CHAPTER 3: Daiquiri’s
Daiquiri’s was a popular cocktail lounge and casino on the promenade floor of HL02′s Starship Berlin. The linking of these two forms of establishments was the norm and not the exception within the starcorps. Keeping the long-lived spacer population entertained was a vast industry and gambling was the dominant player in this effort. Anything that could be wagered upon was sure to be found posted with odds on a casino sportsbook board.
The 3 PM hour, 7 days a week, was the time that crowds of people would begin assembling inside Daiquiri’s Lounge and Casino. Mornings, afternoons and evenings did not exist in space, but the starcorps found it useful to create artificial versions of these periods of the day. It facilitated an awareness of the passage of days, weeks, months and years. It also made it easier for the residents to acclimate to set periods for work, sleep and personal time. The starcorps accomplished this deception by gradually dimming and brightening the habitat lighting over the promenade across a 24-hour cycle. The darkest part of the cycle was emblematic of a cloudy night on Earth with a large bright moon overhead.
Frank Weaver and his friends regularly frequented Daiquiri’s. Three o’clock in the afternoon, Monday through Friday, was the time they would begin strolling into the establishment, one after the other. Frank walked into the lounge at a quarter to 4 in the afternoon on the day after his Astra 2 business venture went bust. The lounge had half the number of customers of its usual best, but this was still enough to fill the room with talking and music. It took Frank several seconds of looking to find the table where his friends were seated.
“Hey, man, where were you yesterday?” Paul questioned as Frank took a seat at the table.
Paul Hildebrandt was Frank’s best and longest friend that was seated at the table. Their acquaintance went back 67 years when they were both junior executives in the sales division of HVL01′s spaceplane engine manufacturing. Both he and Frank left the common enterprises of the starcorp and started developing their financial portfolios through private business ventures together. Over the years their many startups and bankruptcies developed into separate business interests, but this had no effect on their friendship. The two other men at the table were James Farnsworth, a private enterprise lawyer and Ron Atkinson, a financial consultant and stock trader. Both men knew Frank as a friend and neither had any private business venture history with him. Their first meeting with Frank and Paul was through a social event, and they continued the association by frequenting the same clubs and attending the same events.
“I got started at eleven yesterday and went home early to sleep it off,” Frank gave as the answer to Paul’s question.
“Yeah, we heard about Astra 2,” Ron spoke up. “That’s too bad.”
“How much did you lose?” James questioned from behind a look of astonishment.
“All of it,” Frank answered as he began tapping his drink order into the computer monitor built into the tabletop.
Frank paused to finish inputting his drink request. He touched his wand to the monitor to pay for his drink and then he continued with his report.
“The equipment was purchased and most of it was left behind on the planet surface. I’m flying on fumes.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Ron assured. “You’ll be back in the game in no time.”
“You take too big of risks,” Paul lectured. “I told you Astra 2 was a disaster waiting to happen.”
James and Ron were surprised by Paul’s rebuke. Their first thought was to give Frank support and encouragement. It took them both a few seconds to comprehend that Paul’s long friendship had stripped away the need to be anything other than bluntly honest.
“If you’re going to win big, then you have to gamble big,” Frank insisted in a defense tone of voice.
“Astra 2 was a waist of money,” Paul argued back. “Everybody knew that.”
“Not everybody,” Frank disputed.
Paul took a moment to comprehend who Frank was speaking of, and then he verbally responded to this knowledge in a dismissive tone.
“You should never have listened to that crackpot.”
“Graham is a brilliant engineer with some cutting-edge ideas,” Frank countered with a shrug.
“It was too big of a risk,” Paul concluded with a shake of his head.
“It would have paid off big if it worked,” Frank returned with a smile. “You know I had to go for it.”
Paul’s long history with Frank taught him that his friend was drawn to gambles with long odds. This was the primary reason why he stopped doing joint business ventures with him. This propensity for going for the big score was also the reason why he liked him. It was a level of daring he secretly wished he could match.
“You’re hopeless,” Paul retorted with a smirk and a shake of his head.
“I think it was a gutsy play,” Ron supported in a boisterous voice.
They all gave a laugh in reaction to Ron’s remark and then took sips from their drinks. At the end of this Paul broached a related subject with a new question.
“So, what are you going to do now?”
“I don’t know,” Frank answered with a shrug. “I’ll think of something.”
This question and response engendered a new thought and a question.
“Hey, what about Charlotte?” James asked with a stunned expression. “Are you going to dump the contract?”
Frank discounted that idea with a shake of his head and an offhanded “no.”
“No way, you got to be kidding me,” Ron spoke out with shock in his voice. “You can’t keep that contract. You can’t afford it.”
For a second time, Frank waved off this claim with a slight shake of his head and a short, “I’ll work it out.”
Paul noted that his long-time friend was serious and elected to speak up to dissuade him from this course.
“Frank, you’ve got to let her go. She was always too expensive for you.”
“Charlotte and I are soul mates,” Frank countered in a definitive tone. “We’re meant to be.”
“Man, you’ve got it bad,” James spoke out in jest.
Ron found this remark very amusing. Paul was amused only half as much.
“Wake up,” Ron called out after his laugh. “That’s what she wants you to think.”
Frank immediately started to disagree with that by shaking his head.
“Why did she take on my contract if she wasn’t in to me?” Frank tossed out with a questioning look.
Ron quickly responded to the question with a look of astonishment.
“Aw, man, don’t go there.”
Frank began defending his inquiry with a quickly spoken argument.
“She’s never taken on more than three consorts before. And my contract must be more than a third smaller than those other Bozos.”
“More than a half smaller,” Paul corrected from behind a look that said Frank was deluding himself.
“You see, she’s into me,” Frank vehemently expressed.
“No, she’s not,” Ron disputed from behind a look of incredulity. “She already has 3 consorts. Who else would take on a contract that large for a quarter of her time?”
“Wake up, Frank,” James continued to argue an instant behind Ron. “You’re just supplemental income to Charlotte. You could have four consorts for what you’re paying her.”
Frank did not want to believe what they were saying, but he knew everything they said could be true. It took a second of thought to dream up a response in defense of his obsession with Charlotte.
“I don’t shop bargain basement,” Frank tossed out nonchalantly as be picked up his drink.
Paul, James and Ron gave a laugh and a disbelieving shake of there heads as Frank took his drink into hand. They all followed Frank’s lead and took sips from their drinks with bemused looks on their faces. To escape these expressions, Frank turned his attention away and noted a news story airing on one of the large TV monitors on the wall facing him. On TV Screen #4 the three Earth Resistance Forces Representatives were going inside HL02′s Executive Headquarters Structure. “Directors Refuse Earth Resistance Representatives” was the caption to the story. In the time it took for Frank to read this, his attention was firmly divided between this story and his friends.
“Okay but take my word for it,” James began after swallowing his sip of alcohol. “When you fall short on your allowance payments, Charlotte is going to drop you like a scalding hot rock.”
Paul and Ron agreed with this statement through murmurs and nods. By this time, Frank had lost interest in the subject.
“Hey,” Frank began as he continued to look at TV screen #4. “What do you guys think about these Earth Resistance Representatives?”
Frank activated the audio control built into the table and brought the sound up to its maximum level for TV #4. The sound came up through a speaker in the tabletop and was just loud enough for the 4 of them to discern what was being said if they made the effort to listen. It took the others at the table a few seconds to discern that Frank was referring to the newscast on TV #4 and not the sporting events displaying on the other screens.
“I don’t know,” James answered with a look toward the newscast. “What should we be thinking?”
Frank ignored James’ counter inquiry and spoke his thinking with another question.
“I mean, do you think they have a chance of getting what they want?”
“No way,” James answered with adamancy.
“Not a chance,” Ron insisted at nearly the same moment.
Paul was more interested in the thinking that produced this inquiry. He gave Frank and his interest in this newscast a moment of thought, and then he voiced his own question.
“What are you thinking, Frank?”
“I’m just thinking that maybe they’re going about it all wrong,” Frank mused back as he continued to watch the newscast.
James immediately took exception with this thought and voiced his disagreement in a strongly decided tone of voice.
“No starcorp is going to entangle itself in that Sol System mess.”
Frank paid no heed to the strength of James’ declaration. His mind was too busy musing over the whole situation between Earth and the starcorps. There was only one thing in James’ words that registered within his thinking, and he spoke that thought with an introspective tone in his voice.
“Then maybe it’s not a starcorp that they need.”
Paul was familiar with this look on Frank’s face. He knew that his friend was not interested in their opinion, and that everything he said was just him musing over an idea that was rolling about in his head.
“What are you thinking, Frank?” Paul repeated.