I flitted from one screen to another, not certain which moon to tackle first. Sheba and Herakles whizzed around their gas giant parent, their orbits traced out faintly against the stark background of space.
Their orbits overlapped, but their previous speeds had kept them distant enough from one another that they hadn’t collided. Until now. Sheba had taken a hit from a massive asteroid not long ago – enough to slow it and let Herakles begin overtaking it. The astrogation team told us the moons would collide within 42 hours.
Triton hovered menacingly above us, waiting to consume their remains. Its other moons seemed indifferent to the fate of their siblings.
The ghosting uplink let me control the monitor with a thought. I flicked the pod towards Herakles, aiming at the Vitrous mountains, the highest range on the moon. The moon’s surface was deserted – all that was left of the mining facilities that previously occupied its surface were heaps of scrap. All usable equipment and robotics were evacced when we received the alert on the incoming asteroid. Nix, we called it. It seemed appropriate.
From a comfortable stellar distance, the mining transit ship sent monitoring equipment back to observe the impending crash. Everything was automated; everything controlled from a distance by humans, who didn’t live long enough to make a trans-system trip. Months, years of planning…decades or centuries waiting for the massive ships to reach their destinations. Decades or centuries of patient work as we used their equipment to strip planets bare.
Our species had found a way to warp space for instantaneous communications, but had yet to defeat the speed of light. Perhaps one day we’d set foot on a surface outside our own solar system. For now, we ghosted through uplinks to control equipment at incomprehensible distances, and our robotic extensions mined and constructed human-habitable cities on multiple worlds. We’d already had homes we could use once we managed to launch ourselves beyond Sol’s grasp.
All this faded in my mind as I watched Sheba’s greenish irregular surface loom nearer, the monitor’s lens serving as my eye. I loathed this immaterial existence. No sense of touch, sound, or smell – I would never set foot on any surface beyond Saturn’s moons. Even these doomed moons had more substance than I.
Copyright 2013 – Christine Clukey Reece