“Noting we have much other business, and that our other questions were modest follow-ons that do not appear to apply to the actual situation, I propose that this Committee thank our witnesses and dismiss them, leaving further questions to written forms,” Whitecloth said.
“One last question,” de Witt announced.
“Elektra,” Broadcloth said, “surely we have heard enough?”
“Or I shall insist on regular order,” de Witt responded. Whitecloth nodded in acquiescence.
“The great limitation on rebuilding the Union,” de Witt said, “is our supply of steel and heavy metals. Our readily mineable reserves are exhausted. Anci ent proposals for mining the core of the earth are impossible, even with modern materials technology. Your book Reconstruction, Doctor Chelan, fills in the details, and notes substitutes, but we are still heavily dependent on distant Proserpine. Is there any possibility of Bulger constructing additional ships?”
Chelan wished that de Witt were a bit less perceptive. “In the short term,” he answered, “we are entirely busy restoring the equipment we now have to full operation. The original Bulger quit and gave up, when he found that the Republic’s patent guilds refused either to sell him additional alpha cores and high-density fusactors, or to license him to produce them himself. The owners of our spaceship design patents also refuse to sell more, or license the production of more, ships of our current, or any other, model. Owners of other ship design patents are similarly refractory. Those are key ingredients of conventional space ships. The penalties for violating or abrogating our Intellectual Property treaty with the Republic, or with the prior Empire, are so severe that there is no serious proposal to ignore those limitations. I suppose some clever person could come up with an alternative, and I would be most interested in hearing from such persons.”
“Anything more?” Whitecloth asked. “Hearing none, we must thank our witnesses and advance to our next point of business.” He gestured Chelan, Bell, and Broadhurst out of the chamber.