CHAPTER 2: Rise and Shine
Mornings were never a good time of day for Frank Weaver. Sleeping late into the mornings was a lifelong pattern. Growing up in space made this propensity decidedly more manageable because of the absence of a true night and day. Frank situated his sleep and job periods in a way that allowed him to have long mornings before going to work. He used these long mornings to start his day at a lazy pace. During most days this was an effective way of getting up on time, but this morning was different. The day before, Frank went to bed far later than usual. The business venture he was administrating came to a permanent end, and he spent the remainder of the evening on a barstool brooding over its loss.
Frank Weaver was a 94-year-old businessman. His physical person, inside and out, was a match for a man in his late 20s. He had spent most of his life developing and administrating over small startup business ventures. Two of these ventures were wholly absorbed into the starcorp after the startup contract expired. Frank’s other ventures were shut down by the starcorp when they failed to perform. This fate was true of Frank’s latest business venture.
All but 2 of the 19 business ventures that Frank Weaver began over his lifetime were started with the help of partners. There were 2 reasons why this was so. The first reason was because his ambition tended to be greater than the limits of his finances. The second reason was because 14 of his startups ended in failure. HL02 required a larger than usual investment from Frank before it would fund one of his business ventures. This almost always meant raising more money then he could produce alone. His last startup made this especially true because it was his largest venture by far. It took 15 investors to raise the capital necessary to leverage into existence a risky geological exploration down to the surface of a dangerous planet. The goal of the 3-month long mission was to find valuable minerals in quantities large enough to justify a mining operation. The task was complicated by the fact that the surface of the planet had an average temperature close to 200 degrees, was covered with high mountains and narrow valleys, had nearly 3 times the gravity of Earth, had a dense caustic atmosphere and was awash under a perpetual windstorm.
Frank was an above average salesman. His pitches were loud and obvious, and he had a gregarious manner. This affectation amused most people, made some indifferent to him and irritated the rest. The saving grace of his sales technique was the way he amused most people with his charm and wit. Despite this gift, it took Frank nearly a year to raise the money for this latest business venture. The difficulty in doing this had nothing to do with him personally and everything to do with the risk.
Convincing 14 other investors to join him in this endeavor was a testament to Frank’s powers of persuasion. The high potential for profit to be mined out of planet Astra 2 was commonly held belief. The high price of extracting it was an obvious conclusion. Up until Frank Weaver, no one had gotten passed the discussion stage of a geological expedition down to the planet surface. The expedition became reality 26 days earlier. It came to an end the day before this morning. The last message from the planet surface was a declaration from the engineer in charge that the expedition was being aborted. Extreme terrain, protracted delays, breakdowns in equipment and mounting injuries and illnesses took a heavy toll on the mission. The final analysis from the expedition members was that Astra 2 was rich with precious and high value minerals and that the extreme high cost of extracting it would make it prohibitively expensive.
After getting the message that his geological expedition was abandoning the planet, Frank went to his favorite cocktail lounge and began the slow process of drinking his disappointment into unconsciousness. Forty-minutes into this effort, the manager of the lounge stopped serving him alcohol and ordered him out of the lounge. Two security officers noticed his excessive intoxication, escorted him home and attached a fine to his financial portfolio. The fine had an automatic 700-hour delay so that he would have time to grieve it. But this was of no interest to Frank. His mind was numbed by alcohol and dizzy with worry. He fell asleep a few seconds after his head hit the bed. Early the next morning he woke up with a hangover and a depressed mood.
“Where have you been? I need to see you.”
This query and statement were Frank’s opening words in a video call to Charlotte Lang.
“What’s wrong with you?” Charlotte scorned through the 75-inch wall monitor in Frank’s bedroom.
“I’ve been ringing and ringing,” Frank returned with a look of amazement and with his hands up in front of him.
“Yeah, for ten minutes,” Charlotte countered forcefully. “It’s eight in the morning. You know not to call me before 10.”
“I need to see you,” Frank pleaded from his seat at the edge of his bed.
“No!” Charlotte blasted back. “You don’t get to break the rules and then get rewarded for it.”
“I had a bad day,” Frank implored. “Can I just get an hour today?”
“No, Frank. I’m busy today.”
“I really need to see you,” Frank whined. “Yesterday was my Waterloo.”
“I said no, Frank,” Charlotte returned with stressed insistence.
“I can be there in 10 minutes,” Frank eagerly assured. “You don’t even have to shower first.”
“No, Frank, it’s not going to happen,” Charlotte protested with exasperation in her voice.
Charlotte Lang was Frank’s one and only social contract consort, but the same was not true for her. Because of the allowance that Frank was obliged to pay, Charlotte was the only social contract he could afford in her price range. Charlotte had Social Contract Unions (SCU) with 3 other men. Measured by wealth, Frank was at the bottom of the list, by far. This fact gained him the least amount of her time and was the subject of numerous squabbles between them. Frank had a persistent feeling that he was getting far less of her attention than he deserved. Despite this feeling, he maintained his contract with her and had done so for the past 3 years.
Stunning is a word that was not infrequently used to describe Charlotte Lang. She was not too tall or too short, too thin or large. Most men and women thought her to be well endowed without being overly so. In manner, she was pleasant and engaging. She was not prone to be overly generous with her affections, but it was always dispensed with genuine sincerity. She picked her social contract consorts by the extent of their appeal to her and by the size of their financial portfolios. The value of her social contracts varied to reflect the level of attraction she felt for the man and by the weight of his wallet. Frank’s social contract was the least valuable of the 4 that she held and half the value of the next contract up. This was proof of her affinity for Frank. It was also the reason why she put in so little work to keep his contract. But when she did give attention to Frank it was always fondly applied. It was this authenticity in her affections that kept Frank a devoted social contract consort.
“Yesterday was the worst day of my life,” Frank complained in a mournful voice.
“Yeah Frank?” Charlotte questioned in a voice laced with indifference. “Was worst than the last 2 worst days of your life?”
Charlotte was giving this conversation a small amount of her attention. Most of her thinking was directed at the task of washing and grooming herself for the day. The cameras built into the wall monitors in each room tracked her as she moved about inside her apartment.
“Much worst,” Frank complained with a shake of his head. “The Astra 2 Expedition is a bust.”
“Is that right,” Charlotte responded as she stepped inside her partially enclosed shower stall. “I’m sorry to hear that.”
Charlotte’s condolence had the sound of insincerity. She made no eye contact with Frank as she slid shut the translucent shower stall door and commenced with her wash.
“Astra 2 was going to be my big score,” Frank brooded with animated hands.
“You’ll get another big score, Frank,” Charlotte spoke back with a bored inflection. “You always do.”
“Not like this one. Astra 2 was going to make me rich.”
“Really,” Charlotte called out over the sound of water spewing out from the overhead spigot.
“Sure, I was the smallest investor,” Frank continued to explain. “But if it had worked out I would have got a return hundreds of times that investment.”
“That much?” Charlotte shouted out with a forced inflection of intrigue.
Frank gave no special attention to Charlotte’s activity. He had seen her do similar things before. Many times in the past he had seen her nude, and she him. The social contract between them was a legal agreement that allowed them to engage in consensual sex.
“I mean, I knew it was a gamble—a big gamble—but you have to gamble big if you’re going to get anywhere. Am I right?”
“Absolutely,” Charlotte confirmed halfheartedly as she turned off the shower.
Charlotte slid the shower door halfway open and reached out for a towel hanging from a hook on the other side.
“The whole idea was mine. I put this deal together,” Frank grumbled out after a pause. “Do you know what that means?”
Charlotte ignored the question. She knew that Frank was going to tell her no matter what she said. Charlotte contented herself to listen as she dried herself.
“I was going to get an extra 3% for putting it together,” Frank reported with excitement in his voice.
“Wow,” Charlotte reacted with nonchalance.
At first Frank gave no notice to Charlotte’s indifference. His thoughts were too busy fuming over the money he lost. His disposition changed when she walked out of the shower wrapped in a towel.
“When can I see you?” Frank pleaded after several seconds of gawking. “I don’t want to be alone right now.”
“Frank, no,” Charlotte answered sharply as she stepped under a hair drier attached to the wall. “Go be with your friends.”
The hair drier turned on automatically and began whipping up her. The process took a minute to complete. The blower turned off when Charlotte stepped out from under the drier and set off for her bedroom. Frank commenced with his reaction to her rebuke as she sat down in front of her vanity table. The computer-controlled cameras followed her from one room to the next.
“I don’t want to be with my friends,” Frank countered in a sullen voice. “I want to be with you.”
“Well, you can’t be with me today,” Charlotte countered as she brushed out her hair. “I have things to do.”
“Tomorrow then,” Frank insisted.
“Frank, call me next week,” Charlotte returned with a huff.
“Next week?” Frank questioned with his face in a scowl and anger in his voice. “You can schedule out your week with those other jerks, but you can’t make time for me?”
Charlotte took immediate offense with this reply. She stopped brushing her hair, turned away from the mirror and gave the image of Frank in her monitor a stern look before speaking with a harsh tone.
“Hey, Frank, I have a life. I have things to do. I have my dance classes and my finance courses. I don’t spend all my time with my other consorts. And they’re not jerks. You’re the jerk.”
Frank was chastened by the rebuke and visibly backed away from the camera that was videoing him.
“Why can’t you write me in for a day, an afternoon or something right now,” Frank pleaded.
“Because I don’t like to make plans that far out, Frank,” Charlotte groaned out. “It confines me. It makes what I do feel like a job. I can’t be spontaneous with a schedule.”
Halfway into this reply, Charlotte began the process of hair removal and the exfoliating of her legs. She accomplished both with a wand that had a hook at the end. The inside of the hook glowed and was large enough to extend around her leg without touching the skin. Charlotte moved the hook up, down and around her left leg in slow smooth motions.
“You always do that,” Frank complained. “You always have some excuse for why you can’t see me.”
“I don’t always do anything,” Charlotte scolded without interruption with her exfoliating. “And we were together last week.”
Charlotte began exfoliating her right leg just as she finished speaking.
“That was three weeks ago,” Frank corrected in a stern voice.
Charlotte made a brief hesitation in her exfoliating to ponder out her response to that retort.
“Was it? Oh! I didn’t know that.”
“That’s because you don’t care,” Frank spoke out with a fling of his arms.
“I care, Frank,” Charlotte defended without a look up to meet Frank’s eyes. “It’s just that I have a busy schedule. Let’s do this. I will commit to spending an afternoon with you sometime next week.”
“When?” Frank sharply questioned back.
“I can’t decide that right now,” Charlotte answered with a shrug. “Give me a couple of days to work it out.”
Charlotte finished exfoliating her right leg just as she started this reply and turned her attention to the lotion on the vanity table. Frank started his response in a glum tone of voice just as she began massaging lotion onto her left leg.
“You said that before, and then you said you forgot.”
“Last time I said three days,” Charlotte returned defensively. “And I did forget.”
Charlotte gave no thought to stopping what she was doing as she spoke this correction. The whole conversation felt like a rerun of several conversations she had with Frank in the past. Arguing with him frequently produced verbiage she had spoken several times in the past. This she dispensed without thinking and continued with whatever else she was doing. Frank took a moment to notice this continuing indifference and to grow angrier with her because of it.
“You know what, I should just terminate the contract,” Frank declared with a flare of frustration.
“Don’t go there, Frank,” Charlotte countered with a weary shake of her head.
“Why not?” Frank called out with a flag of his hands.
“Because you never go through with it,” Charlotte answered with a look of disbelief toward the monitor.
“Maybe I will this time,” Frank countered argumentatively.
“Okay,” Charlotte returned with a shrug. “Do it.”
“I’m serious,” Frank ranted. “I have serious issues with this arrangement.”
Exasperation got the better of Charlotte, and she stopped what she was doing to give Frank a bewildered look as she spoke.
“Frank, you’ve been threatening to pull the trigger on that gun for two and a half years. Maybe you should just do it and just get it over with.”
Frank vacillated over this response for several seconds before responding to it with a whole new demeanor.
“Aw, come on,” Frank pleaded. “Yesterday was the worst day of my life. I lost my entire investment.”
Charlotte had just turned her attention back to her vanity table when this declaration startled her.
“You’re broke?” Charlotte questioned from behind a look of concern.
“No, not broke,” Frank prevaricated with a shrug. “I lost all my personal stock, but I still have my common stock.”
“Is that enough?” Charlotte pondered out with a frown.
“I can live off that,” Frank casually countered.
“Is it enough for me?” Charlotte questioned with a stern inflection.
Frank was quick to pick up Charlotte’s concern. It did not dawn on him at first that she would be concerned at this time about her monthly allowance. Not worrying about future bills was part of his nature. His mind tended to focus on the here and now to the exclusion of future expenses. Today’s gamble will pay off tomorrow’s bills, or so Frank optimistically calculated. This kind of thinking was why he had given no thought to his contractual obligation to Charlotte.
“Yeah, Baby, I’ve got it cover,” Frank returned eagerly. “You know me. Making money is what I do. I always got side deals I can cash out.”
“You’d better,” Charlotte nodded with a scowl. “Because I’m not running a charity.”
“Baby, I’m on top of this,” Frank insisted with a hint of desperation in his voice. “For me, making deals is like breathing. You know that. I can see a good money-making opportunity from a mile away. This is just a short setback. I’ll be back up there in no time.”
Charlotte had already turned her attention to the task of moisturizing her arms when Frank started speaking. Halfway through his spiel she mentally turned him off and turned her attention to getting dressed. She got up and searched a dresser drawer for underpants and a bra. She stepped into the underpants and pulled them up beneath her towel. Frank stopped talking to watch her dress. Charlotte then turned her back to the camera, removed the towel from her person and then commenced with the act of putting on her bra.
“Baby, I need to see you,” Frank pleaded as he watched Charlotte negotiate the clasp to her bra.
“You see me now,” Charlotte flippantly spoke back.
“Come on,” Frank continued to plead. “I need to be reminded of what I’m working for.”
“Please, you’re going to appeal to my sympathy?” Charlotte questioned as she sat down in front of her vanity table and began applying makeup to her face.
“You know you’re the only woman for me,” Frank implored with sincerity. “I’m crazy about you. Why else would I put myself through this?”
Charlotte rolled her eyes and then settled them on the image of Frank in her mirror. A slight look of disbelief appeared on her face as she considered the man in her mirror. A few seconds later she spoke with an inflection motivated by surprise with what she was about to say.
“Tomorrow,” Charlotte spoke with a scolding tenor. “Ten o’clock. One-hour. And don’t be late.”
A big smile was on Frank’s face as he responded.
“Okay, you got it. Baby, I love you. You’re the best. I love you.”
Charlotte rolled her eyes again and then spoke.
“Computer, disconnect video-phone call.”
The monitor went black.