Sphere's ability is described as a "tinker who specialized in sustaining life, sheltering it from outside forces; forces that included water, weather, space… and bugs." After the death of his children and wife, he changed from trying to protect others and now "was using his power to help and protect himself and himself only." He could theoretically keep whole moon bases operating.
Alan specialized in large projects as a type of architect tinker. He primarily worked through automated constructors, which as they were not self directed required his attention to keep on target. He had several processors that would consume resources to make the various materials he would use. Such as ceramics that were selectively electrically conductive.
Born Alan Gramme, a man with a happy childhood and home life. After triggering he became a tinker specializing in enclosed systems, this led him taking the pseudonym 'Sphere'. He gained fame and attention as his power allowed to take up "a project to build self sustaining biospheres on the moon." It is stated that "he had ideas on solving world hunger, and building aquatic cities near cities plagued by overcrowding." Sphere was attempting to get all of that off the ground when The Simurgh attacked the site he was living in.
In the Simurgh attack, his wife and childred were killed, and the years of work he'd done to help fix the problems of the world were ruined. Alan went mad and shut himself off from the world.Literally. Sphere withdrew, crafting a self-contained ecosystem in which he could survive indefinitely, untouchable, unreachable and safe. Sphere emerged under the new name of 'Mannequin'.
While secreted away in her lab, Bonesaw would grow several clones of Gramme for the express purpose of remaking Mannequin. They had none of the original's memories, their personalities were expressly sculpted to recreate the monster that he became. One version was created with his powers at a presumably much younger than Alan Gramme originally had been and as such was not a accurate representation of Alan's personality.
↑ 1.01.1Better to say Alan Gramme was an Architect, but a dramatic shift and change to becoming Mannequin made him a Combat Magi instead. - reddit comment by Wildbow.
↑ 2.02.1He was muttering to himself, “Wall them in. Wall myself in. Wall them in. Wall myself in.”
“Come on, A.G.,” Bonesaw said. She reached through the structure and took his hand. “Out through the door.”
“Not a door. Trap. Safest way to ward off attackers. Used my hair, made a tripwire, tying ends together. Maximum devastation if intruder breaks perimeter.”
“Through the window, then. I’ll wall you in. Promise.”
He nodded. With excessive care, he climbed on top of the jars that were precariously balanced on one another and slipped out through another aperture in the arrangement, higher up. He stumbled as he landed.
“This way. We’ll wall you in.”
He followed obediently. “Where’s my Catherine? She’s my…”
“Your mom, silly billy.” Cognitive dissonance would be bad. He could lash out. Not that he was that dangerous, like this.
“I was going to say wife. And I have two children. They’re seven and five. Except I’m…”
“You’re seven. You’re thinking of your sisters.”
“I’m confused,” he almost mewled the words. “It hurts, so much of it hurts to think about. I- I let a lot of people down. I can feel their disappointment like… like it’s pressing in on me from all sides. I can’t hide from it and I can’t stop myself from caring. I-“
“Hush,” she said. “It all gets better when you wall yourself in, doesn’t it?”
He nodded mutely.
“Walling you in,” she said, as she put him on top of the stand. A press of the button raised the glass enclosure. She could see him relax a fraction at that.
A bit of a problem, Bonesaw mused, as the container filled with the nutrient fluid. - Excerpt from Interlude 25
↑And I should stress that weak points aren’t necessarily just areas which are geographically vulnerable [...] spots where a great many resources are invested (be they great minds collected in one place or major projects like Dr. Gramme’s major projects in trying to save the world). - Comment by Wildbow on Colony 15.5
↑She sought out the other clone, finding him at the far end of her lab. He was a boy, narrow, with long blond hair and a very worried expression. A complex pyramid of beakers and glass measuring cups was arranged around him. - Excerpt from Interlude 25
↑Uphill/doomed project from the start. Shards are situated on Earth, reaching through realities for corona pollentiae. Powers don't really go into space, because, well, you've got the shard situated on the planet, and their reach is stretching, stretching up & out to the person with the shard. Do they exceed the shard's reach? Broken shards don't care so much, some powers can draw energy in other ways, but by and large, powers stop being responsive or start getting fucky at some point between the upper atmosphere and 400k km out. Many powers are manton limited so they don't actually get out into the vacuum. When it comes to Sphere, keep in mind that he effectively second triggered, except it wasn't really a true second trigger. In Weaverdice terms, he got the Renovamen/Angel Life Perk. Get taken out of action, come back in another form. So he had a different power, but when he broke, it took on a complete other angle. Best not to compare Sphere and Mannequin too much. If it helps, think of Mannequin as a tinker creation of Sphere, chopped up brain handling the corona differently. He was an Architect tinker. He could do large scale stuff. He likely had the means of creating the moon bubbles and tertiary systems and life support and keeping it running... but maintenance starts getting tricky. The first option is that the shard goes 'this is worth the effort' because Gramme is giving the shard fuel for something interesting, and all is well except for whatever it is that the shard was so keen about. The second option is that the moon base works fine, the first colony gets out there, and then somewhere along the line Gramme's well of inspiration and his eye for key details in his tinkerings just... stops. - reddit comment by Wildbow.
↑Time, efficient use of resources. Sphere might have created something like a glass spinner, which would work around a plotted path and gradually form a structure made out of one of his altered, ultrahard, selective electricity conduction glass materials. Workstations that convert supplied sand into raw material, workstations that harvest sand, and have his 'workshop' sprawled out across a beach, which he consumes to produce his dome on the water's surface. They're not really drones or AIs, though. He manages and pilots and fine tunes a lot of it. But he can work from terminals while keeping an eye on the actual goings-on. - reddit comment by Wildbow.
↑OniTan: What would happen if an Endbringer reached their goal? (Noelle, Phir Se, etc.) I don't think we ever see it happen except maybe the head of the CUI on the plane the Simurgh takes down. What would happen if capes theoretically decided to just evacuate a city and not fight an Endbringer (leaving the civilians to flee on their own)?
Wildbow: There's also Sphere. If people evacuated, the Endbringer would keep going until humans put up a fight, potentially continuing until all was lost. - Comment by Wildbow on Reddit
↑“It keeps happening. Every time she shows up. Every time, people who’ve heard this song that’s in our head? Things go wrong. They snap, they break, their lives fall apart, or they do something, and it makes something else happen, and there’s a major disaster. That guy who was supposedly making a clean energy source that could power whole cities? His wife and kids got killed and he became a supervillain who made it a life goal to murder anyone who tries to better society with their powers. There were others. Over and over, every time she shows up. She never does quite as much damage as Leviathan or Behemoth, not right away, but stuff always happens later.” - Excerpt from Migration 17.5
↑Mannequin, Alan Gramme (Turned to Glass) – Once known as Sphere, a tinker working on sustainable energy and living spaces in hostile environments, including ocean-borne cities and a moon base. Was attacked by the Simurgh, saw his wife and child die, and snapped. Butchered himself and sealed the parts in an impervious, doll-like shell, with ball joints and chains separating the sections and a loadout of various retracting blades, gases and guns. Turned to glass by a bombing run utilizing some of Bakuda’s weaponry. - Cast (In Depth)