+++BEGIN LOG – CMDR SOUVARINE ABOARD SSF VORTIGAUNT – 06.11.3301+++
The Seven Sisters. That’s what they used to call the Pleiades Nebula. Sterope, Electra, Maia, Taygeta, Celaeno, Alcyone and Merope – the seven daughters of Atlas and Pleione, according to Ancient Greek mythology. The family make up the nine brightest stars in the nebula. I can see them, distant balls of blue-white fire, coming closer with every jump.
I’ve been once before. It’s hauntingly beautiful. Celaeno bathes it’s planets in such limpid green light that you feel you’ve entered some kind of underworld.
According to the Galnet reports the Unidentified Artifacts are aligning themselves with Merope at a distance of about 180 light years – from here, the Aries Dark Region. That’s where I’m heading. Merope was the only one of the Sisters who married a mortal, according to the legends. That’s why she’s the dimmest of the nine. She’s hiding her face in shame. They call her ‘the lost Pleiad’.
Sisyphus was the mortal she married. He was known as the most cunning of men, and after he died is said to have tricked Thanatos, the god of death, into letting him return to the world of the living. For his arrogant belief that his cleverness exceeded that of the Gods he was condemned to spend eternity rolling a boulder to the summit of a mountain, only for it to roll to the bottom again.
‘Hubris’ is what they call that – ambition beyond your place. The Feds clearly thought that Ishmael Palin, the lead scientist on the UAs, had ambition beyond his place – they shut his research down. That’s why he set up at Christian Dock. Now that’s been attacked.
Why would they shut his research down, just when he starts making progress?
My wandering thoughts were interrupted by a new contact on my scanners. A weak signal, about eighty light years from inhabited space. Could this be it? I made a bee-line for it, slowed down to subluminal speed and dropped in to the signal source.
It was the wreckage of a ship.
I have no idea how long it’d been there. It was so badly mangled I couldn’t make out what it had been. I coasted gently through the knarled metallic remains, until my eye was caught by a blinking light.
An escape pod, drifting amongst the wreckage.
There were four in total, but only one whose ‘living’ indicator was on. I sighed. Hero time for me. And I was just starting to enjoy the solitude.
I lowered my cargo hatch and positioned the ship just above the pod. Coasting at ten metres per second, I scooped it into the hold and retracted the hatch.
I hate saving the day.
I clambered out of my pilot’s chair and made my way into the Vortigaunt’s cargo bay to see who I’d found. The escape pod had a small viewing window – misted up. Still, I couldn’t see a shape behind it. Odd. The ‘living occupant’ indicator was still blinking. Maybe it was faulty. With trepidation, I pulled the release lever. The canister hissed as the pressure aligned with the ship’s. The lid swung aside and I peered in.
I smelt it before I saw it.
Feral, acrid, stench. Oh bloody God, I thought. Space corpses. Marvellous. Hold on… I held my nose and peered inside. At the far end of the pod, cowering against the wall, was a small, black, hissing ball of malevolence. It was a cat.
I snorted, nearly laughing.
It had crapped all over the place, obviously. Hence the smell. I gingerly tried to reach in and catch it, but it was having none of it. I wanted to close the thing up again so it didn’t stink out my hold but figured that would have been a bit cruel. In the end I just left the thing there and went back to the cockpit. I may have an unexpected passenger, but at the end of the day I still had a job to do.
About an hour later I popped downstairs again to check on it. The cat had vacated the life pod, finally. I shut it, rolled it with my foot on to the cargo ramp and vented it into space. Thing must be starving. I found it huddling in a corridor. I put some synthetic meat down in a dish – it hissed at me, but wolfed the food down.
That was a few hours ago now. Last time I checked on it, it had ensconced itself in the flight seat on the gunner’s deck. It seemed perfectly happy.
Later, I stumbled across another small black hole. I scanned it from a respectful distance this time. The lensing effect was as humbling as ever. I smiled, thinking of the rare sights my unlikely passenger was being treated to, and moved on.
Signal sources are few and far between out here. Still, my location is right, so as long as I’m systematic I’ll have as good a chance as anyone finding one of these artifact things. Besides, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like it out here. I like my trips back to humanity, but the older I get that’s more and more what they’re becoming – trips. It’s out here, with the spread of the galaxy in front of me, that I really feel at peace.
Ending log now – more systems to scan. Souvarine out.
+++END LOG – CMDR SOUVARINE ABOARD SSF VORTIGAUNT – 06.11.3301+++