Roy had approached Earth from orbit more times than he could remember anymore, and it struck him that Empyrean beaches were very wide. The pale, crinkly border of sand was much fatter than he was used to, like the bold outline on a children’s map made into living land. But then again maybe it was his imagination, because the beach they were bearing down on looked normal.
They made egress into the same kind of commercial spaceport Roy would expect to see on Earth, if it weren’t for all the aliens bustling around amongst the brisk-walking, dressed-up humans. As he followed his classmates in a big clump, he was overwhelmed by a general tall brightness, which was somewhat offset by wide-brimmed hats and ugly rolling luggage. He spotted a pair of knee-high raptor children, feathers dull and downy, following an adult and hefting matching pink backpacks, and remembered with a jolt that Elliott must have once looked like that, but that Elliott certainly didn’t look like that anymore.
Customs was expedited, but it still seemed to take an age. Roy shoved his passport at the agent and hardly even felt awkward getting stared at. “Welcome to Empyrean, Mr. Calabi,” the person said. If they craned to stare at him, he was definitely looking the other way
He scanned every blue face he could see. He’d hoped to meet Elliott at some point, of course, but he hadn’t known it was going to happen at all, let alone so soon. What on Earth—so to speak—was he supposed to say?