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Synopsis by Arturo Magidin (magidin@matem.unam.mx)

ISN News Broadcast:

"Meanwhile, on Earth and Minbar preparations continue for next month's celebration marking the fifth anniversary of the Interstellar Alliance. Aside from one brief conflict with the Centauri Republic early in its first year, ISA President John Sheridan has delivered on his promise to maintain peace among all its member worlds. Although ISA Vice-President Delenn continues to make appearances during these preparations, Sheridan himself has not been seen for several days. Speculations on his absence range from the flu to a good will mission to Narn.

"In other news, ground was broken today in Earthdome for a monument dedicated to the many who died in the recent telepath crisis, including..."

Sheridan has not been seen because he has joined Garibaldi on a secret trip to oversee the final stages of the construction of the prototypes for the destroyer class White Star ships ("Movement of Fire and Shadow"). Garibaldi is taking a bit of time away from managing Edgars Industries on Mars ("Objects in Motion") at Sheridan's request.

The head of the construction project, Drake, is being too cautious for Garibaldi's taste. But Sheridan points out that reverse engineering Vorlon and Minbari technology to fit human technology is uncharted waters, and caution is necessary. The construction is top secret, not the least because the other races are likely to object to Earth, Minbar, and Sheridan being the sole beneficiaries of the project. Sheridan is sure no one can follow them to the construction site, as they are aboard a White Star, the fastest known ship. But he is wrong. A small probe follows them into and through hyperspace, projecting the image to a small crystal globe.

The globe is held by a man called Galen. He is interrupted and told he must explain his behavior and account for his activities to something called "the circle," and everyone involved. Although annoyed, he agrees to do so.

Sheridan and Garibaldi arrive at the construction dock. Two prototypes are there, the Victory and the Excalibur. Sheridan is welcomed by Drake, who gives him the tour. They are still battling some minor problems, haven't fully figured out the artificial gravity for example. But the ships are mostly ready, and the controls are intuitive and easy to master for Earthforce personnel.

"How does she handle?" asks Sheridan, excited; but they haven't actually tested it yet. And when they try, the propulsion system fails, despite Drake's assurances that there would be no problems.

Sheridan is told a message from Delenn has arrived. He takes it by himself in the conference room, but the message is all garbled. Sheridan is transfixed, seemingly for a few seconds. But Garibaldi enters, breaks the spell, and claims Sheridan has been there for almost half an hour. Garibaldi suggests he get some rest while Drake works out the bugs. Sheridan agrees.

"Things were so much easier on Babylon 5," muses Garibaldi.

On Babylon 5, a female alien arrives, and a weapons violation is detected. Zack Allan demands she turn over her weapons, and she does so silently: about a dozen or more blades and other low-tech weapons. Before leaving, she asks where the lost people, the neglected and forgotten, go. Zack directs her to Downbelow, Brown sector.

Aboard the Excalibur, Sheridan dreams. He finds himself on a desolate, burning world, ruins aflame all around him. A voice calls out to him: Galen. The world is dead, Galen says, murdered. Not an attack, but a test. Galen says he is the one who sent the message Sheridan received earlier; he needed a connection for the electron incantation.

A ship arrives. Galen claims it is the killers, come back to check on their work. He and Sheridan must leave, to ensure his probe goes undetected. Before leaving, he shows Sheridan the name of the world: Daltron 7.

Sheridan awakes as the ship begins to move. It is being towed to the firing range.

On Babylon 5, the alien female works her way through Brown sector, following hidden signs painted on the walls and ceilings. And she is being followed. Finally, she makes her way to an opening in the ceiling, where she is hit on the head. She falls unconscious to the ground...

... and dreams. She is on the dead planet Sheridan was on. "No. I can't be back," she says to herself. Sheridan suddenly appears, and she throws herself at him in rage. But she passes right through the image, and as she does, Sheridan changes, becoming a Drakh. The Drakh holds in his hand a miniature galaxy. He closes his fist over it, and disappears.

And then Galen appears. "This is not your world, Dureena Nafeel," he booms at her. "But it shares the same fate as your world. When the time comes to choose your target, be sure to pick the right one. Because you will only get one shot." An earthquake hits, and Dureena falls; she awakes back on Babylon 5.

She is chained, lying on a small platform, surrounded by many beings, both human and alien. She is asked her name, and to show a mark: a tattoo bearing the same designs as the markers she followed to get there. It marks her as a member of the Thieves' Guild. She is asked the name of her teacher, and his teacher before him. She answers, and says she has been a thief long enough to be good at it. But apparently, she is challenged, not good enough to avoid being followed and chained up.

"What chains?" she asks simply, and the manacles fall in pieces to the ground. Dureena attacks the man who followed her, knocking him out. She was captured only because she chose to be captured, to meet the Guild. The leader of the Guild welcomes her and gives her the local rules: no inteference with other members, nothing violent, nothing to draw attention to them. They'll protect her and give her a place to stay in exchange for ten percent of her take; but if captured, she is on her own. The Guild must remain a secret organization.

The leader has one more question: they have never seen an alien like her before. She is far from home; why did she come to Babylon 5? "I don't know," she replies, and leaves.

On board the Excalibur, Sheridan is shown the weapons. He is not impressed with Level One, though; it isn't much more firepower than an average White Star. As destroyers, these ships should pack more punch. Garibaldi orders Drake to go to Level Two. But Drake lets them know there is a problem. The main guns are based on Vorlon design, and were intended for far more advanced ships. They use up almost all available power, and should be used only as a last resort. Sheridan orders a demonstration anyway.

Before he can give the order to fire, the view changes: the Excalibur is aiming straight at Earth. Sheridan is confused, gives orders to stop. Sheridan looks again, but the Earth is gone. Sheridan sits back down and orders the main guns to fire. They do so with impressive results, but all lights dim inside. According the Drake, there's barely enough energy left for life support and gravity. After firing, the ship cannot maneuver or fire again for at least one minute.

Sheridan starts to reply, but finds himself elsewhere again. Several robed men are around a campfire. "It's a mistake! You shouldn't have brought him here!" one of them says. They are chastising Galen for breaking the isolation without proof. But Galen claims that they need to break it to get the proof. And Sheridan is the only one who can get it. The others relent, but warn Galen he will be the first to die if their security has been compromised through his actions. They disappear, leaving Galen and Sheridan along. Sheridan can now piece together the clues: Galen and the others are technomages ("The Geometry of Shadows"). Galen explains they are not hurrying to return from hiding. They have, however, been watching the Drakh. They think the Drakh are preparing to move. Sheridan points out that the Drakh have no homeworld and the Shadows are gone; how much power can they possibly have?

Galen replies that Sheridan himself must find the answer to that question, because Galen believes the Drakh will start by attacking Earth. Sheridan begins to ask more questions, but Galen has said everything he is allowed. Sheridan and his companions must discover the rest. However, he is not to tell anyone about what he is doing or why. The Drakh have spies everywhere. Before leaving, Galen shows Sheridan four faces: a Drazi, a human, Sheridan himself, and an alien, a good match for Dureena Nafeel; and an image of Babylon 5 high overhead.

And then, Sheridan finds himself back aboard the Excalibur. Drake is explaining that the hull can reflect 80% of any energy weapon. "We have to go right now," Sheridan interrupts. Garibaldi wants to know where. "It was above the faces," replies Sheridan, "above them all. Babylon 5."

While enroute, he refuses to tell Garibaldi why they are going; and he makes a sketch of the three faces he saw in the vision. Garibaldi is worried; he offers to stop by Minbar and talk to Delenn, but Sheridan insists he is fine. He also asks Garibaldi to find out everything he can about Daltron 7. "Never heard of it," says Garibaldi. "Me either," replies Sheridan, a response that adds to Garibaldi's doubts and misgivings about Sheridan's rationality. On his way out, he asks for a connection to Capt. Lochley.

The Charon, and Earth Alliance destroyer, is in hyperspace also on her way to Babylon 5. The first officer is questioning the Captain on the new destination. They are disobeying orders and not informing Earthdome. "I know what I'm doing," answers Captain Anderson enigmatically, and adds to himself: "I hope."

Lochley welcomes Sheridan aboard. He gives her the drawings, and asks her to find out where they are. "Are you sure they are here?" she asks. "No," replies Sheridan. "But if they aren't here yet, they soon will be... I think." With that, he leaves Lochley and Garibaldi, both utterly confused.

In the Zocalo, Dureena is stealing wallets and money belts when security arrives with the drawing. She tries to flee, but is stopped and captured. Lochley informs Sheridan. "Who is she?" he asks. Lochley doesn't understand; after all, he drew her. Since she was caught with stolen wallets, she is being deported. Sheridan asks where she is from, and is told she is from Zander Prime. Lochley thought it was a dead world, however. It is now, replies Sheridan. It was one of the last planets destroyed by the Shadow planetkiller ("The Long Night") during the Shadow War.

Sheridan then gets a message from Captain Anderson. He doesn't know him. "Hello, Mr. President," says Anderson. "By any chance, have you been looking for me?" Lochley looks at Sheridan's drawing: Anderson is the human drawn there. "So it would appear," replies Sheridan with a faint smile.

They meet in Babylon 5's conference room, and Captain Anderson explains the man in his dreams told him to find Sheridan. Dureena is then brought in, and when she sees Sheridan, she attacks him like she did in her dream.

Dureena blames Sheridan for the destruction of Zander Prime. For attracting the Shadows, and not being there to help despite requests. But Sheridan explains they didn't know about the attack until it was too late; and even if they had heard, they didn't have anything to stand up to the Shadow's planetkiller. He's asked himself over and over, since the war, if there was anything he could do to save more people. But there wasn't. He also points out it was the Drakh and the Shadows who destroyed her planet, and the Drakh are still around. She then recalls Sheridan's transformation in her dream. Sheridan offers her the chance to strike at them. Dureena relents. Perhaps this is what the dream meant.

Meanwhile, Garibaldi is in Lochley's office. "You think he's lost it?" he asks. Lochley isn't sure. Finding Dureena and Capt. Anderson, dead matches for Sheridan's drawing, has given her pause. "All I know is he isn't behaving rationally," she adds. "It's almost as if he's acting under some sort of outside influence."

Sheridan is worried the Drazi hasn't arrived yet, but they cannot wait any longer. Why us? asks Dureena. Sheridan thinks each of them brings something to the mission to increase the odds of success. Captain Anderson points out the Charon isn't powerful enough for the sort of thing they are contemplating. They need something bigger, and nastier. "I think I may just have the thing..." replies Sheridan.

In the morning, Garibaldi arrives in Lochley's office for a meeting with her and Sheridan. But Sheridan isn't there. He skipped out and is well on his way to the construction yard. Garibaldi asks for a line to Drake, anticipating him.

But Sheridan is a step ahead. He contacts Drake and tells him there's been a breach in security. All messages should now come through a new frequency, and no other messages should be replied to or acknowledged. Garibaldi won't be able to delay him.

Sheridan, sitting on the captain's chair, asks Capt. Anderson if he really wants to go through with this: going AWOL and risking his career. Anderson explains that during the civil war, they had a chance to join Sheridan but didn't; and they were wrong not to. Earth is in danger now, and this time he intends to be on the winning side. The crew feels the same way. "We let you down once," says Anderson. "We won't do it again."

They arrive at the dockyard, and over Drake's objections they commandeer the Excalibur and the Victory, leaving him behind. Sheridan takes command of the Excalibur, and Anderson of the Victory. Dureena joins Sheridan, and they head out to Daltron 7.

Once there, they find the dead world of Sheridan's dream; but Daltron 7 is supposed to be the next best thing to paradise. A pattern of craters seen from orbit is the same as that produced by the Shadow planetkiller.

There are no life forms, but they do pick up a Drazi distress signal. When they go down to investigate, they find the Drazi of Sheridan's dream dead, a data crystal hidden inside his body.

Meanwhile, Capt. Anderson's people have been doing an analysis of the planet and records. He asks Sheridan if he is sure this is the work of a Shadow planetkiller. Sheridan is. "We have a serious problem then," replies Anderson. "Because if what I'm reading is correct, this just happened over a week ago." The Shadows left a planetkiller behind. And everytime Sheridan and the Alliance have ran into leftover Shadow technology, they've gotten their butts kicked.

Garibaldi has by now reached the dock, and Drake explains that Sheridan stole the prototypes, and seemed crazed. Garibaldi heads out to Daltron 7, taking Drake with him.

Meanwhile, Capt. Anderson calls his wife and daughter on Earth, to reassure her everything is fine and he hasn't deserted, merely been "transferred by a higher force." He also reassures his daughter, who is afraid of going to sleep because of nightmares, that he will protect her from the monsters.

Later, Anderson and Sheridan look at the contents of the data crystal they found on the Drazi. He too had dreams, which led him to Daltron 7. There, he saw and recorded the Shadow planetkiller in action. Then he followed the deathcloud to where the fleet was concentrating. Finally, he returned to Daltron 7 to see if anybody was left and to wait for the others, hoping the dark ones would not find him first.

And then, five small ships arrive: Drakh fighters. The Drakh send a message, trying to figure out who the two ships are; they don't recognize the design. On Dureena's suggestion, they try to bluff their way into the Drakh's good graces, pretending to be allies. But the Drakh receive an extremely powerful tachyon-enhanced transmission and start attacking.

Sheridan and Anderson fight back, destroying several of the fighters. A few more try to escape, and head for a strange, black, null-area in space. Sheridan orders the main guns to fire, and destroys the fighters. But inertia carries him through the null field, unable to maneuver for a full minute after firing. On the other side, which matches the coordinates the Drazi gave for the Drakh fleet, the Drakh wait. As soon as he can, Sheridan turns around and heads out through the null field, a few small fighters in pursuit. The rest of the fleet is already on its way.

Sheridan and Anderson move ahead, and jump to hyperspace before the Drakh can catch up; the fighters are caught in the collapsing jump point and are destroyed. Then, the Victory and Excalibur slip past the main fleet in hyperspace, and head for Earth at top speed.

Sheridan calls Lochley. He tells her of the Drakh fleet and the Shadow deathcloud. Lochley is skeptical; she thinks Sheridan may have indeed flipped. But Sheridan insists, and asks her vehemently for her trust and help. Delenn is already scrambling as many Alliance ships as she can together. Sheridan wants Lochley to call Earth and tell President Luchenko ("Rising Star") to do the same. Sheridan isn't much liked or trusted on Earth, so he needs her to make the call. Lochley can hardly believe she is doing this, but she does as he asks.

Meanwhile, Garibaldi is told someone aboard the White Star tapped into communications a while ago. Before he can investigate further, they receive a call from Sheridan. Sheridan tells Garibaldi about the planetkiller. Garibaldi is also skeptical. Sheridan wants to warn him the Drakh are onto them, and know about the new ships.

Garibaldi mentions that he has found out about Dureena's membership in the Thieves' Guild. She is not to be trusted, he says. Maybe it is her fault. Sheridan is partly taken aback, but Dureena points out that if she is the leak, she is stupid, as she could have gotten killed with him.

"Killed how?" asks Garibaldi, and Sheridan recounts their brief encounter with the Drakh, and the tachyon signal they received. The signal told the Drakh who they were. Garibaldi makes the connection with the anomaly in the communication system of his ship...

... and hears a PPG powering up next to his head: Drake. Mars born, he owes no loyalty to Earth, and the Drakh made him a great offer. He is the leak. Garibaldi cuts the communication. Then he points out to Drake that if he shoots Garibaldi, the Rangers around him will take him down. One of them activates a fighting pike, distracting Drake. Garibaldi then quickly disarms him and puts him in a headlock.

"Now, you are going to tell me everything you know," says Garibaldi. Drake, frightened, nods slowly. Garibaldi later contacts Sheridan, and confirms everything. The Drakh are headed for Earth, want to make a statement to the Alliance by wiping out Earth in a big show of force. The only silver lining is that they only have one planetkiller. If Sheridan can destroy it, they won't have another one to worry about.

Sheridan arrives in Earth space. Lochley has apparently convinced Luchenko, and Earthforce has mobilized its ships. Aboard the Earth Destroyer Hermes, General Yuri Mikhailovich Denisov, in command of the EarthForce ships, is annoyed and thinks this is all some sort of exercise. Sheridan's assurances that this is for real are soon confirmed, as the Drakh fleet jumps into normal space.

Sheridan tells Gen. Denisov to leave the fleet to the defense grid ("Endgame"). He wants the destroyers and Alliance heavy ships to form a wedge around the Excalibur and the Victory and lead them into the planetkiller itself. "Then what?" asks Gen. Denisov. "Then we kill it," replies Sheridan. "Somehow."

The General agrees and leads them in. While enroute, Sheridan uses the Excalibur's advanced sensors, more advanced than anything they've had previously, to analyze the deathcloud. It has a superstructure inside, a lattice of some kind, which is what they must destroy.

Sheridan notices the center of the lattice is bigger and reinforced: probably the command center. That's their target.

"When the time comes to choose your target, be sure to pick the right one. Because you will only get one shot." Galen's words echo in Dureena's head.

"No," she tells Sheridan simply. "If you hit that part you'll fail and your planet will be destroyed." She explains that a thief learns to look where you aren't supposed to look; that the most valuable items are never inside the safe, but next to it. Next to the central point of the lattice is a joint, seemingly the same as others in the structure. "There's nothing special about it," Dureena explains. "Then why is it surrounded by short range weapons? Why are they so determined to protect it?"

Capt. Anderson has been monitoring the situation. Enemy ships are closing in, and the deathcloud is approaching Earth. They are running out of time. They can hit one target but not both. Which one? Sheridan has to choose quickly.

"Hers," Sheridan replies. The Victory and the Excalibur accelerate towards the deathcloud.

But the deathcloud's defenses are formidable, and more Drakh ships join the defense as they figure out what is happening. The fire isn't getting through to the target. The Victory is hit severely, and its main weapons array destroyed. The planetkiller is minutes away from Earth.

"My daughter is out there, Phil," Capt. Anderson tells his first officer. "I made a promise to her that I'd protect her from the monsters. What kind of father am I if I can't keep my promise?"

Anderson contacts Sheridan. He suggests that Sheridan fire his main gun; although it will probably miss at that range, and leave the Excalibur vulnerable for one minute, it will clear away the defending ships. The Victory can cover her for a minute and get within range. Then the Victory will fire her main guns while the Excalibur covers her. It's a long shot, but it is their only one. Sheridan agrees and fires.

The Excalibur misses the joint barely, but destroys the enemy ships in the way. Captain Anderson then issues the order: "Ramming speed." Sheridan can't do anything, his ship out of power. The Victory heads in, taking hit after hit. Despite extensive damage, the ship makes it all the way to the joint, and destroys it in a fiery crash. But the Victory doesn't survive.

Anderson's sacrifice isn't in vain. The planetkiller begins to collapse. The missiles fire prematurely, hitting the superstructure itself. With the Excalibur back on line, Sheridan heads out. He escapes as the deathcloud collapses into itself and is destroyed.

Before they can even take stock, they see the remains of the Drakh fleet heading towards Earth. They watch in horrified silence as the ships descend into the atmosphere, and start releasing some sort of dust. The defense grid hits many of them, but they only fall towards the surface, releasing more dust on their way down.

Sheridan looks down in silence. "What is it?" asks Dureena, who does not understand what is going on. "What happened?"

Galen is looking over the results of the battle in his crystal globe when a voice calls out to him. "The circle requires your presence."

Sheridan is back on Babylon 5, explaining to Lochley and Garibaldi. "So, they finished analysing whatever it was the Drakh sprayed into Earth's atmosphere?" asks Lochley.

"It's a biogenetic plague," replies Sheridan. "Earth has been completely quarantined, nobody allowed in or out. The death cloud was the only one the Drakh had left, but it wasn't the last weapon in their arsenal. From the complexity of its structure, the bioweapons division back home thinks the plague was probably engineered by the Shadows."

"How much time do they have?" asks Garibaldi. "Looks like that's the only bright spot in this," replies Sheridan. "The Drakh didn't have time to finish adjusting it our biology, or they just didn't know how. But either way, its going to take time for the plague to adjust to a new host. They're saying 5 years. Could be less. But probably five years is the best guess for now."

"And... at the end of five years?" asks Lochley.

"Every man, woman, and child on Earth will be dead. Unless we can find a cure."

Since the plague is Shadow technology, they won't be able to solve it on Earth in five years. "But since this came to us from outside," adds Sheridan, "maybe we can find a cure out there." There are other races, as old as the Shadows; one of them must have a cure. "We'll find them. We have to."

Sheridan adds: "I've told president Luchenko we'll put all the resources of the Alliance and the White Star fleet at their disposal. We'll turn the Excalibur into a traveling research vessel, manned by the best crew we can find. The Rangers will search every corner of space, looking for clues to a cure. Then the Excalibur and her crew will go in to follow it up."

On their way out, Sheridan says, the Drakh hit the construction dock, destroying years of work. It will take time to make up for it, and so, for now, the Excalibur is the only of one of her kind.

Meanwhile, Galen arrives on Babylon 5, and joins Dureena.

Sheridan finishes: "Those who command the Excalibur will never stop, never give up, and never slow down until a cure is found. And we'll take any help we can get, wherever and whoever it comes from. Because this is a cause that surpasses borders, and differences, and distrusts. This is a mission about the survival of Earth itself. What we do over the next five years here, at home, and across the darkness between the stars, will determine whether an entire world will live... or die. It's a fight we can't afford to lose.

"And we won't. We won't."

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