Abseiling the Great Light Wall
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The Great Light Wall is the largest artifact in the solar system, but most people don’t think about why it was created any more, except on XLZ Memorial Day (observed either July 19 or the third Monday of July, varying by country). A transparent Dyson sphere, several miles thick, built outside Mercury’s orbit, the Wall has one purpose: keep the growing solar flares contained. It won’t contain the energy of a nova, but it’s not meant to.
In the 24th century, the Eurasian Space Agency and the Indo-Pakistani Agency for Space Exploration joined forces in an effort to move humans beyond the bounds of our solar system. These dreams came to an abrupt halt when XLZ-348, an experimental spaceship that was supposed to “fold space,” thus allowing faster-than-light travel, folded itself into the sun along with an unknown amount of degenerate matter. The resultant plasma jet blew past Venus. Eyewitnesses on Earth described it as a highway of fire across the sky (1). Subsequent flares were not as large, but dangerous levels of radiation accompanied each new burst. (Work on folding space was discontinued, over the vociferous objections of Steve Lee, one of the engineering consultants for the XLZ-348. Rumors have surfaced in the past few years of a shipyard on Triton, far from UN oversight, but these rumors have not been confirmed.)
Observations of the flares confirmed that the degenerate matter had carried enough heat to trigger helium flashes in intermediate zones of the sun. Astrophysicists disagree upon whether the sun has actually begun its red dwarf evolution but agree that it has become inimical to life (2).
The United Nations’ Space Oversight Agency gathered scientists from around the world. In less time than anyone familiar with bureaucracy expected, a plan was put forward for a protective sphere around the sun using data gathered from the 2018 Solar Probe Plus, as well as subsequent missions, including the Taitale Project of the 22nd century. The job was opened to bids. (3)
HySphere won the contract for the construction (3) but quickly ran into cost overruns. Initial estimates were based on robot workers, but frequent breakdowns required personnel to be on site. Carbon-carbon shielding and lead lining of quarters increased costs significantly. Unable to attract new financial backing — and well aware of the danger to Earth if the sphere was not completed — HySphere turned to tourism. With the safeguards for the crew already in place, extra space on vessels bound for the Wall was easy to arrange: for a few million dollars, you too could brag you’d been close enough to the sun to see sparks. Repeat passengers were harder to come by, at least until Hyram Freeson realized that the Wall was of necessity three-dimensional.
HySphere extruded the sphere surface to create canyons, following patterns already laid down during construction.
“Display your rock-climbing skill in the most dangerous place known to man” read the first ads. When his wife pointed out to him how sexist this was, Hyram changed the wording to “Bold men and women, come climb in the light of the sun!” (citation needed) The wealthy flocked to the still-in-progress sphere, eager to be among the first to visit the ultimate in man-made entertainment, a labyrinth of walls kilometers deep and so extensive climbers never had to see another person. Communities built up, with spas, permanent base camps, and refuges at strategic locations. Freeson had his funding, and Earth still had a chance of survival.
In the following decade, the United Nations sued HySphere for the return of money paid under the original contract, accusing the company of using UN money to kickstart its own fortunes. (4) The World Court ruled against the United Nations, saying that HySphere had built the protection sphere as agreed upon, and the contract did not forbid using the sphere for personal gain. Hyram Freeson’s elation was short lived, however, as the World Court also held that the sphere, having been paid for by the people of the Earth, was equally open to all. (4) Every government, business conglomerate, or individual with access to space set out to put their own mark on the sphere, or as the media had begun calling it, the Great Light Wall.
Today, dozens of companies thrive on the tourism business at the Wall, and prices have come down into the reach of the average family, thanks in part to package deals created by Disneyland Sol. (Call 1-800-555-DISN from anywhere in the world to book your vacation.) However, even with the expansion of offerings, the most popular reason to visit the Wall is the climbing, and the most popular company is HySphere. Around the world, people say, “Next year, let’s go abseiling the Great Light Wall.”
United Nations v. HySphere Inc.
References and footnotes
(1) ^ The Times, London; July 19, 2673
(2) ^ J. Adams, Quachri, T., Williams S. “Solar evolution and external events: A review of the literature.” Astronomy and Astrophysics 7150 (3): 684-795.
(3) ^ UNSOA 2673-99E
(4) ^ United Nations v. HySphere Inc.
Eurasian Space Agency
Indo-Pakistani Agency for Space Exploration
United Nations’ Space Oversight Agency
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