In 2078, the world ended. Well, not exactly. World War Three broke out and was fought and won. If nobody counts as being able to win.
Nuclear weapons arced up and crashed down to the Earth with energies greater than the sun. Asteroids fell from the skies, crashed into cities and obliterated the skies. Disease, engineered and natural, ran amok through the survivors.
So much was lost. So much was confused. Especially from the years and decades just before the conflagration.
And yet, and yet with the tools still left to our ancestors, with the technology and knowledge of 5,000 years of civilization, we were able to recover and rebuild far and away above what we had before. Repopulation took place, but carefully. The world was still fragile.
Our world, while not without rivalries and even some clashes, is far more measured and careful a place than before. We had no desire to reignite the surface of the world with the nuclear and bollide flames of our hate. And none would probably ever wish to do so again.
As we mourned The Lost, the billions dead consumed, and celebrated our survival, our ascendance, we found the shipyards. It seems in the twilight hours of the world before, some nations had begun to build starships in the asteroid belt. Some had been launched or were at least missing. Some were adrift in the outer solar system or never left their docks: it seems some of the horrendous bioengineered diseases had reached out from the depths of the gravity well of Mother Terra to strike down the presumptuous.
Their ambition, their defiance of their fate, of their world's fate, inspired us. We built our own starships, with all the wealth and knowledge we had inherited and grown upon. Their ships were slower than light. Ours were faster than light: we'd had the inspiration. They had been so close, oh so close, and yet...not made the leap before The End.
We leapt outwards. We quested to the stars. Life was present, but little was compatible. Bad biochemistries. Terrible conditions. We loved them all the same. Here was life, not as we knew it, scattered across thousands of worlds within a thousand light years. We quested. We searched. We yearned to know if there might be another world with intelligence, once that had survived its childhood and grown into something mature and resilient like we had.
Then, much to our shock, one hundred years after we had begun questing amongst the stars, two hundred since The Flame had swept the world, radio tickled earth. It was patchy at best, but seemed to have data and structure. It was not decipherable, even by our greatest machine minds, but our most insightful citizens.
We shot through the heavens to triangulate the origin of the signals. We leapt and swooped through the gases and dust of the interstellar medium. Triangulate we did. 150 light years from Earth! At a small g dwarf that had been obscured by another star, an oddity of interstellar geometry, and there, circling around every 500 days, a life bearing world and the radio noise of sentience.
We rejoiced! We celebrated! We made ready.
It would a peaceful expedition. We sent a dozen ships, one from each of our reborn polities. All equal. All participatory. All peaceful. All excited.
We appeared above their world. We were shocked. It could not be. Our embassy ship spiraled down to the surface and landed. We were perplexed. And if we were perplexed, they were more so.
The ramp had lowered and I walked down. I wore a thin film mask. I didn't desire to bring any diseases with me and cause a Columbian Plague. Nor did I wish to die of something locally raised. At the bottom of the ramp, I raised my hands of greeting.
Their soldiers were pointing weapons at me: they were obviously scared. Yes, they could probably kill me. It'd end the mission and the consequences for everyone would be terrible.
"I am M'bke, ambassador of Earth, citizen of South Atlantis, appointed by the United People's of Earth. I extend my peaceful greetings and express wonder. We thought we were alone and Earth was the sole residence of intelligent life. We were wrong and delighted to be so."
One of them stepped forward.
"I am Thomas Obidiah Martinez, President of the American Republic of Echotah. We welcome you. We welcome you in peace. We thought we were all that was left of humanity. You are human, aren't you?"
I smiled. THIS was not what I expected, but better than I feared. "I am human, as human as you are. Humanity survived The Flames and thrives once again. We are just...different than before."
"But...orange?" started President Martinez.
"And purple and green. We changed. We chose to change. To make a break with the past. Is there a place we can speak in private, Mr President? We have much to discuss and rejoice in."