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I like my 13 word stories the best when there are multiple interpretations and implications — so this is one I like quite a bit. I’d figure this one has to be set a bare minimum of two centuries in the future — but for Earth to have a single planetary government or even a functioning worldwide confederation of sovereign nations in that time, and for an off-Earth settlement to have grown to the point where its prowess in space exceeds what Earth is capable of, suggests a longer timeframe unless something absolutely revolutionary happens. Which is always possible; you can’t predict an unexpected breakthrough.
So I’m thinking five hundred-ish years ahead, something like that. Titan has more on the ball than Earth in the asteroid-deflecting department. That suggests places closer to Earth like Mars or major asteroids like Ceres likely have at least equal capabilities. There are lots of people who don’t live on Earth and weren’t born there, either. Humanity on Earth probably isn’t outnumbered or anything — it’s still a hell of a big biosphere compared to ones that have to be built by hand. Any technology advanced enough to make that factor not matter implies something like Star-Trek-ian replicators that can coalesce matter out of energy and vice-versa — and that would make deflecting a mere dinosaur-killer asteroid child’s play. So that doesn’t exist.
Earth has probably suffered some sort of stagnation or regression. I’ve often thought that one possibility of an Earthly nation or corporation or whatever successfully beginning a large-scale self-sufficient colony off of Earth could be a pulling back, a sense among the Earthbound that they had done their part and sent the pioneers off, the eggs were no longer all in one basket, and the next step is to concentrate on Earthly concerns. At best, on feeding and housing and educating everyone at something approximating a first-world standard. At worst, settling old scores with the ultimate stakes of nuclear or biological warfare lowered — a war that ended the human race on Earth wouldn’t end all of the human race.
And poor Earth, whatever her status in this story, it’s not quite clear, but she’s not quite the self that sent humans off to make Titan a great power anymore. It’s implied Earth knew a massive asteroid was on the way to flatten them, but directly said that Earth couldn’t do anything about it. So good old Titan steps in to save Earth’s bacon.
But not for free. Resources still matter. It’s hard to imagine them not mattering — short of technology indistinguishable from magic. So Titan lays claim to — what, exactly?
That could be read as the asteroid. Ouch, that would hurt Earth. To watch untold trillions of dollars worth of resources zip past, almost close enough to touch, with a greater power shepherding it off to their own benefit.
But that’s not the only reading. Maybe Titan is claiming Earth. Hey, you’d all be dead down there if we hadn’t saved you. That means you belong to us now.
Sometimes in history, the tables eventually turn. The balance of power shifts. What happens in that future often depends on the past the new power remembers.
I hope the future salvaged Earth was humane to their Titan colonists, now that the Titan masters have arrived.
[This story appeared first on my Patreon page — patrons see my regular posts three days or more ahead of everyone else. When I publish an ebook, they get a copy THIRTY days early, and for FREE! Plus my patrons get extra, heartfelt thankyous for helping me keep my household afloat — since my hip stopped working right and my former gig in retail management became impossible, it has been my goal to make writing into a home-supporting concern. Being a patron is being part of that effort. I’d love to see you over there!)