Author : S. P. Mahoney

There is an utterly absurd amount of mineral wealth sitting in Sol’s asteroid belt. Was. Whatever. A nickel-iron asteroid of middling size contains enough mineral wealth to choke a multinational, if you were to bring it back to Earth. Not to mention so expensive that none of those aforementioned multinationals, much less the national governments, could look more than five years down the line and see the advantages in building a civilization out there.

It was almost a relief when the message came in from the Great Beyond: “Hello, we’re aliens, and we need half of your asteroid belt. You can’t do anything about this, however, we are going to pay you for it. The down payment is in FTL drives, of which we will be giving at least one to every regional power on Earth.” That’s paraphrased, but basically the jist of it.

They were pretty clever, those aliens (we never learned their name for themselves). They figured we’d be out of commission, squabbling, for long enough. They’d looked us over and decided that, yup, those Humans have a real talent for tribalizing against each other, they’re going to be arguing about who gets how many drives for years. They knew it would take us a while to find a trading outpost where we could find out how badly we were being ripped off. And if that failed, they thought they’d skate by on our good feelings towards the race that gave us a path to the stars.

They were almost right, but they underestimated Humanity’s ability to think big when it comes to who’s in and out of the tribe. And they were completely off-base on that last thing. Polls still suggest a 90% approval rate on nuking their mining colony. A significant fraction of the population even think we shouldn’t have waited for them to give us the money at the end of the term, although that seems a little wasteful to me.

It was maybe eighteen months before we were pulling into a dozen systems to run the same con. We did it better, of course; we didn’t let the victims know what was up until we were actually done. And then two of them, it turned out, were our old pals’ colony worlds. So much the better. Those poor guys became further reinforcement to a message for their folks back home:

Don’t kid a kidder. Don’t trick a trickster. Don’t scam the Humans.

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