Looking up into the sky from my window, I could see the twin moons, Phobos and Deimos, as bright lights in the sky. But there was a third light tonight. My big brother Hank had said it was Earth. I read about Earth in class. Mommy and Daddy were from Earth, they’d said. A long, long time ago when they were kids they had left there with their parents to come here. I hugged my bear tight and wondered what it was like. I’d grown up in one of the big domes all my life, playing in the hydroponic sheds and out in the long corridors. But Earth had forests and rivers and lakes and all kinds of neat things that I’d seen in the vids. They’d brought animals here, but only some, only the food ones or the pet ones. We had a cat who Mommy said was descended from the cat she had on Earth. I wonder how. Did they put the cat into cryo-sleep like they did the colonists? They must have. I bet it was really scared in the pod. I would have been. Mommy says that someday, people are going to go even further than here and leave the solar system. I’ve got a model of the solar system hanging in my room. Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. I wonder what it’s like out past there. Hank says that there are probes out there exploring and beaming back pictures. I wonder if they’ve found anything with forests.
“Give me the probe readout, Daski”
The fleet admiral leaned back, looking up at the forward screens ablaze with light and color. The first mate peered at her station console.
“Finds are consonant with a stable environment. I see high oxygen levels and evidence of water in both liquid and solid forms.” There was a pause then. “Admiral, sir, this planet… It shows signs of intelligent habitation?”
The communications officer sat straight up at that, his bright eyes nearly frantic with excitement.
“Shall I open the hailing frequencies, Admiral?”
“Yes, thank you, Richards.”
The young man saluted and pulled his headset on, turning a dial on the instrumentation panel before him.
“Planet at position 3 in sector 39, this is Linus Richards, chief communications officer for Generational Fleet Beta. We greet you.”
All those on the bridge awaited a reply, eyes on the planet.
“Daski, finish the probe readout, if you would.”
She saluted and lean in to read closely again.
“Multiple land masses, Sir, and thick vegetation is apparent in the central, tropical regions. It shows the usual variance in ecosystems that we expect from a Homeworld-type planet. The major bodies of water appear to be salinated, but I am seeing potable water inland.”
“Sir!” Linus interrupted suddenly. “I have a response, but it appears to be automated.”
The admiral stood, turning to look at him.
“Play it over the bridge audio, Richards.”
The recording crackled and skipped as it came to life with a pop.
“Visitors, we of Planet Earth greet you but we are here no longer. Those who could have boarded the generational fleets and gone out to find new worlds to replace the one we cost ourselves. Do not make our mistakes. Do not destroy your world. We hope, in time, that the Earth will rejuvenate itself. If it has, then we welcome you to stay. Make your home in what was once ours. Welcome home.”
There was a long silence on the bridge. Finally, Linus cleared his throat.
“That’s the full message, Sir.”
The admiral ran her fingers through her short, salt and pepper hair.
“Did they…? I can’t believe it…” She paused then, her expression full of wonder. “Broadcast this to all vessels in the fleet, Richards.”
She waited for his nod of assent and for the status light on her comms to go green before she spoke again.
“This is the admiral speaking. Citizens and crew of Generational Fleet Beta, we have found our port of call. On behalf of the crew, I would be the first to welcome you to this planet, our Homeworld. Earth.”