Above, thick bundles of diamond nanotubes cut thousands of parallel vertical lines in the air, disappearing in low cloud cover. Below, the ruins. The buildings that were still standing were either skeletons or bloating, sagging corpses. Shipping containers were strewn about among the hulls of gondolas like a knocked-over bucket of Legos. Capsized ships and derailed passenger trains were all the same color of rust. The air was warm, but Lenna felt a chill and shivered in the unearthly quiet. They called it the Last Wonder of the World.
Back in ’61, it was one of the formative events of her childhood. It defined a generation and altered the course of history. 199884 Asteria.
At the time, Venice had been sinking for a hundred years already, and rising water levels around the world only exacerbated the issue. In a bid to reshape Europe as the world leader in innovation and engineering, the Lifts were commissioned; a series of suspension structures unlike anything ever attempted. They were going to raise Venice.
Everything was going as well as it could be hoped for given the scale of the project, and then Asteria came. She was half a kilometer of solid iron moving at 50 kilometers per second. Astronomers spotted her only three weeks before impact, careening in from outside the ecliptic where it’s hard to see and rare to look. The impact was expected to be in the Aegean, hence the name, but you could theorize that the last-minute nukes nudged her a little off course if you were the generous type. Splashed down 20 kilometers off the coast of Pula, but the steep approach angle sent the tsunami northwest. The 15-meter wave was swallowing Venice in minutes.
With nothing left to raise, the Lifts were canceled, nearly completed. But it wasn’t wasted. All the innovators and engineers went to work on something else, something grander. The Elevator. That’s what made the Lifts the Last Wonder of the World; all the future wonders would be offworld. And Lanna was going to be a part of it.
She’d studied microgravity macromanufacturing, and she would soon be moving to Counter City, located on the Elevator’s counterweight 35,000 kilometers above the equator. But before she left, she wanted to see the Lifts. It was a sort of pilgrimage. Though now that she was here, she found herself looking down instead of up. It was easy to forget that history was filled with real people. Easy to forget, but important to remember.
Notes: I used an image as a writing prompt for this piece. You may be able to find the image on the artist’s ArtStation page. Image by Barthelemy Aupetit, used with permission.