Something happened to Godiva over the first two days the Paradox
crew spent upgrading the Phoenix. She stopped caring.
She had a strange feeling that something going on inside her had
finally started to break through. It seemed oddly familiar to
her, however she couldn't quite figure it out. For split seconds
at a time she thought she could see it clearly, but instantly it
eluded her, as though she had tried to remember a word she knew
but couldn't recall. She felt she had gotten very close to
figuring it out at times but always had nothing in the end. As
vague as it seemed, she tried to pass it off as her imagination
acting up. It had, however, become too powerful to ignore.
So instead of thinking about it too much, she kept herself busy
with other things. The Paradox crew made for a good distraction.
She had become indifferent to their presence, yes, but she kept
a watchful eye on their work. While she grew more reclusive each
day, she had Michael tasked with familiarizing himself with the
She narrowed her eyes, leaning against a support beam running up
a wall in her bedroom. Indifference had set into her. Much as she
tried to pay attention to the Paradox crew, she had grown less
than interested in what they were doing. Her confidence had
remained, the solid continuity in her life, and she knew she
could handle any problems heralded by the Order crew.
The lights outside her window caught her attention. Vanessa's
warning about travelling at superluminal speeds hadn't given it
justice. The swirling reds and blues from stars redshifting and
blueshifting could make a person really dizzy pretty quick.
Godiva averted her eyes from the windows whenever she could to
keep from feeling ill, but occasionally it stole her gaze and
captivated her. She almost felt hypnotized by it, as though
staring at the lights long enough would compell her to walk right
out an airlock. An overwhelming force to enter the mesmerizing
light overcame her. Then she'd notice herself walking toward the
window, reaching a hand out to the light, and she would stop.
Her stomach wrenched, and she felt tired and disturbed.
Shaking it off, she really felt the need to get out of her room
for a while. The information from the data drive Vanessa gave to
Michael had crossed her mind a few times. She hadn't looked over
it at all. Part of her really didn't want to. She didn't want
to face the reality of their situation. The lights outside
almost convinced her, and she found that terrifying. Her common
sense told her she needed to face facts. With nothing else to
do, she decided to finally use it as an excuse to get out of her
room. So she got dressed and headed up to the bridge.
A noticable silence had encompassed the briefing room, and
Vanessa didn't like it.
Commander Dvoretsky stood in a corner behind her. Two security
officers looked like statues at the wall in front of her. The
communications panel buzzed, a crewman on the other end alerting
her that Ensign Jakab had arrived. Vanessa acknowledged and
ordered him in.
The recent recruit barely looked out of his teenage years. He
had dirty blonde hair, slightly disheveled. Like most humans in
the Order, he had pale skin, as they rarely spent any time
planetside. His stocky, short build made it difficult for
Vanessa to believe such a seemingly innocent young crewman had
Regardless, when Commander Dvoretsky presented the evidence
against Jakab to Vanessa, she had a hard time denying it. Every
hacked data stream had come from a terminal Jakab had accessed at
the time of the hacks, and after each hack he had sent a private
message to someone offship. The later didn't exactly seem
unusual, as people sent messages to friends and family often, but
the first made Vanessa uneasy. The evidence almost sounded too
It made her feel worse that Jakab had no clue why they had called
him there. She didn't want to feel like a predator pouncing on
an unsuspecting prey.
Greeting him, she asked him to sit. He took a seat at the
opposite end of the elongated table. A brief glance at the
guards behind him put a pinch of anxiety in his eyes. Vanessa
took note of it, deciding then to speak as tactfully as possible.
Interlacing her fingers, she leaned forward over the table and
fixed him with a discreet gaze. "How are you settling in on the
"Very well, Captain. It's an honor to be here." A level of
confidence in his tone, the words came quick and professional.
Vanessa nodded once with a brief smile. "It's a big ship, but
every person onboard plays an important role. Your service is
appreciated." She caught the sound of Dvoretsky's feet shuffling
in disapproval behind her.
Suppressing a frown, she lit up a glowing yellow holograph
between herself and Jakab that she pinched and dragged to her
right. "That said, there are a few things we need to go over
"You accessed terminal 4-B in the recquisitions office last 5th
of Ludwig, at approximately eighteen-hundred, forty hours?"
"Yes, Ma'am," he answered almost studiously. "I had to order
some mainetenance equipment I needed to work on the ventilation
system the following day."
Sounded reasonable enough to Vanessa. She pressed onward.
"Three days ago you accessed the comm systems in bay nine, third
level of engineering around nineteen-hundred hours?"
Jakab's eyes wandered a moment, recalling what happened. "Yes.
I was on janitorial duty, and I accidently activated the console
as I was cleaning it."
Vanessa paused, uncomfortable with his answer. The holograph she
looked at clearly showed a lot more happened at that console.
Unless he accidentally broke into high-priority comm channels
while scrubbing a few panels, his story didn't add up. She
leaned back and crossed her legs, locking her eyes sternly on the
ensign. "Mr. Jakab, we've had a series of security leaks
onboard. Someone has been tracking fleet movements by hacking
the data streams."
His eyebrows raised slowly as he began to realize why they had
called him there.
"We've traced these hacks to terminals you accessed at the time
of the incidents." She let his eyes tell her when he knew
exactly what they suspected. "Is it you?"
Jakab instantly looked nervous. He looked up at the Commander
and noticed his fuming stare. Then he looked back at Vanessa's
empty look. "Captain, I would never-"
Dvoretsky couldn't hold himself back any longer. Suddenly he
flew at the table and pounded his fist. "Who have you been
sending the information to?"
Jakab's face twisted with befuddlement. "Commander?"
"Your private messages!"
"Commander," Vanessa tried to interject.
Dvoretsky either didn't hear Vanessa or he didn't care. He
continued, punctuating each statement with another blow to the
table. "You have no siblings. Your parents died in an accident
eighteen years ago. You have no one! Who did you send those
"Commander!" Vanessa exclaimed, yanking his arm back before he
could hit the table again.
Dvoretsky drew in a deep breath and glanced down at Vanessa.
Reluctantly, he stepped back from the table and crossed his arms.
She sighed behind her hand as she brought it up to run it through
her hair. Dvoretsky's reaction didn't surprise her, which is why
she would have rather kept him out of the room in the first
place. Part of her couldn't blame him, though. Jakab had raised
some suspicions in her as well, and the idea that one of her own
crew had abused their position to betray them set a fire burning
In the thick of the growing ire, Jakab had developed a terrified
look on his face. Apparently speechless, he only watched her,
wide-eyed and mouth hanging open. He looked like he expected an
Catching the horror in his eyes, Vanessa sighed inwardly and
stifled her own temper. She pursed her lips for a second in
thought. "All computer access in your room is hereby rescinded,
and you are restricted to your quarters until further notice.
Jakab slowly rose from his chair and left the room, followed by
the two guards who would escort him. Vanessa didn't watch. Her
thoughts went to the Commander, and how he had virtually destoyed
her attempt to keep control of the meeting. While his actions
had produced a vaguely telling reaction from Jakab, it had not
really helped her decide one way or another on the matter. The
information on her holograph about the hacks seemed far more
trustworthy than the ensign, but she couldn't call a member of
her crew a traitor without solid evidence.
Dvoretsky made his way toward the door, but she caught him before
he slipped out.
"Commander," she glared at him, "you had better put a cork on
that temper before you find youself restricted to quarters."
He narrowed his eyes at her, and he started to turn to her as if
to say something but halted. "Yes, Captain," he replied sharply
and stepped out.
She slapped a button on the desk to turn the holograph off,
rolling her eyes as she did. Dvoretsky seemed to become more of
an issue with each passing day. He had served as her executive
officer for just over a year, but never had he acted so
insuboordinate as he had the last few days. She couldn't figure
out if it was the war stressing him out or if he had some kind of
chip on his shoulder, but she had an uneasy feeling that it would
only get worse. Before long, she worried, her biggest problem
might not be a traitor, but an uncontrollable first officer
leading a mutiny.
The ship looked the same. Godiva didn't see anyone during her
trip to the bridge. Nothing looked different, but it felt
different to her. She didn't understand why. Perhaps simply
knowing that the Paradox crew dwelled somewhere within the ship
made her feel strange. She knew the changes going on.
Lieutenant Reeder had provided her with a complete list, and much
to her own surprise, she had approved all of them. The changes
made sense, and it seemed like they would only improve the
quality and ability of the Phoenix. Godiva still didn't like
them digging around inside her ship, but she had chosen to try
and ignore it.
When she got to the bridge, she found Michael and one of the
Paradox crewman talking about guns. Michael made a few obvious
glances her way with a look that seemed to plead for help getting
out of his conversation. Another crewman lying on the floor with
his head inside a console attracted her attention though.
Meandering toward the crewman whose face she couldn't even see,
she raised an eyebrow at the undeniably humorous sight. "Can I
ask what you're doing?" she asked nonchalontly.
The movement inside the console came to an abrupt halt. A few
seconds passed, and then the crewman finally pulled himself out
and leaned up. Wide-eyed in surprise, the blonde, baby-faced
young man answered carefully. "I'm installing the new
communications command subroutines. I was told you approved it."
His last sentence sounded more like a question than a statement.
Godiva smiled sarcastically. "Yes, I did, but the communications
console is over there." She pointed at a station on the other
side of the bridge in front of Michael and the other crewman.
"This station is for controlling engine room functions."
The crewman grit his teeth slightly, hesitant to respond. Godiva
obviously didn't seem too happy about the situation. "I was
ordered to move communications to this station," he replied
Godiva blinked several times, witholding her urge to yell. "And
the engine room station?"
His eyes wandered a bit. Then he slowly pointed at a pile of
circuits and wires on the floor next to him. "There?"
She looked at the pile he pointed at, an almost feral look in her
yes. Biting her lower lip, she sighed inwardly and pressed her
palms together in front of her face as if to calm herself.
Dumbfounded by the crewman's response, she simply shook her head
and walked away.
As she shifted her focus to Michael and the other crewman, she
caught the tail end of their conversation. Leaning on a console
with one hand and setting the other on her hip, she listened in
on what she already knew from what she overheard earlier was a
conversation about how the sidearms they carried were just
"I'm not saying it's a bad gun," the tall, dark-haired crewman
explained, holding up one of the guns Godiva kept inside a case
on the back wall of the bridge. Setting it down on top of the
station in front of them, he withdrew his own weapon from its
holster at his side. "But this gun," he looked at it, smiling
with pride, "this is a gun you can go to war with."
"A bullet's a bullet," Godiva commented.
The crewman turned to Godiva, only just becoming aware of her
presence. A sly, confident smile creased his face as he took a
step closer to her. "You think so, do you?"
Godiva never flinched, and her expression remained unchanged and
emotionless. "Would you like me to show you?"
His confidence faultered, and then he began to chuckle nervously.
As he glanced back at Michael, Godiva picked up her gun from the
console. Michael's serious face didn't help the crewman's
not-so-subtle attempt to turn her threat into a harmless jest.
"She's joking," he stated hopefully. "Right?"
A soft beep from the gun Godiva had just unlocked quickly drew
Michael stood up and patted the crewman on the back. "If I were
you, I'd leave," then added, as he walked around them both toward
the front of the bridge, "-the ship."
The crewman withdrew his fearful look and masked it with
contempt. "I need to get down to engineering anyway."
Godiva watched him leave, a smile growing on her face with each
of his steps. As the door shut behind him she turned and walked
over to Michael.
"So where have you been hiding?" Michael asked, spinning around
in his chair at the copilot station at the front of the bridge.
Godiva hopped up on the station behind her. "I haven't been
hiding," she retorted. "I've just been sleeping a lot."
Michael smirked and nodded knowingly. "Right. So what finally
got you to crawl out of bed and come up here?"
She tilted her head to the side in thought. "I thought I'd go
over that data drive they gave you. You been through it yet?"
Michael scoffed. "Are you kidding? It's practically all I've
been doing for the last two days, and I've barely put a dent in
it! There's so much information on that thing it's ridiculous."
She frowned slightly. Her decision to go through it hadn't
anticipated a long read. Reading didn't bother her, she just
didn't expect to find it all that interesting. "I guess I'm
going to skim through it a little."
Snickering, Michael stood up. "Good luck. I'm not sure it's
possible to 'skim' two gigabytes of text."
Godiva's eyes popped. "Two gigabytes?" She repeated the words
with horror in her tone.
"Like I said, good luck!" He pointed at a console in the back.
"I've been using that station to access it."
She responded with a thankful smile.
"I'll be looking over some of the new systems if you need
She scooched off the console and sauntered over to the station he
pointed at. When she flicked on the screen she saw the file
still highlighted since he last opened it. Drawing in a deep
breath, she decided to just plunge right in.
The bridge on the Paradox appeared normal and uneventful as
Vanessa stepped out of her office to relax a bit in her chair
atop the center platform. With most of her workload done, she
usually liked to cap off each day with a lounge in her Captain's
chair. The soft, quiet hum of the bridge seemed to project an
aura of efficiency she found comforting after a long day.
Everything on her mind would steadily drift away as she lost
herself in the somber tones and dark grays.
She especially needed that relief after the day she just had. It
almost immediately started off bad when she woke up to a pounding
headache. No doubt the result of the drinks she drowned herself
in the night before. The rest of the day progressed on the same
low. Her mind still reeled from the meeting with Ensign Jakab.
The typical daily routine followed, interspersed with relentless
interruptions from crewmen aboard both the Paradox and the
Phoenix. It didn't bother her really. She took great pride in
her duties. Her mind just had to catch a break when it could.
Unfortunately for her, the break wouldn't last long.
The silence broke when a young female officer at the
communications station behind Vanessa spoke out. "Receiving a
security alert from Guild HQ, Captain. They're updating the
alert status in our area from level three to level two."
Vanessa quickly accessed the message through the controls beside
her. "Confirmed. Update alert status to level two."
"Aye, Captain. Status level two initiated."
Vanessa mashed a button on the arm of her chair. The ship-wide
intercom echoed a dull tone throughout all floors. "Attention
crew," she announced, "we have upgraded to security level two.
Enemy ships have been sighted in this sector. All hands stay
alert. Captain out."
"Captain," the pilot at the front of the bridge called out,
"There's a problem with the FTL drive. Something's destabilizing
the modulation frequency."
Vanessa rose up and made her way to the pilot station. "Can you
"Negative, Captain. The disruption is increasing."
She eyed the readings on his console. What she could see didn't
make a whole lot of sense to her. Her initial theory was an
error in the FTL calculations, but it wouldn't make sense for the
error to just pop up after two days of smooth flying. "Take us
out of FTL," she ordered and walked back to her chair.
She opened a channel at her console. "Engineering, this is the
Captain. I need a status-"
Suddenly the bridge fell dark.