Ambassador to the alien world of Minbar, former Babylon 5 commander Jeffrey Sinclair, is one of the first to learn the truth about the Shadows, the ancient race pursuing the destruction of the galaxy. Sinclair also discovers a startling secret: he is the linchpin in the plan to stop them. Now, Sinclair is asked to revive the legendary Minbari warrior group, the Rangers, but it may cost him his one chance to love...and his life.
Catherine Sakai, a commercial pilot and planetary surveyor, has lost her heart to Jeffrey Sinclair. Not even an attack by the Shadows can stop her from going to Minbar to join him...and the Rangers. As she trains with other pilots, including the mysterious Marcus Cole, the time is coming when their skills will be tested on their first mission. Led by Sinclair, they will venture into deepest space, into a battle of stealth and might, and toward a fate that none but the bravest can face...and none but the luckiest will survive.
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“Some of the most intelligent science fiction on television.” –Newsweek
“This is the best television show ever made.” –TV Guide
"Alpha 7 to Alpha Leader, I'm hit!"
Static swallowed the rest of the frantic words. Even as he shouted his reply, Earthforce Lieutenant Jeffrey Sinclair saw Quinton Orozco's Starfury flash past overhead, trailing smoke and flames, shadowed by a Minbari fighter, "Pull out! Pull out! Alpha 7!"
That was Bill Mitchell's voice in the earpiece of his helmet. Sinclair checked the scope on his instrument panel, then did a quick visual check through the cockpit windshield and canopy. How many of his squadron were left against the Minbari onslaught? How many Human ships were left at all?
"Stay in formation," Sinclair ordered as he brought his Starfury around, turning away from the sun to face what seemed to be the greater concentration of Minbari fighters. "Hold the line. No one gets through, no matter what!"
"Understood," came Mitchell's voice again, then a burst of static and "Alpha Leader! You've got a Minbari on your tail!"
But Sinclair had already seen it, and was about to initiate a defensive response within the formation when he saw Mitchell's Starfury break formation to loop up and back, over Sinclair's head and toward his pursuing attacker. Other members of the squadron followed Mitchell's lead.
"I'm on him."
"No! Mitchell! Stay in formation! It might be a--"
Sinclair's instrument panel indicated a massive jump point opening behind him, right out of the blinding glare of the sun. "Oh my God. It's a trap!"
It shouldn't have been possible. Assurances had been made that a widespread pattern of vortex frequency interference would be broadcast continuously, making it impossible for the enemy to open jump points within the Line. But a shadow fell across Sinclair's ship as a massive Minbari cruiser, larger than any he'd seen before, came out of a jump point behind him. The only chance for escape was to outrun it and regroup, but what was left of his squadron had been lured into heading full speed right at the cruiser.
"Mitchell! Break off! Break off!"
It was too late. He saw Bill Mitchell's ship blown to bits. Devorah Eisenstadt's Starfury cut in two. Jake Owasaka's ship sent tumbling wildly to smash into Alo Makya's Starfury, destroying both. Within a few seconds, every ship of his squadron and all the ships around him were destroyed.
An energy beam from the Minbari cruiser sliced through the skin of Sinclair's upper starboard engine, spinning his craft out of control. His computer gave him the bad news as he fought to regain control of his ship.
"Aft stabilizers hit. Weapons systems at zero. Defensive grid at zero. Power plant near critical mass. Minbari weapons systems locking on."
Sinclair reestablished control of his Starfury and turned it back toward the looming Minbari warship. "Not like this! Not like this!" he shouted, not caring that they didn't hear him. "If I'm going out, I'm taking you bastards with me. Target main cruiser. Set for full-velocity ram. Afterburners on my mark...Mark!"
Sinclair was thrown back in his seat as every last bit of fuel in his craft ignited to send him hurtling on a collision course toward the Minbari cruiser. Ten, nine, eight, seven...
But something was wrong, even more terribly wrong than it had been just a moment before. The Minbari cruiser was changing, undulating like a living creature, morphing before his eyes. Long tendrils grew outward from the ship, and a powerful energy surge crackled along the tendrils gathering to a sphere of destructive energy at their tips. Suddenly it wasn't a Minbari cruiser at all. It was a Vorlon warship. And there were hundreds more of them, all converging on Babylon 5, intent on destroying his space station. But what was that just beyond the outermost Vorlon ship, moving back and forth between the lights of the distant stars? Shadowy shapes, dark and spindly, difficult to see or even focus on. What was happening?
Before Sinclair could react, a blinding flash obliterated the scene--
Metal fiber ropes bit into Sinclair's wrists and legs, held him motionless, suspending him at the center of a darkened, cavernous room where one bright beam of light shone down on him. Just beyond the rim of light, he could see shadowy figures, humanoid, robed. The torture he had endured at the hands of those creatures for--what? hours? days?--had been so intense that he was now moving beyond the pain that racked his body. His consciousness seemed to be floating above the scene. One of the hooded figures approached, stood before him, held up a small triangular object that seemed to be wire and metal shaped into a triangle with a stone suspended at the center. A Triluminary. The stone began to glow.
"Who are you?" Sinclair managed to force the words out through his pain. "Why are you doing this?" He tried to look at the face under the hood--it was Minbari, clearly, but who? For a moment it could have been Neroon, but then it might be Rathenn, or perhaps it was Jenimer, the Chosen One, or--Delenn?
"We claim your soul," said the voice from under the hooded robes, "as our own."
"No!" Sinclair shouted. He struggled against the binding ropes, felt them bite into his flesh, felt the blood running down his arms and legs. "NO!"
Sinclair woke up shouting, and with a violent motion wrenched himself upright in the bed. Drenched in sweat, his heart pounding furiously, he shivered uncontrollably from the intensity of the dream. At the same time, for a short, disorienting moment, he could not figure out where he was. These were not his quarters on Babylon 5.
Slowly, he began to calm down and regain his bearings. He looked around at the small bedchamber which was dimly illuminated from one corner of the room by a small brazier filled with some type of glowing stones rather than coals. There were two doors, both shut, and no windows; the walls were unadorned, and the only furnishings were the hard, narrow bed he was sitting up on, a single low bench on which some clothes were carefully laid out, and a large metal chest, inlaid with a delicate triangular pattern of gems.
Minbar. He was on the homeworld of the Minbari Federation, former deadly enemies of the Human species, and now their most powerful ally. He was in the capital city Yedor. He was in his quarters in the exclusive residential area set aside for off-world visitors and residents such as himself. He was Earth's first ambassador to Minbar.
Sinclair realized he was now shivering more from the cold temperature in the room than the dream. He swung his legs over the side of the bed and let the feeling of the cold, stone floor against his feet wake him further, also knowing that motion would signal the automatic sensors to turn up the heat.
He wasn't in the midst of his enemies. He wasn't on Minbar as a prisoner. He had agreed to come here.
Sinclair wondered what time it was, then laughed at himself a little; he was always wondering what time it was. The Minbari day was twenty hours and forty-seven minutes long. Ever since arriving on Minbar a little under three Earth standard weeks ago, his just-under-twenty-five-hour Human body clock had been precessing through the shorter Minbari days, leaving him with what felt like a permanent case of jet lag.
With a sigh, he rose and went over to the bench where he had left his watch. It was set to count off the Minbari hours, and indicated he still had another half hour of sleep coming to him. He turned off the alarm. All he wanted now was a shower to clear his head and some time to himself before his assigned Minbari helpers showed up to bring him breakfast, straighten up the room--not that he had much for them to straighten--and scurry around and bow to him.
Sinclair shook his head as he crossed the room to the bathroom door. He could not get the Minbari helpers to look him in the eyes, or to stop bowing to him. If it were just polite social bowing, common in some cultures, it wouldn't have bothered him so much. But this too often became the bowing and scraping that he'd only seen in movies when the all-powerful ruler of some exotic, ancient land entered a room. It got to be a little embarrassing at times.
When he opened the door to the bathroom, the bright light from the early morning sun streaming through the skylights momentarily blinded him. Bedrooms did not have windows, but the bathroom was open to the sky. He checked the clothes he had washed the previous evening in the rock pool and miniature waterfall, which served as bathtub and shower and which were even now splashing cheerfully in a continuous recycling of water. It always reminded Sinclair of a hotel room in New Vegas, but somehow more spiritual.
Good, the clothes were dry. He wanted them folded and put away before his "helpers" arrived. He knew his Minbari hosts thought it odd for an ambassador to be washing his own clothes, but he had left Babylon 5 for Earth and then Earth for Minbar so abruptly he had only brought a couple of changes of clothing with him, and now that he had no idea when he might get more sent out to him, he was guarding what he did have car...
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