On Centauri Prime, the Centauri emperor prepares for his voyage off the homeworld. His prime minister plans to go with him -- citing the emperor's poor health -- but the emperor declines; the prime minister is next in line of authority and needs to remain behind in case of a crisis. "What I must do," the emperor explains, "cannot wait any longer." Before the emperor leaves, he tells the prime minister how much he appreciates him, and that he seldom shows the gratitude he should. Followed by four veiled Centauri women, the emperor leaves the throne room.
Ambassador G'Kar attempts to convince Captain Sheridan that inviting the Centauri emperor to Babylon 5 is unacceptable to the Narns, because of what his family did to them. Sheridan tries to tell G'Kar that this emperor has gone out of his way to be nice to the Narns, but G'kar dismisses it as a technicality. Sheridan tells G'Kar that the resentment the Narn have against the Centauri is not his problem, and that everyone is welcome aboard the station, including the emperor. Sheridan tells G'Kar that he should use the opportunity to open a dialogue with the emperor, but G'Kar refuses to listen. As he leaves, Sheridan tells him not to do something he will regret. "It's too late for that, Captain. Too late by far."
A group of Centauri ships come through the jump gate as a frequent visitor to Babylon 5 over the last several months arrives on the station. The guard asks him if there is anything he can do to assist, but as soon as the man sees Garibaldi, he replies that he's found what he's looking for, and leaves.
Londo meets with Refa, who details what Londo is to do when he meets with the Centauri emperor. Londo is to deliver a carefully planned speech, which discusses the decline of the Centauri government and the need for change, and contains several predictions about the economy and the military that Refa has already arranged to come to pass. Refa's plan is to make the emperor look weak and short-sighted. Though Londo realizes this will not endear him to the emperor and his court, Refa explains that the emperor's health is very poor, and he is not expected to live much longer. Refa tells Londo that, if they don't take the opportunity that now presents itself, they may not be in the proper position when the time comes. Refa leaves Londo to study the speech. Vir, who had been watching the proceedings, is made uncomfortable by the situation, and tells Londo so when he asks. "Then, for once," says Londo, "we have something in common."
The emperor's ship arrives and docks. The command crew of Babylon 5, in full dress, is in the docking bay to meet him. The emperor offers Sheridan the hands of friendship, which Sheridan accepts. After introductions are complete, the emperor tells him that he is very impressed with their choice to risk great dangers in order to achieve peace. Sheridan offers to begin the tour, but the emperor interrupts, asking Dr. Franklin about Ambassador Kosh, as he has never seen a Vorlon before. He is curious because the Centauri have sent many expeditions into Vorlon space, but none have returned, and he wants to know more about the stories he has heard.
The Emperor arrives.
G'Kar is communicating with Karmok, a Narn government official, who tells him that the Ka-Ri endorsed G'Kar's plans. G'Kar asks when the best time would be to perform the act, and Karmok tells him that he should do it at the reception. Karmok asks if G'Kar is sure he wants to do it, but G'Kar insists he is. "It is a strange feeling, Karmok, to know suddenly that all the decisions in your life have brought you to this place. There is no longer doubt or uncertainty. The future now consists of only three probablities." He opens a box sitting nearby, and removes a shiny dagger from within. "In the moment that I strike, the emperor and I will both die. Or, he will die and I will spend my life in prison. Or, I will fail and be killed. For the first time in my life, the path is clear."
Sheridan joins the emperor in an observation dome. The emperor asks why Sheridan decided to join EarthForce. Sheridan says that it was his choice, that he joined before war, when a draft was instated. Sheridan says that he wanted to make a difference, and asks why the emperor is so interested. The emperor responds by saying he never made a choice in his life because all of his actions had been predetermined, and that he never thought he had to choose otherwise. He wonders what may have happened had he done so.
Sheridan offers his perspective. "That's why my father taught me to live each second as though it were the last moment of my life. If you love, love without reservation. If you fight, fight without fear. He called it the way of the warrior." Sheridan admits that he has only a few regrets, but the emperor says he has many more, and that he has lost and forgotten most of his life. The emperor says, even though most of his life has slipped away, and most of his options are gone, there still is the opportunity to do something that can make a difference, and he will not let it slip by. Meanwhile, the man who arrived aboard Babylon 5 earlier is standing in the corridor, watching and listening as Garibaldi makes security plans for the emperor's reception.
As the reception for the emperor begins, G'Kar is in his quarters, preparing for the task which lies before him. "I take this action," he dictates into a machine, "without the knowledge or permission of my government. Neither should my aide, Na'Toth, be held accountable for my actions. The responsibility is mine alone. I ask that my remains and my personal property be sent back to Narn--to my family. My copy of the Book of G'Quan I leave to Na'Toth, with the hope of her eventual enlightenment."
G'Kar makes out his will.
At the reception, Sheridan asks Ivanova about the veiled Centauri women who follow the emperor around. Ivanova explains that they are telepaths, always linked to the emperor. Two go with him at all times, and two remain at home at all times. Since all four can see and hear what the others see and hear, the emperor can be kept apprised of what is going on at home, while his court can learn what he is doing abroad. Ivanova asks Sheridan if he knows what the emperor's important speech is about. Sheridan tells her that he doesn't know, and that he hoped it would bring Ambassador Kosh to the reception, but Kosh is not present. One visitor they did not expect to see, however, G'Kar, arrives and promises Sheridan that he will listen to the emperor.
Nearby, the man following Garibaldi is finally captured. Garibaldi demands to know why he has been following him. He says he needs to talk to Garibaldi, but before he has a chance to explain, several other security guards arrive. Though pressed to say something, the man remains silent and is taken away by the guards.
"I need to talk to you."
The emperor and his train proceed to the reception, and G'Kar prepares the dagger he has brought along. Delenn sees this, but G'Kar moves away as she walks toward him. In a corridor, as the emperor walks, his face suddenly contorts and he clutches his chest as he falls. The Centauri with him, including the telepaths, turn in alarm. Dr. Franklin rushes out of the reception to help. On the Centauri homeworld, the remaining two telepaths enter the throne room and approach the prime minister, who is talking with two Minbari, and another gentleman who appears to be human. The prime minister rises in alarm, as if he knows what has happened aboard Babylon 5.
In MedLab, Dr. Franklin is alone with the bedridden emperor, who gives him an important message to deliver, something that can't be entrusted to another Centauri.
Londo and Vir meet with Refa again. Refa tells Londo that their competitors are preparing to take power as soon as the emperor dies. But Refa wants to prevent that. He tells Londo that they need to do something extraordinary, something to assure their side gains power. Londo remembers something Morden told him long ago. "He said, 'Just pick a target...'" Refa asks Londo what he means, and Londo explains. "I believe there is a Narn colony on the border of Centauri space, quadrant 14." The very mention of this makes Vir uneasy, but Londo and Refa brush it off. Refa tells Londo that the colony is a listening post the Narns have used for many years to spy on them, but that the planet should be ours. "Well then," Londo says, "let us take it back!" Refa claims it would require a major assault, costing many lives, but Londo says that he will take care of it, and tells Refa to send some Centauri military vessels to quadrant 14. Refa doesn't see how that will help, but Londo says it will be enough. Refa, though still unconvinced, tells Londo that he will see to it, and leaves. Londo turns to Vir. "Find Mr. Morden. Bring him here." Vir begs Londo to reconsider his actions, and to just listen to him this once. He tries to tell Londo that once he does this, he cannot turn back. Londo claims that he has no choice, and then tells Vir that, if he does not find Morden, he will do so himself.
"Let us take it back!"
"No. No, I'll go," says Vir. "I'll go, and I'll bring him back. And some day I'm going to remind you of this conversation. And maybe then...then you'll understand."
"I understand... just fine," Londo says. "By this time tomorrow, we will be at war with the Narns. May the Great Maker forgive me."
G'Kar is in his quarters, again speaking with Karmok, telling him how upset he is that he didn't get a chance to assassinate the emperor. His door chimes; it's Dr. Franklin. G'Kar tells Karmok that he may soon have another opportunity, and quickly cuts off the communication. He lets Dr. Franklin in. Franklin tells him that he just saw the emperor. G'Kar asks how the emperor is, and tells Franklin he was anxious to meet him. Franklin tells him that the emperor had a message for him. At first, G'Kar doesn't want to hear the message, but he changes his mind when Franklin says, "He wanted to say he's sorry." Franklin continues. "He came all the way out here, risked his health, and endangered his life, so that he could stand beside a Narn in neutral territory and apologize for all the things the Centauri have done to your people. For all the things his family did. He said, 'We were wrong. The hatred between our people can never end until someone is willing to say, I'm sorry, and try to find a way to make things right again, to atone for our actions.' He said it was the only choice he ever made in his life, and now that seems to have been taken away from him." This news strikes G'Kar deeply, and he says he had no idea that the emperor had come for that reason. "No, I'm sure you didn't," answers Franklin. "Maybe that's the biggest tragedy of the whole damn story."
Londo is asleep. As he is dreaming, he hears himself say, "Keep this up, G'Kar, and soon you won't have a planet to protect!" He sees a contigent of Narn fighters destroying the space station at Ragesh 3. Within seconds, that dissolves, and...
...He sees a great, fiery star with a hand emerging from it, reaching toward something...
...He sees Centauri Prime from orbit...
...He finds himself standing on the dusty or sandy surface of a planet, shielding his eyes from the sun as a group of Shadow ships fly overhead...
...He stands, dressed in ceremonial clothing, his head bowed, as a crown is placed upon his head...
...He sits on a large throne, dressed in elaborate white clothes. He is aged, decrepit, and ill. Surveying his surroundings, he sees a Narn, his face aged and wrinkled, wrapped in a dark cloth. It is G'Kar...
...Londo once again sees the great hand, stretching further and further from the star, grasping at something...
...He is back in the throne room, in a struggle with G'Kar. They are both trying to strangle each other. Londo begins losing the struggle, and he begins to fall back, as...
...he wakes up. He is quite disoriented, and picks up a small clock nearby, to check the time. "It has begun," he says.
At the Narn colony in quadrant 14, all is quiet as several Narn ships patrol the area. Without warning, three Shadow ships appear and begin firing at the Narn ships. The Narns put up a valiant fight, but can seemingly not even scratch the defenses of the enemy. The Shadow ships move toward the planet, destroying everything, and anything, in their way. The smaller Narn ships are all destroyed attempting to protect the planet. As the three Shadow ships arrive near the planet, a fourth appears and helps the others attack the colony on the planet, and the station orbiting it. After all has been destroyed, the four ships leave the vicinity, vanishing as they do so.
Refa and Londo are walking through Babylon 5. Londo tells Refa that the Narn will be learning of what happened soon enough, and that Centauri forces can move in at any time. Refa says that he will have to move quickly as well, as he has something to take care of at home. He tells Londo it is an obstacle that must be removed, but he refuses to elaborate when Londo asks what it is. Refa leaves as G'Kar appears and addresses Londo in a threatening tone. Londo tries to explain, but before he has a chance to explain or escape, G'Kar drops the gruff facade and pulls Londo over to a nearby bar, where he buys him a drink. "I've heard something that makes me think there is still hope for us after all," G'Kar tells him. "I believed your people capable of only murder and pain. But, apparently, there is still a spark of decency in your genetic code. It's not much of a foundation, I'll grant you that, but it's a start!" The drinks arrive and they toast. "I never thought I would be saying this Mollari, but, to the health of your emperor. And, perhaps, to your health as well." Londo painfully accepts the toast, and thanks G'Kar, visibly shaken. They both drink.
Several large Centauri warships create a jump point and emerge near the destroyed colony just as several smaller Narn ships arrive and see the damage that has been done. They do not know what happened, but they quickly see the Centauri ships there. The Narn communicate this to the homeworld and prepare to attack the Centauri warships. The fighting begins, and several of the Narn ships are destroyed.
The battle is joined.
The Centauri prime minister stands quietly near the throne on Centauri Prime, thinking. He begins to walk away, but is stopped by four Centauri as he attempts to leave. They say nothing. The prime minister tries to call his guards, but before he can, one of the four thrusts a dagger deep into him, and he falls to the floor, dead.
Garibaldi is in his office, exhausted, when another security officer enters, telling him that the prisoner wants to speak with him. Garibaldi refuses at first, but the officer says the prisoner claims it's important. The prisoner enters. Garibaldi tells him that he has five minutes, and the man explains. "I was sent to find you. I have a message for you." He puts a data crystal on Garibaldi's desk. "I believe it will explain everything." Garibaldi is reluctant at first, but he puts the crystal into his player and starts it.
The screens light up, showing the face of Ambassador Jeffrey Sinclair. "Hello, old friend," Sinclair says. "It's been a while. I'm trusting this message to an associate of mine who is sworn to bring it to you at any cost--including his own life. My job on the Minbari homeworld is more than just representing Earth. The President doesn't know about that part yet, and...I don't think it would be wise of you to tell him. There's a great darkness coming, Michael. Some of the Minbari have been waiting for it a long time."
In C&C, Ivanova reports to Sheridan that they intercepted an open message sent from the Narn homeworld to G'Kar, reporting about the assault on the Narn colony in quadrant 14. This upsets and angers Sheridan greatly.
"The bearer of this message," Sinclair continues, "is one of my rangers. Some are Minbari. Most are humans. They have been drawn here to learn to work together and prepare for the fight ahead." Garibaldi pauses the message, and the ranger explains that they have been on Babylon 5 for nearly two months. He says they are an army, and that they are growing. Garibaldi asks if this army's weapons are coming through the station, and the ranger says no, but that they do have friends, and that he can say no more. Garibaldi continues the message. "Their job, for now, is to patrol the frontier, to listen, to watch, and to return with reports too sensitive to trust to regular channels. They are my eyes and ears. Where you see them, you see me."
The ranger watches the message.
Karmok reports to G'Kar that the Narn ships they sent saw the Centauri warships lead the assault. G'Kar asks what happened to the inhabitants of the colony. Karmok tells him that most died within the first few minutes of the attack, but that, if there are survivors, they are probably going to be enslaved by the Centauri forever, now that they are in control. Karmok quickly breaks off the communication, wondering how the Centauri were able to so easily break through their defenses. G'Kar turns away slowly from the monitor, shaking his fist in rage. "I reached out my hand, and he betrayed me. He knew! And he betrayed me!" He flings his arm across a nearby table, throwing everything on the table onto the floor. His rage growing, he wrenches the table from its legs and the throws it to the ground, where it breaks in two.
"In the name of our friendship," Sinclair concludes, "I ask that you give them every courtesy and cooperation. I wish I could tell you more...I wish I could warn you. But the others don't think it's time yet. Stay close to the Vorlon, and watch out for shadows. They move when you're not looking." The message ends, and as Garibaldi turns to the ranger, he receives a call on his commlink telling him that help is needed in the ambassadorial wing. The communication suddenly breaks off.
G'Kar bursts down the hall, his eyes burning. He knocks to the ground everyone who gets in his way. His voice filled with anger, he shouts, "Mollari! Mollari!" Sheridan and several security guards intercept him. Sheridan tells him that, if he returns to his quarters, they will not press charges. G'Kar pleads. "They're doing it to us again. Step aside, Sheridan. I won't let this happen. Not again!"
"They're doing it to us again."
Sheridan offers to help G'Kar, but warns him that, should he attempt to attack Londo, he will either be killed or sent off the station, and that he can't help the other Narns either way. G'Kar shouts that the Centauri will kill everyone unless he does something. Sheridan tells him to decide what is more important: getting revenge against Londo, or saving the lives of many Narns. Making his decision, G'Kar gathers up all his energy for one final strike. The security guards prepare to fire if necessary, but G'Kar slams into a wall and falls down beside it. Sheridan and the other security guards leave him alone, in pain, to think.
In MedLab, the Centauri emperor tries to speak to Franklin, but Franklin tells him to take it easy and save his strength. Franklin asks if there is anything he can do to help, and the emperor tells him that he very much wanted to see a Vorlon. Dr. Franklin smiles and steps aside. The emperor turns his head, but seconds later, his face is covered by a shadow. He looks up to see Ambassador Kosh standing over his bed. "How will this end?" the emperor asks.
"In fire," Kosh intones.
Garibaldi tells Sheridan and Ivanova what he learned, but does not reveal the source. Ivanova asks him why he believes he can trust whoever told him this, and Garibaldi says that the source comes "highly recommended." Sheridan asks Garibaldi why he is holding something back, and Garibaldi tells him that he made a promise. Sheridan has a hard time accepting the information Garibaldi presents, and threatens to order Garibaldi to talk, but Garibaldi refuses, knowing that, if he did so, Sheridan would not be able to trust him again, because someone higher in the chain of command than Sheridan could order him to talk as well. Sheridan accepts this, and Garibaldi continues. "Ever since New Years, we've been hearing about some other major race on the prowl. My source tells me the rumors are true, and there may be some link to the Centauri government. Now, who or what that link is, I don't know, but they're definitely getting support."
"And you think this other race was behind the assault on quadrant 14?" asks Ivanova.
"It's possible," replies Garibaldi.
Sheridan tells them that, if that is true, their enemy wouldn't want anyone else to know. Ivanova tells him that all they have is supposition, but Sheridan says it is a good idea to make your opponent think you know more than you actually do. "Now, if your source is right, we may be able to play a bluff," Sheridan tells Garibaldi.
In MedLab, Refa, Londo, and the emperor's entourage stand around the emperor's bed. Refa tells the emperor that they retook the Narn colony and that not one Centauri was hurt or killed in doing so. Their homeworld is rejoicing, and the Centauri are powerful again, but he wants the emperor's blessing. He leans in close, but the emperor tells him nothing. The emperor points to Londo, who leans in. The emperor whispers something to him, then dies. Refa asks what the emperor said, and Londo tells him, "He said, 'Continue. Take my people back...to the stars.'" The two Centauri telepaths, who had been watching, look at each other and then walk away. Londo and Refa follow, but Refa stops Londo in the hall, asking him what the emperor really said. "He said," Londo answers, with great difficulty, "that we are both damned."
The Emperor lies dying.
"Well," Refa tells him, "it's a small enough price to pay for immortality." Laughing, he walks away, leaving Londo alone in the hall.
G'Kar is back in his quarters, facing the wall, when the door opens and Sheridan enters. He tells G'Kar that he thinks he knows how Earth may be able to help, and that he has called a council meeting to discuss recent events. As Sheridan leaves, G'Kar tells him that he will attend the meeting. "Thank you... for stopping me."
At the council meeting, Sheridan addresses Londo, asking what will happen to the Narn civilians on the colony. Londo says the Centauri can't allow them to return to the Narn homeworld, but says that he is sure his government will find them something productive to do. Delenn tells him she thinks he means forced slavery, but Londo claims they have no desire to misuse anyone. G'Kar enters, and takes his seat at the council table. Sheridan tells Londo that he has received permission from Earth to send observers to the colony to check on the civilians, to make sure they aren't mistreated. Londo tells Sheridan the observers are not welcome, but Sheridan doesn't care. He tells Londo he shouldn't try shooting down an EarthForce ship; though Earth isn't looking for another war, it will shoot back if fired upon. Sheridan tells Londo that the observers will check on the survivors and put together a full report, including as much as they can learn about how the colony was so easily defeated. This disturbs Londo, who tells the council that he thinks he can convince the Centauri government to allow the civilians to return to the Narn homeworld, as long as no observers are sent to the colony. Sheridan agrees, and tells him, "I'm sure your gesture of goodwill will be appreciated for what it is...Ambassador." Delenn asks G'Kar to speak.
"Before coming here," G'Kar says, "I received a communique from my government. For a hundred years, the Centauri occupied our world. Devestated it. We swore we would never let that happen again. This attack on our largest civilian colony has inflicted terrible damage and loss of life. They've crossed a line we cannot allow them to cross. As a result, two hours ago my government officially declared war against the Centauri Republic. Our hope for peace is over. We are now at war...we are now at war."
Refa tells Londo and Vir that the death of the Centauri prime minister changed the balance of power on the Centauri homeworld, neutralizing the other powerful families, and leaving the emperor's nephew, who is on the side of Londo and Refa, the successor to the throne. Refa tries to give his cup to Vir, who just glares at him. Refa continues. "For the first time in a hundred years, Ambassador, our people are on the right track again, and we have you to thank for it. You will find the emperor's gratitude...most rewarding." Refa bids them farewell and leaves.
"Our people are on the right track again."
"I'm surprised," Vir tells Londo after Refa leaves. "You could have asked to be named to the royal court. It would have put you in a position to become emperor yourself one day. That's what you want, isn't it?"
Londo thinks back, recalling his recent dream of being crowned and then, many years later, being strangled by G'Kar. "No. I have no desire to be emperor," he tells Vir. "I prefer to work behind the scenes. The reward is nearly as great, and the risk far, far less."
Garibaldi thanks the ranger for his help in saving the lives of so many Narns. When the ranger asks if Garibaldi will give the cooperation he needs, Garibaldi agrees, as long as the ranger keeps him informed of what the rangers learn, both here and abroad. The ranger says he will, as long as their presence is kept a secret. Garibaldi agrees to that, but asks one last question. "Aside from me, does anybody else know you're here?"
"Just one other," the ranger says as he walks away.
Delenn, in her quarters, examines a message crystal in her hands closely. She puts it into her player, and is greeted with a voice she, too, hasn't heard in a long time. "Hello, old friend..."