Read me the story:
“Look, I’m telling you what I’m telling you, and that’s that as far as I can tell, we have three hundred days, maybe if we stretch it, three hundred and fifty, worth of raw substance to run through these processors.” Vetkar Allis tried not to let the panic seep into his voice, telling himself that there was no real need for it, since he didn’t know what resources were elsewhere, stockpiled by whom, or even what production capacity existed among the remaining Klarosian habitats.
The bureaucrat, a plump, harried-looking man with the rather dark UV-affected complexion of a low-status Moonstation native, shook his head. “But that’s unacceptable. This is the largest processing facility in Moonstation and we’re responsible for the bulk of production. I can’t go to Chair Levett and tell him we’re going to run out of substance in less than a year!”
“Not telling him won’t change how much substance is in those warehouses, Citi. The best we can do is restructure the production matrices to give us Basic ratpacs, that will stretch the output another hundred days, maybe. But a calorie is a calorie, Citi. You can’t make machines produce calories that aren’t there to be processed.”
“Basics! That won’t do, we’ve got less than ten thousand res-class allocations to fill! I know we can’t do specialty runs, but we have to produce at least a Grade Three suite!”
“Then you’re back at three hundred, maybe three hundred fifty, days of production, Citi.” Vetkar said patiently.
The bureaucrat stared at him in baffled frustration, then turned on his heel walked away, muttering something about “ignorant agronists” and “need a real maintenance engineer.”
Vetkar’s hands were shaking as he turned back to the control junction box. He hoped he’d not talked himself out of a work assignment, and a good one at that. He could have lied, of course, told the damn’ ’crat what he wanted to hear, but what good would that do? Sooner or later it would become obvious even to a bureaucrat that the vats in those warehouses held enough raw substances to keep the processors running less than a year. If they had a year.
There’d been a broadcast last night, that Speaker talking reassuringly about the civadmin confiscation of private cubage being a purely temporary measure, just for the duration of the emergency…
How long was the “duration” of a destroyed world? Vetkar turned back to the chip array he’d been working on, pulled his work goggles down dialing up the mag as he did so.