Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer

Another flawless afternoon.
“Spin for me.”
I smile and cut a perfect seven-twenty, poised on one heel, arms spread to imitate the mantling of an eagle. As I come to a stop, I let a flash of dragon wings spread down from my outstretched arms before dropping the visuals, transferring, and collapsing into a heap on the couch next to Lizzie.
She squeals, slaps me, then rests a finger on the end of my nose, the other hand raised in admonition: “You promised to stop using instant transference.”
Sinking deeper into my slump, I sigh: “Habit. Too easy to do magic when there’s a yottahertz CPU with a billion cores handling the reality.”
The admonishing hand slaps my forehead: “No-one knows the specs of Heart or Mind.”
“Some might do. It’s only been forty years.”
Lizzie tilts her head in surprise: “Hadn’t thought of that. It’s not like we can ask them, though.”
She’s right. The Ecofleet is still underway, Alcubierre drives sending us toward the eighty-six destinations most likely to tolerate Earth fauna. Until the drives are shut down, each vessel of the fleet is isolated. Even after that, the distances involved will hamper communication. According to some theories, the Earth we try to communicate with may never have known us or may not even have evolved homo sapiens.
“Duty calls, dancing man. I’ll be back in a few thousand ticks.”
She vanishes, leaving an echo of a laugh.
I switch the enviroscape from lounge to Kingley Vale. A friend dragged me there just before we departed. My reluctance yielded to slack-jawed awe as I beheld great trees and primal landscape, the last protected place in the UK, home to the relocated Stonehenge, serene under the biggest Eden dome ever built. Thankfully, I had capture gear in my daybag, so was able to snapshot the place for my personal envirolib.
It’s here I find my peace, a longing that provides no solace. It’s here I understand the increasing number of voyagers who refuse to exit their personal enviroscapes.
We’re humanity renewed, escaping catastrophe and mortality, taking our vision to the stars in great arks, each filled with the seeds of a whole new Earth. Eighty-six strains of humanity will grow from this scattering, guided by the digital host that brought them forth. A wondrous future created by the genius of man.
I don’t think I’m the only one who hides away to cry virtual tears that never hit the ground. We left Earth, righteous and smug about getting to live forever while growing our world anew.
To live forever. There it is. I have eternity to look forward to, yet all I want to do is rest my palms against an ancient tree in a valley forever lost.
Lizzie appears next to me. She looks about in sad-eyed wonder: “Every now and then, I realise full spectrum capture was inadequate.”
I whisper: “He was right.”
“The man who showed me Kingley Vale was some variety of pagan. I gave him a hard time about that. The last thing he said to me was something I laughed at. I wish I hadn’t.”
“What did he say?”
“‘It’s not the land that belongs to you, it’s you who belong to the land. You can’t convert another planet to be Earth.’”
Lizzie takes my hands.
“He spoke the truth. All we can do is remember why we yearn and guide our branch of new humanity to do better. Make sure they know they belong. Let them become caretakers as well as a civilisation.”