Blaze spun clockwise around in a void. He could see the ghosts of Serapis gather around him. Each specter had a grinning skull behind the faceplate of his or her helmet. There was no sound. Otherwise, Blaze would have been sure they all were laughing at him.
A red digital read out of 51773808 spun counter-clockwise. The saboteur's face looked over his shoulder straight at Blaze. Then like magic, the numbers rested upside-down below the face of the saboteur.
Blaze bolted straight up. He hit his head on the shelf above his bed. A few cuss words filled the room. Rubbing his head, Blaze realized that he indeed was not dead and was in his bunk aboard the Cobra.
"It was only a damn nightmare," Blaze sighed although it felt all too real.
"Good afternoon, Commander Mason," The cold female voice of TACAI said from the monitor on his desk. "We are just landing back at headquarters."
"Headquarters?" Blaze said still rubbing his head. "Why are we here?"
"I thought it wise after rescuing you from the Serapis," TACAI continued.
"So it was real after all," Blaze sat back down on his bunk. "How did you rescue me? I thought for sure the Cobra went with Serapis when she jumped."
"Your biosensors were showing you were in a great state of distress. When you entered the Serapis's airlock, I had one of my remote maintenance-bots waiting outside when I overrode the airlock's door.
"Of course, I had the Cobra maneuvered close by," TACAI continued. "Otherwise, I am afraid your life functions may have ceased."
"Thanks TACAI," Blaze said with genuine gratitude.
Blaze saw his enviro-suit lying on a table next to him. He reached inside the pocket and produced the memory chip. Blaze put the chip in his computer and watched in horror and excitement as the saboteur went around planting the device on each helmet's air supply.
Retrieving the chip, Blaze got dressed. "TACAI?" Blaze asked after dressing. "Did you manage to retrieve anything from the ship's memory about the accident and anything happening before launch?"
"Affirmative," TACAI responded. "I have it all recorded on a memory chip for you."
Blaze sat in Colonel Redgrave's office. Colonel Redgrave was the regional chief for the Star Rangers. Even though the colonel was no longer in the field, he still looked like he could bend steel bars despite his gray hair.
Blaze explained the best he could about the Serapis. He presented his evidence all supporting his claim that the Serapis was lost due to an act of sabotage. He even had the name of the saboteur. When he concluded, the colonel just leaned back in his chair for a while. Finally, after a couple of agonizing minutes the colonel returned his gaze back towards Blaze.
"Hmmm...pretty damning stuff," Colonel Redgrave finally said. "This is dynamite, Commander. Pure dynamite and if we are not careful it could explode in our face."
"Yes sir," Blaze responded. "He was only a congressman at the time. However, he later became a lobbyist for the rival company that now makes the ship-born jump-drives we use today. His stock alone for this must be in the billions."
"Look, I believe you," Colonel Redgrave stated before hitting a button on his desk. "You've been unconscious for a couple of days according to your TACAI unit. So you probably did not hear."
Blaze spun around in his chair so he could look at the huge monitor on the colonel's wall. There was a reporter talking in front of the capitol building.
"Official reports say that there was a small explosion on Space-force 2. Vice president Bob Ellis was instantly killed.
"Sadly, some people are claiming that he was actually abducted by a 'Flying Dutchman'..."
The image went blank as Colonel Redgrave turned off the monitor.
"Officially he did die due to a small explosion on Space-force 2. Unofficially this is what happened," the colonel said before hitting another button.
The image was aboard Space-force 2 near the vice president's quarters. The colonel hit another button and the infrared scan revealed about 20 or more blue or cold spots moving towards the room. "We had this filtered," Colonel Redgrave said. "Damnedest thing I've ever seen."
The cold spots moved into Ellis's room only to reappear with the vice president walking in a daze between them. The power flickered a bit and lights in the corridor fluttered. Then the scene changed to an exterior shot of Space-force 2, the ship had obviously lost most of its power. It was helpless when a ship jumped out of hyperspace next to it.
Blaze gasped. It was the Serapis. A man in an enviro-suit floated over to the Serapis and entered her airlock. As soon as the outer door shut, Serapis flashed again out of existence. Blaze stared dumbfounded.
"What you just saw never happened," the colonel warned. "We will put your evidence in the records where they will be seal for twenty years. After that, if someone wants to make a flap about it they can.
"Until then this case is closed."
Blaze returned to the Cobra and sat in the pilot's chair. TACAI flew the ship off towards their patrol zone. Blaze started to doze off when TACAI woke him up.
"Commander Mason," she said. "You have a message. Shall I put it on the screen?"
"Yes," Blaze responded as he pulled himself up straight. It could be the colonel giving him an important mission.
The monitor flickered for a second before the image of a flight crew appeared. Blaze sat stunned as he recognized Captain Rice and the bridge crew at their posts on the Serapis.
No one was wearing his or her helmet. They were all smiling at Blaze, Captain Rice stood up and said, "Thank you."
Before the message ended, Blaze was sure he saw the crew disappear only to see their skeletons in their enviro-suits. A shiver ran up Blaze's spine.
"I believe you might call that a Floating Netherlander," TACAI said in her usual deadpan voice.
"Flying Dutchman," Blaze corrected.
"Thank you," TACAI responded.
"It was time the legend was updated anyway," Blaze mused aloud.Posted by deg at January 28, 2009 5:02 PM