Humanity has touched the stars. Countless millennia have past and Earth has become a myth, a story to tell your children at night. You were one of those children, inspired by the idea all of humanity coming from a single planet, you set you sights to Earth to try and find the human birthplace.
Earth sat like a rotting potato, scar cracked surface cooling angrily over thousands of years, surface scorched raw by the transitioning sun, on the view monitor in front of them. The moon was nowhere to be seen, though computer models dictated that at one point a gravitational orbit had partially stabilized Origin into a habitable state.
Utter silence on board, staring at the ruined wreckage stretched far below.
But silence from the mortal info-minds hovering on the back of The Odyssey didn’t prevent the automated systems from scanning it. It didn’t prevent hypotheses from flashing over top of each info-intelligence, nor did it prevent their own individual systems from interacting with possible truths and not truths.
And it didn’t prevent those possibilities from dissipating one by one, until only the soul crushing truth remain.
X-Humanity had long straddled the cosmos, inundating themselves into every echelon of alien societies. Finding niches, carving them out. Republics founded off of the back of squirreled away wealth bubbled and babbled about the possibility of unity, before it was once again swept away under the miles and miles of light years separating the far flung refugees.
They were explorers, one cadre said, and there was a church founded in the minds of the believers. That they had been sent out long ago to explore, piggybacking off of distant signal arrays, mind perpetuated wildly out of the void, reclaimed and captured by the dedicated efforts of curious alien scientists (they knew them as the Grena, now one of X-Humanity’s historical allies, though the isolationistic scientists had rare power on the galactic stage) and that they were the best humanity had to offer, sent off to find their fates in the galaxy.
They were conquerors, some had said, and they would exert human dominance at some point; seeding the galactic consciousness with the curious nodules and fragments of the old world carried with each ship discovered, each tiny piece of the puzzle. Empty coordinate banks, computer systems long decayed from distance.
They were historians, some claimed, charged with re-assembling the last and greatest human empire that had existed, so that it could be measured and weighed against the other greats. The Wandering Golden Armada of pirates and merchants and acquisitionists of the Yulior would hold no candle to the tapestries and histories they could glean from their history, if they could but assemble it.
But the one thing they all had in common was a backstory of some great history. Call it romanticism, that X-humanity wanted to find their progenitor, and crawl back into the lap of grandeur. Call it some misplaced special pride, that their similar neural-forms would find something they could cling to from before they settled across the stars, some similarity even as they editing thought patterns to better suit their past.
Something other than the idea that they were simply refugees. Everyone had some memory of cultural pride, heritage.
But floating in front of their ship, lumpy, misshapen, and long since scoured clean by ultraviolet radiation, atmosphere boiled off, there was no such heritage left.
A few scattered satellites floated, long burnt and destroyed from oppressive waves of radiation.
The crew of The Odyssey were quiet for a few hours. One, a poet, or at least, what passed for a poet among the light years of refugees and intelligences, quietly composed a poem across the screen.
“We came to the home of man and found, disastrously that even here there is no home except for the one we left far behind us
in our pursuit of an imagined ideal we never imagined what we’d do when we found it. Already dead.”
There was yet more of that hostile oppressive silence. But the long journey here hadn’t dulled their sensors.
They’d been refugees. They still were.
The captain swallowed the bile, the fear, and the hysteria, and stood up. Blocked out the screen with his visage.
“This is,” They said, and they didn’t know if they believed it until the words came tumbling out, frothed and enraged. “The best possible fate of this expedition.”
None questioned the decision.
“Here, in the foundry from which we were issued, we find, not an overwhelming drive one way or the other for our culture, nor do we find a domineering parent to take responsibility for us. We are free unlike any other species in the galaxy. We have nothing but what we make, and that makes us mighty. That makes us human more than anything else. We are what we make of ourselves, without the fear of disappointing some long past society.”
The captain nodded at the computer, flicking it with their conjoined mind.
“We go home, not as failures, but as the start of a new dawn to our kind. We are not refugees looking to reclaim a home. We were already home, and now we know that none shall reclaim us. In that, we succeed on all fronts.”
And the warp drive, long abused from the journey, twisted the stars around Sol into ribbons, long, elegant, and precise, and the info-intelligences on board shut down once again.
This time, there was no imagined home.
There was only what they brought with them.
And now they knew they could make something entirely new.