The Miners

The three billionaires and soon to be the first trillionaires laughed and applauded as their space robot touched down on the asteroid and clamped itself on. EARN-E would fire its engines and reposition the greatest supply of rare mineral deposits anyone had ever owned into a near-circular low Earth orbit.

Naturally, when others said “impossible,” this determined trio succeeded. They raised the money, they hired the engineers, they laid out the broad outlines of a plan—and now, this!

Just a few decades into the second millennium, less than 50 families owned 90% of the planet’s wealth while everyone else lived in squalor, fighting over scraps. Although the 50 glorified themselves in song and art, they wanted more. and these three were determined to lead the pack.

But this beat everything they could imagine! Now these accomplished few would reap not only wealth, but also the fame and admiration they had always known they deserved.

Bruno smiled, rolled up his monogrammed sleeves, and watched the specialists working the consoles and checking readings. Elliot on telemetry looked concerned.

“We’ve landed safely, right?” said Bruno.

“Yes,” said Elliott. “But the engines are firing—already.”

“And?” said Bruno.

“We were planning to do that delicate maneuver tomorrow after a full review.” said Elliott. “Phil stopped the burn but it ran long.”

Bruno smiled.

“You guys did great—everything we asked!” said Tom, the unofficial leader of the trio. “You’ll do a corrective burn and fix things.”

The three asteroid owners opened and poured from a bottle of champaign that cost more than an average 3-bedroom house.

“To us!” declared Sam as he spilled some on his colleagues as if they had just won the Super Bowl. “And our achievement!”

“For fuck’s sake!” yelled Phil who jumped to his feet and kicked the console he’d been working. “You assholes vetoed the backup engine as too expensive.”

Bruno, Tom and Sam were shocked by this insubordination. They were paying Phil good money. He needed to do his job and stop complaining.

“The engine isn’t responding. It’s dead.” said Phil collapsing into his seat.

“It can’t be!” said Sam. “We paid $14 billion for that engine.”

Phil stood and offered his seat.

“You want to try, genius?” said Phil and he left the room.

Elliott had just completed some calculations and was now quietly sobbing.

“We’re done here,” said Elliott, barely audibly and he got up to leave.

“Wait” said Tom and he gently but firmly guided Elliott back to his console.

“Elliott, I see you’re upset,” said Tom. “I’m sorry we hit a glitch but these things happen. Greatness requires us to overcome glitches. You know the saying—failure is not an option. Let’s get back to work, shall we? And call back Phil.”

Tom and his colleagues were determined to reel in that asteroid. They’d spent too much to let it slip away.

“Look,” said Elliott. “The hardware is dead. We can’t fix it. It’s 17 million miles away. It is, however, getting closer.”

“Great!” said Tom. “We’ll fix it when it gets closer. We own a crewed spacecraft and have a dozen astronauts on payroll. A repair mission. Simple.”

“You don’t understand,” said Elliot. “The asteroid will be coming in fast. Way too fast.”

“WHAT?” said Bruno, suddenly alarmed. “Do you mean it’ll blow right past us?!”

“No.” said Elliott. “It’ll blow right through us.”