Outside the window, the massive Arcturus space station grew steadily larger as the New Delhi approached. The Alliance fleet-nearly two hundred vessels ranging from twenty-man destroyers to dreadnoughts with crews of several hundred-stretched out from it in all directions, surrounding the station like an ocean of steel. The entire scene was illuminated by the orange glow emanating from the type-K red giant far in the distance: Arcturus, the system's sun for which the base had been named. The ships reflected the star's fiery glow, gleaming as if they burned with the flames of truth and triumph.
Though Eisennhorn had been witness to this grand spectacle dozens of times, it never ceased to amaze him-a dazzling reminder of how far they had come in such a short time. The discovery on Mars had elevated humanity, binding them together with a new sense of singular purpose as top experts from every field had united their resources in one glorious project-an attempt to unravel the technological mysteries stored inside the alien bunker.
Almost immediately it had become apparent that the Protheans-the name given to the unknown alien species-had been far more technologically advanced than humanity...and that they had vanished long, long ago. Most estimates placed the find at nearly fifty thousand years old, predating the evolution of modern man. However, the Protheans had built the station from materials unlike anything found naturally on Earth, and even the passing of fifty millennia had done little to damage the valuable treasures inside.
Most remarkable were the data files the Protheans had left behind: millions of tetrabytes worth of knowledge-still viable, though compiled in a strange and unfamiliar language. Deciphering the contents of those data files became the holy grail of virtually every scientist on Earth. It took months of round-the-clock study, but eventually the code of the Prothean language was broken and the pieces began to fall into place.
For conspiracy theorists this was seen as fuel for their fire. It should have taken years, they argued, for anything useful to come out of the bunker. But their negativity went unheard or unheeded by most, left behind in the wake of spectacular scientific advances.
It was as if a dam had ruptured and a cascade of knowledge and discovery had been unleashed to flood the human psyche. Research that previously took decades to achieve results now seemed to require mere months. Through the adaptation of Prothean technology humanity was able to develop mass effect fields, enabling faster-than-light travel; no longer were vessels bound by the harsh and unforgiving limits of the space-time continuum. Similar leaps followed in other areas: clean and efficient new energy sources; ecological and environmental advances; terraforming.
Within a year the inhabitants of Earth began a rapid spread throughout the solar system. Ready access to resources from the other planets, moons, and asteroids allowed colonies to be established on orbiting space stations. Massive terraforming projects began to transform the lifeless surface of Earth's own moon into a habitable environment. And Eisennhorn, like most people, didn't care to listen to those who stubbornly claimed humanity's new Golden Age was a carefully orchestrated sham that had actually begun decades earlier.
"Officer on deck!" one of the crewmen barked out.