Blaze Mason: Star Ranger
Ghost Ship

Chapter 3

By Dwayne MacInnes

In the year 2192, a new virus originating from a fringe colony on the outer reaches of Federation territory spreads like wildfire. The virus annihilates entire colonies. The Federation is desperate to contain the virus that people are calling the moon-flu.

The Galactic military quarantines infected planets as well as space stations with the distasteful order to destroy all ships trying to leave these worlds. The Federation even goes so far as to destroy the jump-gates to the fringe worlds effectively cutting them off, as one would amputate a gangrenous limb to stop the spread of disease.

Ironically, scientists on Earth discover a cure within a few weeks of the epidemic's outbreak. It is too late to help the now isolated fringe colony worlds.

In the year 2197, the battlecruiser Nimitz on deep patrol discovers a Donlanian ship infected with the moon-flu. The Donlani are a humanoid race and many Federation scientists believe the Precursors may have taken some of Earth's human ancestors and planted them on another planet. However, the moon-flu was even more devastating to the Donlani.

Fortunately, the vaccine works on the Donlani. The Donlani Star Republic and the Federation are quick to establish trade relations. Unfortunately, the moon-flu so devastates the Donlani that they are vulnerable to attack from its aggressive neighbor the insectoid Grikla. On the brink of collapse, the Donlani Star Republic officially joins the Federation of United Worlds in the year 2201. The former Donlani Star Republic brings 16 new races and 32 planets with it into the Federation. The Grikla are easily repelled.

The Federation is surprised to discover in the year 2217 that many of its former fringe colonies it thought destroyed by the moon-flu have actually survived. Thanks mostly to the use of eugenic engineering. The surviving worlds believed that the Federation itself had created the virus and had used the fringe worlds as a guinea pig. These former colonies had established their own government after the Federation abandoned them and declared themselves the Concordant of Fringe Worlds.

The hatred and mistrust the Concordant has towards the Federation is great. The two sides patrol their borders diligently.

* * * * *

Blaze spent a few minutes investigating the bridge. It appeared that the crew had succumbed to poisoning shortly after the jump-drive engaged. More than likely Blaze surmised by the corpses grasping their throats it was in the crew's enviro-suit air supply. Blaze was at a loss to explain it; the enviro-suit's air supply is independent from the ship's. Therefore, the malfunction should not have affected them.

"TACAI, give me a technical read-out of the ship's controls so that I can activate the control override," Blaze ordered over his communication unit in his helmet.

"Affirmative, commander," TACAI responded as she instantly displayed the requested information on Blaze's HUD.

Blaze quickly found the switch and shortly after initiating the control override, TACAI had telemetry control over the ship's functions.

"Let there be light," Blaze said in his communication unit.

"Affirmative," TACAI said in her emotionless female voice.

The bridge lit up and Blaze watched as the view monitors and control display screens all came to life.

"TACAI, search the ship's records for..." before Blaze could finish a few sparks flew from his helmet.

"Commander, your communication regulating modulator has shorted out," TACAI informed Blaze in a now statically voice.

"That's damn strange," Blaze replied. "Well, I can still read you. See if you can find anything in the ship's records that may tell us what happened."

"Affirmative, commander," TACAI responded.

Blaze walked back towards the bridge door as he waited. The door now slid open as he approached. However, the digital display near the door did not show the access code Blaze had to use to get in. It read 51773808.

"TACAI, I have a strange number on the door's control panel here on the bridge," Blaze informed his ship's computer. "Can you make anything of it?"

"It was the last thing the captain punched in before he died," TACAI responded. "Maybe he was not coherent enough as he was dying to put in the correct code."

Blaze was about to return to the bridge when down the hallway he saw someone in an enviro-suit disappear around a corner. Blaze instantly drew his Vengeance blaster and proceeded to hurry after the person.

Colt Vengence M2245

"TACAI," Blaze spoke lowly. "I am not alone. I just saw someone takeoff down the corridor."

"Negative, commander," TACAI said. "Ship's sensors show only one life-sign and that is yours."

"Can you see anything on my helmet's camera?" Blaze inquired.

"Affirmative, you camera is operation. The image from the camera appears to be a blur," TACAI informed Blaze blandly. "Enhancements fail to show anything humanoid."

"I'm going to use the infrared scanners," Blaze said.

The HUD bathed the corridor in a spectrum of black and blue for the colder areas to yellow and red for the warmer. Blaze continued to jog after the person he saw a few moments before. At the end of the long metal hallway, Blaze stopped short at another door. Like the door to the bridge, this one did not open as well.

Blaze was about to punch in the code to open the door when he noticed the numbers 51773808 on the display.

"Commander," TACAI's statically and stoic voice intruded Blaze's thoughts. "I am picking up some strange unfiltered noises from you communication unit."

"Can you make anything out of it?" Blaze asked TACAI as he punched the numbers 43064 in the door's control panel.

"Affirmative," TACAI responded. "I will play it back."

The door slid open and Blaze cautiously entered the room. There in front of him stood the person. However, Blaze stopped cold as the expected red or warm for a living being displayed only a blue silhouette before completely disappearing simultaneously as the word "Sabotage" whispered through Blaze's helmet.

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This page contains a single entry by Douglas Gogerty published on December 31, 2008 5:00 PM.

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