January 14, 2009

Blaze Mason: Star Ranger
Ghost Ship

Chapter 5

By Dwayne MacInnes

The Federation has made cloning entire beings illegal. However, it is allowable to clone individual body parts for replacement. The vast majority of the population of the Federation feels it is immoral to clone entire living beings for the sole purpose of body part harvesting. Creating clones for the purpose of increasing the population is also repugnant to most of the Federation's citizens.

This is in direct opposition of the Concordance's philosophy. In order for the fringe worlds to replenish its population quickly it underwent a great eugenics program. The Concordance had the populace's genes altered to make them physically and mentally superior to the average human of the Federation. At least this was the case in the minds of the Concordance, there is no actually proof of this.

The Concordance manufactured clones for warfare as well as to replace aging or ailing leaders of the Concordance. When the first Fuehrer Jonathon Kesselman died due to assassination in 2223, the cloning procedure still needed perfection. Therefore, the Fuehrer died without continuing to oversee his empire's development.

The second and current Fuehrer Thomas Irons is a third generation clone. By his will and laws, any non-human races either become forced labor and/or are exterminated.

The citizens of the Federation are fearful of fully sentient robots. Many feel that it is possible for these thinking mechanical beings to rise up against them. Because of this, it is illegal to create fully sentient robots or computers in the Federation. Pre-sentient computers and robots are favored. Therefore, the sentient computers used by the military are strictly top secret.

President Edgar Mayors and vice president Robert Ellis have been fighting with congress for a change in this law. Especially since the Concordance does not feel the same way. Many of the Concordance troops are sentient robots. However, in most cases the self-awareness of the Concordance battle-bots is nominal only.

At this point and time, the Federation holds several advantages over the Concordance. The main advantage is in technology. The advantage in population the Federation has over the Concordance is offset by the latter's use of clones and robots.

* * * * *

Blaze followed the blueprint map on his helmet's HUD to locate the engine room. He was relieved that he did not encounter any more phantoms roaming the Serapis' halls. When the Star Ranger reached the door to the engine room, he was not surprised to see the numbers 51773808 on the digital readout of the control panel. Blaze just typed in the access code and the door opened for him.

Inside the large room, Blaze found a jumble of shredded enviro-suits mixed with the white bones of their former occupants smashed against a wall. One of the engines was a completely ruptured, burned up wreck. Obviously, shortly after the jump one of the two engines of the Serapis had exploded.

The other engine was still operating, even though sparks and bolts of electricity shot dangerously through the room. The grinding hum of the engine sounded ominously like it was about to join its neighbor in exploding. Blaze was about to turn and exit the Serapis and return to his Cobra when suddenly the room changed.

The engines were both in pristine condition. Several members of the crew were now moving back and forth doing routine checks on their instruments. Blaze started to walk backwards his heart was pounding hard in his chest.

A wall behind Blaze prevented him from moving any further away from the spectral scene playing out in front of him. The Star Ranger noticed that the threatening grinding engine was no longer making any noise. In fact, the room was deathly silent except for his heavy breathing.

One of the helmeted crewmembers looked up at Blaze. Blaze's blood turned to ice as the crewmember just stared at him. Then the phantom crewmember looked towards the engines and Blaze could only follow his gaze.

Another crewmember standing at a control board near the engines started to frantically push buttons and flip switches. The readings on the control board were fluctuating wildly. Instantly the room filled with a bright flash before returning to normal.

Crewmembers began to scramble about the room. Suddenly an explosion threw everyone against the wall near Blaze smashing and tearing them in the process. A fireball expanded and filled the room. Blaze covered his head protectively with his arms. However, there was no heat or concussion from the blast. When the fireball died out, mechanical and human wreckage filled the room. Most of the debris was against the wall next to him.

"Commander Mason, are you alright?" a cold unemotional female voice brought Blaze back. The room was again as it was when he entered it. Except that, the lone operating engine no longer sparked or groaned dangerously. Instead, it purred like a well-maintained machine.

"Yeah," Blaze gasped. He was still panting uncontrollably.

"Commander, I have been trying to get in contact with you for the last five minutes," TACAI informed Blaze. "You are in great distress. I fear that you are close to hyperventilating. Maybe you should return to the Cobra."

"TACAI," Blaze panted. "Did you record anything unusual from my helmet-cam?"

"Please specify," TACAI responded.

"Did you not see any sparks, or ghosts, or an explosion!" Blaze yelled.

"Negative," TACAI responded calmly. "However, I did discern several localized areas of cold air moving about the room on the infrared sensors. Would this be considered 'unusual' Commander Mason?"

"Yes," Blaze said finally regaining his composure. "Maybe you are right -- I should return to the Cobra," Blaze stated. He had about enough with ghost ships and its ghost crew.

Before Blaze could turn to leave, he heard someone whisper "Airlock" in his communication unit.

Posted by deg at January 14, 2009 5:11 PM

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