“Yes?” Chelan asked mildly. “What was the clue?”
“You mentioned offloads didn’t seem to match expected on-loads, though they matched the bills of lading. Each time one of our ships lands,” Bell explained, “it downloads a flight record, including the accelerometer records. That record is hashcoded four different ways, so it’s impossible to alter. So on the screen is the expected flight path, the part within a half-million miles of Earth. And now on the screen for the last trip of the Mighty Transporter is their actual path. They deviate behind the moon, park there for part of a day, and when they continued on their way their drive power curve show that they were, give or take, 30,000 tons lighter. They somehow present us with papers saying that they left Proserpine only half full, so everything appears to match.”
“That’s piracy!” Davis stared in amazement.
“Precisely,” Bell answered.
“Wait?” Mrs. Brixton said. “The Senior Partner here had me log, automatically every hour, and daily report, exactly where our ships were. They never wandered off behind the Moon. SolarNavCom pinged their transponders for their current location, and sent us a report.”
“Good work!” Bell said. “That’s their location according to the feed from their navigation system. That can be faked. Back side of the moon? Almost nothing there. Some very old radio telescopes. Smugglers keeping radio silence. The Space Guard has seen this before. There’s a protocol, if you’re willing to send a few radio messages.” Chelan nodded his agreement.
“And in a half hour I have a meeting with the major debtors,” Chelan said.
Meet with Debtors
Video Conference Room
Chelan took his seat at the head of the Video Conference room table. He’d had to return to the Traveller’s Residences for that. Bulger had video conferencing, but its security was still open to question. The wall clock said he had a couple of minutes before the remainder of the Managing Committee appeared, enough time for him to review his notes.
The chair seemingly at the foot of the table became occupied. “Ah, Rose Cohen,” Victor said, “welcome to the Managing Committee. It was good that the Courts cleared someone so quickly to represent the minor noteholders.”
“Indeed, Victor,” Cohen answered. “It helped that the Oregon Chancery Court knew I had been a major pain in the tush on behalf of the pensioners when the old California United Pension System went up on the rocks.”
“And now most of the remaining noteholders have been swept up in your net,” Victor said. “Fortunately, I still anticipate full payout with interest, so perhaps you will earn your fees out of additional profits, meaning that you can smile benevolently as we advance.”