Part 1

The Captain proudly proclaims, "Crew, it's time. This is our giant leap for humankind." The announcement is followed by distant cheers, the sounds of crew members running to every available viewport, and five beeps from the galley indicating that a very ill-timed burrito has finished heating. But then, in near silence, the Odyssey begins to glide forward. You look on in awe as the edge of the Portal grows closer and closer, and before you know it, it's behind the ship. Alpha Centauri and the other familiar stars shine through the ring in front of a black, velvety stretch of space.

"We're through," the Navigation Officer confirms. The Captain begins, "Check for--" but is interrupted by a high pitched whine and flashing bright light pouring in through every viewport. Has something gone wrong? A frantic check of the ship's systems reveals no problems, and the Odyssey is still coasting forward on thruster power and momentum with no issues. Even the artificial gravity is at 100% effectiveness, and that almost never happens! But then, someone gasps and points out that the center of the Portal has gone dark. A tense moment of silence fills the air.

Suddenly, a new wave of sound arrives on the bridge. This time, it's coming from the comms system: clearly a voice, but it's not speaking in any words or language patterns you recognize. The Information Officer tries to talk over the noise, reporting that scanners have picked up a station-sized heat and energy source only a short distance away. Then the vocal pattern stops, and someone almost human-sounding takes over. "Hello!" she says, before continuing cheerily, "Hope you don't mind, but I scanned your data devices to start translating your language. Come to the station and we can talk more!" After a brief pause she drops to a deeper voice, as if to properly conclude the communication, "Engage."

Docking instructions pour into your ship's systems in a way you can understand, although with a strange smattering of just-off words for scientific terms. After the Odyssey connects to the station, you scan the interior environment and find it hospitable. And then, with a hissing sound, the airlock door opens.

"Happy Birthday! Have some cake!" A blue-skinned alien stands before you holding something that at least looks cake-like. "Welcome to the-region-of-planets-and-stars-and-dust-surrounded-by-nothing-much-left." She frowns and taps furiously on a small electronic device. "Welcome to Insula."

Continue to Part 2 by clicking the option above, voted on by the majority of readers. The below option did not win, and receives no cake.

(44%): Invite her to eat cake on the Odyssey