I remember when I were five years old my parents took me across the solar system. We traveled from Aurum, our home planet, to the Cain Asteroid belt via teleportation. We sailed through the inner rim of the belt on a cruise ship, a mega ship known as the Cain Imperial 34. It was an enormous ship, as mega ships are, and I remember believing it was the biggest ship I have ever seen. I am eighteen years old now and I have never seen or even heard of a bigger one, at least not one run by humans.
My dad knew squat about the solar system. He didn’t know anything about the interplanetary space, he couldn’t list any of the planets let alone the dwarf planets, and didn’t know the difference between our solar system and our helopsphere. He couldn’t even know about our planet’s own barycenter, which as far as I knew was grade school stuff. But he knew all about the asteroid belts.
I remember a lot about the ship. The luxury cruise ship had pools, literally hundreds of restaurants, gyms, playgrounds, spas, and bars. It was so large that it was spacious despite holding well over twenty thousand people. In every other room, from the gyms to the pool areas, were a television screen in which the crew would make announcements with. My father’s favourite attraction, however, may have very well been when the television screens would announce that our ship was passing by an asteroid.
This was an extremely rare encounter because of how astronomically far away asteroids are from one another, my father explained. When the ship passed by one the television screens would show a video feed of an asteroid drifting by us. They were always bigger than our ship. My father would always stop, no matter what we were doing, be it eating, basket ball, or playing in the pool, and watch the screen in awe. He would tell me about the asteroid and all the sorts of minerals and metals and crystals that could be found inside of them. I listened, fascinated.
My father was an owner of many mines back at home. He was somewhat a mogul in the industry in the country we lived, even though the mines weren’t even located in the same continent as we lived as I would find out one day. Off topic, but that day would be nearby the day I discovered what child labour laws were, but anyway. One night on the cruise, while mom was sleeping and my father and I were up playing a game when the subject of asteroid belts were brought up. I wanted to learn more.
My father knew a lot about asteroids. He taught me there were two asteroid belts in the solar system. A smaller one much closer to the sun and the Cain Belt, which was at the outer edge of the solar system, which was so large it stretched out beyond what had been explored by sapient life. He told me how big the belt was, so big that even though the ship was moving as close to the speed of light as it could (most of the time) we were practically motionless relative to the belt itself. He told me that there were hundreds of thousands of dwarf planets inside the belt, one that we had visited earlier to board the cruise and another that we would stop by to refuel.
Then the conversation turned to minerals, mining, and mining machines. I remember how he began speaking faster and stammering in excitement when he told me about robotic drills and transportation drones. I remember his eyes lighting up when he described just how abundant one asteroid was in platinum. I remember him apologizing for speaking too loudly or scaring me. I wasn’t scared.
Then he sighed, and smiled. I remember we were quiet for a while and I was just happy that my father was happy. Then, very quietly, he said to me, “Njoroge? Do you know why I love coming to the Cain Belt every few years?”
“Your mom thinks it’s because I like cruise ships. But the real reason is because I love the asteroid belt,” and with that I remember my father straightened his back. He looked so tall. “I love mines, and everything you can get from mines. I like crystals and hot coals, and I love metals most of all! After all, so many things are made from metal, so why shouldn’t I love it! And do you know what asteroids are to me, Njoroge?
Asteroid mining is the best possible mining! Every mine owner who is passionate about mining dreams of one day mining the asteroid belts! It’s the ultimate dream!”
I asked my father what ‘dream’ and ‘ultimate’ meant. As far as I knew, dream just meant sleeping.
“Dream is, well, it’s something you want to do, or to happen to you. It’s something you work for, like how if you want something you can buy from the store you work until you have money to buy it. But dreams are harder to get than that. You usually have to work your whole life for it to happen, and sometimes it never does.
And ultimate means ‘The Best.’ When I say that asteroid mining is the Ultimate Mining, what I mean is…well…
It means that asteroid belt mining is the type of mining that makes the most money, the most valuable and useful things. It means that Asteroid mining is, to mine owners, the most amazing and exciting possibility!”
My father made a face of pure happiness and contentment I still remember, a little bitterly, to the screen above us. Why was my father so happy, even though he had never achieved his dream? He didn’t own a single asteroid. In fact, as far as I knew, even the most powerful people on our planet couldn’t own asteroids.
Even back then I knew my father could never own an asteroid. My father wasn’t an idiot, I thought. So why was he so happy? And why did I feel so happy for him?
Because having a goal, I think, and living in a way that brings you closer or at least trying to do so was just as fulfilling, I think. It mattered very little whether my father was one step away from achieving his dreams or infinite. As long as he kept the dream in his mind, it would give him the energy to continue working. As long as he had his dream, he had his beacon in the dark. As long as he had his dream, his life was complete.
To this day I still don’t share my father’s passion for mining. What was my dream?