Author: Alastair Millar

The planet was a blue dewdrop, shining defiantly against the blackness of the Void. It was hard to think of it as home, after twenty years struggling to make Sicyon viable; but all their efforts had been wasted, and they’d had no choice but to return. Ironically, the colony had suffered the same tectonic troubles as its ancient Greek namesake, and its society had similarly been forced to surrender to the inevitable.

Michael stood with several hundred others on the generation ship’s observation deck as it approached Earth. How Angela would be crying now, he thought. She’d loved the moral clarity of building a new homeworld, a place where their intended children could grow up free of pollution, of religious zealotry, of disdain for science. He smiled, remembering that she had been one of the first to move from the ship to the ground camp; she couldn’t wait to get her hands dirty.

When a tremor-induced rockslide had killed her during the planet’s cold season, they’d buried her on the ridge above the settlement, working fast to hack a grave through the ground-ice before they froze themselves. The sky had been so beautifully clear that day, as if trying to make up for his loss.

The spark had gone out of his life, but he persevered. Over time, others had been unable to face the hard choices needed, and had taken their own lives, but for years he had wanted – no, needed – to believe, until ultimately there was no more denying that the quakes were becoming both stronger and more frequent.

Four centuries of cryosleep, with two decades of hard work in the middle, and now the three thousand who survived were coming back to Earth – failures, all their attempts to fight geological instability stymied by an almost complete absence of manufacturing and refining capability.

Perhaps their descendants wouldn’t see them that way; perhaps they’d be seen as heroes, who’d survived against long odds. Maybe new technology, and a new group of idealists, would be sent to tame Sicyon instead. Possibly the problems that drove the settlers to leave Earth had been solved – they could hope, couldn’t they? Would it feel strange to be here, or would they come to feel like they belonged again? Or had this old world been permanently reshaped by climate change, it’s possibilities and population reduced, giving way to endless warfare over scarcer resources?

He knew that the uncertainty was eating the others; as people awoke and met old friends again, their worries were the main topic of conversation. It was a discussion he should be part of; but all he could think about was saying goodbye to her on a crisp Winter’s day, the blue sky fading down to white on the horizon, and air so frigid it sent spikes into his lungs.