CHAPTER 7: Wheel and Deal
The repeated soft chimes of the front doorbell had finally aggravated Charlotte to the point that she could not take it any longer. She uncurled from her fetal position and pulled the bed spread down from over her head as she rolled onto her back.
“Computer, who is at the front door? Return.” Charlotte growled out with a commanding inflection.
“Frank Weaver is at the front door,” the computer returned passively.
Charlotte growled her frustration with the report that Frank was the person ringing her front doorbell.
“Computer, connect me with the front door intercom. Enter.” Charlotte demanded with a scoff.
By positioning her request between the key words “Computer” and “Enter” the computer accepted the sentence as a command that needed to be comprehended and performed. This application was regularly used to interface with computers through speech alone. Key words were commonly used as command language identifiers and were interchangeable to meet the preference of the user.
“Front door intercom is activated,” the computer performed and acknowledged after interpreting Charlotte’s command.
“Go away, Frank,” Charlotte yelled out.
“Charlotte, Baby, let me in,” Frank’s voice reverberated out through the speakers in Charlotte’s bedroom. “There’s something I have to tell you.”
“Send it to me in a video message, Frank,” Charlotte insisted. “I’m not letting you in. And if you keep ringing my bell, I’m going to call security.”
“This is big,” Frank insisted with excitement in his voice. “I need to tell it to you in person.”
“I don’t care,” Charlotte hollered back. “Go away.”
“I’m leaving HL02,” Frank explained in haste. “My transport is prepping for launch right now.”
Charlotte paused to consider Frank’s last remark. The idea of him leaving HL02 surprised her. This meant that he was leaving the star system and would be gone for more than a month and likely more than three. In Charlotte’s mind, this amount of time apart suggested a significant change in their relationship was about to occur. She sat up in her bed to ponder this possibility. Shortly into her thinking Frank began to speak again.
“This is really big,” Frank announced with an abundance of zeal.
An instant after hearing this last remark, Charlotte began to climb out of bed.
“Wait,” Charlotte instructed Frank as she slipped on her nightgown.
A minute later, Charlotte was standing behind the front door to her apartment. With a touch of her finger to a video button in the control panel screen, the door transitioned into a video monitor from top to bottom. A full-size visage of Frank standing on the other side of the door was visible in the display. The opaque veneer was still in place on the opposite side of the door.
“What do you mean, you’re leaving?” Charlotte questioned with a frown.
“I’m working a deal,” Frank exclaimed. “It’s really big.”
“And you have to leave the system for that?” Charlotte challenged with a confused intonation.
“I can’t talk about this through the door,” Frank insisted ecstatically. “Let me in.”
Charlotte took a moment to consider the request before pressing the video button in the control panel screen that actuated the motor that slid the door open. With the touch of a second video button, she turned off the intercom.
“I got it,” Frank exalted as he rushed through the doorway, grasped Charlotte into a bear hug, picked her up and twirled about excitedly.
“Put me down,” Charlotte commanded as she squirmed inside Frank’s hug.
“Sorry, sorry,” Frank beseeched as he set Charlotte down and stepped back. “I got the contract.”
Charlotte took a moment to catch her breath, and then she began to speak.
“Remember that deal I was talking about with those Earth Resistance Representatives?” Frank questioned with enthusiasm.
“That was months ago,” Charlotte spoke in a challenging tone.
“Nine months ago,” Frank corrected. “They’re back and I got a signed contract from two of them,” he eagerly continued.
This announcement did nothing to clear away Charlotte’s confusion. She continued to stare at Frank with a confused expression.
“They gave me the rights to fight for them,” Frank explained in clearly enunciated words.
Charlotte shook off her confusion and began speaking the question that Frank’s report produced within her.
“What about Asteroid L259?”
Charlotte’s question referred to the mining operation that Frank and his partners were carrying the bulk of the financing for. This project was the only business investment that Frank talked about during the past 6 months. This new business deal, that she was yet to understand, had her confused about what happened to L259.
“I sold my shares,” Frank answered in a short burst of words. “This Sol System contract is the deal of my life.”
“And what about our contract?” Charlotte questioned with a look of astonishment.
Frank’s demeanor soured in response to this question. He took a step back and took a second to search for the right response.
“Circumstances are going to make it impossible for me to continue with our contract,” Frank explained in a carefully spoken speech.
“I’m sorry to hear that, Frank,” Charlotte returned with a sigh.
A moment of silence passed between them. Charlotte could see that Frank had something more to say, but she was confused by his reluctance to say it straight away. Shortly into this quiet, Frank began to speak.
“I was wondering if you would be willing to terminate the contract,” Frank whispered out carefully.
“Oh no,” Charlotte immediately responded with a look of astonishment. “I’m not backing out of our contract.”
“Charlotte, the severance plus the penalty will cost me nearly a twentieth of my net worth,” Frank nearly pleaded.
“Too bad,” Charlotte countered in a defiant tone of voice. “I’m not taking a loss because you want to go chase some deal. You wanted this contract, and I lived up to every word of it. If you want out, then you pick up the tab.”
After a moment of thought, Frank resigned himself to the inevitable.
“Okay—okay,” Frank sighed back with reluctance in his voice. “But I’m coming back,” he continued with hope in his voice. “Can we start a new contract when I get back?”
Charlotte could not hide her confusion. She knew that interstellar distance was the death-knell of romantic relationships. She paused to consider what Frank had just asked her and then responded with a word and a nod.
Shortly after hearing this, Frank lost control of his composure, lunged forward and took Charlotte by the shoulders as he began to speak again with a look of wide-eyed exhilaration.
“This is huge,” Frank gushed. “This could be the biggest business deal ever put together. And I own it.”
Frank pulled Charlotte forward into a hug and grinned as he spun around, lifting Charlotte off her feet as he did. Charlotte could not stop herself from being amused by Frank’s excitement and grinned despite her effort not to.
“Stop.” Charlotte complained halfheartedly.
Frank spun her around for a bit longer and then set her down gently.
“Sorry,” Frank apologized with a wide smile. “This is really big. I can’t believe it’s actually happening.”
“So, you’re leaving HL02?” Charlotte questioned with a hint of sadness in her voice.
“Oh, it’s just temporary,” Frank insisted excitedly and with a shake of his head. “Because it’s a deal involving the starcorps and Earth, I have to sell it to the Starcorp Senate.”
“You’re going to BX01?” Charlotte questioned with a partial look of amazement.
“Yeah,” Frank returned with an excited nod of his head. “Cobb is coming with me, but yeah. We’ll be gone for a few months, but this is big. This is really big. Once I sell this to the Starcorp Senate, I’m going to be rolling in money.”
Frank grasped Charlotte by the waste, pulled her torso up against his and gave her a quick kiss on the lips.
“You wait and see,” Frank continued with elation. “This is going to be huge.”
Frank’s excitement had no affect on Charlotte. Her demeanor soured a small degree as she listened to Frank’s last remark. The prospect of Frank coming into a financial windfall made no impression with her. She was doubtful that this big deal would ever develop to the extent that he was suggesting. Big deals and big promises were not uncommon claims from the mouth of Frank Weaver. But the extent that Frank was reaching to make this deal happen engendered a whole new level of passion within him. She could see and hear that Frank was determined to pursue this deal above all other considerations. The idea that he was leaving to do something that might distract him from ever wanting to return HL02 was causing a sadness to well up within her.
“So, you’re leaving today?” Charlotte questioned hesitantly.
“Yeah, Baby,” Frank confirmed enthusiastically. “I just came by to tell you what was happening.”
Frank gave Charlotte a quick kiss on the forehead and then continued to speak.
“I didn’t want to put it in a message. I wanted to tell you in person. This is a chance of a lifetime. Aren’t you excited for me, just a little bit?”
Charlotte continued to look mildly depressed. She stepped forward half a step and began to speak a question in a soft voice.
“You’re leaving now?”
“Ah, yeah,” Frank fumbled out with a mild look of confusion. “The Cepheus is scheduled to launch in a few hours and my bags are going onboard as we speak.”
“So, you’re going now?” Charlotte asked just before giving Frank a soft kiss on the lips.
“Yeah, I should be leaving for the ship,” Frank acknowledged hesitantly.
Charlotte responded to this report with a second kiss on the lips. When they parted, she kept her face positioned 2 inches from Frank’s and maintained a longing stare into his eyes.
“I guess I do have a little time to spare,” Frank assessed out loud.
Charlotte commenced to give Frank another soft kiss. A couple of seconds into this, Frank slipped his arms around Charlotte’s upper torso and pulled her into a passionate kiss. A moment later, Charlotte returned his passion by wrapping her arms around Frank’s neck and re-engaging with a second kiss. They stood there for nearly a minute, kissing. At the end of this time, Frank picked Charlotte up into his arms and carried her away to the bedroom. Frank arrived aboard the Cepheus 2 hours later and with only a few minutes to spare. As the spaceship moved away, Frank accessed HL02’s Public Records Database, canceled his social contract with Charlotte and paid the penalty.
“Mr. Weaver why should the starcorps risk provoking the UEF?” Senator Zachary Hewitt questioned from behind a stern study of Frank.
“Senator Hewitt, our existence is a provocation to the UEF,” Frank retorted with a flippant inflection. “There’s nothing we can do that’s going to make that worst.”
Senator Bruce Barnett took immediate offense to this answer and commenced to speak his mind an instant behind.
“How can this not make things worst?” Senator Barnett snapped at Frank. “We are not at war with the UEF. Constructing a war machine to dislodge the UEF from power would significantly elevate the animosity between us and Earth.”
Frank was seated at the middle of a conference table along its broad side. Seated next to him was Abel Cobb. On the other side of the table was the 11 members of the Starcorp Senate Foreign Affairs Committee. Seated directly opposite of Frank was the Chairperson of the committee, Senator Zachary Hewitt.
“Senators,” Frank began in an apologetic tone. “What I meant to say is that the UEF doesn’t have the means to wage war on the starcorps. The UEF’s antipathy for the starcorps is just wasted energy.”
“But this advantage won’t last forever,” Senator Barnett disputed. “We’re already getting intelligence suggesting the UEF is trying to develop a star-drive.”
“And that’s just another reason why this deal should go forward,” Frank argued enthusiastically.
“Or a good excuse why we should butt-out of Sol System affairs,” Senator Barnett grumbled out for all to consider.
Several members of the committee mumbled their agreement with Senator Barnett’s assessment. Senator Hewitt appeared to be noncommittal either way. He took a moment to gauge the sentiments of his committee, and then he turned to Frank with a new question.
“But you think that this business venture will benefit starcorps in the long run?”
“There’s no doubt about it,” Frank insisted excitedly. “When the Sol System becomes a member of the starcorp economic community, the financial benefits will be staggering. The entire population of Earth will be accessible to us. The starcorps will have the means to quicken our pace of growth a hundredfold.”
“And all the problems of Earth will leak into the starcorps,” Senator Barnett disputed. “We don’t need the people of Earth.”
“Mr. Chairperson,” Frank quickly interjected. “We cannot escape Earth,” he emphasized with an emphatic intonation. “As you have already pointed out, the UEF will develop a star-drive sooner or later. If we wait to engage with Earth when this happens, then we could lose all of the advantages that are available to us now and inherit all of the problems that you’re worrying about.”
Several of the committee members nodded their agreement with this assessment. Senator Barnett’s opposition to Frank’s business venture was unchanged, and Senator Hewitt was just as noncommittal as before.
“There’s no guarantee that you can win a war with the UEF,” Senator Barnett argued defiantly. “This is a risk that we don’t need.”
“Now is the only chance we have at winning a war with an Earth Space Force,” Frank quickly argued back with a glare toward Senator Barnett. “Earth has no star-drive. It’s now or never.”
Again, there were nods of agreement from members of the committee, but this time it came from most of the senators seated at the table. Senator Barnett had no counter for Frank’s argument and settled back into his chair with a frown. Senator Hewitt pondered Frank’s words for several seconds and then commenced to speak the thought that came to mind with an inflection of concern.
“The Tellurian Resistance chose not to enter into this contract. Is this going to be a problem?”
“The Rebel Warriors Army and the Free Earth Legion represent most of Earth’s population,” Frank returned without hesitation.
“But none of these resistance organization leaders are elected officials,” Senator Christopher Newton proffered from further down the table. “We don’t even know if most of the people of Earth want a new government.”
“We do know that most of the people on Earth have no choice in who governs them,” Frank explained with a toss of his hands. “And the Earth resistance fighters have earned the right to speak for them.”
“How so?” Senator Hewitt questioned with a look that said he was curious to know how Frank came to that determination.
Frank hesitated to focus his attention onto Senator Hewitt, and then he spoke with a definitive intonation.
“They paid for it in blood. No one has more of a right to speak on the behalf of an oppressed people then those who fought to end their oppression.”
There was no response to Frank’s declaration. The senators took a moment to pondered Frank’s argument. Shortly into his deliberation, Senator Hewitt leaned forward to speak his thoughts.
“Gentlemen, I need a vote of hands. All in favor of taking Mr. Weaver’s petition to the floor of the General assembly signify so by raising a hand.”
Hewitt was the only senator present who did not raise a hand. Grudgingly, Senator Barnett was the last to raise a hand. Hewitt took a moment to note all the senators who raised their hands before turning to Frank to speak.
“Okay, Mr. Weaver, we will bring your request before the General Assembly, and I will support it. You should get your answer within a few days.”
Frank looked back and forth along the table to assess if the other senators were equally supportive. Their expressions were unreadable. Even Senator Barnett was mum. But Frank took their silence and blank faces as a sign that they were not decidedly opposed. After this moment of study, Frank thanked the senators for their time and attention, and then he left the conference room with Abel by his side. When they were out of sight and earshot of anyone connected to the committee, Abel looked to Frank with an amused expression and then began to speak with a questioning inflection.
“No one has more of a right to speak on the behalf of an oppressed people than those who fought to end their oppression?”
At the end of this statement, Abel shook his head with a bewildered expression on his face and let out a laugh. Frank turned toward him with a sly smile before speaking with a barely contained grin.
“It just came to me.”
Abel returned his grin as they continued their walk. Several steps later, a question arose within Abel’s thinking.
“Are you sure the Tellurian Resistance won’t be a problem?”
“What can they do?” Frank glibly returned as they continued to walk.