When we returned to Earth, every one of us had some idea of what we’d be facing, but none of us knew what to expect. None of us was exactly sure which of our people would have chosen to procreate, which of our people would have chosen to pass along memories of us to their kids, what kinds of social upheavals would befall our forebears, or which of our respective societies would endure until we returned. We just didn’t know.

As we prepared for touchdown, I thought back to when we were leaving, how they had just announced the plans for a massive new spaceport in Australia. I was physically ill when I viewed the planning holograms. Uluru was always meant to be sacred, a place of spirituality rooted in Mother Gaia herself. Saddened beyond grief doesn’t begin to cover what I felt seeing Ayers Rock turned into a monstrosity of commercial catacombs, landing lights, radar and lidar banks, radio towers, and expressways. Parking ramps. Cheap housing.

I must have been staring into space when Nazario tapped me on the shoulder. “Better come see,” he said. Thinking back on it now, his voice sounded odd when he said it. Metallic and thin.

All the monitors displayed the same thing. Blackness. Uluru, defiled by lights and progress in my future, had been purged by fire in my recent past. The ship’s Geiger counter was humming instead of clicking.

We didn’t have to wonder anymore what our progeny had been up to.