Authors: Tara Tyler
Hasan had a tech pop them all back to Mumbai.
Before she popped, Geri let out a disappointed sigh. She never got to say goodbye to Cooper.
FBI – Atlanta Division
12:30 p.m., Saturday, July 27
“Thank you for volunteering to tell me this information, Ed.” Mr. Taylor clapped him on a droopy shoulder.
“I don’t know how I let her use me. I can’t believe I didn’t see the signs.” Ed lowered his head and shook it back and forth. He played the part of the ignorant lapdog to a T. Inside, he rejoiced. He might get out of this yet!
“Ms. Wiley, get me Mr. Gibson, please,” Mr. Taylor said to his assistant on their office communicator as he stepped back behind his desk. “Don’t worry about it, Ed. Vivienne will be arrested immediately. Her office will undergo a thorough investigation.”
Ed nodded with a woeful frown, barely containing his mirth.
Vivienne will finally get what she deserves.
He was almost clear!
“And you will, too. Purely as a formality. I’m sure Vivienne will have some accusations for you. Right?”
Ed stopped his inward celebration and straightened up to an attention stance.
“I want Geri to handle the testing and implementation. She’s been invaluable.”
“Yes, sir.” He looked at the ceiling.
“And your technical expert?”
“Yes, Nate. See that he sends me a full disclosure of all the information he collected for you.”
Ed didn’t like that, either.
“Why? I included it in my report.”
“Something to hide, Ed?”
“No. But some measures were necessary to protect the Creator,” he said.
“I’m sure they were. We will take that into consideration. You may go now, Ed. I’ll be talking to you soon.” Mr. Taylor dismissed him as Mr. Gibson from the Washington FBI office appeared on Mr. Taylor’s imager.
At least Ed still had his job. For now.
Walnut Grove, GA
1:30 p.m., Sunday, July 27, 2081
It had to be over a hundred degrees outside. Luckily, the air conditioner and sweet iced tea kept Cooper from feeling it. Reclining on his couch, he watched the Braves, who were losing to the Phillies, on his enormous new imager, courtesy of Hasan.
At the bottom of the third, the game feed fizzled.
The President came on to make a special announcement.
“My fellow Americans. And friends around the globe. One year ago today, we were forced to suspend the greatest technological advance of our time. It has been a rough road, taking such a deep step backward, resorting to outdated, slower modes of transportation. Now I am here to announce to you that pop travel is back.
“Seeing our greed for speed, negligent shirkers rushed this astounding technology through a hasty approval. Those who cut corners and tried to cover up the ensuing damages are paying for their tragic mistakes. More stringent laws, with stricter requirements and enforcement, have been put into place to prevent anything like it from happening again.
“And not forgetting this marvelous method of transport, over the last year pop travel has undergone vast improvements. Rigorous, extensive testing has been completed beyond regulation standards, guaranteeing risk-free transport. Across the world, every travelport has been equipped with updated machinery, travel precautions, and safety features to ensure travelers’ protection. Nevermore will there be cause for concern.
“Finally, I want the public to know Hasan Rakhi has taken every measure to perfect this technology. He is here to attest and stand behind his hard work and efforts to keep our future moving forward. And with his assistance, I am going to demonstrate to you how safe it is, personally. Don’t be afraid to pop travel!”
The President waved at the cameras and photographers as he stepped into the dock. Hasan administered the shot and sealed the President in.
With his willingness to put himself in such a position, President Powell impressed Cooper. He couldn’t believe his advisors and the Secret Service and his wife let him do it.
The scene split to keep Hasan in view on one side, and the receiving dock in another location on the other. Secret Service men and a doctor stood by, ready to attend the President when he arrived. Hasan made grand gestures of plugging in the transmission code.
A technician received the President, who came out all smiles and waves. The demonstration was a success, a magnificent magic trick with the assistant stealing the show. After a few more words of praise and encouragement, the President bid everyone, “Safe travels,” and the network newscasters took over for a few congratulatory comments and jokes.
The baseball game resumed, but Cooper had lost interest. The past year had brought happier moments back into his life. More time with Dawson and his family and reconnecting with old friends. He even let Chelsea fix him up a couple of times. But he never forgot about Geri.
Assigned to watch over Hasan’s top secret testing in India with his uncle, Geri and the entire team had been sequestered, not allowed to contact anyone, due to the delicate nature of the experiment, according to Hasan. But part of Hasan’s agreement left him free to do as he pleased on his own time. He had kept in touch with Cooper, letting him know of his progress once in a while.
Now the sole owner of Pop Travel International, Hasan decided to keep the remaining VP, Charles Maynard, around to run the business side, since he had been such a tremendous help during the investigations and turned out to be an honest, competent executive, when working with the right people. Hasan also kept the security guards at the plantation, who proved their loyalty time and again.
Watching Hasan transform over the year from an imprisoned, whiny genius into a jet-setting, suave celebrity made Cooper smile. Hasan could finally enjoy his well-deserved spoils. In addition to fixing his plantation home, he bought a house in Aspen and another on Juhu Beach in India. Cooper laughed, thinking about some of the tabloid covers that caught him dating an actress here or a model there. Hasan was in heaven. Good for him.
Turning off the imager, Cooper stood up and stretched. It was time to get ready.
Two hours later, Cooper milled around Miki’s back yard, holding a gift. There were a dozen round tables decorated with pink flower centerpieces and children running around getting their Sunday best clothes dirty. Through the crowd, Cooper caught his brother’s eye. Dawson and Chelsea strolled over to greet him.
“Hey, Bro. You look lost.”
“Don’t I always?”
“Wasn’t it a beautiful wedding?” Chelsea asked.
“Yes, it was,” Cooper replied. He had slipped in late, but he saw most of it. “You look very nice, Chelsea. You should make Dawson take you out more often.”
“Thank you. We should double date some time. Do you think we will ever get to see you settle down again, Cooper?” she asked.
“I’m a bachelor for life, I’m afraid.” She wouldn’t be happy until she saw him married off.
Chelsea shared a smirk with Dawson.
“We’ll see,” she said.
“I think you’re sitting with us, Bro. I’m going to get us some drinks. We’ll see you at the table.”
“Sure. I just have to find out where to put this.” As they wandered off, Cooper searched for the gift table.
Miki and Jared intercepted him.
“There you are!” she said and gave him a big squeeze.
“Hey, Miki. Here you go.” He tried to hand her the gift. “You look lovely, by the way. Congratulations, Jared.”
“Thanks, boss. The gift table is over there.” Miki pointed. He craned his neck, and after a group of bridesmaids bustled by, there stood Geri in a simple white sundress and delicate white gloves. With her soft auburn hair cascading from under a floppy white hat, he understood the word
as he gulped for air.
“Oh. Look who’s here,” Miki said.
But he was lost in the vision of Geri and his extremities tingled.
“Good idea inviting her,” Jared said to Miki.
“I know. I’m glad she came.” She gave a sigh. “Here. I’ll go ahead and take care of that.”
Miki took the gift from Cooper’s hand and led Jared toward the gift table.
As Geri approached, the girls exchanged winks. Cooper met Geri halfway and her luscious lips curved up into a mischievous grin. Her bright, green eyes had that devilish sparkle. She was definitely trouble.
“Fancy meetin’ you all here,” Geri said with the thick Southern drawl Cooper missed so much. Hearing it gave him goose bumps.
“How would you like to go talk about plantations over coffee?”
“Why, J.L., I thought you’d nevah ask.”