Anglic Union

“Perhaps, if you limited yourself to replacing your current ships, we could find new alpha cores for you,”  Tzoltzin said, “enough to maintain your current vessels, so you could avoid the vast expense of developing new classes of spaceship.”

“That would be an interesting alternative,” Chelan said, “but I think we prefer our current approach, which does not risk putting you in the embarrassing position, someday, of having to tell us that the Stellar Republic is out of alpha drive cores again.  After all, to advance amity it is best not to do things that would embarrass your amicable partners.”

“Understood,” Tzoltzin said, “though I am confident that the Republic can currently find all the drive cores you need to maintain your shipping fleet, at a very small fraction of the expense of developing a new class of ship, as you are doing.  After all, you do have a fiduciary responsibility to your debtors and stockholders  to maximize their profits.”

“As it happens, the only remaining debts are owed to me,” Chelan said, “the ownership rights are divided between me and the Seldon Legion, and we are in complete agreement as to our plans, plans that include the construction effort that you were so kind as to inspect today.  So I am grateful for your extremely generous offer, but I must decline.”

“For you and leading Legion members, it would be possible to arrange highly lucrative consultancies,” Tzoltzin observed, “if you were to accept my offer.  Very highly lucrative consultancies.”

“Your offer is overwhelmingly generous, but I am legally forbidden to accept such an offer.”  He shook his head firmly.  “Citizens of the Anglic Union may not work for foreigners.  There is also a question of currency exchange under your laws.   You have a very long flight back to Batavia.  I have other work to which I must urgently attend.  I believe in the interests of amity we should allow you to return home.”

“I understand that sometimes local cultures have strong and highly proper reasons for going about things in expensive and inefficient ways, and I respect you for holding to your reasons,” Tzoltzin said.  Chelan wondered how he could manage that line without laughing.  “To set forth on the starry void in a ship of your own design is an act of great courage, which I much respect. If you change your mind, the offer remains open.  But you are correct. I should be on my path homeward.”

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Anglic Union

Recording finished, the party headed back toward Tzoltzin’s aircar.   Victor Chelan stood in the parking lot, awaiting their return.  He wore the classic men’s garb of the last century, tan trousers, shirt and open tunic, high-collared full-length cream dress cape, and a conical hat.

“Senior Inspector,” Chelan said, not bothering to smile, “I gather you have some questions for me?”

“You will not receive me in your office?” Tzoltzin asked.

“Your inspection area is limited to spaceships we are building,”  Chelan answered.  “Unless you claim I have a starship under my desk?”  Good try, he thought, but you do not get to insert spyprobes everywhere.

“Clearly not,” Tzoltzin acknowledged.  “However, I have been shown an improbable object, namely a spaceship with no alpha cores, nor any place to put them, and wonder if there is some deception.”

“That’s a legitimate concern,” Chelan answered.  “Not tactful, but legitimate.  Our current freight haulers are quite old.  At some point they will wear out, needing huge amounts of maintenance.  One has worn out.  Inquiries by past management revealed a galaxy-wide alpha drive core and fusactor shortage, in that they could not buy either alpha cores or high-field fusactors.  From anyone.  We are therefore building ships – you saw the test bed vessel – that are based only on devices we can build without trespassing on your patent rights.”

“Building ships?” Tzoltzin asked.  “More than one?”

“I expect I will be seeing a great deal of you,” Chelan answered.  “The number of inspections climbs impressively as the ship becomes larger.  Unless you decide to trust us, in which case you could skip most of your during-construction inspections.  Of course, trust is a rare and expensive commodity.”

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Anglic Union

“As you wish,” Tzoltzin answered.  “Your position agrees with precedent.  It just makes things slow.”

“To give you news you may find more positive,” Bell said, “you had asked to speak to Victor Chelan. By the time you are finished with your inspection, he will be available for an exchange of opinions.”

“This is indeed good news.”

“And here is the ship dock,” Bell said. She pointed at a bright white dome two hundred yards across.  “For your purposes we would best enter through the side door B.”  She pointed.  The transporter wheeled inside.

Construction Dock 3 was brightly lit, a highly reflective roof removing every shadow.  The air was warm and pleasantly dry.

“As you see,” Bell said, “We’re only assembling ship framing as needed to support modules as they are installed.  From this angle you can see where decking will be inserted.  However,  in the area toward the bottom where there are already deck plates, down and toward the rear, you may be able to make out where several drive and fusactor modules have been inserted.  You asked, so we’ll look at those first.”  The transporter wheeled down a ramp.  “As your inspection probe should show, those are both beta drive cores.  The large object in between is a conventional low-field civilian fusactor.”

Tzoltzin looked at his handcomp.  “Indeed,” he said, “I confirm that these are beta cores, and that the device between them is indeed a high-power low-field fusactor.  None of these would be expected to have IP tags.”

“Now perhaps it is clearer why I meant no offense, when I said you would not be getting the IP codes. There were none for you to receive.  I can also point out where the other fusactors and drive coils will be mounted,” Bell continued. “There’s four of each in a square down there, and another square of four, to be installed near the top of the ship, where the strakes and ribs have yet to be installed.”

“I see,” Tzoltzin acknowledged.  “As per treaty, I need a few minutes to record all this.”

“The treaty is clear,” Bell answered.  “If you want us to adjust the listing, you have but to ask.”

“Not necessary.”  His free hand made a gesture of negation.  “I should apologize for doubting your honesty.  A ship without alpha cores? In my many years as an Inspector, this outcome has not previously arisen.  You see, when you reach my age – when I was born, this continent had not yet had European settlements — you can still have new experiences.  This is good.”  

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Anglic Union

Bell wished matters had started more smoothly.  “I am Boss of the Yard,” she answered.   “I believe that translates as *Master of the Works*, as close as I can pronounce your language.  With respect to an Honor Guard, this is a private not an Anglic Union facility, so we are not entitled to indulge in military frippery .” She waited for a response.

“You speak my language well,” Tzoltzin said, “given your vocal apparatus.   I see we already have an agreement on something, namely a dislike of idle ceremony.”

 “it is always good to begin with an agreement,” Bell said.  “You want to discuss manufacturing operations, you need to talk to me, or wait for Victor to ask me what the answers to your questions are.”

“Boss of the Yard?” Tzoltzin asked, his voice a deep rumble.  “Perhaps closer as ‘Great Commander of Building Things?”

“A title showing much respect, Senior Inspector, for what is after all a small and limited facility.  You honor me,” Bell acknowledged.  “In that case we should perhaps be getting under way.” She gestured for the passenger transporter.  “We may talk while we are going to the new ship you with to inspect.”

Passengers loaded, the transporter began its slow wheel toward Construction Bay Three.  “I must give a formal statement,” Tzoltzin said.  “It has been brought to the attention of the Stellar Republic that you are constructing a spaceship.  Under our Treaty of Amity, we are entitled to inspect this vessel to ensure that you are respecting our intellectual property rights, primarily with respect to high-density fusactors and alpha cores.  I am therefore here to perform an inspection, the first of several under the voluntary Treaty of Amity.”

Voluntary, Bell thought, my tight and well-shaped backside.  They made clear they’d keep supporting their fake rebel groups unless we agreed to sign. At least they agreed their IP rules would only be enforced in their territory, not ours, but they get to inspect my ship for violations.

“I should then ask for the IP codes for your fusactors and alpha core,” Tzotzin said.  “That way, I can rapidly confirm you are building a spaceship by buying alpha cores and fusactors, not violating our intellectual property rights. I can look at the units, and then be on my way.”

“We are not violating the Treaty of Amity,” Bell said.  “However, there are no codes that you will be given.”

Tzoltzin’s cheek pouches inflated. “You are not entitled to refuse to give me the codes in question,” he said firmly.

Interesting, she thought, his English is almost accent-free.  “I am not refusing,” she said.  “We support amity.  I understand your concern, but matters will be simpler to clarify once you have inspected the ship.  I am absolutely confident that you will find that you have no grounds for complaint.”

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Large Gap in Anglic Union

Inspector Tzoltzin

The day was warm and humid, even with the morning sun not that far off the horizon.  Two centuries ago, Elaine Bell thought,  that Pacific current offshore would have been a cold current, so Humbold Bay ran twenty degrees colder than it does now.  The ocean was then cold, not semitropical.  It wasn’t so hot that she was sweating, though she would be happier when she moved to an air-conditioned work space.

*Inspector Tzoltzin’s aircar is entering its final approach.*  The voice in her ear was the only-occasionally-manned Bulger Flight Control Center.  Soon enough, she felt in her bones the hum of a vehicle landing on its alpha drive core.  Showy, she thought.  Emphasizes the Stellar Republic’s superiority over us primitive natives.  A large area on one parking lot had been marked off with luminous cones. The air car settled to the ground very close to the center of its landing area.

The hum faded as the aircar’s drives powered down.  As they stopped, she marched across the tarmac toward a remarkably large vehicle, all painted in Republic orange.  More like an armoured combat support vehicle, Bell thought; it would appear to be overkill for transporting a somewhat junior embassy official across a continent at peace. A side hatch opened.  Broad stairs, wide enough for two people to walk abreast, swung down.

A young man, tall, well-muscled, in the dress uniform of the Stellar Republic’s embassy guards,  walked down the stairs and stood to the side.  Long sleeves, Bell thought, really dark grey bottom and top, gold stripes on the trousers,  no hat…this fellow will be uncomfortable if he has to stand in the sun for very long.  And Junior Lieutenant’s stripes.  Someone does not think much of the Senior Inspector.  After a few moments the batrachian visage of Senior Inspector Tzoltzin appeared at the hatch.  The inspector was a Creztailian, very far from home across the galaxy, interacting with space aliens – us, she corrected – with strange customs and habits.  Creztailians were armored mammals, much of their bodies being parked behind bony plates.  He was undoubtedly also staunchly loyal to the Stellar Republic and its interpretation of intellectual property laws.

“Lieutenant,” she said,  nodding politely. “I’m Elaine Bell, here to meet the Senior Inspector.”

“I am Lieutenant Tashiro Junichiro, Junior Lieutenant Tashiro if we are being formal.  I am here as the Senior Inspector’s Adjutant and shield from strange local customs.”

“Understood.” Bell smiled.  “I’ll try to make sure no strange customs are exposed.”

The Senior Inspector waddled across the tarmac. Bell turned to face him, hands forward, palms up.  That was supposed to be the polite formal greeting for a Creztailian, a greeting he returned.

“Tzoltzin,” He announced.

“Bell,” she responded.

“I expected to meet here Victor Chelan as person in command of this facility,” Tzoltzin announced.  “Where is he?  For that matter, where is my Honor Guard?”

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Anglic Union

“Some of you,” Chelan continued, “may not caught the last question, asking about the lawsuit of the space shipping cartel against Bulger Spaceways.”  You did not catch it, he thought, because I asked it myself, sotto voce. “I am advised that the cartel has exercised its privilege of enforcing a contract that has long been in place. It is their right to do that.  Bulger will not be contesting the suit, assuming that the final settlement terms are as reasonable as the proposal.

“In answer to a separate question, Bulger Spaceways will remain entitled to import rare earths for its own use, for the use of the Space Guard, and for export to Elizavetsia.  I anticipate that those uses will consume what we are importing, so we will not have a surplus leading to a further conflict with the cartel.

“I anticipate that the first of our ore haulers will be departing earth in the immediate future. Delayed maintenance on the others may take a while, though I gather for two of them flight will happen sooner rather than later.  One of our ore haulers appears to be mostly useful as a supply of parts. We are in the process of reviving the entirety of the space yards. Do we need all of it? Each segment of the yards is arranged to permit replacement of particular types of components of a ship. We can’t anticipate in advance which components will need replacement, so therefore we do have to bring the entire yard up into operation. Because we are busy paying off bond and note holders, the number of people we can pay for yard refurbishment is a bit limited. My message to the holders of Bulger debt is that we appear to be on schedule on repayments, recent changes mean that we will have significantly more income than had been expected, and therefore we may be repaying ahead of schedule.

“Since I must leave to meet with faculty and student leaders, in answer to the question ‘will Bulger be building more spaceships?’ the answer is still that we are too busy killing alligators to consider draining the swamp. Once we are done killing the alligators, that question becomes at least of hypothetical interest. Finally, I thank the local constabularies who appeared so that I could land and address the press.  Thank you also for separating the demonstrators and the counter-demonstrators, so that there will be no unpleasant events. And with that, I must advance.”


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Anglic Union

The National Technical College was a fine example of thoughtful last-century architecture. Chelan reminded himself that the style was old, but the buildings were actually quite recent.   

Facades were brick. Windows, especially on classrooms, were tall and undoubtedly double-glazed. Sidewalks between buildings were quite wide.  Building fronts faced a long central green crisscrossed with walkways. Wide driveways behind the buildings ensured that they could all be reached by truck. Student dormitories, uniformly three stories tall, were in a separate cluster.  He had no trouble spotting the ventilator shafts for the tunnels that meant that in inclement weather students could walk indoors to all of their classes.  At one end of the central green, a large stone building with two obvious modern additions had to be the library.

The neighboring town of Florianopolis, according to Chelan’s reading, had originally been settled by Brazilian emigres fleeing aspects of the Interregnum. The town flanked the college on two sides, but, just as he had read, the college and its gardens occupied the land in a quadrant extending a considerable distance farther out. He readily spotted an extended business district close to the school, obvious apartment houses, and a mixture of churches, cathedrals, and temples.  Someplace in there had to be the municipal government structures, but he couldn’t immediately spot them.

“Sir,” Pamela said, “Centurion Conti reports that you’ve done enough sightseeing, because the local constabulary, the county sheriffs, and police forces from several neighboring towns are present, so you can safely land and meet the press.”

Chelan’s aircar descended into the center of a ring formed by bodyguards and members of the constabulary.  An exit ramp went down.  He stopped at the top of the stairs, waved, and waited while the press assembled around the stairs.

“I can hear your questions on my ear mike,” he answered.  “I understood that there were members of the faculty and staff who were disenthused about change and preferred to resign.  Naturally, I wish them well in their future endeavors.  I did not expect the occupation of Chancellor’s Hall.  Occupation of College academic and administrative buildings is something out of the worst days just before the Interregnum started.  That behavior should be sent back four hundred years to where it belongs.

“As Chancellor, I have absolute authority to discipline or expell students.  They may leave rather than accepting the punishment I offer.  I anticipate being forgiving to students who are misled, see the error of their ways, and are departing the building, as I now see some number of them doing. With respect to staff, I will be reviewing the departed. Some of them may be invited to return, but under Union law that letter of resignation is legally binding and something I will enforce.

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Anglic Union

“Oh, goody. That’s absolutely wonderful.” Chelan’s tone revealed a manifest lack of enthusiasm. “Okay, I get to make a statement.”  He paused for a moment.  “When I left home this morning, I anticipated a peacable arrival and taking of office.  I see that matters have changed.  I will be meeting with leading members of the Faculty and leading members of the student body about the current situation. I order former employees to go to their offices, pack up their belongings, and leave campus. I realize that some of those people will require significant freight support. Those persons may remain on-campus in their offices so long as they remain peaceable and do not disrupt the operations of the college.  I order the students who have joined in the disruption, in particular the occupation of Chancellor’s Hall, to leave the building immediately and return to their residences, or otherwise go about their academic business.  Students who have participated in the disruption will be subject to academic discipline, but the penalties for that participation will be greatly increased for students who do not promptly leave Chancellor’s Hall and elsewise allow the normal operation of the campus to resume. I call upon my friends in the faculty and student body to leave the area around Chancellor’s Hall so that the people inside may leave without feeling threatened.”

“Sir,” Pamela said, “Group Leader Conti asks that you postpone landing for a few minutes while reinforcements arrive for him. He suggests that you be seen to be flying around the campus slowly at low altitude waving out the windows. The press will be told you are inspecting the situation, so you have a clearer understanding of what is happening, before you land and attempt to put both feet in your mouth.”

“I endorse this wise advice,” Chelan said. “Fortunately, it is no longer the case that we have to worry about student demonstrators deploying surface-to-air missiles. Very well. Driver, let us start with a couple of loops around Chancellor’s Hall, loops around the whole campus, and then let us look at individual buildings. We just want enough altitude that no one can throw rocks at me.”

The National Technical College was a fine example of thoughtful last-century architecture. Chelan reminded himself that the style was old, but the buildings were actually quite recent.   

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Anglic Union

“It reads like something out of one of those interregnum historical pot-boilers,” Pamela answered. She shook her head. “Apparently the former Chancellor announced today was a holiday, told everyone on the staff to stay home, and when the protesters occupied the Hall, at first no one allegedly knew they were doing this. Outside the building, there are whole bunch of students and faculty who are on the other side. The two groups are shouting names at each other.”

“When did all this start?” Chelan asked. “I would’ve thought that we did some advance warning that there was a problem.”

“Conti says that there was a meeting on one of the athletic fields,” Pamela said, “and at some point the people who don’t want you marched over here and occupied the building. There was some amount of underground organization, since Conti says this demonstration didn’t seem to be spontaneous. He emphasizes that he still trying to find out what’s really going on, since our people on the ground were on the far side of campus, parked to defend the library in accord with Seldon Legion customs.”

“Did someone threaten the library?” Chelan asked, his tone of voice suddenly turning much grimmer. 

“That’s a negative, sir,” Pamela answered.

“We seem to have a good example of what happens when you don’t have adequate intelligence or people on the ground in advance,” Chelan said.  “If I’d known this was happening, I could have advanced to the local Residence Inn, announced I was having a delayed breakfast, and let our good people find out what was happening without the people inside the Hall getting to claim that they’d disrupted the Senate’s plans.  Now I’m committed to landing, waving at people, and giving the folks inside the Hall some cockamamie claim that they’d won.”

“Group Leader Conti,” Pamela said, “ reports that there are groups of faculty members who want to meet with you, the student government group that wrote the report on academic standards would be delighted to speak to you whenever you want, there are several groups of administrators who wish to deliver their non-negotiable demands, and it goes on from there.”

“Pamela,” Chelan said, “you’re doing a magnificent job of listening to me and listening to Conti at the same time, which is perhaps asking too much. Please ask Conti it can find the half-dozen faculty members who wrote that peculiar report saying there was an issue here, and find the short list — I think there were four of them — of students who wrote the final draft of the student government report. Is the press there yet?”

“Apparently whoever organized this sent them notices while we were en route. Their local stringers reported that interesting things might happen, so there are at least four camera crews and a bunch of the classical press in attendance.”

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Anglic Union

A Peaceful Academic Environment

Victor Chelan’s aircar overflew the Federal Technical College and began its final approach to the parking area near Chancellor’s Hall.  Ahead of him, another, larger air car filled with his Seldon Legion bodyguards had already landed, the bodyguards deploying in a ring around the area where he would set foot.

“Compliments of Group Leader Conti,” Pamela Davis said, “and he has secured the landing zone. He reports, however, that Chancellor’s Hall has been occupied by protesting faculty and students, and asked what he wants done about it.”

“Occupied?” Chelan said. “How positively twentieth-century of them.  I wonder where they came up with that idea.  Has anyone notified the local authorities yet? This appears to be a case for the constabulary.”

Pamela spoken to her throat mike, then waited for an answer.

“Conti,” Pamela said, “reports that the College was built on unorganized land, so the local jurisdiction is Federal, not state or local, but he can phone up the local sheriff without giving him any problems.”

“Do we know why they’re doing this? Do we know what they want?” Chelan asked.

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