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Michael Shaeffer Wilson

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Member Since: Sep, 2003

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Real Estate
By Michael Shaeffer Wilson
Monday, September 15, 2003

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Recent stories by Michael Shaeffer Wilson
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There is never enough it seems *wink*


Timos was enjoying the view as he skimmed the surface of his new planetoid. His home had recently been completed, and it was time to survey things, here within the protective transparent bubble that kept the several-kilometer-sized rock pressurized. He noted the power facilities, the recreation spaces - all nicely done. Landscaped terraces graced hilly or uneven surfaces that had previously been rocky lumps or mounds. His house proper was a large grouping of geometrically pleasing structures. Yes, he would enjoy living here, on the outer edge of Sol Prime. It should take a long time to get bored with his new abode.

Timos lived in a society that was, by any standard, affluent. The most recent war was a distant memory, almost a historical footnote. Earth had expanded and managed to occupy the entire Solar System. There were population centers dotting the Moons of Jupiter, the Asteroid Belt, and even orbiting Venus. The Kuiper belt was heavily occupied. Mars and the Moon both had extensive populations, were long established and good at making do with limited resources in an unforgiving environment. Even way out in the area beyond Neptune, in the Oort Cloud, there was a heavy presence of humanity.

Population was not too excessive, however. There was plenty enough real estate to go around. A young man like Timos, with a decent-paying job and a small inheritance to use as a down payment, could purchase for himself a decent-sized asteroid. With appropriate financial arrangements, he could have it terraformed, and a habitation area constructed. What passed for a bank in those days would actually own the thing for many years to come, but that was fine with Timos. With the multitudes of asteroids, planetoids and the like in the outer Solar System (or Sol Prime as they called it), they were in no danger of running out of real estate anytime soon. The society of Sol Prime, divided as it was into various autonomous 'territories', was doing well. Technological innovations and emergency assistance were freely shared. Trade was vigorous, and for the most part, fair. Any disputes that did arise were settled peacefully. Life was good.

Timos finished his brief survey of his new place. He planned to invite the woman that he was stuck on over to see it as soon as possible. How could she not be interested in such an accomplished guy, he thought. He set down his skiff near an entry door of the habitation proper. Maneuvering his trim, lanky frame in the low-gee, he got the front entry opened with a provided keystud, and went inside to savor the newness. Sparkling eating area, with state-of-the-art food preparation and storage facilities. He made his way into the social area, and made some mental notes on how to populate the area with some decent furniture. Gravity was minimal, but enough to hold everything down. Still, he had to move amongst the rooms carefully. No sense in damaging himself or his place out of carelessness. He heard some
"dings", and headed back to the eating area. It was a long-distance call from Gandymede - from his lady friend, no less, her pert face framed by long blonde curls showing on the built-in display. Good - saved him the trouble of calling.

"Timos? How does it look?" She queried, a look of concern showed on her attractive features.
"Great!" He exclaimed. Everything is just as I requested. Beautiful. Santros, you must come over sometime and see this place..."
"Good. Listen, Timos, have you viewed the Intersol (news) today?"
"Well, no. I've been busy going over details, checking out my new Hab." Timos replied, a bit irritated at having his invite brushed aside.
"Look, Timos, I am joyful at your new purchase. And I would love to see it sometime, but... how close to the Outer Edge did you say you were?" Asked Santros.
"Pretty close...but so what? There are less stray rocks out here, the view is spectacular. What is the problem,
Santros? I thought you would be excited..." He replied.
"Timos, InterSol has been talking about an encounter out at the Edge. An Encounter, Timos."
She finished, looking at him meaningfully. It began to dawn on him then.
"An Encounter! Santros, you don't mean ..."
"Yes I do mean. They have enormous craft, Timos, and two of our SolPatrol vehicles have not been heard from in days. Days, Timos." She finished, her tone serious.
"You have to be joking with me. There has been nothing seen or heard from in centuries. The whole heliosphere was supposed to have been mapped out. How can this be, Santros? This does not make sense." Timos demanded.
"The heliosphere is huge, Timos - there are lots and lots of places for a craft to hide. We always knew something like this was possible. Just a matter of when. The universe is a large place." Santros finished.
"Damn! Why now - why this, right when I have my place bought!" Timos exploded. This was beyond unfair. This was crazy. "Santros, I want to make some other calls. I need to find out what this means. Can I call you later?"
"Okay, Timos. I'm sorry to bring bad news at a time like this. But, Timos, you may need to get out of there, come back in-system. I'm concerned for you all the way out there."
"Right. Thank you for letting me know, Santros. I'll call later - Bye." Timos ended the call, a bit abruptly. As good as it was to have Santros expressing concern for him, that was a victory unsavored at the moment. His world was suddenly changing, far faster and stranger than he had contemplated. He hurried into a nearby room, with a large telescope mounted by a window. It was an easy matter to unwrap the eyepiece, and aim it out beyond the Edge. He scanned around, not seeing anything unusual. 'Good, maybe this is all some kind of big, stupid mistake,' he reasoned. He took one last look, intending on going to a viewscreen to turn on InterSol. But something caught his eye. Yes, there it was. A dark dot, moving a bit. And wait, there were some more. A lot of them. He swung the 'scope over toward some nearby planetoids, all occupied or soon-to-be. Larger shapes were moving in. They did not look familiar either.
In a state of surprise, and a bit numb, Timos moved over to a nearby viewscreen to turn on InterSol news. An announcer, framed by images of dark shapes in space, getting larger. Timos did not have to hear what the man was saying to realize what all this could mean, for him and everyone else out there at the Edge. How could this happen now, he kept thinking, on the cusp of his greatest achievement? This was so unfair, so very, very unfair.

Centuries of prosperity had been brought to a sudden end. SolPrime as it had been known would never be the same. As big as the universe was, there just never seemed to be enough real estate to go around. And someone else had decided they needed some more. As a large, dark shape moved ever closer to Timos' new habitation out near the edge of the Solar System, he managed to find an alcoholic beverage in the food preparation area. Grabbing the low-gee container with trembling hands, he popped it open and gulped, rapidly. Oh well... he had bought himself a new place for a short while, anyway... As they used to say on Earth long ago, “Cheers.”

       Web Site: Radical Readings

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Reviewed by Tyson Wolfe 9/21/2003
Very good story line. The plot kept you reading and I enjoyed the fact that the problem closing in was not given a name or a face. Well done but adding length may be the key to a notable achievment.

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