“Let’s see.” Elaine took a deep breath. “Illness. Death in the family. Wife about to give birth. Vacation time. Then you want to rotate, six week trip, three weeks on the ground for training and recovery. Locking folks in a ship is not like working in an office with a few weeks vacation every year. That’s maybe a reason these ships were in such bad shape. Overwork. Also, the ships need time out for maintenance, and they weren’t getting it.”
“And the salaries?” Chelan asked.
“I checked with financial,” Bell said. “The former employees were extremely well paid, upper end of Guild recommendations. It looks that their seniority levels were enthusiastically stated – extra years’ credit for work. If you pay fleet plus 20%, because you’ll be getting the better people, and hire the number I recommended, you’ll be saving money.”
“I should advise the Audit Committee, but please start looking for people,” Chelan said. “Then begin by bringing our ships up to par before sailing on them.”
“Aye, aye, sir! Will do, sir!” Bell answered. For once, Chelan thought, Bell actually sounded happy.
Legal vs Republican Legate Bronkowski
Tara Broadhurst opened her videocom. On one of her computer screens there appeared the image of Republican Legate Wilhelm Bronkowski, his title and name appearing in the chyron on the bottom of the screen. “Bulger Spaceship Holdings, Legal, Tara Broadhurst speaking. And what may I do for you, Legate Bronkowski?”
Bronkowski gnashed his teeth. “I am calling to inquire as to the safety of the Republican spaceship Space Pirate Harrington, which appears to be on the ground in one of your docking facilities. The Republic is also curious as to why it chose to land there.”
“The vessel is safe,” Broadhurst answered. She forced her voice to be happily bland. “The Ship Commander and crew, who maintain they were participating in an entirely legal, planned freight transfer, are being treated as honored guests while certain issues are being clarified between my government and yours. However, the Space Pirate Harrington has on board somewhat over 20,000 tons of nickel iron belonging to Bulger Spaceship Holdings, which the Space Pirate Harrington was polite enough to transport to Humboldt Bay. An issue of interest is why our nickel-iron managed to get into their hold. Their Ship Commander maintains he must’ve been the innocent victim of a devious commercial operation in which he is a victim.”
“Why are you holding an innocent victim?” Bronkowski challenged. “This is an offense against the sovereignty of the Stellar Republic, for which we will insist on reparations.”
Careful, Broadhurst thought. I’m not here to antagonize the fellow further, assuming this is even possible. “We requested that Ship Commander McTavish return to the nickel-iron to our ship, the Mighty Transporter. He explained that this was impossible, for detailed technical reasons that he can explain to you. It was at his suggestion that his ship came here to unload, which is now doing. I gather that moving 20,000 tons of nickel-iron takes a bit more work than emptying a bag of flour, but that the process will be complete in another day or so. Meanwhile, he is a guest of the Republic, and my company is covering his crew’s expenses at a pleasant beach resort. I’ll be happy to put you or the Republic consul in South California in touch with him to confirm this.”
“Why was he so agreeable about giving you this nickel-iron ore?” Bronkowski asked. “Why isn’t he defending his cargo from people trying to take it? What sort of nonsense is this?”
“When he heard us claim that it was our cargo, being improperly transferred to his ship, he took the position that this was a matter for lawyers to resolve. Also, while he had a totally clear set of documents authorizing him to receive the nickel-iron from our ship, take it to a location on the dark side of the moon where there is no human habitation, unload it, send a coded signal to a specific lunar satellite, and leave, he observed that he was not born yesterday and this extremely well-paying job did seem to be a bit peculiar. He even agreed to send a coded message to the appropriate satellite advising whoever he was speaking to — he doesn’t know who it is — that we had recovered the ore and that whoever it was needed to speak to us if they wanted it. We await communication with the unknown persons.”
“And meanwhile you are stealing the ore?” Bronkowski grumbled. “That ore must belong to someone in the Stellar Republic.”