozed away down the crevasse.

With twenty minutes left before the Homeguard ship reaches the B5 jumpgate, Ross reports that the optics are repaired. Sheridan orders Ross to engage manual targeting; the automatic system won't let them fire on an Earth ship. Sheridan transmits a warning to the Homeguard ship, which simply accelerates and does not acknowledge the message. Sheridan orders Ross to fire, but nothing happens and Ross does not respond. Then he hears Corchoran on the link, taunting him.

Donne leads Anna and Morden to a chamber below the crevasse, where they see what appear to be cryogenic chambers, one for each person on the Icarus, and the egg. As they watch, the egg lets out Razor, who is taken away, struggling, by three pale humanoid aliens. They hear a drill, and screams from Razor. Anna sees some kind of wiring attached to the face of the person in the nearest chamber and realizes the aliens are preparing the humans to become part of the biomachines. Churlstein, apparently unharmed, comes upon them and tries to take the PPGs away. Donne is immobilized by a telepathic attack.

Sheridan orders all blast doors closed and the outer parts of the Agamemnon evacuated. There is a struggle in the weapons bay, but Ross is able to fire on the Homeguard ship's engines. The explosives are touched off, and the Homeguard ship is destroyed. The Agamemnon suffers some damage, but no casualties. As a reward for a job well done, Lochschmanan assigns the Agamemnon to be part of the honor guard at the dedication of Babylon 5.

Churlstein says that he is now an emissary from the resident aliens, who are willing to share all their technology if their existence is kept secret. Anyone who serves them willingly will be rewarded with their greatest desires; anyone else will be forced to serve unwillingly. New, spidery aliens begin to materialize all around. Donne shoots Churlstein, then the roof of the passage, creating a rockfall that buries Anna and Morden up to their shoulders and kills Donne and the humanoids. The spidery aliens continue to surround them. Anna and Morden try to set off one of the mice to destroy them. As the mouse awakes, through a telepathic link, they see an image of Morden's wife and daughter caught in a hyperspace vortex, still alive and in pain. Morden breaks contact and tells the aliens he will help them, if they can end his family's suffering. Anna is left to become a part of the machine.

Above the planet, Kosh sees the Icarus take off, empty. It broadcasts a distress signal and then explodes. At Babylon 5, the dedication ceremony goes smoothly, except for Kosh not being able to be present. At the end of the ceremony, Sheridan gets a call from Lochschmanan, telling him about the loss of the Icarus. Anna has been installed in a Shadow ship.

Unanswered Questions

Analysis

Notes

The Author Speaks

JMS Speaks


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