Metallic signatures. It's the first thing you notice, and as you turn your vessel's nose toward the source, you slide into a sensor feed, immediately find yourself in the middle of a massive starship graveyard.
Initial readings pick up open spaces, butchered bulkheads and decompressed sections of hull. A hundred ships lay splayed amongst the stars, maybe more, all torn apart, all broken open, a dead fleet hanging billions of miles from a tiny, blue-white sun.
More readings come in. The ships aren't human tech, aren't relics of any known species. The hull configurations are utterly new, utterly alien, and as you pick your way between them with the gentle fingers of sensor feeds, you stop for a moment, stunned by the reading that comes in with an estimate on the age of the fleet.
Billions of years. That's how long the fleet has been floating here. At least three billion years, probably more. The area around the fleet itself is pretty clear, virtually empty of spaceborne debris, and the various vessels of the fleet have weathered the eons well, have been almost mummified by space and silence. Curious, you ride clusters of sensor feeds through the remains, pick your way from ship to ship, studying, cataloging. Whatever happened to them, the strikes were brutal, vicious, must have come fast or all at once. The edges of burst hulls shine like they've been cut by some tremendous heat, like the whole fleet was struck in the same moment by a thousand individual beams of violent light. Corpses, all alien, all perfectly preserved in the void, hang like grim effigies, their limbs twisted, knotty and dark.
In the background of your mind, your ship's integrated intelligence works to catalog and survey every inch of every vessel, immediately uploads everything it finds to the network. A few minutes is all it takes, and as the data comes pouring through, you slip into the stream here and there, absorb details. A methane/argon breathing species. Soft flesh, sharp and ridged exoskeletons. Their ships are built like towers of bubbles, spheres nested inside of spheres and connected wherever they touch. Totally unlike anything in the network. Totally alien in design.
Once the last exabyte of data trickles into the network, you give the dead fleet one last glance, then turn the nose of your ship toward your next destination. Triggering your ship's phasedrive, you leave the spin-up in the hands of the integrated intelligence, settle back, sift through data absently as between-space opens, pulls you in, pulls you on.
- - -