My mine, p.5
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       My Mine, p.5

           Stephen Brandon
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  * (ToC) *

  Early History of Belt Corporation

  First Year

  Tuesday Morning

  The glint was curious. Dr. Johnson's notes indicated he wondered if he could get the time he needed to get a spectrograph on the asteroid. The photographic plates on his desk looked golden.

  Five weeks later he had traded times and favors to get the shots he wanted. Now time was the only factor.

  Saturday morning when he sat down at his desk a thick manila envelope was in his in-box. Nervously reaching out and pulling it across the desk took him over a minute. Tearing it open only took a second. The first page was a note, “You owe me big time. I want in on this deal. I developed these plates myself and kept a copy. One percent will make me rich. Samuel Adams.”

  Picking up the four plates he walked over to the view panel and put them in place and turned on the back-light. Each one had a full spectrum of lines, and one was a negative spectrum of sunlight off the moon. Carefully placing the negative moon plate over the first asteroid plate he noticed it blocked out almost a quarter of the spectrum lines. Those remaining were plainly labeled by atomic weight. To his surprise 106.42 was the dominant line on the first plate with 107.86, 196.96, 63.54, and finally 193.08. Included was a sheet giving all the pertinent data such as dimensions of the asteroid, distance, orbital data, and most important its exact location in the asteroid belt. On the bottom in Sam's south-paw scratching, was his estimate that the asteroid was at least 300 parts per million Au with the stipulation that he wanted one percent of the profits if Bill could find a backer to go get it. The other two films showed similar spectrum lines.

  Notes indicate that Dr. Johnson called his son that day and told him he was coming for a brief vacation in a month.

  Spring in Seattle

  Dr. Johnson's son, James, was a corporate lawyer and after six years he was one of the senior members in line for promotion. At thirty-six he was older than his next competitor. The age difference was the four years he'd spent studying astronomy before he broke free of his fathers plan for his life. Kathy, his wife, was his strongest backer and helped support him through law school.

  She wasn't happy when Bill told her his father was coming for a visit. Her first comment was that she'd rather be locked up in the tower with several classes of her science students than spend a weekend with his father trying to boss them around!

  Doctor Johnson arrived and Kathy picked him up at the airport on a rainy Saturday morning. She was surprised when he only said Hello. The drive to the suburbs was so silent that Kathy was sure that he was the harbinger of catastrophic news.

  That afternoon when James got home, Kathy told him about his fathers strange behavior. She also commented that Bill never set his briefcase down.

  He even brought it to the dinner table later. After desert Bill politely asked Kathy if she would make some coffee. From the kitchen she heard the snaps on the briefcase and then James say, “Oh shit, this can't be real.”

  Bill's voice always grated on her nerves, but this time he simply mumbled, “It's real and verified. I had a friend take another spectrograph, he also analyzed his findings. It was slightly different than my original results, but only by one percent.”

  James lowered his voice and said, “Do you know what this discovery would do to the markets?”

  “Yes, but the cost of recovery would be a major factor keeping the prices up.” replied Bill. “So far only you, Sam, and I know of this discovery. I want your help to find backers with the knowledge, resources, and technical know-how to go get it.”

  As Kathy walked back into the dining room Bill tried to hide what looked like X-ray plates under a sheet of paper. “Bill, what kind of harebrained scam are you trying to pull on my husband? Let me see those X-rays or you'll wear this coffee.?”

  Holding up the first film she gasped, then grabbed another, and then the third. Bill was holding the fourth film and simply said, “Align it over one of the others to take out solar reflection and some of the basic rock spectra.”

  She sat down with a thump knocking over one of the coffee cups. James and Bill both snatched the films and papers off the table.

  Bill calmly stated, “Sam wants one percent, and if you can arrange recovery your fee will be one percent plus what you inherit when I die. Recovery will be difficult, expensive, and time consuming. My best guess is that whoever does it will demand at least half a percent for the workers.

  “James knows the law and has enough knowledge in fields related to astronomy to explain the problems to any investors. Bringing a few tons of palladium, gold, and silver back to earth should make us all rich, and subsequent trips should make us wealthy beyond our wildest dreams.

  “Here on earth seven parts per million usually show a profit for the large corporations. To visibly see gold it must be above thirty parts per million. At that distance, Sam estimates the density must be above 10,000 parts per million for the gold alone. You'll notice that the 196.97 line isn't the longest.”


  Over the next six months James contacted several mining CEO's and finally one called for a personal meeting. James arranged for the meeting to be in Hawaii where his father could also meet with them.

  To James' surprise all three mining CEO's plus a few of their researchers were at the hotel when he and his father arrived. Two other men were simply introduced as being in the space industry.

  After Bill gave the preliminary briefing and James explained the known problems with mining the asteroid, he leaned back and asked the CEO's if they had any questions or suggestions.

  The CEO of Lightning Bay mining asked, “How much is this going to cost us to mine this asteroid?”

  Leaning forward James replied, “We have three knowledgeable people on our side, Sam and I get one percent each of the profit and my father gets three percent. That leaves ninety-five percent minus expenses for you to disperse. With the risk, time required for travel, mining time, and return to Earth; I imagine you'll have to pay the workers a half percent or more. That will still leave a nice fat percentage to be divided up. My father figures the first trip will make us rich, and subsequent trips will make us wealthy beyond our fondest dreams. That asteroid is approximately half a mile in length and a quarter mile wide and high. With three plates taken showing different locations due to rotation, the minerals are fairly well distributed throughout the asteroid. That equates to millions of cubic feet or tons of palladium, silver, and gold. There will probably some impurities like copper, cadmium and platinum mixed in. That means that the mining ship should contain a solar distillation device of some sort to melt out the different minerals by melt temperature. That would allow them to form ingots that would allow better use of the cargo hold. Backup for that would be drills, chisels, and hammers. Another possible method that might work is to use lasers to melt the asteroid and put the melted metal directly into the cargo hold to solidify. However, that won't separate the metals.

  “The reason our percentage is low, is because you will have to develop and build the spacecraft, outfit the trip, and arrange to keep the government bureaucrats out of the picture. My father figures that he'll see the ship returning in about ten to fifteen years. If the government gets involved then my grandchildren might get a few pennies of the profit.

  “You know whats there and the possible profit. Call us when you're ready and we'll draw up a contract and give you the specifics to the asteroid.” He then handed each of them a xerox copy of the spectrograph with the solar filter in place.

  * * *

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