Short story: Operation Sol-idarity – by Ned Alexander


©2016, Ned Alexander, all rights reserved

Gaius Web stepped from his office and placed his briefcase gently down onto the floor.  With a few soft button taps the heavily armoured door concealed within the wall slid quietly into place and locked.  He waited for the sound of hidden pneumatic seals being inflated as they too moulded themselves into place.  Gaius lifted his case, placed his trilby carefully onto his head and then ran his finger and thumb around its rim deliberately and quite absently-mindedly.

He stared out of the window of his pod and shuddered at the unfamiliar sight of the almost deserted transport grid.  Inside his four seater pod he had dismissed his usually fastidious urge and was now sitting at the table with his feet rested up on the seat facing him.  He released the front clasp of his case, raised its leather securing strap and removed a bottle of aged Talisker Whisky and a short diamond shaped crystal glass.  He held the bottle up to one of the interior lights to read its label but paused mesmerised by shards of soft brown light now emanating through the liquid within.  The pod gently rocked up and down as it hovered along above the grid and the shards of light spun from within the bottle.  But, unlike a lighthouse warning of imminent danger, these beams, more like Sirens, merely invited Gaius to approach the rocks that would accompany the Whisky.  He inserted the glass into a small dispenser and two ice cubes fell one after the other.  He twisted the cap, lifted the bottle to his nose, closed his eyes and inhaled.  It was like smelling a moment from the past for him and he felt as though he had drunk a whole glass of time in his first whiff of the warm enticing aroma of vintage 2063 Talisker.  He lingered for a moment before filling the glass and then taking a large needed sip of the Whisky he had patiently waited so many years to open.  He had hoped, and had even once dared to expect, to drink it in celebration but now, given the circumstances, he felt that drinking in sad reflection would have to suffice.  Gaius seethed as he breathed the warm vapours out through gritted teeth before closing his eyes and sleeping restlessly for the remainder of the journey home.

As the pod lowered itself to the ground it suddenly ‘tink-tinked’ as its motors slowly wound themselves down to standby mode.  Gaius snapped his head upwards and opened his tired bleary eyes.  He rubbed his face in his hands in an effort to wake himself up quicker then he spoke the words “Doors, open” and stepped from the pod.  He took hold of the side of the roof, leaned in and took hold of the bottle of Talisker then, as he straightened himself back up again, he glanced upwards and had to shield his eyes from the blistering bright Sun above.  Dark lenses from within his trilby quickly lowered themselves to cover his eyes and he was able to remove his hand again.  As Gaius stared for a moment longer he could see the Sun shimmering hazily in the distance.  He grunted, looked down to his bottle again, removed the cap and took another healthy slug from it before closing the pod’s door.

Andrea appeared at the front door to the house and shouted across to him, “Darling.  Come on.  What are you doing?  You know you shouldn’t be in the Sun for too long.  Come on in.  Everyone’s waiting!”

Gaius sighed to himself, turned and smiled at her as best he could then quickly scuttled into the house so as to avoid raising her suspicions that anything was wrong.  As the heavy front door slid closed behind him Andrea lifted the Whisky from him and laughed.  “Oi, you, you cheeky sod!  We were supposed to open that together.  You couldn’t wait just a few more minutes?”

Gaius apologised as best he could with a stoic shrug and walked quietly to the main bedroom.  Andrea stood for a moment and watched, proud of Gaius and aware of how hard he had worked these many months.  Tonight was to be a celebration but she was aware that for him it was the end of a long hard project and that perhaps he should be left alone to gather his thoughts and to prepare himself for the evening’s festivities.

“Hey?  No Gaius?”

Andrea turned to see Thaun leaning around the corner of the kitchen door his face beaming with a slightly uneven Vodka fuelled smile.  She laughed to see him looking so uncharacteristically relaxed and this eased her concerns as she followed him back through the kitchen to find herself a glass for the Whisky berating him as she walked.  “D’you realise how silly you look in that party hat?”

“Good!  Silly was exactly the look I was going for.”

The door to the bedroom disappeared into the wall and Andrea stepped cautiously into the dark room.  “Oh bugger, where are the lights?”

“Leave them off please.”

“Gaius?  Are you awake then?  I was beginning to think you might have fallen asleep or something.”

“No.  I’m awake.  Leave the lights off though will you?”

“Okay.  Sure.  Is everything alright?”  Andrea’s eyes adjusted to the lower light levels and she could now see Gaius sitting, shoulders hunched, on the bed.  “Darling?  You okay?  Look, you’ve been home two hours and haven’t even come to say hello to our guests.  What’s going on?”

“I’m…I’m just not feeling very…look…you go back.  You go ahead…”

Andrea sat down beside him, put her arm around him and began to stroke his hair.  “Darling?  What’s wrong?  This isn’t like you.”

Gaius placed his hands deliberately onto his knees and lowered his gently shaking head gesturing that he didn’t want to talk about whatever was clearly bothering him.

“No-no.  Come on now, what is it?”

Gaius sighed, sat up again, stood then walked over to window and deactivated its shielding.  Light spewed into the room as the shielded shutter outside rolled itself up and lifted into the soffits above.  He stared for a few minutes through the strongly polarised glass as Andrea tried to decide whether or not to interrupt his silence.  Eventually he turned and looked at her.  “Did the kids come?”

“The kids?  Well, no.  Graeme is on duty this evening so he couldn’t make it and Margia is still away at college.  Look, your silence is starting to worry me.  What’s up?  After all, the Sol-idarity mission is finally over and we’ve been given the all clear.  What could you possibly be unhappy about on a day like this?”

Gaius sat down again and composed his thoughts before responding.  “It was all done in good faith you know.”

“What was?”

“Operation Sol-idarity.  It was all meant in good faith.”

“Operation…what…well of course it was.  I know that.  How could I not know that?  Good Lord, Gaius, it’s the only thing I’ve been able to think about for the past five years.  I mean, the world finally pools its resources and works together to save itself…how could that not be in good faith, right?”

“Indeed.”  Gaius nodded slowly.  “You know, when we first detected Ura Prime heading towards our galaxy it just defied everything we…I mean, an asteroid yes, but a planet to come towards us, we never could have predicted that.”

Andrea stroked his back again.  “I know.  But it’s all behind us now.  We sent the probes, the trajectory was changed and the Sun is no longer a threat.  So why so…?”

Tears ran down Gaius’s face but he responded without emotion.  “When we first realised that Ura Prime’s path was affecting the Sun so much that it could destroy us, well, we had no choice but to do whatever it took.”

“Okay Darling.  I know that.  You’ve been away most days, I get that.  The kids understand.  It’s okay.  Look, you’re tired, perhaps try to get some sleep, okay?”

“Asking for international designs for the probe and opening the naming of the operation up to the world was just a way of getting people involved.  Keeping them occupied.”

“Well, yes…and it was a great idea.  All of us working together.  Operation Sol-idarity was a great name …well…inspired.”

“But that wasn’t the point though.”

“Well…whatever.  Either way…it was a success.  Besides, five years ahead of schedule isn’t bad either so…”

“What if I told you that the mission was never to stop the Mass Coronal Ejections that were predicted?”

Andrea shuffled slightly away from Gaius.  “I’m not following you.  I can’t find a single channel that isn’t talking about how successful the mission was so…I don’t understand…what exactly was the mission?”

“It was to stop the world from spending its last few years of life tearing itself apart.”

“What do you mean?  Are you saying that…are you saying that it wasn’t a success?  Are you saying that we’ve only got five years left or something?  Darling you’re really scaring me now.  What’s going on?”

Unable to look Andrea in the eye Gaius continued staring at the ground.  “There are no five years.  There never were.  Ura Primes’ mass is greater than all of the known planets in our system combined.  We were never going to stop that!  We could barely have even approached the thing let alone generate enough energy to be able to dislodge it from its path.  We were doomed the moment that object aimed itself anywhere near our galaxy.”

Andrea lifted a hand to her mouth.  “So the warp drives?”

“A deception.”

“The launch?

“A lie.  Just very-very expensive theatrics.”

“So…if not five years…then how long have we got?”

“Tonight.  We predict the first of the coronal storms will begin tonight.”

Tonight?  How long does that give us?  Months?  Weeks?”

“If we’re away from the Sun at the time then we may survive a few hours more but…we may be lucky and be facing the Sun at the time.  The strength of the ejections predicted will…wipe out every living thing on the planet.  Everything.”

Suddenly the door slid to one side and Thaun leaned in.  Hey crazy cats.  You coming in?  We’re gonna drink all this beer before you…oh.  You two guys okay?”

Andrea concealed her face for a moment, wiped a tear, turned to her old friend and smiled at him as if she had not seen him in a very long time.  “Sorry Thaun.  Yes, yes…we’re fine.  You go ahead.  We’re just celebrating…you know what.  We’ll be along in a little while.  You go ahead and help yourself to whatever’s in the fridge too until we come out.”

Thaun smiled a reassured smile.  “Okay my lovely.  Hey, can I get you kids anything?”

“Actually, yes.  D’you think you could bring us that bottle of Talisker?  We’ve got a few things we need to…drink to.”

“Yaye!  That’s the spirit.  Be right back.”

Andrea had been almost immobile with anger when Gaius had been disclosing to her that the home she knew and loved so much and even the planet on which she lived were all soon to be wiped from existence and she had resented him for having kept it from her…but just at the moment Thaun had spoken to her she realised why she should not tell him, why she could not tell him and then she realised in turn why Gaius had not told her.  Regardless, she was now simply too numb to be angry.  “Could you be wrong?”

“We’ve had all the top minds on the planet working on this.  They’re not wrong.  I wish they were.”

“So, you’ve had them all working on when we’re going to die rather than working on Operation Solidarity?”

“Well…that’s not strictly true either.”

Andrea twisted her neck and stared at him.  “But you said it was.  What part are you saying is untrue now?”

“Just the name.  Operation Sol-ace.  We called it…Operation Sol-ace.”

Magnificent CME Erupts on the Sun - August 31

As ever, if you have any feedback, comments or questions please feel free to drop me a line at or just leave a comment here. Thanks, Ned.