“Your father has made it clear to me that I should not try to seduce you.” Oriel smiled bewitchingly. The lights on the Eiffel Tower highlighted her eyes. She was wearing the dress that put three deadly agents on the floor.
“Oh?” James asked. “And why is that?”
“He says that you have much education to complete, and you have not the maturity to handle your duties and an impulsive young wife at the same time. Bah!” She dismissed the argument with a wave of her hands.
“I think your father has plans to seduce the British into acknowledging the Empire with a royal alliance. There are many unattached females among the Windsors I think.”
James smiled. “Oh, I don’t think that would work. Besides there’s a little Texas cheerleader that has already expressed some interest in me.”
Oriel’s eyes glittered, “And what might this one’s name be?”
He laughed, “I would fear for her life if I told you, but you needn’t worry. She was crass and unsophisticated, and I haven’t given her an instant’s thought since I met you.”
He watched her pull her claws back in, and compose her face. He asked, “How did your interview go, that day on the rock? I’ve reviewed it, but when you Parisians talk to each other, the words blend together, and I can’t make sense of it all.”
Oriel smiled at the memory.
“Oh, I was very open and clear. We French are very businesslike about these things. I told them that it would be a great shame if the imperial palace were to be built in some cultural backwater. I said the Empire would soon eclipse the importance of nations, and it would be very important for France to become a formative influence on the current royal family, and for its generations to come.”
James checked the surroundings. It was habit. The invisible bullet-bouncing spheres encircled them, but he wasn’t quite comfortable being out in public. Camera flashes occurred so frequently that he had begun to tune them out.
“Well, you must have been very persuasive. France’s official recognition has been the breakthrough we needed. Although, I had chalked it up to the French glee at seeing the United States get its hands slapped.”
“Oh, we are not so petty, just practical, very practical.” She reached across the table and joined hands with him.
Rudy Ghest climbed the ladder, grateful he was midway through the group, and that it had been rebuilt and anchored against the rock. He stepped into the chamber and looked at the crude selector dial.
His assignment was in North America, but towns were much closer together in Europe. Besides, the US might not have its welcome mat out for people arriving by teleportation, especially if there had been enough resentment to attempt a declaration of war.
He moved the little arrow to Europe, and with a glance out to the ocean visible in the distance, he pressed the red button.
And appeared in someone’s office.
“Have a seat Mr. Ghest.”
He glanced quickly around the room. No guards.
He settled into the chair, amazed at how much better cushions felt than rocks.
“James Hill, I presume.” He had seen the pictures, and since the ‘Empress Diana’ had spoken, it had settled who the identity of the Emperor firmly enough.
James nodded, “Although I am told that I must get used to ‘Crown Prince James’ from now on.
“I apologize for interrupting your trip home, but I wanted to have a talk with you in private.”
Rudy nodded. Let the man talk.
“You must be aware, that teleportation removes all pretense of privacy. In our dire struggle when the Emperor was poisoned...”
Rudy looked up at that. That had been the rumor, but no one had admitted it.
“Yes, poisoned, by the man you identified as ‘NoBadge’ in your reports. In any case, I investigated everyone I could identify, including all the members of the FBI Emperor Task Force. I must say I was very impressed by what you wrote.
“Yes, your reports were read, you were observed secretly, the investigations from other agencies on you were tracked down and examined.”
Rudy nodded. “Very impressive.”
James shook his head. “Okay, for an amateur. Thus far, the Empire does not have a security agent that isn’t an amateur. I would like to offer you the job of setting up a specialized security force with the goal of protecting the Empire, and when the time comes that others re-invent teleportation, of bringing other users under the rule of law.”
James spread his hands. “There is only one law controlling teleportation, the will of my father, the Emperor.”
Rudy shook his head, “I already have a job.”
“A good and honorable one, I am sure. In fact I am offering you one of two jobs. The Empire will need a liaison with Interpol as well. But I would much prefer you become the head of our security. I have reviewed this with my father, and we both agree that you are the man for the job.”
Rudy was unsettled by the offer. He found something appealing about it.
“I’m not sure that I could be comfortable working for an absolute ruler. I have always believed in the rule of law over the rule of a man.”
James nodded, “We are Americans—a little displaced now, but still Americans by culture. The whole idea of an Emperor, of a royal family, of a monarchy—it is difficult to absorb.
“Long ago, well before he invented the spheres, my father told me once that the best government was a monarchy, and the worst government was a monarchy. Solomon was the wisest of the Biblical kings and expanded the wealth and prestige of his land without fighting wars. His son was an idiot who fragmented the land and lost the majority of its territory.
“Democracy, by whatever flavor, trusts statistics and debate over wisdom. But human nature still responds intensely to the image of the leader. How many times have we latched on to the flawed leader, just because something in us believes in him?
“At this point in history, we have the right man, my father, the Emperor.
“The Empire today has a goal, the safety of humanity. But in fifty years, or a hundred, the technology of teleportation will be absorbed and controlled and be no more dangerous than any other. When that time comes, what will the security forces of the Empire be doing? Spending all of their time and energy keeping the Empire in power, for power’s own sake?
“If history is any guide, that’s the way to bet.
“Rudy Ghest, do you think you could create a security force that could do better? Think about it. How would you institutionalize a sane and responsible force? One that when you are gone, will still look to humanity’s own good?”
Rudy listened. The boy would be a powerful leader some day. It would be nice to be on that side.
“I can’t jump ship.”
James nodded. “I didn’t expect you to, not yet.”
He tossed Rudy a little box with a button.
“When you press it, you will be back on your journey home. Press it again, and we’ll talk some more.”
Papeete, Tahiti made a welcome new headquarters.
The High Commissioner of Tahiti quickly followed Paris in recognizing the Empire.
It was James who suggested that working in the sunshine was better for his health than inside a darkened cave.
Emperor Robert strode across the veranda of their newly acquired office building. They had several offices, a radar complex being constructed on the roof for defensive alerts, and a lovely glassed-in command and control center. All just a quarter mile from the marketplace.
We need several of these. The computer screens didn’t have to be anywhere close to the real teleportation control hardware. Maybe a dozen, spread out all over the world.
A commando team could overrun this place in an instant, but it would do them no good. He held the password, and a tap on his wristwatch could shut it down in an instant.
No one can take over control now, except maybe James.
He smiled, That’s how it should be.
A lean, serious young man in a gray uniform sat monitoring the status screen.
The Emperor put his hand on the back of the chair. “How are you doing, Joseph?”
The man looked up from his screens. “Sorry, your Majesty, I didn’t hear you enter.” He prepared to stand.
“Stand down, Joseph. I just wanted to see how the new software was working.”
“Fine, sir ... sire.”
“Oh drop the honorifics. Do you mind if I drive for awhile? Give you a break for a few minutes.”
“Of course, your ... of course.” Joseph stood, and turned over the chair to the Emperor. When the mouse began to fly over the screen, he realized he had been dismissed and left.
Bob watched him leave, and then activated a privileged control window.
Admiral Forsythe was the last man on the island, and after nearly two weeks alone, a spotter had seen him heading for the Exit.
Once he was gone, he could move the crew that kidnapped Oriel from their confinement inside one of the hundred foot tall cavities in the Himalayas to the island. If he could ever get an agreement with the United States, he would prefer to turn them over to the Philadelphia police along with evidence of their crimes.
I don’t want to be both High and Low Justice. Let cities do what cities do, and nations do what nations do.
Being Emperor was a lot harder than he had imagined.
Bob glanced at the teleporter options. He could override the selector in an instant and drop the man into Antarctica, or the middle of the Pacific. His watch had picked up every word he had spoken. How many times had the man suggested that others nuke this base? How much blood was on his hands?
The Admiral was at the top of the ladder, and stepped into the exit chamber.
Every empire in history was built on blood. Every last one.
Forsythe set the selector for North America, but paused. He waited.
Can he sense me watching over him?
The mouse hovered over the options. Just a click would remove this threat to his family, and to the world.
He shifted his mouse away, just before the Admiral clicked and landed flat on his face in a blackland field in Alabama.
Maybe tomorrow, I’ll have to do it. But not today. Not today.
James took a deep breath and said, “Dad, I can’t go back to high school.”
His father relaxed in the sun. The swim in the bay had done him a world of good. No one had noticed their arrival, so for the time, they could relax.
Dad had agents purchasing a number of secluded homes and resorts, most of them in friendly nations. No one could watch them all. Unlike any royal family before them, they could outrun the reporters.
James struggled to put his thoughts into words.
“Well, for one thing, I have a lot to learn. I need to learn things they don’t teach in a school where every teacher is named ‘Coach’. I’ve got a dozen languages to learn, politics, philosophy. I think I need to understand the theory of legal systems much better than I do now. And history. I need a ton of history.”
“It sounds like a lot of work. Do you think you are up to it?”
“Oh yes. I have to, don’t I? It goes with the job. It’s just like football practice. Spend the time to get the results.”
“Have you picked out a school?”
James swallowed. He didn’t know how Dad would take it.
“Um. Several, actually. The thing is, they are in Europe. I can commute easy enough, but I’d rather avoid switching time zones all the time.”
“So you would prefer to live over there?”
James nodded, with a grin. “It’s not like you’ll lose track of me. And it would make the languages easier to learn.”
His father looked him in the eyes, “Paris, I assume?”
James felt his ears go hot.
“Well, yes. Oriel knows this apartment complex....”
“Just one thing, James.”
“Do you know who you are? Deep down inside, do you know who you are?”
James thought a moment. He had always thought he knew who he was.
A series of embarrassing memories flashed by. Who was that kid who only studied enough to stay on the team, and who was ready to be led on a merry chase by a pretty cheerleader?
Maybe he needed to have a nice, long, serious talk with Oriel. He knew her dream. She didn’t try to hide it. And he had confidence that even if he decided to live in Texas, or Moscow, or Bombay, she would want to come with him.
But did she understand what his life would be? How it would have to be, with the lives of billions of people riding on him? She would have to, before they went too much farther.
He nodded to his father, the Emperor.
“Yes, Dad. I know exactly who I am.”
“Then,” he waved his hand, “you don’t need me to tell you where you can live.”
“I understand. Thanks Dad.”