January 21, 2009

Blaze Mason: Star Ranger
Ghost Ship

Chapter 6

By Dwayne MacInnes

In the year 2192, the Federation quarantines the fringe colonies in order to stop the spread of the moon-flu. The Federation destroys many of its jump-gates to the fringe in a desperate measure to contain the deadly virus. Entire cities, space stations, and bases die off. Many military vessels and their crew cannot return to the Federation.

The moon-flu moves quickly and by 2193 it had run its course. Of the inhabitants of the fringe colonies, 60% are now dead. Regional governments collapse, military garrisons are abandoned. Either star ships are abandoned or they begin a hopeless search for a way back to the Federation.

The "Time of Anarchy" ran from 2192 to 2194. Warlords and despots rule various cities on devastated planets. These petty dictators often fight each other for meager resources or control for star ships, bases, and/or space stations.

Jonathon Kesselman of New Berlin on the planet Hindenburg unites the world under his leadership. Kesselman accomplished this by using 20th century Nazi Germany as his guide. Soon afterwards, propaganda spread that the Federation manufactured the moon-flu and used it on the fringe colonies to test it. This further helps Kesselman (now called the Fuehrer) consolidate his powerbase.

During the years of 2194 to 2196, Kesselman successfully uses abandoned Federation star ships and military equipment to either conquer or form alliances with the other fringe worlds. This is the creation of The Concordant of Fringe Worlds. Kesselman also institutes a program of genetic engineering to strengthen the survivors' already hardy gene pool.

The Fuehrer Kesselman institutes ambitious programs to advance science, increase population, and find new planets to colonize in the year 2197. The fringe worlds are quickly rebuilding and becoming prosperous again. The Fuehrer is very popular.

In the year 2203, the Concordant is ready for expansion. Although the population is still lower than it was 11 years previously, it is still able to conquer or colonize new planets. All non-human sentient beings are either enslaved or exterminated. Any Concordant citizen that protests these harsh actions simply disappear.

The Federation in the year 2217 creates new jump-gates to the fringe and discovers that not only have their former colonies formed their own government but that the Federation is not welcomed. The Concordant declares its independence and destroys the newly made jump-gates. The Federation is in no position to fight a new war, and so agrees to the Concordant's demands for independence.

The Concordant discovers a small alien star empire. During the years 2218 to 2223, the Concordant fights a war to conquer this threat. They are victorious. However, before Kesselman can savor his victory a dissident band of Concordant citizens assassinate the Fuehrer. Kesselman becomes a martyr. Mobs of angry people round up anyone believed to be a dissident or a traitor and kills them. Deputy Fuehrer Thomas Irons becomes the new Fuehrer.

* * * * *

Blaze felt compelled to follow the voice's instructions. Someone or something was showing him what had happened to Serapis shortly after the jump-drive engaged. However, many questions remained. Was it an accident? If so, what went wrong? Alternatively, as the voice indicated was it sabotage? If so, who was responsible?

Blaze stepped into the main corridor again. Blaze's HUD guided him down the hall towards the airlock. However, before he could get far, the scenery spontaneously changed again.

The Star Ranger found himself now in the middle of some type of reception or tour. Many men and women in business suits gathered around, shook hands, and talked to each other. Again, Blaze did not hear anything that was going on. Everything was purely visual.

Blaze recognized Captain Rice pointing out various parts of the vessel to those gathered in the hallway. One man struck Blaze as strangely familiar. However, he could not pull his name to mind.

The group moved down the corridor and Blaze started to follow. The man Blaze desperately tried to recall from history of thirty years before fell back from the crowd. Blaze decided he would follow this apparition.

The man looked over his shoulder at Blaze. The Star Ranger unconsciously ducked behind a reinforcement beam before he realized the man was not looking at him but at the receding party. The man, assured no one missed him, continued on his trek down the corridor.

Blaze followed the man back to the engine room. The strange man punched in the access code and the door slid open. Blaze followed the man in.

From the doorway, Blaze observed the man approach the first engine. He reached into his jacket and pulled out a small device. The man kneeled down on his hands and knees and slid the device underneath the engine. Then he proceeded to jog out of the engine room.

"A bomb!" Blaze thought to himself. "So it was sabotage."

The Star Ranger continued to follow his prey down the corridor as the man rushed to return to the main party. The group of men and women was now in the airlock, again Captain Rice was pointing out various features of the ship. He even pulled one of the crew's enviro-suits off its rack. He began pointing out various features of the suit.

Rice then placed the enviro-suit on a bench and started to lead the men and women out of the airlock. However, two things went unnoticed by Captain Rice. The first was that the strange man who just planted the bomb did not follow. The second was that Rice had accidentally turned on the enviro-suit's helmet camera. The red recording light was on.

Evidently, the saboteur also did not notice the camera was on for he proceeded to attach a very small bead-size object to every enviro-suit's airtank regulator. "That was how the poison was administered!" Blaze thought.

The saboteur then left the room. Something made Blaze stay behind in the airlock. The Star Ranger unconsciously reached for the helmet before he realized it would only be a spectral image. However, Blaze's hand actually encountered the helmet. Blaze reached inside and pulled out the memory chip. He lifted it up to his faceplate and contemplated it before shoving it into one of his pockets.

Suddenly the ghostly image vanished and Blaze found himself alone in a dark room. His lowlight amplification and map on the HUD told him that he was in the airlock. The Serapis then began to rock and shake and Blaze stumbled around. His hand must have hit the airlock button because before he knew it he shot out the airlock's door into space.

The Serapis tumbled before him. Blaze was stunned and could do nothing but watch as the ghost ship trembled before disappearing in a flash of light.

"NO!!!" Blaze shouted as he realized that he was now alone adrift in space. His Cobra still attached to Serapis must have accompanied it as it jumped. This final shock was too much and Blaze blacked out.

Posted by deg at January 21, 2009 5:39 PM

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