Short Story: The Great Sphere

The construction of the Great Sphere began with little ceremony. The few that had heard of the project felt it would never be completed, let alone serve its rather grand function. Admittedly, I too was on the fence, though I proposed the project to Congress, then later, the United Nations, European Union, and finally NATO. The last of these organizations, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, formed by several, powerful governments in the Northern Hemisphere, and with an army all its own, gave a home to my designs.

Granted, those original blue-prints were less than stellar, if you pardon the pun, I was certain they were our best hope. Given the news that daily bled from NASA’s public comm-channels, it was also our only hope. I remember watching the first ship that launched from Canaveral. Just after dawn the air is quiet, pristine. That day there was a nip to the air, it forced to huddle myself into my jacket, warm my hands with steaming breath. Even then I knew the fire in my heart would blaze when the launch counter reached zero.

When zero arrived, the sight struck me first. An emblazoned dart propelled itself spaceward with a fearsome, immolated tail. As I gathered my wits to draw my next breath, the sound enveloped me. It was something like the fireworks I saw as a boy but longer, louder, of more girth. Though they’ve long since been banned at the fears of resistance groups, there was something spectacular about them. The cry of a rocket is a long, dulcet growl that softens and broadens the further you get from it. Even so, those that watched were lump-throated together.

That rocket, Lazarus I, both reignited our space-fairing ventures, and sealed our fates in stone. The first of the Lazarus payloads contained the gravity generators and miniature, atmospheric barriers required to begin welding the initial frame together. Initially, this was accomplished by robotic drones remotely controlled from Canaveral’s command center. They were primitive now, as we look back, no different than our last few unmanned excursions to Mars, only differing in their instruments and intended application. I was on-hand for the first welds that took place from those robotic arms. Blue sparks of light that glowed against the blackness of space just outside the thin, opaque membrane of the atmospheric bubbles.

While it worked away at the corner weld of two, massive steal beams. All the while in the control room, the technicians hammered at their keys, scratched equations on notebooks, crumpled failed thoughts, and smoothed out the last, few kinks the system had presented once deployed. We all suspected things would need to be ironed out once activated, but even at that we’d so well exceeded our expectations.

To those great men and women there, the offer of my eternal gratitude could never be understated. Though it was NATO that initially approved and funded the project, it was those gentle, highly-intelligent souls that made the Sphere possible. Were it not for their sacrifices, largely personal of course, I believe human history may have never continued– or at least would have done so in a vein that would have casually seen its end.

Instead, the first welds went in to place, then the seconds. More still came with the launches of Lazarus II &III, and by the time Lazarus IV was launched, the Sphere had begun to take shape. It sat between us and the sun, situated just so as to orbit it and us in an ellipse. Though it was difficult to see at night, in day, the incomplete husk of the Sphere loomed near enough to cast shadows on certain structures. When later it was completed, it became as a nearby star might.

It is the most magnificent feeling to see one’s vision complete, but no more humbling than when its purpose is finally revealed to the world, and its inspirational symphony plays out across the emptiness of space– both for all to hear, and none.

Though public perception was against The Sphere at first, when next they heard the leaks of NASA’s comms, it shifted. Collectively, the public learned that NASA’s deep-space monitors had been tracking a possible threat. Imagine if, in a moment’s breath, a pandemonium erupted all over the globe, spurned by the ultimate terror a human can experience. Only if this image is then multiplied ten-fold on itself could one’s mind even begin to approach the chaos that ensued.

The first days were the worst, I believe. It was as if the world stopped all at once. All those whom we relied upon to clean our trash, service our engines, and infinitely more than I can think to name, relinquished their posts. They fled, en-masse, home to their loved ones to comfort and cower with them. Some shook with terror or grief beneath any thing that hid them from view of the sky. Others still became consumed with the nihilism that one so bitter-sweetly experiences when faced with their own, imminent demise. I do not blame them. Were I not so consumed with my own work and vision, I’d have just as soon joined them.

But the Great Sphere is curious in its affect on man, woman, and child. When first its distant lights were lit to test its power, all those hidden away or absorbed by their fears, looked upward. A billion, distant service-lights blurred into one. The Great Sphere pulsed nearer Earth than not in its orbit.

With a cool, blue glow, the hearts of adult and child alike were soothed. But a most wonderful thing happened in those hearts too, as if a switch had been thrown on all human kind at once: fear no longer existed. Not truly. Minor fears were still present of course, but fear is interesting in its effects as well. It would seem as predictably chaotic as fear can make the mind, so too when it is overcome does a certain peace of mind descend. That peace engulfed the people, formed of the confidence they once more had in their place in the universe.

Curious though it was, the light of The Sphere led to the mass enlistment of men and women that wished to take residence there. Mechanics, technicians, security and others lined the halls of recruitment centers, each of them certain their future lay in the embrace of The Sphere. Because of it, construction was completed far ahead of schedule, and when our adversary came from the furthest stars, we were well-prepared.

Broadcasts of intention were received and decoded with bated breath. Until then we could not have known if they were friend or foe, but the latter was most plausible given their bearing. They had launched from distant reaches of space’s horizon with a seeming armada whose swiftness could not be matched. Until then, we had never seen true space-ships. Our rockets were primitive in comparison, ancient Greece’s javelins to our modern day cruise-missiles. While our engineers have since made that point moot, it was clear on their arrival that our visitors were no friends to us. Our own intent to stand our ground was made as transparent as the most pure crystal when those first responses were encoded back to them.

For a brief moment, salvos of lightning and insta-freezed vapor glowed in the sky with the silent gatling of lasers. Collectively, the world watched as those brave men and women aboard the Great Sphere readied to fight or die. But as I had hoped, planned, envisioned, the fusion-charged, opaque shields activated and disintegrated any attempts on the Sphere.

As if they sensed they had bitten off more than their inhuman mouths could chew, the would-be invaders turned their sights toward Earth. Fighters launched by the hundreds for the surface while the vain bombardment continued on the Sphere’s shields. The scream of foreign engines swept the top-most reaches of our atmosphere, some silenced from poor entry-calculations alone. We’ve begun to believe these failures suggest where-ever these attackers’ knew nothing of the detriments of the angles to our atmosphere.

Even more fighters were lost to our guided-missiles. We tracked their approach via satellite imagery and digital spotting. When finally in range, SAM sites all over the world launched fearsome rockets by the thousands. Our atmosphere thickened in their wake, fogged by the impetus of a war meant to be decisively won. All across the globe, the missile’s detonations split the air with gusto. Those ships never stood a chance. All that remained after the attack was what refused to be consumed by the fires of victory.

Explosions blanketed the skies of Earth and the foreground of space beyond it, the latter silent as the Sphere whose weapons had yet to finish their first, true charge-cycle. They deployed, invisible to any whom knew not where to look or were too distant to see them. I imagine those cruiser-class and Colony vessels would never have made such a lengthy trek had they known what was in store for them.

The first weapons to come online were the rail-guns. Their targeting parameters were set for the Colony ships– the least armed of the rival fleet. Over twenty-thousand rounds of shrapnel per minute were expended from each of four guns in over a thousand batteries around the Sphere’s exterior. Each with its own, three-hundred and sixty-degree view of its surroundings, the rail-guns were no match for even the most experienced of their pilots. Even then, the Sphere was so adequately armed, that their placement through-out the entirety of the structure made easy prey of those few ships. I believe, in all, five Colony ships were cut down in the first moments of our counter-attack.

Just as the last of the Colony ships went down, the rail-guns re-fixed their aim on the cruisers. Their salvos and lasers were answered with the silent call of our own Plasma cannons. As with the rail-guns, their numbers were more than sufficient to do the job. Countless balls of red-violet streaked effortlessly through the vacuum of space, cut through cruisers and stray fighters alike. The rail-guns hammered along to bludgeon their message home, add a final insult to the armada’s fatal injury.

In what was mere moments, the battle commenced and finished, the threat eliminated. We had waited life-times to know for certain that life existed elsewhere. Then, we waited years to meet it face-to-face. When the time came and our hearts sank at the forthcoming battle, it passed nearly instantaneously with us as the victors. When NASA’s comm chatters first leaked, we bit our nails in agitation. When we learned of their violent intent on-arrival, our guns were readied and our hearts were heavy. Once the smoke cleared however, we learned we were a force– a species– not to be taken lightly, no matter how we appeared. More importantly, we learned that the Great Sphere would be our protector no matter the battles to come.

I, as its creator was awarded the highest of honors. But now we all stand, ever vigilant, with our eyes on the space’s horizons. There with fire in our hearts, we thank the Great Sphere’s guardianship as if it is a deity. In a way it is; one that has allowed us to begin a new chapter in human history, rather than pen its epilogue with our blood.

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