The Tower

Author : William Ovide Richardson

On a clear day, the tower was a perfect filament of white, stretching from its mile-wide root before you to its faded terminus directly over your head.

The human mind is not accustomed to seeing straight lines at such massive scales. It interprets them as curves, and since the tower was 35,000 kilometers long and perfectly rigid and straight, it seemed to hang overhead, as though before it was lost to sight in the haze of the atmosphere it bent at the end like a light standard. To a conventional mind, unaccustomed to such counterintuitive sights, it could be as jarring as the view from the inner surface of one of the larger Stanford Tori, which seemed like an arch over a curved strip of solid ground, punctuated at the noon position by a luminous suspended cylinder that seemed to float weightless, and which the mind would simply not allow to be as massive as it actually was. The brain was trained and evolutionarily predisposed to understand ‘up’ as a place where incalculably huge things simply didn’t hang like that.

If you stood in front of the tower, that bizarre and disorienting apparent curve would confront you, and several thoughts would come to your mind unbidden. The first you might dismiss as hackneyed and obvious: this was the tower of Babel. It was a monument to human arrogance and hubris and God or nature or chaos or whatever would make us pay for it. Those who laboured for the consortium at all strata, from executives to lawyers to engineers to migrant labourers, would tell you that whatever your beliefs, that thought was perfectly normal. Some of them even believed it.

The second was sheer awe at the scale of human potential. We fight. We forget our lessons every generation, and most of us never learn them at all. We succumb to superstition, incompetence, and the endless blights of stupidity and mean-spiritedness. Nonetheless, this. Somehow we can achieve Olympus, Pedestal, Canaan, Luna, and the utterly mindblowing Tower and the masterstroke of political organization of the Consortium.

Once those thoughts crossed your mind, you would turn, because knowing what was there, you’d have to turn to look after your mind processed the second thought. The idea that the Tower Consortium was a miracle would necessitate it. You’d turn to see the airbase, operating military aircraft around the clock. Beyond that, warships passed, and in the seaport, the derricks of the shipyard turned and swung where the massive landing craft, fully equipped for long-duration seabasing, underwent construction and refits.

The scale of the operation was staggering, of an order to impoverish superlatives, and so was its opposition. Newton’s laws are, of course, immutable. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. If some optimistic segment of humanity decided to buck the dark-age warnings of the fearful and build a tower to the stars, then those who thought any of a thousand contrary things–either that we should be satisfied with our God-given dominion, or that we were testing God’s (apparently finite) patience, or that we ought to simply read the stories bronze-age nomads wrote, or whatever else– would come together to tear it down, bound by the basic laws that govern the motion of everything from events to baseballs to force their own prophecies to come true.

And so, war. No more justification required. No more explanation needed for the now constant air, sea, and space battle being waged mere hundreds of miles away from where you now stood. The Consortium’s superiority was incontestable, but it was limited in manpower, while its enemies were legion. It was only a matter of time until this stroke of human genius came tumbling back to Earth, incomplete. Something had to change. Humanity had to improve; we needed to be objectively better.

That was a project much larger and far more daunting even than the Tower, and it was already underway.

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