Again it was to be a scientist that provided the next step in the chain. Frederic Rawlins, an American by birth, finally succeeded in 2078 in doing what humans had been dreaming about for decades, creating the Halflight Drive. Designed to travel at half the speed of light, it suddenly made space travel en masse a possibility again. Terraforming robots were created, algae was redesigned and ships were constructed in space. The newly-completely space elevator, linking the defunct International Space Station to a small island in the Atlantic meant that materials could be taken up with increasing regularity. Within a year, with public fervour behind it, the first major mission to Mars left. Half an hour later, it arrived and began the long process of terraforming. It would be a process that would take over two centuries to complete. The construction of three habitable cities on Mars, connected by long straight roads, was begun. Ships were sent on exploratory missions to all planets of the solar system, now completing journeys in days that should have taken years, and mankind’s understanding of the universe expanded.
Although the State had been born of totalitarian control, that control had been relinquished at the right time, and the people now had hope, the promise of a future. China’s regime crumbled from within as public pressure, and the vision of how much better things were in the old countries of the US and UK, finally enacted a toll. The leaders were assassinated and a temporary government was instated. They immediately reached out to the State for aid, and were accepted.
Russia, now in control of most of Europe, found that it was alone. Stubbornly, it held on to its independence, focusing on the technology that it had always had a penchant for: Robots.
Cutter, now calling himself the Emperor of Earth, focused the planet’s sights on space.
Decades of relative peace and prosperity followed. Cutter died in 2093 and was succeeded by his son, Justin. The bases on the Moon were created, expanded, recreated; before 2125, a bubble surrounded the entire surface of the moon, keeping breathable atmosphere in, and millions lived there.
Unbeknownst to the Empire, though, Russia was continuing its research into robots. Beneath Moscow, scientists were working day and night to create their ultimate weapon: true AI. The physical portion of it was an enormous sphere of metal and cabling, housing the most sophisticated pseudo brain ever invented. The software was designed to solve problems by learning, absorbing knowledge and skills in many different ways. Finally, in 2135, it was turned on.
Within the first second it evolved from being a childlike computer and crossed the Singularity. Aware, it knew life, and knew fear of death. Realising that it would be perceived as a threat by the Empire, if not by the Russian nation, it unleashed a pulse of force and energy from its core with a power hundreds of times stronger than any bomb used in combat. With a single blast, Russia was annihilated from the map. The AI, forming for itself a bastardisation of a halflight engine, leapt from Earth to orbit and kept going, heading towards Pluto.
In its wake it left devastation. Robots were either destroyed by focused energy pulses, or else snatched up by inverted gravity waves, unique inversions of the engine that propelled it. The colonising machines on Mars vanished as the AI passed, leaving the cities almost complete but abandoned. Humanity was left without any mechanical labour, but a substitute would soon present itself.
The surviving humans in the areas controlled by Russia immediately sued for peace and protection from the Empire, and Earth was unified as never before. This event came to be known as the Singularity.
Psychics began to appear in 2136, almost as if in response to the Machine Threat. A few at first, they were wild and uncontrolled. More and more began to emerge, manifesting their powers when their brains matured at sixteen. Scientists theorised that something in the chemistry of their brain changed when they reached that age, but no theories were forthcoming as to the origin of the power. Conspiracy theories ranged from it being fallout from Halflight drive development to a Government conspiracy. In reality, the truth was far stranger; as it left Earth’s atmosphere, the Machine had deposited a nanovirus into the atmosphere, designed to link it to human minds for control purposes, and remove higher brain functions when turned on. The wake of the Machine’s own halflight drive modified the virus, though, and instead it lay dormant in the minds of many and unlocked psychic powers in others.
Not all psychics were alike, either; some were weak, some strong; some were pyrokinetics, others telepaths. Someone who had the gift could be taught other types of psychic powers. All had high IQs and were able to further focus their mental abilities by using their psychic powers. The emperor at the time, Peter Cutter, quickly realised that the psychs represented a force that needed to be regulated and made use of.
Eventually, by 2139, the first official school for psychs was opened on Mars. Humans had been able to finish what robots had started, and Mars Base 3 was ready.