This story is by JD Edwin and was part of our 2017 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the Summer Writing Contest stories here.
“AND THE BRIDGES??”
Johnny swallows, wiping away sweat gathered at his brow. Angry, bulbous eyes stare back at him from the computer screen. “Mr. Sampson, I assure you, we will-”
“Your kind never worries about bridges!” Sampson continues, ignoring him, massive nose twitching. “Do you care about my people? No! Do you know how important bridges are to us? How do you expect us to find brides otherwise?!”
“Please, sir,” Johnny says, trying to sound forceful and failing. “Our project will absolutely meet the needs of all kinds. With your funding and support, we can clean up the south side, make it a paradise for all. Our firm-”
“Your PACK cares about nothing,” Sampson snarls. “What do you care about how the rest of us find mates? All you do is run out, howl under the moon, and hump the first piece of ass you see doing the same!”
Johnny is sweating. He’s panicking. He volunteered for this pitch hoping to impress the alphas, but now he’s seriously regretting it. He finally understands why the betas were laughing behind their hands when he was handed the assignment. The troll isn’t even the most difficult one in the room. Madam Elena, the vampire elder in the front row, silver-haired and face tight enough to spring a mousetrap, is looking at him with distain. Given the long-standing prejudices held by both sides, he knows the vampires would never agree to invest their gold without one of their own on the board, but how could he sell that to his firm?
Behind her are a pair of faeries. Thin and androgynous, they hover above the others, wings buzzing like fruitflies. They’re whispering to each other behind long fingers, the male eyeing him with piercing, suspicious green eyes. Or is it the female? He can never tell. Faeries are notoriously hard to please and had he known they’d be involved he may not have been so eager to put himself in the hot seat. They’d already demanded that a Temple of Gaia be built every half mile, at least three recycling plants with promise of three more in the future, and a site be reserved for a massive botanical garden.
Johnny clears his throat. “I assure you our firm is more than competent. If I may continue, I think you will be impressed with our plans. In addition to commercial enterprises, we’ll be cleaning up the streets, building shelters to help get homeless youths off the streets, graffiti artists will become mural painters…”
“What about the toll roads??” Sampson shouts. “All toll roads in south L. A. are under our management. Are you tearing those up? We will expect compensation!!” Madam Elena rolls her eyes. “You go something to say, pale face?”
“As a matter of fact, yes. I was just wondering why your kind is even allowed out from your holes. Perhaps we should build a few additional bridges if it’ll keep more trolls out of sight.”
Sampson bellows in rage. The faeries snicker. Johnny attempts to make peace as Sampson goes off on a roll, informing Johnny that he is incompetent, his firm is garbage, wolves are idiots, vampires are idiots, the BBB is going to hear about this, the Trolls Union will hear about this, the whole internet will hear about this!
Finally, another excrutiating hour later, the investors file out of the room, grumbling unhappily, none stopping to shake his hand. The best he could do was get a “tentative” from Sampson and the fearies. Madam Elena breezes past him, informing him that her team will be in touch about the board position. Johnny sighs in defeat. He’s failed. The alphas will be angry, the betas will have a good laugh, and he will be an omega the rest of his life.
“Could we have a word?”
He looks up. A man in a pinstripe suit and very expensive shoes is standing before him. He’d sat in the back of the room, and had been so quiet that Johnny forgot all about him in the fray. He’s average height, with a smile just friendly enough.
“Yes,” he says quickly. “Please, sit. Mr. Sholls, right?”
“That’s correct.” Sholls sits and looks Johnny up and down. “You know, John, the others may have their hangups, but I believe in your project. I see opportunity. As the representative of my group, I’d like to pledge our support.”
“Really?” Johnny brightens. “Thank you, sir! Do you happen to know the amount you would be willing to pledge?”
“One hundred percent.”
Johnny can’t believe it. He had just successfully funded the entire south side project for his firm! “That’s wonderful!”
Sholls raises a hand. “There’re a few caveats.”
“First, I’d like to you dump that sad bunch that just walked out of here. The Human Group will fund your entire project, so that shouldn’t be a problem.”
Johnny hesitates. “Well, I guess so.”
“And being your sole investor, I think we’ll want to make this project a little more human-friendly, don’t you think? We would prefer not to have unsightly bridges and ponds in the middle of the city, and we hate paying for our roads. Temples are a troublesome bunch, and recycling plants are just an expense in the long run. I will appoint a team to consult with your board. You may encounter some PR trouble with the other groups, but leave that to us. After all, law and lobby are what my kind does best. Do we have a deal?”
Johnny hesitates. It sounds an awful lot like his firm would be taking over the south side in title only. But, he told himself, what difference does it make? An investor is an investor, and surely the alphas can’t be upset about relinquishing a little control to the humans?
“Deal,” he says, and they shake on it. Johnny packs up his things and heads out, hoping this deal won’t land him in the doghouse.