Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer
The stars appear like fireflies seen through vintage sunglasses, the ones that used to give everything a mellow brown hue. My grandfather had some, an inheritance from his grandfather. Guess they’re buried somewhere in the dust of Earth One.
Mellow. Now, there’s a definition for this moment. Sitting here, heels on the console, chilled vodka tube in hand, seat reclined all the way back, headrest cradling my head with the infinitesimal pressure granted by a pocket repulsor field. Mellow, indeed. More correctly, I’m mellow. It’s a feeling, after all. Despite all the advances in technology, we haven’t bridged the machine-emotion chasm yet.
Just like we haven’t bridged the gap between what Earths Two thru Seven provide and the stuff that could only be found on Earth One. We knew it was dying, but somehow, with our never-quite-accepting view of extinction events, we let it slide without conserving the bits we’d miss.
I jolt fully awake and the chair reacts by bringing me up to ‘pilot ready’ position. The smell reaches me first and judging by my saliva production, I reacted before consciously realising I could smell it.
Jansis skips into the cabin, that curious childhood gait so mysteriously suited to moving quickly and safely along grip strips in low gravity.
“Premium grade! We’re going home!”
I raise my eyebrows. She shoves a clear mug of steaming golden goop at me.
“Taste it and tell me I’m wrong.”
She’s not. Three mouthfuls of the delicious proto-treacle are all I need before a gentle rush of ill-formed, impossible reminiscence momentarily overwhelms me.
“Oh, my sweet lord, you’re right.”
Jansis kisses me, combining the rush of the mouthful she’s had with mine and our usual on-contact arousal. I sputter as I recoil.
“Whoa! Easy there, tigress. We need to lay claim.”
“I filed a composition analysis to the ninetieth vector before warming our mugs. We’ve already received over a hundred requests for deposits.”
“Lords of earth and air, how many?”
She checks her bracer: “One hundred and fifty-seven as of last packet received.”
“Half a tonne, that request secured by an escrow offer of three hundred Krugerrand per kilo.”
I take a steadying breath and point through the supraglass: “How big is it?”
Her eyes are fever bright as she checks her bracer: “Point four-five-seven-oh-eight of a gigatonne.”
I take her in my arms and that moment returns. We are going home, and set for life when we get there, or anywhere else we take a mind to visit.
No-one knows where these dark amber asteroids originate from, nor why they consist entirely of a substance that, when brought to tolerable temperatures, exhibits all the properties of varying grades of treacle or molasses, plus that uncanny rush of deep imagery. There are religious groups and scientific teams trying to make sense of the data released. Personally, I think it’s just a side effect of human biology meeting millennially freeze-matured alien syrup.
Whichever way you regard it, humanity has developed a taste for ‘Amberal’. With sugar cane and bees nothing more than dust on Earth One, these asteroids fetch exorbitant prices. With each one exhibiting slight variations in composition, toxicity and flavour, finding one that can be quaffed straight after thawing without needing filtering is a one in a million chance, guaranteeing the fortunes of those who find it and their backers.
One huge reward nobody mentions outside exploration team circles is the one we’re enjoying: we get to drink sweet rock all the way home.