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1

It seems safe now to assume that the terrestrial origin of life was a unique event. Some will quibble that we have, after all, seen only a few thousand of the billions of worlds drifting through the gently curving corridors we once called bio-zones. But we have stood on too many warm beaches and looked across seas over which no gulls hover, that throw forth neither shells, nor strands of weed, nor algae. They are peaceful seas, bounded by rock and sand.

The universe has come to resemble a magnificent but sterile wilderness, an ocean which boasts no friendly coast, no sails, no sign that any have passed this way before. And we cannot help but tremble in the gray light of these vast distances. Maybe that is why we are converting the great interstellar liners into museums, or selling them for pans. Why we have begun to retreat, why the Nine Worlds are now really six, why the frontier is collapsing, why we are going home to our island.

We are coming back at last to Earth. To the forests of our innocence. To the shores of night. Where we need not listen to the seaborne wind.

Farewell, Centaurus. Farewell to all we might have been.

—ELIO KARDI, “The Shores of Night,” Voyagers, 571


AIM 3.513 | Infinity Beach | New Year ’s Eve, 599







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