When the various nations of the world pooled their resources to escape the planet’s crashing biosphere, to escape the calamity they had caused, a select few stayed behind. People who refused to abandon the home world, those who chose to believe the ecosystem could, deprived of all the pressure, find a way to heal itself.
It was not, in the end, a particularly large population. Fewer than a million per continent, by most estimates. Rugged individualists, many of them. Others were scientists, or simply people with ties too strong to leave behind. Ties to the land, to their ancestors, to the memories burned across the landscape.
Even as they all hunkered down to survive the fury of the angry Earth, these populations began to change as they melded together, creating a civilization unlike any that had ever existed. For the first time, their tech began to conform to ecological conditions—to prevent future damage and, in many cases, to repair what they could.
Repairing the deoxygenation of the oceans, reducing levels of carbon and methane in the atmosphere. Moving from preying on the creatures that survived to maintaining a healthy population. Acting as wardens rather than owners.
Maybe it was the influence of some of those who had remained behind, tribal elders of nearly extinct peoples too insignificant to merit special consideration by the colonial powers. Aboriginal people who refused to leave their home and, through some odd cultural adaptation, began to speak to all the remaining Earthers as if they were all one people, bound to one mission.
Though it never gained the prominence of a true religion, having no written doctrine or dogma, the belief that humanity was now meant to guard the Earth became an increasingly part of the shared planetary culture, maintained by the new technologies advanced after the Diaspora.
They had their own mass media, their own entertainment culture, and, in many respect, resembled several pre-Diaspora societies. But the primary cultural goal was protection and preservation, not consumption and destruction.
When the colonists of Seraphim IV (New Canaanites) returned to ‘reclaim’ mankind’s home world nearly a century later, presuming themselves to have been ‘sent by God’ to do so, they were firmly rebuffed by a rather more advanced and expressive culture than they’d expected. They’d clearly assumed they’d find howling barbarians and instead discovered a vital, thriving culture with a rather high literacy rate and unexpectedly advanced medical practices.
They were not amused to discover that the worship of their patriarchal deity had all but been forgotten on humanity’s home world. The Earth was their goddess, they needed no other.
In the meantime, the other hub worlds hadn’t forgotten Earth. They’d left it to its own devices, having their own concerns. Far fewer worlds required terraforming than they’d initially feared. It turned out that compatible Biosystems were more common than anyone would have believed, actually lending support to theories of artificial seeding by some yet unknown entity.
There were some truly alien life forms out there, such things as never existed on Earth, but many also conformed to some sort of humanly recognizable forms—creatures that were, for all intents and purposes, similar enough to reptiles, or amphibians, or mammals, to make xenobiology a far less maddening proposition than it might have been, if not for the fact that it made very little sense unless the ‘seeders’ were correct.
Unprovable assertion. Unfalsifiable. And yet…
Seraphim IV's military capabilities surprised no one. As soon as they’d set up shop, as soon as they had the first generation of young future soldiers gestating, they began working on an orbital shipyard, exploiting both dirtside and space-based resources to get it built all the faster.
This didn’t go unnoticed. They’d made their general suspicion toward the other groups rather plain, coming as they did from some of the most reactionary regions on the planet. Many of those who joined the New Canaan colony ship in the first place had been those who believed most staunchly that those of different races or religions weren’t just wrong, but actively evil.