Author : John H Reiher Jr.
Family Faxor Kwer had lived on this comet for five generations. The light of the home star Sol was indistinguishable from the light of the twin stars Alef and Bey, or the nearer star Prox. Their ship dwarfed the small comet, stretching far past it in both directions.
The great night of space wrapped around Morgzha, who took little notice of it. He had been born in it, his body was made from it, and he knew of nothing else. He was the son of the headman of the family and overseer of the mining machines. They mined the needed water and minerals from the comet as well as the even rarer metals. They very much needed metals.
Oh there were stories of Hmon arising from the round balls that circled the stars, rich in metals, but he didn’t believe that. How could man come from those balls? The pull of the worlds would crush your chest. No, those were stories for young ones, to listen to and dream of while the crèche mothers raised them to be good workers. Ah to be a child again, thought Morgzha, but if one were to wish for something, it should be how to make different machines.
Morgzha stood on the soft snowy soil of the comet in his airsuit, his handfeet leaving steaming craters as his body heat melted the frozen air. Diggers, the size of twenty men pawed at the ice and snow. Sniffers floated in the near zero gravity and checked the chemical content of the ice being mined. They also checked for the signs of metal, any kind of metal beneath the regolith.
When Family Faxor Kwer chose this comet generations ago, they had chosen poorly. So far, the only metal they found had massed only 2,000 weights. They needed more, much more, to finish a sister ship to Faxor Kwer’s, and start a new family, the Faxor Kweronie. They had bought the right to build the ship ten generations ago from family Faxor Onie, at the same time as the families Faxor Octo and Faxor Neun. Those two families had built their new ships 4 generations ago, while family Faxor Kwer barely had enough metal to build an fifth of the new ship.
There was plenty of carbon compounds and other long chain elements, but without machines that knew how to weave these chemicals, they were forced to find every atom of metal this comet possessed. They could buy the information to manufacture the machines necessary, but the price would be enormous. Faxor Onie was the only one with that information. Morgzha did not want to know what the cost would be to buy this knowledge from the first family of Faxor.
If he could create a machine to weave the chemicals into support struts and walls, then they would be free from the thumb of the first family and it’s rules. But no one knew how to tell the machines how to do what they did, that knowledge was erased from the memory banks of their ship. Only self-repair systems were in place, and basic life-support and entertainment modules were working. The machines could make the very thin skin of the star sails, but that could not be adapted to structural members.
If wishes were plasma drives… he thought and smiled. His thoughts were disturbed by the alert he received from one of the sniffers. He bounded over to the crater the diggers had excavated and saw a wonder: a 10,000-weight, large iron-nickel rock. Morgzha smiled. Maybe he should wish more often.