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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Mining asteroids - another kind of gold rush?

If you're interested in future tech at all you will have come across stories about mining asteroids. It has been a feature in SF stories over time. Linnea Sinclair's stories like Rebels and Lovers and Gabriel's Ghost talk about mining platforms, out in the long dark to mine floating rocks, and abandoned when the lode ran out, or other reasons.

I've had my turn, too. One of the arcs in my story Starheart is about what happens at a mining platform orbiting a gas giant. Workers are employed to mine the moonlets - or asteroids - orbiting the planet. Think Saturn and you're about right.

As usual in my stories, there's a romance - but there's also a mystery surrounding this mining platform and what happens there. Here's an excerpt that goes with the image at the top of the post.



Santh shouldered his pack and joined the line of brand new miners waiting to disembark onto the Tabora mining platform. He scratched at his hair, now ridiculously short and almost black. They could have hung him upside down and used him for a sander. He'd never forgive Brian. He'd said short but he'd been cut so close he was almost bald.
   The line shuffled along, ten men aiming to earn a fortune and go home rich. The fellow in front of him stood a whole head taller than him with shoulders to match, while the one behind, about his height, was stick thin. All types, from all over, all after a fortune. Once in the airlock, the pace picked up.
   He stepped out of the hatch and onto the platform, so like any other space station. Their boots clanging on the floor, the men were herded out of the docking area and into the platform itself, most gazing around them. He was probably one of the few who'd actually been to this gods forsaken joint before, drab utilitarian form-work disappearing into the distance above and below, covered with bad paintings of various landscapes to hide the shabbiness.
   A man dressed in maroon Company uniform waited for the new arrivals.
   "Are we all here?" he said, smiling when they'd gathered around him.
   Well, he should know, shouldn't he? He went through the names, ticking them off on a sheet. Santh almost forgot his adopted name was Jim Jonson.
   "Welcome to Tabora. My name's Mister Orlando," said smiling boy in the maroon suit. "I'll show you your accommodation first, then I'll take you on an orientation tour."
   Santh tramped along behind Orlando, who led them to a lift. The man was quite cute, nice butt, but he had one of those smiles with too many teeth. The car zoomed up eight levels, where they straggled out again into the accommodation block.
   At least they each had their own room. If you could call it that. Santh dumped his pack on the bed. Standing here if he held out an arm and stretched a little he could touch the wall on the other side of the bed and the other way he could touch the closet door with his elbow bent. The shared ablutions block was down a fenced-off walkway. They'd built the accommodation around one of the utility cores, lots of vacant space punctuated with walkways and aerials. If you peered, you could just pick the gray matt floor bottom maybe two hundred meters down. Not a great place for anybody afraid of heights.
   A man emerged from the next cell, grimacing. "Not exactly the comforts of home."
  "Just somewhere to sleep, I guess." Santh held out his hand. "I'm Jim. Jim Jonson."
   Dark eyes lit up in a pale face. Santh's hand was grasped like a lifebuoy. "Ace. Ace Connor. You been here before?"
   "No," Santh said, easing his hand away. "You?"
   "Me neither."
   Orlando ordered everyone back into the lift and took them to an observation platform. Eerie light flooded the room. The entire far wall appeared to be transparent, giving an uninterrupted view of the gas giant Tabora. Rivers of red, orange, brown and grey drifted together in whorls and swirls like oil on water. It was almost romantic, a silent, perpetual dance, slow and stately.
   "Looks peaceful, doesn't it?" Orlando said. "The winds down there blow at quarter of a million klicks per hour. But don't worry. If you ever get buffeted by the wind, you'll have already been crushed to a pulp by the gravity, so you won't notice."
   He'd made his point. Quite a few people sucked in an audible breath.
   "For any of you who didn't realize, this isn't a real window, by the way. It's a giant screen showing you sensor data. Now, if you'll look carefully here," he pointed at a dark, ragged line barely visible against the planet's light. "You'll see a ring. That's what we mine. Go out there, break up the asteroids, bring them back in the hopper of your vehicle. They are fully shielded, tough little buses specially designed for this environment so you'll be quite safe if you follow the rules."

 Starheart is the third of the Ptorix Empire series and is completely stand-alone. It's available everywhere.  

SH cover payhip


Freighter Captain Jess Sondijk has her life under control until the Confederacy’s Admiral Hudson boards her ship in a search for contraband. Sondijk and Hudson have their own set of questions.
For Jess, it’s a matter of her husband’s perhaps not so accidental death. For Hudson, it’s that somebody’s trading with the alien Ptorix – and offering them a large enough prize to induce them to part with their beloved starhearts, the jewels they call the windows of the soul.

While Jess’ interests are more personal — abducted friends and family — Hudson’s are broader — the end of his career at best and interspecies war at worst — in a deadly game of political intrigue, murder, and greed.

Which will win, following hearts’ desires or chasing starhearts, with the stakes higher than either is willing to pay?

This book contains sex scenes and strong language.
Buy the book at  Amazon Nook Kobo Apple Print

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