“Am I interrupting something?”
Leonardo did not quite sigh in relief but it was a close thing.
Robespierre looked utterly ridiculous trying to challenge Richard, who clearly a trained military man, but Leonardo found his respect for the man growing.
Not very much, but more than he had for Rain or Richard at that exact moment.
“Are the two of you fighting, already?”
She looked between the two of them, brown eyes wide and incredulous.
Maximilien Robespierre stepped away from Richard, sniffing primly.
“He started it.”
Richard aimed a look so poisonous at him that Leonardo was impressed the other man didn’t drop dead all over again.
Rain rolled her eyes.
“Okay. Definitely no royalty and revolutionaries together, ever again. That was a mistake.” She turned on Leonardo. “You’re the intelligent one Leonardo, why didn’t you stop them?”
Leonardo adopted his best look of innocence.
“It was merely a friendly disagreement, signora. Neither of these men would turn to the brutish ways of physical force.”
Rain gave him a considering look, eyes flickering over his face and posture.
“If you say so,” she finally muttered with a quiet snort.
With her typical energy, she whirled around to face Richard and Robespierre again. “Here, I replicated these,” she shoved an array of something sky blue and green to Robespierre, a white and wine red to Richard, and finally blood red and rich daisy yellow at Leonardo, “for you. Jeans, undershirt, button up, jacket and belt for all three of you. I took the measurements from the database so everything should fit.” She looked around expectantly, then rolled her eyes and snapped her fingers at them when they simply stared at her.
“Well, go change. We don’t have all day.”
Leonardo let Richard and Robespierre leave the room ahead of him, before Rain caught the crook of his elbow with her cane.
“What was this gentlemanly and ever so civilized argument about, Leonardo?”
He did not want to allow her to know of Richard’s desire for his freedom or the fact that Leonardo agreed. Slowly, he said, “Well we are all very curious as to what you gained by bringing us back.”
Rain tried to interrupt. “I already told you-”
“Yes I know, but the other two seem to believe you have more sinister intensions. It sets them ill at ease.” Leonardo shrugged. “They were at odds about what to do about it.”
Rain scoffed. “Well they won’t really have a choice. Not as if I can let any of you go.”
Leonardo tilted his head. “Why not?”
“Well besides the fact you stick out like a sore thumb, I don’t think anyone will react well to the recently or, in this case, not-so-recently-deceased walking around.”
Rain released his arm, her smile thin.
“You are my discovery, and unlike so many in history I don’t intend to ruin it by telling everyone about you.” She shook her head. “No, you are my secret, and my secret you’ll stay.” She winked at him.
Heart racing, Leonardo gave her a shallow bow.
“Of course. How very…prudent.” His stomach seemed sour as he said this, twisting into anatomically impossible knots.
He felt her eyes on him the entire way back to the lab.
Richard ran his hand over the strange fabric that Rain handed him. It was denser, coarser than wool but still flexible, and it felt like it would hold up well under travel. He snorted and started shucking off the cotton pants. There was no hosiery and after a moment of confused fumbling Richard realized what was supposed to go on underneath was the smaller cotton pants. He also struggled with the tiny buttons on the shirt, fingers slipping on the slick hard material.
He was the last one done changing, Leonardo and Robespierre were already done and listening to Rain, who was explaining how the so-called ‘transporter’ worked.
“And you rematerialize at your destination. Of course, it doesn’t work over very long distances; I think the record is something like a five thousand kilometers. However it works for us, today.”
Maximilien looked perplexed, but Leonardo was nodding, only looking a little lost. Rainbow noticed Richard. “Ah! His highness arrives!” She limped over to him. “Looking pretty good for someone who never wore pants before. Come on, we’re getting ready to leave right now.”
Richard noticed that Rain didn’t seem to need to change although, she seemed to be as improperly dressed to him as he’d been in the cotton pants. Still dressed in the brown shirt and black pants, with some kind of long white tunic over top, she seemed as strange to him as any manner of witchcraft.
Richard narrowed his eyes.
That was what this all seemed to reek of, witchcraft.
It would be exactly his luck for his afterlife to be in the thrall of a witch, Richard reflected sourly.
He bet Ned didn’t have to deal with this.
Rainbow herded the three of them into a small room, and entered after, the doors closing behind them. Richard shifted uncomfortably. This seemed all too much like a coffin of crypt for him, and the Frenchman was blinking at him, face damnably unreadable. Richard arranged his own features to be as blank as possible.
He jumped when he felt the box move. It felt disconcertingly like his insides were left below him. From the looks on Leonardo’s and Robespierre’s faces, they were experiencing something similar.
Rain chuckled. “It’s an elevator. It uses pulleys and weights, or it used to, now it’s all run electrically, to move the box,” she tapped on the wall with her cane, “from down to up and up to down.”
Leonardo smiled, looking as if this was all going to plan, while Robespierre simply looked ill.
Richard didn’t say anything, but made a firm pact that the moment the opportunity arose, he’d be leaving this box, and more importantly, this woman.
Rain seemed to see his expression and tsked. “It’s not so bad Richard, besides this is nothing. The transporters will be much worse if you can’t even handle a little elevator ride.”
The box seemed to stop moving.
“I can hardly wait,” he grit out from between his teeth.
Rain led them through a strange darkened building. It was cavernous, and filled with same delicately made crystal chairs, as had been downstairs, sitting next to long white tables, that blinked with multi colored lights. Richard had the sense it was daytime but the entire building seemed dark and quiet as a cave. He quickened his step, the back of his neck prickling uncomfortably.
“What is this place?” Leonardo asked voice hushed.
“Oh, it’s an old office building I bought out. Everyone expects a private lab hidden in a mine, in the mountains, or on a private island. It’s easier to just by a derelict building and use that.” Rain didn’t seem to notice, or possibly did not concern herself with the feeling of nervous tension radiating from the three men.
However soon Richard spotted the windowed doors, and through them, sunlight that spilled onto the floor, illuminating the dust that floated on the air.
Rain stopped in front of the doors, baring their way with her metal cane, as if it was a sword. Richard, Robespierre, and Leonardo stopped short to stare at the scientist.
“Gentlemen, through these doors is a world that you couldn’t imagine in all your dreams and days. Through this door you will stepping into a world inhabited by over 10 billion people. A world that has changed in so many ways since you died, you’ll think you are in a fantasy.” She grabbed the bar of the door and pushed on it, so the door swung out and the light spilled over their feet. “I would like you to enter the world of the year three thousand, annon Domini!”
Richard steeled himself and with his jaw clenched tight, stepped forward, natural light making him blink before his eyes adjusted. As they did, he looked around at the surroundings, and for a moment, Rainbow Miller was entirely correct, he did feel as if he’d stepped into a fantasy, some kind of fairy tale, like the ones George used to tell him and Anne.
“Dio mio,” Leonardo breathed, stepping out to his right, hand held up to his mouth. Robespierre said nothing, but the stupefied look on his face said more than an exclamation could.
The world seemed to be made entirely of crystal now, Richard thought wildly. Everything around them glittered in the afternoon sunlight, stretching high, higher than any castle battlement Richard had ever seen. It made him dizzy, looking up, trying to see the tops, but it was impossible. He was positive they were scraping the lazy white clouds that dotted the sky. Greenery cascaded down some of these shining marvels, and across from where the small group stood people periodically appeared from the doors, spilling into the street. Richard realized that overhead there was a buzz, like a nest of bees, and he realized what it was just in time to try to duck and crouch away from it, Robespierre and Leonardo doing the same.
An enormous airborne carriage went over their heads, the buzzing intensifying as it did so. Richard whipped his head around, eyes growing in size. There wasn’t just one carriage held impossibly aloft: there were hundreds, thousands. Their shadows passed over them, and Richard’s head spun, watching. Rain laughed as all three of them stood straight again. Robespierre looked abjectly terrified, face ashen, the scar periodically changing, deeping, as the shadows passed over his face.
Leonardo however, started laughing along with Rain and he clapped his hands together, delighted.
“We did it? Flight?”
Rain clapped him on the arm, grinning, eyes wide. “Leonardo. We have done things even your mind couldn’t conceive of.”
She started walking down the street, leaving them to trail behind her like ducklings. Leonardo started off, after her at once, seeming completely at ease with throwing himself into the bustle with Rain.
Richard looked at Robespierre. The man still looked terrified, but seeing he had Richard’s attention quickly schooled his features.
“Richard! Maximilien! Keep up!” Rain shouted over her shoulder. A few bystanders looked in their direction, and Richard scowled, but started to move after her. Robespierre followed, just behind.
“Given up on your ideas of leaving?” He asked.
Richard glanced over his right shoulder and set his jaw. Robespierre reminded him of a fly, buzzing far too close to Richard for his taste.
Robespierre glared at him. “I’ll tell Rain.”
Richard stopped, and turned. Some flies needed to be slapped out of the air, and it appeared Robespierre was determined to be one of them.
“Do that. And then I’ll finish whatever the person who gave that scar started,” Richard promised lowly.
“Richard!” Rain’s voice came over the crowd again, and Richard turned, ready to follow her, for now.