CHAPTER 8: Thinking Out Loud
“Baby, I did it. The Senate green-lighted my deal. We’re going to be rolling in money, just you wait and see. I can feel it. This is going to be huge. I’m going to have to hang around here for a few months, maybe a year. I just have to meet some people, shake some hands—do what I do, and then it’s easy street. This is it, Baby. I’m coming back to HL02 just as soon as I get this deal set up. Wait for me, Baby. I’m coming.”
Frank had been away from HL02 for 113 days when this video message came to Charlotte. A transport spaceship carried the video message from BX01 to HL02. When the spaceship arrived inside the Astra Star System it dumped all the digital messages it was carrying for HL02 into its communication network. This sent several thousand digital messages out to every HL02 habitat and installation in the star system. Frank’s message arrived inside Charlotte’s computer as an internet video message four minutes after the start of the dump.
Charlotte was listening to Frank’s jubilant video message in her apartment living room. The video message was playing on the large wall monitor in the room. Seated on the couch to either side of Charlotte were Lindsay McKenna and Catherine Tagawa. This was Charlotte’s fifth viewing of Frank’s video message and the first viewing for Lindsay and Catherine.
“He’s not coming back,” Lindsay stated flatly.
“He says he will,” Charlotte returned with a shrug.
“No way,” Lindsay spoke with a decisive intonation. “If he’s got some deal going in BX01, then he’s gone for good.”
“You don’t know that,” Catherine disputed with Lindsay.
An instant behind that remark, Catherine directed her attention at Charlotte.
“Frank kept paying on that contract with you when no one else would have,” Catherine suggested without conviction.
Charlotte pondered Catherine’s words for a moment.
“Maybe,” Charlotte responded with a shrug.
“Wait a minute,” Lindsay challenged with a confused expression. “You’re not waiting for him to come back?”
“No,” Charlotte insisted with excessively feigned sincerity. “I just thought one of you might be able to explain this message from him.”
“He’s crazy,” Lindsay snapped back.
“I think he likes you—a lot,” Catherine emphasized with a smile. “But I don’t think he’s too bright.”
Catherine and Lindsay giggle for several seconds. Charlotte reacted with a smile before verbally responding to the remark.
“Yeah, I suppose.”
“Forget about him,” Catherine encouraged with a positive inflection. “Frank is full of big plans that never work out. If you want a fourth SCU then find someone who can give you three-times what Frank was paying.”
“Yeah,” Lindsay agreed enthusiastically. “Frank is gone. His contract is history. It’s time to move on.”
“I suppose,” Charlotte mumbled out.
“There’s no suppose about it,” Catherine insisted. “It’s time to forget about Frank Weaver and to move on to someone else.”
“I’ll think about it,” Charlotte responded, unconvincingly.
It was clear to Lindsay and Catherine that Charlotte wanted to end this topic of conversation rather than entertain any thoughts about acquiring another SCU. A silence grew between them for a short time.
“So, what’s this deal that Frank is working on?” Lindsay questioned to break the awkwardness.
“He says the Earth Resistance Forces are going to pay him to fight the UEF,” Charlotte answered with the hint of a questioning inflection.
“You’re kidding,” Catherine almost laughed out.
“Well, that’s what he told me,” Charlotte reported with a shrug and a look of dismay.
“Where is he planning on getting the military to do that?” Lindsay challenged.
“I don’t know,” Charlotte confessed. “But he’s working some kind of plan.”
“I think you mean he’s working a fantasy,” Catherine spoke, jokingly.
Lindsay laughed in response to Catherine’s remark. Catherine gave it a laugh after a moment of thought, and Charlotte gave it a wide smile for a couple of seconds.
“Frank dreams big,” Charlotte reported with the beginnings of a grin on her face. “I like that about him.”
“To each her own,” Lindsay countered with sarcasm.
Lindsay’s remark produced laughter from the three of them.
“Mr. Weaver, this plan of yours is a huge gamble,” David Findlay warily instructed. “What guarantee can you give us that we will see a return on our investment?”
“Guarantee?” Frank cried out just before releasing a boisterous laugh. “I’m offering you the opportunity to get in on the biggest business deal ever put together. Everyone who takes part in this venture stands to come out of it with a profit one-hundred times greater than their investment… minimum. Am I talking to a bunch of retirees weighing if they should gamble with their life savings, or am I talking to venture capitalists? Risk is the name of the game.”
The vehemence in Frank’s speech stunned his audience into a moment of silence. The assembly had been listening to Frank’s presentation on the potential of his contractual agreement with the Rebel Warriors Army and the Free Earth Legion for nearly half an hour. They spent the next 15 minutes questioning him on the details of the agreement. Their questions appeared to be focused on the viability of a contractual agreement with any Earth based organization. The past five minutes were spent examining Frank for indicators that his analysis of this endeavor was well thought out. This last challenge by David Findlay appeared to be the last unanswered question they had.
Frank was standing alone on a lecture hall dais. Seated in the assembly hall in front of him were the representatives of 127 extravagantly wealthy potential partners from across the starcorp community. Nearly everyone in the auditorium were lawyers with offices in BX01 and were authorized to conduct the legal affairs of a client outside of this star system. Frank invited them to this presentation so that they could relay his offer to their clients.
The presentation concluded shortly after Frank’s risk remark. The representatives had learned all that they needed to know and had no more questions to ask. The prolonged silence that followed Frank’s last remark encouraged him to conclude his sales pitch and to give leave to his audience to relay his offer to their clients. The assembly hall emptied within a few minutes after this invite. The representatives filed out without any discussion between them. Frank could not be sure how his pitch went over, but he suspected that grumblings of displeasure as they left would have been a good indicator that his pitch was not well received.
BX01 was the central bank of the starcorps and consisted of the Starships Berenberg, Giannini, Warburg and Rothschild. Its location was the Ross Star System under the development of Starcorp RLC02. BX01′s complete ticker symbol, BX01E21270705, was the same as it was on the day of its incorporation in the Sol System. This fact reflected the reality that its original incorporation remained unchanged despite this new location for its administrative headquarters.
Frank chose to solicit for investors in this location because of the convenience it provided him. Traveling to all the star systems where a starcorp was located would have taken multiple years to complete. It was well known that all exceedingly wealthy starcorp industrialists maintained legal representation within the BX01 Starcorp. This was where all inter-starcorp deals were developed and signed.
BX01 was the central location for starcorp banking, high finance, corporate insurance, sales conventions, showcases and conferences. BX01 was the hub of the starcorp community. Frank knew he could pitch his idea here and it would go out to all potential investors simultaneously. To facilitate this communication, the meeting was recorded and all the representatives there were given a copy to present to their clients. Frank had only to wait for the responses to come to him over the next 6 to 9 months.
“So, Mr. Findlay, what do you think of this deal?” Ryan DeWitt gruffly questioned as he sat back in his oversized chair and examined the messenger seated in front of his desk.
It took David Findlay 48 real-time days to reach Starcorp CMS02 in the Argyle Star System. His profession as Ryan DeWitt’s BX01 lawyer made face-to-face communication necessary when the business being discussed surpassed a threshold dollar amount and there were no set instructions on how to proceed. But these were rare occasions. The travel time between star systems made face to face messaging inefficient. Because of this inefficiency, less than 1% of business dealings between starcorp inhabitants went outside of the star system. This was true despite a growing market for trade between starcorps. These unfulfilled business opportunities were behind Radstar, an interstellar communications network. The immense expense associated with the installation of Radstar was the only thing holding up Radstar’s implementation.
Traveling to another star system had no effect on the delivery speed of a message. Without a functioning interstellar communications network all forms of messaging had to be physically transported via star-drive across interstellar space. The only inconvenience that came with transporting a person along with the message was the lost time spent doing nothing while in transit. David Findlay endured this lost time to make the trip to CMS02 so that he could converse with his only client, Ryan DeWitt. Meeting with a lawyer or representative from another star system who had a face to face engagement with the person or persons proposing a business venture gave the client someone to question. David Findlay believed this was necessary so that he could give immediate responses to Ryan DeWitt’s inquiries about the business opportunity Frank Weaver was shopping around.
“Mr. DeWitt, this is a unique business opportunity,” David Findlay began with a hesitancy in his speech. “If Frank Weaver pulls this off, it will be the largest business venture ever put together.”
“Or the biggest fiasco,” Ryan DeWitt thought out loud.
Ryan DeWitt was number seven on the list of the richest people in all the starcorps. He had a seat on CMS02′s Board of Directors. He was a robust man who looked to have no interest in physical activities at present or had any interest of doing so in his past. His primary interest was in accumulating wealth. His amusements revolved around entertaining and being entertained by his six male consorts. He had academic credentials in a wide range of disciplines and his adeptness for math made this preoccupation very profitable. Because of his relentless search for good investments, Ryan DeWitt maintained legal representation in BX01 that was tasked with the job of keeping an eye out for profitable business ventures.
“What’s your read on this Frank Weaver?” Ryan DeWitt questioned after a pause and with an intonation of disdain.
Ryan DeWitt and David Findlay had just finished watching the presentation that Frank recorded in BX01. It was now David Findlay’s turn to speak his opinion about this business proposal.
“Up until now, most of his business ventures were nickel and dime operations,” David Findlay began after taking a moment to recall his research. “His successes outnumber his failures, but he did invest in a reckless mining venture a year back. It failed disastrously.”
Ryan DeWitt had a clear dislike for Frank Weaver. This was visible in his mannerism and audible in the tenor of his voice. This was not a unique disposition for Ryan DeWitt. He frequently disliked people at first sight. This was a mindset that could easily change with further interaction, but dislike was his default disposition.
“So, he’s a fool,” Ryan DeWitt spat back in response to David Findlay’s report.
“His background is primarily in sales,” David Findlay halfheartedly defended. “But I think it would be a mistake to under estimate the potential of this venture.”
“But he doesn’t have the experience to actually know what he’s talking about?” Ryan DeWitt quickly disputed. “He’s out of his depth.”
David Findlay discerned from this response that Ryan DeWitt was reaching for excuses to turn down this deal. This was not an action he favored. By his calculation, Frank Weaver had set up an enormous business opportunity. David Findlay thought it unwise to casually dismiss this venture.
“He’s selling partnership shares. Your buy-in would give you some weight of influence over the management of this venture,” David Findlay suggested in defense of the deal.
Ryan DeWitt took a moment to weigh this idea and then began to speak his mind about Frank Weaver.
“I don’t like this guy,” Ryan DeWitt announced with a scowl. “I think he’s a loser. Gambling on a loser is a bad bet.”
Ryan DeWitt took a moment to think on his assessment of Frank Weaver before adding his final thought.
“And he sounds like a crook.”
“Mr. DeWitt,” David Findlay spoke up with a hint of alarm in his voice. “This deal could payoff big. I’m not sure anyone of your stature can afford to sit on the sideline while this venture is going forward.”
“This deal is a con man’s wet dream,” Ryan DeWitt argued back. “He’s talking about turning war into a business.”
David Findlay took a few seconds to assess what he was hearing. He considered resigning himself to the probability that Ryan DeWitt was going to take a pass on this business proposition. A second thought convinced him that he had to try one more time.
“With all do respect, Sir,” David Findlay began with a pleading sincerity. “If this con man gets what he’s asking for, this deal will likely put itself together.”
David Findlay hesitated to give weight to this statement, and then he began to speak again with an inflection of determination.
“You don’t have to go in big, but I really think you should buy in on this deal.”
“He’s not going to get the money,” Ryan DeWitt insisted definitively. “I’m telling you, nobody is going to join in on this madness. We’re talking about constructing a war machine to do battle with the UEF Space Force. The last time we fought the UEF, we barely got away. We can’t win that war. Nobody is that stupid.”
David Findlay was flustered by Ryan DeWitt’s unintentional rebuke. He took a moment to steady himself before responding to Ryan DeWitt in a soft voice.
“He was very convincing.”
Ryan DeWitt noted that he had unnerved his guest and settled back in his chair to give him some relief. For several seconds he said nothing while he considered how to respond. At the end of this time he began to speak calmly and with a shake of his head.
“This deal is all pie in the sky. He’ll never put this partnership together, let alone build a war machine to battle with a space force a hundred times more powerful. Go back to BX and tell Frank Weaver to piss off.”
David Findlay left the office with the suspicion that Ryan DeWitt had just made a very bad decision.
Ninety-eight days after the meeting, the first prospective partner arrived to sign in on the deal with the condition that the full amount be raised through other partners. This precondition came as no surprise to Frank, but the ratio was steeper than he would have preferred. The amount of the investment represented only 1/200th of the minimum total sum that Frank needed as leverage to get BX01 to finance the difference. This meant that he would have to find a larger number of investors than his original calculation. There were other preconditions that also came as no surprise to Frank. The prospective partner wanted some oversight over the development and use of the war machine. This condition was explained as a protection to ensure that his investment was being professionally managed. This was a detail that Frank was expecting, and it was one he was ready to negotiate if, and when, he amassed his full compliment of partners. Over the next eleven days, three more prospective partners signed on with similar conditions. The addition of the amounts that they promised to invest into the venture meant that 7 percent of the amount that Frank was asking for was covered. Over the next 89 days Frank collected 13 prospective partners. All totaled, he had 17 declared investors in this business venture that he was trying to get off the ground. This prospective partnership represented 83% of the minimum sum of funds that he set out to accrue.
By this time, Frank was convinced that the minimum amount he was hoping to raise was not going to happen. This belief was motivated by the fact that the frequency of new investors seemed to have dwindled to a stop. He also knew that all the people he solicited to be a part of his venture had enough time to decide and get back to him. His thoughts turned to the choices of convincing his prospective partners into contributing more to the venture or working with the capital he had. Over the next nine days, Frank had heard from no new investors but had convinced five of his prospective partners to increase their buy ins. These increases raised the total amount to 88% of the minimum sum that Frank was trying to collect. But this amount was not enough to satisfy seven of his prospective partners or BX01. The agreement they made with Frank required that he raise the minimum sum before they would go forward with their participation in the deal. Frank knew that the absence of their investment into the deal would convince the remaining ten prospective partners to back out of the deal. This situation had Frank on the precipice of folding on the deal. It was on this day and at this time that three new prospective partners walked into the sitting room of his apartment.
“Mr. Dryer, I’m glad to hear that you want to be a part of this venture. But I must tell you, I’m going to need a very large investment to go forward with it.”
Ronald Dryer presented himself as the lead of this small group. Standing with him was Jennifer Mercer and Shaun Hedley.
“Then I think I can help you,” Ronald Dryer stated as he reached into the inside pocket of his suitcoat.
Ronald Dryer pulled out of his pocket a small transparent display monitor. After touching it to the commlink wand wrapped around his wrist, the monitor illuminated with an operating system program. He then navigated through the programing with several taps of his thumbs on the app in the display. A few seconds later, he stopped on a readout displaying a very large sum of money and extended the monitor toward Frank.
“Will this do?”
Frank took the monitor and noted the figure on the display with a mildly astonished expression. After a few seconds of amazement, Frank looked to Ronald with intrigue.
“Can you deliver this?”
“Yes, we can,” Jennifer answered before Ronald could respond.
“Who are you?” Frank questioned from behind a mild display of astonishment. “I mean, your names weren’t listed on the registry at my presentation—not as a representative or a client.”
“Mr. Weaver,” Ronald began politely. “We represent nearly 3,000 people who want to reconnect with Earth. We call ourselves the Terran Group.”
This answer sparked a memory in Frank. He took a couple of seconds to bring a thought into focus before speaking again.
“That’s a club on HL02,” Frank responded with a near questioning inflection.
“We have chapters in every starcorp,” Ronald explained. “I’m from LXP02.”
“My chapter is located in AY02,” Jennifer declared behind Ronald.
“And my chapter is inside Starcorp CME02,” Shaun announced in turn.
Frank thought about this information until he came up with a query a few seconds later.
“And what is it that you do?”
Ronald took half a step forward before commencing with his reply.
“Not everyone in the starcorps want to be separated from the planet of our origin. The Terran Group has spent the past 40 years gathering supporters and petitioning the Senate to initiate talks with the Earth government. We want to help you to make this business venture happen.”
Frank took in this answer, gave it a moment of thought and then began to stare at the sum of currency displayed on the mini monitor in his hand.
“So, is that enough to get your project going, Mr. Weaver?” Ronald questioned with a hint of worry in his speech.
“Yes, Mr. Dryer,” Frank returned without looking up from monitor. “This is enough.”