“Mister Chairman,” Broadhurst continued, “you are referring to a tender, a Union document…if it exists. Under Senates and Lords rules, my client was entitled to a copy of that document 24 hours before the hearing began. Assuming there is such a document.”
“And if there is,” Chelan added, “we would be most grateful to you for receiving a copy, since we seem to be the only people who have not seen it.”
“Point taken,” Whitecloth responded. “I will see what can be done. Of course, this Committee,” he noted, “can issue a Defense Mobilization Order, so you make nothing other than what is needed for the Guard, until you have finished making it.”
Elaine Bell cleared her throat. Chelan nodded. “I did a simulation,” Bell said. “It’s straightforward to do. If you do what you are proposing, the Space Guard will not receive any drive spines for at least a year. Perhaps more. Also, for most of that time, our ore haulage would necessarily – Mobilization Act requirements – be suspended, leaving the Union short by at least two million tons of nickel iron, and our heavy metals.” She turned to Tara Broadhurst. “Tara, does that mean we need to issue our customers and bidders a force majeure warning – no more sales until, say, Christmas next?”
“Yes,” Tara answered. “I’ll draft one for your signature, Victor, so soon as this hearing is over.”
The committee members began shouting at each other. Chelan wondered how fast the stock markets were crashing. “If I may?” Chelan said, barely raising his voice. The Committee quieted.
“As a minor practical matter, it would be useful to know the dates on the alleged tender offers were sent, and where they were sent. For example, they might have gone to the former owners, who are in hiding and refuse to speak to us. I am happy to agree we are still uncovering features of the Bulger Yard, in which case the tenders might have ended up in a mail slot that no one here knows about. However, I asked the Space Guard, and they are still looking for the alleged tender. If someone gave you the document, I would be most grateful for a copy so I could act on it.
“It is not difficult,” Chelan continued, “to deduce what the Space Guard actually needs, and by which dates. If this Committee will simply leave Bulger in peace, we reasonably expect to be able to supply the actual needs, or most of them, in a timely way. The only challenge is that we are still making a survey of the Yards, and may uncover additional issues.”
“I was merely entertaining a hypothesis,” Whitecloth said. “If you never consider solutions that turn out to be wrong, you may well overlook solutions that turn out to be better than those previously considered.”
Chelan shrugged. There was not a question in there, so he was under no obligation to say anything. Whitecloth had confirmed the dim impression, Chelan thought, that I had had of him, and with some luck had torpedoed his Presidential ambitions. “There are also allegations,” Whitecloth said, “that Bulger yards is diverting money to the benefit of some political party in an illegal way. Would you care to speak to that, Doctor Chelan?”