Space pirates tune into heavy metal

24.04.37: A ONE-TONNE CARGO of gravidium, element 126, has been snatched by space pirates while en route to Earth.

In a statement, the translunar freight company Mitsubishi-Kodaira said that the crime bore the unmistakable hallmark of Kim Chung Song, the renegade North Korean shuttle pilot.

Kim's fierce band of disaffected cosmonauts has been connected with a spate of incidents on the spacelanes, notably last year's hit-and-run attack on the LEO-22 Powersat complex.

Gravidium, which is 60% heavier than the heaviest naturally occurring element - element 92, or uranium - is classed as "superheavy". Unknown selenological processes during the formation of the moon concentrated it in a deposit on the northern ramparts of the far-side crater Tsiolkovsky.

Gravidium is used principally in the photonics industry for its unique magneto-optical and piezoelectric properties and as a super-dense material in the manufacture of armour-penetrating projectiles.

The stolen shipment is valued by Lloyd's Space Shipping at between E$9 billion and E$10 billion. Earth-orbit monitoring radars above the Indian Ocean indicated the re-entry of an unregistered payload above North Korea within seven hours of the interception of the Mitsubishi-Kodaira cargo. Experts on orbital mechanics say that this is estimated to be the most fuel-efficient route; there can therefore be little doubt that the re-entering payload was the stolen shipment.

The gravidium is expected to turn up in armour-piercing shells being used in the plethora of border skirmishes in progress in that part of the world.

The incident has once again highlighted the ineffectiveness of the space authorities in stamping out lawlessness in the Earth-moon system.

The patience of Mitsubishi-Kodaira and the 24 other companies involved in the lucrative translunar freight business is beginning to run out. The indications are that within six months the companies will set up their own private police force to counter the growing menace of space piracy. MC