The binary stars eclipsed before her eyes. A bluish-white orb neared the center of the larger, reddish-white star. The planet's thick atmosphere and spindly, green clouds that drifted hastily through the misty, yellow sky brutalized their brilliance. The suns descended incrementally. As the eclipse met its full capacity, the blue star became the iris of a giant eye that stared back at her. It watched her, screaming exigently. She felt as though it hated her, urgently awaiting her to do something she had failed to accomplish thus far. She felt this urgency curiously. Her brows furrowed, she narrowed her eyes and frowned. Something stirred within her.

Godiva Breckenridge lied atop the hull of her starship. She had one leg up, the knee pointing at the sky. She sighed, bemused, her mind lost and wandering. An insulated undergarment kept her warm in the harsh cold. Over it, she wore the standard civilian space suit, a composition of liquid Kevlar, nylon, and spandex. A sleeve on her leg applied the appropriate counterpressure. Her hands rested on her stomach. She had jet black hair with blue highlights that spread out over the hull like a crystal spider web. The setting stars, eclipsed over the frozen sea that made the horizon, stole her gaze. She smelled nothing, and only the occasional wind that blew graced her body. The crisp, clean air remained as still as the malicious silence.

Time passed with linear perfection. The stars had almost set completely by the time Godiva finally pulled her eyes from their captivity. She looked straight up into the darkening, sickly-orange sky. Distant stars began to show themselves, slow and inconspicuous as though shy to that lifeless, alien world. As they twinkled in her meditative eyes, a sharp, icy wind blew over her body, and she gathered with it a headache. The bit of cold that she could feel felt like a bed of tiny spikes upon her, yet she remained still, as though frozen in time. She could feel her back beginning to ache, the planet's gravity much heavier than she'd expected. Her leer failed to depart from the stars above her.

Certainly not a woman of too little personality, anyone's judgement of Godiva's character could only consist of a tiny, fragile amount of understanding, no matter how well they claimed to know her. For she held many secrets and had told in any two years of her life more lies than any politician told in their lifetime. She inhabited a thick, tough exterior, encasing a stubborn and proud attitude. Her face, beautifully majestic as though sculpted by some agile god with heavenly clay, masked a cold, heartless soul, cleverly capable of inducing many miseries. Most who knew her, however, liked her. Whether simply because she'd feigned sincerity in talking to them, or because she adorned an enticing body, people seemed to latch onto Godiva, adoring and respecting her. Both arrogant and somewhat selfish, she reveled in the high esteem in which people held her, attributing it to some divine heritage. With her perfect, little nose, voluptuous lips, and sensual curves, she stole almost as many female hearts as she did male.

Godiva's ship, large enough to support a crew of three hundred, had taken her nearly a year of work to buy. Three years later, it remained her home. She held it as close to her as a mother would a child, and named it the Phoenix. A Selene-class starship reconfigured from the original Orion-class vessel, the Terran Space Force designed it originally as a tactical vessel, later retired in favor of another design. It had utilized a design for carrying large amounts of fighter craft, and during reconfiguration, its shuttle hangars were cleaned out, enlarged, and made to carry large quantities of cargo. In addition to its sleek and attractive design, it carried some of the most advanced starship technology available to civilians, naming it the most popular vessel on the market.

The silence broke suddenly when the status link to her ship went off. She heard the sound clearly but remained still for a moment. Tenacious thoughts had crept from the oldest wells of her mind. They crawled from her darkest corners, forbidden ideas of irrepressible desires that she often could not control. In that moment, she did not remain herself, and those who she cared about became strangers.

Painfully, she tore herself from that dark abyss in which she lied. Her insides shredding, she slowly and reluctantly pulled out her status link, a blue, metal bar. Carrying it everywhere, she programmed it to record and alert her of any status changes onboard. At the press of a red button on its keypad, a clear, rectangular screen suspended from a slot on the device and lit up with information.

She took a few seconds to assess its reason for alerting her, and then sighed and looked back into the wind. Holstering the status link, she sat up and wrapped her arms around her legs. Resting her chin between her knees, she fell back into that corner of her mind. The feelings left her with little control over herself, leaving her careless of the time and the universe…wanting to die

--------------------------------------------------------------

The gargantuan ship Captain Vanessa Davis commanded, the Paradox, dwarfed the Phoenix quite predominately. A couple of millennia ahead of the Phoenix in design and technology, it could have the Phoenix destroyed so quickly Godiva would have never known what hit her. Fortunately for Godiva, Captain Davis's mission did not involve the Phoenix's destruction.
Vanessa had commanded the Paradox for nearly seven years. Her crew often told outsiders that Captain Davis wasn't that unlike her ship, finding them extremely formidable, elegant, and deadly to their enemies. Vanessa was the kind of Captain all starship crews wanted; she was fair, honest, and intelligent. Vanessa knew when to give in, and she knew when not to give up. Over the years, she had commanded them through countless battles and into uncharted territories that most starship captains had chosen to avoid. Despite the hardships, she'd only lost a dozen officers during her command, and they had all gone in the line of duty. Vanessa had honored their service personally at their funerals.

Moreover, Vanessa was the finest in the Kristarian Guild of Vercole' avid. Otherwise known as the Kristarian Guild of Peace, the Guild was controlled by a race known as the oscilic. The organization worked to instill peace throughout the galaxy. It was a sub-group in the Galactic Federation of Interstellar Peoples (GFIP), also controlled by the oscilic. In first contact, the Guild was sent in as the negotiators, inspiring the alien race with the idea of peace. After which, the GFIP would move in and offer the race membership. From then on, the race's territory would belong to the GFIP, and the race would fall under GFIP jurisdiction. As the most advanced race in the known galaxy, most other races jumped at the chance for membership, and those who didn't often regarded them as a secret dominion seeking conquest and total subjugation. More than a few wars had been started due to such circumstances. The oscilic proved superior in them all.

The Terran Space Force had denied membership from the GFIP. After years of negotiation and worldwide elections, the Force had decided against the relinquishing of its territories. What the Force didn't know, was that the GFIP already had humans working in their Federation.

Vanessa sat on her bridge, staring at the forward viewscreen as they approached their target coordinates. Her focused gaze denoted a mind racing with thought. A strand of auburn hair hung over her left eye. Some evil force seemed to emanate from her eyes. She relished in the silence of the bridge, and reluctantly broke it.

"Distance?" Vanessa asked.

"We are now entering orbit," the conn officer answered from the forward station.

Vanessa stood. "Prepare the Legacy for launch," she ordered. She rose from her command chair and departed the bridge, followed by three officers who had departed their stations to join her. They made their way to the hangar, the image of the Phoenix drifting on their computers.

------------------------------------------------------------------

Godiva threw the tool carelessly behind her and sighed as it hit the metal floor with a loud thud. Pulling her head out of the console she had attempted to fix, she stood and kicked it, cursing.

"Fuck it," she said, "I'll get a technician to look at it on the next base stop." She walked out of the room, leaving the robot that had been helping her standing next to the console with an oblivious look on its metal face. Godiva never had much patience.

She wandered the corridors, thinking, before deciding to finish her inventory she had started earlier in her office. As a professional cargo shipper, she had a duty to keep track of such things. Godiva took pride in her work, or rather in proving to her enemies that she was the best at everything. She had never delivered her cargo late, and her reputation was well known. Typically, her services involved the shipment of cargo between earth and its colony worlds, and occasionally she serviced the transport of civilian cargo. Despite her pride in her work, she couldn't help but feel like a mail carrier at times. Nonetheless, she remained one of the most highly praised cargo shippers in the entire industry.

Her cargo, an assortment of foods and research equipment, took her to a space station in the Gamma Centauri system; she made it a point to know what she was carrying. She had picked up her cargo from earth a few days early because her partner, Michael Hillman, wanted to make a brief stop on AC-4, the only world with a breathable atmosphere in the Alpha Centauri system. Unfortunately for the Force, it was a barren, frozen world, unsuitable for colonization. Godiva thought it was beautiful, more isolated and enigmatic than Antarctica.

Having majored in astronomy and astrophysics, Michael had actually predicted the eclipse of AC-4's two suns, and had made sure they'd find the time to see it. That evening, as Godiva watched the eclipse on the hull of the ship, Michael sat on the bridge, recording and documenting it. He had some wild dream to conquer AC-4 and rule over a population of clones that he would have trained as soldiers and used to conquer the rest of the galaxy. For Michael had much too overactive an imagination. A neurotic, and occasionally melodramatic, individual, he had a timid nature and an odd sense of humor. Nonetheless, Michael had great intelligence, and, however annoying, he managed a strong friendship with Godiva.

When Godiva reached her office on the first level, she relaxed at her desk before doing anything. Her office was like a scene from an old gothic horror movie. Candles were set up all about the room, daggers and swords and statues of dragons and unicorns sat on shelves, and holographic posters of vampires and witches hung on the walls. The candles provided the only source of light in the room. Things of darkness appealed to Godiva, things of evil and things of death.

Hitting a few buttons on the computer panel integrated into her desk, she activated her music, a loud techno-rock mix from earth's mid-twenty-first century. She turned the bass up loud on her speakers so she could feel the music vibrating in her chest. Smiling, she sighed heavily and leaned back comfortably in her chair.

Unwanted thoughts encroached on her mind, short-lived, as she drifted slowly off to sleep. Just as consciousness began to slip from her, the passage of time becoming more and more a blur, the ship's intercom chirped on, pausing her music and ripping her from rest. Michael's voice came loudly over the speakers: "Godiva, get up to the bridge, now! A support craft from a GFIP vessel in orbit just landed off our starboard!"

"What!" Godiva chirped loudly, pouncing up in her chair. "What the hell do they want?" she asked herself as she stood, annoyed, and exited her office toward the bridge.

-----------------------------------------------------------------

A blinking yellow light at Michael's communications station signaled the reception of a hailing frequency. "They're hailing," Michael said as Godiva stepped onto the bridge.

"Move!" she ordered. She sat down at the station after Michael moved. Hitting the button to open the hailing frequency, she answered, "This is the Terran ship Phoenix, state your intentions."

A garbled, female voice came through her station.

"This is Captain Vanessa Davis of the GFIP starship Paradox. I have news of earth, and require you to come aboard my ship."

Godiva and Michael shot a look of confusion at each other.

"That's a human name," Michael said.

Brows furrowed, Godiva shook her head at Michael. "Who is this?" she asked, looking back at the station.

"Look, I understand you're probably confused," Vanessa answered, "and I intend to explain everything, but I need you aboard my ship. Exit your vessel and board our shuttle."

Godiva gave Michael one of her "you really expect me to listen to you" smiles, amused that Vanessa expected them to just leave their ship…but she also didn't like the idea of them boarding hers. Leaning into the transceiver, she said, "Captain, this is Terran space, I'm not doing anything until you tell me what the hell you're doing here."

"Miss Breckenridge, I understand your reluctance," Vanessa answered, frustrated, "but I can assure you that you want to hear what I have to tell you."

Dumbfounded, Godiva answered, "How the hell do you know my name? Who is this?"

"Miss Breckenridge, vacate your ship now!" Vanessa ordered, her patience wearing thin. "I'll explain everything when you're aboard."

Godiva sighed and grimaced, utterly annoyed. "Captain, I think you should know, I'm not one to follow orders; I give them. What the fuck do you want!"

The light suddenly went off on the station, signaling the closing of the channel. An alarm sounded.

Michael darted toward the forward console the alarm came from. "Shit!" he said. "They've broken through the hull! They're coming inside!"

Godiva flew over to Michael's station. "Fuck! Shit! Whore!" she swore randomly in a high-pitched squeek. "…Level twelve," she read from the console. Hurrying out of the bridge, she ordered, "Activate security drones, get'em down there!"

"Godiva!" Michael shouted, trying to stop her. "…Shit!" Sighing, he did as she ordered, and then ran off the bridge after her.

------------------------------------------------------------------

When the elevator opened on level twelve Godiva peeked, slowly, out, checking both ways before stepping out. She saw no one and proceeded cautiously down the corridor toward the breach in the hull, keeping her back against the wall and checking the other end of the corridor every five seconds. A plasma gun held firm in her hand, pointing directly ahead of her. As she neared the corner where the breach was, her jaw tightened. The cold from outside gripped her. Snow had blown in through the breach, slowly melting to a puddle on the metal floor.

Stopping just around the corner from the breach, Godiva took in a deep breath, holding the gun up at her face. Swiftly, she turned the corner, pointing the gun out ahead of her and firing. She stopped when she realized there was nothing there. As the snow blew on her face, she growled loudly at herself. "Ugh, I'm such a dork!" Dropping the gun at her side and tossing her head carelessly back, she sighed.

Gunshots suddenly rang out from the next corridor. Godiva jumped. "Shit!"

Looking down the corridor, she saw green flashes of light come from around another corner further down. Shots of blue plasma flew out and hit the wall, exploding in fire and smoke.

"Shit!" she yelled again as she ran down the hall and stopped just around the corner. The holes in the wall sizzled, growing larger as the heat melted the edges. Fire billowed from one where the plasma had hit the inner circuitry of a computer interface.

Very slowly, Godiva peeked around the corner. Two armed GFIP officers were making their way passed piles of burning metal that had been security drones, toward Godiva. Both officers were of a race commonly referred to as the Trunks, because their own name for themselves couldn't be pronounced by most other tongues, and they had long, curved trunks for noses, like that of an elephant, only smaller.

Godiva took a few steps back from the corner and aimed her gun.

"Godiva…"

As Godiva felt something grab her shoulder from behind her, she flung her arm around and smacked Michael in the face with her gun as it discharged. The plasma missed hitting Michael, but fired close enough to burn the right side of his face.

Godiva gasped when she realized what she'd done. "Michael!" She kneeled down beside him as he lied on the ground, a hand to his face.

"What the hell'd you do that for!" Michael exclaimed.

Giggling, Godiva held Michael's hand and pat him on the head. "Oh, Michael, I'm sorry! You scared the hell out of me. …Sorry"

"You're not sorry…" Michael said incredulously. "You…"

Michael and Godiva both grew wide-eyed and froze when they heard the sound of the armed GFIP officers locking their guns on them.

"Godiva Breckenridge," one of the officers said through the translation device over his mouth, "come with us."

Godiva slowly turned her head and looked up, directly into the barrel of a gun. Sighing, she said simply, "You're right, Michael…I'm not sorry."

--------------------------------------------------------------------

The alien officers led Godiva and Michael outside to the shuttle and flew them up to Paradox where Vanessa awaited them. The two officers that had captured them led them through the ship to Vanessa's office. They ignored Godiva and Michael when they asked questions, only further igniting the fury in Godiva. If Michael hadn't gone with them, Godiva would have continued fighting them, but she didn't want to risk getting Michael hurt. She knew Michael wasn't much of a fighter – not like her – and he'd have gotten himself hurt somehow.

When they reached her office, Vanessa directed the officers to wait outside. Vanessa's office was simple in comparison to Godiva's. Vanessa did, however, have a collection of daggers and swords hanging on the wall behind her desk also. The both of them had a leader's heart, and like any great leader, the soul of a warrior. Vanessa could see herself in Godiva, and had looked forward very much to meeting her.

"Take a seat," Vanessa said, smiling.

Godiva and Michael looked at each other. Godiva had her "I'm about to explode" look and Michael had his "try to take it easy" look.

As Michael sat down, Godiva stepped up to Vanessa's desk. "Give me one good reason not to come over this desk and rip your fucking throat out."

Vanessa smiled. She liked Godiva. Grabbing a display pad on the side of her desk, she tossed it on the desk at Godiva.

Godiva looked at it. "What's this?"

"A history lesson," Vanessa answered.

"Why are you wearing that uniform?" Michael asked. "You're human."

"You're going to see a lot of humans wearing this uniform," Vanessa answered. "We've been a part of the Federation since the late twentieth century." She smiled when she saw the dumbfounded looks on their faces. "I know," she said, nodding, "hard to believe, isn't it? Well, there's a lot you don't know, and you're probably not going to believe it at first. Everything's on there." She pointed at the display pad.

Godiva picked up the display pad and skimmed it a little. Shaking her head, she looked back at Vanessa. "Again, what is this?"

Vanessa shifted in her chair, trying to figure out where to begin explaining. "The earth's shadow," she said finally. "It's the earth's secret history. You see, the oscilic went to earth long before the first human civilization. You both had history. According to Egyptian legend of the 'First Time', sky gods went down to earth, flying around in 'boats', raising land, and teaching laws and wisdom through a royal line of pharaohs. South American legends describe 'Viracochas' who taught civilization to natives and created highways and other such intricacies. In both such accounts, the gods have very human-like characteristics, too human, if you consider the alleged power of gods. Then look at the similarities of Egyptian and Mayan cultures. The Egyptians weren't the only ones building pyramids; all over the earth, civilizations in places like Central America and such were building very similar pyramids."

Vanessa sighed and shook her head. "I could go on for hours with supportive information for what I'm about to tell you. That's why I've given you that." She nodded at the display pad in Godiva's hand. "Now the part you're not going to want to believe," she continued. "Humanity didn't spring up out of the elements naturally, nor was it some sort of divine creation. We were genetically manipulated on several occasions for thousands of years, personally taught and civilized, and, on some levels, controlled by an extraterrestrial force."

Taking a step back, Godiva fell into a chair. "Oh, so that's where we went wrong," she joked skeptically.

"What about the Bible?" Michael asked.

Ignoring Godiva's remark, Vanessa nodded at Michael. "Think about Jacob meeting Jehovah, the God of Abraham or Psalm 104, and use your imagination. Think of Zechariah 6:1-7 or even Sodom and Gomorrah – ugh, that was a terrible incident, the oscilic weren't able to stop the verbadnn until it was too late."

Godiva snickered. "I might if I had any idea what you're talking about."

"No, Sodom and Gomorrah, that's one of the few parts I actually have read," Michael said. "…Wait a minute…that was aliens?"

"I'm afraid so," Vanessa answered. "A small group of verbadnn vessels had decided to launch their own attack on the earth. They did a pretty good job, actually, considering their small numbers. They had planned it brilliantly, attacking various oscilic posts in the Sol system to divide the number of ships defending the earth at the time, and were able to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah before they were destroyed in orbit."

Godiva divided her attention between reading the display pad and listening to Vanessa, chuckling occasionally as she read something she found amusing. "This is a real nice story you've concocted," she said, flinging the display pad back on to Vanessa's desk. "Now why don't you tell us what's really going on?"

Frowning, Vanessa realized she had a harder task ahead of her than she thought. "Miss Breckenridge, there are hundreds of points I could make from the earth's history alone that all point to the truth – the one that's been shadowing the earth for thousands of years. Now the fact of the matter is, the earth's entire history has been controlled and defended personally by the oscilic. They have been humanity's gods and teachers since the beginning of civilization."

Godiva slumped down in her seat. "Okay," she said, "let's say we choose to believe all this. …Why are you telling us?"

Wetting her lips Vanessa answered, "In the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, the oscilic began abducting and assimilating humans into the Federation, training them and teaching them to work as normal GFIP citizens. Most of them however, were trained to be agents who would infiltrate key government positions and begin manipulating the earth's history at an internal level. The structure and foundation of the earth's major governments were starting to lose their strength; the oscilic knew bad days were ahead for the human race, and deployed these agents to try to soften world-wide relations and restore order and strength. The oscilic were anticipating the beginning of a third world war, and thanks to them, there wasn't one, the Terran Space Force was later created, and humans made a place for themselves among the intergalactic community."

"…And the GFIP has been keeping all this to themselves for the past five hundred years?" Michael asked, himself skeptical.

Vanessa nodded. "You have no idea what might have happened if the oscilic hadn't issued the assimilation order. If any humans were left at all today, they would almost certainly still be confined to the earth, because it would've taken them at least another thousand years to discover the sub-space tunneling system used for interplanetary travel."

Godiva rolled her eyes in frustration. "Again, why are you telling us?"

"The oscilic's enemy, the verbadnn, have been at war with the oscilic for longer than the human race has been bipedal. Sometime in earth's tenth century, they fled the known galaxy for reasons that were unknown to the oscilic. When they returned about a century ago, their existence was masked by the oscilic in the hopes that humanity would remain in the dark about the truth.

"In the past few days," Vanessa continued, "the verbadnn have launched a number of attacks on the Federation in various, widely-spread areas of space…"

"…Divide and conquer," Michael interjected.

"Precisely," Vanessa nodded, "the same sort of strategy they used when Sodom and Gomorrah was destroyed.

"The fleets have been divided considerably. Early this morning an invasion was launched in Terran space. …The Force has been entirely destroyed…and earth…has been annihilated."

The room fell silent. Godiva and Michael froze

"I'm sorry," Vanessa said softly. "The verbadnn took us completely by surprise. …The two of you are all that's left."