CHAPTER 17: The Verdict
“There is no disputing that Earth’s Tellurian Resistance Movement has been left out of the process of formulating the Sol System Union Government. And there is no denying that the Tellurian Resistance claim of right to participate in the formation of a new Sol System government is the equal of the Rebel Warrior Army and the Free Earth Legion. Because these facts cannot be disputed, I cannot give weight to the defense’s argument that the Tellurian Resistance has no right to make a legal challenge to government put into place in the Sol System with the assistance of starcorp money, personnel and technology. However, since it is not in the purview of the Starcorp League Supreme Court to adjudicate on the political and social affairs of the Sol System inhabitants, and it is not within the authority or power of this court to assess the fairness of the allocation of power in the Sol System or to install reparations for same, this court cannot give recognition to the Tellurian Resistance claim of right to have a part in the creation of a new Sol System government. It is also the ruling of this court that all agreements and contracts made by the Sol System Union with Starcorp WDF02 are legal. When the Tellurian Resistance elected not to be a signatory to the contract that the Free Earth Legion and The Rebel Warrior Army signed with War-Machine WDF02, it forfeited all rights to any participation in the formulation of Sol System’s present government or any agreements made by same.”
The lawyers representing the Sol System Union, the Executive and Officials from War-Machine WDF02 and Frank were visibly relieved with Judge Samantha Grant’s summation so far. After a pause to give weight to her declaration, Justice Grant continued.
“This ruling notwithstanding, it is the position of this court that the Tellurian Resistance has a just claim of entitlement and has a right to pursue redress for its perceived grievance with the Sol System Union. It is also the finding of this court that any redress attempted by the Tellurian Resistance that exists within the boundaries of International Laws and human rights agreements subscribed to by the Starcorp League and is not afoul of the laws within the jurisdiction of this court is not a statutory offense within the Starcorp League. It is also the ruling of this court that any starcorp, group of starcorps or any members of same are within their rights, within the jurisdiction of this court, to give aid and assistance to the Tellurian Resistance in this endeavor.”
“Did she just say what I think she said,” Frank grumbled out from behind a look of disbelief.
Frank was not the only person surprised by this decision. Ryan DeWitt and Elijah Cromwell were visibly relieved to here Justice Grant’s decision, and all others present either sighed or gasped in response. Everyone there was expecting the judgement in this case to be shocking, either way. Never had there been a suit of this type or scale. Nearly everyone within the starcorp community was waiting to hear the outcome of this court case.
“The Starcorp Supreme Court has just taken a pass on the Tellurian suit,” Abel softly advised as he leaned toward Frank.
“How can they do that?”
“The Sol System is out of the court’s jurisdiction. Any ruling it makes here was always going to have no weight there.”
“But the court can restrict what they can do here.”
“It can, but it didn’t,” Abel returned in a matter of fact manner. “You could be looking at another war.”
“Do you really think they’ll do that?” Frank questioned with a scowl and a glance toward Ryan. “The expense would be enormous, and they wouldn’t be going up against the UEF Space Force.”
“Yeah, but neither will you,” Abel returned after a thought. “And the profit potential will be just as great for a new group of investors as it is for WDF02.”
Frank took a moment to consider Abel’s words. As the suggestion in his statement grew in validity within his thoughts so did his anger. He fixed his eyes on Ryan and watched as he celebrated the ruling from Justice Grant. Several seconds into this observation, Ryan turned his eyes toward Frank. A faint smile spread across Ryan’s face as he gazed at Frank. The two of them held their looks of anger and satisfaction through several seconds of staring, and then they turned their attentions back toward Justice Grant.
The end of the proceeding came quickly after Justice Grant finished speaking her finding. After gathering up the paperwork in front of her, Justice Grant left the court without fanfare. An instant later, the participants and spectators within the court began shuffling toward the rear entrance while producing a heavy murmur of crosstalk between them. Frank and Ryan were among the last to exit the courtroom. In the hallway outside, Frank made it his mission to confront Ryan DeWitt.
“Why are doing this now?” Frank questioned from under his breath.
Ryan took on an amused expression, and then move slightly forward.
“Because I can,” Ryan whispered with a hint of a smile.
Frank took a moment to consider Ryan’s words. Over the course of this time, he held his stare into the eyes of the man who was trying to ruin his success story.
“That’s not why you’re doing this,” Frank disputed at the end of his pause. “You could’ve been in on this from the beginning. Is this some-kind of sore-loser thing?”
Ryan took an immediate offense to words sore-loser, and his facial expression changed to reflect his new demeanor.
“I don’t lose, Mr. Weaver,” Ryan growled back with a hushed voice and a ruffled brow. “You need to understand that right now. I don’t lose,” he finished with finality.
Frank was taken aback by the intensity of Ryan’s response. It was clear to him that he had struck a sensitive nerve in Ryan DeWitt, and this engendered a reluctance within him to aggravate it any further. After a moment of thought, Frank decided to appeal to his sense of community obligation.
“The starcorps are on the verge of a historic financial boom,” Frank insisted in a near pleading voice. “The Sol System’s workforce and its market will be the dominant engine behind the growth of the starcorps for the next 200 years and you’re jeopardizing that.”
Once again, Ryan was offended by Frank’s words. He fumed for the few seconds that occurred just before he began his response.
“You little pissant,” Ryan railed at Frank in a gruff voice. “Don’t presume to instruct me in business or on my civic duty. I’ve been a top 100 starcorp investor for more than 50 years.”
It was clear to Frank at this moment that soft talk and polite appeals was going to get him nothing from Ryan DeWitt. And the act of being belittled by a super-rich businessman that Frank perceived as arrogant brought his anger back to the fore.
“Big deal,” Frank bellowed back in defiance. “Whoop-dee doo. The Sol System deal is done. You had your chance and you blew it.”
This was language more to Ryan’s liking. It was straightforward and blunt, and it gave Ryan a feeling of release to speak the same.
“Well, I’m about to start a new deal,” Ryan returned with a smile.
Frank knew that his last remark and Ryan’s response had him in all the way. He was not about to back down now, and he inched in to emphasize his next choice of words.
“You don’t have the resources to go up against WDF02,” Frank spoke beneath his breath.
“I will, Mr. Weaver,” Ryan returned with a nod and a smile. “Give it time. And when I’m done, I will be in control of the Sol System.”
Frank took a moment to examine the round face of the man standing in front of him. He gave him a careful assessment and then gave his head a brief knowing shake.
“This isn’t about the Sol System,” Frank spoke softly as he continued to study Ryan, “This is personal,” he added with a nod of understanding. “You got bested by a small-time businessman and it’s eating you up inside,” Frank finished with a knowing smile.
Ryan was visibly infuriated by this remark despite his best effort to conceal it. He took a moment to give Frank an intense stare as he inhaled and exhaled a heavy breath.
“I don’t like being made to look like a fool,” Ryan spoke between his teeth in a hushed voice. “Especially not by a two-bit con-man,” he grumbled out with finality.
This last remark told Frank everything he needed to know. Ryan DeWitt could not be reasoned with. He knew that Ryan wanted to bring him down just as much as he wanted the wealth there was to be accrued from the Sol System deal. He gave Ryan DeWitt a glare of anger and in return, Ryan displayed a faint smile. A few seconds later, Frank stepped back and went on his way.
Frank spent the remainder of the day conferring with board members and officers of War-Machine WDF02 and the teams of lawyers it employed. Their conversing went on for five hours longer than usual and came to an end only after a promise to continue the discussion the next day. When Frank arrived at his home, he found Charlotte watching a shopping channel while lying in bed.
“Did you eat?” Charlotte queried in a soft voice as she turned off the TV monitor built into the wall across from the foot of the bed.
Charlotte suspected that Frank was in a depressed mood. She watched the Tellurian suit weigh down his disposition over the past nine days. The verdict of the Starcorp League Supreme Court was broadcasted throughout BX01 within a handful of minutes after it was given. Charlotte had no doubt that Frank was displeased with the verdict and that this was the reason for his late arrival home.
“I’m find,” Frank returned as he began disrobing.
After throwing his suit coat into a chair, Frank went into the bathroom with barely a look in Charlotte’s direction.
“I heard the verdict,” Charlotte called out as Frank passed through the bathroom doorway. “Is it that bad?”
Charlotte’s concern for Frank was evident in the tone of her speech, but this had nothing to do with the risk to his financial situation. She was sincerely concerned for Frank’s state of mind. His somber disposition had been growing worst over the past week.
“There’s going to be another war,” Frank reported in a voice that was near to a growl.
“No,” Charlotte exclaimed with surprise. “I mean, why would anyone do that?”
“For money,” Frank yelled back over the sound of water spewing from the faucet in the bathroom sink.
“But you’re already there—I mean WDF02, they can’t just kick you out of the Sol System,” Charlotte exclaimed with a perplexed inflection.
“They can try,” Frank called out with a blunt delivery.
Charlotte was confused by this reply. In her mind, the presence of the WDF02 war-machine in the Sol System represented the ultimate advantage. The popular opinion within the on-air and online community was that the WDF02’s war-machine was the most powerful space force anywhere. It made no sense in Charlotte’s mind for anyone to challenge it.
“But they can’t win,” Charlotte disputed with a hint of disbelief in her voice.
“You don’t know that,” Frank raged back from inside the bathroom.
Charlotte heard the panic in Frank’s voice and sat up bed. She refrained from responding while she listened to Frank brush his teeth. After a brief time, he stopped brushing, gargled and then he turned off the faucet.
“Frank,” Charlotte began in a pleading tone of voice. “It’s alright. This is your business deal. Everybody knows that. You’re rich. You’re famous. Everybody likes you. Nobody is going to try and cut into your deal.”
“You’re living in a dream world, Charlotte,” Frank argued back as he walked back into the bedroom while disrobing. “They’re coming.”
“No, they’re not,” Charlotte insisted in a quick retort. “You want to know how I know, Frank?”
Charlotte paused behind this question to give it weight. She was not expecting a reply from Frank, but he began to do just that as he walked into the wardrobe room.
“How?” Frank mumbled out with an intonation of resignation.
“Because it would cost too much,” Charlotte asserted with finality. “Who’s going to take that kind of risk. Everything is going to be okay, Frank. I know it.”
“No, you don’t,” Frank responded as he tussled to change out of his day clothes and into his pajamas. “They’re coming,” he continued in a resolute voice. “They’re coming because the reward is worth the risk. We’re talking about a lot of money—a mega fortune. And trust me, there’s a lot of investors out there who would love to muscle in on this deal.”
“So, you just don’t let them,” Charlotte countered with a shrug.
“Yeah, and how much will that cost me,” Frank grumbled to himself, mostly. “Ninety-percent of our military personnel have been released. We’re going to have to hire them back or someone to replace them. That’s going to cost us. And we can’t count on any help from the Sol System Union. Their space Force is less than useless. It’s been mostly dismantled by us. And they have no incentive to reconstitute it.”
Frank continued to speak as he walked back into the bedroom, crossed over to the bed and climbed under the covers. Charlotte watched him in silence and with concern in her expression.
“Their spacefighters are no match for starcorp starfighters,” Frank continued to grumble as Charlotte nudged over to his side and laid a caressing hand on his chest. “And they know we need this win just as much as they do. They have no incentive to give us anything beyond logistical support. Our contracts and future profits are on the line. We’re already invested financially. We have debts we have to pay. And then there’s the matter of the cost of new starfighters. We’re going to have to rebuild...”
“So, you’ll do all of that,” Charlotte cut-in with an optimistic inflection. “It’s no big deal. You did it once, and you’ll do it again.”
“They’re going to be doing the same thing, Babe,” Frank advised with a somber shake of his head. “He’s going to be coming at me hard.”
“Who?” Charlotte questioned with a quizzical look.
“DeWitt,” Frank answered with a blank expression.
Charlotte took a moment to note Frank’s distant stare before responding.
“Well, he’s going to lose,” Charlotte assured in a soothing voice while nuzzling closer Frank. “Relax, Frank. Everything is going to work itself out.”
Frank took a moment to consider Charlotte’s optimistic assessment and then he closed his eyes. Charlotte snuggled next to him and did the same.