It is a quiet evening on the station, and Commander Ivanova is enjoying the peace when she receives word that the jump gate is activating and six EarthForce ships are coming through.
A shuttle from the main ship docks, and Sheridan is there to meet the commanding officer, who introduces himself as General Richard Franklin, of the 356th infantry division. Sheridan apologizes for the delay, but since they didn't know he was coming, there was little they could do. General Franklin tells him that the mission is classified, but that Sheridan will be briefed in the morning. General Franklin also tells him that he needs lodging for all 25,000 of his troops. Sheridan protests, saying that there isn't enough space, but General Franklin orders him to find it, because he doesn't want his troops aboard transports the whole time. Sheridan asks the general if he is any relation to the station's head doctor, Dr. Stephen Franklin, and the general answers that he is Dr. Franklin's father. Sheridan offers to tell Dr. Franklin, but General Franklin says he will do so himself as soon as his people are settled.
The troops arrive on the station, are identified, and then herded into groups to be taken to their billets. Commander Ivanova is trying to organize everyone together, but is having a difficult time of this. Garibaldi is also not too pleased with the sight of so many ground pounders on the station, but realizes there is little that can be done. She orders him to seal off the area and only allow military personnel inside the docking bay.
The troops come aboard.
Sheridan asks Ivanova what the status of the station is, and she tells him that, even though they have put the ground pounders in quarters with several other people, they are still very short on places to put them. In addition, she is afraid their docking schedule will have to be done away with. Garibaldi tells Sheridan that looking after the recreational areas might be a good idea as well, and Sheridan tells Garibaldi to seal off the more "colorful" areas of the station. Garibaldi tells him he already did this, but is afraid it won't do much good. The three arrive at the briefing.
General Franklin explains to them that the planet Akdor, in the Shilassen Triumvirate, is currently engaged in a civil war, and the Shilassen government has asked for aid, which the Earth Alliance wants to provide. Sheridan is confused as, just a few days earlier, he was told to refuse the request, and the general tells him that, until the senate announces their decision to the public, Sheridan's orders are the official story. Ivanova asks what the objective is, and General Franklin says it is an attack against the rebel stronghold at Matok. As soon as the senate announces their intention, General Franklin's troops will go in and take the fort. Sheridan tells him that he knows, from previous experienece, that Matok is a death-trap, to which Franklin replies that Sheridan's knowledge was one reason Babylon 5 was chosen as a staging area. Garibaldi asks how they can keep the operation a secret, and Franklin tells him that the soldiers believe they are going to Io. General Franklin also tells them that his people are going to leave new weapons for Babylon 5, so that they will have the capacity to take on a warship. Franklin explains that, with the Narn and Centauri at war, the other aliens may become more aggressive, in which case Babylon 5 needs to be prepared. Franklin orders them to return in the morning to discuss the battle plan, and for no one else to be told of the situation. Sheridan, Ivanova, and Garibaldi leave, unhappy about the situation before them.
Lieutenant Warren Keffer returns to his quarters to find two ground pounders, Yang and "Large" there. Though they are cordial to him, Keffer is upset about having to share his quarters. He tells them that they should leave, but when "Large," threatens him, Keffer stands up to him, which endears him to "Large" immediately.
Dr. Franklin is in his quarters, meeting with his father, catching up on current events in their family. While they are talking, General Franklin offers to have his son transferred to Bethesda Dome so that he can be of more use to Earth Force during the Narn-Centauri war. This outrages Stephen, who says his job as a doctor is to heal people. His father tells him that he should heal humans instead, but Stephen doesn't agree. "Life is life, whether it's wrapped in skin, scales, or feathers. Now, if you respected these beings instead of constantly trying to murder them, you'd appreciate that!" As soon as he says it, Stephen realizes it was a mistake, but the general leaves too quickly for him to say anything else.
"Life is life!"
In MedLab, Dr. Franklin is unhappy to see Ivanova arrive with a large group of soldiers she wants to billet in the infirmary. He initially objects, but after Ivanova quotes to him information from his medical log, saying that the patients in the infirmary can be moved, he reluctantly agrees. She can tell he's upset about something, and he explains to her what he's feeling. "He always brings out this anger in me I can't control. Now matter how I try, I always seem to want to hurt him. You know, the funny thing is, I do love him, I just can't...talk to him." Ivanova explains that she had similar feelings toward her father. She receives a call from C&C saying that she has to leave, but she offers to meet him later to talk. He agrees to do what he can about the infirmary space.
At dinner, Dr. Franklin explains to Ivanova how difficult it was growing up with his father, who always ran things as if the family were in the military. He tells her that it was difficult living with not knowing whether or not his father would come home, and that it became difficult to bear the pain, so he left for the stars. His father wasn't happy, but when Dr. Franklin joined Earth Force, the general turned around. He says that they talk very little, and only end up fighting when they do talk. He says he thinks he should give up altogether, but Ivanova doesn't agree. "Talk to him, Stephen," she says. "Tell him what you feel no matter how hard it is. I didn't and I lost the chance. Don't make the same mistake." He doesn't understand, and asks her if the troops are really bound for Io. She doesn't answer him and leaves to go back on duty.
Garibaldi and Delenn walk through a corridor talking about the Narn-Centauri war, Delenn expressing her wish that Babylon 5 remain devoted to peace during the difficult times ahead. Garibaldi becomes distracted and leaves her for a moment to check on some ground pounders, when she meets up with several. They ask her what she is. Though she tells them she is a Minbari, they persist, taunting her, and advancing upon her forcefully. She tells them she did nothing to them, but they say she needs to be taught a lesson because of what the Minbari did to them on the Line. They are about to teach her that lesson when a woman ground pounder jumps in between them and stands up for Delenn, who rushes off while the woman fights her fellow soldiers. Delenn finds Garibaldi and takes him to the conflict. The fight is soon broken up by the Sergeant-Major in charge of the ground pounders, who is about to take all them to the brig. Garibaldi intervenes, convincing him not to do so. The woman calls after Garibaldi, and she introduces herself to him as Dodger. He tells her that Ambassador Delenn wanted him to maintain peace as much as possible, and that he saved her because of that. He has a call, and has to leave. She tells him that she might see him around.
Delenn is threatened.
General Franklin explains to Sheridan the tactics he plans to use on the attack. He asks Sheridan about several options, but Sheridan tells him that there is no way to get through without heavy casualities. Sheridan suggests that they call the whole thing off, but General Franklin disagrees, saying an important reason for the invasion is to install their presence in Shilassen space, which is very close to the Narn and Centauri. Dr. Franklin comes into the room and tells his father he wants to talk, but his father wants no part of it. Dr. Franklin says that he didn't mean the things he said, but this angers his father even more. He tells him that he will talk to him later, but Dr. Franklin is not pleased with this, either. General Franklin orders his son to leave, which he does.
After Dr. Franklin leaves, the general asks Sheridan if he feels like being a soldier is being a murderer. Sheridan says that the only truth about war is that people die. "Killing is part of a soldier's job. We can't deny it--we can only live with it and hope the reasons for doing it are justified." General Franklin says that he wishes his son could understand that, and Sheridan tells him that he feels Dr. Franklin is an excellent doctor, and that he will stand up for his principles if they are challenged. General Franklin feels that is an admirable trait, and Sheridan agrees, saying that, even though he and his father had similar disagreements, and they never stopped arguing, they never stopped loving each other either. General Franklin thanks Sheridan for the talk, and concludes the briefing.
Garibaldi and Lou Welch keep an eye on all of the ground pounders when Dodger walks up and asks Garibaldi for a tour. Welch offers to take over for Garibaldi while he is gone. Garibaldi asks Dodger what she wants to see. "A nice restaurant," she replies. "And your quarters."
Garibaldi takes Dodger to his quarters, where they are barely able to keep their hands off of each other. They sit down on the bed, and prepare to continue, but before they go any further, Garibaldi explains the troubles he has had recently, with Lise and his near-death after being shot by his aide. He tells her that, if she is the one for him, he doesn't want to ruin it by going too fast. She gets up and explains her situation to him. "You know, I didn't come here expecting to set up housekeeping. I'm a ground pounder. I'm cleaning latrines one day, the next I might be up to my hips in blood, hoping that I don't hear the round that takes me out. You got it? In between, I like to try to see what I can get, to remind myself that I'm alive. Right, it's not romance, but it's all I got time for. I'm so sorry it's not enough for you." He tries to call after her as she leaves, but she won't speak to him.
The heat of the moment.
Ivanova and Sheridan go back to C&C, finally back on-shcedule at the docking bays. Sheridan tells her to try to arrange a paid vacation for the workers, to compensate for their recent troubles. Sheridan asks about the new defense system they have, and Ivanova explains that their new arsenal really is enough to take on a warship, complete with pulse cannons, interceptors, mine launchers, and a much improved tracking system. Sheridan tells her that he hopes they will never have to use it.
Dr. Franklin is in his quarters when his father comes in. The general apologizes for dismissing him the previous day, but also says that he had every right to be angry about the way his son acted. He tells Stephen that he has no right to call him a murderer, and he can't believe that he would have so little respect. Stephen says that it isn't about respect, but rather about the way they don't communicate very well. Stephen explains to his father that it really hurts him to have such a relationship with him when he isn't sure that he will ever see him again. General Franklin apologizes, saying that he never really meant to shut him out. Stephen says it might just be their relationship, but he has always respected his father, and thanks him for the things he taught him. He also says that he regrets the things he did say to his father over the years, and takes the opportunity to tell his father the one thing he never had a chance to -- that he loves him. He says that he always has and that nothing could ever change that. The two of them hug.
In a bar, Large is telling Yang and Keffer a war story. He leaves for a moment, and Keffer asks Yang if Large ever tells anything besides war stories. Keffer asks if Yang has seen any fighting, and Yang tells him that he hasn't, but he says he's ready. Yang asks Keffer if he has, and if he was scared. Keffer says that no matter what happens, you're always scared. Large returns, and the three toast together to their health.
Garibaldi approaches the bar, where Dodger is sitting. He starts to talk to her, but she apologizes for her behavior, and says that, sometimes, she wants things too much, and pushes unnecessarily for them. She expresses her disbelief at the official talk that the ground pounders are going to Io, since she doesn't think that General Franklin would lead such a minor mission. She offers to buy him a drink, and he selects water.
Keffer tells Large and Yang a war story of his own, and accidentally nudges a soldier while gesturing. It turns out to be Private Kleist, the ground pounder who earlier assaulted Delenn, and though Keffer attempts to apologize, Kleist won't listen. Keffer suggests they settle it outside, but Kleist doesn't want to wait. The two of them begin to fight, and the skirmish escalates into a full-scale barroom brawl, with nearly everyone in the bar getting in on the action. After several minutes of fighting, the Sergeant-Major and General Franklin appear and tell them that they are moving out right away, so they all need to get their gear and leave immediately.
The bar brawl erupts.
Garibaldi and Dodger, who cooperated in the fight, say their goodbyes, and Keffer, Large, and Yang do the same thing. Keffer wishes them both luck, and comments that he hopes he'll see them again. General Franklin, meanwhile, offers to punish the ground pounders involved in the fight and make reparations. Sheridan accepts the reparations, and says that he would rather have the ground pounders with General Franklin. "Besides," he says, "I don't think we have the room."
As the 25,000 ground pounders prepare to leave, Sheridan tells General Franklin that he hopes he was wrong about Matok's defenses. General Franklin says his goodbyes to Garibaldi and Ivanova as well, and finally sees his son. Before he leaves, General Franklin tells Stephen that he is very proud of him, and will talk to him more when he gets back. They hug again, and General Franklin ships out.
Garibaldi searches through the line of ground pounders for Dodger, whom he eventually finds. He makes a date to see her when she returns, and, despite the Sergeant-Major's urging, the two share a long, passionate goodbye kiss. "You'll never know what you missed," she tells him as she boards the ship, which soon departs and enters the jump gate.
A large group of officers stands, watching a large monitor, which is displaying an ISN news broadcast about the assault on Matok at Akdor. The gruesome visuals show pictures of intense fighting and blasting from many different kinds of units. A reporter talks to General Franklin, whom Dr. Franklin is overjoyed to see. General Franklin explains the situation. "Our troops have taken control of the fortress at Matok. Most of the leaders of the rebellion have either been killed or captured, and we expect a complete surrender of all the rebel forces very shortly." The group watching the broadcast cheers, but General Franklin is pulled away by another officer, for some other reason. Lou Welch appears and hands Garibaldi the initial list of casualities. Garibaldi looks over it for a moment, and silently hands it to Keffer. Keffer looks at the report and learns that Large, Yang, Dodger--and even the ground pounder who assaulted Delenn and began the bar fight all were killed. He stands, alone, reflecting upon the situation, and the reality of war.