Jourdain, the second system claimed by Cavalier Arms on behaf of the late Third Monarchy of Gleise, was not much to look at. A small red dwarf, burning low and slow throughout eternity, cast its modest heat upon what seemed to be an endless sea of gravel. Rocks sized from thin dust up to hundreds of kilometers spun around the dwarf and each other. Less than a dozen had been found massive enough to form spheres. The largest of these was home to CA’s factory web.
Prime Minister 3Vonday Ginal enjoyed the feeling of gravity without being relieved by it; unlike his second Ba, 3Vonday was adapted to space. At his side was 3Gleise’s Naval Chief of Staff, 4Charl Itawa. The pair were touring the facility, trying to make too little infrastructure do the work of a full industrial power.
It wasn’t working.
“Scouting has shown Lithium deposits to be well within current needs.” 4Charl consulted the endless data in hir head. “The bottleneck is currently producing enough mining robots and transports to harvest the stuff.”
“I’ve grown rather tired of that word, ‘transport’.” 3Vonday said. “I know it’s important, but - “
“Do you sir?” Charl asked. Vonday had been appraised of 4Charl’s informal way of dealing with superiors.
“Well, I think I do, anyway. Tell me what I’m missing.”
“I don’t know if we have that much time available, sir.” Charl admitted. “But to begin with the obvious, a spacecraft light enough and nimble enough to stay alive in combat has difficulty carrying enough fuel and ammunition to fight more than a couple of sorties at a time. Just loading enough lithium and deuterium to boost across the Grand Arc of your average system seriously degrades a ship’s ability to fight. In a friendly system, you can stop over at the system’s giant-
Vonday snorted. “Precious few of those for us, right now.”
“We can use neutral ports for remassing, but the cost is bleeding us. We’re not being given credit in most polities, because they don’t think we’ll be around long enough to make good. Half the polities bordering the Stellar Administration ar refusing to resupply us at any cost.”
Vonday turned away. “As if making nice with AdStar will help them stay free.”
Charl arched hir eyebrows in a shrug. “We couldn’t pay for service even if they offered it. The only commodity we have to export right now are HACVs and mercenary services. And the appeasers want neither.”
“I get it.” Vonday said. “If we want to move about, we have to have transports. Can we even build them?”
“That’s the trick,” Charl spread hir hands. “We most certainly can build any light ship we need; colliers, tankers, dromedaries, whatever. Just like we can build the carriers and HACVs. But not both at the same time.”
“So you’re telling me we need to expand the shipyards.”
“If we had a magic wand, absolutely.” Charl countered. “But without that, new shipyards are not a short-term solution. We will eventually turn this entire system into a factory and fabricate capital ships, but that’s decades away. We need a solution for the shipping problem now.”
The two were silent for a time. Charl used the break to review and collate more of the prodigious amount of information available, in case the Prime asked for it. S/he was so used to accessing the unconscious memory stored in her head that s/he didn’t even need to close hir eyes anymore.
“Well, there’s no help for it.” Vonday declared. “We’ll just have to steal a convoy. From a known AdStar collaborator would be a favorite. Preferably somewhere a couple of friendly system’s away from here. How soon can you - what is it?”
Charl had a peculiarly strained look on hir face. “Sorry, Lord Prime. Here I thought I was getting better at anticipating your next impossible demand...”