“Absolutely!” Yates said. “Any spray unit can duplicate itself, so the unit you see working would have no trouble repairing all the units that aren’t working. However, past management ruled the time spent building replacement parts was time not spent building things we could sell, so they told us not to do it. There are things you can bootleg, but that isn’t one of them.”
Bell mumbled under her breath. “With all respect, sir, that appears to be a case of penny wise and pound foolish. I’d have to know exactly what was wrong with the dead units to calculate an optimum repair schedule — unless you’ve already done that — but keeping these units in good repair matters a great deal to getting other things done. For example, if you need to build gravitronic spines, you need to use the course-focus unit, which appears not to be working, but fortunately one of these units, if you are patient, can make any needed replacement parts. Now, Sarah, you get to tell me all the ways I’m wrong.”
“No, you’re exactly right.” Sarah pinched her nose. “ I have a replacement plan and schedule. It comes with a bill that the former management was unwilling to pay, so we couldn’t do it.”
“I will want to see this plan and the bill as soon as possible” Chelan said, “if for no other reason than having only one working unit sounds more than a bit risky. Also, if you have a schedule of what you are manufacturing in the future, and who’s buying what or paying for it, I’d like to see that, too. Is there anything else I need to know?”
“Most of my problems go away,” Sarah said warmly, “if I’m allowed to fix the other molecular spray units. There are probably other problems, but it’s hard to see what those are until step one, fixing units, gets done. And here is a copy of my plans.” She handed Chelan a thin sheaf of papers and a datastick.
“In that case,” Chelan said, “I’d better leave you to your work, but we’ll need to schedule a longer talk, probably tomorrow. I’m still fending off potential litigants. If anything arises, I’ll be over in Central Administration. Chief Bell, if we could return to my office?”
Bulger Space Yards
“Ah, mint tea, very thoughtful of you, Mrs. Brixton.” Chelan inhaled deeply, the biting aroma passing through his nose. “Much better than the stench in the God help us machine shop.” Elaine Bell nodded in agreement.
“All right, Ms. Bell, you’ve convinced me you are a good choice. Your analysis of Yates’ plan as we did our extended walk back here appeared sound, as much as I could tell. This is not my expertise. I will propose we match your current full-time salary, plus 20%, and elevate to your pre-National Renaissance plus 20% salary after three months, unless things work out poorly. I don’t think they will. Unless you see an objection, you being appointed Boss of the Yard, I will renew the contracts for Yates and crew and for the two maintenance people, with the notation that we may revise pay upward once we get control of finances. Oh, right. Mrs Brixton? Is your form here someplace? Please add it. Three months, discuss at that time, one month guaranteed, at your current salary. We see if we can stand each other. Those three-month increases will be retroactive to now if finances permit. Having said that, we need a new staff to operate the Yard. Pumping the graving dock soon, before there is more damage? Start cleaning the machine works? Yates will need more people soon. Give me a list of proposed hires, timing, and salaries. Also names, if you happen to know people. Will tomorrow AM work?”
“Sir, late this afternoon should be possible,” Bell asnwered. “I can already name several people, highly competent, quit when the nerps told them how little their service was worth.”
“Get me their files ASAP, please. Roger, given this building’s quaint layout, you can get all our senior people their corner offices. Please put the Boss of the Yard on this floor if there is space.” McNaughton nodded. “Corner offices that they should routinely not be occupying. Elaine, salaries commensurate with Space Guard salaries plus 20% are appropriate, unless you recommend elsewise.”