Kurt Sommer held the gold moneyclip in his hands, looking at it from all sides. It certainly looked natural. The circuitry had to be in the thick part, and that crevice had to be the microphone to pick up the trigger word. His was “bullfrog”. Not a word he was likely to use in ordinary conversation.
First Agent Archer had been very accommodating when he had chosen to get an apartment under a fake name in New York. With his new wealth, the Plaza came to mind, and as soon as he said it, Archer had the arrangements made.
He had listened attentively to the suggestions Archer had given him about subtle changes in his appearance to avoid being recognized.
Not that it was a real concern for him.
He wrapped the moneyclip in a handkerchief and sealed it inside a wide-mouthed thermos jug, and wrapped that in layers of cloth before stuffing it into a backpack. There was no way sound could get to it now.
It was a nice, sunny day in Central Park, and he walked the trails until he came to a park bench in the shade of some trees.
A few minutes later, another man sat beside him. He began twisting his ring on his finger, like a nervous habit.
Sommer relaxed. “I love this time of year.”
“Before things get too hot.”
They nodded, the recognition signals over.
The stranger said, “We were worried when you vanished. But I guess we should have been more worried if you hadn’t.”
“It was a lovely trip. Somewhere in the Caribbean maybe, or the Bahamas. I think it was Archer’s house. I’ve got it all written down in my backpack.”
The other man was listening to something. Sommer nodded, he was probably wired.
“The Chief asks if you have a new assignment.”
“Not yet, but I was told by Crown Prince James that I would be contacted within the month.”
“Crown Prince, eh? Anything else, other than the report?”
“Oh yes! Imperial agents have been given a teleport gadget disguised as jewelry. Mine is a moneyclip, wrapped up in the backpack. It’s sound sensitive. Say ‘bullfrog’ and you are transported to the secret base.”
His contact was silent again for a moment.
Diana, Oriel and James listened to the rest of the conversation being picked up by Sommer’s new Rolex watch.
Their faces were grim.
Diana shook her head, “So they would send an assassin in on a possible suicide mission to get us. These people are cold.”
“Traître!” Oriel spat. “He should be killed.”
James sympathized with the feeling. But saying it and doing it were different things.
“We should do nothing. We’re still not recognized as a legal government. He is not an active threat. It’ll be enough to notify Archer and steer clear of him. His moneyclip is just a piece of jewelry, after all.”
Diana disagreed, “We can’t let him get away with it. Like it or not, we depend on these agents, and if they can get away with sticking a knife in our backs, then we will regret it later.”
“A public flogging?” he asked, half joking.
She nodded, “Something like that.”
James waited as she thought something out.
Oriel’s eyes sparkled. She’s ready for revenge, too.
The idea disturbed him. It was too much like uncontrolled power. Wasn’t the whole idea of the Empire to bring a tight control over teleportation, so that society could mature into it? That was Dad’s idea, at least.
If Mom goes past the line, I’ll have to object and bring Dad into this.
Diana asked, “This meeting was recorded, right?”
James nodded. “All the agent watches are. The words go through the speech recognition system and that’s what triggered this alert, but everything is recorded.”
James wheeled a television monitor into the bedroom.
“I thought you might want to watch this.”
His father nodded. He was weak, but his mind had been clear enough when they brought the proposal to him. James had insisted. He was still the Emperor.
But with a couple of his suggestions, the idea was approved.
The background details had already been taken care of. Sommer’s contacts had been tagged and were being monitored by the automated systems. The moneyclip had been removed before they had a chance to examine it to preserve that illusion.
“Why don’t we send them to the island?” Oriel had asked.
“No,” objected James. “We are already in a public opinion mess about the people already missing. Sommer is a traitor. He signed up with the Emperor. He is ours. The others are just spooks doing their job. Until they attack us, we shouldn’t do a thing.”
The time approached.
The TV announcer said, “We have just received an announcement from the Emperor that an important announcement will be made at nine AM at the Sheep Meadow in Central Park. We have a film crew on the way and we will be covering it live here on WCBS.”
Oriel came to the door. She bowed her head toward the Emperor.
“Come on in.” His voice was weak, but his smile was genuine.
“Diana has already started. She had to warn the crowd away,” Oriel reported.
The TV coverage wasn’t long in appearing. There was a crowd, and more were gathering.
James asked, “Are we sure Sommer is unaware of what’s happening? He lives within sight of this.”
Oriel nodded. “C’est perfection. He is taking a shower.”
James pointed, “There. It’s starting.”
On the screen a giant, hundred-foot tall ball of granite appeared out of thin air and slammed down in to the meadow. The ground tremor knocked some of the closer people off their feet. There were shrieks of panic.
The TV commentator started talking, saying nothing that wasn’t already visible.
James turned to his father. “Those things are impressive looking.”
He nodded. “I made them for energy storage. Carved a bunch out of the Himalayas.”
A familiar voice echoed over the scene. “This is the Empress Diana. This is a public notice that Kurt Sommer, formerly an agent of the Emperor, has been fired for treason.”
There was a shout from the crowd as a tiny naked figure appeared on the top of granite globe.
“Kurt Sommer! For treasonous activities against the Emperor, you are hereby discharged from imperial service. All benefits and payments are forfeit.”
James whispered to his father. “We have taken care of that. We’ve even cleaned out his dresser drawers and cancelled his room.”
Then the recording started. Amplified so all could hear it, Sommer and his contact discussed how they might send an assassin in to kill everyone at the imperial base.
“That will loop for a day—give everyone a chance to hear it.”
The TV cameraman zoomed in close to see the naked man, still wet from his shower and shivering, sit down on the top of the ball.
Oriel asked, “How long will he stay there?”
James shrugged, “Until they can get a crane or a helicopter in there to remove him.”
She jeered, “I hope he jumps.”
James asked, “Dad? Should we remove the ball once this is over?”
“No. Leave it. New Yorkers will love it.”