100 kilometers from international Martian research base
January 27, 2052
A rover rolled up to a spot in the middle of the Martian wastes. The astronaut exited her rover, and began doing what she did best. She was one of the research team's geologists, digging through the Martian sands to see what the red dustball had to offer for future colony prospects. Her shift at the dig sites had ended, but the rover had picked up a strange reading on her way back. She'd headed over to its location, and started brushing away at the area where the readings were strongest. To her surprise, she uncovered the top of what appeared to be a large lump of metal. Purified metal. Her heart skipped a beat. She tapped on the surface, and the sound that came back left a lump in her throat. It was hollow.
New York City, United Nations Headquarters
July 10, 2053
The executives of the seven permanent UN security council member countries sat in a private room. The President of the United States, Eva Park, tried to hide her nervousness. Scarcely half a year into her first term, and she was already presiding over the single most momentous occasion in human history. She looked at the faces around her, and some of her nerves abated. She couldn't have picked a better time in human history for this to happen. Indeed, had the ruin been discovered not even ten years ago it could have easily ended in disaster. Fortunately, the tumultuous 2030s and 40s were behind them, and the human race faced these new revelations within the most stable geopolitical situation in human history.
The US and the UK were the linchpins of the Anglosphere block. The US was still the top of the global food chain, even if the gap between it and the other powers was shrinking more and more. The power wielded by the vast republic was still a force to be reckoned with, even as it recovered from the decades of economic stagnation in earlier years
France's seat on the council was effectively the seat of the European Union. While they were no longer officially allies with the US, their long standing relationship meant that the two still ended up in the same geopolitical camp more often than not.
India and Japan, the two relative newcomers, would back anything that increased their status and influence, their leadership being determined to cultivate their newfound superpower status.
The last two, the Russian Federation and the United Chinese Republics, might have been wildcards in a previous era, but times had changed.
Russia, under the now ten year reign of the Center party, was more interested in internal reforms and stability than the expensive saber rattling of the old government. A government which, in their opinion, had brought about the economic stagnation from which the Center party was currently trying to drag Russia out. Not affiliated with any of the larger power blocks, but still being powerful enough to warrant their seat, they had become the neutral mediator of global politics. They would hopefully provide a stabilizing presence.
President Wong Chi, leader of the United Chinese Republics, the tentative confederation that was the successor state to the defunct People's Republic, was a recent addition to the world leaders club. He was a shrewd man who had risen to the rank of governor of his native republic, Hong Kong, and had used his idealistic rhetoric and the notoriety he had gained from his long history of opposition to the old CCP to claim the President's office. The new government, while far from a bastion of liberty and stability, was nevertheless an honest-to-god democracy, and the attitude of this new China had largely been an amiable, if still cautious one.
The world leaders summit had been President Park's idea. The data she had seen so far had given her more than an opinion. It was an instinct, a feeling in her bones. She knew with complete certainty that the actions of the people in this room over the next handful of days would be the most important in recorded history. She couldn't make a decision on the best course of action until after this briefing, however.
The doors of the private room opened, and a woman in professional attire entered, followed by an entourage of similarly dressed aides.
"Good Afternoon. I am Kyree Sutherland, and I will be leading the presentation today. What you are about to witness is the culmination of over a year's worth of tireless work from the finest minds the human species has to offer." the woman said.
"To begin, we have indeed confirmed that the ruins are alien in origin." There was a barely audible intake of breath from the gathered leaders. Most had held out the admittedly scant hope that the ruins would turn out to be a fluke.
The woman pressed on, spinning the tale of the Prothean Empire, a civilization from an astonishing 50,000 years ago. The evidence, and the hypotheses formed from that evidence by the research team, were presented in a professional manner for these seven leaders to digest. Of particular interest was the objects that appeared to be alien starships, still intact. The implication of FTL technology was earth-shattering. Then, suddenly, the crux of the issue was revealed.
"Based on our analysis of the damage to the base we conclude that the research site, as we believe it to have been, was destroyed by an external force after the crew had evacuated." Deafening silence filled the room. This was confirmation that, not only did aliens exist, but potentially hostile aliens existed. While few had a military background, every leader present was suddenly acutely aware of just how vulnerable the human race would be if a race even a tenth as advanced as the protheans proved to be hostile.
Kyree continued "There is some good news, fortunately. The data storage device we obtained all of this information from has a wealth of data left. I use no hyperbole when I say that, if humanity is wise, this data could advance our technology by centuries in only a few years." The less-than-hidden meaning of Kyree's choice of words, "if humanity is wise", was felt in all of the leaders present. It was easy to see how badly things could go if access to the prothean ruin became a competition between nation states. In the bottom of her heart, President Park knew exactly what needed to be done.
A long round of questions followed Miss Sutherland's presentation, before she left to give the leaders time to discuss. President Park wasted no time
"Ladies and Gentlemen, the world just got significantly bigger. Bigger than any of us. I have a proposal, if you would listen". The President received nods of affirmation. She continued.
"The issues we face can be boiled down to two facts that we cannot avoid. First, if what little our scientists have gathered from the alien data storage device is true, it is almost a certainty that humanity will be capable of interstellar travel in the very near future. Second, we have confirmation of the existence of advanced alien civilizations, and the existence of hostilities between space faring civilizations. Alone, these facts would be Earth shattering enough, but combined, they call for action, on our part. We cannot be certain that there are no hostile alien civilizations in our galaxy, whether they be the protheans, the race that destroyed them, or something else entirely. However, we also cannot ignore the incredible opportunities our newfound access to faster-than-light travel will bring. We will almost certainly be sending explorers and possibly colonists out into the stars, and we need to take steps to ensure our security."
The Russian President chimed in then, "That is a tall order. We'd all be effectively starting from scratch." It was true. Human space exploration had been entirely peaceful in the just under one hundred years since a man had walked on the moon. Most activity in space was scientific in nature, with minimal economic activities. What economic activity there was in space was not nearly valuable enough to justify the enormous costs of building a real-life space warship to defend it. As such, no nation had attempted it beyond a few tests and simulations.
The president was undeterred. "I'm not proposing that we do this alone. We are going into the stars as one species, and we have to present a united front if we wish to thrive. We're going to need a government, one with the authority to negotiate on behalf of all of humanity. I think the UN is an obvious choice." There were more nods at this. President Park's next words put a stop to those nods. "However, the UN is going to need significant reforms if we want to get everyone on board with it. Starting with the removal of our vetoes on the security council."
There was silence at that, eventually broken by the French President.
"You must understand how significant your request is, or you would not be making it. So, let's hear your justification." The glances that came president Park's way were a mixture of curiosity and apprehension. She pressed on. "The vetoes were necessary when the UN was founded, as it was the only realistic way to get all of the most powerful nations on Earth to join. The other nations of the world were willing to tolerate it because the UN is a diplomatic forum and humanitarian organization, not a government. However, it will have to become one if it is to be able to negotiate and speak for the entire human species. If we give it real power, then there's no way we can convince the other nations of the world to join this reformed UN when our vetoes allow us to dictate policy without a consensus. I've had the best lawyers and political scientists I could find working on several rough proposals for a restructuring of the UN since the ruin was first confirmed to be alien. I hope you will join me in listening to these and discussing their merits."
Wong Chi, the Chinese president, spoke this time. "You are assuming that the other nations of the globe will agree to restructuring the UN, and you're also assuming that all of us will cooperate."
President Park nodded. "Those are valid concerns, but I don't believe they'll come to fruition. We represent the most powerful nations on the face of the Earth. The other nations of the globe lack the resources, expertise, political cohesion, and-most importantly-space programs necessary to properly exploit the prothean data. The other nations will follow where we lead, or they'll be left behind. As for your other concern...NASA tells me that, based on the admittedly limited data, they could have a working FTL prototype in ten years, and that's the generous estimate, where they assume they have the maximum budget and nothing goes wrong. That's the estimate of the most well-funded and successful space agency in the world, from the most wealthy and powerful country in the world. I imagine your own space agencies gave you the same or worse estimates. The thing is, NASA also speculated that, if the resources of the other seven major space agencies were combined, they could have a working prototype in eighteen months." She paused to let that sink in. The faces around her were ones of contemplation. She chose her next words carefully. "I'm not asking you to commit to anything right this moment, I'm just asking you to hear out the experts' proposals." She studied the faces around her. They all seemed willing to listen. Eva Park smiled. This might actually work.
New York City, Provisional New United Nations Headquarters
April 5, 2056
President Eva Park watched three years of work unfold before her as the General Assembly ratified the new United Nations charter. The system that the seven great powers had finally agreed to push was a decidedly conservative one, changing relatively little about the actual structure of the organization, but greatly altering the roles that the various organs of the UN played. The International Court of Justice had had its powers and duties expanded, and had also been given power to strike down resolutions that were in conflict with International Law or the UN charter. The Security Council and General Assembly had been converted into the upper and lower houses of what was now for all intents and purposes a legislative body. The seven permanent members of the Security Council retained their seats, but had relinquished their vetoes. In exchange, however, the nations were no longer forbidden from offering candidates for Secretary General, who was now directly elected by the General Assembly. The Secretariat had been merged with the other remaining organs of the UN. The Secretary-General now appointed a cabinet, approved by the Security Council, which was made up of the ministers of the various new agencies that would run the new government. The changes were hardly ideal, but it was the result of three years of haggling and compromise, so that was to be expected.
On the suggestion of an intern, president Park had pushed for an altering of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights into the Universal Declaration of Sapient Rights, with some minor edits to remove human-centric language. It was a small thing, but it was better to make the change before humanity stumbled upon an alien civilization, in Park's opinion.
The new international law regarding space colonization was delightfully simple. The possibility of encountering habitable planets in the near future meant that the incentive to colonize celestial bodies had just gone up dramatically. Anticipating what would likely be a mad dash for territory, the new laws loosened the restrictions on holding territory. While it was still technically forbidden for existing terrestrial countries to lay claims on celestial bodies, there was nothing stopping independent entities from establishing colonies. Under the new rules, you could lay claim to any land you could develop. Any new colonies were under UN jurisdiction until they had 10,000 people, at which point they were expected to elect a government and petition for UN membership. Some were convinced it was a recipe for disaster, but no one could deny that it would mean an era of rapid expansion was in the near future, as countless governments, companies, and private organizations were already gathering together funds and personnel for future colonization projects. The protector of these new colonies would be the United Nations Space Force, whose first ship, the UNS Voyager, was in orbit preparing for its maiden voyage. It was one of the Prothean vessels, heavily modified with the best technology humans could develop. Using the newly discovered Mass Effect, it would make a detailed survey of the outer solar system in record breaking time.
Not for the first time today, Eva Park smiled.
September 3, 2056
The UNS Voyager maintained its orbit orbit of the Pluto-Charon system. It was due to head out into the Oort cloud, testing her top speed, with her stopping point being designated as the Voyager probe, the ship's namesake. Voyager's commander, Lieutenant Colonel Ma Li Wei, was conversing with his XO, Major Craig Stanley, and his sensors officer, Lieutenant Ines Martin. Colonel Ma stared blank faced at Lieutenant Martin for a moment before speaking. "You're certain, Lieutenant?"
"It's hard to be certain about a reading like this sir, but there is something there, though I could not tell you what, sir." Martin said. Major Stanley backed her up. "I've double checked the readings myself sir, she's right." Colonel Ma looked at the readings himself, perplexed. They seemed accurate to him, but they couldn't be.
How could Charon possibly have so much Element Zero in it?
Thank you for taking the time to read this! As you can probably imagine, things are going to go significantly differently for the human race in the Mass Effect universe in this story. Updates will not be on any particular schedule, but they should be frequent for the first several chapters. I hope you enjoy.