The Second Cold War was colder than the first, the stakes higher, the players more numerous. But it picked up in the most memorable arena of the First: the Moon. NASA and JAXA maintained a joint science outpost in the Avogadro crater on the far side, and it was from there that Comet Calvillo-Ōtsuka-Folts was first observed. This was quickly abbreviated to Comet COF, and inevitably people pronounced it cough. It was an undignified name for the most important discovery in human history, but also an apt one, because it was an early symptom of something deadly already in the blood.
Science news usually fills the role of the pre-commercial-break fluff piece, but when the NSA appropriated the outpost and black-bagged all the scientists stationed there, it drew more attention than they’d probably wanted. But word got around quickly: Comet COF wasn’t a comet at all. It was an alien space probe. And not only that, but it was capable of faster-than-light travel.
The Americans planned to capture and reverse engineer it. If any one nation controlled FTL technology, they controlled the stars. Might as well control the whole universe. The US’s relationship with Japan appeared strained, but it may have been a show. The EU was apoplectic, and the UN was roundly critical, but historically these things rarely held much sway with the US. China and India doubled their investments in space. North Korea increased their rhetoric while launching ICBMs along narrow parabolas that terminated in the Sea of Japan. Only eight member nations participated in the G20 summit the following year.
And then to everyone’s astonishment, the Russians announced the successful seizure of what they’d dubbed the Solovyova Object. It was a second probe. They’d discovered it where no one else had bothered to look: on Earth. Park rangers found it in a melting ice-cap not far from Kheysa, a former Soviet rocket launching site on a remote island in the Arctic.
The existential ramifications where numerous, but they took a back seat to geopolitical concerns. They had to. If this Second Cold War got hot, there wouldn’t be anyone left to deal with the external consequences.
And, as one school of thought posited, perhaps that was the aliens’ intent all along.