Michael could feel the bass of Godiva's stereo three levels above her chambers.

The two of them hadn't said much to each other during their return to Phoenix. Vanessa had assured them both that they were not prisoners and she and her crew had never had any intention of attacking them, but that under the circumstances, drastic measures had to be taken.

Godiva had trouble digesting everything Vanessa had told her. She had gone over the information in the display pad and given it to Michael. Using sleep as an excuse to be alone, she left Michael and went to her chambers. Her neural Cyber Link failed to connect her with anyone. Desperately, she tried over and over to contact her mother, her sister, her friends…but each time it acted as though there was nothing to connect with, only further worrying Godiva that Vanessa had told the truth.

The idea of earth's destruction had crossed Godiva's mind before and left her with an amused smile. She'd never cared much for humanity. Most people annoyed her more than anything, females especially. Getting away from people was her motive for becoming a cargo-shipper. It was a lonely job. If you worked with anyone it was normally just one partner. It didn't take much to keep a ship running, not like it used to. A mere base stop every week or so kept everything working nicely. So when Godiva reached the standard working age, she chose to enter an academy for starship training. The stars seemed to call for her. She'd spent a lifetime looking up at them, only able to read about what went on up there instead of experiencing it. Really, she knew she belonged in space. She could see her future looking down on her like starlight. That calling, however, she had yet to find.

Even while travelling through the lonely depths of space, she still looked at the stars as though her future still waited for her. It's longing for her felt more and more desperate with the passing years. She looked at them and heard their exigent cries for her. Time would seem to speed up. The walls around her would close in and grow farther away. That feeling, like someone, or something, was upset that she'd yet to do something, would hit her. Inside of her, she could feel an opportunity for something slipping away, and it only drove her crazier.

Despite her feelings toward humanity, she couldn't help but feel an obligatory remorse for the earth's demise. Furthermore, for the apparent loss of her family.

When the door to her chambers rang, she was lying on her couch, her mind drifting in the archaic beats of her music. She hadn't even heard the door's ringing; she'd seen the green light come on beside her door, signaling the door's ringing.

Sighing heavily, she knew that it was Michael. After knowing her for almost four years, he still hadn't realized that eight hours of sleep wasn't enough for her. Of course, she hadn't slept at all, but he didn't know that.

Annoyed, Godiva got up anyway. "Phoenix, decrease volume," she ordered, and the ship lowered the volume on her music. When she opened her door, she stepped aside to let Michael in and walked back over to her couch.

Michael sighed, feeling as though she didn't want him there. He smiled anyway. "Hey," he said. He held up the display pad Vanessa had given them and snickered. "So what did you think?"

Godiva snickered. "Sounds like a bunch of bull shit to me," she said. "Have you been able to get a hold of anyone?"

Michael frowned and shook his head. "No. You?"

She shook her head.

"They could be jamming our signals," he offered.

Godiva considered it a moment, having thought of it before, but ultimately shook her head. "I don't see the point."

Michael walked over and sat next to her, tossing the display pad on her table in front of them. He chuckled. "It's funny, I always thought you'd be happy to see the human race wiped out."

Godiva snickered. "Yeah…. Me, too."

Michael leaned forward. "We got a transmission a while ago from Paradox. Captain Davis says that we should follow them back into their space. She said it wasn't safe to stick around for too long with those…aliens – that enemy of theirs – running around."

Godiva shot a skeptical look at Michael. "They want us to follow them back into their space?" she asked. "Without even going back to earth first?"

"Well…if she's telling the truth, then going back to earth wouldn't be a good idea. Those aliens would still be there. Personally, I'd rather not risk it."

Godiva sighed, folding her arms over her chest. "There's something screwed up about all this. I wanna go back to earth before going anywhere with them. I have to see it for myself." She looked at Michael. "You didn't reply to their transmission yet, did you?"

Michael shook his head. "No. I thought I'd let you know first."

"Good," Godiva said. "I wanna have a talk with this Captain Davis."

Michael began to say something else but hesitated a moment. "…There…was something else…."

"…There is one other thing."

Godiva stood next to Michael on the bridge of Phoenix, where he'd taken her to listen to the transmission.

The transmission continued:

"…I want to send some of my crew aboard your ship during the trip into Federation space. If we come under attack by the enemy, you're going to need someone aboard your ship that knows who they're dealing with. It's for you own protection. We're not trying to take over your ship. And if we do end up under attack, we're going to need the firepower from both of our vessels.

"Which leads me to one other thing. I want to send some engineering teams aboard your ship also to incorporate some Federation technology, nothing that requires a major refitting, just some minor offensive and defensive systems. Although, upon reaching our destination, you will be expected to submit your vessel to a major refitting. As it is, your ship would not pass an inspection. We're in the middle of a war, and your ship requires some major advancements before it can be deemed safe and secure for use in our space.

"Our destination is the Kristarian Star-sphere, our Home Structure. There, we'll proceed under orders from Guild Council. You'll be required to meet with them as well.

"That is all for now. I do ask that you respond as soon as possible. Paradox out."

In a slow, mocking tone, Godiva said, "There is no…fucking…way…I'm letting them aboard my ship."

"Oh, come on, God!" Michael pushed. "They seem sincere enough to me!"

"I don't trust them, Mike!" Godiva exclaimed. "They still haven't convinced me!"

"Godiva…we're talking about the 'almighty' Galactic Federation, here! What possible reason could they have for kidnapping two little Terran cargo-shippers! Besides, you saw the humans working aboard her ship. How do you think they got there?"

"I don't know," Godiva spoke sarcastically, standing up and getting in Michael's face, "maybe they kidnapped them."

Sighing, Michael followed her off the bridge, into a corridor. "Look, I know you're having a hard time coming to terms with this. You had a lot of friends on earth, but so did I! How do you think I feel about this? It's no easier for me."

Her back to him, Godiva just shook her head and waved her hand at him. "Just… go away."

"Is this about 'him'?"

Godiva stopped just before stepping into an elevator and shot a look at Michael that could have made the devil quiver. "Oh, my gentle Jesus fuck! You know nothing has been about 'him' for the last two fucking years!"

Michael started to open his mouth, following Godiva onto the elevator, but she shoved him out.

"Get away from me!"

"Godiva!" Michael shouted as the doors closed.

Sighing in frustration, Michael turned around and punched the wall behind him, immediately regretting it. "Ouch! Damn it!"

Angry and rubbing his fist with his other hand, Michael hit the button to the elevator. "Phoenix, reroute elevator one to the bridge!" he ordered. A few seconds later, the doors opened and revealed Godiva.

"You stupid whore! Stop it!" She punched the button to close the doors, but Michael jumped in first.

"No!" he shouted. "I wanna do this, damn it! Oh and here's some food for thought, Miss God-of-all-that-is! Part of this ship belongs to me, too!"

"Oh, really?" she exclaimed. "Who paid for it, Michael? Me! And who didn't spend one damn credit on it? Hmm…oh yeah, you! My ship, my rules! I'm not letting them cannibalize my ship!"

"And who's worked his ass off for you for just fifty credits a month for the last three years? I didn't put three years of my life into this thing just to have it all blown away because you decided to fly us into the middle of a bloodbath!"

"Fine, you can go with them. I'm going back to earth!"

Following her off the elevator and into another corridor, Michael protested, "Oh, no, I'm not letting you commit suicide either. If you think I'm gonna let you go back there, you're wrong."

Godiva stopped and snickered at him. "I would just love to see you try and stop me."

As she continued walking, Michael grabbed her arm.

"Godiva!" Pausing, as he looked her in the eyes, he kissed her.

Godiva pushed him off her into the wall. Nonplussed, she shook her head and looked away, running off down the hall to her chambers. Dumbfounded, Michael only watched her go. His kissing her had come at a surprise to himself as much as to Godiva. He couldn't figure out what had come over him, but whatever it was, he knew, had been a mistake.

Captain Davis's first officer was an extroversive young man named David Dvoretsky. Tall, dark, but not quite what females would call handsome, David was often too cocky, but had a bit of a soft inner core, albeit a fiery one. He was respectful, nonetheless, and did stupid things more often than he would admit. People could manage to get a long with him, but like everyone, people he crossed could not get a long with him, and he was naïve enough not to notice.

David had crossed Captain Davis.

Vanessa's executive officer for the passed two years, David had beaten Vanessa to command of a far superior vessel that he was to take command of within the week following their mission to acquire Phoenix. The command would be of a newly modeled vessel, a warship, fitted with the most recent of technologies – a ship that Vanessa had wanted – that she had felt she deserved. Receiving the news of its commission before her, however, David had sent his own request of command a day before Vanessa, and had received it.

Vanessa could only look at David with contempt ever since, and looked quite forward to the day he left her command. For she had made the decision that as soon as he was sworn to his own command, she would send him off with a swift blow to his jaw.

Vanessa was sitting in her office, smiling, as she imagined herself giving David that swift blow to the jaw, when he walked in to meet with her.

"Commander Dvoretsky," she greeted, making a conscious effort to smile, "please, sit down."

"You wanted to see me?"

"Yes," she answered, her smile gone. "I'm going to assign you to the Phoenix for the trip back to the Star-sphere. It's only temporary, of course, but I need a smart head at that ship."

Somewhat confused, David glanced off to the side a moment. "They haven't agreed to go back with us yet," he said. "We're still waiting on their reply."

"Their reply is irrelevant. Whether they agree to go back with us or not, they are going back with us. My orders were to bring that ship and her occupants to the Star-sphere, under any means necessary. If I'd wanted to, I could have greeted them with plasma fire, but I thought I'd try gaining their trust first. Hopefully, firepower won't be needed. Regardless, you're going to be aboard that ship before we leave orbit."

Though surprised, David nodded. "Understood."

"I want to warn you, though, of Miss Breckenridge. She's extremely temperamental and seems to live under some self-delusion that she doesn't have to abide by any rules other than her own – the arrogant little bitch. When you're aboard that ship, you are in command. She will fight you. Fight back. I'm giving you permission to take control of that ship by any means necessary. Is that understood?"

"Yes, Captain," he answered firmly.

"Good," Vanessa said. "Any questions?"

David drew in a deep breath. "…Yes. Captain…what is it about this ship that makes the Guild want it so badly?"

Vanessa shook her head and stood up. "They didn't say, and I didn't ask. All I know is these are our orders, and as we carry them out it is our duty to represent the Galactic Federation as a strong and powerful empire. If that little bitch down there tries to get in the way, she's going to be met with a force she'll wish she never reckoned with…and then when I'm done with her," she smiled, "she'll have to deal with Federation force."

"Captain, if I may…" David began as he followed Vanessa out of her office onto the bridge, "why do you have such a problem with Miss Breckenridge?"

Vanessa put him on hold with her finger. "Communications," she said, "anything from Phoenix yet?"

"Negative, Captain," answered the reptilian communications officer with a hiss. "However, there's an Ensign Lat in the astrophysics bay requesting your presence. He says there's something he'd like you to see."

Vanessa gave the officer a nod. "Tell him I'll be there in a few minutes.

"Take the bridge," she ordered David, as she stepped onto an elevator. "And…Miss Breckenridge is a bitch, Commander, and one deals with people according to who they are…" the doors closed, "you piss-faced bastard."

It had taken Michael only half an hour to decide to apologize to Godiva. Michael had quite a different outlook on life than Godiva. To begin with, he believed in forgiveness; Godiva had never been sorry for anything in her life. Besides that, he had a hard time staying mad with anyone, and, as hard as it was to make Michael mad, Godiva had done it.

More often than he'd ever admitted to, Michael became fed up with Godiva's attitude. It wasn't just her anger; it was her entire perception of things. She had a cold, vengeful attitude. Even after four years of knowing her, Michael couldn't trust her only because he knew how good a liar she was. He hated that he couldn't trust her, because he wanted her trust…and he wanted her to love him.

After four years alone aboard a starship, any normal person would have made their move a lot earlier, and a lot smoother, than Michael had, but Michael wasn't normal. An alien trapped in a human's body, Michael had spent his life trying to understand normal people and had failed miserably. He was a shy extrovert with a rather unconventional way of thinking. However eccentric and, in some ways, quite the opposite of Godiva, the two of them got a long so well that it surprised Michael.

His fondness of Godiva had sprouted just months after they first met at the academy. They quickly became friends and spent nearly every day together. When they graduated, Michael signed onto Godiva's ship as partner, a mutual desire.

A fondness for Godiva Breckenridge, however, was not at all uncommon among the male population, or the female, for that matter. Michael was only one of dozens of people that hungered for Godiva. The only one that ever had her, though, had thrown her away.

The "him" to whom Michael had referred in their argument, was Godiva's ex-boyfriend. They had broken up a few months after she met Michael, and Godiva hadn't cared for it at all. She had loved the man, and when she sunk her claws into something, she made a desperate struggle not to let it go, and it didn't help that she had a hard enough time just disposing of garbage. The girl had spent almost two years in a furious battle to get her ex back, she claimed, so she could "destroy" him. Michael had always wondered, however, if that had actually been the case. He worried that, was she to ever actually get her ex back, she would keep him rather than avenge herself.

Over time, her fight for her ex became an almost pitiful obsession. She went to extreme levels, doing whatever necessary, just to communicate with the man. It wasn't until multiple arguments between she and Michael over the subject that she was able to realize that her life was starting to revolve around a guy that never deserved her in the first place. Nonetheless, her ex remained within her, more than just a scar, an immense hole burned into her like acid, left wide open, and never ultimately healing.

When Michael rang the door to her chambers to apologize, Godiva was lying on her bed, playing the memories of her ex over her eyes that she had recorded and stored into her neural memory bank. She lied there, watching his face move and laugh, just as it had years before while he was with her, and could even hear his voice playing in her mind. As she heard her door ring, she cut off the memory, paused it, and laid it to rest within her memory bank again, and went to answer her door, wiping the tears from her eyes.

Godiva could have held a grudge forever, but she knew Michael, and she knew he was there to apologize. Some part of her never really forgave him for some of the things he did, but she was at least able to forget about them. She valued her friendship with Michael, and saw no point in letting it go for some petty argument they wouldn't remember after a couple of days.

"Hey," she said and fell into her couch.

"Hey," he replied, moving about awkwardly like he did when forcing himself to do something that he didn't normally do. "I'm, uh…I'm…sorry…for earlier. I was being stupid."

"It's okay." She shook her head and assuaged him with a smile.

He smiled, somewhat able to relax. "So…what are you doing?"

"Nothin'," she said simply. Her brow furrowed, suddenly remembering something. "You kissed me!"

Michael snickered, trying to hide his embarrassment. "Yeah…um…about that…"

"Yeah, what about that?"

"Um…" he shook his head, rubbing the back of his neck, "that…yeah, I didn't plan that. I don't know what happened there."

Godiva sighed lightly, knowing what she had to do. "Michael," she said softly, "…we're just friends, you and me…and I really like it that way."

Michael nodded, his eyes on the ground, forcing himself to smile. "Yeah…I know. It's cool, whatever." He tried to make it appear as though he'd simply shaken it off, but inside his chest a nuclear war started. Wanting desperately to get away from her and deal with the pain, he scanned his mind desperately for something to say so he could leave.

"Um…so, what are we gonna do about Paradox?" he asked finally. "They're still waiting for a reply."

Godiva frowned. She had reluctantly considered Michael's protests to going back to earth and worked out a compromise. "Do you really wanna do this?" she asked.

Michael nodded. "Yeah, I do."

"We could just go back to earth by ourselves," she offered. "If we find out what she says is true, we could just set sail for the stars and never stop, I know you've always wanted to do that."

"I know," he said, "but what harm could there be in us just going back with them? We find out what's going on, and then we can leave. If we take off now, we'll be flying through a universe we don't even know anymore. If what she says is true, then there's a race out there that we don't know anything about."

Godiva nodded, understanding his point. "Okay," she said, "but you don't send the reply. I'm going to. I'm gonna have a chat with this Captain Davis before I let them anywhere near my ship."

Michael nodded. "Alright, fine."

Drawing in a deep breath, realizing his opportunity to leave, Michael took a few steps backward toward the door. "Well, let me know how that goes…I'm just gonna go, um, eat something and maybe catch a little sleep."

"Okay." Godiva smiled at him.

Michael left, but he didn't go eat anything. He ran down the corridor to the elevator as soon as leaving Godiva's chambers, took it to the lowest deck, and ran through the corridors screaming. He grit his teeth, held his hand to his chest, as though trying to hold back some monstrous creature breaking through his sternum, and closed his eyes tight. He screamed, and he ran. He ran, and he screamed.