The Nexus Project: Part 3

4.

Niala burst through Gnarl’s door as if ready to rip his throat out. Simon and Rearden were near terror, so fierce had the Matriarch’s gait and fury become. Gnarl was startled by the entry. He yelped, nearly fell backward in his chair. Simon’s heart stopped when Niala leaned over the desk at him.

His chest heaved while a hint of tongue panted in shock, “M-matriarch, my god, you nearly gave me an embolism.”

He braced himself to stand. Niala gave a low growl, “I should gore you where you sit.”

Simon swallowed hard to regather his wits. Clearly the forced evolution had only heightened the Lioness’ ferocity. He wasn’t sure whether to intervene or check his pants. Ultimately, he resolved to be a voice of reason, if a mousy one at that.

“N-Niala, please, calm down,” Simon requested. She bared her teeth over a throaty growl.

Gnarl’s canine brows inflected confusion, his tongue now tucked away, “Matriarch, I assure you, whatever you’re angry about I am not a party to.”

“The words of a guilty, flea-ridden–”

Gnarl was on his feet, “What did you–”

Simon angled between them, against his better instincts, “Woah, woah! Let’s step back here.”

The two growled over him, the finer hairs of their coats upturned around their Lycra collars. With a final half-roar, Niala straightened. Gnarl remained on-guard. Simon carefully extended his hands to tap Niala’s shoulders.

Simon stammered airily, “G-good. Let’s start over, okay?” A side of Niala’s muzzle lifted to bear the corner of sharp teeth. “Rationally, please.” Rearden gave a small beep of agreement. The two creatures’ fur relaxed slightly. Simon swiveled toward Gnarl, “Chief, we have questions. You’ve no doubt heard of the intrusion into our network.”

Gnarl’s eyes flitted between over him, “Yes, what of it?”

“Well, Rearden believes– a-and I agree– that someone must have been facilitating it.”

“In English, Simon,” Gnarl requested snidely.

Niala’s eyes were pointed on Gnarl, “Someone inside is responsible for the attack.”

Gnarl’s obvious prejudice faltered for minor panic. There was only one reason they’d come to him, especially with Niala in such a state. The hound wheezed with a half-whimper, sank into his seat.

“You may not believe it,” he began sullenly. “But I had nothing to do with this theft. I’ve spoken with every department head to ensure nothing else has been appropriated. They’re all losing it. Even the old bird’s hopping around in his office, out of his wits. Josie’s barely keeping him sane.”

Niala’s anger lessened each moment, enough that Simon felt comfortable speaking without pretense, “Then you know there’s a leak in our security network.”

Gnarl gave a sigh through his nose, put a paw to the center of his forehead, “We’ve plugged the leak for now, but we’re not certain the extent of the damage or even that we’ll be able to ferret out those responsible. We’re afraid to shut down the affected nodes entirely, so we’ve isolated them for now.”

Rearden beeped something to Simon, whom repeated it, “You think you might be able to use the leak, trace it?”

All of Gnarl’s remaining vigor left him, “We want to try, but whoever’s behind this is good.”

“How good?” Niala finally asked.

He glanced between them, “Good enough to implicate Simon and myself without leaving a single hair of evidence to pick a scent off. Even the leaking nodes aren’t public. They’re private terminals in various, unconnected residential quarters. Each time we trace one, it leads to another, as if the signal’s rebounding between all our internal computers.”

Rearden gave another few beeps, seemed to inquire something. Simon repeated the question in English, “You’re saying someone’s spoofed the origin and is bouncing packets between the dummies?” Gnarl shrugged. Rearden beeped in response, but Simon had anticipated it, “That means that somewhere between the bounces the packets are being intercepted.”

Gnarl was dejected. His investigation was going nowhere, and his own reputation was on the line. It showed in his weary tone, “We’ve called in a few favors with the HAA. They’re sending in tech experts to do forensics on our network, but it’ll only compound the problem.”

“How could the Human-animal alliance compound the problem?” Simon asked curiously.

“By making moves that are too public.”

“What’s Frost want us to do in the meantime?” Niala asked.

Gnarl was suddenly informal. He looked at Niala as an equal, “Frost can’t find his head with both wings right now. He’s damn-near a stroke every time we speak. You know how Avians are– always high-strung– well, except the tropical ones but you get my point.”

Niala swallowed her pride– a difficult task for one so defined by it, “What do you suggest?”

Gnarl glanced between them again, “Call in every favor you have.” He looked pointedly at Niala, “Every favor. See if anyone knows anything.”

Niala squinted to decipher his meaning. The phone began to ring on Gnarl’s desk, “Get it done, Matriarch. Simon, you’re off the hook. Help her. Whatever she needs or it’s your ass.”

“Yes sir,” Simon replied formally. Gnarl shooed the trio with a paw, keyed his desk to take his call. Simon found himself in the hall before a moment had passed. He looked to Niala with curiosity, “What did he mean by favors?”

She glanced along the hall of open offices. It looked much like an old-era police precinct might have. When she met his eyes again, it was to whisper so quietly even Rearden jacked-up the gain on its auditory sensors.

“A Matriarch such as myself has met many types of beast.” She rechecked the area, “Most are not the sort one of my station would cavort with, nor would like to.” Simon’s eyes narrowed. She gave him a clear-cut set of instructions, “You and Rearden will return home and pack enough clothing and money for a week. I’ll meet you at the transport depot when the next shuttle’s due to depart.”

He suddenly felt as weary with dread as Gnarl had been, “Where are we going?”

“Not here. I’ll tell you more once we depart. Be there.”

With that Niala turned on-heel and marched off. She rounded a corner for the elevators and disappeared. Rearden gave a suspicious series of beeps before Simon cleared his dread from his throat, “I don’t know either, but you’re right. Whatever we’ve gotten ourselves into isn’t going to end pretty.”

Rearden beeped affirmation, switched its thrusters from a hover to follow Simon’s slow progress to the elevators.

5.

Simon stood on the departure platform outside the shuttle. That Phobos had been colonized never seemed to cross his mind until he was here, ready to leave it. A dozen people waited with him to board the shuttles whose rounded, rectangular shape appeared almost the same as the Maglev rail-cars of Earth. Some of those old-world transports still functioned, however useless in the wake of hover-craft, inter-continental and inter-planetary shuttles.

Amid the plethora of scientists, security-guards, and laypeople, Simon blended. The faces of Felines, Canines, Corvians, and all other manner of creatures waited patiently with their eyes-front. However rigidly they held themselves to be the “best” of the pack, there was no denying the gleam of excitement in their eyes. Save Simon, all of the transport’s would-be passengers shared happiness in their quest for home, however contained.

He on the other hand, merely kept his back-pack shouldered and his duffle bag in-hand to ensure he looked the part of traveler. All the same his neck stiffened to strain his peripheral vision for signs of Niala. Rearden hovered in place beside him, as silent and stoic as a little bot could muster. Its own reservations had been spoken– or rather beeped incessantly, as was its way– while Simon packed his things. The heated discussion ended with no less agreement than when it had started. They both knew this was out of their depth. Unfortunately, Niala trusted them and needed their help.

A hooded figure appeared at Simon’s right, a cloth-sack slung over its shoulder atop a vivid-colored gown of obvious, African fashion. The collar flared out and down atop the shoulders to the chest. The elegant, thin material as much for honor as keeping cool in hot weather.

Simon glanced sideways. A few eyes surveyed the hooded figure. He spoke from the side of his mouth, “Could you’ve drawn a little more attention?”

Niala hissed back, “This is the only thing I have that isn’t spandex, and I hate the stuff.”

His voice was pointed with ire, “You look like a pack of cheap colored pencils.”

Her mouth hung half-open as she balked, “I’ll have you know these are my royal garments presented upon my ascension to Matriarch status.”

Simon eyes rolled. The doors of the transport opened. “Just get inside.”

Rearden followed them up and toward the transport’s rear. They took a seat across from one another at a small, booth-like table, sequestered from the bulk of the passengers. Rearden’s thrusters powered down and it came to a rest at the table’s inner-edge.

Simon relaxed across from Niala, “Where are we going?”

“Ganymede,” she replied quietly.

“What!?” He blurted. “Have you lost your mind?”

She squinted a slit-pupil at him, “I’m still your boss, you know.”

He heaved a futile sigh, “Niala, that moon’s filled with nothing but scumbags and gangsters.”

She raised a brow, “And they’re exactly the types to have information on the security breach.”

“This is too much, Niala. Ganymede’s dangerous.”

She chided him, “Lost your nerve already?”

“I’m not stupid,” he replied with a forward lean.

“Are you implying I am?” He scowled in response. She reassured him, “When we reach the hub station, you’ll see there’s nothing to fear. Normal people go back and forth to Jupiter each day.”

“Yes, miners. That live in secluded outposts. Not the moon!” Rearden gave a beep of agreement with Simon. “See? Even it knows this is nuts!”

She leaned in closely, “Do you want to learn who’s targeted you, put a black mark on your reputation, and stolen your work?”

Simon’s eyes darted around, “Fine! But for the love of science, get rid of that damned gown!”

She smiled, “Never.”

It was roughly five hours after they boarded the transport that it finally docked at the hub station between Earth and Mars. From a distance, the station looked like a caltrop once found in the ancient game “Jacks.” It’s various arms bulged at the tips where the connecting airlocks secured various transports to the station. The arms themselves were long, hollow, their innards crammed full of various commerce stands, stalls, and outlets like the mega-malls of Earth.

Indeed, as Simon and Niala made for the station’s center, they were overwhelmed with the sensation. Countless scents mingled over the din of innumerable voices that melded with drab or flamboyant fashions. Corvians, Raptors, Iguanidae– every evolved species mingled in their various manners with humans and even a Swine or two. All the while, Canines kept watch at the corners of halls and outlets. Their eyes and ears scanned for the slightest signs of trouble, no doubt ready to rush it and disperse the perpetrators with force if need be.

Simon weaved in and out of the crowd behind Niala as she pushed toward the station’s central hub. There elevators led to other ports or essential-systems levels. They remained on their level, followed the circular interior counter-clockwise to another arm of the station. Along it were all manner of outfitters, from clothing outlets to ship-salesman. The latter was most curious, especially given ships were far too expensive for the lay-person to purchase, and transport companies did business directly. Simply put, there was hardly a place for a ship-salesman in the Sol System, at least thus far.

To Simon’s surprise, Niala steered them to the aforementioned salesman, “Wait here.”

He lingered at the store’s edge, watched her enter. Rearden gave a quiet beep in its hover beside Simon. Niala greeted a salesman whom quickly provided her with a pamphlet. She said something inaudible, and the man’s eyes narrowed. They disappeared into a back room.

Rearden beeped. Simon shook his head, “I don’t know either, but I’m not feeling good about it.”

Niala reappeared moments later, thanked the salesman, and left with a brochure in-hand. She motioned Simon along, “Come on, we’re almost there.”

Simon’s confusion was obvious, “What was that all about?”

“Later.”

They pushed through the crowd for the open dock ahead. A scrunch-faced bulldog stood before a counter beside two security-Labradors whom scrutinized their approach.

“Names,” the bulldog requested.

“Niala Martin and Simon Corben,” Niala said as she set a credit-card on the counter.

“Length of stay and reason for visit?”

“Indeterminate. Official business for the ISC,” she replied formally.

The bulldog gave her a squint to put the guards to shame. He blew a jowly breath, “You understand Ganymede is an anarchic moon with no formal government, right?”

Niala’s eyes narrowed too, “Of course, but the ISC has business there.”

The bulldog looked them over, “Bot’s a child’s ticket. No-one travels free.”

“That is satisfactory,” Niala replied.

The bulldog scanned the card on the desk with an IR reader, “Good luck, Matriarch.”

“Thank you,” Niala said with a tilted bow of her head.

He waved them past, toward the near-empty transport ship. They took the boarding hall in few steps, found a place at the back at another booth. Niala sat with her back to a small surveillance camera, tapped Simon’s knee beneath the table.

She forced something into his hand, “Take this. It would be unwise to travel without it.”

His hand clasped a holstered laser-pistol, “What the hell?”

Rearden beeped, but Niala quieted it with a shake of her head, “One does not travel to Ganymede without the willingness to show force.”

He leaned over the table in a whisper, “I’m a scientist, Niala, not a criminal!”

She spoke even quieter, “If you wish to remain anything, you will take it.”

She straightened in her seat. He leaned so the camera would not see him affix the holster to the belt beneath his jacket, then sank back with a new weight to his hip. Niala gave a small, satisfied nod.

He muttered under his breath, “What the hell have I gotten myself into this time?”

Short Story: Crazy or Brilliant?

The Galileo Space Station hung like a massive caltrop over Earth. It could’ve been used in a game of cosmic-scale jacks. At one point, it had been small enough to miss spotting with the naked eye. Now though, it was a shining star nearly a fraction the size of a waning crescent moon. Built of modular pieces, it could expand theoretically expand forever. Given each section’s exterior was covered in radiation shielding, power-collecting solar cells, it would do so without much trouble on Humanity’s part.

Already it had long surpassed the sizes of the ISS and its descendants. In fact, if laid upright by one of the caltrop’s spines, it would be the tallest structure ever to grace the Earth. For now though, the honor of hosting it belonged to space alone. And there the SS Galileo (SSG)– as it was often humorously called– was merely one artificial wonder among the infinite natural ones.

Life on SSG was an exercise in zero-gravity discovery. At least for those whom found themselves on it later in life than usual. Those born there, like all the others, couldn’t imagine eating anything but ultra-processed foods, sleeping strapped to a wall with their bed-bag zipped around them, or moving in a sort of air-swimming they’d developed. That is, of course, to say nothing of the infinitely enhanced activities of courting and sex in zero-G.

But it was, everyone aboard new and old knew, an essential, long-term study of human space-living and its effects and influences. Unlike most newcomers, none of the dozens of children born aboard SSG– in extremely complicated c-sections– had ever felt dirt beneath their feet, true-rain on their face, or real wind on their bodies.

Like them though, Lisa Sterling was as near as normal a little girl growing up in space could be. She’d even managed to build an average set of muscles, that though sinuous and lanky, could’ve allowed her to pass for any Earther without need to hide anything. She’d taken to weight lifting and physical exercise at precisely the ages required by the physicians and enjoyed them. More importantly though, she’d also taken to– and overtaken at that– the knowledge-based courses required for any of the hundred jobs aboard the ever-growing SSG.

At only fourteen, she graduated high-school-level mathematics and language courses to college-level courses. Having found freedom in helping to fix broken bits of the SSG, she was summarily offered a job as a mechanic and carried out her first space-walk at fifteen– the youngest person in history to ever do so, and indeed possibly the only one that might.

It was a short time after her sixteenth birthday that she sat– or rather floated– in her bed, arms out to scribble equations across a digital data-pad. Tablet computers had long been utilized aboard SSG where space was at a premium and only the most important things could be written on their limited paper-supply.

She was scribbling out a series of trigonometric equations when something dawned on her. She suddenly scrolled away from the previous work to start fresh. There she wrote her first theory. Through the course of a full-night, the young girl, brimming with life yet to be lived, scribbled and scrawled and and drew and charted. By morning, she was exhausted, but exhilarated.

She immediately went to the Overseer, a man as old as any aboard and in charge of running every administrative aspect of the SSG. She presented her work to him as she simultaneously shook off lackeys that tried to keep her from his office.

“Mr. Minaret, I have something you should see,” she said in her high, crackling, teenaged voice.

“Hmm? Ah yes, Miss Sterling.”

He waved off his secretary and head resource manager. They turned away begrudgingly, air-swam to the door and out through it. Minaret offered her a place before his desk, sat behind it with a slip of a belt against himself. Lisa followed suit before the desk and settled as best she could against the chair and its restraints.

“Now what can I do for you, Miss Sterling?”

She handed over her data-pad. He looked over the first line with a, “hmm?

For a long time he said nothing else. In fact, it was so long, Lisa considered excusing herself, but knew she shouldn’t. She needed to be here when he finished. She needed him to look her in the eyes and either tell her she was crazy or brilliant.

Unaware of her inner-thoughts, Minaret instead lowered the tablet to his desk, unconsciously keeping it from floating away. He stared past Lisa with his mental gears visibly at work.

“Ab-so-lutely ingenius,” he muttered.

Lisa felt tension drain from her. She could’ve sworn she felt herself float a little higher off the chair than before.

A few months later, Lisa stood before her completed design– or at least, what of it could fit or function inside the SSG-shuttle she now occupied. The ship looked like a compacted version of the old shuttles of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Indeed, if one had had its middle section removed, it would be identical to the ship she stood in. However, in the center of the rear cargo-hold, stood a curious contraption.

It was roughly four-feet tall, a equally as many deep. Its bottom half was like a 3D “X” that formed a plinth. From the X’s straight faces, tubes draped down into floor-panels, through the ship’s hull and into the vacuum outside. Via extensive fuel and electrical lines in them, the tubes fed a battery of engines formed around the shuttle’s rear. All of this was quite common, though not normally found in this section of the ship, nor indeed inside it at all.

Atop the X, stood Lisa’s contribution in a large, transparent cylinder. Through the cylinder’s center a thousand ultra-fine, superconductive filaments connected to a ring, in turn, suspended above a large hole that led into the fuel lines. Held tightly in the ring, was a jagged, blue stone like any other amorphously shaped rock. There was nothing inherently special about its milky, dirty look. It would’ve hardly even been worth a rock-polisher’s time.

It was, in fact, so much more than it appeared. Even a layman understood the importance of a new element added to the periodic table. That it had been created in a particle accelerator aboard the SSG by none other than sixteen year-old Lisa Sterling was little more than one more of its dozens of notable merits. Its most important one, however, was about to be tested.

Lisa double-checked the shuttle’s systems and locked down the its hatches. Seals hissed and inflated as she sat before the pilot’s controls. She’d spent a month alone learning how to fly the ship. The rest of the time– not spent building the contraption and its internal element– was spent convincing various worry-warts to allow her the test-flight alone. Seeing she would not be swayed, they could do little but acquiesce, no matter their arguments.

She ran through her pre-flight, then double-checked the straps that held her g-suited body into the shuttle’s command seat. She readied to decouple from the SSG.

“Everything’s in the green. I’m ready.”

A tense voice replied over her headset, “We read you, Sterling. Decouple when ready.”

“Decoupling now.”

She flicked a few switches, fired a short-burst thruster for a half-second. The Shuttle drifted harmlessly from its docking position.

“Coming about to get clear of Galileo,” she radioed.

One, in-built, flat-panel display that took the place of the pilot’s forward-window cycled through external camera views. It came to rest on one that simulated its position as if it were glass. The screen beside it was subdivided into nine views from various, other cameras that altogether gave a full image of the shuttle’s interior and exterior.

Through her forward display, Lisa watched as a few thruster bursts propelled her past the lengthy caltrop and into open space. She drifted aimlessly in vacuum, a slight spin to her momentum. She corrected to an imaginary, level-plane in her mind.

“I’m clear of the station. Preparing to fire the drive.”

“Roger that, Sterling,” the command center replied. “We’re all holding our breath down here.”

“Don’t pass out, Command, I’ll need you to dock,” she joked.

There was a laugh, and Command went quiet. She knew they were watching through an uplink aboard, but it was far from her mind.

With a deep, calming breath, she flicked up a red trigger-guard and threw a switch. Behind her, a hum rose to steady thrum.

“Holding so far, Command,” she radioed. No one replied. They were too tense. She knew why, and only worsened it with her next words, “Opening main fuel line and beginning burn.”

There was a hiss, not unlike a ruptured seal, and the thrum rose with a buzz. With a gentle, forward-press of a joystick, the shuttle lurched forward. Lisa was thrown back in her seat. No-one spoke or breathed.

Suddenly Lisa was shouting a long sustained, “woooh!” and laughing. It bled through her comm, shattered the tense silence. She barrel-rolled, looped, and zig-zagged to test the shuttle’s maneuverability, shouting excitement the whole way.

From an external view she saw Earth and the SSG as mere points on a horizon. Mars inched nearer with each minute. She aimed for it, five minutes later used its gravity to slingshot her around the planet and back toward Earth and the SSG. She was almost near the speed of light– not at it of course, but realistically as close as Humanity might ever get.

When she finally disembarked the shuttle, people were cheering, calling her the girl that conquered space. True as it was, and ecstatic as she was, Lisa thought of only one thing; she was either crazy or brilliant. Whichever it was, she had conquered space, opened its farthest reaches to a people long confined to one tiny planet, its moon, and its skies. No more, she thought, however crazy or brilliant.

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.