We knew from the moment it appeared that something was wrong—fundamentally, intrinsically incorrect about the giant star.
Our expedition ship entered observable distance during what counted as morning in the void of space. The rendering software spat out sensor-captured shot after shot, but nothing could replace our own eyes. Permanently shadowed by the other planets, we could only ever see about a quarter of its body. Around it, matter—red, plasmatic in essence—spiraled inward, seemingly static.
"Debris must be caught in its gravitational field, probably traveling at impossible velocities," our science officer said. "But from this far away, we perceive it as motionless."
A lot of us thought she meant to say dead.
We flew as close as we dared, hovering on the boundary of justifiable risk. We studied it, talked to it, trying not to get overwhelmed by exposure to radiation and loneliness and the crackle of feedback static whenever we attempted to contact base. We shared our stories, our science. Our deepest, most hidden thoughts.
It was morning again, a prime number of days-years-minutes after our first sighting, when an anomaly became evident, glinting along its inner edge. Around and around, and then—
Then it blinked.