“The Audit Committee may complain,” Rose said, “but you can bring any deficiencies you find to us. In my opinion, with respect to debts run up by Dewey and Rothham, debts that could lead to litigation, if they aren’t too large, just pay them and make nuisance suits stay away. I did advise the Audit Committee what we were finding.”
“There are obscure references,” Margaret Evans said, “to things for the Space Guard, and reports in two financial news services that we had declined contracts with them. Is there anything to that?”
“Please send me the reports,” Victor said. “I am absolutely positive that our relations with the Space Guard are excellent. They undoubtedly have things they want to buy, that we in a while will be able to make, but we have to get there first, and they understand this. They have already brought to our attention with strong recommendations Ms. Bell, who worked out where all the nickel-iron and heavy metals were going. The contract for her is based on Commodore Clangbalance’ recommendation – that is confidential – at what I hope is a reasonable salary.”
“What about maintenance of Space Guard ships?” Margaret asked. “The China Yards are expensive and must be paid in foreign currency. We could profit there.”
“We should invite Ms. Bell to one of these meetings,” Victor answered, “so soon as she has some idea what is going on in the yards. I note that she has been assigned a security escort by the Seldon Legion. In short, Space Guard ships are long and thin; our ships are turnips. Our dock will not accomodate a Space Guard ship. We would need a new graving dock. I am reluctant to recommend such a thing while we are still deeply in debt, but plans are likely much cheaper.”
“What about getting the shops up?” Benjamin Goldsmith asked.
“Fine-focus molecular spray is advancing at the full speed it can. We appear to have a minimum time path to full operation. At that point we can keep the Space Guard happy, and have life support units to sell to the Stellar Republic. Course focus awaits completionof the fine-focus…the course-focus heads were wrecked. Machine shops need a complete overhaul, at the take things apart and remove the dirt stage. That’s personnel limited, and we can’t keep hiring people indefinitely until the income stream is stabilized. Electric arc furnaces await shops. Graving yard is still being pumped. I approved hiring an outside contractor – someone known to Seldon – to clean all the rest rooms, halls, and eating facilities, most of which are filthy.”
“Things that bring income streams on line soon, even if larger projects are slowed, are good. Overspending is bad,” Margaret Evans remarked.
“Indeed, I have a financial path plan, attachment 3. You see…”
Space Guard Operations Center
Chelan had joined Commodore Clangbalance in the decidedly not lavish Space Guard Operations Center. The walls were bare concrete. The ceiling was cheap sound-absorbing tile, spaced by bands of tired-looking LED lights. A non-skid vibration damping carpet that clearly had seen better days covered most of the floor.
“Doctor,” Commodore Clangbalance said, “our people are in position, the Mighty Transporter is behind the moon and docked with someone, so it is time for you to play your part.”
Chelan adjusted his headphones and looked at the paper in front of him. “Mighty Transporter, Mighty Transporter, this is Victor Chelan for the debtors in control of Bulger Spaceship Holdings. Please report and confirm your position. Mighty Transporter, Mighty Transporter, this is Victor Chelan for the debtors in control of Bulger Spaceship Holdings. Please report and confirm your position.” Ten seconds passed on the clock. The airwaves were silent. ““Mighty Transporter, Mighty Transporter, this is Victor Chelan for the debtors in control of Bulger Spaceship Holdings. Please report and confirm your position.” He waited another ten seconds. “Commodore Clangbalance,” Chelan said, reading from the script, “I am unable to establish contact with the Mighty Transporter and fear for its safety. Could the Space Guard please confirm its situation?”