While pondering over matters on his throne, the emperor decided that he needed to be in the park by the library. Admittedly, these little reminders did not happen very often these days, but when they did, he tried to pay attention to them, as they were reminders of the complex web that was being woven that he was connected to. Of course, walking anywhere was painful these days, but there was a strong sense of duty about being near the library, even though the emperor did not fully realize why this was the case. For once, he could tell, the feelings of his son and grandson were both untroubled, as it appeared that they were having a bonding process over learning. Standing up on his feet, the emperor said to the korinthidon at his side. “Come, old friend, let us walk together.”
Seeing the emperor get up, the page in the throne room who had drawn the short straw to have that particular shift shot to awareness and rushed to urge the emperor to sit down and conserve his strength.
“I will do no such thing,” the emperor replied. “If you please, though, please bring me my sword stick, so that I can walk as comfortably as possible.”
This the page did, rushing to get the emperor’s sword stick and also grabbing his own handheld console to record anything that might be of interest. The emperor, after all, could not move very quickly these days, and who knows what might be of interest in a walk. Surely there would be at least some pretty girls enjoying the sunshine and warmth of the park, he thought to himself, letting himself daydream a bit, before realizing with a start that the emperor and his dinosaur friend had already started walking.
For the emperor, every step was filled with excruciating pain. Despite all of the comforts of his position, it had been determined by imperial scientists that eliminating all of the uric acid from his blood would decrease his alertness and intelligence, and so the emperor had decided for himself and for his house that the pain of gout would be accepted because the trade-off was worth the problem. Refraining from the urge to bring an imprecatory curse on whoever had brought the curse of gout into his family, the emperor painfully hobbled, leaning on his walking stick, wincing with pain from his big toes and heels with every painful and labored step.
He pondered to himself why it was that he needed to be in the garden. Even during his younger and more energetic days, he had frequently walked by the garden without thinking much about it. There had to be something about the place that was convenient, the emperor thought to himself. There must be some reason why I am being summoned there, he wondered.
The emperor was known to be a whimsical fellow, even in his dotage, and so most people did not trouble him his whims, and this was fortunate because the emperor was not really in the mood to be troubled and bothered at the moment. For some reason he felt it necessary to be making this via dolorosa by foot, and he accepted the promptings of the spirit, no matter how painful they were to himself personally.
At some length he arrived at the park and found a pleasant bench to sit down at. Before too long, the harried chief of security, holding some sort of small book in his hand, rushed along, apparently looking for him and being surprised to find him in the garden.
“What do you have there?” the emperor asked.
“This is the graduate thesis of the, I trust, former tutor of the crown prince’s son,” the chief said, still catching his breath a little.
“Is it that bad?” the emperor asked.
“Very much so, I’m not sure why no one read this beforehand, but the crown prince had found it this morning after talking with you and gave it to me, figuring it might help give me some clues about the conspiracy against you.”
“Very well, then,” the emperor said, obviously impressed at his son’s cleverness. Flipping through the book, the emperor saw that it belonged to a section in the library devoted to the ministry of culture and its efforts to preserve, for obviously dark reasons, the history and culture of the old earth in the period when it was becoming intolerable for all good people. “Have you investigated the rest of the series?”
“What do you mean, your highness,” the chief asked.
“Well, this volume is from the imperial library, and it is part of a series from the ministry of culture. I suppose if this sort of thing can be found there, he says with a shudder, then there is going to be more where this came from.”
“I will go over there myself after leaving here,” the chief said. “But thanks to the work of the crown prince and one of my officers, we are going to be dealing with the ministry of culture and whatever they have planned down in Cherry Hill.”
“Cherry Hill,” the emperor mused to himself. “Is that where they are based these days?”
“Yes, they have made an autonomous zone or somesuch nonsense in that area and sought to close it off from the normal good citizens of the area, to keep it for themselves,” the chief continued.
“And why was this not known before?” the emperor queried.
“The local beat officer had written reports about it and submitted them up the chain of command, but the bureau chief had decided it was not worth passing along to me,” the chief said, his irritation showing. “The officer was able to report to me just now, though, what his daughter had seen as a student in the imperial school in the ministry of culture’s area and we have a handle on the situation.”
“Do you?” the emperor mused. “That is certainly good news. Has anything been done for the brave undercover teenage girl who allowed her loyal father to pass this information onto us?”
“Actually, that is what I wanted to talk to you about. Officer Zambrano, the local point person in Cherry Hill, stated that his daughter had access into the area that he did not and was interested in going to Imperial University, but the tuition for that was obviously beyond a mere security officer’s salary, and she was working hard to go for a scholarship.”
“And you wanted to see if she would be eligible for a scholarship on account of her acts of service to the state,” the emperor said helpfully.
“That is exactly right,” the chief said, glad for once at the emperor’s ability to anticipate such matters.
“I think that is very acceptable,” the emperor said. “And if my page will stop ogling the girls on their way to the library,” he said, raising his voice slightly but with more than a hint of mischievous humor, “then it will be recorded, and she and her family will be notified of it, though for their sake we will avoid the specific nature of the service done, and record it as some sort of community service scholarship in the local press, since I am sure she is the sort of person for whom community service comes naturally.”
“I would assume so,” the chief said. “Her father is the solid sort of person, and thinks highly of his daughter as being clever and loyal.”
“The pride of such a father is worth much,” the emperor mused. “Very well, it shall be done.” The page nodded and added the information a bit sheepishly to the console, where it was immediately noted that the Imperial University would have a new scholarship student when the time came.
“I think I need to be off to the library now,” the chief of security said, hurrying off.
“That is for the best,” the emperor said, thoughtfully, understanding that his security chief was a loyal person, but definitely not as clever as one would hope. He supposed to himself that this was a common problem among police officers being promoted to high ranking security positions, that they were often solid enough people but not possessed of the breadth of mind that would allow them to outfox their opponents to the extent that was possible for more clever souls.
It was at this point that the emperor and his dinosaur associate looked at a man walking close to them with an unusually distracted demeanor, the head of the ministry of culture who had been missing unusually from this morning’s meeting, and whose department had come under such heavy interest as a result of various clues. This was certainly a man who needed to have a conversation with the emperor, for sure.
“Come here,” the emperor called to the distracted minister of culture, who had the look of a man who wanted to be somewhere else. “Where were you this morning?”
“I had a lot of work to do at the office,” the chief replied, demurely, “And the traffic from Cherry Hill was terrible.”
“So I have heard,” the emperor said.
“You have heard such things?” the minister replied. “I did not know that your highness took an interest in the traffic of small towns.”
“The motor traffic of the area and the difficulties of access into the area have come to my attention from various civilian complaints,” the emperor said. “And I have had to listen patiently to various ministers talk about why so many archaic vehicles seem to find their way in and around Cherry Hill that do not have the required communications systems but always end up with some variance approved by the Ministry of Culture. In fact, I meant to ask you about such matters this morning, had you been available.”
“You could have sent me a memo to ask me about it,” the minister of culture said, a bit huffily.
“Sometimes it is better to discuss things face to face, as we are doing now,” the emperor said. “Where are you going?”
“I was going to speak with someone, but I fear I may be detained here,” the chief replied.
“You are likely to be right,” the emperor replied mildly.
With a sudden series of movements the minister of culture bit at something on the lapel of his jacket and rushed towards the emperor, stabbing him in the chest before foaming at his mouth and falling to the ground. The emperor looked down at his chest to see his lifeblood departing from him. He took his signet ring off of his hand and told his shocked page, “Hurry now, give this to my son, and call on the chief of the assembly to anoint my son as emperor in my place,” he said raggedly, his breaths becoming more and more labored.
The page looked at him sadly, nodded his assent, and ran off to the crown prince’s area of the palace grounds. It did not take him long to reach the reception hall for the crown prince, and to shout to the guard on duty that the emperor had fallen to an assassin’s blade and that the crown prince was to be given the emperorship immediately upon the word of the emperor, who was mortally wounded. This had the desired effect, and soon the crown prince had been summoned and given his father’s signet ring, and the crown prince, his wife, and their son were soon on their way to the park to pay their last respects to the emperor and to prepare for the long awaited but unanticipated change of power. The emperor was still alive when the crown prince and his family came to kneel before him one last time.
Before too long the chief of the assembly came to the place where the emperor was making his final, shallow last breaths, and a prayer was made over his dying body as the crown prince, his wife, and son openly wept the passing of a beloved emperor at the hands of a rebel and coward whose body, not far from that of the emperor, was unnoticed and unmourned. When the moment of death came, it was duly recorded for posterity, and the crown prince had olive oil placed on his head, falling down over his face, as the chief of the assembly anointed him as successor to his beloved father, and told to honor the law and to keep justice as his father had done before him. This was solemnly agreed to, and those who had found themselves in the park knew that a changing of the guard had happened, and that the steady crown prince was now the emperor. At the side of the family was the loyal line of dinosaurs that had bonded with the emperor’s family, and after the people assembled heard the words, “The king is dead, long live the king,” the dinosaurs present raised a mournful cry to the death of their friend, a cry that was soon taken up by their species wherever it had wandered. For truly no human authorities had ever been a greater friend to a hated and mistrusted species of life than the emperor had been to them. It remained to be seen if the son would be as great a friend as the father, but for now, it was time to mourn what had been lost.