Practical Exercise will soon be out as a trade paperback.
Later that day, Chelan faced an emergency meeting of the Executive Committee.
“…in the end,” he said, “the local power company had cut us off some time ago because bills were not paid. Bills were being sent to an address we are trying to identify. Our own fusactors had been shut down. Our fusactors usually provided our power, but the yards were doing so little the prior owners decided to do without local generators.
“The system switched over to the backup, NorPowTec, to whom we usually sold power in large amounts. Now we were buying power from them. We wereallowed to do that, with a power draw limit. When we turned on all the lights, all the vents, and the graving yard pumps, we went way over the limit. For some reason they didn’t notice; they’d been having other problems recently. When we asked about the bill, they noticed, and waxed wroth. So Elaine here cut everything, got us back well under the limit, and thanks to Charles paid off our bills, so we have power from Crescent Nova again. We’re again pumping out the graving dock. However, we need to bring up our fusactors pronto, meaning we need to hire eight people with the right licenses. Testing and repairing can be done by the ex-Space Guard people we were going to hire to crew our ships, but they can’t ignite and power up civilian fusactors on the ground. Rigid legal limits, for good reasons. Lake Chicago is a beautiful circle, a work of art from the disruption,but one of them is enough.”
“And this will cost?” Rose Cohen asked.
“I have an estimated budget,” Bell answered. “The bright side is that this is an instant profit center, once the fusactors are restarted. Local utilities would be delighted to buy all of our spare power.”
“Why,” Lawrence Morningstar asked, “don’t they build their own? Not that I know anything about fusactors.”
“National steel shortage? National rare earth shortage? National skills shortage, but we’re better off than the folks to our north, no criticism of them intended,” Bell answered. The Elizavetsians, she recalled, in their drive to create a perfect society, had systematically massacred university faculties. It was unclear why they believed that engineering faculties were all hotbeds of revolutionary Xi Jinping-Chengdu thought, but they had still acted on their beliefs, beliefs that were more compatible with their reciprocating wood-burning steam engines than with a modern society.
“Good points,” Morningstar answered. “Can the reactors be restarted? Where is this in the priority lists?”
“We’re working on that. I may have a reactor tech here in a few days,” Bell answered. “I’m still doing the facilities survey. I haven’t found anything missing. Yet. I’ve found several extra buildings not in the settlement of debt files.”
“Legal says we are good on that,” Chelan interjected. “The notes said ‘…all material property…’, and a building is quite material.”
Margaret Evans shook her head. “We seem to be in infinite regress. We start to fix one thing, and find we’ve uncovered another layer of things that need fixing first. When will it end? I represent debtors who want money, not repeated reports on extra needed funds.”
“If we don’t fix the fusactors,” Chelan said, “we can still buy electricity from Crescent Nova. That’s more expensive in the long run, not in the short run. But with power we get to release the chain of events that get our freighters back in working order, at which point Congress gets off our backs and money starts rolling in. On a similar time scale, the fine-focus molecular spray units will be back up. I have a list of outside buyers for things that they make. That’s enough of an income stream to cover our projected payroll.”
“And the cash flow?” Benjamin Goldsmith asked. “Does it stay positive?”
“It can’t,” Chelan answered. “We need to spend money before we can make money. However, the cash on hand should stay solidly positive, meaning we will not need to call on any of our current lines of credit, a process that I believe we all would deprecate.” His final line drew applause from the committee.
“Let’s advance,” Rose Cohen said. “Your projected net income stream is above what we expected.” The remainder of the Executive Committee nodded agreement.