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many great techno-mages had served. Knowing of the many times of strife throughout their history, he had been glad he was serving in a time of relative calm. In calm he could do good, in calm he could build a future for the techno-mages. Yet mixed with his pride and honor had been an unexpected feeling of terror. It would be his responsibility-along with the rest of the Circle-to lead the mages through any crisis that might occur. They would depend on him for wisdom, for answers. His one hope had been that no great crisis would arise during his tenure. "If the Shadows are returning, it will mean a galactic war. Everything that has been built will be torn asunder."

"I am not well liked in the Circle," Burell said with dry understatement. "If I come to them with this evidence, I fear they may discount it because of the source. I don't know if others have seen similar signs, but I know what I have seen, and I know we must take action. I need your support to convince the Circle."

"They are never easily convinced of anything. Only if there is clear, compelling evidence will a majority endorse action."

"Here is what I know."

Elric's implants informed him he had received a message. It was from Burell. In his mind's eye, he opened it. The message contained all the evidence she had compiled. Elric scanned it quickly. Accounts of ships, passengers, equipment. Hyperspace routes. Covert activities. He didn't know if the others would be convinced, but for him, the fear of the last two years at last took certain form, manifesting itself in substance and shape-the substance of darkness, and the shape of the Shadow. "I will go with you to the Circle."

"Thank you, Elric." She drew her hand back, shifting uncomfortably.

"We can meet with them after the initiation tomorrow.
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