December 17, 2008

Blaze Mason: Star Ranger
Ghost Ship

Chapter 1

By Dwayne MacInnes

In the year 2034, the construction of the first United Nations space station reaches completion. This facilitated the construction of lunar mining bases and in the year 2050 the first of several Mars colonies. Soon afterwards, mining bases dotted Phobos and Deimos the moons of Mars.

It was in the year 2076 that a deep mining operation on Phobos stumbled upon the discovery of the ages. An ancient spacecraft buried deep under the moon's surface dated to 25 thousand B.C. Scientists studying this ancient alien ship discovered a great wealth of technological advances. However, it was not until the year 2152 that a breakthrough allowed the construction of the first successful jump-generator.

The jump-generator was too large to work on a ship. However, jump-gates using the jump-generator created stable wormholes allowing ships to cross great distances in space in a fraction of the time as tradition star travel. The age of generation and sleeper ships suddenly ended.

With the creation of jump-gates across the galaxy, an explosion of Earth colonization took place. Boom-colonies literally sprang up overnight on some planets and planetoids during the second half of the 22nd century. Lawlessness and chaos shortly followed.

In order to maintain law and order across the Federation of United Worlds the Federal Marshal Department under the Galactic Law Enforcement branch established the Star Rangers in the year 2257. Star Rangers specialize in apprehending federal fugitives, transporting federal prisoners, protecting federal witness that may be endangered and patrolling and scouting transportation routes and jump-gates. Often working alone these men and women have Federal authority to investigate any planet or solar system in Federation space. Their jurisdiction can cover anything from theft to piracy to scouting new solar systems.

In the year 2286, a Star Ranger vessel discovered a second Phobos-type craft (named Phobos-2) floating in space. This one appeared to be a large military vessel and was virtually intact. The Federation disassembled and started studying the ship's various components much as it did with the first Phobos craft.

Scientist finally cracked the language code on Phobos-2 in the year 2312. From its fragmentary records the Federation learned that the vessel belonged to a race now known as the Precursors. Many top scientists believe them now to be extinct.

Forty years later thanks to the discoveries from Phobos-2 -- and much trial and error -- ship-born jump-drives are now possible on large to medium sized ships. However, due to the delicate construction and prohibitive cost only military vessels have them. There are rumors that a few Star Ranger Long Range Patrol Crafts also carry an even smaller experimental jump-drive.

* * * * *

Date: March 29, 2352. 2304 Galactic Military Time.

Cobra Long Range Patrol Craft

Blaze Mason awoke to the loud buzzing of his navigational computer or NavCom aboard his Cobra Long Range Patrol Craft.

"What is it, TACAI?' Blaze asked the ship's central computer named TACAI for Turing Analog Cognitive Architecture Intelligence. Like the jump-drive engine aboard Blaze's Star Ranger Cobra, the TACAI was also highly experimental and top secret. The quicker and intuitive computations made this one of the first full production sentient computers. It was also essential for the delicate operation of the jump-drive. The name TACAI sounds very similar to the Earth Japanese word takai meaning expensive. It also sounds like the Donlani word T'Khi, meaning ‘Guardian spirit'. In this case, both are appropriate.

"There is a non-organic object at 34 by 82 by 156. It is on a collision course,' the calm female voice responded.

Blaze straightened himself up in his chair and began reviewing his various scanners on the instrument panel of the flight deck. The TACAI computer systems were notorious for their ability to be vague on some points. In this case, ‘non-organic' meant someone or something created the object in question.

"Scan it against known ship records,' Blaze ordered as he punched the NavCom's collision alarm override silencing the irritating buzzing.

While TACAI searched its records, Blaze altered the Cobra's course and speed to move it out of the object's path. Then he began to zoom in on the object with one of the Cobra's telephoto scanners.

As the Star Ranger watched, the small floating object grew in size as the scanner zoomed in. On recognition, Blaze and TACAI both proclaimed:

"It's the Serapis.'

"It can't be!' Blaze exclaimed in disbelief.

"The EFS Serapis launched in September 21, 2320. It carried the first experimental ship-born jump-drive. On activation the ship and crew disappeared without a trace,' TACAI's cold feminine voice replied. "Its whereabouts have been the source for many theories and even some phantom fictions...'

"Ghost stories,' Blaze corrected. One of Blaze's many jobs aboard the Cobra was to help TACAI's programming. One of her -- Blaze could not help thinking of the ship's computer as a female thanks to its voice modulator -- problems was with idioms.

"Thank you,' TACAI responded acknowledging the new program correction. "There are many well published ghost stories about the Serapis. If you want I can have them downloaded to a terminal in your quarters.'

"No thank you,' Blaze said. "TACAI, does Serapis have power?'

"Affirmative,' TACAI responded. "The engines are at full stop. However, the vessel is still generating sufficient power for full life-support.'

"They really put her together well if she is still operating after 32 years,' Blaze mused aloud.

"One of the many theories about the Serapis's disappearance is that it may have been caught in a time warp or even stuck in hyperspace between jump points. Time would be irrelevant if that was the case,' TACAI pointed out.

"TACAI, try to hail Serapis," Blaze ordered as he started preparing the Cobra to fly in for a closer look. "Maybe the crew survived.'

The black and gray Cobra slowly drew closer to the drifting Serapis. Blaze suppressed a shudder; there was something definitely unnerving about coming across a long lost ghost ship in space. The Serapis was a large spaceship, she had to be to hold the enormous jump-drives constructed thirty years ago. The crew numbered only 25 volunteers who were to only fly to Alpha Centauri and back to Earth. As soon as the ship reached the optimum power to operate the jump-drive something went wrong.

Blaze still remembered the recordings he had to study in history class at the Academy.

* * * * *
Captain Rice Jump-drive 95 percent.
Lt. Wilson: 95 percent, aye.
Captain Rice: Prepare to initiate.
Lt. Wilson: Preparing to initiate.
Commander Yang: Sir, we are getting irregularities...
Captain Rice: Ab...
* * * * *

That was it. No one ever figured out what irregularities the chief engineer Commander Yang was referring. Many believe that Captain Rice was trying to abort the mission before the Serapis suddenly disappeared in a flash of white light and into history.

"No response from Serapis,' TACAI said interrupting Blaze's trip down memory lane.

"I guess that settles it,' Blaze said unbuckling himself from the pilot's seat. "I am going to have to go aboard. TACAI take the Cobra in for a landing. See if you can line it up with an access port.'

"Affirmative,' TACAI said. "Please, remember to take along your enviro-suit and your defensive weapon.'

"No need to remind me,' Blaze said, already stepping into the black enviro-suit that went over the red and black uniform of the Star Rangers. After suiting up, Blaze buckled his belt and holster around his waist which contained the standard issue Colt M2245 Vengeance blaster.

TACAI gently parked the Cobra upon the Serapis. Blaze secured his enviro-helmet onto his suit as he made his way to the airlock over the access port.

"Be careful, Commander Mason,' TACAI said in her usual cold voice.

"Thanks TACAI,' Blaze responded feeling uneasy as he stepped into the airlock.

Posted by deg at December 17, 2008 9:03 PM

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