James had the full power of the teleportation system at his fingertips, and he was very angry.
A dozen plans flashed through his mind.
Killing people won’t help anything.
The police car started to move.
Does she have a wristwatch? He didn’t know. He had never thought about it.
He followed the car. It was the only thing he could do until they stopped. Plucking her out of the car would only throw her against the wall with whatever speed the car was moving.
But he had to be ready. He picked a safe location, set up the transfer. All he had to do was wait.
The police car pulled to a stop at a red light.
James clicked the button.
Then pressed another.
“Oof!” Diana Hill cried as she dropped six inches into the church pew.
James appeared out of nowhere beside her.
“Are you okay Mom?” He was beside her.
“James? Oh, James!” She reached for him, but the handcuffs were in the way. He put his arms around her.
“It was horrible. Right there in front of Ruth and my boss, they just came and took me, in handcuffs. I’ll never be able to face them again.”
“It’s okay Mom. They don’t have you anymore.”
“James,” she had a frantic, panicked look in her eyes. “James, what is going on?”
“Mom, Daddy is the Emperor.”
She paled. “So it is true. Why didn’t he tell me?” There were tears in her eyes.
“He didn’t tell me either.” That didn’t seem to make it any better.
James continued, “I found out by accident, when I was playing with his computer.”
She looked very angry, but she wasn’t looking at him. “Why? Why did he do this?”
“I don’t know. I can only guess that he had a good reason for becoming the Emperor, but I do know why he didn’t tell us.”
“Why?” she snapped.
“Because that made us innocent bystanders, instead of accomplices. Keeping you in the dark let you pass their lie-detector test with flying colors. My snooping meant I couldn’t risk it.”
She shook her head, “Not good enough. He lied to me!”
James glanced around the church auditorium. No one was there, but if she was much louder, people in the offices could hear. He had no idea what his mother wanted to do. At least here, she would be certain to have friends with her. Perhaps even someone who would hide her from the police.
“You are mad at him?” He asked.
She nodded. Tears were streaming down her face and she couldn’t seem to make words come out.
James gave her a hug. She hugged back, and then gripped his shoulder. “You didn’t tell me either.”
“I couldn’t. It wouldn’t have been safe.”
“You men!” He couldn’t tell if she was angry with him or not. “Couldn’t you just ask me if I wanted to be protected from all this?”
She paused. “Did Bob invent this teleportation?”
James shrugged. “I guess he did. I never could figure out what he was doing in the work shed.”
“I don’t think he expected to survive this.”
“What do you mean?”
Just then, he saw a reflection through the rear windows. Someone was coming to check them out. Church had been the safest place to bring her, but adding another person to the dragnet of Emperor sympathizers didn’t seem smart right now.
“We’re out of time. The police are arresting everyone who has anything to do with the Emperor. I saw it on the news. You can come with me, or stay here.”
“To the Emperor’s base.”
Her eyes tightened, “You know how to go there?”
Just then, the auditorium door opened. “Is anybody in here?” called the church secretary.
“I’m going. What do I do?” Diana whispered.
“Hug me tight.”
The Emperor Task Force meeting was something different this time. The place was like a war room. Rudy Ghest had nothing to do but stay out of people’s way as the FBI scurried all around him, taking phone messages and filling in squares on a big whiteboard. Supposedly, it detailed all known agents of the Emperor.
Messages were coming from the UK, Germany and possibly other countries as well, but not through Interpol channels. This crackdown was being orchestrated at a different level altogether.
Someone had ordered an attack on the Empire. No one was claiming victory, although from the excited whispers and glances he could see, things must be going well for them.
NoBadge had come striding through the place like he owned it, and then left shortly thereafter.
It was very puzzling. What kind of an attack could possibly work against an opponent who could be anywhere, and who could pull your captives out of jail instantly?
But that wasn’t what he was hearing. People were being arrested, and jailed. And they weren’t evaporating away.
“What do you mean, missing?” Diana Hill was shouting to be heard over the alarms.
James spread his hands wide. “I don’t know. This is his base. All his computers are here. That monitor right over there has the control software. Daddy even listed this location as ‘Base’.
“But he isn’t here. His stuff is out of control, and screeching like demons to catch his attention.
“Something is wrong. I have to find him.”
She looked at the computers. All this was the work of her husband? Where were they?
She tried to put her hands to her ears. “What can I do to help?”
James said, “Stand still. I need to get your handcuffs off first.” He opened a new sphere about two feet in diameter from the computer controls.
“Wave your arms through it.” She did, and nothing happened. “Do it again,” he said. This time the handcuffs fell to the floor under the other sphere.
James waved her over to the computer screen. Step by step, he showed her how to turn off the alarms.
“Go down this list. Open each box and turn off each alarm. Don’t do anything else. Not yet.”
She nodded. Hesitantly, she moved the mouse pointer to the first item on the list.
He moved over to another computer and started hunting.
The encrypted logs could tell him a lot, if only he could decrypt them.
He tried the two passwords he knew his father had used in the past, but with no luck.
Later. Guessing passwords to could take forever.
He glanced at his watch, then grinned.
The location database had grown huge. His father had even added a search function. Typing in ‘watch’ produced a list of over 300 entries. He scanned down, and then clicked on ‘My Watch’.
The info window listed the type. He was right. It was exactly the same type of watch he’d bought his father.
He created a search window on ‘My Watch’. There was hardly any light. Carefully, he moved the viewpoint away from the watch.
This is wrong. He’s not wearing it.
The watch was lying on gravel.
He started a slow spiral search around the watch, looking and listening.
It was the sound that clued him in.
His mother was gradually eliminating the alarms, but the watch was making alarm sounds as well. Like an echo, a fraction of a second later.
He raised the viewpoint and panned the camera.
He got up from his chair and sprinted off among the racks of computers.
The watch was lying on the ground, next to a computer. He picked it up.
The light was still dim, but he could make out the mess.
Scattered across the gravel was a spilled ream of paper, and next to his feet was a shallow pit in the gravel, like a sphere had swallowed what was on the ground, along with the gravel underneath.
He eyeballed the scene for a minute or two, trying to put the pieces together.
It was the printer that finally added the last clue.
Here was where his father printed his imperial notes. He had picked up a ream of paper to load the printer. Something had happened then. He dropped the ream, spilling it, and then falling to the ground.
He then tossed his wristwatch over against the computer as a sphere swallowed him away.
“Mother! Come over here.”
He heard her approach, and he stopped her.
“See that paper. Don’t get anywhere near it. It’s poisoned.”
“Someone slipped Daddy a ream of paper laced with a contact poison. It knocked him down and then he vanished. Without him handling all the teleport systems, it started malfunctioning.”
“But where is he?” She sounded distraught.
He shook his head. “I don’t know, but I know where to look.”