The Sagittarius Shadow

Even in the 34th century we cannot live without myths and legends. Our mind does not let us accept the unknown. Despite being able to neurolink ourselves into all kinds of control and information systems, no amount of factual knowledge can free us from the rather intuitive desire to look for riddles and conundrums and solve them. We need something that does not add up or make sense in the first place, just so to feel the accomplishment when we finally come up with a solution. Such is the nature of the Human mind.

And such is the tale of the Sagittarius Shadow. Originally a phenomenon of early technological astronomy, the name also found its way into many myths throughout the history of astronomy and deep space exploration. In its core the Shadow are those parts of the Milky Way’s centre that are obscured behind curtains of dark clouds and dust and are or were thus inscrutable for many years and decades. People realized there was a bright ‘something’ beyond but were unable to grasp it due to the limitations of early technologies: The interstellar dust effectively blocked the view of the galaxy’s heart for ages. This changed somewhat with the advent of radio and infrared astronomy, which made it possible to pierce the curtain and see the brightness beyond in one of light’s many different spectra, but it still left much open to debate. Since the obscured parts of the galaxy’s centre mostly lay in the constellation of Sagittarius, people started to dramatically give the phenomenon the name of the ‘Sagittarius Shadow’. Very uncharacteristic for astronomers to give a sky object and target for studies a flashy name but still the name stuck with it for many years.

With the very early footsteps of manned deep space exploration in the 25th century, interest in the galactic core regions grew again. It was not long before the first tentative survey missions were launched towards the coreward regions and to put it short, not all made it back. Distances were still unbelievably long, FTL technology in its infancy and all in all man was not yet prepared for the surprises deep space held in store. So it was all the more reassuring when some of those early pioneers returned home. And those that returned of course had their stories to tell. Why just hand in data when you can beef it up with a fish tale or two? It didn’t take long and explorers and frontiersmen had their own jargon, speaking of ‘badlands’, ‘dark systems’ and the ‘bubble’, which essentially meant all of inhabited space. Throughout it all, the Sagittarius Shadow prevailed, the last major obstacle, blocking the doorway to the coreward regions.

With the discovery of a multitude of exotic objects like black holes, neutron stars, radiation belts and other varieties of potentially dangerous places, the stories those returning pioneers had to tell became ever more colourful. Perils were exaggerated, catastrophes made up and weird phenomena had an all time high in those days. The Sagittarius Shadow remained a place of forboding and peril. Why not have a Bermuda Triangle in space where you can put all your unsolved puzzles, conspiration theories, Eldorados and places of salvation?

For a time the Sagittarius Shadow was the name giver for several idions mainly used in the exploration community. ‘Going beyond the Shadow’ or ‘having been beyond the Shadow’ spoke of mysterious journeys to a dangerous land only the bravest would reach, ‘the Shadow took them’ or even ‘the Shadow take them!’ was a curse-like near prophetic swearing and a ‘Shadow ship’ was a space vessel presumed lost, which suddenly and inexplicably reappeared from nowhere; which in the times of Generation 2 hyperdrives and frequent misjumps was not that uncommon.

Not long ago, all these fish tales were revived and treadmilled again with the discovery of several long lost and forgotten bases and listening posts deep in unknown space and a majority of them towards the coreward regions known as the Scutum-Sagittarii Conflux and Hawkin’s Gap. These regions must have been inaccessible for decades due to the immense strain put on early hyperdrives: The locations were as far as 10,000 light years  away from Sol! Still, someone must have bothered to send both men and equipment out there for … reasons.

Ever since their discovery (and the open disapproval of the Superpowers to have done so), speculations have not ended as to when, why and by whom these bases were erected and why they were deserted again. Apparently, audio logs hint at a very large and carefully planned operation named the Dynasty Expedition, but even then, serious scientists ask themselves why. Naturally, conspiracy theories abound around such finds and it all did nothing to diminish the Shadow’s mystique (although both regions are per se not even ‘beyond’ the Shadow).

We cannot let go of mysteries, no matter how far science brought us (as can be seen with those bases). Somewhere there is still an ‘unknown’ and Humans that we are, we always feel a need to carefully insert our mysteries and superstitions when the cracks show. It is the drive that brought us here and it is the reason why the Sagittarius Shadow (amongst others) will always be there.