CHAPTER 5: Contracts
Charlotte Lang had a busy life. On top of juggling four SCU’s (Social Contract Union), she took courses in Finance. She was a perpetual dance academy student; she was a long-time member of a six-time top ten volley ball team; she danced professionally when the mood struck her; and when her schedule permitted, she socialized with her friends. Daiquiri’s is one of several locations they used for these social gatherings, and it was the location they chose on the day that Charlotte got stood up by Frank.
“Why are you contracted to this guy anyway?” Teresa questioned from behind a look of dismay.
Teresa Spencer was Charlotte’s longest friend seated at the table with her. The three additional ladies seated there were Lindsay McKenna, Catherine Tagawa and Jenny Morales. They appeared to be in their mid to late twenties but were 2 to 5 decades older, and they were all attractive.
“He’s a paying SCU,” Charlotte answered defensively.
“He’s a drain on your time,” Teresa argued back gently. “You’ve got three high paying consorts that you must care for. Giving time to Frank could cost you one or more of them.”
“Teresa is right,” Catherine supported. “You’re letting Frank jeopardize your income stream.”
Lindsay supported Teresa and Catherine with a nod of her head and a quick, “that’s right.”
“I take care of my SCUs,” Charlotte spoke in an irresolute tone.
Charlotte understood what they were saying and had given thought to the same argument many times. Her mind told her that Teresa, Lindsay and Catherine were talking from a position of dispassion, and that she was not. Canceling a contract was something that Charlotte was loathed to do because of money. Men had canceled their contracts with her because of money several times in the past, and she endured this with indifference. On two occasions she canceled a contract because of interpersonal differences. Or easier said, she discovered she did not like the guy. But tossing away someone she did like and who was eager to be with her felt like a callous and malicious act to Charlotte. And this was doubly true when it came to Frank.
“Yeah, but in the past, you limited yourself to three SCUs,” Teresa offered as a counter argument to Charlotte’s claim of taking care of her consorts. “Now you have four, counting that fire-sale contract you made with Frank.”
“I like Frank, okay. He makes me laugh,” Charlotte scolded back at her friend.
Teresa shook her head and rolled her eyes before responding with disbelief in her voice.
“I don’t understand you. You could be making so much more money.”
“My SCUs pay generously,” Charlotte disputed without hesitation.
“Yeah, but you could make so much more if you dropped your price by a third and start juggling 8 to 10 SCU’s,” Teresa insisted.
This was an old debate, and Charlotte was quick to dismiss Teresa’s side of it with a shake of her head, a flag of her hand and a verbal response.
“You know I don’t do volume. It would be hard enough to remember their names let alone give them the attention they want.”
“Who cares about their names,” Teresa challenged with animated amazement. “Tease them and please them and collect the money. That’s what I do.”
“That’s you, Teresa,” Charlotte responded with a hint of annoyance in her tone. “I can’t work that way.”
Teresa picked up on the signal that Charlotte was not going to change and settled back into her chair to speak her final thought on the subject with a passive delivery.
“Charlotte, I know you think need to feel some affection for your SCUs, but you must get past that. They’re just income.”
“Well, they’re more than just income to me,” Charlotte confessed in a voice that implied that She tired of the debate.
A silence fell over the table for several seconds, and Jenny spoke up with an amazed inflection.
“Wow! I didn’t know there was more than one way to be a paid consort.”
Jenny was the youngest person at the table, and she was the only person there who was not a consort by profession. But this was the profession that she was hoping to transition into with this outing. Being with men was nothing new for her. Jenny was 57 years of age and had been in 3 traditional contract unions or TCUs over the course of her life. Her plan for today was to take on a social contract union for a fee that her consort would pay to her. After working 25 years as a Lab Technician, Jenny was ready for something new.
“Well there is, Sweetie,” Teresa retorted to Jenny’s observation. “You need to decide right now. Do you want to make a living, or do you want to make money?”
Catherine, Lindsay and Charlotte could not prevent themselves from giggling in response to Teresa’s mercenary attitude. Lindsay was the first to recover from her chuckle and voice a second opinion.
“Baby, you need to take it slow and follow your instincts,” Catherine asserted with a sly smirk at Teresa.
“Yeah,” Charlotte spoke up with a grin in her throat. “Because if you listen to Teresa, you’ll need an AI secretary to keep track of your consorts.”
A brief eruption of laughter came out from all but Teresa. She endured the humor at her expense from behind a smirk and then responded to it with an intonation of sass.
“What’s wrong with that.”
Again, there was laughter from around the table. This time Teresa joined in on the mirth and the guffaw lasted for several seconds. While this was occurring, Jenny took notice of a man who appeared to be looking at her.
“Who’s that?” Jenny questioned as the laughter trailed off.
The group looked across the lounge floor in the direction that Jenny was indicating. The four of them focused in on a decidedly attractive man ogling Jenny from his stance at the bar.
“That’s Eric,” Lindsay answered with indifference. “He’s okay.”
“So, you’ve done a contract with him?” Jenny questioned with an inflection of curiosity.
“No, but Sarah did,” Lindsay returned casually. “She liked him.”
Jenny paused to look for a response from someone else. Charlotte, Christine and Teresa were noncommittal as they deferred to each other to respond.
“So, none of you have done a contract with him?” Jenny questioned with a slight look of worry.
The first responses to Jenny’s inquiry were all shrugs and head shakes, and then Teresa spoke up to give meaning to these gestures.
“I mean he asked. I think he propositioned all of us at one time or another. But when he asked me, my plate was full.”
“Really?” Charlotte questioned with a feigned expression of shock.
“Hey, I do have my limits,” Teresa insisted defensively. “Besides, he doesn’t make a lot of money. And unlike you, I don’t take on contracts from men who can’t pay the price of admission.”
This remark incited laughter from the others. Teresa retaliated to their chortles at her expense with a mocking sneer.
“Hey, he’s a good starter SCU,” Lindsay spoke up enthusiastically. “You should take him on if you’re interested.”
“What makes him a good starter SCU?” Jenny questioned back with a look of curiosity.
“Well, for one, I doubt he can afford more than one consort out of this lounge,” Lindsay answered with a shrug. “So, if he’s looking, then he probably will meet your price. Secondly, I hear he’s over 100 years old, and that he goes through 3 or 4 consorts a year. So, he’s not going to fall in love with you, and he’ll probably quit the contract after a few months. That should make him a good test run consort. And if you find out you don’t like him, then just start telling him you have a headache and he’ll quit the contract even sooner, and he pays the penalty.”
“Oh! Okay,” Jenny acknowledged with a look of understanding. “So, should I approach him?”
“No,” Charlotte, Catherine, Lindsay and Teresa said quickly and in unison.
“Wait for him to come to you,” Catherine instructed with a ruffle of her brow.
This advice worried Jenny and she turned to Catherine with an expression of surprise and a question.
“But what if he doesn’t make the first move?”
“He already has,” Catherine asserted. “He’s looking at you. He wants you to come to him.”
“I don’t understand,” Jenny returned with a confused shake of her head.
“You see, this is the way it works,” Teresa interjected with a hint of exasperation. “He’s going to try to haggle your price down, no matter what price you quote. When he finds out you don’t have a social contract already, he’s going to think you’re desperate and haggle even harder.”
“And trust me, there’s nothing more nauseating than a guy professing his adoration for you while haggling over money,” Lindsay proffered with an expression that was halfway between a scowl and a grin.
“So, the last thing you want to do is approach him,” Catherine lectured with a firm intonation. “You always want to project the image that it’s a seller’s market.”
Jenny took a moment to assimilate everything that she had been told, and then she blurted out the question that came to mind.
“So, should I lower my price if he haggles?”
“This is what I would do,” Teresa began again. “You have your price. I would increase it by half and negotiate down from there. Then I would give him 15 minutes to get to within 85% of my price. And if he didn’t, I would walk away.”
“And don’t look back,” Lindsay insisted in a hurry.
“Never look back,” Catherine supported a second behind.
Jenny took a moment to fortify herself with all that she had just learned. After several deep breathes, she looked to Charlotte with a mix of hope and confusion in her expression.
“Is that the way you would do it?” Jenny queried with a pleading countenance.
Charlotte understood that Jenny was looking for her support for this tact, and she had no disagreement with it. But she also knew that it was not the way she would do it. This had nothing to do with an objection for anything the others had said. It was a personal preference. Charlotte did not approach the position of paid consort as a job or a hustle. For her it was just a convenient means to an end. She also knew that most women could not make a living while being as picky as she. Charlotte knew that she was well endowed physically and aesthetically. This thinking created a conflict within her. Charlotte did not believe that Jenny could attract the same high-end consorts as she. And she knew that Jenny was turning to this profession for the money. In the end, she settled this conflict within her by confessing to Jenny how she would do it.
“I never quote a price, and I never haggle over money. I wait for the guy to make me an offer. If I like it, I say yes. If I don’t like it, I say no, and then he has about five seconds to make a better offer.”
“Why five seconds?” Jenny questioned out of curiosity.
“I’m usually out of earshot by then,” Charlotte answered with a shrug and a smile.
“Except, you didn’t do it that way with Frank,” Teresa scoffed with a laugh.
Charlotte took a moment to brook the truth of this remark before speaking.
“Every time I tried to walk away from Frank, he followed me,” Charlotte confessed with near to a grin on her face.
Eric Booth chose this moment to interrupt the revelry occurring between Charlotte and her friends. He interjected himself into their company with an awkward attempt at being funny and appealing and was pleasantly greeted in return. A minute into this charmed offensive, Eric focused his attention onto Jenny and soon invited her onto the dance floor. This was a common question asked by suitors and it usually involved very little dancing. Eric used their time together on the dance floor to sell himself.
Charlotte and her friends watched this social market courtship from afar, but this was nothing new for them. Clubs, lounges and bars were the unofficial meeting halls for social marketing participants. The process that Jenny was going through was virtually identical to thousands of previous social market courtships that occurred inside Daiquiri’s. Fifteen minutes into the dance, Eric transitioned the courtship into the negotiation stage. This event was marked by their retreat to a private table. Ten minutes later, the courtship transitioned into the licensing stage. This was marked by the summoning of an in-house social market lawyer.
Social market lawyers were common inside nightclubs and lounges. They identified themselves with name tags that were complete with their credentials. For bottom of the rung lawyers, nightclubs and lounges were the places to be for collecting quick and easy money. For a set fee, they did the paperwork and the filing of social contracts. Participation in the negotiation required an additional fee and a second lawyer so that both sides were represented. This was an option that was rarely used. Most participants in Social Marketing were well versed on the variables of social contracts. The filing was always done electronically a few seconds after the signing. And the contract went into effect in the same moment.
It took another ten minutes to complete the agreement and file the documents. Jenny came back to Charlotte and friends and verified that she had her first SCU. She relayed to them the particulars of the contract that she signed, then said her good-byes for the evening and left with Eric to commemorate the contract signing.
Commemorate the contract signing was social marketing-ease for having sex. There was no legal obligation involved in this act. The phrase, commemorate the contract signing, was born out of humor. Because Social Contracts intentionally avoided verbiage that stated or implied that any party of the contract was required to engage in sex with any other party of the contract, standard protections were built into the contracts to encourage fidelity to the unwritten expectation that they will engage in sex. One of these protections was the premature exit penalty. What this did was impose a financial penalty on the payer in the contract if he or she discontinued the contract shortly into its start. This early exit time varied between several days to several weeks. The penalty attached to an early exit was a significant sum of money attached to the severance payout. The premature exit clause was put into the contracts to discourage payers from using a payee for a one-night stand and then ditching her or him early on to save money. But this penalty by itself put the payer in the position of having to pay without a guarantee that the unwritten expectation would be provided. Because of this concern a buyer’s remorse clause was standard in all contracts. This clause gave the payer the right to opt out of a social contract within a set period without fee or penalty. Normally, this time limit was just long enough to commemorate the signing of the contract, 1 to 2 hours was the norm. When the commemoration was over, the reputations of the parties involved became the instigator for keeping fidelity with the unwritten expectation within the agreement. It was the right of all participants to lodge complaints with the Social Market Administration that the public could read.
“Hi, I’m sorry,” Frank quickly spoke.
Jenny was several minutes into her courtship dance with Eric when Frank showed up at Charlotte’s table. Charlotte, Teresa, Catherine and Lindsay were surprised by his sudden appearance.
“Oh, look who’s here,” Teresa spoke in a mocking tone of voice.
“Can we talk?” Frank questioned with a focus on Charlotte.
“No, Frank,” Charlotte insisted with admonishment in her voice. “I don’t want to see you right now.”
Catherine and Lindsay snickered in response to Charlotte’s reply.
“It was a mistake,” Frank pleaded. “I got caught up in a business deal.”
“And you couldn’t call?” Charlotte challenged with a scowl.
“It was a really big deal,” Frank continued to plead. “You know I wouldn’t have forgotten our tryst if it wasn’t big.”
“You’re not helping yourself,” Charlotte returned with a glower as she showed Frank the back of her head.
Charlotte turned about an instant after hearing the word baby. The quick turn and the angry grimace on her face cut Frank off in mid speech.
“Don’t baby me, Frank,” Charlotte reprimanded sharply. “I don’t want to hear from you right now.”
Teresa, Catherine and Lindsay restrained their urges to laugh as they turned their heads away from this conversation. Frank inched back, took a breath and prepared himself to take a softer approach.
“Charlotte, let me make it up to you,” Frank suggested in a voice decidedly below his normal volume.
Charlotte turned toward Frank with the mix of a smile and a hopeful expression on her face. This sudden bright demeanor gave Frank encouragement. An instant after seeing it, Charlotte began to speak in a tone that was reflective of this pleasing look.
“Oh, you want to add some money to our contract?”
Frank was taken aback by this suggestion. A startled look came across his face as he quickly responded in fumbling speech.
“Uh… That’s not what I meant.”
The instant she heard Frank’s reply, Charlotte’s hopeful expression dropped away and was replaced with a look of anger.
“Go away, Frank,” Charlotte grumbled as she looked away.
Frank held his position, took a breath and then spoke in a soft voice loaded with a hopeful inflection.
“When can I see you again?”
“Try me in a month,” Charlotte snapped back at Frank.
“You don’t mean that,” Frank gently insisted with a smile and a shake of his head.
“Try me,” Charlotte snarled with a glare out the corner of her eyes.
Frank gave Charlotte a moment of study and then whispered out his final thought as he began moving away.
“I’ll call you tomorrow.”
“Go!” Charlotte roared with finality.
Frank had been inside Daiquiri’s for less than a minute when he found Charlotte with his eyes and raced over to the table where she and her friends were sitting. He had been alerted that Charlotte was there in a phone call from his friend, Paul Hildebrandt. When Frank finished his brief chat with Charlotte, he went to the table where his friend was seated with Bill Burke and James Farnsworth.
“What was that about?” Bill questioned from behind a confused expression.
“Oh, it’s nothing,” Frank spoke dismissively.
Frank began pecking his drink order into the table top immediately after taking his seat at the table.
“It can’t be nothing,” Paul disputed in a passive tone of voice. “I mentioned Charlotte’s name in passing and you came running.”
“I forgot about our tryst,” Frank confessed with a slight shake of his head.
“How did you do that?” James questioned with a look of amazement.
Frank took a moment to dismiss the obvious criticism at his stupidity with a smile and a shake of his head. He then began speaking his defense for his memory lapse.
“I got sidetracked,” Frank explained with a palm up flag of his hands.
“With what?” Bill blurted out with a feigned look of shock.
Amused by Bill’s delivery, Frank hesitated to respond to this question. Paul began to fill in the silence with an inflection in his voice that said he suspected what the answer to his query would be.
“You didn’t meet with those Earthers?”
“I did,” Frank acknowledged with a nod.
Paul reacted to this answer with a smile and a shake of his head. James was far more surprised by this answer and reflected this in his voice.
“You’re really going to try and do that?”
“It’s a good deal,” Frank defended.
“It’s a fairytale,” Paul countered from behind a look of disbelief.
“What deal?” Bill questioned with a bemused look.
Bill was not present when Frank floated the idea of pitching a deal to the three Earth Resistance Representatives to Paul, James and Ron.
“Frank wants to build a war-machine for those Earth Resistance Groups,” James explained succinctly.
Bill took a moment to weigh this idea in his thoughts. Frank, Paul and James waited on him to catch up to where they were.
“Where are you going to get the money?” Bill questioned while stifling a laugh.
“I don’t need to have the money personally,” Frank explained in a casual voice. “What I need is a signed contract.”
“You’re going to try and sell shares in your war-machine?” Paul questioned with an intonation that said he had a dawning awareness.
Frank noted his friends new understanding and commenced his response with a flair of confidence.
“You know me, Paul. I can sell anything.”
“So, did they sign the contract?” James questioned with curiosity in his voice.
“We’ll see,” Frank answered with a shrug.
Frank knew better than everyone there that he might as well be gambling on the outcome of the spin of a roulette wheel. He saw the demeanor and the faces of the three resistance representatives when he left. He knew that they were loathing to see the return of a starcorp presence in the Sol System. He was doubtful that the three resistance representatives would return let alone come back with signed contracts. When asked, Frank did not betray his doubt about the probability of this business proposal going forward. What he did begin to speak about was the process that needed to be completed.
“They have the contract, and they’re on their way back to the Sol System to have their leaders consider it.”
“How long is that going to take?” James wondered out loud.
“A few months they said,” Frank answered blandly.
“How does that work?” Paul questioned with a frown that said he was curious about the process.
Frank took the next few minutes to explain to his friends how the resistance representatives planned to enter the Sol System aboard one of FFL02′s spy ships, transmit coded messages to their respective organizations, wait for replies and then come back to the starcorps with the spy ship. Outwardly, he displayed a look of optimism as he told them this plan, but inside he was doubtful that this event would happen as he just outlined.
“Do you really think they’re going to sign your contract?” Paul asked in straightforward speech.
Frank gave the question a second of thought, and then he began his response with a casual delivery.
“All I can do is wait.”