During the apex of the second proto-galactic empire, spanning from approx CE 14200 to CE 14500 (before it was subsumed into the current galactic empire), great monuments of engineering were fabricated in a stupendous display of that same society’s decadence.
Annihilator Station—a name chosen, amusingly, by a third grader from the Alnilim system in a contest—provides an illustrative example.
A.S. was envisioned as a defense system for an entire solar system—specifically, the Centauri system containing the Empire’s capital. (No one was quite sure who the enemy was, but this small matter demonstrates the cavalier and bold attitude which characterized the proto-empire at peak.)
In all dimensions, A.S. was enormous. The main structure itself was built around a composite laser, whose primary bore was fully 2,000 km in diameter. The focusing system alone massed as much as Ireland. Since rotating the structure (and so the main beam itself) into an arbitrary alignment could require as long as a month, the main bore could be tapped to power secondary laser batteries—more mobile, practical laser turrets whose diameters ranged from 10 m (at the extreme lower end), up to 100 km (of which there were 10) or 50 km (of which there were 471).
It was literally the case that the combined fleets (at that time) of all interstellar nations, if put side-by-side, top-to-bottom, arranged broadside, could not cover even a tenth of that enormous aperture. The device was therefore capable of obliterating, in a single shot, the sum total of all militaries that at that time existed. For that matter, it could irradiate all of a large moon’s surface simultaneously, or cause a gas giant to combust.
The power requirement was, literally, astronomical. Just to keep the lights and life support on, A.S. burnt a (combined) mass of Plutonium the size of Gibraltar every year. The thing leaked enough air out from between atoms of its 500 m-thick hull that it had to be replenished by regular shipment. Of course, it had non-negligible gravity at its surface, too, and so keeping the lenses free of any stray, diffracting atmosphere provided employment to over 10,000,000.
In the end, the threat A.S. had been built to counter never materialized, and the station was ultimately done in by an equal mixture of logistics and intrigue.
One unfortunate fact of military operation is the necessity of hierarchy—particularly, a chain of command. Therefore, for any operation of any scope, there’s always someone in charge—maybe with advisers, but ultimately still one guy.
In this case, that guy was Grand Admiral Juiykla Hvvghinchych.
The Admiral was fond of booze and women, and, being the direct administrator of the largest military operation in history, found that he could rather simply arrange them, polity be damned. One of his consorts was a woman named Symotrishia Kavan. Ms. Kavan was connected, obliquely, to a curator of the Museum of Gambling, located on the sixth planet of the Centauris. This curator was in direct correspondence with the criminal underground, which of course was sympathetic to piracy.
Piracy, post-21st century, invariably (and necessarily) involved hit-and-run tactics. Commodity pricing on local stargates and reservations booked in advance made effective pursuit by law-enforcement all but impossible—clientele personal information, of course, being thoroughly encrypted.
The looming spectre of A.S. was a threat to piracy. Just aim one of the kilometer-wide auxiliary beams across the stargate. Ain’t nothing getting around, past, or otherwise through, that.
And so it was that the curator was smuggled four antimatter weapons, each in the 80 MT yield range, and Ms. Kavan, ah . . . convinced the good Admiral to allow the personal gift of fine whiskey to pass through customs unexamined.
The devices were detonated in the structural members near the power-generation compartments. Plenty of secondary damage was caused, including a firestorm of venting atmosphere that swept a full eightieth of the station. For her part, Ms. Kavan is believed to have perished in the blast. The Admiral himself committed suicide less than an hour after the incident. The curator was to be held for conspiracy, but died while attempting to escape—his hastily departing yacht disintegrating shortly before max-Q.
Ultimately, the structural damage to A.S. was minor—after all, a few nukes going off inside a structure the size of a small continent could almost be ignored, and the power areas, which suffered a secondary nuclear conflagration, could still be rebuilt rather simply.
Unfortunately for A.S., the bombs were the sociological straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back. The workers’ union struck, and—coupled with the already extant logistical nightmare of keeping a billion people in low-G supplied with food, water, entertainment, living quarters, and pay—caused a complete and almost instant collapse of order. The workers refused, in fact, go out to meet the cargo ships that would have brought them food. By the time the prospect of famine was upon them, it was far too late. Even moving a million people per ship was not fast enough. And so, hundreds of millions perished in the steel hallways of the greatest weapon in the galaxy. The government public-relations catastrophe alone caused, indirectly, several genocides, four planetary-scale secessions, and a new religion.
Under the circumstances, A.S. was abandoned to ruin in its own orbit.