A Video Call
“Doctor Chelan,” Mrs. Brixton said. “A call on Line Three. Senator Hughes, Australia, National Renaissance Party.”
“That one I’d definitely better take,” Victor Chelan answered. Fortunately, he thought, Mrs Brixton was very good at identifying people he might want to speak to. He stared out the window at the Pacific, waves a leaden gray to match the dark sky overhead. What might Aston Hughes want, he wondered? Hughes had been the NRP’s anticipated Vice Presidential candidate, two years out, but now all that was confused.
The screen opened. “Doctor Chelan. Thank you for taking my call,” Hughes said.
“Senator Hughes. Happy to talk,” Chelan answered. “I hope you and yours are well.”
“Indeed, Sir.” Hughes spread his hands. “And thank you, it’s hardly a secret, for giving me a path to advance towards nomination, now as my party’s Presidential candidate. Though since Drummond-McLaren has been exposed, my chances of victory appear…confused.”
“If i were in your position,” Chelan said, “I would agree. Though the Presidential election is two years off, I would guess that we will have parliamentary elections rather soon, but if you are a prominent part of a minority party? That’s not such a bad deal. All bad things get blamed on someone else.”
“Absolutely,” Hughes said. “Though I am calling about a common interest on which we agree, namely the need for an Anglic Union starship industry. What can Bulger Holdings do to help?”
Chelan leaned back in his chair. Once upon a time, this sort of conversation was done by aides, all of whose words were deniable. That was then. “We have a great deal of equipment,” Chelan answered, “and four spaceships that are close to flyable condition. Most of the equipment has been neglected for some time, and has to be brought back into working order. In many cases, you can’t fix machine A until machine B is up and running. Thus, for example, the Space Guard clearly will want drive spines, which need coarse-focus molecular spray systems, which can’t be fixed until the fine-focus units are up and running. However, the fine-focus units are also in demand for spaceship parts that only they can make. When you get down to it, the Anglic Union has a perfectly respectable manufacturing capacity, with professional technicians of all sorts, but spaceship manufacture is, well, specialized. There are not a lot of people out there who we could usefully employ, and most of them already have good jobs. Also, we have to pay people, pay off our bonds, and so forth. It’s not a chicken and egg problem, but it’s like one of those old Chinese box puzzles, in which everything has to be done in the right order. Fortunately, Elaine Bell is highly competent at this sort of planning.”