Near a Drazi colony on the border of Drazi space, the Centauri and Drazi fight one another.
Lochley's personal journal: "The Centauri War continues to spiral out of control. The threat of retaliation has already reached Babylon 5. Over half a dozen Centauri have been murdered in just the last three days. In an attempt to reduce the number of casualties, I've doubled security on every level. It hasn't helped."
Sheridan stops by Lochley's quarters late at night. He wants to tell her about the latest information. According to reliable, but still unconfirmed reports, the Centauri are targeting enemy jumpgates. Lochley is aghast. This is a violation of every rule of civilized warfare. And if the hyperspace beacon system fails, it will hurt the Centauri as much as anyone else. It makes no sense.
Sheridan agrees. This means, he says, that the Centauri are out of control, and may even strike at Babylon 5 itself. Moreover, he has just authorized the White Star fleet to fire on any Centauri vessel engaged in hostilities against Alliance ships. Babylon 5 is no longer neutral in this conflict.
Over breakfast, Sheridan is trying to ask Delenn for something he
doesn't really want to ask. Since the Alliance has been using White
Stars against pretty much every size of ship. Since the Shadow War,
through the battle for Earth, and now the Centauri War, they've lost a
lot of them. Sooner or later they will run out of ships. They need
more ships, and they need bigger ships as well.
Delenn agrees in principle, but thinks it will not be easy to arrange. The Grey Council authorized the construction of the White Star ships for use in the Shadow War. To develop similar vessels, but of entirely new classes, would imply an enormous expense. But Sheridan points out that the expense can be spread around now. He has suggested to President Luchenko of the Earth Alliance a joint Earth-Minbari project. Minbar will provide the specs and material for a destroyer class ship, and Earth will handle the construction and expenses. Since they will also benefit from the technology involved, Luchenko is willing to go ahead... if the Minbari agree to it first. So Sheridan needs Delenn to contact the Grey Council and propose it.
The problem is that she needs to do it in person. The project must be kept secret until the first prototypes start rolling out of the assembly lines. And the hyperspace routes from Babylon 5 to Minbar are no longer safe, with the war going on. Nonetheless, Delenn agrees to do it. After all, it is impossible to live without risks.
Franklin and Lyta arrive at Vir's temporary quarters. He has been
moved to help protect him, and he has asked both of them to come
because he needs their help. The biggest losses the Centauri have had
have been against the Drazi. According to the Declaration of
Principles of the Alliance, opposing sides should exchange bodies of
those killed, returning them to their own people. The Centauri have
been honoring this, but the Drazi have refused to return any bodies of
Centauri dead. Vir thinks something is going on.
Vir wants Franklin to put pressure on the Drazi, as head Medical Officer of the Alliance, and Lyta to tell if they are hiding something. Franklin can also tell if the bodies were killed in space or elsewhere, find out if there is a reason they refuse to return them in the first place. Franklin points out he would have to go to the Drazi homeworld, but Vir has made all the arrangements for this. Franklin agrees, provided Sheridan approves.
But Lyta will not do it for free. Her fee will be five hundred thousand credits, to be deposited in an account to help rogue telepaths escape the Psi Corps. Vir is taken aback, as it is more than he can afford. And Londo is, as Vir puts it, "otherwise engaged."
In fact, Londo is in a cell with G'Kar ("And All My Dreams, Torn Asunder"). G'Kar tries to get him to leave, but Londo will not. For one, it is a question of principle: he said he would go wherever G'Kar did. Besides, he figures he can be of more help in there. The people will be outraged when they find out he is being held in prison without being charged, and the popular outcry will force the Centarum to take a stand. They may even have to issue a cease fire over the Regent's objections. He'll wait until morning. It has been three days since he has been in the cell, more than enough time for the people to get organized.
G'Kar and Londo start getting ready to go to sleep when a bright
light flashes; they both fall to the ground unconscious, and robed
figures grab Londo and drag him out of the cell, leaving G'Kar behind.
The figures are aliens. Londo is put on a table, taken through dark
corridors to a dark room, where he is examined. A device is stuck
through his throat, and the aliens continue their preparations. When
they are done, Londo awakes briefly, and sees the aliens over
him. "Who are you?" he asks, "What do you want with me?" Another
shadowy alien comes by ("In the
Kingdom of the Blind") "Yes," the
new arrival whispers. "He will be sufficient." A mask descends on
Londo's face, as his vision blurs. Then, he awakes with a start.
It is morning. He is back in the cell with G'Kar. It appears it was only a nightmare. Londo says he has to get out. He has the feeling something is terribly wrong, and he needs to be out to deal with it. But he needs to save face. G'Kar obliges, by vomiting, creating a horrible smell. Londo is "rescued" by a guard, who gags and coughs at the stench.
On Babylon 5, Sheridan, Garibaldi, and Lochley arrive for a meeting with the Narn, Brakiri, and Drazi generals. According to them, with the help of the White Stars, they are holding their own against the Centauri. But the Narns have taken heavy losses on their already depleted forces. Lochley suggests they consolidate their defenses: the Drazi could send some ships to help the Narns, and so on. But the Brakiri ships will not take orders from Drazi, according to the Brakiri general. And the Drazi, claims the Narn, will not take orders from them. The Drazi general, on the other hand, claims they can win by themselves and do not need help from others. Clearly, no cooperation is possible.
Sheridan also wants to get a sense for the Centauri strategy. According to Garibaldi, the Centauri fleet has divided in two; one wing is defending their bases, and the other wing is attacking others, with little to no exchange between the two wings. Which, according to the Narn, is atypical of Centauri tactics. Furthermore, no overall strategy is apparent. Very strange indeed.
Lochley is called to C&C. After she leaves, the Narn suggest pooling
their forces and launching an offensive. The Drazi agrees; they want
to hit Centauri Prime. But Sheridan will not allow it, as it would
mean hitting civilians. The Brakiri points out that such
considerations have not stopped the Centauri. Nonetheless, Sheridan
does not yield, and he forbids any attacks on civilians.
In C&C, Corwin explains that a lone Centauri cruiser is approaching through hyperspace. Their weapons are off, but the jump engine shows unusual readings, and there are no life signs. Lochley realizes the ship is going to blow the jumpgate, and orders Alpha Squadron to destroy the cruiser. They manage it, barely, although the explosion causes some minor damage to the gate. It was far too close.
Now alone, the Drazi and Narn generals take the near miss as an indication that the humans cannot fight this war properly. The Drazi suggests they join forces and attack Centauri Prime. The Narn general agrees. On this, at least, they can work together.
Sheridan contacts Delenn and Lennier, who are already en route to
Minbar. The gate at Babylon 5 will be out for a couple of days. Delenn
is relieved everyone on the station is fine. She is two days away from
Minbar, and has already scheduled a meeting with the Grey Council.
On Centauri Prime, Londo is talking with several ministers, trying to muster support to move against the Regent. But the Defense Minister disagrees. According to him, Centauri ships have been engaged only in defensive actions. The rest is propaganda. The other ministers agree. The Ministry of Defense will not back Londo in a move against the Regent.
On Babylon 5, Garibaldi runs to Sheridan's quarters. He just found out
that thirty percent of the Narn and Drazi fleets have disappeared.
Garibaldi thinks they are on their way to Centauri Prime, but there is
no time to get proof. Sheridan needs to get between them and the
planet, or several million civilians will die.
On the Drazi Homeworld, Franklin and Lyta meet with a Drazi doctor. The doctor claims they have not returned Centauri bodies because they have none; the dead were in such disarray in space that it was impossible to put them together. But Lyta knows he is lying, and accuses him of it. Then, two Drazi climb down onto the balcony and start firing. Franklin gets one of them with a PPG, and Lyta stands up and uses her mind to force the second Drazi to shoot himself in the head. The Drazi doctor is horrified and tries to leave, but is stopped by Franklin. Lyta scans him, and then yells "Take me there! Now!" Franklin and Lyta lead the Drazi out at gun point.
On Babylon 5, Sheridan has assembled a White Star strike team, and they head out to Centauri Prime. Elsewhere in hyperspace, Delenn's ship detects four Centauri warships. Too many to fight. And before they can notify Babylon 5, the Centauri fire and damage the White Star. The ship starts spinning out of control, and fires break out inside.
On the Drazi Homeworld, Franklin and Lyta arrive at a research
facility, and discover why they were almost killed: the Centauri ships
had no crew, only some black pods attached to the controls. Lyta
recognizes them, just as more shots are fired at them from inside the
facility. Lyta grabs a pod, and they both run out.
On Centauri Prime, Londo enters his quarters and finds the Regent there. The Regent rambles a bit, and later acknowledges that he gave the attack orders, "after a fashion." He also says his time is almost over; he will die soon, and he is glad of it.
In hyperspace, Sheridan receives Franklin's report. Lyta explains that the pods are leftover Shadow technology. The Vorlons left the information behind in her. The pods are organic devices, used to control ships from a distance. This is why the Centauri military leaders did not know about the attacks, and why the defensive and offensive wings of the fleet did not mix. All attacking ships are being controlled through the pods. Sheridan wonders how the Centauri got their hands on them, but Franklin points out many Shadow servants were left behind when Z'ha'dum exploded ("Epiphanies"). It is possible one of these races sold them to the Centauri. Or, as Lyta points out, a third party may be using them to frame the Centauri. The Drazi kept the pods secret so they wouldn't have to turn them over to the Alliance, and because they have always competed with the Centauri for trade; a war is in their best interest.
Sheridan realizes now why they couldn't figure out the Centauri strategy: there was none. The objective was to turn everyone against the Centauri so they would attack them.
Delenn's ship is adrift in hyperspace, half destroyed. Delenn and
Lennier are still alive, the only ones left on the bridge. The jump
engines are off line, and most of the crew is dead. The few other
survivors are trapped in lower decks, unable to get through the
debris. They have enough fuel left in the thrusters to keep from
drifting too far off the beacon for now ("A
Distant Star"). Lennier can't even tell if the distress signal is
working, and his leg is broken. "This is bad, then," says
Delenn. "Very bad," confirms Lennier.
In his cell on Centauri Prime, G'Kar writes as the Narn and Drazi fleets approach. Elsewhere in the Royal Palace, Londo and the Regent are still talking. Londo asks the Regent to recall the ships, make peace. "There will be peace," says the Regent. "But it will not last. It never does. They said so. They also said I would be dead by morning, and that tomorrow you would be Emperor." Londo wants to know who they are, but the Regent does not answer. Instead, he continues: "They asked me to send away all the ships guarding Centauri Prime on a false emergency, and turn off the planetary defense network." The Regent did so, just before coming to see Londo. "No!" Londo says horrified, and runs out to a courtyard. In the sky, he can see jump points opening in outer space.
High above Centauri Prime, the jump points open and Drazi and Narn ships jump back into normal space. They open fire...