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The Sun Apparatus This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

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In the sun apparatus things existed that existed nowhere else. Energy impossible to create without it was in short supply and only one man was allowed to enter. Hot even under her thermonuclear shield plating Ve’yan stepped inside the apparatus, the door shutting with a mechanic clang behind her. Light searing her retinas came from the window the scientists before her had assumed would protect from the radiation and the light. Mistaken to the third degree, their corpses rested in each command seat. Burnt to literally cinders their bones were preserved by what she had been informed as UI radiation, one almost undetectable unless you were this overwhelmingly close to the sun’s rays.
“Once you reach the central module you need to find the storage unit”, a cold voice spoke to her, the radio’s interference echoed inside her helmet reminding her of the danger which set her in motion. The storage module she had been taught was in the upper right sensor platform, where the long dead scientists would use the gravitational pull of the gigantic apparatus to pull in flares from the sun, which they could use as a supplement for fusion. The light meant for deep space exploration unnecessarily illuminated her further as she lightly ascended the stairs to the top of the platform. Moving forward she looked out of the wide window upon the dark expanse of space while beneath her the floor glowed with dark blue lines that traced their way to the white panels set in a row along the wall. A chair was set in the middle of the platform and she had a sudden image of a man in a similar space suit striding up to the luminous control pad and pressing buttons in midair while calling out instructions to those below… Light filled the window while the captain shouted orders to the panicking crew below, Ve’yan wanted to help. She was not sure how but she could do something to save them...
“Ve’yan!” the voice repeated, startled and confused Ve’yan nearly fell as she was brought out of her daydream and she did what felt natural; she grabbed the metal handles connected to the white panel on the wall in front of her. Grasping the handles her hands had been hovering over for minutes she pulled with all her strength. Then with a whooshing sound her visor darkened for the first time in months, eyes drinking in the sweet relief for a moment as a cold fog left the storage unit.
“Take the gloves”, the voice commanded, then in a whisper it spoke with the other members of the council. “I told you she was not ready for such a task,” then as if stumbling on a word he continued “The radiation we have not been able to shield… Could it be affecting her mind?”
“Ve’yan has been the top of the science division A for the past two years”, a grizzled voice interjected; “she could handle this mission with her eyes closed.”
“Ve’yan’ you’re doing great”, a third voice said softly, seemingly apart from the pair which had continued arguing in the background.
“She is attempting to wrest the world from deaths icy grip gentlemen, surly we can wait until the celebrations to congratulate and point out the flaws of this mission”, a final voice said in a dull throb of electric circuitry that made Ve’yan shudder, even being tens of thousands of miles away. A metallic voice that commanded respect; no demanded their attention and obedience for the High Seat of the council.
“Ve’yan I love you, this will all work out”, the third speaker, her husband called out to her from the dark abyss of space.
“Silence!” came the scathing metal voice again from the radio, louder than the bickering voices which had risen to shouts, and the radio line gave way to deafening silence. Then in a rush, shuffles and screams met Ve’yan’s growing fear.
As if reading her thoughts a voice spoke again from the other end of the galaxy, “Do not fear for your husband, we have merely restrained him, as for the others… well it was no loss, especially in a case such as this, we can afford no distractions”, the electric voice stopped for a minute consideringly. Then continued asking, “You have put on the gloves I take it?”
Nodding her ascent to the camera that blinked dreamily from beyond the glass plating of the apparatus, she held them up and pressed the flashing red buttons on the back of her palms, each in turn. The gloves insides stabbed her hands with needles and Ve’yan stood up fully, awaiting the filling knowledge she knew would come. Quickly she pushed the enormous switch electronically to the cooling towers upwards with barely a considering thought. With this power she could do anything she thought teeth flashing with a fierce smile. Power unlike anything she had felt before had filled her mind, more knowledge than the most learned of her people, knowledge even the High Seat would envy.
“Ve’yan, the mechanic voice said with a hum, you need to go to the edge, the furthest possible point from the sun’s core.”
The voice brought Ve’yan out of her trance and her first questioning thoughts in decades bubbled to the surface, why did she have to do what this thing wanted? She knew more than its tiny circuit boards could ever fathom. She knew why she was there; Mars depended on her for power to save them from the suns lethal barrage of radiation, solar wind that could strip the atmosphere in minutes and was only protected by an energy field that needed more energy than all the solar panels on the planet could possibly create.
Ve’yan also knew why the High Seat was created, to hold the science academy accountable, do what no person could judge without emotion, without fear only with cold logic. They had seen the flaw that had plagued their society for generations, a man or women with the knowledge of thousands could not be trusted, eventually they found the horror their society had wrecked upon the past inhabitants, find the hidden records of those long dead. With their emotion they would have destroyed their own people for the revenge of the millions dead by their ancestors in war, through greed or simply from ignorance. The High Seat had no such desire, it was calculating, intelligence in a sense, and it was designed for one sole purpose survival, nothing more and nothing less.
“Ve’yan… Do what he says”, her husband’s fearful voice rolled out from the 249,209,300 km of space between them, a calculation that came easily to her mind now.
“I can’t”… She nearly whispered.
“Take the ship to the flare Ve’yan or you will feel every wound he suffers, feel every emotion as breath leaves his lifeless body. We will kill him slowly, directly connected to the apparatus; now do what you have been trained for or HE---- WILL---- DIE!” Through her fear and hate she knew it was true, she could see what the High Seat had done to those before her. Taking from them the most precious facets of their lives then threatening them with something almost as beloved, on and on until there was nothing left.
Reluctantly, hesitantly and above all fearfully she started the matrix of the sun apparatus’s core, spinning turbines brought to life with the swift heating of water reserves, bringing power to the engines which had remained inert for half a century. Banking the ship around in a tight loop her mind in sync with every map they had made, every scan of the sun’s surface that many had thought unchanging, but really rolled and twisted only kept from contorting by the gravity the heaviest metals compressed within the center created. Spurring the ship forward Ve’yan flinched as the electric relays overhead burst with overwhelming power, energy brought aboard by the sudden intake of light from the solar panels beneath the ship as it descended closer to the surface. The window was growing brighter and Ve’yan was forced to shut her eyes and rely entirely on the cameras of the ship, which she could see clearly in her mind’s eye through the connection. Guiding the ship, lower and lower, she opened the core doors while the emergency sirens blared for all personnel to stand clear as the heat and energy was steadily accepted into the chamber.
Duty before death, life before love, she recited fearfully over and over in her head as the ship grew brighter as the sun’s rays reflected on the metal surface. The window was growing Searingly bright to the point that even closing her eyes had little effect against the glare. Then with a burning light that exceeded anything any living soul had ever beheld, that tore through her plating as easily as butter, she fell to her knees with a howl of horrible pain. Unable to reach her eyes, she began scratching against her visor which had no effect but to increase the volume of her shrieks. Ve’yan’s nails were torn off, and bleeding she held them protectively against her body, crying while the ship flailed and twisted about as the shockwaves ran the length of the ship. Flames’ rolled like wheels in her mind and pain was all she felt before everything grew dark, all dark except for the screens in her head…
Her thoughts were besieged with only one word, branded into her mind. Flare, the word seemed too small for something so large and bright, so powerful she was surprised the ship had not been torn apart. But she had survived that is what mattered, the most powerful flare in centuries and she had sailed right through, if not for the ships plating she would have been burnt to a cinder… Breaking her thoughts off shapes flitted between the cameras in her head. Glowing shapes of the crew and captain trying to save the ship, no not the captain, Ve’yan was the captain and she had promised to get the crew home alive, but it was too much for the ship to bear. How could they escape the relentless pull of the suns gravity? It took all the ships systems to maintain the link to Mars; she would not let them die here, there had to be way… Electricity crackled in the air and Ve’yan stared out of the cameras at the struggling ship attempting to reach its previous position. It was too much… the ships systems were failing one by one each turning off and the golden glow of the apparatus faded, releasing the sun’s power to Mars, the ship trembled as the turbines began stuttering to halt, but it would begin falling hours from now Ve’yan knew and the problem of power was solved centuries ago, the captain had saved the ship…
Then out of the abyss Ve’yan thought she had left behind, a voice whispered with a note of finality. “Well done”…. And with a click the High Seat was shut off as the threat diminished, Mars had been saved…
“Ve’yan, are you there!” The machines they just let me go….” Her husband’s voice drifted from the radio.
…“Did he take you from me too?” He asked with a pleading cry.
Ve’yan just stood silently tears rolling down her face and she pushed the button on her arm disengaging the radio. She was not to answer; her training had forbidden her to respond and after all she was the best of the High Seat’s slaves was she not? She could not be allowed to live with the beautiful, horrible knowledge of the High Seat. Of the way he used the people to save the world with his callous electronic speech. His power did not lie in manipulation although he did it rather well; it was through the weakness all mortals bore, emotion… But who could question the results, a thriving society, millions of people alive and happy, living out their lives as if nothing could trouble their peaceful existence. But she knew the truth and so did those scientists from the Academy, not much power was gleaned from the most powerful flare seen in centuries, the ship their lifeblood was trickling down the front of their lab coats, the ship was from another time, an era before their miserable existences, it could not be remade, refitted or fixed. It was to be the seal of their final destruction.
Searching for the paneling in the wall she stowed the gloves neatly into the storage unit and she felt along the wall for the metal bar that had been placed for those before her. Finding it and grasping the iron rod in both hands she snaked her way through the ships corridors blindly. To a chamber she had photographed into her memory, a room with plain metal walls and four seats set in rows of two.
She found the seats but five paces from the metal bar and with a dread that shivered up her arm she felt a helmet, it was the A-91 model, a helmet from the ancient past. Moving on to the next seat she felt for the second helmet, an A-99 which was not that much different from her own. Then feeling her way around the second row of seats she went up a row and she reached out for the final helmet. But to her revulsion and surprise all she felt was the flaking scalp of a corpse, the helmet gone. Moving her arm lower, brow furrowed in thought she touched the steel rim of the helmet held tightly in the crook of the corpses arm, and thought to herself, you were supposed to keep the helmet on, no matter what. You were never to take it off, even if the visor had broken. It was then she touched his burnt eye sockets, just like the ones she bore, indented into his skull. Then the words from a life she was sure could not have been hers drifted into her mind.
“Some things you will know when events pass you by like speeding ships…..Faceless you shall remain until the end.” She had not been certain what to make of it when she had spoken with the High Seat for the first time, but now it all made sense. Everything had clicked into place like a puzzle.
Searching for the second position, directly adjacent from the dead body, she found the edges of the seat, no she couldn’t think of it like that… it was her seat after all.
“Duty before death, life before love”, she whispered to herself, before sitting and pressing the button imbedded in the armrest. Feeling the needles digging into her arm, taking what energy was left from her body, energy enough to restart the ships systems and attain its illustrious position above the star. A metallic sliding sound reached her ears and she was suddenly assailed by heat and she dug what was left of her bleeding fingernails into the helmets rim and tore it off with a sudden rush of air... Time slowed and like out of a dream she saw light, blind she saw the radiation they had been unable to shield against, brilliant colors and shapes blooming into existence were once there was only darkness, the captain stood before her with a smile on his handsome face and sat down beside her while tearing his own helmet off and putting it in the crook of his arm. The screen in front of her opened fully and the power of the sun washed over her, and for the last time she could see, see the light that tore through her plating and body in one fell stroke. Enveloping her in the fire which took from her the last thing of value she possessed…
Ve’yan’s final screams echoed within the empty sun apparatus, while the ship blissfully sailed above the boiling body of the sun’s surface below. But fortune smiled upon her a final time, none would ever see her scarred face, not even those daring ignorant recruits to come after her. None to know of deeds performed for their benefit--- Only her husband would live on with the knowledge that his wife had saved the planet… for a time. Life before duty… Love before death…



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