But something catches your attention, hangs you up before you reach it. Metallic signature, you realize. A ring of dust, scattered alloy particulates. Your ship's integrated intelligence is already charting the extent of the ring, starts kicking back estimates on the composition of the materials therein. The ring itself is huge, spans the entire length of an orbit around the star, thins a few kilometers from the thickest, most central band of debris. Plastics, you realize as you reach into the sensor feeds. Alloys of titanium, chromium, rubidium, cesium. . .
It's artificial, that much is clear, and ancient. Calculations run by your ship's integrated intelligence put the debris ring's age at over two hundred million years old, and whatever it once was, it was massive. Quick estimations offered by your ship's integrated intelligence run the gamut from huge stellar orbital habitats to colony ships the size of a small world. Pulverized as finely as it is, there's no way to tell for sure what it might have been all those eons ago. All you can say for sure is that it was, that someone built or flew or operated something enormous near Zeta Vaucouleurs Kyklos 1k(2.7k)-44 while Earth was still crawling with dinosaurs.
Leaving the speculation in the hands of your ship's integrated intelligence, your mind strays through sensor feeds, rises back to the shadows drifting across the face of the star. Briefly, your eyes light on one of those umbral shapes, and then it's gone, fading into the fiery red surface of the sun until nothing remains but crimson inferno. There's the digital equivalent of a blink, and then you reach out, scour the surface of the star for any trace of the shadows, find nothing unusual, nothing that stands out.
For a moment, you check and re-check the same data, find nothing but darkness and silence. Only the belt of metallic and plastic dust is unusual, a ring slowly, endlessly orbiting its ancient star.
You don't linger long after that. With a simple thought, you trigger the commands that set your ship's phasedrive spinning, then turn the nose back toward other stars, other points of interest. Your ship's integrated intelligence quickly wraps up its analysis of the system, and then you're gone, catapulted back into between-space, leaving the belt of dust and the crimson sun far behind.
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