One second we’re in Martian space, then…
Shooting into the heart of the Omega Star Cluster, our pod, the Sagan Seven, arrives outside Omega via TAREX. We’ll be the first people of the Solar System to explore this cluster.
Following the path of our probes, we are using the same technique – the targeted expansion of space – to send communications homeward to the Solar System.
“The mean diameter of the Omega Cluster is adjusted to 163.8 light years,” announces mission scientist Mister Cresp.
“Bigger than we thought,” I reply. Has it grown since discovered?
Upon arrival in our small capsule, carried on the tip of a piece of space that was inflated exponentially with the application of dark energy, we open our polytopic spaceship station. I carried it here in my pocket, the size of a marble with its mass stored in the 4th dimension.
We’re now living and working in it at the size of a three-story building.
“Entering the sphere of perpetual twilight,” navigator Professor Flamear announces.
Mrs. Ichnida, our communications specialist, oversees maintenance of the space station with a staff of automatons as serious data collection is underway and everyone else is immersed in exploratory activity.
“Stellar density increasing, all red, orange and yellow stars,” Professor Flamear alerts.
“Blue star sighted,” Mister Cresp reports. “It’s a confirmed collision between a yellow star and a red star. Their combined energies have created a straggler.”
“Several more stragglers identified. Stellar density increasing. Gravitational anomalies are pulling us off course. Correcting,” Flamear assures us.
“Entering gas free space. This is the clearest space in the galaxy. All the gas has been blown away by the intense stellar wind whirling from all directions.”
“We’re at the center of the cluster. Light is being bent radically by gravity wells, delaying data interpretation.”
I pause to savor the moment. “We are now among the very oldest things in the Milky Way Galaxy. These stars are ancient compared to our young Sun. Our Sun is four light years away from the nearest star. These stars are only light days apart. Amazing.”
But one light day is still six times the distance from Earth to Neptune.
“The blue stars, the stragglers, look a lot like newborn stars,” I observe. “How can we be sure they aren’t new?”
“A star is born inside a nebula, made up from dense clouds of dust and gas,” says Mister Cresp. “No new stars can possibly form here without birthing nebulae. Stellar collisions mimic stellar births.”
We’re scanning 13 light years in every direction for signs of life. If we scanned the same distance in every direction from our Sun we’d only be looking at six star systems. In here, the same area encompasses 50,000 star systems, each one far older than ours or anything we’ve yet encountered.
Doctor Nopoin makes a startling announcement: “Ancient forms of life are being detected!”
Suddenly to our alarm, our fission engine quivers before shutting down.
Our engineer, Ms. Pretyman, cannot repair the damage. “We’re dead in space and our killers are closing in.”
Our security guard, Officer Bulbor, is frantically fending off attacks from an unknown source in cyberspace. “Something’s shutting down our controls! Can’t hold it off much longer!”
Helpless, we are boarded by indescribable aliens. They appear to be bundles of restless limbs, each one multitasking beyond human dreams.
“Your coming has been foretold,” the aliens somehow drive home to our shocked brains. “We know why you are here. You took what you could from us from afar. Now you have come for what’s left. Now you’ve come for us.”
I try to explain the error of their assumption, but somehow we are fulfilling a prophecy fundamental to their cultural identity. They won’t listen. I implore a further delineation of our threat.
“This was once the core of an entire galaxy,” an alien offers angrily, “But your Milky Way, a far larger galaxy, absorbed all of our outer stars, gas and dust, stripping us down to this cluster of stars in clear space.”
Convinced that we are would-be conquerors, the ancient ones are about to decimate us when Mister Cresp points out a scientific reality after some research…
“The Omega Cluster, your home realm, was saved from becoming a black hole. If this was the center of a galaxy, it wasn’t a spiral galaxy like the Milky Way, with a black hole already at its core. No, this would have been an open galaxy, a massive swarm in the process of becoming a spiral. Every star here today would be gone, swallowed up long ago. You would never have been born.”
After what seems an eternity, we are released and welcomed with open curiosity at last.