The EAS Charon and two escort destroyers at hyperspace beacon Six-five-one, location one point three light years distant from Babylon Five space:
The last thing the security forces had expected was an attack by the Centauri. It had been understood that they might have tried to disrupt the conference at Babylon Five which was why the Charon was stationed here, waiting to escort the Earth Force diplomatic vessel back home. But there so many allied ships around, it would be suicide to try anything. Certainly one ship was less than useless.
The blackness of space retreated as the Charon's defensive armor barely resisted the second volley of particle beams tearing into her port side. She returned fire with her main weapons and the ripped into the side of the Vorchan warship that had fired on her. Even as the EAS ship gutted her, both of her support ships were adding their considerable firepower to the mix. Mortally wounded, plasma fires in a half dozen places, the ship wavered and slowing cracked into three distinct sections. The Centauri support fighters were helpless now and an overwhelming number of Star Furies were now mopping them up, offering them the same chance for surrender as they had the Heracles.
Despite the suddenness of the attack, the Charon escort hadn't been the primary target. Unfortunately for the Centauri, they were simply at the wrong place at the right time. The true objective had been a small Earth shuttle that somehow reached the Jump gate, frantically trying to reach a safe haven.
"We are clear of enemy activity, Captain," Commander Trent announced. "We've sustained a lot of damage on our outer hull, sir. However we are still able to maneuver and critical systems are online. EAS ships are vectoring in on our position."
"Excellent," Captain Anderson said with obvious pride for his ship and crew. "Make sure our wounded are attended to. Now let's see what was so important that the Centauri would sacrifice a ship-of-the-line to destroy one shuttle. I want it brought here."
Justin, Morden and a hundred other from a dozen species watched as the Shadow fleet saluted Z'ha'dum's dark city before phasing into hyperspace. This was the latest strike force headed towards the rapidly weakening Vorlon defense force. In their foolishness, the Vorlons had garnered no support except the younger races and that support was busy defending itself against the Drakh Hordes banging at their gates. This was one of so many mistakes the Vorlons had made in their pathetic existences, Justin believed-
-As did the others. Arrogance usually got you killed and in the end the Shadow theory seemed even stronger: that which did not kill you made you stronger. It was almost regrettable that the Shadows were going to force their ancient foes to retreat into the Rim as so many of the older races had gone to.
But exactly what was the Rim?
No one was saying.
Justin turned and slowly left the congregation followed by Morden and two Shadow aliens. The group entered his apartment and he poured himself and Morden a glass of wine.
"To victory," Morden echoed. He took a slow sip, savoring every nuance of flavor. "I expect our little package has arrived at Babylon Five by now."
"I believe so. It was a nice touch to let the Centauri find out about it. They almost performed too well and came very close to destroying the shuttle."
"But they didn't, which is a good thing for them." There was a hint of darkness in his words that suggested that it was indeed good that the Centauri had failed. "Cartagia can be very reasonable when necessary," Morden said. "I wish I could be there to see Sheridan's face."
One of the Shadows whispered softly.
"We understand that this grand alliance can't be allowed to flourish. Sheridan is the glue that is holding it together. If he's distracted for a while," Justin smirked, "so much the better," for us. That is why this plan is so important. Otherwise, I see no choice but to destroy his power base."
There were more whispers.
"The polarized plating and new weapons are a problem. I understand that you would need more resources to overwhelm them now. Even with the Federation technology, they aren't that much of a threat. But surely they can wait until the Vorlons are subdued?"
Several more comments were whispered to the Humans.
It was Morden who responded this time. "The plan is a good one. Yes, we will be patient. We've learned that virtue from you."
Two alien heads twisted, listening to something that the Humans could not hear. Quickly, they left, motioning for the two men to follow. All four of the beings reached the edge of the city and joined the tens of thousands looking up towards the heavens. Stunned, the Humans were unsure of just what they were looking at. But the Shadows knew exactly what it was.
It was found deep in hyperspace by one of the Shadow escorts, the lead alien explained. The artifact had been created and lost nearly three thousand years ago for reasons unknown.
"It's Vorlon," Justin hissed as the citywide view screen appeared and presented details of the artifact for all to see. Its size was almost that of Babylon Five itself, but its design reminded him at first glance, of some type of musical instrument.
The first alien confirmed it. It was going to be a victory trophy for Shadowdom. The Vorlons had searched for this particular creation for three millennia. Now it was theirs.
"But I thought that you wanted nothing to do with anything Vorlon," said a surprised Justin.
The creature dismissed that prophecy. It said that the circle had been altered and the danger had passed, no longer being significant in the glories to come. A new circle was forming and the Shadows would ride it for the next thousand years.
Justin and Morden were not convinced. And both wanted to know exactly what that thing was.
The answer was swift. It was alleged to be a doorway into another universe, another place that the Vorlons believed would allow them to touch the hand of God and so become gods themselves. They were arrogant like that. But they had never activated it, or so it was believed. There had been a war between two factions and the artifact was stolen, hidden and forgotten in the vastness of hyperspace. Now rediscovered, it would they who would touch and be touched.
"This may not be a good idea," Morden whispered to Justin even as several large Shadow vessels prepared to begin to move the device to a safe distance to begin experimenting with the Vorlon device in an effort to activate it. "Things Vorlon are a curse to this universe."
Justin didn't comment. However he was in agreement with his companion one hundred percent.
By this action everything that had happened would pale into insignificance as the match began lighting the candle of Armageddon. Nothing would prepare them for the nightmare beginning to flare even while they watched astonished by the dark beauty of it all.
The old circle had indeed been ripped apart. A new, hideous one began to make itself known to the universe.
The USS Enterprise dropped out of warp almost on top of the EAS Charon's battle group some thirty-five hours after Earth Force ship had picked up the lone occupant onboard the escaping shuttle. Her shields were up, but other than that, sensors didn't detect any targeting locks, and that made Captain Anderson a very happy man.
"Captain Picard is onscreen."
"Very Good." Anderson saw the severe-looking Federation Captain eyeing him carefully. He was obviously sizing him up before he spoke. "Captain," he said nodding slightly.
"Captain," Picard responded. "Where is your passenger?"
"Good. Tell her to prepare for transport."
"Acknowledged." The man definitely wasn't into small talk. This Captain was no one to play with. "Captain, will you relay a message to Captain Sisko for me?"
Picard looked up. "What is it?"
"Tell him that 'things are okay'," Anderson said with equal coldness. He watched in satisfaction as Picard acknowledged the insult and softened slightly.
"I'll relay the message," the Federation Captain said in a more civil tone. "Picard out."
"Reminds me of a drill instructor, I had once," the EAS Officer behind Anderson murmured, "no sense of humor at all."
The transport was completed and the Starship maximum warped towards Babylon Five.
Three hours later, the Enterprise re-entered B5 space and transported the woman to secured quarters, where John was waiting. Even though he knew who was coming, he still remained speechless, not believing in the one who stood in front of him.
"Hello John," Anne Sheridan said simply.
Expressionless at first, he simply continued to stare. The same eyes, the same voice, that body figure he used to hold so gently and lovingly, everything he saw- it was her.
"I know what you're thinking, but their ideals are different, on levels we can barely understand," Anne began quickly. "They're not animals, but a wise and powerful race. For a moment she silent as the memories seemed to overwhelm her.
" No one comes back from Z'ha'dum the same. Part of me has been damaged, John. They put me into one of their machines," his lost-lost wife continued. "When the what-you-call Shadows released me, they told me that they would use me as bait to get to you, but I escaped. You're interfering with their plans and they will destroy Babylon Five unless you break this alliance. They believed that if you found out that I was alive, I could be used as a ransom to keep you under control."
John's life shattered. She was supposed to be dead. It was another lie. But here she was, in the flesh. Beverly and Stephen had confirmed that it was indeed his wife, before she even arrived. "They told me you were dead, lost with the others on your ship."
Delenn told you I was dead," Anne corrected. "I heard the Shadows speaking about her. "She's Minbari." The words came out as a curse. "They never tell the whole truth, especially when it's not in their interests. She wants you and will do anything to keep you for herself."
"You escaped from the Shadows? How?" He couldn't think of anything else to say. Right now he couldn't dare take the road he so desperately wanted to. Not yet.
"I had help," Anne whispered seductively and with more than a hint of evasion.
The hairs on John's back stood on their ends.
"Once I was free, there was no choice. I had to return to you-"
Between the Darkness and the Light are "THOSE WHO STAND"