“Honorable Treemuhr, was this indeed your expectation?” Victor asked.
Maarshak held up one hand, gesturing to his clients not to speak directly. “Of course it was,” Maarshak said. “Though why you are going to this trouble when, so soon as the Anglic Union joins the Republic, you will have access to all the alpha cores and freight hauling spaceships that you need, is somewhat beyond my clients. After all, it is in an inevitable part of human history and evolution for small places to submit to large, as would happen in the case of the Anglic Union when you soon – yes, as is well known, soon — join the Stellar Republic in some Junior Associated State status.”
“Perhaps, Honorable Treemuhr, it would be desirable if I were to clarify what we are doing,” Victor said, ignoring Marshak’s interruption. “There are also some historical results here. On one hand, under Anglic Union law, we cannot make use of foreign labor. ‘Foreign Labor’ would include any of the species of the Stellar Republic, including humans. That’s an outcome of issues that led to the Great Interregnum. On the other hand, there was a considerable time in which space travel fanatics pushed the claim that orbital manufacturing was practical and desirable. That’s orbiting artificial space stations, not orbiting asteroids that have been hollowed out inside and spun up. The practical experience was that working in zero gee, while possible, is remarkably inefficient.”
“Your labor constraint,” Maarshak said, “will assuredly be disappearing so soon as you are part of the Stellar Republic, a condition which all progressive citizens of the Anglic Union expect to happen in the near future. Having represented at different times a half-dozen of the Stellar Republic’s spaceship manufacturing facilities, I can assure you that well-trained workers find a zero-G to be an advantage, not a disadvantage.”
Victor wondered if the attorney actually knew which end of a soldering iron to pick up. The smart money was against. Under modern conditions, social prejudices in his part of the world meant that a senior, well-educated attorney expected his servants to handle any tools. Maarshak’s nineteenth-century ancestors would doubtless have been cheered by his attitude. His twenty-first century ancestors would have been horrified.
Victor turned to face the three Frumpkins. “So, with respect to your beautiful tools, many of which are extremely clever, they are all designed to be effective under conditions under which we do not plan to be doing any manufacturing. You may someplace in this very long list of tools have some devices that are intended to be used in atmosphere in the presence of a gravitational field. If I were to receive a catalog of those, describing their purposes and such not, I would personally be most interested. I should emphasize that Bulger Spaceship Holdings does not have a stock of Stellar Republic currency, and at current exchange rates is unlikely to obtain any. However, I personally have a modest amount of your money, which under current trade regulations I have to spend within your Republic. In particular, I have enough money and enough interest in buying interesting tools and some other products that your trip may turn out to be financially rewarding even though it turned out that we are not trespassing on your intellectual property rights.”
Treemuhr’s central eye lit up. “We always look forward to making first sales to distinguished persons. There is such a catalog, which I will see that you receive promptly. Your attorney knows how to reach me. Having said that, I very much did enjoy the tour you gave me, which showed at several points novel and interesting approaches to maintaining, repairing, and manufacturing spaceships. I’m certainly not surprised to see that, since you can only employ a single species in your Yard, you wisely choose to use tools optimized for that species. That’s common sense. Possibly that statement should not be interpreted as endorsing your beliefs on ground versus orbital assembly, but that is your decision which I truly respect.