Author: Michael Anthony Dioguardi

Only one man had ever landed on Pallas Palu—a meter-wide asteroid composed entirely of palladium. He was my former partner, Denton Fitzpatrick, and he’d been mining the Taurus cluster for decades. The asteroid wrangler snuck in without me and never returned.
Pallas Palu had trapped itself within a gauntlet of asteroids, inhabited by volatile settlers, the Belties. Some folks say one of those big ol’ C-types bashed in Fitzpatrick’s brains. Others claim after he secured his tether, the Belties snipped it seconds later.
Once word got out about Fitzpatrick, all our old rivals came out of the woodwork to find his path and seize Pallas Palu for themselves.
We dived into the cosmic labyrinth. My ship rattled as I whizzed beneath a jagged outcropping. The fire from a collision above me reached my vessel’s walls, but I escaped unscathed.
A xenon grid laid ahead; the Belties were expecting us. Another ship pulled ahead of me, swooping down before disintegrating in the trap.
I squeezed through the corridor and squinted at the palladium vein.
Securing my tether, I ejected myself out of the cockpit and floated above Pallas Palu. I landed on the crystalline surface and stood up straight.
My tether dangled in front of me.
Denton Fitzpatrick perched up on the outside of my ship, now floating above Pallas Palu. Three Belties drifted out from behind him. He flipped a knife in one hand and held the end of my tether in the other.
“You believe everything they tell you, boy?” Fitzpatrick’s voice transmitted to the back of my helmet.
Two asteroids closed in above me, and a new xenon grid opened up below.
“Well done, Fitzpatrick, well done.”