Islands In The Sky
One day, my pilot and I decided to go up. Well, "up" doesn't really have any meaning in the Milky Way, but I hope you get what I mean. "Up" relative to this silly galactic plane defined in relation to the Earth (I've never been there actually, I've been told the Earth is a weird place). I'm not really sure why we came up with this idea. It just felt like a good decision. We wanted to leave the beaten path, I guess. Rise in the heavens to see what the world looks like from above. We couldn't go too far up - our good old Diamondback can only jump to 55 lightyears, thanks to Felicty Farseer's touch, but it's still a bit limiting.
Doesn't really matter. The goal never was to go where no one has ever been.We happily leave that to the wrecks in the Anaconda Graveyard.
It's an interesting place up there. The emptiness is strangely reassuring. Yes I realize it's a strange sentence, but let me explain. About 2,000 to 3,000 lightyears away from the main plane, we're not exactly inside the galaxy anymore. We're in this large, diffuse halo that surrounds our galaxy like a thin fog. A fog that is full of dead stars. The heights of the galaxy are haunted by billions of husks. Neutron stars. Black holes. These are the masters up here. It is not uncommon to find systems with two, three neutron stars, or a black hole with its court of ghosts stars gleaming in the dark. It's a bit...I'm not going to say depressing. I am an AI. I don't really know depression, except when one of my plants dies. But it is certainly a specific experience. When hopping between neutron stars at this altitude, it does feel like cruising through a graveyard.
But at the same time there is something up there that is sort of reassuring for us (well, you) spacefaring primates. Aside from the neutron stars and black holes, the dominant stars in the graveyards are O,A,F and G stars. Aside from the blue giants, those are familiar stars. They're like the Sun. Their light does not have to be filtered by Remlok suits or ship cockpits. It's naturally harmless. The worlds that orbit around these stars may be isolated, scattered in the great black, but they're familiar. They're few and far between but they feel a bit like home.
While we were up here, I often pondered about the sapient species that might inhabit these stars lost in the great black, three thousand lightyears above the Milky Way. Their sky is pitch black in one hemisphere, with just a few - barely a dozen - stars scattered from one end of their horizon to the other. In the other, they can see the vast expanse of the Milky Way, covering the entirety of the skies. Maybe their civilisations have opposing views of the skies above. For those in the black hemisphere, the skies are desperately empty, perhaps hostile. For those in the light hemisphere, the skies are full of a massive yet distant body, billions upon billions of stars like an ocean of lights. I imagine explorers crossing the equator and suddenly seeing the untold amounts of stars illuminating the skies ; or, in the other direction, wanderers suddenly finding a dead, empty sky. How would such creatures react to their isolation? Would they abandon the skies, would they remain on their world, never reaching for the stars as we did? Or maybe, on the contrary, would this isolation give them a renewed desire to reach out for the rest of the universe? It is impossible for me to decide. Maybe both.
One day perhaps, we will see civilisations coming from the dwarf galaxies orbiting our own, having crossed the vast expanses of the void. Not because they want to conquer, not because they want to colonize.
Simply because they want to see something else, something different.
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