A Ranger ship of a previously unseen Minbari design, the Enfalli, is chasing a group of 6 much smaller raider ships. Inside the Ranger ship, they are taking heavy damage: engines are down to 20%, and automatic weapons tracking is disabled. The captain of the ship insists on continuing the pursuit, but they run into a larger group of raider ships that inflicts heavy damage. The captain is knocked out of action, and the ships' weapons are taken off-line. The second in command, David Martel, orders the ship to stand down amid protests from his crew: "We live for the one, we die for the one. But we don't die stupidly."
Note: the ship has a conventional weapons console, not the VR tank the Liandra has.
On Minbar, homeworld of the Minbari Federation and seat of the Interstellar Alliance, in a room similar to the Gray Council's council chambers, a Minbari councilor, Sindell, is viewing images of starfish-shaped ships via a hologram projected all around him.
G'Kar enters, commenting on the ominous appearance of the ships. But Sindell prefers "unknown."
"We have been a spacefaring race for over a thousand years, yet we know nothing about this race. It's as if they came out of nowhere."
They discuss the matter, and Sindell asks him to look into the matter, as G'Kar is the most well-traveled person at his level within the Alliance. Then he excuses himself, as other business has some up. "One of the Anla'Shok has acted inappropriately and must be punished, perhaps ever expelled."
"What was his crime?" G'Kar asks.
Elsewhere on Minbar, the Ranger in question, David Martel is serving a group of other Rangers in a dojo-like environment. Dulann, a Minbari who also served on the Enfalli enters and kneels next to Martel. "I have heard that the Council has made its decision about you."
"Yeah?" Martel responds. "It's been at least two weeks and I sure as hell haven't heard anything."
"Minbari ears are substantially more sensitive than human ears."
"Well at least ours are bigger and better placed."
"Size is not everything," Dulann notes.
"Yeah, well I've heard that before." Martel responds.
"So I am informed" Dulann says with a smile.
Tannier, the Ranger conducting the pike training calls brusquely for water. "More quickly this time." Martel brings him a bowl of water and advises Tannier that he is leaving his right side open. Tannier responds poorly to criticism, and they get into an argument. Dulann stops Tannier from taking a swipe at the unarmed Martel with his pike. Sarah and Malcolm, two other crewmembers of his previous ship begin get involved, but Martel tells them to calm down. As they walk away, Tannier taunts Martel one last time: "And again he runs from a fight."
Martel stops short, his jaw set. "And we're not supposed to do that, are we, Tannier?" he says, grabbing a pike. They fight, and Martel defeats Tannier by exploiting the weakness on his right side he had warned him about. On his way out of the dojo, Martel comments to Dulann "You know, you're right. This job has completely calmed my mind."
Later, on a balcony outside the training area, overlooking a large landing field, Martel is watching a big ugly ship land. Sarah walks up and asks, "So what do you think of the Valen? They say it's faster than anything else in the fleet."
Martel responds "Yeah, sure I suppose. You know, things in space don't have to be aerodynamic. You could put a really big engine on a brick, which pretty much looks like what they've done here, and it would be fast…"
Martel is disappointed that he didn't get assigned to command the Valen. He comments that he joined the Rangers to be part of something bigger than himself. It had been his dream ever since his parents died. He had grown up reading mythology, and when he heard about the Rangers, he had wanted to be part of a myth himself.
Martel breaks himself out of his reverie with a start, looking at a new ship on the landing field: "Is that the Liandra? I can't believe she's still flying."
"Word is, her last crew died on board. And nobody knows who or what killed them. They couldn't even find the ship for a week afterwards, she just fell off the charts. She's been through hell, that's for sure. Some folks think she's cursed."
"Yeah, I know the feeling," Martel quips.
Martel walks into the Council chamber. Dulann is there, and he stands with Martel in the central circle. He informs the council "With great respect for the honored Council, if David Martel is expelled from the Anla'Shok, I will go with him, as will Sarah Cantrell and Malcolm Bridges."
Dulann further remarks, "His concern was for us, not for himself. I know: I saw it in his soul."
Sindell, the leader of the Council, acknowledges that Dulann is blessed by being sensitive to such things, but Martel's motivation is not under judgement. He is about to pronounce sentence when G'Kar interrupts.
G'Kar points out that the Ranger oath reads "we live for the one, we die for the one." He points out that they are overlooking the first half of that sentence, that sometimes it is easier to die and be relieved of an obligation than to keep on living. He compares Martel with Sheridan, and adds that he has just spoken with Sheridan on a matter relating to their previous conversation. Sindell announces that the Council will recess to hear this new information.
Later, Martel is back on the balcony, when G'Kar finds him. G'Kar has convinced them to allow Martel to remain with the Anla'Shok and to give him a ship. He accomplished this by telling them "four true things." He refuses to elaborate: "Accept the miracle and move on."
The council has assigned Martel to the Liandra.
Later, Martel is grousing about the woeful state of his new ship. She's "had the crap kicked out of her at least a dozen times."
The Liandra is about 20 human years old. "Her lines and colors are representative of the Shunali sense of design," Dulann observes.
While Martel wanders around the bridge, Dulann is working on the lower deck, when suddenly he begins seeing visions of the previous crew, dying. They suffocated trying to make their way back home after the ship was damaged beyond their capacity to repair it.
Later, Martel is doing pike katas in the dojo when Tannier comes in. He announces that he has been given command of the Valen, and has asked for the Liandra to be his escort ship. Because of his history with him, Martel is not able to take this as a compliment. Tannier is offended and orders him to be ready to depart with his crew in three days.
Martel picks a crew containing a Narn and a Drazi, both because they have been waiting for a ship almost as long as he has, and because they are "intemperate" like him.
On the bridge, the crew take part in the ceremony of the Naming of Names. Taking hold of a star-shaped emblem, the crew members each recite their name, their place, and their truth:
Sarah Cantrell of Mars. Weapons and Tactical Combat Specialist. I live to serve, I serve to live.
Tafeek of Minbar. Political and First Contact Specialist. I come to the stars by a difficult road.
Kitaro Sasaki of Earth. Navigation, Communications and Translations Specialist. I'm… just really glad to be here, sir.
Firell of Minbar. Healer. My heart speaks quietly, and infrequently.
Malcolm Bridges of Beta Colony. Infiltration and Covert Operations Specialist. In dreams, I never see my face.
Na'Feel of Narn. Engines, Environment and Weapons support. I understand nobody else would have me.
Tirk, Drazi. I... carry very large things. I, uh... Tirk, Drazi.
Dulann, of Minbar. Shok'Nali. First Officer. My life for the Shok'na.
David Martel, no place in particular. Shok'Na. Captain. I'm looking for something.
"We are Rangers. We walk in the dark places no others will enter. We stand on the bridge, and no one may pass. We live for the one, we die for the one."
Martel's crew is still scrambling trying to get the ship operational when the time comes to depart, and Na'Feel in particular is somewhat put out, but he tells Tannier that everything is fine. The ship lifts off, creakily, winning Martel a 30-credit bet from Sarah. They precede the Valen into the jumpgate. In hyperspace, the mystery aliens follow them.
In hyperspace, Tannier informs the crew of the Liandra that they have nearly reached their secret destination, which had been kept secret even from the diplomats: Beta Durani 7.
Bridges wonders aloud why they came all this way to have a meeting. Martel points out that they might have wanted the diplomats to see something they couldn't transport. Beta Durani 7 is a domed colony of roughly 600 people. It's an archeological dig.
Immediately after the Liandra and Valen jump to normal space, Sasaki picks up an energy spike and a jump point forming at 6:00. Three of the alien ships come through the jumpgate and open fire on the Valen.
Martel orders "Evasive maneuvers, prepare to fire." Sarah jumps into her weapons targeting tank and opens fire on the enemy.
One of the enemy ships gets off a shot at the colony dome, destroying it. Others fire on the Valen's engines.
On the Valen, Tannier exclaims that it's too late for the Valen to get away.
Martel orders the crew to put the Liandra between the Valen and the enemy. Sarah damages one of the alien ships, but the other two open up on her and the Liandra takes damage. On the bridge, Dulann is thrown from his station and injured.
Two of the three remaining enemies leave, leaving one to finish them off.
The Valen is crippled: it's only a matter of time. Tannier asks if the Liandra can engage the remaining enemy ship. Martel answers no: their weapons are at 10% and the engines are barely functional. Tannier has sent the diplomats into the escape pods, and orders Martel to pick them up in the Liandra.
Sarah manages to cripple the remaining enemy ship by firing "straight up her engines."
The Valen rams the enemy ship, absorbing terrible damage. "We live for the one," Tannier says, "We die for the one." The Valen and the enemy ship are both destroyed in the collision.
Martel orders Sasaki to recover the escape pods using the engine repair bay "since it has a big enough airlock."
The Liandra's tachyon communications are down, leaving only short-range ship to ship radio, and Sasaki isn't holding out much hope at getting them online again. The jump engines are offline, and the ship can only maneuver at half speed in normal space. Worse yet, the enemy is sure to come looking once their ship fails to report in.
Martel orders Tafeek to go with Na'Feel and deal with the hysterical diplomats. There are no first-class accommodations, only "some long hallways and a number of very nice closets." The diplomats protest unhappily.
Dulann is badly injured: concussion, injury to internal organs, and internal bleeding. He needs more extensive care than Firell can provide on the Liandra. As they talk, Dulann wakes up suddenly. He has had a dream of the last crew of the ship. "They are not at peace here, David. Something here is disturbing them… Something is wrong."
Two enemy ships jump into the system and begin scanning the wreckage.
In Medbay, Dulann sees a vision of one of the last crew, wearing the older B5-style Ranger costume. The crewman stretches his mouth open grotesquely, and we can hear the unhappy voices of the last crew. Prominent among them is the phrase "The bastard sold us out!"
"I couldn't get out to where the air was." the specter says grimly, "I never saw his face."
Minister Kafta is insisting that G'Kar tell the captain to drop off the ambassadors on a planet with a breathable atmosphere then go for help. G'Kar responds that the ship is in no condition to land on a planet: it would be unable to take off again, and the enemy would find them all. Tirk tells him the captain would like to see him. G'Kar turns to the ambassadors: "Love to stay. Can't, have to go. Kiss kiss, love love, bye!"
The Drazi ambassador talks to Tirk. "That isn't a Drazi name." he points out.
"My mother created it. It means 'Don't touch me, I'm not having another child after this ever.'"
G'Kar arrives at Martel's quarters. He asks G'Kar for his input as a former military tactician. When the enemy jumped out of hyperspace, they targeted the Valen's engines first, then blew up Beta Durani 7, hit their weapons, then hesitated. This is odd: normally you go for the biggest ship first, and target the weapons systems: they're fairly volatile, whereas engines are heavily shielded to protect the crew from radiation, and thus a target of last resort. It's almost as if they were trying to capture the diplomats alive and find out how much they know.
"How much they know about what, G'Kar?" Martel asks. "…If we're going to survive, we need to know what we're up against."
"That's what we were trying to find out ourselves. Until recently, all we knew was that ships identical to the ones that attacked us have been trying to destabilize the Alliance by attacking its weaker members. Then we learned that some information that was relevant to this new race had been found at Beta Durani 7... They found a city, eight miles below the surface of the planet, a city billions of year old, older than anything found before. According to the hieroglyphs, this city was built by an ancient race that drove off the forces of darkness a billion years ago. They indicate that the enemy was driven from normal space to a place of eternal darkness."
They theorize that this is a parallel dimension. The translators weren't sure what to believe, then they found a doorway to another place, another space, set into the side of a pyramid. [Illuminati, anyone?] They sent a probe through the door, but it came back distorted beyond recognition. "The hieroglyphs warned of a time when the enemy would return. We have reason to believe that there is a connection between this and the ships that attacked us."
Exiting his quarters, G'Kar runs into: himself! It's a sheepish Malcolm Bridges, who was using a "holosuit" [changeling net!] to impersonate G'Kar and put down utter panic among the diplomats.
With the enemy ships out looking for them, and weapons only up to 25%, Martel decides that the ship should hide inside the tail of a nearby comet. Sarah is dispatched to run weapons in case a big rock comes flying at them, though if she fires, the enemy will probably detect it.
In Medbay, Dulann once again sees the spectral crewman, and rolls himself off his couch to follow him.
The Liandra goes inside the comet tail, but takes too much of a beating from the ice boulders floating around and has to leave again. Sarah is sorely tempted to fire, but doesn't.
Dulann follows the spectral crew member into a damaged area of the ship. Collapsing to the deck, he asks "What do you want?"
In Medbay, Martel is talking to Firell. "Look , I've known Dulann for over three years. I know he's slightly telepathic, but I just don't buy this whole bit about sensing the dead."
"Minbari are sensitive to such things." Firell points out. "Telepaths, even a minor one like Dulann are more sensitive still. And when one of our kind is close to death, the veil becomes very thin indeed."
Malcolm interrupts: he wonders why the enemy is bothering to chase them: after all the news of the colony will get out fairly quickly regardless, and since the meeting was about the enemy, they will be suspected anyway. Malcolm wonders if they have something on board that the enemy wants, something they don't know they have.
Dulann has been found, and is holding off the other crewmen with a fire extinguisher. Martel arrives, and talks to him. Dulann is hearing the crew in his head, and says that the flight record log was not on the main system. No one would know to erase it. Dulann manages to speak the codeword, "Entil'Zha" before collapsing again.
On the bridge, Martel tells the computer to look for the codeword and play the record. It is the crewman Dulann has seen. He is running out of air. He asks them to avenge them. "The one who survives is the traitor." Martel surmises that they may have a traitor on board. One of the ambassadors could have been a mole, signaling the enemy to attack them.
Tirk enters a cargo bay and sees Minister Kafta there. He informs him that he should not be there, because all the power relays route through the room. Kafta shoots Tirk with a hideout energy weapon and inserts a card into a piece of equipment.
Sasaki has found a signal that was coming from the Valen when she was attacked. Just then they pick up the same signal coming from Cargo Bay 4. Martel, Sarah and Malcolm run to surround him, and Martel gets into a fight with Kafta as Kafta tries to get away in an escape pod. Martel beats the crap out of him.
Malcolm disconnects the card, but an enemy ship is already rushing towards them. It is at 10,000 kilometers and closing, just outside maximum effective range for high-energy weapons fire. The Liandra's weapons are only at 30%, and engines are at 80% of maximum, and the Liandra is 2-3 hours from the jumpgate. They prepare to run for the jumpgate. The enemy ship opens fire on them and launches a cluster of mines in their path, which Sarah plows a path through in a wild flurry of shooting. The enemy ship is continuing to gain on them, though, and their weapons are hitting harder and harder as the range shortens.
Martel orders Malcolm to put the card he discovered into an escape pod, along with a remotely detonated bomb, and eject the pod. The enemy ship brings the pod inside it, and is blown up by the bomb.
Unfortunately, the last hit overloaded the Liandra's weapons system, and the ship is now completely disarmed until she can be refitted in a naval yard.
Martel questions Kafta and beats some information out of him. "They do not have a name as you understand the concept. They are called the Hand. The hand of God, the hand of death, the hand that reaches forth and blots out whole suns. They have left a thousand worlds in their wake, blackened cinders that were once thriving planets. For millions of years they have been outcast, hungrily staring out across the darkness between the stars, searching for a way back. And now they have found it."
"The ships that are after us, are they the Hand?"
"Those? Ha. Those are only toys given to races that serve the Hand, as I serve the Hand. Together, we will prepare the way for their return."
"And part of their return involves selling out the Alliance, is that it? Because we could oppose them?"
"If you had seen what I had seen, you would have done the same. Compared to the Hand, the Shadows who straddled the galaxy on wings of fire during the Shadow War were nothing more than insects."
"If they're so powerful, then why are they interested in you? You must be small change as far as they're concerned."
"The Hand rewards loyalty. It is their only virtue. And, they do not know what I know of their plans, so they cannot allow my return to Minbar, where I might be questioned further. They are coming, Captain. You cannot stop them. You cannot fight them. You cannot defeat them. You can only join them, or be ground into dust before them."
Sasaki sights the jumpgate, but it is guarded by the remaining enemy ship. Martel points out that the enemy might as well sit there, since they know the Liandra can't jump, and there isn't another jump gate for two light-months in any direction.
The enemy orders them to turn over their prisoner or be destroyed.
Martel visits Dulann, who has been told of the ship's situation by her former crew. Martel confesses that he has used up all his tricks, but Dulann gives him an idea.
They agree to release the prisoner. The enemy will scan the pod for remote-controlled bombs, and Kafta, and open a comm. channel with Kafta to make sure he is inside. The Liandra releases the pod, keeping it between themselves and the enemy. Kafta comes on the comm. channel, and the enemy takes the pod on board. When they open the pod, we see Kafta, gagged with silver tape on which the word "Boom!" has been written, just before the rising pod canopy pulls the pin on a grenade.
The enemy ship is destroyed. It is revealed that Malcolm was impersonating Kafta using his holonet, and they kept the pod between them so the enemy wouldn't detect that the transmission was coming from the Liandra. They tried the same trick twice, figuring it was the last thing the enemy would suspect.
Later, back on Minbar, Martel is congratulated by the Council. Afterwards, Martel and Sarah talk about Dulann and Tirk's recoveries, and the fact that they are going to be taking the Liandra out again after she is properly refitted.
Afterwards, the Liandra takes G'Kar back to Babylon 5 for a security council meeting. As he leaves, G'Kar says that they should try to visit B5 if they can. But he warns them "No one there is exactly what they seem."