War Zone - (January 2 nd , 2267)
Written By: J. Michael Straczynski
On one of the decks of the Explorer-class ship, the crew watches an ISN broadcast report about the Drakh attack on Earth. The first officer, Lt. Matheson, is trying to break up a large fight among the crew. The Phoenix is on its way back to Earth, but the Mars-born crew members are attempting to mutiny. They don't think that what happened to Earth is their problem. They refuse to go back, not wanting to become infected. Matheson stands his ground. The mutiny leader, James, calls upon others to join him and the fighting resumes.
The mutineers fight their way to a corridor where they come upon Captain Matthew Gideon, who is flanked by ship's security. James orders Gideon to step aside, they're taking the ship and he can't stop all of them.
Gideon: No, all I have to stop is you. You're the mouth. If you can't take me, you sure as hell can't take my ship. You get past me, she's all yours.
James pulls a large wrench that was stuffed in the back of his pants and swings it at Gideon. Gideon easily avoids getting hit and quickly puts down the leader. He asks the other mutineers there is anyone else who would like to try to take his ship. Wisely, no one steps forward.
A bloodied Matheson and the rest of the loyal crew join the others in the corridor. Gideon addresses them all. He tells them that they are alive because of his command. Are they going to fall apart now? Do they think he's going to let them get killed? He orders them back to their stations, promising to forget their mutinous actions.
The crowd disperses and the unconscious James is dragged off to the brig. Gideon tells Matheson he did the right thing. This whole thing with Earth has everyone in a panic. Gideon receives a message from the bridge. They're entering Earth space. The Phoenix jumps back into normal space and Gideon and Matheson move to a window to see what's happened.
They are shocked to see the extent of the damage. The Earth is no longer the vibrant blue we all recognize. It's covered with a dingy, sickly brown haze. A debris field of EarthForce, Interstellar Alliance and Drakh ships hangs in orbit.
Gideon is in his quarters watching ISN. The reporter lists the casualties at over 240 destroyers lost, the death toll is estimated at 6000-7000 killed in action. President Luchenco has called for a week of planetary mourning for those who died in the battle. Special distinction is given to Captain Anderson of the IAS Victory.
Matheson stops by to see if Gideon's learned anything more. Everything is a mess on Earth, they're trying to figure out what to do next. The only thing they know about the Drakh is their name. Some EarthForce ships are still in pursuit of a few enemy ships that got away. Gideon wishes he were still on a destroyer. The Phoenix was designed for exploration, not combat. Matheson says there was nothing they could have done. The battle was over with before they even jumped. That's not good enough for Gideon.
Gideon asks about the mutiny leader. Matheson tells him the doctor checked him out and he'll be fine. The doctor thinks Gideon should put the attempted mutiny in his file, but Gideon refuses. The man was just scared, who could blame him. Gideon put him down and that was enough. Matheson doesn't think James will be that merciful. His father is a high-ranking official on Mars. He would bet that the man called his father as soon as he woke up. The political situation between Earth and Mars has always been sensitive. Striking a crew member like he did could get himself brought up on charges.
Gideon begins to protest, but is interrupted by a call from the bridge. New orders have come in. They are to proceed to Mars. Matheson gives Gideon a look.
Gideon: Mars? Did they say what they want with us?
Bridge: Not us, sir. You.
The Phoenix jumps into hyperspace.
Surrounded by darkness, Galen the Technomage holds a small globe. Through it he watches Gideon's ship make the jump.
Galen: And so it begins.
CETI IV SPACE
A heavily damaged EarthForce destroyer, the EAS Persephone, is pursuing a smaller Drakh ship. The destroyer's comm systems are down and their venting air on all decks. She won't last much longer. Captain Hensen orders a distress beacon to be readied for launch. They continue to fire on the Drakh ship, forcing it down on a nearby planet. The Persephone explodes after launching the beacon.
CETI IV - IPX SITE
The InterPlanetary Expedition site is located on a part of the planet that looks similar to parts of the American Southwest (Arizona or New Mexico). There are a lot of high, redish-orange cliffs with large human-like faces carved into them. Working on one of the carvings is Max Eilerson, the head of the expedition. He sees the Drakh ship crash. Thinking it might be a meteor, space junk or something he can exploit, he sends one of his team to investigate.
At the crash site, something has survived.
The Phoenix jumps back into normal space. On the planet, Gideon meets with Senator McQuate and Mr. Ames, the military liaison for planetary security. Thinking he was summoned because of the incident with the mutinous crewman, Gideon begins to explain, but is cut off by the senator. McQuate briefs Gideon about Earth's situation. He activates a large vid screen that shows the mayhem that Earth is under. Blind panic has spread and there's mass rioting across the planet. Doomsday cults have sprung up everywhere. EarthGov is in chaos, no one is even coming into work. Why should they? They're all going to be dead in 5 years.
They move out onto a balcony overlooking the Martian landscape. McQuate tells Gideon how some people believe there was once life on Mars. If there was, they left no sign. We'll never know who they were, or what they did. The songs they sang or the stories they told. Mars is a dead world. He can't imagine that happening to the Earth in a few years. Ames tells him that the folks back home are doing everything they can, but the odds of finding a cure in time are zip. They need to look outside.
McQuate continues to say the plague didn't come out of nowhere. Somebody, somewhere, must have come across it before now. Maybe some alien race they've never met can help them. Maybe the cure is buried beneath ancient alien city, forgotten under centuries of sand. They need the right ship and the right person to look for it. The right ship is the Excalibur, the right person is Gideon.
Gideon asks why he was chosen. McQuate tells him that in his time commanding the Phoenix, he's come across more new alien life that any one else in the fleet. There are half a dozen captains commanding Explorer ships, most are either too old or too cautious. Gideon is a dangerous man when he wants to be, and right now they need a dangerous man.
Gideon will take the assignment, but he wants to know if he will be able to pick his own team. Ames tells him some he will and some he won't. This mission is a highly political one back home. They've had to make certain compromises to get the show on the road. There will be a lot of people looking over his shoulder on this.
Gideon: I understand. Just so we're clear. Once we go, this is my command. I'll do whatever is necessary. If that means turning the entire galaxy upside down and shaking its pockets to see what falls out, that's what I'll do. I'm not subtle. I'm not pretty and I'll piss of a lot of people along the way, but I'll get the job done.
McQuate: Do whatever you have to do, Captain. Make sure Earth doesn't turn into this. [he nods toward the view of Mars]
An IPX shuttle flies over the Drakh crash site. On the ground, Drakh warriors wearing full armor fire at the shuttle using energy weapons strapped to their arm and wrist. The weapons are very powerful and the shuttle is blown out of the sky.
At the IPX base camp, Eilerson and his team listen to the shuttle pilot's last call before his was destroyed. There's no way they can contact the company. The atmosphere is too heavily ionized to get a signal out very far, and their transport isn't scheduled to pick them up for another two weeks. Eilerson asks for options. Trace, their remaining pilot, says they only have one option: move out before the aliens come after them. Another team member argues that they don't know the aliens are hostile. They could have thought their shuttle was going to fire on them.
Trace doesn't believe that. The aliens never tried to establish contact or wait to see what the shuttle pilot was going to do. The aliens ambushed him and blew him out of the sky. Where Trace comes from, that's called hostile behavior. The aliens didn't send out a general distress signal. That means they don't want anyone to know where they are. But now that they know the IPX team is there, the aliens will come after them. The hassle of packing everything up is more appealing to Trace than being dead. He suggests they move into some caves they spotted near the cliffs.
Eilerson doesn't care to walk that far and asks about taking their remaining shuttle instead. Trace tells him it only carries four people at a time. It'll take longer and they might be seen. Besides, he needs it. He's going to take it up and see if he can get a clear signal through. Eilerson warns that the wrong people could pick up the signal. It's a good bet the aliens called for help before they crashed, and when that help comes, Trace will be the first thing they shoot at. Trace isn't worried. He has plans for the weekend and being dead isn't one of them.
McQuate introduces Gideon to part of his scientific team. An archaeologist and a linguist haven't been selected yet. Dr. Sarah Chambers, the medical chief of staff arrives. She's getting pretty impatient. She's been waiting around for a day and a half for someone to tell her why she's there. She has a sister and niece on Earth and wants to go back. McQuate won't allow that. Earth's under quarantine, it's too dangerous. Dr. Chambers doesn't care. She feels she can do more good back on Earth than sitting around on Mars. McQuate tells her she won't be sitting around. He's held off on telling them about their mission for security reasons. He's about to tell them about the mission when an aide rushes in. He tells McQuate that there is a problem.
Aide: She got away...again.
McQuate excuses himself. Chambers asks Gideon about the mission, he fills her in. A commotion in the corridor draws their attention. Dureena Nafeel is being restrained by several security guards. She insists that she is supposed to be part of Gideon's team. McQuate orders her to be taken back to protective custody. Gideon wants to talk to her. He also insists that Lt. Matheson join his crew. McQuate is reluctant. Matheson is a telepath and there are still some sensitive feelings about that because of the recent war. Gideon won't take no for an answer. Matheson has followed all the new rules for telepaths, and he's the best first officer he's ever have.
Trace takes off in the shuttle as Eilerson and the team head out on foot.
Dureena is talking to Gideon. She tells him about the Drakh attack on her world. She came to help stop them. She knows more about them than anyone. Gideon agrees and asks McQuate what the problem is. McQuate tells him that Dureena is a member of the Thieve's Guild with a record as long as Gideon's arm. They've been keeping her in protective custody because they believe she has information useful to them. Besides, the presence of a thief may diminish the prestige and importance of the mission.
Dureena proudly admits she's a thief, and a damn good one. If he needs to get inside something, needs to get out, tunnel under, go around, go through...she's it. He will be going to some pretty strange places and there isn't a lock made that she can't pick. McQuate can vouch for that. Her world is gone. She doesn't have anywhere else to go. Gideon wants her on the team, but McQuate protests. Gideon tells him Dureena is on the team or he can find a new captain.
Gideon, Dr. Chambers and Dureena are shuttled up to the Excalibur. Chambers is amazed at how big it is. The Excalibur is a mile and a quarter long, the most advanced and fastest ship ever built by humans.
Matheson meets their shuttle. Chambers is shown to her quarters while Gideon, Matheson and Dureena head up to the bridge. Matheson thanks Gideon for bringing him aboard. He wasn't sure he's be allowed to join the team. Gideon tells him it wasn't a problem. Matheson is impressed with the ship. The techs are still screwing down some of the nuts and bolts, but she'll do fine. He's set coordinates for the testing area. It's well off the charts so they won't be disturbed.
Matheson asks if there will be any more surprises he should know about. Dureena tells him not now. There was someone who came with her who was supposed to be part of the mission (Galen). She doesn't know where he is now. He disappeared shortly after they arrived. She tried telling the others about him, but no one believed her. If he wants to show up he will - in his own way, in his own time.
On the bridge, the engines are online and they can jump at any time. Getting back to his earlier question, Matheson knows Gideon said it wasn't a problem getting him on the team, and he'd hate to contradict a superior officer, but his status as a telepath must have come up.
Gideon: John, you know what causes most problems? Ambiguity. Not knowing which decision is the right one. You're the best first officer I've ever served with and I consider you a friend. So there was no ambiguity....and no problem.
Matheson looks relieved to hear this.
The Excalibur jumps into hyperspace, unaware that someone is tagging along. Galen orders his ship, a sleek, black, triangle-shaped vessel, to follow Excalibur into the jump point.
Trace is in orbit waiting for a reply to his distress signal, but none is forthcoming. Instead, the scanners pick up the beacon of the destroyed Persephone. Trace has an idea. If he can grapple onto the beacon and retrieve it, he could hot wire the beacon to the shuttle's system, he'd have enough power to get a signal out.
They are about four hours away from the testing area when the receive a signal from Mars. McQuate has new orders for Gideon. They've picked up Trace's modified beacon and Excalibur is to investigate. As Gideon is leaving the conference room, he hears Galen's voice.
Galen: Hello Matthew. I just wanted you to know that I am here and I'm watching. In case you should need help.
Gideon: Who is this?
Galen: Have you forgotten me so soon? Sad, but the way of the world I suppose. Expect me when you see me.
The Excalibur changes course for Ceti IV and Galen follows.
Gideon, Dr. Chambers, and Matheson talk in Excalibur's bullet car (internal shuttles used to navigate the massive interior of the ship). Gideon briefs Chambers on what they might find. The Drakh ship was part of the fleet that carried and disbursed the plague. He wants to make sure they're not exposed while checking it out. Gideon leaves Matheson in charge and asks him to find out where the mysterious message he received in the conference room came from.
Trace has returned to the planet. Taking cover in some mountains, he watches the surviving Drakh forces mass and begin to move. They are looking for the IPX team. The entire group is made up of soldiers, Drakh who have been grafted into highly advanced bio-armor including bone-white helmets with glowing red eyes.
The IPX team are hiding in a huge underground city carved out of the rock of the cavern. The city looks very well preserved.
Trace: Do you always jump to the end of the story like that?
Eilerson: Why not? It's the story of my life. I finally find a city like this, intact, deserted for 10,000 years, probably contains hundreds of patents that I can exploit and I'm going to die. I can appreciate dramatic irony as much as the next person, but this is pushing it a bit.
Eilerson is relieved to receive a signal from Gideon. They're coming to help, but can't seem to find their location. He instructs Eilerson to keep the channel open and they'll home in on them. Eilerson warns Gideon of the Drakh closing in on them. Gideon takes care of that with the help of a few fighters. The Thunderbolts blow the Drakh forces off the mountain with ease.
In the crashed Drakh ship, the Drakh leader, Councilor L'Shan, alerts his forces in hyperspace that enemy reinforcements have arrived and will find them soon. He receives an immediate response telling him to be at peace...so are they.
Back in the underground city, Eilerson and Trace meet up with Gideon, Dureena and Dr. Chambers. Eilerson is ready to leave, but Gideon wants to find the ship. Eilerson tries to talk Gideon out of it, telling him that he can show him where the ship is from the safety of the Excalibur. Trace volunteers to lead Gideon to the wreck, but Eilerson doesn't think that's a good idea. He's intercepted the Drakh's signal and knows that they are sending reinforcements which could arrive at any time. Gideon is surprised that he could learn their language that fast. He blackmails Eilerson into helping him. He needs Eilerson to translate anything they find on the ship. If he refuses, Gideon will leave him on the planet. Eilerson has no choice but to agree to the terms.
Inside the Drakh ship, Gideon, Dureena, Dr. Chambers, Eilerson and a squad of soldiers from the Excalibur slowly make their way through the ship looking for computers or anything that can help them figure out what they're up against. Eilerson finds what he believes to be a working station, but that turns out to be a food processor. When he punches a few buttons, a brown liquid pours out onto his feet. Chambers doesn't detect any sign of the virus, but recommends they keep their breathers on anyway.
The Drakh ambush the team, pinning them down. Dureena manages to sneak around behind them and plant an explosive that kills most, if not all, of the Drakh warriors.
Above the planet, the Drakh fleet has arrived. Matheson contacts Gideon, who orders fighters launched and a killing zone established. He just got the Excalibur and would hate to lose it his first week on the job. Trace volunteers to take Gideon back to his ship. Gideon orders Dureena and the others to continue searching the ship. He's certain the Drakh were protecting someone important and wants whoever it is to be found. Eilerson is not happy.
On his way out, a Drakh steps out of the shadows behind Gideon and is about to fire, but is taken down by what looks like yellow bolts of lightning. Gideon turns and sees Galen.
Galen: I told you.... I will be here when you need me.
Galen vanishes. In another part of the ship, a dense fog rises up from the floor around Dureena, Eilerson and the others. It will help hide their numbers from the Drakh. Dureena smiles, knowing this development clearly shows that Galen is there.
Back in the wreckage, Eilerson and the Excalibur's crew continue moving through the ship. Another Drakh steps out behind them and is killed by Galen's yellow lightning. Galen's image disappears again. They finally find Councilor L'Shan attempting to hide himself in the shadows, and Galen shows himself to Dureena.
Around the planet, the Excalibur fights a heated battle, but is more than a match for the Drakh forces. Finally, only one more Drakh cruiser remains, but it intends to ram them. Excalibur's forward guns are out of commission, so having no other options fire the main guns, effortlessly destroying the Drakh ship. Matheson gets a signal from the team on the planet that they've captured the Drakh captain. Gideon calls the team back to the ship.
As the shuttles all return to Excalibur, Galen takes his ship elsewhere, veering off from the group.
Later, in the brig, Gideon listens as Eilerson translates Councilor L'Shan's statement. Basically, the Drakh considers himself a prisoner of war and will not cooperate or betray his people or answer any questions. That's fine with Gideon. They have his ship, and after studying the delivery system, they'll know how the Drakh handled the plague without contaminating their own crew. Then they can contain it themselves. As for the prisoner, there are a lot of people on Earth who will get him to cooperate. The Drakh doesn't like the sound of that. He obviously understands English. Gideon makes sure the Drakh understands that when he's sent back to Earth, he'll be exposed to the same plague the Drakh infected Earth with. In five years, when the Earth dies, so will L'Shan.
Drakh: And when your world is gone, who will support you? Who will you serve? Who will you be?
The questions are enough to make Gideon leave the room. In the corridor, he meets up with Matheson. He wants Matheson to ask Trace to join his crew. He also wants Eilerson on the team. He's a pain in the ass, but they need him. Matheson tells Gideon they tracked the source code of Galen's message to a planet not far from their present location. The planet means something to Gideon - he almost died there nine years earlier. He flashes back to that time. He was floating in space in an EVA suit. Above him, a fleet of ships like Galen's moved away from him. He begged them not to leave him. A shadow passes over him and he turns to look at whatever it is. Gideon snaps back to the present and has Matheson set course for that sector.
In her quarters, Dr. Chambers dictates a letter to her sister. As the eldest, Sarah had to look after her younger siblings, especially sister Jenny. Jenny turned out just fine. Now Sarah has to do her part. She'll be back when she's found a cure...and she will find it. She wants to be there when her niece starts her first day of school.
The Excalibur arrives at some unknown blue planet. On the surface, it's night and Galen sits on a rock in front of a small fire. Gideon finds him and sits across from him. He remembers Galen now. He's a Technomage. They use technology to simulate the effects of magic. They were leaving known space and Galen found him after his ship was destroyed. Galen saved his life.
Gideon: What are you doing here?
Galen: I was having too much contact with your kind. They said I was endangering the others...that I risked exposing our hiding place. So...they asked me to leave.
Gideon: You've been watching me. Why?
Galen: I've been penalized before for helping other people. I've been trying to decide whether or not to risk it again. If you were involved, I would consider it....if you should ask.
Gideon: Then I'm asking. With your skills, you could be a huge asset to us. I'd like you to come with me.
Galen: What do you want?
Gideon: To find a cure for the Drakh plague before it wipes out all life on Earth.
Galen: Where are you going?
Gideon: Anywhere I have to.
Galen: Who do you serve? And who do you trust?
Gideon thinks about that for a moment, but can't come up with an answer. Galen asks again.
Galen: Who do you serve? And who do you trust?
Gideon: I don't know.
Galen: Then I will go with you.