Friday, 19 June 2015

Day 10: Escaping the sea of rocks

The navigation controls vibrate recklessly in my hands. This is a dangerous approach that I'm undertaking and there's precious little out here to help if things go wrong. The nearest ship I can contact is over 1000Ly away and unaware that I'm conducting an operation of this nature.

It won't matter anyway. The remlock's oxygen supply would fail before they could get here.

There is no nav beacon to assist the drop to normal space, and the dizzying rush of rocks in the ring brings makes the throat constrict. That dangerous part that I mentioned? One unlucky roll of the dice and I could end up with an asteroid directly in my path. A starship grave in a system unlikely ever to see human eyes again.

It has been a while since I've flown in a ring field. The drills from the res combat come back quickly though. Fight in the illuminated rings. Only boost towards clear space. Disable flight assist only when you can see where you'll drift. So the pleasure of flying tightly among the rocks returns. A perverse and risky pleasure perhaps, considering where I am, but a satisfying one nonetheless.

So the reason why I'm here? Another water world. But an unusual one with its own ring system this time. A close survey for the research scientists back home to determine the composition of the object that once orbited this planet and then broke apart.

One enthusiastic boost too many and the Diamondback leaps clear of the sea of rocks for a moment, framing the water world against the backdrop of a dense curtain of stars.

With the secrets of that waterworld now stored securely in my exploration logs, it is time to move on. This close to the centre and curios start to arrive thick and fast.

A cluster of Herbig Ae/Be stars divert me from the journey on. Spinning at visible incredible rates, and not quite yet on the hydrogen burning main sequence, these incredibly bright stars will continue their gravitational collapse and ignite into huge class A/B stars that burn a blueish white.

The other T-Tauri stars are a bonus... almost a complete system full of them!

Still travelling above the galactic plane means that I can now look down on the stunning disc of our galaxy. It washes past the edge of my canopy and back towards the distance star systems I know of as home.

With the density of Herbig and neutron stars on the increase it is inevitable that another stellar object makes an appearance. A smaller brother to its sibling at the centre of the galaxy, it still manages to distort the bright stars as space and time are bent under an intense gravitational flux.

Dropping to within a few tens of kilometres is a frightening experience. This is good practice for the arrival at the giant ahead though, so I grit my teeth and keep an eye on the ships health reports. Rumours and bar scuttle tell of a path to immortality through a black hole, of ships going in and never returning, forever visible as they fall into the horizon until their last photons are no longer able to escape.

I'm not prepared to take a leap of faith like that.