Contents: Overview - Backplot - Questions - Analysis - Notes - JMS
The return of Babylon 4 leads the crew to a dangerous encounter and Delenn to revelations about the life of Valen.
Issue 12 (January 1998)
Setting: Season four, after "Into the Fire"
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski Artist: Mike Collins
Ivanova is in C&C, telling the crew about the final encounter with the Shadows and Vorlons ("Into the Fire") when a distress signal from Babylon 4 arrives.
The senior staff meets to discuss the situation. It's definitely Babylon 4, Ivanova says; the ID codes match. However, the signal is coming from a different location than the last place Babylon 4 was seen. Sheridan notes that since B4 was built on a much bigger budget than B5, there were a number of differences. "It was equipped with the biggest ion engines ever made," he says. "They didn't want it to be a sitting duck, like the previous three that were destroyed during construction."
Delenn reveals that after the last Shadow War, Babylon 4 was taken to a place of rest, its final location a secret. The crew who took it there never returned. Its fate was a mystery for nine hundred years -- until now. She urges Sheridan to investigate, since the station might contain priceless information about Minbari history. Sheridan agrees.
When they arrive at the source of the signal in a White Star, the crew is horrified to see Babylon 4 floating dead in orbit around a planet, battered and barely recognizable. Scanners pick up a weak power source and the distress signal, no signs of life or activity.
Wearing EVA suits, Delenn, Ivanova, Sheridan and Garibaldi leave the White Star and enter Babylon 4. The docking bay is full of debris, but they work their way through it and find an entrance. Soon they're in the station's Garden area, an empty metallic space.
Or almost empty -- the crew scatters as shots are fired in their direction. They take cover near a core shuttle, the aliens out of range of their PPGs. Thinking quickly, Garibaldi fires at some fuel tanks in the shuttle, sending the car flying toward the aliens and smashing them with flaming debris.
Garibaldi suggests heading toward C&C -- there was no ship outside, so whoever dropped the aliens off might be coming back to pick them up.
As the crew floats away, a hand reaches up out of the remains of the core shuttle.
Arriving in C&C, the crew finds that the solar panels have been brought online, most likely by the aliens. Sheridan speculates that they were scavengers raiding the station, something Delenn considers sacrilege -- the station belongs to history. "Not for long, I'm afraid," Ivanova says; it seems the arrival of the aliens disturbed B4's orbit, and the station will fall into the atmosphere in about 72 hours.
The surviving alien, meanwhile, has slipped unnoticed out of the station. It places an explosive charge on the White Star, which moments later is destroyed in a spectacular burst of light.
As Ivanova and Garibaldi struggle to adjust the distress signal to ask B5 to send help -- a daunting task, since the station's controls are now a melange of English, Minbari, and another language nobody recognizes -- Delenn accesses the station's records. What she finds fascinates her: the testaments of two Minbari of a thousand years ago, Nukenn of the religious caste and Rashok of the warrior caste, both describing the arrival and work of Valen.
"Valen was of us, and not of us," intones Nukenn. "He was the spirit, and we are his voice, his hands, his fire. He was the greatest of us because he was more than us."
"Valen was every hand that struck for freedom's purpose," declares Rashok. "He was the eye that saw for us, the strength that fought for us, the wisdom that conquered the unconquerable."
Nukenn recalls that the Shadows had destroyed the Minbari's last starbase. Minbari ships fled, finding no friendly ports. The Minbari were desperate, without hope. But hope appeared out of nowhere, in the form of Babylon 4.
"He gave us a weapon, a vessel into which we could pour our resources, and from which we could launch our counteroffensives," recalls Rashok. Valen never revealed where he or the station -- or his curious companion Zathras -- came from. Valen had no family name, no lineage that anyone could discover: a Minbari not born of Minbari.
Nukenn describes Valen's first attempt to unite the castes, which were divided over how to proceed and had begun to fight amongst themselves. They wouldn't listen to Valen's entreaties, so Valen turned his back on them and formed the Anla'Shok, a new army that recognized no castes.
Zathras was a mystery to Rashok. Zathras and Valen were clearly friends, but nobody could understand why -- Zathras was enough to drive anyone mad, in Rashok's opinion. They began to understand a little better when the Shadows came, and Zathras...
Delenn is interrupted by Ivanova. It seems the shape of the station is causing more atmospheric drag than she'd anticipated, slowing its orbit faster. Her new estimate is that they have only 24 hours left -- not enough time for their distress call to reach B5 and a ship to reach them.