December 24, 2008

Blaze Mason: Star Ranger
In
Ghost Ship

Chapter 2

By Dwayne MacInnes

The government of the Federation of United Worlds has three distinct branches. The Judicial branch contains the Galactic Supreme Court the highest court in the Federation. Next are the Federal Courts, dealing mostly with inter-system crimes and crimes against the Federation. Below that are the Planetary courts and finally Provincial Courts.

The next branch is the Executive branch. This contains the President and the presidential staff whose job is to make sure that the execution of the law is within the mandates of the Federation Constitution. The Executive branch appoints the Ambassadorial Council, the Presidential Cabinet, and the Service Council. However, all must meet with Congressional approval.

Finally, there is the Legislative branch whose job is to propose laws. The Galactic Congress is comprised of the Dome of Planetary Representatives and the Senate. On the planetary level, there is the Provincial Legislature.

The Federation of United Worlds' military is comprised of many different components. There is the Galactic Navy that contains the traditional space naval forces as well as the space marines and the long-range scouts. Then there is the Galactic Army that contains the traditional planetary assault and security forces as well as space rangers.

The System Patrol Guards are under planetary control with a federal budget to maintain security within the various solar systems making up the Federation. However, during times of war the System Patrol Guards become part of the Galactic military falling under the authority of the Galactic Navy.

The Federation's law enforcement, called the Galactic Law Enforcement is a branch of the Department of Justice. It contains the System Patrol Guards, the Federal Marshals, and the Galactic Department of Investigation (GDI). Within the Federal Marshals, which is the enforcement arm of the Galactic federal courts, are the Star Rangers.

The Star Rangers primary duties are to maintain law and order along Federation space. They can supplement the System Patrol Guards in protecting transportation routes including the security of the jump-gates. They can also assist system law enforcement with Federal crimes, as well as assist the Galactic military in investigating and combating piracy.

They often work alone. However, they do have the authority to deputize civilians in order to 'form a posse' to help them in their duties. Under the Posse Comitatus Act, Star Rangers cannot enlist military personnel to act in a law enforcement capacity within the Federation. The only exception to this is the System Patrol Guards. Only the Galactic Congress has the authority to authorize military personnel to act as law enforcement within the confines of Federation territory.

* * * * *

The access port opened up and Blaze stepped into the drifting ship's interior. The only light came from the different colored buttons on the corridor's control panel. This did not bother Blaze for his helmet could automatically adjust for low light and even use infrared capabilities. The Heads-Up Display (HUD) projecting inside the facemask of the helmet told Blaze that the air inside Serapis was toxic.

"TACAI, can you read me?" Blaze asked testing the helmet's transmission.

"That is affirmative," the cold unemotional female voice of the Cobra's computer responded.

"Good," replied Blaze. "The A. G. is still functional." The Star Ranger walked down the corridor.

"The ship's artificial gravity is reading at .9896. Well within safe operational levels," TACAI offered.

"Thanks, Captain Obvious," Blaze muttered under his breath.

"I am sorry, Commander. I am not aware that there was a Captain Obvious aboard the Serapis," TACAI responded.

"Never mind, it's an old Earth expression," Blaze said as he moved down a long dark corridor. "How are the telemetry relays on the Serapis."

"They are working satisfactory. I can read the Serapis's output. However, I am unable to perform any adjustments from here. You will have to reach the bridge and activate the control override."

"TACAI can you transmit a blueprint to my HUD?" Blaze asked. He really had no clue where he was or even heading inside Serapis.

"Affirmative," TACAI acknowledged.

Blaze sighed when the outlines of a blueprint of the Serapis projected upon his HUD. Blaze turned around and headed on his new course towards the bridge. Blaze always felt he had the knack of always going the wrong direction first.

The trek to the bridge was relatively uneventful. The halls were dark except for the blinking lights dotting the various control panels on the walls. Blaze stayed way from the elevators and opted for the security of the access ladders instead. The last thing he wanted was to end up stranded on a ghost ship in an elevator stuck between floors.

The large steel door leading to the bridge did not respond as Blaze approached. Usually the doors on ships tended to activate when a person approached. Blaze figured that the sensor must have burned out in the last thirty years.

"TACAI," Blaze transmitted. "Can you find the access code for the bridge door on the Serapis?"

"I will see what is in my records," TACAI said as casually as ever.

Blaze inspected the control panel to the bridge. It appeared to be in operational order. Some of the lights blinked on and off while others just illuminated the wall that contained them.

Blaze was starting to get impatient. His unease on being on the Serapis did not subside. A couple of times he was certain he heard snatches of whispering voices. Nevertheless, that was not possible and was certainly due to his imagination.

"Commander Mason," TACAI finally announced nearly startling Blaze to death. "The access code is 4-3-0-6-4."

"Thank you," Blaze acknowledged.

"Commander, are you okay?" TACAI asked in her clinical voice. "Your heart rate has increase as has your respiration."

"It is nothing. Just got a little spooked," Blaze responded as he punched in the code. The steel door finally slide back to allow Blaze access to the bridge.

The Star Ranger let out an audible gasp as he stepped into the interior. Although, he knew there was a good chance of finding them, Blaze still was not ready for the scene before him. The bridge crew sat in their chairs still in their yellow environmental suits. Their bodies slumped lifelessly over their control instruments.

One of the crew had managed to escape his safety harness. His body now lay at Blaze's feet near the door. The man's right arm lay outstretched towards the control panel for the door while the other clutched his throat.

Blaze knelt down near the body. He turned it over and read the name badge. This was Captain Rice. Blaze looked into the faceplate and felt a chill as the grinning face of Captain Rice's skull stared back.

Posted by deg at December 24, 2008 9:24 PM

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