‘It won’t hold!’ the technician screamed over the noises of the turbines.
‘It will’ Dyson called back over the whir and crashing of the electro-magnetic charge. He looked at the machine and gritted his teeth. It will hold, he willed it to hold. This was the first shot, this was the only shot. Billions of dollars had been pumped into years of research and development, a team of a thousand had dug a pit into hell to house the reactor. Now in the control room Dyson could see through the window the nine story device he had created. The engine that would catapult the first interstellar craft out of our solar system.
Fossil fuels, liquid oxygen, both were useful and combustible, but there was no way in the long run the human race would be able to get itself into space regularly with this kind of extravaganza. The engine had the answer. That was what he called it, a spinning series of coils that balanced and counterbalanced to such precision. Tesla almost had it right, almost caught the equation, but where he had fallen at the last Dyson had grasped it. He had cried when he completed the mathematics, it was beautiful.
Now the prototype was in full motion. There had been an error in the calculus, or a mechanical issue. The coils had heated up faster than expected, but they would not exceed the mechanical thresholds, they would produce the amount of energy required.
Above Arthur C Clarke’s vision swayed. It had been built at last. A single anchored elevator. Sixty thousand and thirty miles into the upper atmosphere docked with the international space platform. He would have to see about adjusting that as well. The load weights if the pieces that needed to go up whole were too much for the engines on the ‘ribbon’. He would have to do this all himself.
He turned to the panicking technician who had stopped fretting, although he was sweating uncontrollably. Dyson took off his Jacket in the warmth of the electromagnetic hum from the banks of machines. He never dressed properly anyway. White coats and jackets and ties. He looked down at his faded guns and roses t-shirt. He had sworn never to wear another jacket and tie again after all those failed interviews, all those failed pitches to companies who couldn’t see a profit. Now he was on the verge of creating a power output that would put a manmade object around another star within six years, dropping a crew off on Mars as it went.
This was his gift to the human race. This was his fuck you to everyone who had doubted him: to that small weasel man who had turned up his nose, who had sneered at the idea.
‘I’m sorry Mr Dyson’ his voice had been thin with an eye on the clock, ‘your idea just won’t work, not on this planet anyway.’
The counter hit the mark perfectly. The power output reached the threshold for shut down and the technicians behind him all started high fiving. The whooping and hollering began.
Dyson had stood, thanked the men and women for listening to him before rounding on the weasel, the man with no vision.
‘I accept your challenge’ he had said.
Dyson looked back up at the displays. His maths had been perfect and he allowed himself a small smile.
It was the beginnings of an engine to take us to the stars, and all because someone didn’t want to buy his idea for a vacuum cleaner.