James took another look at himself in the mirror. It’s just another uniform.
He shrugged his shoulders. Not nearly as padded as his football uniform, but it seemed to always look right, no matter how he stood.
The patch on his lapel took some getting used to. They had to have a logo. A plain yellow circle on the black background of his jacket looked better than some of the other ideas they had tossed around.
His father looked imposing, with a more imperial version of the same outfit. The Empress was in an entirely different style, but with the same logo and theme.
“How do I look, James?” Oriel cocked her head, looking slightly military in her dove gray version. The black was for the royal family.
“You look good.”
Emperor Robert said, “Archer has the others ready. James. It’s show time.”
“Okay. Meet you there.”
He faced the rock wall of the gallery. “That is west, I think.” He took off at a sprint and was instantly on the surface, speeding across the plains, covering hundreds of miles at a step. Guiding by the sun and the sky, he slowed his pace, covering only twenty or thirty miles per step.
There. That must be Lake Michigan. He slowed still more and turned to the south. Shortly, he saw the Ohio river flick by. He shifted his course a little eastward and when he approached a city, he slowed and hunted for a highway sign. Athens Georgia. Too far east, he turned. But at least I’m in the right state.
Atlanta. He pulled out the little map he had with him and quickly stepped up to CNN Center. There were security guards, but he flickered quickly past them through the walls, carefully keeping his pace down so that he wouldn’t step out past the other end of the building.
There were the studios. He paused on the floor. Several workers noticed him.
There. That is where the live broadcast comes from. He stepped in that direction and it was as if the walls were illusions, he walked right through them.
The news commentator looked at him as he materialized in front of him, right beside the cameras. A man in a headset carrying a clipboard tried to grab him, but his hand bounced off something invisible.
“Excuse me. I apologize for interrupting your news program, but the Emperor of Earth is giving a speech. In person. Right now.
“If you would care to cover the event....”
The commentator said, “Yes, I would.”
“Then please stand up and come over here. Two cameras, they don’t have to be wireless.”
The TV studio people juggled the lights and cameras, all of it live and on camera.
“An opening will appear and surround the four of us. We will walk just a step this way. The cables can trail behind. That’s okay.”
James clicked something that looked like a garage door opener, and the sphere appeared as he said.
It was bright daylight, and they moved as James directed. The sphere shrunk behind them, down to about four feet, and the cables and a pair of curious heads poked through the opening.
They were set up on the wide bald peak of some granite mountain. There was a flicker twenty feet before them, and suddenly there were a dozen people dressed in the imperial theme. In the center of the group was the Emperor in a wheelchair, attended by a doctor and his Empress.
James stepped in their direction, flickering across the distance like an image captured by a strobe light. He stood by their side.
Diana spoke, and her voice echoed loud, amplified by some invisible means.
“I am Empress Diana. Much has happened in the past few days. Events have changed, and my husband has decided that the layer of secrecy can to some extent be lifted.
“This press event has been called to inform the world what has happened.
“One week ago a plan orchestrated by Retired Admiral Forsythe, formerly of the United States National Security Agency, succeeded in a goal of poisoning my husband by lacing the paper used to print imperial script with a neurotoxin, named VNE, invented by the USA.
“The Emperor collapsed, but not before activating several security measures.
“The machinery of the empire which controls the teleportation spheres went on automatic, with no controlling hand.
“To the peoples of Tokyo and Chicago, and officer Hobert, we extend our apologies for the destruction triggered by Typhoon Koppu.
“And to the people of Big Lake Nevada, we apologize for the uncontrolled water flow that almost destroyed your city.
“These near disasters would never have happened except for this unwarranted and internationally illegal attack on the person of the Emperor.
“To these cities we ask that damage estimates be sent to us by the usual channels and we will assist you with the repairs.”
“Several nations were waiting for the chance to strike against the Empire. When they suspected that the Emperor was disabled, they undertook to arrest innocent agents in our employ, whose only ‘crime’ was to read the newspaper.”
She gave a nod to the assembled agents. Most had chosen to come.
Diana was using a voice James had heard often when growing up. He was glad she wasn’t talking to him.
“Finally, when Admiral Forsythe located the hospital where the Emperor was being treated, he kidnapped my husband and held him with a pistol to his head!
“His evil scheme called for chemical brain washing using,” she referred to a piece of paper, “system FHD-22, created by the CIA in an illegal chemical warfare program in 1994.
“Fortunately, members of the Royal Family and French special agent Oriel Meirieu were able to rescue the Emperor and those imperial agents illegally arrested.
“Under the care of Dr. Feldstein, my husband is well on the way to recovery, and the machinery of teleportation is back in his capable hands.”
The assembled agents clapped.
She stepped back, and the Emperor rolled his wheelchair forward.
Amplified, his voice sounded strong.
“I wish to thank my rescuers, and those cooler heads who argued against this attack on the Empire.
“These attacks were motivated by national pride, and in some cases by personal greed for power. In my declaration to the UN, I stated my claim to this imperial throne, and I have the power to enforce this claim.
“In news articles and in discussions both public and private, the potential for destruction that can be caused by teleportation has been widely discussed. How many different ways can humanity be destroyed by incautious, or malicious use of the technology?
“Today we have seen just a minor taste of what can happen when the technology escapes control. This is why I have dedicated my life to the protection of the whole earth from this inevitable technological change. It cannot be stopped, but it can be controlled.
“But physical destruction is just the tip of the iceberg. Privacy and private property are gone—unless I uphold them! I did not take on this job lightly.
“The technology of teleportation exists. I hold it. I control it. And under my hand, the wealth and safety of the world will blossom. In these few months, there are many people who can testify to that.
“Those who attempted to wrest that control away from me would stop at nothing—they used neurotoxins, and explosives, and bullets and chemicals designed to destroy parts of my brain.
“I am proud to say that I have hurt no man. Officer Hobert was injured because I was attacked and taken out of action. Ngarta Habre, who attacked First Agent Archer, was detained for some time and is currently free, on the road in Brazil according to last accounts.
“During the rescues of myself and my agents, several law enforcement agents of various nationalities and types were also detained and will shortly be released. None of them have been harmed.
“I ask world opinion to judge me by my actions, not by the irrational fears of those who fear to lose their power.
“I am Emperor. I have a job to do—to preserve the safety of humanity while phasing in this new technology, and I cannot relinquish this duty.
“So today, reluctantly, I must take steps to see that the Empire is preserved.”
He picked up a hand-held computer.
“All nations who participated in the arrest of my agents will have their first year’s imperial tax taken in full, as of...” he tapped a key “...now. One billion dollars US equivalent has now been removed from the gold repositories of those nations.
“As for the poison attack on the Emperor, a penalty of ten billion dollars is additionally levied against the United States of America for permitting its agent, Admiral Forsythe to take such an action.
“In addition, the sovereignty of the US will be impaired for one calendar year. As of today, your borders are no longer in your full control. Fifty personal transportation spheres will open and close in random locations between cities of the US and other cities of the world.
“I take this action knowing full well that additional security measures will be necessary to contain the hazards of crime and terrorism that will be facilitated by this open border policy. I urge the US to act wisely, and humanely, and to remember this when another rogue agency decides to attack the Empire.”
He set the little computer down.
“When I first spoke to the UN, I said that nations friendly to the Empire would be treated well. Keep that in mind.
“Due to a sudden surplus of gold in our vaults, and the need for the Empire to be more visible on the world stage, we are entertaining bids for the construction of several palaces or consulates in nations recognizing the legitimacy of the Empire.
“Additionally, the Empire will be constantly expanding the scope of our operations. Additional agents and employees of various skills will be needed. Advertisements will be placed in the newspapers. Job locations will be arbitrary, but imperial work facilities will be built in nations recognizing the Empire and providing diplomatic protection for our people.
“In summation, the Empire of Earth is real. It will stay and do its job. No man need fear us. No friendly nation need worry about our power. But the hand that takes up arms against us will fail.”
The speech had obviously taken a lot out of the Emperor, and as he rolled his chair back, his doctor was already at his side, checking his pulse.
James walked forward. He could see Oriel working the concealed controls that manipulated the loud speaker.
“This concludes the imperial announcement,” he told the audience of millions behind the cameras. “Various members of the imperial party will be available for interviews for as long as this portal is open.”
Just then, a pair of fighter jets screamed in and suddenly vanished. One of the cameramen gasped.
James grinned, “Oh, don’t worry about them. They’ve just suddenly found themselves a few hundred miles off course.”
He stepped forward, and flickered over to the news crew.
“Now, who would you like to interview first?”