The vast outer darkness of space. A billion brilliant shining stars failed to illuminate the egg as it tumbled through the void. Inside, held near absolute zero, the lone female occupant, curled up like a fetus, was oblivious to the nothingness surrounding her.

All body functions frozen, monitored by the now ancient computer. The egg's nuclear power source could sustain her in this suspended animation for another thousand years if necessary.

* * *

"I just had a flash on the scope."

The Scout pilot's miniature ship was not equipped with life support, it's role limited to spotting particles large enough to pose a significant danger to the command vessel.

"Follow directives, only report radicals of sufficient size."

"Aye sir, but it looked like an old style life pod, I don't read it anymore. Did you pick it up?"

The scout ship was equipped with extremely powerful forward light sensor, but had a large blind spot caused by the gasses expelled from the ships engines.

"Follow directives, only report radicals of sufficient size."

The sterilized voice of the flight controller had even less emotion once filtered through the scout pilot's headset.

"It could be alive."

"Scout One, return to hanger, report to senior medical officer."

The transmission clicked off abruptly as the flight controller switched channels to order out another scout.

Behind the flight controller's station, the operations officer turned to face the captain. "Minor impact in forward section," no tone, no inflection, no emotion.

The captain stepped forward with the speed of a statue. "Analysis."

"Old style life pod, magnetized and attached to the hull."

-Bring it on board-

"Bring it on board."

Senior Medical Officer's Report:

Behavior modification and mental reprogramming of crewmember: 85153 designation: scout pilot, completed. All directives followed accordingly, no further problems anticipated.

Life Pod occupant revived. All life signs within normal parameters. Mental state: erratic. Scheduled for mental reprogramming. Patient has requested meeting with captain. Reprogramming will be postponed until after meeting. All directives followed.

End of Report

* * *

-Be careful with her, she's not like the others-

"Shut up."

-She'll find you out-

"Leave me alone."

-She's smarter than them-

A knock at the door.

"Come in."

A young woman in an old military style uniform with close-cropped auburn hair and steel gray eyes strode confidently into the room, saluted, and stood rigid at attention.

"Am I to understand that you are the captain of this vessel?" Her voice carried a weight that the captain was unaccustomed to, and it took him a moment to respond.

"I am."

-Louder you fool, more assertive-

The captain had tried to match the authority of the woman's voice but failed miserably.

The woman flinched, as if taken aback by the captain's apparent show of weakness. She was at the same time mentally reviewing all the possible reasons a man in a United Fleet uniform would behave the way this captain had been behaving. There weren't any. She immediately shifted into a defensive posture, both physically and mentally.

"Colonel Sally Campbell, 726-00956, Earth Defense Force."

She quickly ran through every possible way to dispose of this man should he become a threat. Shifting her weight to her left foot, she prepared to drive her right boot heel through the bridge of his nose. She also spotted an old felt tip pen on the desk that could be used to tear open his throat if necessary.

The captain shifted restlessly in his seat. Sally braced herself. This man was no United Fleet captain. He hadn't returned her salute or asked her to remain at ease, and his meek manner stank of the insurrectionists. Sally had been in the rebels' hands for four years until she had stolen the life pod and jettisoned into deep space. The very thought that the rebels could have staged a plot as elaborate as this to get her back in their hands sent a chills to the base of her spine.

-Enough of this, you're going to get us killed-

The captain's demeanor changed immediately, "Don't worry colonel, you're among friends now." His voice was suddenly rigid in true military style.

This sudden shift put Sally's mind even more ill at ease, although she did back down from her defensive posture.

The captain continued, "I'll have Corporal Esteban escort you to your new quarters. At 0800, you'll be expected to report back to Medical for a routine physical before your assimilation into the crew."

Sally felt as if she was being run over. She was still reeling from the sudden shift in the captain's behavior as he activated the intercom and relayed orders to Corporal Esteban.

"With all due respect sir, I'd like to return to Earth as soon as possible."

"Colonel, I understand that due to the length of your stasis you are somewhat behind on current events. You will be given a full update in due course."

The door opened with a hiss, and Sally saw the young corporal sporting the same blank stare as everyone else she had met so far.


The corporal grasped Sally's arm with an iron grip and led her from the room, as captain returned his attention to the desk, and seemed to sink into his chair.