Funny how things turn out sometimes.
I was sitting at the bar in Explorer's Anchorage and chatting with my neighbor about the state of things back in the bubble. She'd come out here for work at the research post just recently. We got to talking about the harvest troubles back in the bubble, the relief effort, and the added pain of the swarms of parasites that seem to accompany any good deed. We got on the topic of Colonia and she was surprised to hear I was a permanent resident there. When I mentioned that I was headed back there the conversation turned solemn.
Seems her dad had passed away recently and in going through his stuff she had come across something odd. He'd been a bit of a wanderer before he settled down and had put a huge number of light years on his broken down old T-6 makeshift explorer. She had run across a necklace in an very ornate box in a drawer of keepsakes. It had a deep blue sapphire in it and an inscription behind the setting. "A piece of the heavens for you (1811495/2551473)". Her mom had passed away years before and it had hit the old guy pretty hard she said. She's guessing this was a rather important memento of his. She can't recall her mom wearing it except maybe once at a particularly upscale anniversary dinner back on Earth.
She had worked out on her own that the numbers were probably RA:DE coordinates and had that the piece of sky was probably between Colonia and the core but hadn't seen anything in a quick search that fit the bill. She was not an astronomy buff in the least though. "Still, there's got to be something out there though, and I'd love to know what this was to them". She said a little wistfully. I said she was probably on the right track actually. I told her that with access to cartographic and a damn good galaxy map I might be able to work out what it was on the way home. She gave me a network dropbox address to contact her at if I discovered anything and finished her drink, and said "thanks for listening". I scratched down the numbers, wished her luck on the project here at Anchorage and downed the rest of mine as well.
I threw the paper in my bag and got ready to launch back towards Colonia. In getting topped off, repaired, repainted and launched, I had almost forgotten the little mystery from bar the other night. But it was scratching at the back of my head as I began the long series of jumps home. So I got on the GalMap and started working it out. All the coordinates would give us is a line and a fuzzy cone-shaped one at that. I assumed a lot of decimals were missing in that number. Also had to make some assumptions on the epoch. Then I started following that line out and seeing what it intersected that might be interesting. Maybe a blue giant star, or god forbid something outside the galaxy? Lots of panning, filtering and zooming. Not a problem though, something to keep the mind occupied is good out here.
After a couple hours I was ready to give up. I'd been through most of the dense region of space in the disk and nothing really stood out but there was some space below the disk that was a bit on the fuzzy edges of the projection. I decided to take a look closer there. A feature would be more likely to be visible against that darker backdrop anyway. After a bit of panning and sliding, I saw it. Just a small smudge among the stars. A *blue* smudge though. I zoomed in and there was a spectacular blue planetary nebula. Two lobes radiating from a neutron star at the center. "This is it, gotta be" I thought as I looked around it. Just to make it better, it was almost directly on my path home. I plotted a course to it, around 3000 light years and charged up the FSD.
This would be amazing. I had yet to see a planetary nebula, and this looked to be a pretty one. Add in the fact I get to solve a mystery for someone missing their dad and this will be a pretty good trip. I left a note in her network drop. "Don't hold your breath, but I think I found something... stay tuned".