+++OPEN LOG-CMDR SOUVARINE ABOARD SSF VORTIGAUNT-11.02.3302+++
Twenty three thousand light years from home. It feels like a long way. Margot says the loneliness is getting to me. Making me go slightly mad. What does she know? She’s just a cat.
Once we hit the Galactic Core the sky exploded. You’d think that, with the distances involved, the change in star concentration would be gradual; not so. The change is almost instant. One minute you’re jumping through relatively empty space, and the next you’re crossing the threshold into an unreal world in which the whole sky is made of light.
I have, somewhat irresponsibly, been playing limbo with solar flares over the course of my interstellar hops. This is inadvisable, and has resulted in a few slightly cooked internal systems.
I charged up my Auto Field Maintenance Unit and let the nanos do their work. They saw to the superficial damage I’d sustained, but depleted the module somewhat. That moron Voracious Dave had said something about the compound fabricator being programmed to synthesise new nanos from a few base elements – none of which I had on board. Happily, these were apparently plentiful in meteorite debris, and so shouldn’t be hard to find. I determined to make planetfall within a few hours to hunt for some.
That was when I spotted something weird. A raged, crimson bloom ahead in space – like a gunshot wound in the wall of stars.
I opened my navigation console and plotted a route for the anomaly. Closer inspection revealed it to be a tiny nebula.
It appeared that there was exactly one star system within it – bang in the centre. I zoomed in on the system to analyse it.
It was a neutron star.
The super dense remains of a star that had compacted to a tiny fraction of its original size, the red dust clouds were all that remained of its original form. The star now had collapsed to a tiny, incredibly massive body the size of a small planet. Not quite a black hole, it gave off a piercing, white light. I dropped into the system to see it up close.
The Vortigaunt’s automatic emergency drop kicked in before the remains of the star were more than a distant pinprick of light. The mass of this thing must be incredible.
Many light seconds beyond, circling each other tightly and both themselves bound in orbit to the neutron star, were two distant main sequence stars.
An F and a G type. I headed for them, and then noticed a tiny planet, itself orbiting them.
That will do, I thought.
I brought the Vortigaunt into a shallow cruise, searching for the ideal spot to descend. I opted for the crest of a crater on the planet’s surface where the night met the day and brought her down.
Once the engines had cooled I began to scour the horizon. That’s when I noticed the sky.
The crimson flumes of the nebula stood out starkly against the blue backdrop of the Core, creating a staggering medley of colours above me. The twin suns hugged the horizon.
I marveled at it for a few minutes, then made my way to the vehicle hangar and deployed my lander. When the tyres touched the alien dust I sped away into the unknown.
The wave scanner led me to several meteorite fragments around the crater, and I was soon happily collecting the coarse elements I needed. All of a sudden the scanner pinged noisily – a new signal. Something that wasn’t a meteorite.
I followed it for several minutes. It led me over the gently undulating ground until a irregular shape appeared. Drawing closer, I saw that it was some kind of crashed machine.
Upon analysis it appeared that the ‘drone’ was a similar construct to the nav beacons used in civilised space to aid travellers and traders. It must have been sent out to monitor the neutron star, perhaps many years ago. The structure showed no signs of decay – but then, why would it? There was no atmosphere here.
Eerie though it was to see a human relic so far from home, I hurried back to the ship. I knew I was a mere one thousand, three hundred light years from the mightiest black hole of them all. Scenting victory, I prepared to depart for the final leg.
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