Saturday, July 02, 2005


It soared, tall and imposing, the upper levels lost in the wispy clouds; akin to a spear cast into the forested earth that surrounded that monolithic base. He knew that this edifice was no mere spacescraper; its facade, at least in the upper regions, did not consist of reinforced meteoritic armour and heat-resistant superconductor plating for nothing. This Needle, as it was already called even as its halls and corridors remained bare and empty, was built to withstand the pummelings of the exosphere, the steady beat of solar radiation, the constant irritation of micrometeorites- whatever nature thought to throw in its path.

The Exoterran Connexion Superfunctional Tower, or EXCOST, stretched up even to near Lunar Orbit. Even as he stood on that platform, ships were already placing the last habitation and experimental modules at the pinnacle, wrapping up construction on the Orbital Observation Bubble a few hundred storeys below, and placing the last nanotube superstructural supports and facade platings on the rapidly coalescing tower.

He had every reason to be proud that day, as he looked up at the huge tower, reaching so serenely into the distant blankness of the cyan empyrean. EXCOST was his. His dream, his brainchild, his baby. Thirty years before his colleagues had looked upon the first blueprints and concept drawings with a warmly condescending air, some supercilious, others pitying, all scoffing and sniggering behind his back. Today they, like all the rest, scrambled for the crumbs he left them with barely a thought of their erstwhile contempt.

Fastidiously wiping his hands on a paper towel, he set it aside on the ledge for tiny cleaner bots to dispatch. The minuscule things hovered quietly around the piece of paper, tearing it swiftly apart and using microscopic mandibles to push pieces of it into their maws, where it would be recycled in a cleaner nexus into anything that merted its composition. They were efficient; the process took only a few seconds, whereupon the cloud of cleaners departed with barely a murmur.

The hue of the sky was deepening; magenta dabs of clouds were scurrying across the horizon even as the sun sank beneath the distant mountains. A gust blew and the gentle susurration of sound soothed his ears. The insignificant remnants of the discarded towel spiralled away with the wind, circling like fireflies in the night.

Before he knew it, the vistas of evening had turned a deep blue and the first stars were appearing, glimmering faintly in the night's canvas. The only sounds were the calming breeze and the distant, inconsequential hubbub of the sequestered city by the bayside a few miles away.

Suddenly, EXCOST exploded in a cascade of brilliant lights, tiny, golden liquid dots that sparkled up and down the endless length of the tower. The golden disjointed line of light was a sublimely beautiful sight to behold, like pearls of dew on a length of twig. The light traced complex patterns across the distant Needle, and the overall effect recalled the play of lights in metropolises in science fiction epics of old. On the distant face of the sea, the tides did little to obscure the bright, golden line of reflection that ran in a long streak upon its being.

This was what he had waited to see. A sight that he had beheld many times before, but never tired of; a sight that transcended human thoughts and cares and all other desires-a sight of his-yes, his- own landmark upon the sheer face of human civilization.

What this really is is a study of the ego of the scientist referred to as "he". Call him Dr Nick.

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