On C&C, Ivanova tells Sheridan about a Markab cruiser that is ten hours overdue that has resisted all attempts at communication. She says she wants to send out Zeta squadron to find out what happened to the ship, and that she will do so as soon as Lieutenant Keffer returns, searching for what he once saw in hyperspace. Sheridan tells Ivanova to order Keffer back to the station and curb further expeditions.
Lazarenn, a Markab doctor, examines a dead Markab with Dr. Franklin. The death seems rather mysterious, and Lazarenn tells Franklin he would prefer to keep jurisdiction over his own species. But, since this Markab is the fourth dead Markab in three days dead of natural causes, Franklin is suspicious. He tells Lazarenn that he will continue to run further tests.
Ivanova explains to Zeta squadron that their mission is to find the Markab
ship and determine the problem, if there is one. As she sends them out, she
tells Keffer that Captain Sheridan has ordered him to curb his expeditions
into hyperspace. Though he initially protests, after he is threatened with
a four-month suspension of flight priveleges, he changes his mind, and
leaves to join the squadron.
Sheridan sits down for dinner with Delenn and Lennier. Lennier has spent two days engrossed in an exhaustive cooking ritual, preparing food for Sheridan's dinner, so that he may better understand the Minbari. Sheridan is anxious to begin eating, but is informed that he must also follow certain rituals in the eating of the dinner. Delenn explains that, if they are not followed, Lennier will have to begin again. Delenn and Sheridan exchange bowls, give part of their meal to Lennier in thanks, and Sheridan places one piece of food in the place set aside for Valen's return. Sheridan is then able to take one bite before he must meditate.
Zeta squadron arrives at the Markab vessel, and attempts to open
communication, to no avail. Keffer scans the vessel, but discovers no life
signs, though there are over two hundred life forms on the vessel. All the
Markab on the ship are dead. Meanwhile, Dr. Franklin, while examining the
Markab on the station, asks to have access to the other dead Markab before
they are sent back to their homeworld.
Zeta squadron returns to the station with the Markab ship in tow. Franklin tells Ivanova that they need a full medical team to investigate it, and that he thinks Sheridan should be there as well. Sheridan, who fell asleep while observing the Minbari rituals of eating, is awakened by Ivanova telling him to go to the docking bay where the Markab ship has been brought. Sheridan apologizes, though Delenn tells him that the meal was completed before he fell asleep.
Sheridan arrives in the docking bay to find Dr. Lazarenn there, not wanting
Sheridan or any other non-Markab inside. Dr. Franklin explains that they
aren't wanted aboard the ship because all four dead Markab died from an
infectious disease. Dr. Franklin demands to know how terminal and
contagious the disease is. "It is one hundred percent terminal," Lazarenn
imparts. "And one hundred percent contagious."
The plague continues to spread among the Markab population as Dr. Franklin confronts Lazarenn and demands to know why he wanted to keep the plague a secret. Lazarenn explains that the plague is not something normally talked about -- it is considered a disease that only occurs to an immoral people, because the first documented case struck an immoral population isolated on the Markab homeworld, killing the entire populace. They assumed that the plague had been wiped out, and therefore was no longer a threat. Lazarenn explains that Drafa, the disease, had been used to frighten children into behaving, and was still believed to only inflict the immoral. Though the first new case had been discovered nearly a year ago, the Markab were still scared to admit that the problem had resurfaced, and since none of them wanted to be considered immoral, it was kept secret, which made the disease spread even faster. In an attempt to escape the disease, the Markab have fled to every Markab colony, including Babylon 5, spreading the plague throughout the Markab populace. Dr. Franklin doesn't understand why he wasn't consulted, but Lazarenn tells him that he was forbidden by his government, which refuses to assist in any way. Franklin's last question is whether or not the disease is infectious beyond the Markab species, but Lazarenn has no way of knowing.
A young Markab girl wanders through the corridors of Babylon 5, looking for something. She soon locates what she is looking for, her father, who is sitting against a wall. She touches him, and he falls over. She cries out and turns around, into the arms of Delenn.
Dr. Franklin talks to the command staff and his medical officers. The
disease is invisible while in its incubation period of up to several weeks,
but after it shows up, the patients live for about a day. Garibaldi asks
how far it has spread, and Franklin explains that they have to assume the
entire Markab population has been exposed. Sheridan asks if the plague is
limited to the Markab, but Franklin doesn't know, and says that's what they
need to find out. If the disease is airborne, the recycled air aboard the
station could put everyone at risk. Sheridan asks Franklin what to do, and
Franklin wants every Markab brought in for testing so they can discover how
the disease works. The disease, he explains, takes over the central nervous
system, keeping it from working properly. Sheridan orders Ivanova to put
the station under quarantine, keeping all ships in the station, and
preventing other ones from coming in. One of the medical officers suggests
segregating the Markab away from everyone else, but Franklin says that will
only cause the disease to spread among the Markab faster and that, if the
disease is airborne, it won't make any difference. Garibaldi says that, if
all the Markab are in one place, he can watch over them better when turmoil
strikes the station.
Turmoil does strike the station, causing a panic when no one is able to leave the quarantined station. The Markab are continuously tested for the plague, as more continue to get sick and die. The Markab ambassador is outraged by the way the Markab are being treated, blaming Sheridan for spreading fear among his people. He tries to explain that his people are moral, and believes that Sheridan might be part of a conspiracy against the Markab, or that even the immorality of the humans had infected them. The Markab ambassador begins to leave, and tells Sheridan that he and the rest of the Markab are going into isolation to protect themselves from the immorality of others. Dr. Franklin calls Sheridan and tells him that the disease is indeed airborne, and that his people have found a dead Pak'ma'ra with no visible signs of death. He believes the disease may be spreading into the general population.
The Markab ambassador herds his people into their isolation area, reassuring
them that they are pure and that they will be spared the plague if they are
good. The other races aboard the station are all too happy to see them go.
Dr. Franklin orders an autopsy performed on a dead Markab before it is too late, but none of the other medical officers want to risk exposure. Franklin offers to go in, but is interrupted by Lazarenn, who offers to go in instead, since he knows much more about the plague. Since the isolation booth is sealed, no one else will be in danger should he contract the disease. Lazarenn enters the booth and appraoches the dead Markab to begin the autopsy.
Sheridan receives a call from Ivanova who tells him that the violence against the Markab is increasing aboard Babylon 5. 4,000 of the station's 5,000 Markab have entered the isolation zone, but the rest may be in considerable danger if found by other races. Sheridan wants the violence stopped as quickly as possible. Ivanova suggests he get some sleep. Sheridan agrees, but as he is about to rest, Delenn enters and tells Sheridan that she wants to be allowed into the isolation zone to help the Markab. Delenn says that she has been taught to help others when they are in need, and though Sheridan tries to convince her otherwise, he is unable to dissuade her. She says that she understands the risk, and that she and Lennier should do all they can to help the Markab, since they may all be in need of similar help very soon. She knows that she may have to remain in there if she contracts the disease, but she is willing to make the sacrifice. Sheridan relents and decides to let her enter the zone. "All life is transitory," she tells him. "A dream. We all come together in the same place at the end of time. If I don't see you again here, I will see you in a little while, in the place where no shadows fall." She starts to leave, but Sheridan stops her.
"Delenn...? When I do see you again, call me John?" She smiles, nods, and leaves.
A few humans attack a Markab, and kick him in the stomach while he is down
on the ground. Garibaldi arrives and stops the torture, but the Markab is
near death. He reaches a bloody hand out to Garibaldi. Hesitating only
fractionally, Garibaldi takes the Markab's hand.
Delenn and Lennier approach the gate to the isolation zone and are admitted by the EarthForce officer attending it. They enter quickly, and are immediately assaulted by the great pain and death they see all around them, though they are able to keep a somewhat pleasant attitude, knowing that they may be able to help.
Dr. Franklin injects himself with stims in order to keep himself awake.
Lazarenn, still inside the isolation area, tries to convince Dr. Franklin to
sleep, but Franklin says that, if the plague has spread, that won't matter
much. They haven't found out anymore about the Pak'ma'ra, but more and more
Markab continue to die, though the violence has been brought under control.
Franklin explains that he doesn't understand why humans never learn from all
the diseases they face, such as the Black Death, AIDS, and Chalmer's
Syndrome. Lazarenn asks about the Black Death, and Dr. Franklin explains
how it hit Europe in the 14th century, and that it too was considered an
immoral disease, possibly sent by the devil. Cats, the familiars of the
devils, were killed by the millions, but since they were the only way to
control the rat population, the true way the disease was spread, the plague
spread even faster. Lazarenn finds the situation humorous, since often the
strategy that makes the least sense is the one that's done the most. He
then collapses against the window of the isolation booth, and explains that
his suspicions are confirmed: he has contracted the plague. He tells
Franklin to run tests as quickly as possible, now that he has someone in the
earliest stages of infection.
Delenn and Lennier minister to the Markab in the isolation zone, trying to make them more comfortable, though it doesn't seem as if they are doing much good. Delenn sees the young Markab girl she met earlier, who is now unable to find her mother. Delenn calls to Lennier, telling him to find her mother. When Lennier asks how he should find her, Delenn responds, "Faith manages." Delenn asks the girl her mother's name, and the girl tells her that her name is Mama. "Faith manages," repeats Lennier as he begins the search.
Dr. Franklin examines some of the data from the tests, and continues to run
more tests, though they only have a very short period of time. Lazarenn
explains how he feels, and Franklin orders still more tests. While he is
suffering, Lazarenn thinks back to how he and Franklin first met many years
ago. It was when Franklin was on layover on the Markab homeworld, and
Franklin was hitchhiking on starships. Franklin looked upon everything as a
test in those days. "Sometimes the test is not to find the answer, it is to
see how you react when you realize there is no answer." A medical officer
comes up with the results of the Pak'ma'ra autopsy -- the plague is now
affecting the Pak'ma'ra as well. Franklin, exasperated and irritable,
orders some officers to find out what happened to the Pak'ma'ra, before time
The young Markab girl is still worried about her mother, and asks Delenn if
she has been found yet. Delenn says no, but says she knows what the young
girl is going through. She once became seperated from her parents on a
visit to the city, and she became more and more lost until she found herself
in an old temple, where she decided to wait until her parents arrived.
Though her parents didn't come for hours, she felt safe there, and fell
asleep. A tall figure told the young Delenn that she would be fine as long
as she believed her parents would come. The figure told her that he would
not allow harm to come to her. At that moment, Delenn's parents arrived in
the temple. As she completes the story, Lennier too arrives with the young
girl's mother. The young girl runs to her mother and hugs her, and soon
turns around to thank Delenn, but is barely able to keep her balance. The
smile vanishes from Delenn's face as she realizes what is happening.
Dr. Franklin continues tests on the Pak'ma'ra, but continues to find nothing. He tries to cross-reference Markab yellow cells with Pak'ma'ra green cells. Lazarenn speaks up, but is unable to say much beyond, "The yellow cells could be..." He attempts to say more, but fails, and dies while speaking to Franklin. Franklin, in his rage, overturns a cart of medical equipment, but his anger evaporates when the computer reports that a match has been found.
Franklin explains to Sheridan that the plague works by neutralizing the
chemicals in the synaptic gaps of a body, which prevent the chemicals from
relating messages from the brain between neurons. A few races use
specialized cells to manufacture chemicals used in neural relays, but since
humans don't work that way, they aren't in danger. Franklin says the
disease can't be destroyed, but he can stimulate production of yellow and
green cells so that they will eventually be able to fight off the disease.
He's prepared enough for five hundred doses of the cure, but hasn't had time
to test it, and there is nearly no time left.
Franklin, Sheridan, and Ivanova go to the isolation zone and enter, and are
greeted by a grisly sight. There is nearly complete silence as they look
around the isolation zone and see that every Markab has died. Delenn and
Lennier appear. Franklin asks if anyone is left alive, and Lennier tells
him that they are all dead.
Lennier departs, but Delenn, overcome by the situation, falls crying against Sheridan's shoulder.
Delenn tells Sheridan that he should be congratulated for finding a way to stop the plague. Sheridan tries to explain that it is because of Franklin that they were able to prevent further infection. Sheridan asks what happens next time, and Delenn says that, if they honor the memory of those who died, and remember what happened, the other races will grow, and further problems of this sort will not occur.
"Medical ships dispatched to the Markab homeworld have confirmed the death toll," an ISN reporter says. "The entire planetary population has been wiped out by the plague. Over two billion dead, in addition to another two or three million on other colonies and outposts. Although it is expected that some Markabs may have survived on isolated colonies, for all intents and purposes, the Markab civilization has been destroyed." Franklin, sitting at a bar beneath a video screen, listens painfully to the news report as other patrons of the bar joke about the deaths of the Markab and spread rumors about the dead Markab. The bartender shuts off the television set, refusing to listen anymore.
"Nothing changes," Franklin says to himself. He gets up from the bar and walks away.