01 Feb There’s a Gravitational Anomaly out past the orbit of Jupiter
It’s the strangest thing; during launch there is a cacophony of sound, and a tremendous, shattering, mighty force of pressure – so much so that it feels as if in that moment the whole world is collapsing – and you grit your teeth, and your knuckles flush white on the grip, and you trust your harness, and you shut your eyes so tight you feel they’ll bleed. But then, some minutes after leaving that pad, it is all over, and then there is nothing but silence to be heard, and the beauty in the silence, and no weight of gravity at all to tie you down.
So you turn around as you fly off and see the whole of the earth there in your own little window. And you realize, when you look at the sphere of it, that on that sphere is and was everything that is and that has ever happened, and every man and woman and child, and that all the wars and loves and songs and stories that ever were, were fought and cherished and sung and told right there, on that little blue marble that you can almost hold between your fingertips, so small it is. I was born and was a child there, right by that ocean, and I became a man in a town twelve hundred miles away; a distance that from up here represents not more than an inch. It is surreal; every time I am out here among the stars I feel the same smallness that is both awesome and terrible in equal measure.
But our time on this place is coming to an end, I think, and if that is indeed the case then the Earth isn’t appreciably more than a womb, and the universe is the world, and so we’ve only just taken our first of many, many steps out into the depths of it. God only knows what’s out there, waiting for us in the deep. I think, too, that very soon we’ll get the chance to find out.
”A gravitational anomaly, yes. And the source of it is right out there, out past the orbit of Jupiter.” He’d pulled up a photograph, and on it you could see the starlight pulled into smears and streaks indicative of a gravitational lens; the bending of space and time.
”What the hell is this?”
”We don’t know yet what it is. That’s what you’re going to find out for us, if you want the job.”
I’d been ecstatic; of course I wanted the job. I didn’t become an astronaut, after all, to perform menial mechanical tasks around space stations so close to the earth you could nearly brush the atmosphere with your fingertips (as rewarding as the job had been thus far). I joined, instead, to explore.
A gravitational anomaly? A bending in space-time, right here on our own backyard. And of all the men and women alive they’d chosen me to see it.
My crew and I had trained for years for the journey, and all the while we did NASA was building for us the Warhorse Chariot in secret, for the purposes of crossing six hundred million miles out into the realm of the gas giants, where this ‘anomaly’ business resided.
“It’s amazing, isn’t it?” Francis, a mission specialist on her fourth flight, said, when finally we arrived at the doorstep of the thing. I joined her at the window and together we stared out at it – the ‘anomaly’ – a shifting weight of mass a few million more miles off, around which starlight from behind curved and oozed and slipped. I concurred.
“Yes, it is.”
“Where do you think it came from?”
“That’s just the thing; it didn’t come from anywhere. We’ve been watching it form for some years now.”
“Doesn’t mean it didn’t come from somewhere.”
I concurred again.
“That’s true. I suppose that’s what we’re here to find out.”
Warhorse Chariot began to circle the thing, and as it did the crew got a mighty view of its frontside. It was a bizarre formation of space, a depression as described, and growing, too. Rueger, another veteran mission specialist, eventually said, “Sir, what if it’s a wormhole?”
I stopped for a moment with that consideration. I had to admit it hadn’t yet crossed my mind, but after nearly a full day of witnessing the heaving and the writhing and the twisting of what laid in front of me, I was willing to believe in the existence of more than the textbook-standard phenomenons of gravity.
“And… and if it is, sir, just in case, why don’t we send a signal down into it? See where it goes?”
I couldn’t reason against the suggestion. And so I nodded, and the crew concurred, and so a short burst of radio was dispatched into the Anomaly. We ran over mountainous data sets as we waited, and traded ideas to and fro, and ruminated in the countless possibilities.
And then strange and alien things began to occur.
I flew over to the window yet again.
“Look, sir! It’s opening up!”
And it was; the Anomaly was indeed appearing, at the very least, and if the shape of the starlight behind it was any indication, to open.
“What the hell-?”
“What’s it doing?”
“I don’t know.”
“Is it opening up to somewhere else?”
“I don’t know! Just watch.”
What began as a depression in spacetime soon did indeed deepen into a hole, and then it widened and spread, and soon it wasn’t merely reflecting the star’s light, it produced its own; a powerful pulse of brilliant and blinding blue. All at once the crew shielded our eyes and turned away from the light, only peeking back as it faded.
“God, its… it’s a tunnel. Rueger, you son of a bitch.” Francis patted him on the back.
“So uh, what’s our next move, cap?” Another specialist, a ten year vet by the name of Jones, had said. “You wanna dive into that thing?”
I shook my head.
“No. We’ll stay here and observe for now.”
“You sure? Chance to make history; you wanna pass that up?.”
“We have no idea what the hell lies on the other side, Jones. Our orders are to observe and collect data for research.”
He shrugged, and for a time the crew merely discussed the implications of the discovery. As we did, though, we began drifting forward.
It was difficult to notice at first, as the distances involved and the lack of stationary objects nearby made it impossible to eyeball. But the equipment noticed it, and no sooner did we hear the faint beeping than the Chariot picked up more and more speed.
“What the hell-?”
“The hell’s going on? Are we moving?”
“I don’t know!” Pilot Fowler was frantically scrambling over the controls. “It’s not me, sir.”
“What do you mean it’s not you? Can you stop the ship?”
“No! I’m trying, but the thrusters aren’t even on. Fuel is stable.”
“Is that thing pulling us in?!”
“Alright, everyone, calm down! We’ll figure this out. Fowler, can you angle the thrusters away from the direction of movement?”
“I’ll try.” And he did; and we felt the subtle rumble of fire from those thrusters, and the descent into the Anomaly began to slow. But it was a temporary respite.
“We’re slipping again.” Fowler flared up the thrusters in bursts, but whenever he did the Anomaly’s pull got stronger and overwhelmed their effort in turn. Whatever this thing was, I realized, it was able to target its gravitational pull and adjust its intensity as needed. And Warhorse Chariot had no answer.
“Turn off the thrusters, Fowler,” I said. “No sense wasting our fuel.”
He did, and a silent distress settled over the crew as Chariot flew into the Anomaly.
Warhorse Chariot continued its freefall into the mouth of the wormhole. At its own speed it’s a journey that would’ve taken days, or weeks, but with the Anomaly collapsing space and time itself in front of the ship and expanding it behind us, the ship gained impossible velocity. We approached the speed of light. Then we reached it, relative, at least, to the solar system outside our reference frame. Fowler said, “Holy shit. Guys – we’re going at light speed. We’re actually moving at fucking light speed.”
“How is that possible?”
“We’re not moving an inch inside our bubble of space,” I said, without breaking eye contact with the Anomaly. “That’s how. Its space itself that’s moving and there’s no limit at all to how fast it can go.” Another moment passed before I added, “Everyone strap in. We’re almost inside.”
And then the ship began to rumble, and to shake, and to groan, and the blue light brightened enveloped us whole.
Moments later, we entered the tunnel, and Warhorse Chariot exited the solar system.
Neither space nor time retained their meaning in that place. There was no where. There was no when. There was only the ship and her crew, and a hull protected from the madness of the journey by a sphere of spacetime that flew through the tunnel made of the same stuff, past a thousand galaxies and a million stars and a billion worlds. For a time it was beautiful to behold. But that time was fleeting and quick; before we exited this dimension the pressure of movement overwhelmed the integrity of the ship, and I heard a groaning of protesting metal, and then cracking, and then titanic crashing. The lights went out, and all sound in the cabin of the ship ceased at once.
There was no answer.
Silence. And darkness. And cold. Such frigid cold. My skin began to grow numb from it.
“Francis, you there? B-Baker?”
Nothing at all answered me. Slowly I struggled to undo the seat harness, and th-
Another flash of blue. It was bright; so exceedingly bright, in fact, that I couldn’t see a thing, or think, and it filled up the whole of the cosmos from where I sat, and it lingered. On our side of the wormhole the pulse had merely been that; a heartbeat, a flash of light, and not more than an instant of time had been taken up by it. But here it stayed active like the supernova of a star, and then I could feel the heat of the light, and it washed over me in waves.
And then something else happened.
I began to feel something in my head. Something in the light, no doubt, that saw me and saw a usefulness for me. It was clawing its way through my mind, pulling up memories and dreams and thoughts and ideas and sifting through the lot of them, as if it was searching for something. It hurt. God it hurt, and in a lancing, sharp way. I grabbed my temples and squeezed shut my eyes, and I heard myself scream. But the Harvesting continued nonetheless; I saw images and memories, and thoughts and dreams. Perhaps it wanted me to see them.
A birthday party. A ringing hallway bell. Playing in the mud. A first kiss; a mountaintop snowfall; a sunset on the beach. What does this thing want?
“What do you want?” I hear myself say.
There is a pause. For a fleeting moment the pain stops, and so too does the Harvesting. But only for that moment; and when it is over the process begins again. And the memories it finds begin to focus. And my eyes roll back.
A memory of a conversation is summoned. It is about nothing; an old coworker discussing expense reports with me. The Light loses interest in swift order, and then it moves on.
An earlier memory, now. Another conversation. I’m speaking with my mother. I’m looking up at her, in the kitchen with oven mitts on, and she’s telling me to wash up for supper. She speaks slowly and simply. I must be what, ten? Younger? The Light lingers a bit here, and then moves on.
Elementary school. Or earlier. Maybe kindergarten. We’re learning penmanship today. I look down at my paper and see the alphabet scribbled there, in loops and scratches. The Light lingers here, too, for a while. And then the memory fades.
“Wh-what do you want?” I say again.
Another pause. And then another memory comes up. A high school buddy of mine, Greg Rickey, runs up to me after a football game and says the word, “food.”
And then there is nothing. Perhaps the Light is waiting for a response?
“Food?” I say.
Melissa looks down at the note I’d passed her three days before prom, and says, “yes!”
“O-okay? Good. Okay. What kind of food?”
There is another pause, before –
Just an image this time. A bolt of electricity in a thunderstorm, seen from my dorm window, 2001 or 2.
“Lightning? You eat lightning? How-?”
My mother, after watching the dog piss on the floor, shouts, “No!”
“Okay. You don’t eat Lightning then. So-”
A bouncing dodgeball in the high school gym. Another image of lightning, and one of rippling air on pavement in the midst of a mid-summer heat wave.
“A ball- a ball, okay. And lightning, and heat. Like, a combination of those things? Is that it?”
Melissa again says, “yes!”
“Okay, give me a second. A hot ball of energy. Like uh – wait, like a star?”
The image of the sun that popped up in my own head as I uttered the word gave the Light some pause. Then I felt a force of power. It stung.
“Yes!” Melissa says it yet again.
“A star, for food. Okay. How-?”
An image of an Armadillo from a nature documentary. It curls tightly into a ball, and the memory fades.
“I don’t follow.”
The image repeats itself and drags a bit on both ends. I see the creature walking for a moment, its weight shifting left to right, and then it stops, and then it curls up into that ball while its little armor plates shield it.
“An… armadillo? You eat like an armadillo?”
Mom shouts again. “No!”
Now its an image of a cat and a ball of yarn. It curls around the thing. Then there’s another visual, of a hand wrapping itself around a baseball. It throws it home.
“Something about… curling into a ball. Or onto one?”
“Okay. Okay. So you’re hungry for food, and you eat stars by what, curling onto them? What the fuck is this?!”
A new image. Its shocking, and its dark. I see the gates of a concentration camp, and a pile of corpses, and an inmate there gripping the bars of the fence. She’s emaciated and desperate, but too sick, even, to cry for help. Her clothes hang off her limbs in excess. It is the saddest image I’ve ever seen.
“What the f-fuck was that?”
The famous photo of African child, with a vulture behind. His stomach is protruding, and even so I can see each one of his ribs through the skin. He has days to live in such a state. Maybe hours.
An image, now, from a newsreel. A crowd of desperate refugees – or citizens of the third world, it is unclear which – clamoring onto a truck with the capital letters ‘U’ and ‘N’ painted upon its side in white letters. The man standing atop the bed of it is handing small amounts of food from a container to the crowd. He doesn’t have nearly enough. The crowd presses in, and the truck is buried in their number; unable to move.
“What is this? I don’t-”
Every time the images switched I saw a new scene as horrible as the last.
“Okay. Okay, you’re starving? Is that right?”
“I’m sorry. I don’t – I don’t know how to help you.”
There was an explosion of pain behind my left eye. Then I felt nothing but chaos, and discord, and anger. I sensed that, very, very clearly. Burning, twisting, desperate anger. And then –
An image of bones.
A man screams for mercy. I doubt he received any.
Armed men throw another man down a hillside, and then fire automatic weapons into his heart.
Images rotate in and back out again, and each consecutive depicts a scene of violence and terror and misery and suffering. At last – Flash – there is an image of a burning world. My world. The earth; scorched and ruined.
Its not earth. Its somewhere different. Another planet.
“This already happened, didn’t it?”
I was afraid to ask the next inevitable question, but too curious not to.
“What… are you?”
A new image entered my mind, this time, like the last, from the Light, and not from myself. I saw a memory of a dream playing out before me. A fleet of starships, arrayed up in a concave formation for battle, firing lancing spears of energy into a wormhole. Then the blue light spilled on through it, followed in turn by a mass of alien metal. The ships ramped up the rate of fire, and the intensity of it, but they couldn’t harm the thing coming through, or so much as slow it down. Slowly, and one by one, as it became clear the advance of the Machine could not be stopped, the ships broke formation and began to flee. But they weren’t fast enough. The Machine, after a time, gained the hot side of the Gate and poured on through. With pulsing blasts of light entire ships disintegrated to ash and nothing more. A Capital ship in the formation’s middlemost section fired a round of some new form of fire, and the Machine took the hit with a wound, but not even that did appreciably more than scratch an arm of the thing. That ship met a swift fate like the others.
A scene from the planet from which those ships had hailed. There are dead things. Alien corpses, cities aflame, the end of the world. The mighty shadow of an eclipse falls across the scene, and then there is darkness.
From space, now, I see the thing, in all the magnitude of its vastness. It is terrible and awesome in equal measure; this Machine, and having done away with resistance it has cast out great arms of metal from a central apparatus that spills forth the Light, and wrapped them around the mass of the star there. Then, as I watch, a funnel of the star’s plasma is sucked up by gravity into the Machine, and it begins to feed.
The star is dwindling.
The star is no more. All that now remains in the grasp of the Machine is a sphere of hot space. The Machine spills its blue light to the depths of the abyss in search of other things to devour.
Another world. Above it I can see the shadow of the Machine’s arms as it consumes the star. There is no life here to mourn its passing.
Another world destroyed. There are starships splintered in orbit, lifeless and useless, and parts of their hulls rammed into the planet’s backside. Their attempt to stop the Machine has ended in disaster.
The Machine gathers those parts and adds them to its mass. Over unspeakable units of time and countless such battles, it has grown large. Too large, in fact, to sustain itself. Ever it searches for more food.
The Machine, having destroyed yet another system, shudders and quakes. It is not enough.
Parts of the Machine’s limbs have gone dark. There is not enough energy – enough food – to feed the whole of its mass. It needs more. I can feel its hunger, and I can feel the growth of it.
In desperation, and with the last of its energy, the Machine warps spacetime itself into points and rivers. Doorways are opened up. There is no rhyme and there is no reason; countless such portals have been ripped into the fabric of the universe, and through them the Machine has poured its Light; that blinding blue, in search of sustenance.
I see a new image, from my mind again. It is from a science textbook, and it is of my own star. The Sun. The Light from the Machine is digging again. Through the dusty corners of my mind. It needs information. It needs it desperately, and here I am, an endless treasure trove of the stuff, more accessible to it than to myself. I can feel memories being ripped free and thrown. A sick day; a movie theater. An astronaut speaking at my school. An Air Force recruitment center, and a first flight, and the majesty of speed. A rocket launch. Knuckles white on the edge of the harness. A first look at earth from above.
No. No. Fuck you. You can’t have that. You can’t take that. I live there.
I manage to say, weakly, “Stop.”
But inside my mind I resist with effort. I pull up my own memories now, to throw in its face. To slow it down.
The co-worker approached me again. “Hey, Darren, did you get my email? I need those expense reports by Thursday.”
“Yeah, I got you, man. I’ll get on that now.”
“Okay. Oh, hey, you talk to Brad earlier? He’s *aeoriagalvkcas;dga 09232384.”
Mom yelled, “No!”
And the digging begins again.
Data. Mountains of it to be poured over. A look at the sun from a Pacific-side beach. The Machine tastes the warmth of it. Its hunger roars, but I push back harder. Everything I have.
What else? What else do I have? My name. I have my name. Darren Gray. Darren Gray. Darren Gray. Darren Graasdasdfaugah.
“No! Dammit, Syndey. Not in the house! No!”
A new image. I see the sun now, from the window of the Warhorse Chariot. And then –
A childhood friend ran up to me on the playground during a game of hide-and-seek and said, “Dude, where’s Eric? Where?!”
Another image of the sun, white and alone.
The friend says again, “Where?!”
Danny Gray. Danny Gray. Danny… that’s… that’s not my name. Danny? Something with a ‘D,’ I think. Right?
The sun again.
*I can’t, I don’t know. I don’t –
An image of galactic layouts and Milky Way maps, with a label for the Sun, flashed through my mind. It was getting closer. I could feel a thunderous surge of power.
No. No. Stop.
The pain increased tenfold. My vision swam and burned. I thrashed and grabbed again at my temples and screamed. But the Light – the Machine – doubled down yet again. *Callsigns. Wedding days. A hospital bedside. T.V. documentaries – *Apollo. Voyager One. Earth’s radio presence. It was getting even closer.
Danny Greene. Danny Greene. Danny Greene. Danny Greene.
My father rummaged through the kitchen, phone in one hand. He muted it with the other. “Anyone seen my pen?” He said.
“Nevermind!” my father had said. “I found it.”
I felt a monstrous, electrifying surge of power, and instantly the Light began to fade, and the pain with it, and the sensation of mental invasion. It felt like waking up from a dream.
But the nightmare hadn’t faded yet.
I stumbled back. I felt that much. I stumbled, and something caught me.
I opened my eyes. It was Francis. And she’d been crying.
“Sir! Ive been calling you! I said to stay out of the light!”
I looked around the cabin. The power was on. The crew was here. All of them were getting up off the floor, and all of them stared up at me with confusion and with concern.
“I don’t know!” She said. “We sent that signal into that… that wormhole thing, and then this weird blue light just poured out of it, and we all hit the deck, but-” She looked around. “But you didn’t. And you had this look on your face, like you were in this, this trance, and, and I don’t know. I thought you were dead.”
She started to cry a bit. I looked over at the others.
“N-nobody else saw that?”
“Saw what, sir?”
“Anything at all. There was something in the Light. I saw this Machine in there, and it, it-” I stopped. I was losing them.
Baker said, “Sir, I think uh, I think you should sit down.”
“No. No. We need to leave. Now.”
“What? We just fucking got here!”
“I know that. Don’t you think I fucking know that?” I began to stow away cargo and strap down things for a boost. “Everyone strap in. Fowler, plot us a course out of here.”
Baker grabbed my arm.
“Sir, I mean it. You need to sit down. Okay? Gather your thoughts. Jones, can you get him some water, or something-?”
“I don’t need water, Baker.” I shook him off and continued loading. “Fowler! On the seat. Now. Let’s go.”
Fowler looked at the others, and they shook their heads. Rueger spoke up.
“Sir, we have come through hell and high water to fuckin’ get here. And here we are, on the threshold of history, and we are not leaving. Not yet. I will lock you in the fucking quarters until we get back at the end of the mission if I have to.”
“Shut the fuck up.”
“Sir.” Francis stepped forward. Always the peacemaker, she was. “Don’t do this. Please.”
“Shut up! None of you saw that – that thing! Fowler! What did I say?!”
“What thing? The ‘Machine?’”
“Fowler! Get on the seat n-”
I felt a slamming weight in my midsection, and down I went, with Rueger on top of me.
“Sorry, sir. Can’t risk you fuckin’ this up for the rest of us.”
“GET THE FUCK OFF ME!” I thrashed and threw all my weight against his. He buckled, slightly, and then turned and said, “Baker! A little hand here?!”
Baker piled on, and then Jones, and against their combined weight I didn’t stand a chance; they hauled me to my feet and began dragging me off to the back of the sh-
“GUYS!!” It was Francis’ voice. We stopped, and we looked up, and she was pointing out the window. Towards the Anomaly. “LOOK!!”
We did. Instantly I felt three pairs of hands loosen up their grips. I fell to the floor.
“W-what the fuck is that?”
I wiped a trail of blood from my nose and said, “Its here.”
And the deck of the Warhorse Chariot descended into madness.
“Baker, can we raise NASA from here?!”
“I don’t know! I can try, b-”
“I mean what the fuck is that thing? Fowler! You getting us out of here?!”
“I’m trying, man, but-”
“HEY!” I shouted. “Everyone calm down and strap in. Now. Fowler, plot a course for home.”
Obedience, this time, was immediate; for a fleeting moment I heard nothing but the buckle of harnesses and the shuffling of feet and the rumble of thrusters. And then Chariot was off.
But behind us came the Machine, and it did so with utterly shocking speed. I watched it pour on through the widening wormhole, and only then did I appreciate the magnitude of the thing.
“I see it. Fowler? How we doing?”
“We’re moving, sir. Fast as I c-.”
The ship shook violently as a pulsing blast of blue light rocketed by overhead and nearly vaporized the hull.
“The hell was that?”
“It’s shooting at us. That’s what that was.”
Another blast. Warhorse Chariot felt its heat in the force of fire; and the crew nearly spilled out from their harnesses. Come on, baby. Come on, baby. Come on, baby.
But the ship was too slow. I knew it. Fowler knew it. Baker and Francis and Jones and Rueger; they knew it, too. And we shared the intuition, even as we fled, and said not a word about it.
A flash of light. Another shudder.
I sat down and powered up a computer, and began writing this account; a record we won’t be able to give in a hearing. And I started it with an description of a home I’ll never again see.
“Sir?” Fowler said. “We’re uh, we’re slowing down. Fast.”
And Rueger, not me, responded.
“We know it is.” He said. “Sheer gravity of that thing is pulling us in. Ship ain’t fast enough, gentlemen.”
Another flash. Chariot nearly split at the rivets, and for a split second all we could see, in the light, was nothing at all. I shielded my eyes for the duration before the fade, and kept up my writing.
I stopped typing. Then I stood, and the crew watched as the ship slipped in her run.
“Turn it around.”
“Turn the ship around. Fly towards it. If we time it just right-”
“-Then we can take a hit of that blue laser right inside the firing chamber.”
A hush fell over the crew. They knew what this was; a call to spend their lives in the service of mankind. I looked out at the Machine. We had fifteen minutes, maybe less, before the full form of its mass exited the wormhole. And so we had just as much time to act.
“Sir, are you-?”
“Do it, Fowler.”
Baker spoke up.
“It’s the right call. We’re not escaping; might as well take it out with us.”
“It’s the right call, Captain.”
So Warhorse Chariot adjusted its heading for its hunter, and the Machine filled up the view of the deck display, and Rueger spoke again.
“You all ready to die today, lady and gents? For king and country?”
Francis closed her eyes. Fowler set his jaw. The gravity kicked up by the sheer mass of the Machine took the Chariot on a wicked pull, and one bolstered by the ship’s thrusters, and the gap between us was closed quickly.
I typed furiously. The Machine’s central apparatus opened its yawn to fire, and that old blue plasma pooled up in its center, and I pointed it out to Fowler.
“I see it, sir.”
I put a hand to his shoulder and said, “You did great, son.”
And now I bring this account to the current moment. As I write, the Machine hastens up its firing process. A piece of it still lives on in my mind, I think, because I can feel a foreign panic when I myself am at peace; I believe it knows that when all the numbers are added, there is nothing it can do to prevent the Warhorse Chariot from flying into its firing mechanism at the moment of discharge. It is inevitable, and for that reason I have accepted it, and Baker, too, and Jones and Rueger and Francis and Fowler, all my brothers and my sister – they have accepted it, and they are praying, and closing their eyes, and there is not a crew ever made that is finer to die with.
To NASA, if ever you receive this transmission, know that we died well, and know, too, that although there are monstrous things out here in the deep there are also wonders in it. Never lose the spirit to find them.
Darren Bradford Gray, Commander of the U.S.S. Warhorse Chariot.
At 6:09:22 P.M., Eastern Standard Time, an explosion event was picked up by the Hubble space telescope, and an array of surface based observatories and private telescopes. NASA claims the event was a large scale asteroid impact.
Other satellites have been purposed with examining the area of the incident. As of early August, they have spotted numerous pieces of floating metal – most of which will either join the asteroid belt or fall into the surface of Jupiter – and an excessive amount of radiation, seemingly indicative of a collapsing gravitational event. Closer inspection has revealed that the Anomaly Warhorse Chariot was initially dispatched in secret to inspect has ceased to exist.
Some private telescope owners, however, have reported an unidentified blue light flashing in pulses from exactly this region. NASA has made no official comment as of this time.