Bob set the pallet of paper down with a crunch, as the teleportation dropped it an inch or two above the gravel. He closed the portal and walked over to his printer.
That ought to keep me in imperials for another few months.
His initial estimates had been off. But it had been an honest mistake. If he’d only bought his goods and services with big bills, it wouldn’t have taken so much paper to print them. But when he realized that it was important to have people trade the imperials themselves, in order to establish it as a real currency, then more smaller bills were needed.
Not too many people would bid for a fifty-thousand imperial note, but there would be a brisk trade in fifty’s, even if there were a thousand of them.
He cut the top off the first box and picked up a ream of paper. This style of paper had been hard to find. It wasn’t all that special, but once he started with it, he had to keep using it. There were already counterfeit imperials in circulation, and paper style was one of the clues people used to determine the real from the fake.
One of these days, I’ll need to issue a new version. Maybe on the anniversary of the empire, or maybe when I can gain recognition. But people will have to know it’s coming. He hadn’t had time to come up with a design that really pleased him.
A button-press opened the hopper on the printer. He popped open the wrapping paper on the ream and held it over the tray.
Inside his chest, his heart started hammering like a machinegun.
That’s a different car tailing me.
James noted the color and make. He’d started writing them down. If he could cross-check them against the names of the agents he’d already listed, perhaps it would give him an edge later.
His after-hours spying had located the complete FBI file on his family.
Dad made such a tiny mistake. When he composed the foreign language greetings in his UN announcement, he had bought several language practice CDs and copied the greetings word for word. When some obsessive-compulsive in the FBI analyzed them, he had been able to flag the specific language courses. A search of all bookstores had led them to Robert Hill’s credit card.
James would love to be able to delete the offending FBI report, but it’d spread far and wide. That was what he had to do now, follow the chain of reports, from the local office to the Dallas Office, up to some task force. At each level, he was finding critical agents, and marking wristwatches.
If they decided to move on his father, or on them, he had to be ready.
James no longer had any doubts. His father had to be the Emperor. He was hiring help at various levels, according to the FBI, but except for the elusive Archer, it seemed that none of them actually teleported.
I’ve got to contact Dad. Somehow.
There was no mention of bugging the house in the FBI reports, but would they mention it before they did it?
I need to wipe the computer, make sure they can’t get at Dad through me.
Maybe I should erase all command functions from my watch too.
But once I do that, I lose the ability to watch the FBI.
And he would never see Oriel again.
I wish I had a Tempest system. Supposedly that secure computer system was proof against indirect monitoring.
With ordinary computers, stray radio waves made by the scanning dot on normal computer screens, or even the flicker of a keyboard, could be picked up at a distance and reconstructed with sophisticated equipment. The FBI could be reading my screen without even bugging the place.
He got up again and went to the front porch. One advantage to living out in the country was that he could hear every car for a mile around. What was the range on that spy system?
I’m probably safe for tonight. Then I’ll shut it down.
But why didn’t he make one last sweep? Tell Oriel why he was going away. Find his father and alert him to the FBI. Then he could return home, shut everything down, and pretend to be innocent until his father could figure it all out.
He pulled up the screen. This was going to be the last time he could reprogram his watch functions.
The software had changed again. Daddy’s been busy.
He reviewed the new functions.
Oh, I like this.
Ngarta looked again at the sun. The food package was definitely late. Regular as clockwork, it had been. And now it was late. Was his warden trying to starve him now? Well, there were fish.
But what about the water? If he cut off the water he would die.
Ngarta sprang to his feet and started sprinting towards the creek. Water was still flowing, but he had to see for himself if the source was still falling from the sky.
“Sir. You wished to be notified. The Emperor has missed a pickup.”
“Details?” Admiral Forsythe asked.
“An imperial agent, one we didn’t even know about, reported that an expected contact didn’t go off. It was a telephone report, and she is too frightened to come in. She’s testing the waters for amnesty.”
“Pull her in. Talk to our other informants. If we can get confirmation, then our trap has sprung. Call Heisman. Be ready to strike.”