Vanessa hated mornings. It took her a while to really wake up. Sometimes she'd have headaches, especially if she drank the night before, but she didn't have a choice. As Captain, she had to set a good example.
She dragged herself out of bed and into the restroom. Usually she didn't eat breakfast. The smells of the synthesized bacon or sausage made her ill. When she did eat, she only ate a couple of pieces of toast. She always synthesized herself a cup of coffee, though. The caffiene helped her get through the morning. Then she'd throw on her pants and undershirt, pull her dress coat on and button it up, and grab her coffee and head to the bridge.
There, she relieved the nightshift crew, read their report, and then head into her office just outside the bridge. In her office, she'd start going over the morning reports from all departments. Eventually, Commander Dvoretsky would show up, and they would discuss the day's plans.
When he buzzed her door, Vanessa called him in.
"Morning, Commander," Vanessa greeted, sipping her coffee and watching her projected computer screen.
"Captain." He took a seat in front of her desk.
Vanessa sighed inwardly. "It appears everything is running smoothly," she stated matter-of-factly. She leaned back in her chair and looked at the Commander. "Commander," she began tactly, crossing her arms, "I noticed you have a list of people in your report that you plan on questioning today about the data stream hacks."
"That's right," he nodded.
She leaned forward onto her desk. "You have more than thirty people on the list." She paused for a response, but he simply stared back at her obliviously. "Commander, you said that this started happening after we picked up the last recruits. Do you mind explaining to me why you have nearly a fourth of our crew on your list?"
He blinked for a while, as if confused. "I just figured I'd be thorough in my investigation."
Vanessa struggled not to jump down his throat. "Do you have any reason at all to suspect these people on your list?"
He shrugged. "They seem suspicious to me."
Vanessa leaned back again, shaking her head. "Commander, you may question the new recruits, but that is it for now. I will not allow you to interrogate the whole crew. Is that understood?"
The Commander's jaw tightened. "Yes, Captain."
The office communication panel chimed. "Captain, Miss Breckenridge is here to see you."
Vanessa's glare remained locked on the Commander. "If I find out that you're questioning other crew members, based solely on your personal opinions of them, I will bust your ass back down to ensign and ship you back home on the nearest transport." She allowed a moment for her words to sink in. "Dismissed."
The Commander left without another word. Vanessa watched the door close behind him then hit the button on her comm panel in her desk. "Send her in, please."
Godiva didn't like going back to the Paradox. The men that led her to the bridge made her feel like a prisoner. Just thinking about it made her angrier by the minute. She kept thinking about how Michael trusted them, but Godiva didn't trust anyone. No matter how nice the Paradox crew seemed, she couldn't shake the urge she had to get away from them.
They really couldn't get away from them, though. She knew that. So she bit her tongue, and she went along with it. Still she wanted proof, but until she could get that, she would make sure they knew she had no intention of giving up. Her ship belonged to her, and no one would tell her what to do. It wouldn't make her feel any better, and she knew that, too, but she had to take some kind of stand for herself. She just wouldn't feel like herself if she didn't.
She stood waiting on the bridge next to a woman at a console. When the door to Vanessa's office opened, she watched a tall, dark-haired man step out. Glaring discretely at him as he walked by, she quickly got the sense that she didn't like him.
Vanessa's voice echoed from the station, and the girl gave Godiva the go ahead to walk in.
Godiva strolled in as the door whooshed open. She had a smile on her face, trying to convey a false sense of security to Vanessa, as she intended to lay down the law with her.
"Miss Breckenridge," Vanessa smiled and stood up, her hand raised out to shake, "I'm so glad you decided to come see me again."
Godiva reluctantly shook her hand, and they both sat down. "Yes, we need to talk."
"We do," Vanessa nodded, leaning over her desk.
Godiva crossed her legs and sat back, interlocking her fingers in her lap. "Here's the deal," she began, "we're gonna go along with your story, but there's a few things I need to get straight with you first."
"First of all, the Phoenix is my ship, and that means that I'm god. I don't care who you are, or what you represent, nobody is giving me orders."
Vanessa nodded quietly.
"Second - I stil don't believe you. I want to go to Earth and see the truth for myself. I know you've got to take us where ever it is you're taking us, but after that, I'm gone."
"I understand completely," Vanessa chimed in. "The Phoenix belongs to you, and as a fellow captain, I have total respect for that." She took in a deep breath. "As far as Earth, I'm afraid I can't make any promises on that. We're still picking up unusual signatures in the Sol system. Until it can be confirmed that the enemy has left, I can't be certain you'll be allowed to go back."
Godiva grit her teeth and had to bite her tongue again. "I also have some questions. Exactly where is it you're taking us, and why?"
Vanessa looked down at the desk a moment. She wished she could give her a better answer than what she had, but she didn't have a better answer. "We're taking you to...the Dominion. It's the heart of the Order, where the majority of the intergalactic population lives. When we're there, I'll turn you over to my superiors. That's all I really know." She shook her head. "I want to give you more, Miss Breckenridge, but I'm afraid all I have are my orders. I don't know why they want to see you."
Godiva stared at her in silence for a long time. It really bothered her that she actually found it hard not to believe her. A lot of people had tried to lie to her before, and she usually saw through them pretty easily. She got the sense Vanessa told the truth, but she didn't want her to know that.
"I also want to know how you know my name," Godiva said. "You never answered me yesterday, and we never gave you our names. So how did you know?"
"When we detected your vessel on Pluto, we sent a transmission to the Dominion. We explained that we detected an Earth ship, intact, with two lifesigns. We also sent our sensor readings along in the transmission." She paused in thought for a moment. "You understand, of course, that...the Sol system has always been under some observation. Our ancestors may have left Earth some time ago, but we still think of it as our homeworld. We keep track of what's going on as much as we can."
Godiva's eyes narrowed at her in suspicion. She wondered, if they keep track of everything, how come they didn't do anything to save Earth?
"It's my belief," Vanessa continued, "that they knew your ship from our sensor readings. That they know you're the registered owner of the vessel."
"Who is 'they'?" Godiva interrupted.
"My superiors," she answered. "When they sent us our orders to pick you up, your names were listed as the crew of the vessel. Beyond that...I really don't know for sure how they knew your names."
Godiva sighed, and for a long time they just sat there looking at each other. She wished she had a cigarette. Which immediately made her eager to get back aboard the Phoenix. Before she could speak, though, Vanessa broke the silence.
"There are some things I need to discuss with you." She leaned back in her chair. "Being that we're going to be entering our space soon, there are some regulations about spacecrafts that have to be followed, especially during this time of war. Your ship is currently scheduled for a major overhaul when we reach the Dominion. My superiors want us to begin on some of the necessary alterations to your ship."
"Wait," Godiva uncrossed her legs and leaned forward, feeling her temper rising. "What do you mean? What kind of alterations are you talking about?"
Vanessa chose her next word carefully, because she could see and understand the tension rising inside Godiva. "Upgrades," she answered. "I'm not talking about anything that's going to damage your ship. These are things that are going to help you and allow you to operate among us. Your communications instruments and your docking ports for example. They aren't compatible with the level of technology the rest of the galaxy uses."
Godiva just watched her. She had the urge to jump up and begin yelling and arguing with her. The idea of them messing with her ship sent her adrenaline coursing.
"I have a list of crewmen here," she grabbed a datapad on the edge of her desk. "These are the people I want to send to your ship to begin the upgrades." She handed it to Godiva. "They're mostly maintenace crewmen. I'm also sending over my Chief Technician, Lieutenant Reeder, to oversee the retrofits."
Godiva only glanced over the datapad.
"You'll be able to discuss everything with Mr. Reeder."
Godiva frowned. "You realize that while they're aboard my ship I give the orders?"
Vanessa nodded. "Nothing will be done without your knowledge. I've given my crew very specific orders to show you as much respect as they do myself."
Sighing, Godiva stood, wanting to leave before she tore off on a rampage. "When are you sending them?"
Vanessa raised her eyebrows. "With your permission, I'd like to send them over this afternoon."
"Okay," she mumbled. Turning and heading back toward the door, Vanessa stopped her.
"Miss Breckenridge," Vanessa stood up, "there's one more thing." She stepped around her desk and walked up in front of Godiva. "My engineering team is just about ready for us to jump to FTL. As neither you nor Michael have ever been on a ship traveling at superluminal speeds I wanted to warn you. There's no danger to you or your ship. I just didn't want you to be alarmed when you look outside a window and see the lights. It might take some getting use to for someone who's use to the deceptive stillness of sublight spaceflight."
It suddenly occurred to Godiva that she hadn't considered the 'how' they would get to their Dominion. Their traveling there at faster-than-light speeds would go a long way in proving their story about coming from an advanced alien empire. She sort of realized then that her situation didn't actually demand proof from Vanessa or her crew...this was simply the way it was going to be. A sense of helplessness set into her. She really felt like she had no control over anything. It almost scared her, if it hadn't made her so much angrier instead.
Godiva didn't often find herself speechless, but with everything going through her head right then, she just couldn't think of anything to say. She only nodded at Vanessa and stepped out.
Vanessa followed her out, stopping the security officers before they could follow Godiva to lead her back to the Phoenix. Godiva didn't even seem to notice. She walked straight off the bridge without a backward look.
The Icarus glided swiftly through space toward Vega. Onboard, the crew had grown rather anxious as all of their attempts to regain sensor contact had failed. Captain Reynolds had ordered a probe launch to the star. The probe ventured far ahead of them. As it began to transmit data, Reynolds ordered on all stop on engines to remain at a safe distance from the star's radiation.
Reynolds stood behind his science officer on the bridge, watching the probe data collect and form a projection above the console. When Vega appeared, they both gasped at the image. A massive hole had sunken into the star where they had observed the blue-shift.
"My god," the Captain muttered.
"The probe's picking up extremely dense pockets of gravitational and electromagnetic forces," announced the science officer. "Radiation levels are off the charts."
"Direct the probe into that hole," Reynolds ordered, staring intently at the star.
"Any idea what that is, Lieutenant?"
The Lieutenant slowly shook his head, unsure if he really wanted to answer. "If I had to venture a guess, Sir...I would say it's a black hole or...a-a wormhole, Sir."
The Captain shot a bewildered look at the Lieutenant. "A wormhole? Here? Out of no where?"
The Lieutenant opened his mouth slowly, about to speak, but then he saw the new sensor readings. "The probe's getting multiple sensor contacts, Sir."
"From-" he paused, mystified by what he saw, "-from inside the star. They're coming out of the hole, Sir." Frantic now, his hands began to dance along the console, punching up figures and readouts. "There's hundreds of them, Sir! ...It-it's the enemy!"
Captain Reynolds faultered for a second, dumbfounded by what had just happened. He quickly collected his senses and dashed toward his chair. "Conn, get us out of here!" he shouted. "Get a message to the science facility. Tell them to evacuate immediately!" He didn't pause to listen for acknowledgments. "Can we jump to FTL?"
"Negative, Sir! There's too much gravitational interference!"
"All engines, all ahead full!" he ordered. "Set a course straight out of the system. Tactical, arm all weapons and load torpedo bays!" He looked back at his science officer. "Lieutenant, do we have sensors?"
"Negative, Sir," he answered, "and we've lost the probe."
Reynolds reviewed his options, and he didn't like what he came up with. He could feel his heart pounding in his chest. In all his years of service, he had never felt as he did then. Their situation seemed hopeless. If hundreds of enemy ships had come out of that star, then they could only hope to outrun them.
"Miss Stephens," he looked over at his communications officer, "transmit a message to the Order. Send them all our sensor data."
"Aye, Sir. Message away."
He stood up from his chair and drew in a deep breath. Slowly, he stepped forward until he stood just behind his conn officer. They had deactivated the holographic projection of space. Without sensors they were flying blind. It frustrated Reynolds to no end. They had no way of knowing where the enemy had gone. He couldn't even look them in the eye.
He noticed the coldness again. A dark, ominous feeling poured over him like a veil. His eyes narrowed, bemused. Whatever came next he had prepared himself for a long time ago.
Just then the bridge went dark. All the power and all the lights went out. The entire bridge fell into a pitch black abyss, and an eerie silence settled in. Captain Reynolds closed his eyes and took another slow, deep breath.
There was a sudden, blinding burst of light.
Then there was nothing.