Archer walked into the offices of the Washington Post. He asked for a meeting with Georgia Urman. He was almost turned away before someone recognized who he was.
The famous reporter slowed from her run as she hurried into the conference room. A photographer was on her heels.
“Hello, my name is Gregory Archer, First Agent of the Emperor. I was wondering if you would care to interview me?”
Georgia Urman introduced herself “Yes, certainly. Have a seat. May we take a couple of photographs first?”
Archer smiled. “Yes, that would be prudent, wouldn’t it.”
The photographer quickly knelt, putting the camera even with his face. His camera clicked away several times a second. Urman waved him off.
She had her recorder running.
“Mr. Archer. Why have you come to talk to us?”
“It was the Emperor’s idea. My face has already become public and there’s no sense in trying to hide my identity any more. You were chosen because of your reputation. If the Emperor is satisfied with the final copy, then perhaps there will be more chats.”
The interview was off and running.
Archer related his hiring, and the interesting facts of his work.
“I’ve never seen the Emperor, but we’ve had many conversations. I personally have no doubt he’s an American, very intelligent, and honestly committed to establishing his legitimate claim to his title.”
All of his commissions for the Emperor had been relatively simple contracts for goods or services. He made the sale, and the Emperor handled the delivery and pickups.
“For example, the City of Los Angeles has contracted to relieve serious smog build-up over the city.”
“How could he do that?”
“It’s a simple matter of opening a teleportation gateway from one part of the world to another. He could open a gate thousands of feet in diameter and let a high-pressure weather center over Nebraska, or the Pacific, or Timbuktu for that matter blow the contaminated air out over the ocean.”
The reporter nodded, “I understand. And how about the payment?”
Archer chuckled. “That is interesting. The Emperor tells the customer where to leave the payment, in dollars or imperials, and he picks it up at his leisure.
“It only gets interesting when the FBI gets involved, like they did in LA.”
“What did the FBI do?”
“They included a radio tracer with the payment. Always trying, those FBI guys. But the Emperor has procedures that protect him from that sort of thing.”
“How did the Emperor contact you in the first place?”
“I read an employment ad in the paper.”
“Was it the New York Times?”
She told him of the ‘For the Emperor’ column and asked if the Emperor read them.
“I don’t know for sure, but the Emperor seems to know everything. I half expect that I am personally under constant surveillance.”
She scribbled away.
“Doesn’t the lack of privacy bother you?”
“Maybe at the very first. But you know, the world is changing.
“Privacy and private property are illusions in the day of teleportation. I’ve learned to live with it, and I believe that the man in control, my Emperor, is an honest man.”
The phone rang. It was answered by the photographer and handed to Urman.
She looked at Archer. “It seems that police are approaching the building.”
He nodded and vanished.
Harris Barr yelled, “Get the satellite phone set up!”
He sweated as he dug his camera bag out from under the collapsed masonry. When the earthquake hit, he had dashed for safety outside, but’d forgotten to bring his camera.
There it was. He jerked it free and headed outside.
Ken had the headphones on and unfolded the dish.
Harris began sweeping the scene with his camera, talking all the while into the microphone.
“This is Harris Barr, CNN in Erzincan Turkey, reporting on a devastating earthquake. I estimate it at over seven on the Richter scale. In this part of town, as you can see, nearly every building has collapsed. People everywhere are rushing to check for survivors.”
It was a long afternoon. They wandered through the streets, keeping the world updated while the locals did what they had done throughout history, dig in the rubble for their loved ones.
“As we reported last time, the sun is going down, and with it, the hopes for finding survivors. There is no power for lights, and without light, the search cannot continue.
The reporter stuttered on camera, as a brilliant flash lit the sky.
“What was that? Pardon me, but a huge light has just swept across the sky, like...”
He went silent as the sky lit up, and stayed lit.
He frantically got the camera aimed high.
“This is Harris Barr, and something amazing has happened here in Erzincan Turkey. The moon has grown enormous, lighting the landscape.”
He faltered for words. It was the moon, obviously the moon, with craters and everything, but it covered half the sky. It was bright enough that he raised his hand to shelter his eyes.
A shout echoed through the city, and searchers returned to their task of pulling the living from the rubble.
Ngarta Habre was bored with his life on the island. Every day, UN food packets arrived from an invisible hole in the sky, but he tired of the monotonous food and began fishing with a sharpened stick.
He stared at his feet, resting in the cooling waters of the creek.
Today, I will follow the water.
He put on his shoes, and cut a walking stick.
The island wasn’t large, and it was the weakling brother to the tropical paradise he had seen so often on TV. The palm trees only grew in the one bay where he had awakened. The other side of the island was mostly shallow pools, flooded regularly by the tides. If it weren’t for the creek and the food drops, no large animal could survive here.
The creek wound through thick cane breaks, and sometimes he had to break through them by brute force. His knife was no machete.
Every step turned the clear water to mud. There was something wrong with this creek. He’d sensed it before, but he couldn’t make sense of what he saw.
Until he broke through the last of the cane.
In the center of the island, the rock he had seen vaguely in the distance was no normal volcanic outcropping.
It was a huge, perfectly round ball of granite, a hundred feet high, sunk a third of its height into the mud.
From the very top of this impossible ball, clear cold water trickled down its side, and splashed as a wide shower to the ground.
Ah. This is no ordinary creek. This Emperor has made it.
He circled the ball at a distance.
On the other side, near the top, there was a pit in the perfect ball. Large enough for a man, it looked perfectly round—as perfect as the ball itself. High and unreachable, there was a word painted on the stone in yellow.