“I received their response, which is why am bringing this to your attention,” Tara explained. “They sent me a list of 4,000 different hand tools, all with vague descriptions. I asked for the full description for each of them, which turns out to be a huge set of files. I handed them over to Roger.”
“As Tara said, the list goes on forever,” Roger remarked. “I’ve only sampled the list. I don’t think we have anything like them. I can’t imagine what we would do with them. However, our records may not be currently accurate, because tools disappear without a trace, but I could compare with everything Bulger has recorded purchasing and receiving in the last fifteen years.”
“And we can tell somehow that something they described one-way matches a tool that we purchased but is described some slightly different way?” Victor asked.
“That’s something good about uniform product description coding,” Roger said. “It’s not perfect. For example, the Republic uses French Imperial units, while the Anglic Union uses Traditional English units, but it was good enough for a fast search. Net result…we don’t own any of these things. They’re all designed for zero-gee assembly by an alien with a more or less arbitrary hand and arm arrangement, probably wearing vacuum armor.” Except for the spaceships while en route, we don’t do vacuum work, and we try to minimize vacuum work on our spaceships as much as we can. It’s too dangerous, too clumsy, and except when absolutely necessary way too slow.”
“Shall I send them a more definitive rejection?” Tara Broadhurst asked. “Based on what Roger just said?”
“First, I have a riddle,” Elaine Bell said. She took a sip of the tea. “Why do these people think we want tools seriously too clumsy to use, except in a zero-gee vacuum environment where the alternatives are worse? Our ships do have shops and tool kits, but the tools are designed for human beings on Earth, and in design predate the Great Interregnum, meaning they are not covered by Republic patents.”
“This sounds stranger and stranger,” Victor said. “It’s hardly a secret that our yards are here in North California. Anyone doing enough research on this operation, to identify any of the three of you as the specific person to whom letters should be sent, would also see the pretty pictures on our web pages.”
“Perhaps,” Tara said, “before I don my combat litigation armor, we should invite a few of them out here, give them a tour of the facilities, and see what they have to say for themselves? The former management was not very bright, and certainly might have stepped on IP rights, possibly without even knowing what an IP right is, and probably leaving traces that they’d done something improper.”