A spot of light grew, wobbled and cleared. Ralph’s homely face filled it, his four hundred pound body invisible below the level of the camera. A pleasant smile wreathed his coarse featured face.
“Where’s my girl?” He spotted Storm, still standing behind the head table. “There you are! Any problems?”
“None so far, Uncle Ralph.” She smiled. “Everything is ready for you to do the honors.”
“Thanks, baby.” He smiled again, glancing around the room. “I want to thank y’all for coming. It pleases me to see that so many of you have come to join in our celebration. Now, without further ado, the main event of tonight’s proceedings. I proudly present the next stage of human transportation. Live and in person from planet Earth!”
A blue-white glow filled the center of the room between the lower tables and the buffet. There was a platform, concealed by a heavy curtain. The curtain dropped as the machinery hummed and thrummed.
The form of a man appeared, silhouetted by the light, his body nearly transparent. A moment later, he stood, fully formed, in the center of the teleporter pad, grinning happily. He held a bottle of the Shine Clan’s famous beverage in his hand. Stepping off the pad, he smiled, waving at the assembled corporate heads and their wives.
“Howdy! Y’all wanna try it?” Taking a swig from the bottle, he invited them to hop on.
Everyone stared at him with mixed emotions. Those corporate officers who worked for transportation companies glowered at Storm, blaming her for the incident. One by one, they and their wives left in silent anger, furious that their most lucrative contract, space transportation, was about to be terminated.
“Hm, seems we upset some folks,” Sophie murmured.
“We knew it was bound to happen,” Storm answered just as quietly. “They don’t matter. The only ones who matter are the folks who intend to use the teleporter service.”
Sophie tossed her long, dark hair over her shoulder, smiling at the assembled crowd. “And those that want Mama’s moonshine will come to me.” Waving at the younger businessmen, she walked over to meet them, flirting shamelessly.
Storm envied her cousin’s ability to make men swoon and grovel at her feet. Her own talents were of a different nature. She was the Shine Clan’s fixer. She negotiated deals and drew up contracts. It was an important job, one she’d trained and hoped for the last three years. Now that she had it, she felt somewhat overwhelmed.
Movement caught her eye. The man in the beige suit walked forward, standing in front of them. He bowed formally.
“Mr. Boone,” he said in a soft Southern accent, “it appears as if some of your guests had a mind to leave early.”
“Boone grinned. “More dessert for the rest of us, eh? And you are?”
“My name’s Lukas Houston of Texas. I have a proposition, sir.”
“What could you possibly offer, young man?”
“Well, that teleporter is a mighty fine piece of equipment. But I reckon that since you need a sending pad and a receiving pad, someone’s got to take those pads to the location to set ’em up. And since they need a mighty big power supply, that’s gonna need transport too. Those fellas that left, they ain’t lookin’ at the big picture.”
“And you are?”
“Yep. I figure you’re gonna be setting up those pads and could use a man like me to do it. I also figure that if something goes wrong with those pads after installation, you’re gonna need transportation for techs and parts. Am I right?”
“You’re certainly a man of more vision than your colleagues,” Boone grinned. “Is that what you needed to talk to me about?”
“Well sir, right now, I was figuring that you’re not the person to speak to about all this. With all due respect, I think I’d rather talk to her.” He pointed at Storm.
Feeling all eyes on her, Storm blushed. Sorry she was still standing, she felt lightheaded as if the gravity had just gone off again.
Boone laughed, tossing his napkin on the table. “Boy, you’ve got cojones the size of Texas! Storm, go talk to that man, see what he has to say.”
“Yes, sir,” she mumbled, trying not to trip over her skirt as she walked toward the exit.