The Mississippi Company
by Mark Kertzman
A tale of two individuals on opposite sides of a fraud stretching from India to the Asteroid Belt.
The river meandered lazily past the hard banks, carrying garbage and effluent towards the far ocean. It flowed slowly past the crowded town, its waters giving a hint of calm to a place that was more characterized by noise, dust and pollution. The low buildings and homes spread from the dry plain across a wide expanse of humanity and crowded right up to the water’s edge.
In one of those small but comfortable homes fronting on the river, a woman was preparing dinner. She was of just that age when beautiful begins to verge into matronly. Her figure retained its youthful slimness, clad in the more mature fashion of a traditional sari. Long silky dark hair was caught up into a bun at the nape of her neck.
As her sure hands chopped vegetables and prepared the meats for cooking, her children came into the homey kitchen. They talked boisterously, coming from a generation unused to the traditional ways.
“Sshhh,” the mother admonished them gently.
“Sorry, Mum,” the taller youth said. Though he was still a child in his mother’s eyes, the rest of the world was beginning to see him as an adult leaving the ways of adolescence behind as he grew ever taller.
“What’s for dinner, Mum?” his younger, shorter sister asked as she came around the little kitchen table. She carried herself with a natural genetically-endowed grace, overlaid with the bubbling self-confidence of her youth.
“Kebabs and steamed vegetables,” Mrs. Sidha told her children. “Now get ready for dinner.”
“Yes, Mum,” her daughter responded. She automatically went to a cabinet and got plates and cups down. As she started to set the table, her brother wandered over to the counter at the other side of the kitchen.
“What’s this, Mum?” he suddenly asked, holding up a holobrochure.
“What’s what?” Mrs. Sidha asked in turn, craning her neck around to look.
“This.” Her son waved the holobrochure at her. The hologram on the front cover shifted and fluoresced, surrounded by a conservative black border.
“Oh, that’s nothing, really,” she replied in a quiet voice.
Her son’s curiosity was aroused. He studied the hologram on the front cover. It depicted an irregularly shaped little moon, badly cratered and pitted. There was some sort of gantry at one end, with a few tiny domes clustered around it. He also noticed some type of orbital ship or shuttle, up and away from the surface of the little moonlet. As he flipped through the brochure, holograms flared into view and winked out again. He stopped to read some of the titles in bold.
“What’s the Orbital Heavy Metals Extraction Company?” he asked.
“Oh, it’s just a little investment I’ve made,” Mrs. Sidha answered.
“Yeah? Looks like one of those new asteroid mines,” he continued.
“Oh, it is. It’s more than one mine; it’s a whole series of mines, throughout the Belt.”
“Going to make us rich, right, Mum?” her daughter interjected from across the room.
“Well, it certainly sounds that way, with their latest survey results.”
“Yeah?” her son asked.
“Well, I probably shouldn’t say anything, but the company says it’s found gold.”
“Gold!” her daughter exclaimed.
“Yes, and silver, too.”
“Wow!” Her daughter’s eyes were shining now, projecting her excitement.
“But nothing is confirmed.” Mrs. Sidha tried to remain reasonable/ “I don’t know if anything will come of this.”
“Yeah, but it sounds pretty good.” Her son was still reading the brochure. “I mean, it says that they project profits, and payouts to their investors, of thirty to fifty percent, or even more.”
“I know, son, but I haven’t seen any of that money yet.”
“Still,” her daughter continued, “we really may become rich!”
Copyright © 2011 by Mark Kertzman