CHAPTER 4: Let’s Make A Deal
“I need that contract by tomorrow morning, Abel,” Frank insisted with an expression of urgency.
“You’re serious?” Abel questioned with an inflection of surprise in his voice.
Abel Cobb was Frank’s longtime lawyer. He was the man that Frank went to whenever he was thinking about implementing an idea for a new business venture. And he was the person that Frank videophone called as soon as he returned home from Daiquiri’s.
“I have a 9AM meeting setup for tomorrow,” Frank explained hurriedly. “They’re going to be on their way out of the system by noon. I need that contract now.”
Abel began shaking his head in disagreement with this idea halfway through this statement. Immediately after the completion of the statement, Abel began voicing his thinking on this topic with inflections of desperation in his speech.
“Frank, even if you can get them to sign off on this, the Starcorp Senate won’t agree to it. And it’s the starcorps that are going to have to do the work to make this happen.”
“Sure, they will,” Frank disputed without hesitation. “What is the one resource that all the starcorps are most in need of?”
“Workers,” Abel answered with a questioning look and a shrug.
“And Earth has 10-billion people on it,” Frank insisted from behind an amazed expression.
Abel took a pause to consider this point, and then his mind went to a thought that had him shaking his head.
“But the Senate won’t want to get on the bad side of the UEF,” Abel disagreed softly.
“We’re already on their bad side,” Frank challenged with vehemence. “This could make things better.”
Abel knew that Frank was referring to the intelligence report that said the UEF had classified the starcorps as criminal organizations. This was information gathered from their monitoring of Sol System transmissions. Abel believed, along with most people within the starcorps, that this was just sour grapes from an old foe. Most people thought it unlikely that a UEF with a star-drive would engage in a war with the starcorps across a wide collection of neighboring star systems. But this belief did not stop the starcorps from keeping an eye on the Sol System and watching and listening for evidence of a UEF star-drive or signs of a military build-up. If the Sol System did start gearing up for war, the agreed upon response by the Starcorp Senate was to move further out from Sol and disappear into the cosmos.
“Okay, okay, I’ll have it for you in a couple of hours,” Abel promised with an intonation of resignation.
Frank disconnected the videophone call between him and Abel Cobb, and in doing so, he freed his mind to entertain schemes and possibilities. He spent the remainder of the day and half the night playing out scenarios in his mind. He weighed these scenarios against each other and looked for ways to link them into larger possibilities. Subconsciously, he was developing the sales pitch he would use to sway his would-be participants in the deal. This was normal behavior for Frank when working a business deal. His mind became obsessed with whatever plan he was working, and all other thoughts and commitments were pushed far off to the side.
It was 8AM when Frank left his apartment. The shuttle craft flight that took him from the Starship Berlin to the Starship Gibraltar lasted 20 minutes. It was 8:59AM the next day when Frank arrived outside the door of the suite where the three Earth Resistance Representatives were staying. He hesitated there to check the time and compose himself, and then he rang the doorbell. A tall man opened the door a couple of seconds after his ring. Frank judged him to be between six-feet-two to six-feet-three inches tall. He immediately noticed that he was stern and impatient. The man identified himself as Elijah Cromwell of the Tellurian Resistance Fighters Army. He ushered Frank into the main room of the suite. Phillip Hecht of the Rebel Warriors Army and Lee Miyoshi of the Free Earth Legion were waiting for him there. They introduced themselves and then settled him into a chair opposite the three of them.
“Okay, Mr. Weaver, how do you plan to help us?” Elijah questioned bluntly.
Frank was not surprised by the question. It was his promise of help in his phone call that got him this meeting. The abruptness of the question had no effect on him either. It enabled him to do exactly what he was eager to do; go right into his spiel. Over the next hour, Frank explained why no starcorp would help them and why they needed to make a business deal with him. He explained how the deal would work and why the starcorps would honor it. He gave them his assurance that he could put together a war-machine powerful enough to oust the UEF from power. He outlined the terms of the agreement and the price Earth would have to pay upon the successful completion of his plan.
“The Earth is not a starcorp,” Elijah insisted in a stern voice. “We will not become what you are.”
“What you call yourselves will be totally up to you,” Frank countered in hurried speech. “But you will have to abide by the terms of the contract.”
“I don’t understand this,” Phillip acknowledged from behind a look of confusion. “Earth is, or was, a collection of more than one-hundred independent states. We can’t speak for all of these nation states.”
“Yes, you can,” Frank insisted back. “Your resistance movements can make claim to the entire star system. Sol would be yours.”
“No, it would be yours,” Elijah argued with a flag of his hands.
“Earth would mine and develop the resources of the system. I and my investors would simply be shareholders.”
“Large shareholders, and your war machine would be the police, referee and the only military presence in Sol System Space,” Elijah disputed.
“For a time, yes,” Frank responded defensively.
“Fifty years,” Lee filled in with a frown.
“We will be making a very large investment,” Frank defended with a hint of insistence. “And as a member of the starcorp community, you would have access to everything we have to offer.”
“But all of this would be contingent upon the Starcorp Senate taking us into the community?” Phillip queried with a dubious fling of his hands.
“Leave that to me,” Frank returned with a confident nod.
“You can convince the starcorps to honor a claim of ownership of the Earth by our resistance movements?” Lee challenged with an intonation of skepticism.
“Yes, I can,” Frank answered with a look that said he was extremely excited about this plan. “Blood and death are the ultimate investments. No one has more rights than the bleeders. The starcorp courts WILL recognize your claim. I know it.”
Frank believed that the argument of ownership by right of an investment in blood would carry significant weight within the Starcorp Senate and courts. But he was counting on the promise of access to Earth’s vast labor force to make his deal irresistible to the starcorps. In Frank’s mind this was a win-win for the starcorps and Earth. And best of all, it represented a big win for him. Frank could see commerce between the starcorps and the Sol System producing huge dividends for all. In Frank’s mind it was the perfect deal.
The three resistance representatives were not envisioning Frank’s plan as a perfect deal. The idea of the Earth being turned into a collection of starcorps was antithetical to their wishes. In their minds starcorps continued to be aberrations. Turning the nation states of Earth into commercial entities that could be bought and sold or could go into bankruptcy was not the kind of help they were looking for. The biggest problem they had with this idea was the divvying of the states into shares owned by its populace and that they could be acquired by other starcorps. This was the dread of all devout nationalists. They knew there was nothing that could transform a culture faster than a people who could bankrupt the country by moving with their shares to another state. In their minds this was a threat to the beliefs, traditions, preconceptions and norms that they held dear. They knew that nation states would need to change to suit the wishes of the majority or have their economies fall behind rival states that did make these changes. This was the mechanism that turned starcorps into societies with a high tolerance for social diversity. It was the basic premise of their existence; people will follow what works.
“What if our leaders say no?” Elijah questioned in a gruff voice.
“Then I can’t help you,” Frank answered with a flat delivery.
There was a moment of silence in response to this answer, and then Phillip Hecht pleaded out the question that popped into his mind.
“Why can’t we just pay you a set price in installments?”
“I need investors,” Frank spoke with insistence. “They’re going to want assurances that they will be paid. That’s never going to work.”
“This is not going to work,” Elijah counter argued. “You’re talking about turning Earth into a starcorp cesspool. This is never going to happen.”
“This is the only way that it can happen,” Frank verbally retaliated with a stern look toward Elijah.
Over the next half-hour the three resistance representatives tried to negotiate Frank away from the idea of transitioning Earth into a collection of starcorps. Frank held on to this demand despite this effort. He explained that he needed Earth inside the financial system of the starcorp community. He advised them that investors would never trust the Earth Republics to pay them. This was partially true, but the primary reason why he wanted the Earth to become a member of starcorp community was because of its immense population. Access to the more than 10 billion people of Earth was something he could use to influence the Starcorp Senate into green lighting his business plan.
The entire sales pitch came to a stop in just under two hours. The three resistance representatives agreed to take his proposal and the contract back to their leaders in the Sol System. They promised to get back to Frank with an answer in 3 to 6 months, but they were doubtful that a decision would come back in his favor. Frank left the suite hopeful and excited.
Frank was inside the shuttle craft that was taking him back to Starship Berlin when his computer-wand began vibrating about his wrist. This told him that someone was calling in. He chose not to activate the speakerphone with a touch of his finger and the voice command, “cellphone.” Instead, he unwound the wand off his wrist and positioned one end of it by his right ear and the other end in front of his mouth. This configuration made a semi-private phone call possible.
“Computer, connect phone call. Enter.”
“You son of a bitch. Where the hell are you.”
Frank instantly recognized Charlotte Lang’s voice coming out of his computer-wand despite its strident tenor. An instant after hearing her question, he realized why she was so angry. He missed the date he had scheduled with her for this morning. He was surprised and shocked by the realization that he had forgotten about the rendezvous he had planned for this morning with Charlotte.
“Oh, Baby, I-I,” Frank fumbled out at a level a little above a whisper.
Frank did not want his conversation with Charlotte overheard by all inside the shuttle craft.
“Don’t you baby me,” Charlotte interrupted angrily. “Where the hell are you?”
The activity that was happening in Frank’s mind at this moment was a frantic search for verbiage that might get him out of this situation. He knew that Charlotte was angry. He could hear it in her voice. It was the extent of her anger that worried him. Frank had experience Charlotte’s temper many times in the past. This was not the first time he missed a rendezvous with her because of a sudden fixation with a business deal. He suspected that she would push their next rendezvous far off into the future. This was the standard punishment from Charlotte. The objective for Frank now was to minimize that distance into the future.
“I got sidetracked by a deal,” Frank pleaded. “You know me.”
“Why didn’t you call?” Charlotte questioned in a commanding voice. “I rearranged my day just so I could be here for you, you son-of-a-bitch.”
“I’ll make it up to you, Baby-Charlotte,” Frank misspoke and corrected. “I promise. I’ve got this great deal going.”
“I don’t want to hear about your deals, Frank,” Charlotte nearly screamed through the phone connection.
“Aw, come on, Charlotte,” Frank quickly breathed into his computer-wand. “It was an accident. I’ll make it up to you tomorrow.”
The idea that they meet tomorrow was a hopeful suggestion from Frank and not a serious expectation.
“I’m not seeing you tomorrow,” Charlotte returned with an intonation of disbelief. “I don’t want to hear from you for at least a month.”
“A month?” Frank questioned with a fake inflection of shock. “I’m telling you it was an accident. I’m working this really big deal. I got lost in the details. You know how I am when I’m working.”
“Yeah, well as far as I’m concerned, you can stay lost,” Charlotte retorted in a speech laced with sarcasm.
An instant after Charlotte said these words, the phone call disconnected.
“Charlotte? Baby? Hello.”