“Oh, on rare occasions business does poorly,” Bronkowski said, “and then the senior investor has to protect its investment in what was, after all, a small, fourth-rate shipyard.”
“I see,” Broadhurst said. “Of course, taking a foreign investor as a partner is illegal in the Anglic Union, so such arrangements are not worth discussing further here. Foreign investment in the Union is illegal.” She paused. Bronkowski drew back. Hadn’t he known, she wondered, how Union investment laws worked? “So why would we want to register, ignoring financial issues? You must have some good reasons. Please tell me about them.”
“Madame Broadhurst,” Brankowski said, “all across the galaxy, this is how things are done. Before you build your spaceship, you must register it. With us.”
“Curiously,” Broadhurst said, “we are not someplace across the Galaxy. We are here on Earth, the home world of mankind, in the successor state to the nation that gave mankind manned interplanetary flight. We do not need to ask the permission of foreigners to build spaceships. After all, we’ve been doing it since before your Republic did.”
“If you do not register it,” Brankowski said, “there are also practical consequences.”
“Actually, for that matter,” Broadhurst asked, “why do you think we are planning on building spaceships? You are not the first person to contact us on this topic, though most letters we get are nice people trying to sell us things.”
“The Stellar Republic Intelligence Services are all-seeing,” Brankowski answered. “Also, given your circumstances, well, if I were running your operation I would be vigorously planning to build spaceships. We seem to have different perspectives on the matter.”
“Ah,” Broadhurst answered, “now we reach serious negotiations. Not, mind you, that I am saying we are planning on building a spaceship, though it is res ipsa that we could. However, you have raised the issue, so I will politely treat it as a hypothesis for the purpose of discussion.” Her tea brewer beeped. It had brewed the tea for a large mug of beverage, bringing the water not quite to a boil, steeping for the correct number of minutes, and emptied the tea into a mug. Peltier-effect cooling blocks had then dropped the tea to a drinkable temperature. She raised the mug and toasted Brankowski.
“Coffee?” he asked.
“Tea,” she answered. “Keemun, from an Australian estate. If you were here, you could share it.”