Two armed men followed Godiva and Michael as another led them through the makeshift docking port to the ship that had caught them. The corridors of the unknown ship reminded Michael more of a hotel than any ship he'd ever seen. The lack of pipes running overhead, carpeted floors, bright lights, and freshly-scented halls far contrasted that of the Phoenix. Michael considered for a moment that a civilian cruiseliner had picked them up but quickly dismissed it as every other person they saw had a gun and an apparent uniform on. He didn't recognize the uniforms, and he eyed the emblems they adorned curiously.

Godiva's look remained cold and hard the entire time. She thought seriously for a while about attacking the men escorting them, but the pragmatist in her held her back. She figured she could get rid of the three men fairly easily, getting back to the Phoenix without running into more remained the problem. The thought actually surprised her. Although willing to fight anyone in certain situations, Godiva hadn't had much fighting experience. Aside from her condemning blows to the face of her foster dad's drunken tirades, she had only ever punched one other person.

It happened during her second year in technical school. Another student in one of her engineering classes had taunted Michael outside of the school the entire semester. Godiva had known Michael for about eleven months at that point, having met him during the later half of her first year. She had already developed a strong feeling of protection toward Michael by then, and one day the bully went too far.

The student caught them in the parking lot after class that day and began his typical rant on Michael's looks and poor social skills. While Michael had learned a lot from Godiva over those eleven months, he still had problems with confrontation. The harsh words would hit him like a ton of bricks, leaving him dismayed and awkwardly quiet. Normally, Godiva would retort with a few choice words and lead Michael away from the trouble. However, through a grave miscalculation of Godiva's temper, the student suddenly directed an insult at Godiva - a rather vulgar remark about a relationship between her, Michael, and her sister. She froze mid-step. An eerie silence fell over the lot for a few seconds before she turned and stepped straight up to the student, shouting vehemently at him about his taunts, and promptly planted her fist in his face. The student hit the ground like an anvil, crying, and covering his broken nose.

Godiva had never hit her foster dad quite as hard as she had the student. Her hand ached for about a week, but the look of pain and fear in the student's eyes every time he saw her after that left a smile on Godiva's face that she basked in for the rest of the year.

Godiva didn't fear much, and she realized while walking through that corridor with Michael and the armed men that she worried more for Michael's safety than her own.

A quick elevator ride took them to the first floor of the ship, and the men led them just a few feet down the hall to an office where a woman awaited them.

Captain Vanessa Davis sat at her desk. Quickly turning off the holographic computer display in front of her, she waved the armed men off, leaving her alone with Godiva and Michael. "Welcome aboard the Paradox. I'm Captain Davis." She spoke softly with an underlying tone of authority. With almost four years of command under her, Vanessa had led her crew on countless assignments and through some overwhelmingly hostile conditions. She had talked down several violent individuals, killed more criminals and enemies than she ever wanted to know, and generally outwitted every opposition she'd ever faced. Duty drove Vanessa, and her success in every mission handed to her had gotten her far in a very short time.

She had fair, youthful skin, deepset green eyes and shoulder-length, dark brown hair that shrouded the right side of her face. A slight muscular frame showed through a yet slender, feminine body, made clear by her tight-fitting, longsleeved tunic. The emblem Michael had tried to identify on other crewmembers shined on her uniform just above her left breast. It consisted of a slanted, golden star with four points, a tilted isosceles triangle above the elongated left point of the star, and a large, green equilateral triangle beneath the two. Her light gray tunic had golden embroidery with an array of symbols and shapes along several corners.

However, for all Vanessa's courage and success, she had not looked forward to the conversation she faced with Godiva and Michael. The news and information she had to convey weighed heavy, and she hadn't quite shaken the peculiar nature of the assignment itself.

Godiva didn't waste any time getting straight to business. Storming up to Vanessa, she spouted, "Give me one good reason not to jump over this desk and beat the shit out of you!"

A stern look froze on Vanessa's face as she looked up at Godiva. Slowly she stood to face her in the eyes. "I don't think that's how you want to start this," she said in an almost threatening tone.

"Start this?" Godiva choked. "You wanna talk about starting shit? How about kidnapping us and blowing holes in my ship, and then shooting at us? How's that for starting shit?"

Vanessa grimaced and lowered her head for a moment. Softening her tone, she answered, "I apologize for the intrusions. Our docking ports aren't compatible with yours, and the instruments on your ship are not capable of picking up our communications."

Godiva chuckled. "What do you use, two cups and a string?"

Michael, who'd watched the whole time from by the door, finally mustered the ability to step in. He placed a hand on Godiva's back as if to calm her down. "Godiva..."

"I think the two of you should sit down," Vanessa interjected.

Godiva didn't want to budge, but a look from Michael made her give in.

Vanessa noticed the look. She could already tell that Michael, though the weaker of both of them, had some pull with Godiva. Sitting down, she drew in a deep breath and reluctantly began. "A little more than a century ago, during the earth's third world war, about half a million humans were relocated from earth to a planet several hundred lightyears away. There they were educated and trained to join a galaxy-wide civilization known as the Galactic Order."

Laughter slowly started to build up in Godiva. Vanessa and Michael both paused to look at her. "I'm sorry," she said, covering her mouth in a half attempt to contain herself. "This is funny."

Michael didn't find it humorous. In fact, he'd begun to remember some things from history that corraborated Vanessa's story. "Foo fighters."

Godiva and Vanessa shot a puzzled look at him.

"It's a term from the second world war," he elaborated. "Pilots of the planes would see these lights in the skies they couldn't identify. They called them foo fighters. They were seen again in the third world war - even more frequently. Lots of pictures and video of them were taken." He shot up in his chair excitedly. "Hey! That would also explain the mystery of the missing dead."

Godiva arched an eyebrow at him with an incredulous frown.

Michael snickered at her look. "It's what they called it in a documentary I watched. A lot of the cities that were virtually destroyed in the war were missing most of their people. The soldiers would pour through the city for survivors and bodies and only about ten per cent of the population of some cities were ever accounted for.

"So are you guys...?"

Vanessa nodded with a smile. "They were our great grandparents. Today the Order consists of nearly two million humans."

"But why'd they do it?" Michael inquired.

"Are you really buying this shit?" Godiva asked him suddenly, but then added, "Oh, look who I'm asking."

Vanessa gazed long at Godiva. She didn't appreciated her negativity, but she understood why she had trouble believing her. In Godiva's place, she knew she'd have difficulty trusting her also. So she muzzled her own responses to Godiva's comments, and hoped it would help alleviate the discourse between them.

Turning her attention back to Michael, Vanessa finally answered, "We don't really know why they did it. The Order doesn't make contact with another race until that race has left their own star system.

"The popular theory," she continued, "is that they, like many on earth, believed that the the third world war would end in the total annihilation of humanity, and that they saw something in humanity worth saving."

"They don't just tell you?" Michael asked.

Vanessa brushed her hair back behind her ear, leaving a few strands still draped over her eye. "The races of the Order believe heavily in the natural evolution of things. Many of them are hundreds, thousands, even millions of years in advance of any of us.

"The founders of the Order are believed to be the first intelligent races to evolve in the Milky Way. As others began to advance, they saw the need for some type of order. Something by which all the races could agree on and coexist peacefully by. So a coalition was formed, and the Galactic Order was born. As we live peacefully alongside each other, we are each allowed to develop technologically at our own pace. Humanity is the only race that has ever been uplifted, and it was to a state only as advanced as those that have just achieved interstellar travel."

"Okay," Godiva leaned up in her seat, "let's just pretend for a second that we believe you. Why are you telling us?"

Vanessa sighed quietly, lowering her head as she did to hide it. "About eight months ago for you, a trunk research ship detected an unknown vessel on the outermost rim of the galaxy. When they attempted contact, they were destroyed. Since then we have been at war. They have engaged the Order several dozens of times. We don't know who they are or where they came from, but it looks as though they don't originate in our galaxy."

"Why's that," Michael asked, curious.

"Because their technology rivals even the most advanced races of the Order. They are at least as advanced, if not more so, than any of us. The Order has explored the vast majority of the galaxy, and as I said, some of them have been around for probably a million years or more. The idea that another race developed alongside them all these years unnoticed is highly unlikely."

Godiva interrupted with a heavy sigh. "I still don't see what this has to do with us."

Vanessa's voice grew quieter. She had to tell them the part she least wanted to. "We don't know why," she began slowly, "but this enemy seems to be focusing on humanity. Almost two thirds of the engagements have involved a human ship or colony.

"A week ago, they suddenly and drastically expanded their theater of war. They began engaging the Order on dozens of fronts. ...Four days ago, some unusual signals were detected in the Sol system." She paused, noticing the looks on their faces suddenly freezing. "They attacked earth. According to the reports...nothing is left of the earth or the Alliance."

The room fell silent for several seconds. A look of anger set into Godiva. Suddenly, she flew from her seat and headed for the door.

"Miss Breckenridge," Vanessa stood, reaching a hand out to Godiva.

Godiva stopped and spun around, pointing a finger at Vanessa. "I'm not listening to anymore of this shit." Before Vanessa could open her mouth, Godiva asked, "How do you know my name?"

Michael had risen from his chair and taken a step towards Godiva, only able to open his mouth for a split second before she threw a hand up at him.

Vanessa leaned on her desk, hanging her head for a moment. She didn't like losing control. "I realize this is difficult for...,"

"No!" Godiva quickly exclaimed. "You're lying," she looked over at Michael, "and we're leaving. Let's go."

Vanessa had hoped the situation wouldn't escalate to what it had, but Godiva had left her no choice. She had to stop playing nice. Asserting a firm tone, Vanessa spoke. "Miss Breckenridge, you can go back to your ship, but I cannot let you go." She stared back at Godiva as she froze by the door. "My orders are to escort you into our any means necessary."

Godiva's brows furrowed as her temper grew rapidly. She felt the situation becoming increasingly ridiculous and said the only thing she could manage to come up with in her befuddlement. "Excuse me?"

"Those are my orders," Vanessa reaffirmed. "It's likely just for your own safety, and to see to it that you are safe and welcomed into the galactic community. Rather than stumbling around obliviously on your own."

"The pretend game is over," Godiva retorted. "I don't believe you. Michael, come on!"

Vanessa frowned. She'd let them go back to their ship, but she knew any attempt Godiva made to get away from them she could stop. The Paradox could easily overpower the Phoenix. Instead, she gave Godiva a nod to let her go but turned to Michael. "Michael," she half whispered as Godiva stepped out, "my ship is yours. If you want to talk about anything, you're welcome any time."

Michael smiled apologetically for a second. "Thank you," he said. "I'll talk to her."

Vanessa smiled, knowing he would, and let him go with a nod also. As he stepped out, she sat back down slowly and relaxed. She let out a sigh of relief. She hadn't gotten through to Godiva, but she had discovered her weakness - Michael. She would use that to her advantage, and focus her efforts on him.