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In 2022, the universe changed forever.

The Earth of 2015 is still readily recognizable. Russia continues to gobble up Soviet land, and there are whispers that the United States and the emboldened Russian Federation (now its common name) are about to come to blows. Technology has advanced apace, but it hasn’t radically shifted any paradigms, no matter what the corporations might try to sell you.

The main divergence between our 2015 and 2022: in 2017, the Russian Federation restarted the Space Race. They announced plans for a military base on the moon, in preparation for an extra-planetary exploratory force. The United States couldn’t just let that stand. NASA suddenly had more funding than they knew what to do with. The revitalized space program attracted some of the best minds, many of them former NASA workers before the near-destruction earlier that decade. Others came from the space corporations, who claimed a malicious brain drain, and attempted to sue. The courts dismissed the case.

The going was slow, even with fresh, powerful minds. Carbon nanofiber, graphene, and many other materials were examined and woven into an entirely new spacecraft, while Washington managed to not ruin anything important. That was a time of intense peace. The global powers were dedicated to technological pursuits, while the other nations sold their raw materials to the highest bidder at absurd inflation. The economy boomed, even while many nations withdrew into isolationism.

October 4, 2019. The Russian missile carrying the groundwork for the moon base launched. It got roughly a mile above the ground before it exploded. The Russians blamed American explosives. Americans blamed shoddy engineering. He said, she said.

October 9, 2019, the US’s Apollo 18 missile launched, successfully. Four of the fifty-seven major scientists who designed it were determined to be Russian spies in the minutes before the launch, and executed. The mission otherwise went according to plan, and the groundwork for the new moon base was soon being laid.

The next few years, interest waned. Nothing much interesting happened. Russians set up their own base, but they had clearly lost. The American people turned back to their own lives, while the Russian turned back to starving and taking over more and more land. Despite being exploratory forces, the American and Russian forces didn’t have funding left to leave the moon.

March, 2022. The moon base is slowly being depopulated and shut down, piecemeal so the Russians don’t hear about it. The Soviet Union is reformed, in the New Russian Federation. America gears up for war. The rest of the world braces itself, poised on the brink of possibly nuclear war.

Then the Nazaviri dropped out of FTL just outside our solar system. The shockwave battered our probes all across the solar system. The human shockwave knocked humanity off the precipice of war.

Aliens are real and they’re here

The call went up all across the Earth. Some wanted to nuke the ship as soon as it got close. Others, sacrifice all our leaders and accept our new alien overlords. Protests, riots, vigils, doomsayers, naysayers, warmongers, wait-and-seers. Every flavor of humanity was represented in those chaotic hours.

No one was prepared for what happened. The Nazaviri’s message was short, and simple, broadcast to every speaker on the entire planet, understandable in every tongue.

“We are the Nazaviri. We wish no harm, only to trade ideas with the Humans of Earth. Our ship will remain on the other side of this red planet for five years. Come to us. Learn of this vast galaxy. Learn how to leave this system. Send your scientists, artists, writers, historians, soldiers. Bring knowledge, first and foremost. We shall wait.” The message there ends.

The nations of Earth launched into the largest scramble of all time. Russia and America put aside their differences to get this impossible knowledge. French Guyana was quickly selected as the launch point. Training began for the team of artists, writers, military personnel, historians of all stripes, and many, many others. The governments of Earth weren’t going to allow this chance to escape their grasp.

Candidates were tested, chosen. Each permanent member of the UN Security council- America, China, France, Russia, and the UK- each selected five to send. The UN proper selected 25 more.

Jump forward a bit, five more years.

January of 2027. The Baker-Strelka Launch Platform (BSLP) is finished. The astronauts have been trained. The rocket that will take all fifty attendees to Mars is complete, and is functionally a redesigned American rocket, much to Russia’s ire. Launch is in two weeks. Tension is at an all-time high.

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