Of Empty Ships And The Barren Oasis
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There are many stories of ghost ships, whether the ships are seafaring or spacefaring. Of all these stories, some are known better than others, for many reasons. The T. S. Barren Oasis is known for a reason much stranger than usual.

The story of the T. S. Barren Oasis starts with the Taurians, as their name is said in English. They weren't too unlike most other spacefaring peoples in the universe, in biology and history. The only thing that truly set them apart was a very small part of their genetic code that was effectively incomplete, allowing them to modify it on an individual basis for personal preference or out of necessity. The reason that they had this ability of sorts was the same reason the Barren Oasis came into existence in the first place.

The history of the Taurians wasn't as smooth as other peoples' histories. During the periods between their steam age and spacefaring age, wars had been frequent and devastating. Weapons of every variety were used on themselves again and again, shaking their home planet in the process. The damage accumulated after centuries and eventually millennia, rapidly damaging Taurian genetic code and leaving them with the previously mentioned incomplete section. The planet, however, did not fare as well.

Imagine taking a jawbreaker candy and placing it in an oven.The core of the candy heats up, leaving it almost molten. If you were to bite into it, or break it in any way, the molten sugar at the center would spill out. However, even when the candy is still unbroken, you can feel the heat from the center on the surface. Now imagine the energy that it would take to cause a planet to undergo a similar reaction.

The Taurians had reached this point by their tenth millennia of organized civilization. But they didn't realize it for another seven.

The sheer volume of energy released by the weapons they used on themselves had accelerated the decay of an already unstable planetary core. Imagine the jawbreaker as a planet, with a core that was already dangerous before being heated. Now make it so that the jawbreaker is likely going to explode relatively soon, and it has been emitting very dangerous radiation onto the surface the entire time. That was the situation the Taurians found themselves in. They had no other options but to evacuate the entire planet, and so the idea of the Barren Oasis was born.

Four ships had been created to evacuate the entire population off of their home planet: the Empty Metropolis, Ignorant Seer, Foretelling Fool, and the Barren Oasis. All four ships took off from separate locations around the planet a few months before it was projected to fully collapse, each carrying a billion and a half. Each three hundred miles long and ten miles tall, it had taken well over a century to build them. They were triumphs for the Taurians, representing a bold and valiant fight against nature itself.

But only three would remain that way.

The Empty Metropolis was converted into an orbital station, eventually turning into a hub for businesses in the area. The Ignorant Seer itself turned into a city where it had landed, beginning development of a whole new planet. The Foretelling Fool met a similar fate to the Metropolis, turning into a museum for Taurian culture. The Barren Oasis never reached its destination.

As the ship was making its way out of the system, the desperation of the Taurians to escape their doomed planet took its toll. The navigation systems suffered a partial failure, sending the ship into a collision with a large debris field which in turn caused a full failure. With the backup systems equally failing, there was no way to control the ship as it sailed out of the system into the cold void between stars.

This did not deter the Taurians. Even though they were far from any stars, they still tried to repair the systems as they drifted, slowly running thinner and thinner on resources with almost no progress. As their food depleted, and their progress slowed, they turned to their only remaining tool: their incomplete genetic code.

The Barren Oasis had almost nothing they could use for sustenance. They were too far from any star for solar energy gathering to be possible. There were no mineral-carrying asteroids around to try and use a silicon-based digestive system. The only thing on the ship was a species of fungus growing all around the main engine cores that fed off of radiation. As undesirable and dangerous as it seemed, there were no other options. The first modifications were nothing more than segments of the fungus' genetic code inserted straight into the Taurian code. It was basic, jerry-rigged, and unethical, but it was functional. The Taurians were able to survive off of radiation, and repairs kept getting made.

Then the event ensuring the ship never arrived came to pass. A Taurian that had been exposed to the engines cores since the ship launched suffered a mutation brought on by excessive radiation exposure. If the fungus' genetic code had been properly applied, as it would have been in a clinic on the Taurian home world, this would not have occured. But the lack of proper supplies and desperation had once again taken a toll. The mutation caused Taurian cells to begin reproducing into hybrid cells, ones that were effectively the fungus spreading through the body like a cancer. The first victim was found fused to the main engine terminal, body absorbed into a fungal mass with a face barely visible under layers of chitin. The ones who attempted to help found that these hybrid cells triggered a similar reaction in Taurian cells with the fungi's genetic code in it, and that it progressed very rapidly. This infection began spreading through the ship, expanding through every nook and open space, turning every Taurian it contacted into another piece of itself. The ones in the command area that got word of what was going on attempted to seal the areas of the ship that had been lost to it off, but they were far too slow to stop it. The majority of the Taurians on board had fallen within three days of the first victim, and the few survivors were forced to take refuge in a few sealed rooms, connected by maintenance shafts.

What became of the Taurians afterwards is unknown. The survivors broadcast their logs out into the void, hoping that somebody would find them and go after the ship. A few wanderers picked the signals up, but by the time they made their way to the origin point the Barren Oasis was gone. Signals have been received by explorers and traders traveling through wild, uncharted regions of space, but the ship is always gone. Despite navigational data having been a part of the logs, the Barren Oasis has never been seen along any of the projected pathways. None of the survivors could have done anything to change the ship's course, if they were still alive, yet the data shows that the ship has been moving. The engines should have burned themselves out long ago, yet scavengers sometimes find an ion wake, far away from any civilized planet, bearing the signature of the Barren Oasis.

The Taurians have never launched an expedition to find the Barren Oasis, and neither has any other government. Every attempt to go out and search for it from private parties has returned empty handed. Yet, its presence is still felt by those who travel. A stray broadcast, a piece of fungus-covered debris, and a crew begins wondering what they are about to find. It never is the T. S. Barren Oasis. But that doesn't mean they'll stop searching.

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