The episode starts by establishing that the UN rules the Earth, Mars is an independent planet, and Belters live in space collecting water and oxygen from the asteroid belt. War seems imminent.
A woman is in space. Loud mechanical noises are in the background, shaking the compartment she's in. She's locked in, desperately trying to survive. She tears open a water packet and only two drops are left. Still in zero G, she finally busts open the door. Getting to solid ground, Julie, part of Scopuli, locks down her boots magnetically. The ship or space station she's on seems completely empty. There's dry blood smeared on the wall and the airlock door, and a dead body comes floating by her. A screen reads "SOS Engineering Bay." When she blow-torches her way in, the core is shimmering - and there's something humanoid growing from it. She screams.
Ceres Station is under the UN Protectorate in the Asteroid Belt. A man sounds like he's leading a protest, talking about how the workers of the Belt "toil and suffer without hope and without end." There are two very different parts of Ceres, one shiny and futuristic, the other dirty and dystopian. Detective Miller listens as the protester talks about how they're basically slaves. The protester tells him he's a traitor to his people.
Miller and his partner investigate a death, speaking to a belter woman in her native tongue. The man was stabbed to death, and has elongated fingers and bones, from growing up in low G.
Miller and his partner go to the local watering hole, and observe the belters, talking about their elongated bones and mis-fused spines. There's a drug problem on the Ceres station.
Miller takes what looks like a bribe on their train on the way to the Star Helix Security station. When they arrive, he slams a suspect's head into the table and tells his young partner Havlock, "There are no laws on Ceres, just cops." Uh oh.
The captain of the force tells Miller (alone) about a girl named Juliette Mao, a lost student who's the daughter of a mining group. He's to detain her and ship her back home to her parents.
The Ice Trawler Canterbury: two miners have huge chunks of Ice they're getting out of the asteroids, and as they talk about who can load more, one of their arms gets smashed off.
Cut to zero G space sex. Racy stuff for non-pay Cable TV! "Stand by for thrust correction" states the voice over the intercom, and it forces gravity back on them, so they fall down to the bed.
Holden is the man, summoned to the bridge. The guy who lost his arm is getting patched up and wants a nice prosthetic. Holden tells Naomi and another crew member, Amos, that they aren't going to get the ship retrofitted, as it's cheaper to just pay off some widows if anything bad happens.
The vehicle is on its way toward Ceres station to make a delivery. Holden goes looking for the X-O, and uses a crowbar to pry open the door to his quarters. Music is playing and there are drawings of trees everywhere. The X-O is just standing in a pile of dirt, mumbling. He has a gun in his hand, too. "We make it all this way, so far out into the darkness. Why couldn't we have brought more light?" He starts laughing and shoots the screen by his bunk. His laughter turns to tears. Holden gets medical in and straps him down.
Holden reports in to the Captain. The Captain wants to promote him to X-O, and he doesn't want it. "I like things the way they are," he insists. He takes the badge to "hang onto for a couple of days."
A mayday was called in, and the Canterbury is the only ship within 3,000,000 kilometers of it. Captain thinks it's a "Pirate Bay." If they go out after it, he says they'll lose their on-time bonus and be delayed. Ade, the gorgeous navigator that Holden was space-sexing earlier isn't happy that they're not responding to the call. Holden shoots her down and says they need to move on.
Holden and Ade have a chat about their current status. She thinks he's crazy for not taking the X-O spot, and tells him she'll be moving on from the Canterbury soon.
Holden can't sleep and takes over for the night watch. Over his shoulder, he sees a rat clicking around. He checks on the logs, and the recently deleted distress call they received. Something about it seems off to him. He tries to alter the audio, and finally hears a lone female voice saying, "Help me. is anybody there? Please?"
On Earth, Chrisjen Avasarala and her grandson play around a bit. Presumably her husband comes into the room as well and shares a laugh. A UN Security Escort has come to take her. She flies into New York, which looks pretty freaking cool in the future. "When people don't tell the truth, it always ends badly," she says.
She's taken to a UN Blacksite in the Hamptons in New York. A man that's clearly a belter, thanks to his very elongated bone structure, hangs from two hooks on the wall, one under each of his armpits, struggling to stand in Earth's gravity. "You've been linked to a radical faction of the OPA," an interrogator says.
Chrisjen seems all too okay with the belter being tortured. He won't answer her directly, either, though. "Give him another ten hours. If he survives, call me."
Back on Ceres, Det. Miller sees the downtrodden belters, after an air filter busted - one he took a bribe to look past.
Canterbury: the distress call was logged by "an anonymous piece of shit," the captain says. Holden is supposed to take a team on a possible rescue/recovery mission. Much of the crew is not happy. The Canterbury flips and hits its full engines for a fast burn to get close to the wreck as quickly as possible. A suspension gel goes into the crew to keep their veins from collapsing under the pressure - pretty decent science, it seems.
Holden and Naomi climb into a smaller vessel off the Canterbury to head up the excursion. He tells Naomi that he was the one who logged the distress call. "I just couldn't shake it," he says. She tells him to keep it to himself.
Alex Kamai, Amos, Shed (the medical officer who was working on the guy that lost an arm earlier) all join Holden and Naomi on the Knight. The Captain tells the crew no heroics, if there's a problem, head back.
Ceres: Miller watches videos of Mao, as if trying to figure out any kind of clues. He slides down the bar to talk to a woman, apparently a prostitute. He asks her for her intuition on the Juliette Mao case. "She's the richest girl in the system, what would a rich girl do to piss daddy off?" "Bang every space bucker I can find," the woman - Octavia - responds. She is concerned about him, though.
The Scopuli, the freighter from the opening scene of the show; the Knight small vessel pulls close to it. The distress signal is still active, and Holden wants to check it out, despite protests otherwise. He and Amos suit up to board the Scopuli. Things are tense in their little crew.
As the pair walk along the abandoned freighter, they see huge holes in the hull. There are a lot of unanswerable questions. All the pressure doors are open, and the reactor is shut down. Holden calls for Shed and Naomi to join them on the freighter.
"Where are all the bodies?" Shed asks - it's like the freighter is just empty. The comm panels are dead, and they don't know how a distress beacon could still be active. They find an independent transmitter.
A ship just suddenly appeared at the location - even though there hadn't been one within a million klicks of the vessel. They hightail back to the Knight and move to fly back toward the Canterbury. "Just suddenly it was there." "Who has stealth like that?" "Mars." It's a big ship.
On Ceres, Miller heads home, drinking and messing with the cash he was bribed with earlier, the vids of Mao still playing on his phone. He goes to the man that didn't change the filters after seeing some kids coughing again, and throws him in an airlock. He starts letting the air out as the man screams to him. He opens it up. "Air is good, don't you think? Air is nice. Keep those filters clean, asshole."
The Canterbury and Knight are trying to rendevous, but they can't get away from the mystery vehicle. It fires torpedoes at the knight, and they manage to miss - but they weren't meant for him. The torpedoes rocket to the Canterbury. Holden tells them to eject the ice to shield. Holden talks to Ade - they didn't eject the ice. She tells him "There's something you should know..." and she's cut off. all four torpedoes hit, and the Canterbury explodes. It's gone, nothing but ice and vapor. Holy crap.
"She's gone. They nuked her. She's gone," is all Holden can say. And that's the end of the episode. Soooo hope you weren't getting attached to Ade, the Captain or the other Canterbury crewmembers, because they dead now.