Getting back up to speed, leaving Niamiae cluster in my wake I continued to wind my way up the new outer arm through several more clusters, where the structure of the arm was fractured and the stellar density dropped off significantly. What stars there were in the expanse were small and cold, and the few planets in the region were no more than barren balls of ice, spinning in the dark.
The expanse wasn’t all that vast, but in the darkness there all time and space seemed drawn out, stretched long and thin.
And then, like some boundless, immeasurable wall, a conflagration of heat and light rose up before us at the far edge of the expanse, drawing closer with every jump, till it encompassed all the space before me, as if I was free falling down towards the surface of a lake of fire. Where there should have been impact and roaring inferno, heat, pain and death… there was nothing, and it was like I had plunged through an illusion into the brilliant, light beyond.
It was only a few jumps into this new cluster – Cumbi according to my navigation systems – that the sector showed me its true face. The stellar density here was much greater than the expanse, larger stars, and much more closely packed into the space. Unwittingly I jumped headlong into a system containing no less than 5 stars in tight orbit of each other, very nearly boiling the plating from my hull, saved only by my shields serving to dissipate some of the energy away from my vessel as I hastily tried to back away from my entry point into the system.
There is energy here in Cumbi. Not the raw power of the core, but compared to the thinner places, nearer the rim, the sector seems alive. System after system, multiple stars dancing around each other, glowing all the hotter for the effort of maintaining the dance for the aeons it’s continued on. Yet there is little life here, and most of the worlds are cold and barren still. Water is more common than in the thinner places, but the rare terrestrial worlds found here tend to be bathed in Ammonia, and so will likely remain forever untouched by man.