Grissom's mind was still distracted with thoughts of how much everything had changed with the discovery of the alien bunker on Mars...a line of thinking that was not surprising given the unsettling reports from Shanxi.
The revelation that humanity was not alone in the universe hadn't just impacted Earth's religions, it had far-reaching effects across the political spectrum as well. But where religion had descended into the chaos of schisms and extremist splinter groups, politically the discovery had actually drawn humanity closer together. It had fundamentally united the inhabitants of Earth, the swift and sudden culmination of the panglobal cultural identity that had been slowly but steadily developing over the last century.
Within a year the charter for the human Systems Alliance-the first all-encompassing global coalition- had been written and ratified by Earth's eighteen largest nation-states. For the first time in recorded history the inhabitants of Earth began to see themselves as a single, collective group: human as opposed to alien.
The Systems Alliance Military-a force dedicated to the protection and defense of Earth and its citizens against non-Terran threats-was formed soon after, drawing resources, soldiers, and officers from nearly every military organization on the planet.
There were some who insisted the sudden unification of Earth's various governments into a single political entity had happened a little too quickly and conveniently. The info nets were swarming with theories claiming the Mars bunker had actually been discovered long before it was publicly announced; the report of the mining team unearthing it was just a well-timed cover story. The formation of the Alliance, they asserted, was in fact the final stage of a long and complicated series of secret international treaties and clandestine backroom deals that had taken years or even decades to negotiate.
Public opinion generally dismissed such talk as conspiracy theory paranoia. Most people preferred the idealistic notion that the revelation was a catalyst that energized the governments and citizens of the world, driving them boldly forward into a brave new age of cooperation and mutual respect.
Grissom was too jaded to fully buy into that fantasy. Privately, he couldn't help but wonder if the politicians had known more than they publicly admitted. Even now he wondered if the communications drone carrying the distress call from Shanxi had caught them by surprise. Or had they been expecting something like this even before the Alliance was formed?
As he neared the bridge, he pushed all thoughts of alien research stations and shady conspiracies from his head. He was a practical man. The details behind the discovery of the bunker and the formation of the Alliance didn't really matter to him. The Alliance was sworn to protect and defend humanity throughout the stars, and everyone, including Grissom, had to play their part.
Captain Eisennhorn, commanding officer of the New Delhi, gazed out through the large viewport built into the foredeck of the ship. What he saw there sent a shiver of wonder down his spine.