“My train of thought is highly inferential,” Chelan said, “like one of these chess positions with ‘where were the pieces nine moves ago?’ I am afraid I missed something important, and want someone else to look at the same problem, without me telling them what to think. But I’d like your thoughts in a week, and I’ll then tell you what is going on.”
“Fair enough,” she said.
“I’ll also speak up if I spot anything that might later be inconvenient. Getting this whole place up and running is not inconvenient,” he observed.
New Washington, Colorado
The Senates and Lords
New Washington, Colorado was sited well south of the remains of Denver, almost on the location of the old city of Pueblo. At one time, it had been planned to become the capital city of the Anglic Union, because it was equally remote from almost everywhere. No member of the Union had first claim on the place. Lavish plans with huge avenues were drawn up, but there was no money for construction. Only the capitol building, Capital Halls, was complete. The Capitol Halls sat on a hill, with modest government offices and commercial and residential areas surrounding.
Victor Chelan glared at a map of New Washington. “So now the Senate and Parliament assembled want to know what we are doing?” Chelan asked.
Tara Broadhurst nodded in agreement. “The order directing whoever is in charge here to appear before the Whitecloth Committee, the Select Committee on Space Operations, will be here sometime today,” she answered. “The core issue is that for the last couple of years this operation has been delivering only about half as much nickel-iron as expected, steelworks have been working through their reserves, but those reserves are approaching exhaustion, so the price of iron-nickel asteroid ore has started to climb markedly. Someone figured out that the large issue is that Bulger has been delivering much less iron-nickel than expected, and the other spaceship firms were already driving their haulers to capacity. The system had almost no slack in it, and now matters have become difficult.”
“Do the Whitecloth people know who is in charge here?” Chelan asked. “The debtors in possession had to file on the finances, but we didn’t have to tell anyone how we were going to handle operations, so we didn’t.”
“I gather that’s one of the questions the committee wants to ask.” Tara smiled. “ Some of the opponents of the National Renaissance Party are claiming this operation is actually a slush fund for the NRP, a scheme for transferring money illegally into party coffers in untraceable ways.”
“They get a bit of a surprise when I show up,” Victor said. “A lot of people think I’ve simply retired. Others think I’m writing political tracts on some bizarre bit of technodeist theology.”
“As a general rule, it is a bad idea to surprise a Senate and Lords Select Committee,” Tara said. “No, what we usually would do is show up a day in advance, meet with the Committee Senior Staff to find out what they actually want to know, and then have a stage-managed surprise that the Senators and Lords knew about in advance, but the press did not. The press then ooohs and aaahs and gives the committee members extra press coverage. However, I called, and they said no. They don’t want us to know what they will be asking.”
“So we just march into the committee room at the appointed hour?” Victor asked. “I am, if I recall correctly, still entitled to my Seldon Legion escort. That’s the full-dress escort.”