To Colonia, and Beyond - Sagittarius A*.
Sagittarius A* is truly a sight to behold. Roviden and I weren't paying attention to piloting our ships and, I'm ashamed to admit, we both nearly got pulled in. When the klaxons in both our ships alerted us and we realized that - even with engines cut - we were accelerating forward, we pulled around as hard as we could and headed to the safety of the beacon.
"Whew," I called out over the comms, "that was stupid." My exclamation was met with silence. "Roviden? Comms check. Please respond."
After another brief pause, I heard his all-familiar tone.:
"Tourists..., " Roviden scoffed.
I had to laugh. After everything we'd been through, it was like we'd never left. "Seriously," I said, "you didn't expect this?"
"I expected A tourist. Maybe even a Beluga full of them... But this?!" Roviden was even more disgusted than usual, and he's usually disgusted.
"Oh, c'mon. You had to expect, after the DW-2 expedition recently, that this place might be a busier than normal." It was a futile attempt to convince him. I can't say I blame him. For all our efforts, we felt like we were doing something few people had done before. That we were coming out here.. making our mark.
Tourists, indeed. There were dozens of ships at the beacon. I struggled to get a photo without them in one, and an FDL that wasn't paying any attention quite nearly rammed me.
We spent the better part of the day exploring the area and taking photos, not that we were tourists mind you, before Roviden and I headed for Explorer's Anchorage to refuel and rest. We had the ships checked over, replenished our supplies, and met with the people that spent most of their time here. They weren't permanent residents, but they were paid well to occupy the station for months in rotation. To them, Sag A*, the tourism, and the beautiful view of the dense starfield, was old news. But they were courteous and pleasant to be around, if perhaps a little stiff. Shops peddled to tourists en-masse. T-Shirts and clothing, Mugs, holo-frames, ship-décor and all manner of wares all centered around the same theme: "I made to Sagittarius A* and back," or, "My _____ visited Sag A* and all I got was this lousy...."
It really was time to leave.
"So, you're really going for it, then? It could take months and it's a dangerous journey after all." Roviden asked me. Not as a warning, really, but he still wanted me to be sure I knew what I was in for.
"Yes. I've come this far. I really wish you'd come with me," I replied.
"No.. I think not. Maybe someday you and I will take that journey, but when and if we do, I'd like to share a single ship to spread the piloting between us and speed the journey along. Heck, maybe by then Pleadtion would come and we'd go as a triad. If we do that, I'll even fund it. This was hard enough. Knowing I'm going back alone makes it harder, and I don't want to repeat it."
Roviden was strangely somber. I guess this really was harder on him than I'd realized. I stood up, knowing that there was no reason to prolong the goodbye. Now that it had come, I was feeling the heaviness, too.
I stuck out my hand. Roviden stood up and shook it. "I'll see you back in Artemis, or maybe Sol, if my permit application was approved." I turned and began to walk back to my ship. As I got about 10 yards away, I heard Roviden shout. "Traegon!"
His tone was formal, military; commanding. I turned; almost on instinct.
Standing at full military attention, Roviden, and a group of people we'd befriended were standing together. In unison, they snapped a salute and Roviden called out:
"Fare thee well, Commander Traegon!"
I returned the salute. Overcome, unable to speak. They held my gaze as I dropped my hand and turned away; I spoke, my voice barely a whisper. I know they couldn't hear me. "Farewell, my friend." o7
Beagle Point, here I come.