“They’re likely to keep paying,” Morningstar said. “Those purchases never made complete sense economically, but they served to strangle economic expansion here by strangling expansion of our interplanetary haulage capacity. Apparently someone was willing to pay to do that. The Republic is much larger and richer than its neighboring minor states, so it engages in cash-losing projects to take down and absorb the neighboring minor states, a few at a time, without resorting to violence. We’re apparently on their list for being taken down soon.”
“What about local mining?” Goldsmith asked. “Not useful where I am, it being limestone down a long ways, but originally all our mining was done here on earth. I keep getting that question from my bosses and the folks who lent us money.”
“People talk about mining on earth instead,” Morningstar answered. “The run-up to the Interregnum left us rather thoroughly mined out.Yes there are projects to mine granite, but it’s just too expensive and energy-intensive, except for some rare earths. You end up with iron that’s more expensive than our nickel or cobalt. In the run-up to the Interregnum, even mine tailings were mined out. During the Partition disturbances, cities and scrapyards got the same treatment. Proserpine is incredibly high-grade, as ore, and space travel should be cheap, except for our dear friends in the Republic.”
“Which, if you don’t all mind, brings us to our other issue,” Chelan said. “My report has the financial projections for the next year, and an analysis of costs and personnel needs, so please study it. Advise if you want another meeting. Elaine Bell says our projections should be good for the next month, until the unforeseen contingencies show up, so perhaps ExComm will need to meet then – unless one of you sees an urgent matter.”
”Politics? The First Minister’s brilliant doings?” Cohen asked.
“The press will be chasing what he knew and when he knew it,” Chelan said. “I’ve seen that before, many times. I’m more concerned with the Stellar Republic. We do trade with them a bit, after all, for things we cannot make, mostly under the medical exemptions. With that avenue closed, there will be a huge demand that we start building starships, which we cannot do. Indeed, until we get these yards up, we can’t build anything. Worse, thanks to the China Yard blockage, we’re going to be asked to maintain the Space Guard’s ships.”
“That could be profitable,” Goldsmith observed. “If they pay for the graving docks they need.”