Typhoon Koppu steered inland, lashing Yokohama and Tokyo with winds over a hundred miles per hour. The merchant fleet had several days warning, and a large fraction of them had moved down the coast towards Nagoya.
But on the shore, the buildings shook.
In the center of a large parking area, two new buildings creaked and groaned. They had been erected in a hurry, without the re-enforcement common in the typhoon plagued area.
The atmospheric pressure dropped steadily as the core of the storm approached. The windowless buildings began to bulge. All doors were locked, and sealed with chains. The air inside had to push hard to get out, but there was a lot of air inside. Each contained a large sphere that shared its interior with Chicago, currently experiencing a seasonal high pressure.
Sheet metal screws began to snap. The metal began to tear, and as a gust of wind from the storm stuck the buildings, they exploded, one a few seconds after the other.
The metal sides and girders were caught by the winds. Soon nothing was left.
Two spheres, slightly darker than the cloud-draped landscape, stood alone in the lot.
In Chicago, two other buildings stood draped with yellow police warning tape. The noise had brought police to investigate. One man made the mistake of opening a door, to investigate, and it was immediately ripped from its hinges. The man was blown off his feet, and was swallowed up like a dust bunny in a vacuum cleaner hose.
The wind howling through the opened doorway resonated like a steam-whistle. The entire building shook and the rest of the police retreated.
Ripping metal added to the noise as the metal building collapsed. Walls crumpled inward, and then the roof popped free of its crossbeams and imploded. Shortly the walls followed, vanishing into the sphere.
A vortex formed, with its point locked to the revealed sphere. The moisture-laden air from the lake condensed, revealing a strange sight—a waterspout dancing on land in bright sunlight, with not a cloud in the sky.
The vortex twisted and danced around the place like an angry snake. The police brought in re-enforcement to hold the crowd back.
Wild winds struck the neighboring building, and it was enough. The second one began collapsing, this time in front of a dozen filming news crews. As it vanished into its sphere, a second vortex formed. The brother winds danced and entangled, for an instant merging, and then breaking apart. Helicopters were warned back, the vortex gusts were reaching several hundred feet into the air.
In Japan, a Chicago policeman with a broken leg and a lacerated arm crawled slowly away from the howling blast of winds. A permanent explosion formed over the remains of two buildings.
Oriel called out, “James, come here.”
He nodded, and typed the command to print the list he had just captured from a monitor screen. The printer began buzzing.
“Coming.” He got up, and felt the aching muscles. He was stiff and starving. How long had he been at it?
“Regardez ceci.” She pointed at the television screen. Strange tornadoes were spinning slowly around each other in the middle of a city.
“I think that is one of ours,” she said.
“What’s going on?”
Diana said, “The commentator said it was a teleport gate between Chicago and Tokyo, designed for trucks to drive through. A typhoon hit Tokyo and it’s sucking air through the gates. It’s totally destroyed the facility, and a policeman has been sucked through.
“What do we do?”
“Was there any alarm?”
“Not that I can see. Bob didn’t plan for that, I guess.”
James scowled. An alarm would have the controls for those gates already identified. Now he would have to look for it.
“Is there any background? When was the gate created? The name of the company?”
He’d found the list of active portals before, but they weren’t named, just a sequence of numbers. Portals were created and disposed of many times a day, and the computer kept track of it all. He started at the beginning, tapping the next key staccato, giving the status window just an instant to form the words before he went on to the next one.
Familiar names and locations flashed by, throwing him off his rhythm. The most common were watches.
How many watches does he have tagged? For each, there had to be an active portal. He had seen that code—a hundred watches shared a common radio detector. For a hundredth of a second, each would check its location against the persistent buzz of the watch’s circuitry, before it was the next watch’s time.
How many had he tagged? His own, Oriel’s, a couple of dozen FBI men, and one Interpol guy.
There! Trans-Pacific Trucking Eastward Portal.
He opened the control panel and dialed it to zero diameter.
“James! One of them stopped.”
Right. There were two of them. Then next click brought up the Westward Portal. He closed it as well.
“They’re both stopped now.”
James opened a monitor port to the Chicago location. Police were funneling in through the fenced gate. He zoomed his viewpoint over the mob. They looked like they were searching for something among the wreckage that hadn’t been sucked through.
Oh yes, the missing policeman.
Oriel came up behind him. “What are you doing now?”
“Switching over to Japan. There’s a man, maybe injured, out in that mess.”
The screen showed near whiteout conditions as the storm winds were whipping rain sideways.
“Did the news report say which way he was sucked in?”
“No. Just that a door blew in and took him with it.”
“I’ll have to search a spiral, then. Do you know how to run one of these monitor screens?”
“From the top sphere control window, right?”
“Yes. Start at the location named Chicago-Port and find me a hospital emergency room.”
I can’t move him directly—can’t have a tornado form in a hospital.
He opened a baseball-sized sphere between Tokyo and the vacant area where the breathing windows opened.
There was a shriek like a monster tea kettle.
He yelled, “I’m lowering the air-pressure in here. Watch your ears.”
The search spiraled out a half-dozen times before he saw the man.
James opened a temporary man-sized portal and ran to it.
Eight time zones and a hard wet rain tossed him on the ground. The wind rolled him several times before he caught his balance and blinked against the stinging raid.
Where was he?
“American!” he shouted.
“Here!” To his left.
He crawled. No way could he stand against that wind!
“Are you injured?” Every word had to be yelled.
James could see that the man had wrapped his arm to stop it bleeding.
“Can you move?”
“Yes, but I can’t walk.”
“You won’t need to.”
James scooted next to the man, wrapped his arms around the man’s chest and pressed a button on his watch.
The sphere blossomed around them, fast, but now that he’d seen the code his father wrote, he marveled at what it did. It expanded to six feet, enclosing the both of them, and then fluctuated in diameter, using the differences in altitude between the origin and the destination to detect changes in the enclosed mass, adding a safety margin so nothing important, like a foot, would be left behind. At the same time the computer bank at Base adjusted the destination location so that no significant masses, other than air, would overlap.
The result had two men, a lot of wet air, and a half-sphere of rock, dirt and concrete materializing in the base. The concrete surface under them was now tilted at a steep angle and they rolled off onto the gravel floor. The sphere collapsed, returning the concrete and most of the rock and dirt back to its origin.
“Ehhh!” cried the policeman in pain. His broken leg had twisted.
“Sorry. We’ll get you home easier. Just lie there.”
James got to his feet.
“Do you have that hospital yet?” he yelled.
“Just another minute.”
The policeman gasped, “Who are you?”
His mother was walking up. She kneeled down to check his makeshift bandage. “I am Empress Diana. I’ll need your name and address, so we can check up on you later.”
“Fred Hobert. 456 Yesel Lane, Springdale.”
James moved over to the closest computer screen to enter in the information, and to quickly tag the man’s wristwatch. His fingers were wet and slipped on the keyboard.
“You should be okay. I apologize for this.” Diana’s voice changed slightly, “Tell your people that we are doing everything we can to get things under control. Tell those who poisoned my husband to put their affairs in order.”
He heard the steel in her voice, and nodded.
“Ready,” called Oriel.
Diana stood up. “Wait just a moment.” She picked up a fat envelope from a table and handed it to the man. “A little cash to cover your immediate needs. We’ll get back to you after the emergency.” She nodded to Oriel, and the policeman and a pile of gravel appeared in a Chicago emergency room.
James asked, “What was that you gave him?”
His mother shrugged, “Ten thousand dollars. I found a file cabinet over there labeled, ‘Laundered Money’. It really is too. Everything looks slightly faded.”
“All kinds, I guess. And a stack of those yellow imperials.”
James stomach growled, “Oriel, I am starved. Could you hop over to Paris and get us some food?”
She smiled, “Certainement.”
They found a stack of euros and James coached her through reprogramming her watch for her home and Base.
“And don’t try carrying the food back with you—not until you have your world-legs. Come back, and then pull it here after you.”
She nodded, grinned, and faded off to Paris.
James walked over to the printer.
His mother asked, “How much do you trust her, son?”
“Enough. Mom, if anyone could have succeeded at this by doing everything himself, it was Dad.”
She nodded, “He didn’t trust me.”
“That’s different. He was protecting us.”
“He didn’t trust me to risk my life for his dream.”
James didn’t know what to say. Oriel wanted to be a part of this—he would stake his life that she wouldn’t betray them. If he was wrong, he hoped he’d never find out.
The paper in his hand gave him a way past the uncomfortable silence. He held it up.
“An Interpol agent made this list of all of Dad’s agents—at least all of them that were arrested. I suspect that not a one of them knows anything important about teleportation, but they shouldn’t be left in the hands of the government interrogators. Do you think we could rescue them?”
She took it. “I still feel those handcuffs.”