Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Microstory 1733: The ESS Dorado

When the first of the asteroid miners went up into space, they were looking to make some money. There were tons of resources up there that they hoped would make them rich. It was probably about to, but it wasn’t long before the economy shifted, and no more value was placed in things that once meant everything. Yes, the metals and minerals they mined and processed from the asteroids were still incredibly important for the future of the human race, but everything they could exchange them for was now readily available, and distributed freely. That material was now only useful for making spaceships, and other vacuum structures. Trying to take it all the way down into Earth’s gravity well was a waste of time and energy. Still, their lives weren’t purposeless. Someone would have to build those ships, so it might as well be them. They still weren’t making any money, because it didn’t exist anymore, but people were grateful for their efforts, and the species was quickly becoming a multiplanetary culture. They kept working, kept looking for more, and were surprised about how much gold there was up there. Back in the ancient days, gold was the standard for monetary value. Everything was based upon its worth according to scarcity, measure of work needed to refine the raw material, and an arbitrary love of all that was shiny. Even after gold stopped being the official standard, people placed value on it simply because of how pretty it looked. To this day, it’s used in a number of technological instruments, but in relatively small amounts. As it turns out, the solar system is chock full of the stuff. Scarcity was a component of man’s inability to reach beyond the atmosphere at the time, and that is no longer the case. Still, what are they going to do with all this gold? Sure, some of it can go to those devices, but there will be a lot left over. This gave one of them a crazy idea.

They decided to build a ship. This ship would be composed almost entirely of gold. Propulsion, of course, and wiring systems, required specific materials in order to function, but the basic idea was that if it could exist in gold form, it was to be manufactured out of pure gold. It was the dumbest thing that anyone on Earth had ever heard of, but they too realized they had plenty of gold to satisfy their needs, and they recognized that the asteroid miners earned rightful control over everything they found that wasn’t claimed by someone else. It took them years to gather all the gold they would need, and refine it, but they were essentially immortal now, and most of the business was automated, so what did they care? It wasn’t until they were just about finished when they noticed that no one had thought about what they were going to actually do with the darn thing. Even with their indefinite lifespans, it wasn’t a good way to get to other planets in the solar system, or to other stars. It was more a piece of art; a think piece, a proof of concept...a proof of strength. They didn’t know if there were any aliens flying around out there, but they figured that their big gold ship would be a pretty good message to send anyone looking to see if the Earthans were weak enough to attack. If humans were advanced enough—and bored enough—to construct a literal golden ship, they were probably nothing anyone should want to trifle with. So they placed it in a permanent stable orbit around Earth, and named it The ESS Dorado. People came to visit occasionally, but it was mostly there to be marveled and appreciated from a distance. Aliens never came, and eventually they let it burn up in the atmosphere.

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