“We are not in receipt of the alleged contract tender,” Chelan said, not quite raising his voice. “We have a number of former Space Guard members as employees; if any of them had heard about the contracts, they never mentioned. Also, we do have vigorous and positive contacts with the Space Guard. That’s how we found out where our missing ore was going. Those contacts never asked me what our response would be to their tenders, under conditions where I am sure the tenders would have been mentioned if they ever existed.”
“So you aren’t selling to the Guard?” Another, younger, reporter, Chelan thought.
“I’m aware of a series of items the Guard needs or wants,” Chelan answered. “We’re trying to get the yard operating again, at which time we and they will undoubtedly have commercial intercourse of a positive sort. However, we can’t sell them what we are unable to make, and at the moment there is very little that we can make. Senator Whitecloth did threaten a defense mobilization order, which would mean that we would have no nickel-iron to sell for a year or year and a half; I believe he agreed that would not be a positive outcome. Which reminds me, I need to get back to North California, to move toward making those sales, so if you will excuse me, I must be on my way.” Chelan’s bodyguards began clearing a path toward his aircar.
Enter Elaine Bell
“Dr. Chelan?” Mrs. Brixton’s voice came loud and clear through the intercom. “Elaine Bell to see you, as per your schedule.”
“Very good, Mrs. Brixton,” Chelan asnwered. “Please send her in. And the usual refreshments.”
Soon thereafter, Victor and Elaine faced each other across his office’s work table. “I read your work notes, Elaine,” he said. “I see progress is being made on hiring new crews for our ships, maintenance and cleaning are under way on the Mighty Transporter, and our fusactors are being checked before bringing them up, though that can’t happen until we hire enough people with the right licenses, confirm that the fusactors are ready to go, and get Federal inspector sign-off. Until then, we’re buying power for all and sundry, in particular the power needed for maintenance operations. “
“The road has potholes,” Elaine said, “which we are diligently filling. So far, Sarah Yates is on schedule with the fine resolution molecular sprays. The graving dock was successfully pumped, exposed surfaces were pressure washed, and the drains are being cleared. The two shop people are engaged in bringing the shops back to operation, including finding out what we actually have on the property. There’s also a large warehouse, not on the simple map, filled with all sorts of things not in any catalog.”
“Have there been any new major obstacles?” Chelan asked.
“Not yet, “ Bell answered. “But it’s still early in the day, so life may not stay dull. It hasn’t yet. I did confirm that Space Guard has assigned an escort vessel to each of our other freighters, an escort the freighters do not know about, somewhat in the hope that the guilty parties will give themselves away. The ships may divert to be separated from their cargoes, but if that happens the Guard will intervene.”
“Large warehouse?” Chelan asked.
“The very large building across the road? It turns out to be ours,” Bell said. “I was looking at the in possession survey and realized it didn’t stop at the road. The other buildings you can’t see easily from the road are ours, too.”