The Millennium ExperienceChronicle of the Future

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-p