CHAPTER 12: Sour Grapes
CMS02 was one of only 2 starcorps in possession of a planet that could be terraformed into an Earthlike planet with ease, relatively speaking. The CMS02 planet was the only one of the two with vast landscapes that were ideal for farming. For CMS02 the terraforming of Argyle 5 was its largest business endeavor. This planet had the potential of producing an enormous wealth of food that could be sold throughout the BX01 Starcorp System. The first sell would happen after the surface of the planet was terraformed into a biosphere fit for humans. The completion date of the terraforming was estimated to be close to a century into the future.
Breathing life into a lifeless planet had been an untested theory up until now. Mars was the first planet to be considered for this type of transformation, but the nutritional needs of Earth was too immediate for such a long-term project. Because of Earth’s critical need for food, housed habitat farms were constructed on Mars. This method brought about near immediate results at the expense of reaping only a minute fraction of the planet’s farming potential. Now free of the needs and wants of Earth, the starcorps could entertain these big ideas and long-term projects.
The Argyle 5 Terraforming Project was not leveraged into existence by private investors. This venture was wholly funded by Starcorp CMS02. The board of directors commissioned the project on the same day that a survey team validated the agricultural potential of the planet. It was beyond the ability of private investors to supersede this determination because the Argyle Star System was wholly owned by CMS02, and all business ventures had to be sanctioned by the government. This was the new reality within the starcorp community now that they were free of the confines of the Sol System.
No segment of, or celestial body within, the Sol System was the inherent property of a starcorp. Because of this fact, private investors were free to develop any unclaimed site within the Sol System. If this was done with the financial assistance of a starcorp, the enterprise was listed as a subsidiary business venture of that starcorp. If the project was wholly financed by private investors, it was listed as an independent starcorp. Now that starcorps were laying claim to whole star systems, they controlled all business ventures that took place within them. The best a private investor could do in this new reality was negotiate the terms of a lease agreement and the ratio of any profit-sharing.
The Argyle 5 Terraforming Project was too expensive for any one investor, and the profit potential of the planet made it immensely valuable. CMS02 had no incentive for entering into an agreement that divided out large portions of Argyle 5’s profits to business partners. It is for these 2 reasons that Ryan DeWitt did not hold most of the stock in this terraforming project. What Ryan DeWitt did hold was a large quantity of CMS02 public stock, and he was always looking to buy more. Ryan DeWitt considered CMS02 his best investment. Much of his wealth was comprised of public shares of CMS02 stock. His seat at CMS02’s Board of Directors table was owed to the proxies of less than 2% of the starcorp’s population. Given that a board members seat was purchased by the weight of stock he or she commanded, this fact was evidence of the amount of stock that he or she personally held.
CMS02 was considered one of the best long-term investments in the starcorp community. This assessment was entirely due to Argyle 5. Barring some unforeseen calamity, Argyle 5 was expected to produce 50 to 70% of the food that the starcorp community would be eating a century from now. For Ryan DeWitt, CMS02 was the investment he valued the most. A need to protect this investment motivated Ryan DeWitt to live within CMS02 for a minimum of 8 months out of every year. This arrangement maintained his qualification to be a member of the CMS02 Board of Directors and insured his participation in all major decisions regarding the starcorp. In Ryan DeWitt’s mind, all his other investments were secondary to the Argyle 5 Terraforming Project. This thinking was because all of his other securities combined did not match Argyle 5′s potential return on his investment. His fealty to Argyle 5 was also due to the fact there was no other business venture out there of greater size to tempt him… until now.
“You’re now telling me that this Frank Weaver war-machine can actually win this war?” Ryan DeWitt roared toward his BX01 Legal Representative.
David Findlay bit his tongue with regards to Ryan DeWitt’s suggestion that he did not inform him of this possibility. He knew that Ryan DeWitt was angry about the news that the WDF02 War-Machine was close to completion, and that he was venting his anger at him. He also knew that he warned Ryan DeWitt of the possibility that this could happen, but he did not want to speak of this. David Findlay knew better than to contradict Ryan DeWitt when he was venting his rage.
“That is a possibility, Mr. DeWitt,” David Findlay responded with a nod of his head.
“Damn!” Ryan DeWitt growled as he commenced to pace the room. “That deal could have multiplied my investment 100 times over.”
David Findlay entered the Argyle Star System 2 days earlier. His spaceplane touched down inside CMS02′s Exxon Starship 1 hour earlier, and he stepped into Ryan DeWitt’s office 5 minutes earlier. David Findlay spent several weeks traveling here for the sole purpose of notifying Ryan DeWitt that the construction phase of WDF02 was completed, and that the war-machine was making preparation to invade the Sol System. This was news that Ryan DeWitt wanted to hear in person so that he could ask questions and get answers without weeks of delay in-between the two.
“Yes, Mr. DeWitt,” David Findlay agreed passively. “It will likely be the biggest business deal ever.”
“I know that,” Ryan DeWitt barked at David Findlay. “Don’t tell me things that I already know.”
David Findlay went silent in reaction to this harsh rebuke and watched as Ryan DeWitt returned to his pacing. After several seconds of silence, Ryan DeWitt came to a stop and turned his attention back towards David Findlay with a scowl on his face.
“How do I get in on this?” Ryan DeWitt fumed at David Findlay.
“Mr. DeWitt,” David Findlay spoke softly and with a shake of his head. “I think that ship has sailed.”
“Nothing has sailed,” Ryan DeWitt defiantly returned. “There’s always a way.”
With fury in his eyes, Ryan DeWitt turned his attention toward his personal attorney, Brian Hayes.
“Well, what do you have to say?” Ryan DeWitt challenged.
Brian Hayes was caught off guard by this question. He had no detail information on this business venture or the people funding and administrating it. Instinct told him that he needed to say something to assuage Ryan DeWitt’s anger. This opinion was formed out of a decade of experience as Ryan DeWitt’s Personal Attorney.
“We need to look at the investors and see if we can buy someone out,” Brian Hayes suggested pensively.
“Mr. DeWitt,” David Findlay spoke up with surprise in his voice. “Investors in this venture would be a fool to sell their shares for anything less than 50 times what they paid for them.”
Ryan DeWitt instantly recognized the truth of David Findlay’s words. His hands clenched into fists as he turned away with an angry frown. His eyes began to search the area in front of him as though he was trying to see something too small and fast to be easily seen. Subconsciously, Ryan DeWitt knew that it was his personal dislike for Frank Weaver that motivated him to dismiss his business plan. Had he bought into this business venture when he had the chance, he could be on the verge of multiplying his wealth several dozen times over. His present behavior was reflective of the blame that he was assigning to Frank Weaver for blinding him to the potential of this business proposal.
“You should have told me that there was this much interest in this deal,” Ryan DeWitt shouted at David Findlay as he turned toward him with an expression of rage.
“With respect, Mr. DeWitt,” David Findlay began in his defense. “There wasn’t much interest when the plan was submitted to me. The whole thing just snowballed.”
“Your job is to stay on top of what’s happening in BX01,” Ryan DeWitt hollered back.
“Yes sir,” David Findlay returned demurely.
Brian Hayes could see that Ryan DeWitt was going to continue berating him and David Findlay to relieve his frustration if something was not said to distract him from his brooding. After a moment of silence, he decided on a tact that he hoped would give Ryan DeWitt some consolation.
“This venture could still fail,” Brian Hayes proffered hopefully. “I mean, if they don’t defeat the UEF this venture will be a financial catastrophe.”
Ryan DeWitt was not displeased to hear this, and David Findlay deduced this from his expression.
“The casinos are posting odds of 2 to 1 against,” David Findlay supported with a hint of enthusiasm. “I hear that the UEF has more than 17,000 spacefighters and 33 battlestars. This is an enormous space force. The WDF02 could lose this fight.”
Ryan DeWitt takes a moment to ponder this before dismissing the argument with a shake of his head.
“It still would have been worth the risk of a sizeable chunk of capital,” Ryan DeWitt grumbled to himself.
David Findlay chose not to speak to Ryan DeWitt’s response. He recalled, all to well, that he verbalized this same argument to Ryan DeWitt when he first presented this business venture proposal to him. His inclination toward submissiveness to Ryan DeWitt did not go so low that he could suggest that he missed that calculation.
“So, that’s it?” Ryan DeWitt questioned after noting David Findlay’s reluctance to speak any more on the subject.
After David Findlay shook his head and shrugged his shoulders in response to this question, Ryan DeWitt turned his attention toward Brian Hayes.
“I just do nothing and watch the largest business venture ever put together happen without me?”
Brian Hayes had no response for this question. He reacted with a nod of his head and a shrug from behind a befuddled expression.
“You’re both useless,” Ryan DeWitt growled at them both. “I’m sitting on the sideline while most of my peers are participating in the greatest business venture ever. And when they defeat the UEF my status within the starcorp community is going to be massively reduced.”
“But they’re not going to win,” Brian Hayes spoke up in a hurry.
“Of course, they’re going to win,” Ryan DeWitt contradicted with vehemence. “They’re not going to this expense just to lose. They’ve thought this through, and they’ve hired the best people. I know this because that is what I would do.”
Brian Hayes was humbled by this reproof from Ryan DeWitt and lowered his gaze in response. After a moment of silence, Ryan DeWitt turned his attention toward David Findlay with a huff.
“Well,” David Findlay began softly and after a moment of thought. “They might not have an easy time of it even if their war-machine does win.”
Ryan DeWitt took a moment to ponder this remark before speaking again.
“What does that mean?” Ryan DeWitt questioned with a mixed look of puzzlement and anger.
“The Tellurian Resistance Fighters,” David Findlay began with a look that said he was surprised they did not know this. “The TRF is vowing to wage a war of resistance against WDF02 and any state aligned with it. The TRF is determined to keep the starcorps out of the Sol System.”
“What can they do?” Brian Hayes questioned with a shake of his head. “I mean, they don’t have a space force. They’re just resistance fighters.”
“If the WDF02 wins, it will be the only space force in the Sol System,” David Findlay spoke as though it was a confession. “That’s part of the deal. But the WDF02 will have no presence on Earth or in Earth orbit. What happens on Earth will be managed by the government put in place by the Free Earth Legion and Rebel Warriors Army, and that’s going to take some time. The TRF could prove to be problematic if they live up to their threat.”
“And how is that a problem for WDF02?” Brian Hayes questioned back without delay.
“If the TRF can slow down or obstruct Earth’s development then WDF02 could find itself in a prolonged wait for its payoff,” David Findlay explained with some hesitancy. “This could be bad for the investors.”
Brian Hayes listened to this explanation from David Findlay and then began to ponder the likely size of this threat to WDF02. Ryan DeWitt was equally intrigued by this report, but his pondering was entertaining different thoughts.
“Is this Tellurian Resistance Fighters organization a large movement?” Ryan DeWitt questioned from behind a look of intrigue.
“It’s the largest resistance movement on Earth,” David Findlay answered with a nod.
This answer caused Ryan DeWitt to become more fascinated with this subject. He took a few seconds to weigh this information and formulate a new thought.
“So, the TRF has a legal claim to the Sol System?” Ryan DeWitt queried Brian Hayes with some anxiousness.
“I suppose their claim is just as valid as the Free Earth Legion and Rebel Warriors Army, but the TRF rejected Frank Weaver’s plan,” Brian Hayes responded with an expression that said the question was confusing to him.
“But they didn’t reject help from the starcorps,” Ryan DeWitt countered with insistence.
Brian Hayes understood the thinking behind Ryan DeWitt’s statement but not its significance. He shook his head to signify this misunderstanding before speaking.
“I don’t see how that changes things.”
Ryan DeWitt reacted to Brian Hayes statement with a hint of a smile before speaking with an enthusiastic voice.
“If we can get TRF to sign a contract with us, then we can challenge the WDF02’s claim to the Sol System.”
Brian Hayes and David Findlay were suddenly aware of where Ryan DeWitt’s thinking was going. They both gave this realization a moment of thought, and then Brian Hayes commenced with his response.
“Maybe, probably, but without a war-machine a claim means nothing.”
Ryan DeWitt was not fazed by this declaration. He had already considered this, and he was already contemplating a solution.
“Find this Tellurian Resistance Fighters Representative and get him here,” Ryan DeWitt directed with a sharp look toward David Findlay.
“What do I tell him?” A stunned David Findlay responded with a shrug.
“Tell him, I want to make a deal,” Ryan DeWitt answered with a smug smile.