Rudy listened to the reports.
“It was nearly a clean sweep. Once we saw that the Emperor’s teleport system had stopped, we were able to move in and capture the agents. They are all being interrogated now.” He wasn’t an FBI agent. In his black suit he looked like a junior version of NoBadge.
Rudy asked, “Has the Emperor been captured?”
“Not as yet, but our information suggests that if he is not already dead, he will be captured soon.”
“What information is this?”
The agent shook his head. “That information is classified. All I am allowed to say is that action by the United States has removed the international terrorist threat who called himself the ‘Emperor’.”
Rudy had expected as much. “What about Archer?”
“Unfortunately, he was able to elude the force that was assigned to him, but since we have his photo and details about the man, we expect ordinary police work to turn him up shortly. And besides, without the teleportation system, he is no threat.”
Rudy nodded. “I have enough for my report.”
The man smiled. “I should think so.”
Rudy didn’t have the heart to tell him what his report would be. They had rounded up all the new agents, agents that had only hired on with the Emperor after he had already demonstrated his ability to steal anything anywhere. Without the Emperor, or his teleporter machine, they had nothing.
Admiral Forsythe stared at the map on his office wall, thinking.
Unless I can produce his body, it will never be over. Many of the teleportation stations are still running strong—the oil pipeline, the water shipments, even that trucking facility. Only the Emperor knows how to shut them down. The best we can do is quarantine them.
Unless we can control them, they are just a disaster waiting to happen.
A light appeared on his phone. He picked it up.
“The paper supply has been loaded into the truck.”
“Get it all to the secure incinerator. I want no fallout from this.”
At least one thing had worked to plan.
The Emperor had been printing his own money, which meant supplies from the outside. He’d stocked up on ink at the very beginning, but he had underestimated his supply of that textured paper.
We withdrew it all from circulation, except for a small stash at the factory. Our stash.
Mayor Bill Norris walked along the top of the Big Lake dam. He had seen the news reports. People were saying that the Emperor was dead. He didn’t know what to think about that. His deal with the devil seemed to have paid off. The lake was nearly full now, just an inch or so from the spillway. It had cost the city, but the fishing trade was booming, especially since it had been discovered that the lake now contained black grayling, whitefish, and a kind of salmon which were supposed to only be available in Siberian lakes. Every morning, a new batch of fishing boats headed out for the cold spot, where the fishing was best.
It was good water too, clear and pure.
He stepped down onto the spillway and walked to the edge. The water was still coming up. He made his last payment, but the Emperor hadn’t picked it up. Nor the note he had left thanking him for the water and requesting that the transfer stop now.
If he’s dead, what happens now? The creek bed has been dry for a long time now. I guess that’s about to change.
“James, what do we do now?” his mother asked.
He was deep into the programming of his father’s watch. It had only four buttons, like his did, but his father had layered functions on top of escape patterns, on top of menus. Considering there was no feedback to tell you where you were, that you would have to hold it all in your head, he was impressed. The watch was totally useless as a timekeeper. Trying to set it would likely trigger a landslide in Albania or something.
Why did he throw it away when the poison hit?
“Sorry Mom. I’m trying to understand this. What did you want?”
She put her hand on his shoulder. “I stopped the alarms.”
He raised his head and listened. The deep rock gallery was now quiet. Spooky quiet, with the only sounds being the low murmur of computer fans.
“But what do we do now. A lot of those signals were serious.”
They stepped over to her screen.
Most of the status icons were still blinking. James checked the settings and sorted them by priority. He clicked the first one.
“Drop box 9: Overpressure, overtemperature. Camera disabled.”
There was an info box. He clicked it, but it showed an error: Log file unreadable.
A half-dozen of the drop boxes were like that. James chose one and carefully established a pinhole-sized portal connecting between the drop box, which was apparently nearby and somewhere over the Pacific Ocean.
The pressure started to drop, and then the temperature flared higher and the pressure climbed again. James widened the leak hole and it was soon stable. When the pressure had dropped to normal, he moved a viewpoint inside the dropbox.
It was just a pile of ashes. Papers of some kind.
James jumped up and walked back over to where the printer sat, and the ground was covered with the poisoned papers. There sat a stack of paper reams, still wrapped in their brightly colored advertisements, still piled neatly on the shipping pallet.
So his father didn’t have time to dispose of the other poisoned papers. So what did he burn?
The more he thought of it, the more he was reminded of the ‘Bail’ program back on the home computer—an automated procedure to destroy all the evidence in an emergency.
“What is it James?”
“Dad did something. When he felt himself getting sick, he started a program, probably from his watch, that burned some critical notes, then it transported him somewhere, and then encrypted the logs of that transfer.”
He looked at his mother, straight in her eyes. “He didn’t expect to survive. He knew being the Emperor was dangerous and that somehow, some enemy would get to him. He was ready. He had it all planned out. One command from his wristwatch and he could secure the base and transport himself someplace.”
James nodded, “Some place safe, is what I would guess. A hospital? Poison is about the only way they could sneak in here.
“Dad didn’t know anyone had the keys to this place but him, and he was the only one who brought things in. That’s why he had those ‘drop boxes’—places where money and stuff could be safely transferred while he tested to see if it was what it was supposed to be.
“I’d bet this wasn’t the first poison attempt.”
Diana Hill was taking it in, but it was a lot to absorb. “A hospital. But which one.”
James looked at her. She was holding up pretty well. It had been years since he thought his mother was infallible and capable of handling everything, but maybe she was stronger than he’d thought.
“Can you handle the status board while I keep hunting through the programs?”
She shook her head. “I can do word processing and spreadsheets and balance my checkbook, but I don’t understand what all these windows do. You could show me, but you need to be hunting for Bob.”
He nodded. “I do know someone who can help.”