“I’ve been meaning to talk with you about your grades. They were getting better. But now they seem to be sliding. I really want you on shot-put, this season, but if that French grade drops any lower, you’ll be ineligible.”
James nodded and made promises, but his heart wasn’t really in it. Every day he checked the paper for articles about the Emperor.
What is the point of trying out for track? If Dad is the Emperor, or even just working for the Emperor, then the police will come for us any day now.
Still, his poorest subject was French, and he could do something about that.
When he got home, he went straight to the computer and activated the sphere program.
The software had changed again. There were more options than when he’d last used it. And those were more cryptic. This wasn’t user-friendly software anymore. It had been streamlined and customized for a single user who had to do a lot of work in a short time on a tool he knew well.
But James knew the rough roadmap already, and the shortcuts were logical, once you figured them out.
I know one person in Paris. But she might not like it if I drop in on her again.
How about if I meet her in a safer place than in her bedroom?
He opened a monitoring window and switched to her location.
He was shocked when the image formed and zipped away. She had been riding the subway. The Metro.
Hmm. There had been an option....
He closed and restarted the monitor, only this time he clicked the TRKVEL option. Track Velocity? I hope.
This time her hand appeared in his monitor screen. The subway noise was still there, but he was tracking the velocity of her watch.
She’ll see this. He moved quickly to the floor and under her seat. He contented himself with a nice view of her leg for the five minutes left of her ride.
There was a status window that gave co-ordinates and velocity. He watched it slow to a stop.
When his location started dancing around to the tune of her swinging arm, he disconnected from velocity tracking and shot up to street level and higher, where he could watch the people leaving the Metro station without being easily observed.
This is crazy. She’s seen me before and she probably thinks I’m some kind of stalker. I shouldn’t get anywhere near her.
She appeared on the stairs. Her coat was plain and dark, but her face—he recognized it in a flash.
It’s just because she’s the only person here I know.
She headed towards the river. James zipped ahead of her and found a spot where he could appear without being seen. Quickly he re-programmed his watch, adding the new location, and moved HOME into the second spot. He pressed ADJUST.
And fell on his rump.
Dusting himself off, he walked over to the cafe and sat down at a convenient table on the sidewalk and waited for her to walk up. This is a stupid idea.
He could see her from a block away.
She’s beautiful. She was small, elfin. Suzie outmassed her a whole weight class, and Suzie wasn’t fat.
His fingers fumbled towards his wristwatch. This is crazy. I’ve gotta get out of here.
Then she looked up. He waved.
She stopped in her tracks. Her face registered shock.
He smiled, waiting. What else could he do?
She glanced down the street, looking for anything suspicious. Hurriedly, she walked up to him and in French far too fast for him to follow, she asked him something.
“Whoa. I came here to learn French, but I don’t know it yet.”
She frowned intensely. “Quel est ... name?” She scanned his clothes. “American? Football?”
He nodded, and tapped his football jacket.
She pointed at him. “Vous êtes un ... spy ... pour l’empereur. Avec moi. Come.”
He hesitated. She grabbed his hand and pulled him along. He found himself focusing on her touch, more than where she was dragging him. She was maybe a year or so older than he was, but he felt like he was being pulled along by a child.
A spy for the Emperor? Did he hear her correctly?
She could be taking him to the police. If so, he could just press his watch button and leave.
Dangerous. As soon as people know this isn’t just an ordinary wristwatch, they’ll be ready to shoot first.
He tugged back.
Where are we going? How do you say that in French?
She said “Soon.”
Another block, and they entered a building. He noticed a man in an apron, and realized it was a restaurant.
The man greeted the girl and she led James to a table in the back.
She asked him something in more rapid-fire French, and he could only shake his head. She handed him a menu. He looked it over and realized he could understand some of the words. “Poulet.” He pointed to a chicken dish.
She ordered the meal and then asked him, “Pourquoi ... why ... were you in my bed?”
Bedroom. She means bedroom.
He struggled with his very limited French. And then gave up. “You are a beacon.”
She shook her head.
“Pourquoi êtes-vous à Paris?”
“To learn French.”
She was amused.
“Mon nom est Oriel.”
That one he knew. “Mon nom est James.”
He grinned, and he knew he looked stupid.
“Why did you bring me here?” He waved at the restaurant.
Her smile dropped, and she looked at the door. “C’est dangereux. La TV signale que l’empereur a été arrêté.”
James couldn’t follow. “Danger something ... what was the rest of that?”
“L’Empereur ... arrested.”
“What?” He felt a spike in his chest. “I have to go.”
She tried to keep him seated. He looked around the room at the other diners, paying him no attention.
“Oriel, thank you.” He kissed her quick before he could change his mind, and then dropped down below the table and pressed ADJUST.
He rolled to his feet on the wooden floor of the work shed and headed into the house to check with CNN.
Rudy Ghest tapped Jay Russo’s phone number with a smile on his face.
“Hello Jay. I’ve got a tape for you—if the FBI is still interested in cooperating with Interpol.”
They called a meeting in a hurry.
Rudy stood up and addressed the Emperor Task Force.
“The President-for-Life of Eastern Chad presented this security tape to Interpol as a gesture of good will.” There were some grumbles at that. President Nadjima was considered nothing more than a tribal thug.
“It has been obviously edited, but what is left is very interesting. Roll it.”
A smiling salesman walked in escorted by a large black bodyguard who towered over him.
The President sat on a throne. “Who are you and why are you here?”
“I am the First Agent of Emperor of the Earth. I have been sent with an offer of service.”
The scene shifted, a crude edit.
“This action will show to the world your great heart and give you an important advantage in world opinion over the rebels at your border.
“In return, the Emperor desires nothing more than Eastern Chad’s recognition of the Emperor.”
The President-for-Life listened carefully.
“What you say is interesting. However, it occurs to me that certain nations might be more grateful if I gave them an agent of this Emperor.” He nodded to his bodyguard.
The salesman tried to run, but the bodyguard grabbed him up in a tight squeeze. They fell to the ground, and a second later, the two men went transparent and then vanished.
The President was screaming for his other bodyguards when the tape ended.
There was a agitation among the assembled agents.
Jay Russo asked, “Perry, how does this fit in with your theory that all the teleportation sightings were staged?”