A Fiction Agreed Upon. Episode Eight: Eschewal. Part Two.

PART TWO.

Rain’s worst fears were confirmed when she opened the door and a member of the Komali was standing on the porch, shading their eyes and starting to sweat under Earth’s sun.

Fuck!

“Hello, may I help you?” Rain asked pleasantly, carefully holding the door so the alien could not see past her shoulder into the house behind her. One of the dogs was behind her, a cold wet nosed pressed to the skin at the back of her knee.

“You are Doctor Rainbow Miller?” The Komali asked.

“Yes. Do I know you?” Sweat ran the back of her neck.

The alien frowned. “No. I am the presiding ambassador of the Komali for your Federation. I am Maltass.” They dipped their head, bird-like.

Rain dipped back, and prayed that Leonardo’s or Richard’s curiosity wasn’t going to get the better of them.

“It’s wonderful to meet you  ambassador Maltass. Is there something I can d-”

The Komali’s face, usually so placid and pleasant, with the droopy eyelids and full lips, and soft pastel colored skin tones, only marked by the stripes of darker color, had hardened and their lips drew back into a grimace.

“You can return what you stole!”

XXX

“Who do think that is?” Robespierre asked quietly, twisting around in his chair to watch Rain’s retreating back. They heard the door open and Rain asked in a loud, and falsely cheer voice, “Hello?”

Richard was leaning over the table, trying to see. “I can’t tell, maybe someone from the government?”

Leonardo shook his head. “Why wouldn’t they just contact Rain through her connection, if they need her?” He shook his head again, brushing his hair from his face. He couldn’t wait until it was long enough to tie back and away again. “I think it’s probably her old assistant, Kamala Mason.”

“The one who left? Why would she come back?” Richard challenged him.

Leonardo shrugged. “Perhaps she changed her mind?”

You can return what you stole!

All three of them jumped and Ava’s ears prinked up. Pallas growled from under the table.

The door suddenly slammed and heavy footsteps started down the hall towards the kitchen. Richard leapt from his chair and backed away, towards the counter, where some knives sat in a block.

Leonardo too, moved from the table when he realized there was no way that any normal human could be causing such as noise, and quickly proven correct when a figure, over seven feet tall, with pale purple skin, and no hair burst in.

Robespierre shrieked, and quickly cut himself off, clapping both hands over his mouth, even as his whole frame bucked backward from…from whatever it was. Richard dropped the paring knife he grabbed.

The thing frowned, and whipped around to confront Rain, who came limping quickly after it.

“I knew it! Your government tried to protect you, but-”

“These are my relatives, cousins on my mother’s side,” Rain cut in smoothly. The thing, monster, dragon, thing, sneered.

“I’ve been on earth for over six months, and have no one that looks like them,” it waved a hand at Robespierre, Richard and Leonardo, all of whom were still too stunned to speak.

Indeed, Richard looked like he might never speak again.

“Besides, does it have a ID?”

The thing grabbed Robespierre around the neck, and Leonardo caught sight of a fear far more primal than a simple distaste of touch would allow for. The man’s face was utterly white, the scare tissue disappearing and making him appear much younger. The thing brushed the hair at the nape of his neck away and bobbed it’s head.

“Is expected. Nothing.” It release Robespierre, who stumbled away, back to the wall, looking ready to flee. His grey-green eyes had lost all of their usual sharp, able stare instead reverting back to that of a much younger man’s, terrified and speechless.

Rain stood frozen, staring at between the thing and Robespierre, to Leonardo and Richard back up against the counter. She rubbed her forehead, advertising her thought process.

“Leonardo da Vinci, Richard the Third, and Maximilien Robespierre, please meet ambassador Maltass, of the Komali. They are an alien,” she clarified at Leonardo’s lost look. Rain turned to the alien ambassador.

“Won’t you please take a seat and we can talk about this?”

A Fiction Agreed Upon. Episode Eight: Eschewal. Part One.

PART ONE.

For Rainbow Miller the next week passed disappointingly.

Far from the Historical Figure think tank she’d anticipated, the three men seemed to be avoiding both her, and each other.

Richard spent most of his time physically out of the house, and for some reason, Ava seemed to have become fascinated with him. The dog had started to follow him everywhere. Rain figured that at least with this, if Richard tried to do a runner, she would be able to track Ava to find him if nothing else.

She had rarely seen Robespierre, who was staying to his room, claiming illness. It occurred to Rain that she hadn’t properly inoculated any of the men. It retrospect, this seemed like a problem, since now Robespierre was refusing to even leave his claimed sanctuary and if he had something like smallpox, she would be responsible for bring back one of the most infectious diseases of all time.

The upside was that, upon doing some hasty research, it seemed Robespierre had regular bouts of illness, most of them brought on by exhaustion, and possibly psychosomatic. In the end Rain finally concluded that leaving Robespierre to his own devices was the safest rout she could take, and when he was out of his self-imposed exile, she would burn everything that could carry an infection and make all three men have their shots.

Rain was most disappointed in Leonardo. He seemed to seek distance from her, deliberately avoiding her invitations to go down to her lab and spending all of his time absorbed in the tablet Rain had given him. When Rain teased him, “What are to so entranced in? Already have a crush Leonardo?” He simply smiled enigmatically and shook his head.

Rain hated to admit failure, but so far she had to admit living with the dead was not nearly as exciting as she had hoped.

It was a week that they had relocated back to Colorado that there was a knock on the door.

Robespierre had finally rejoined them, and too his credit, Rain did think he looked as if he’d been ill lately. His pallor was grey and it almost appeared that someone had punched him in the eyes, so dark and blue were the circles under them.

“After breakfast we’re doing inoculations for you all, and that’s final!” She declared.

“Inno-que-what?” Richard asked.

“Prevention against illness,” Leonardo mumbled tonelessly, staring into the tablet as usual.

“How-” Richard started but was cut off by a sharp knock at the door.

Rain froze.

She was not expecting anyone, and other than Kamala no one knew that the men were here. Kam knew better than to come here unexpectedly, especially after her temper tantrum back at the lab.

Most likely it was someone from the Federation, coming to bother her about some problem or wanting her for a mission or a lecture or other nonsense. She swallowed hard.

Rain waved a finger at the three men, all of them staring, transfixed at her. “Stay. Right. Here. I’ll get rid of them.”

A Fiction Agreed Upon. Episode Seven: Rest in Pain. Part Four.

The be-damned hound was still following him, right up until Richard closed the door of his room. To his surprise, she didn’t whine or bark. He wondered if he was going to end up tripping over her when he left his cramped room in the morning. He didn’t know if Rain had set the dog to trail after him or not, but couldn’t help to feel uneasy by the canine shadow.

He wasn’t sure if that was he own prudence speaking up or if he was over reacting. His whole body felt battered and his mind tender, as if it had been smashed in the face of his new reality.

Richard sighed and ran his hands through his hair, frowning.

But Lord, how he missed Anne. There had been many times in his life when Richard had no one by his side. When he and George had been sent away for their safety after their father was killed, Richard would sometimes ache from the crushing isolation that bore down on him. After George tried defecting to Warwick and Edward was bending over backwards to please the Woodvilles and his new wife, Richard had felt very alone in the London court. He hadn’t even had Lovell there.

Anne had often been able to sympathize with his feelings, having spent her own time away from her mother and sister, trapped with Henry and Margaret D’Anjou. Then again when George had trapped her, trying to steal her inheritance. Richard had known that with Anne by his side he would at least always have a steadfast companion, despite her sex.

But then after Ned and Anne had died, Richard knew that he’d lost his best connections to others and his isolation had been complete. Not even Catsby or Francis could ease the loneliness at the end. His solace had been in the thought that one day he’d meet them again in Heaven with the Lord.

Richard sat down on the bed very slowly.

But something had gone wrong, and now he was stuck here, still breathing, made up by some mad witch, and with Leonardo, the Italian who he couldn’t parse yet, and Robespierre who he already did not like. He scrubbed a hand over his face, the stubble of his beard scratching his palm.

He was beginning to tire, and very slowly laid down on the mattress, legs still hanging half off the bed. He closed his eyes and fell asleep almost at once.

Run faster, run faster, run faster. His heart was pounding and there was red blood splashed on his bristly white fur. He charged through the thick dark undergrowth, trees leering over and rose bush’s thorns adding to his scratches.

Behind Richard, he can hear the thunderous roars, the crackling of fire, and the hurricane like whooshes from wings. He was running like the wind, panting harshly, but he’s not going to be able to run forever. Even as the hunting beast bares down on him, Richard spun and instead charged fearlessly at his enemy.

Much larger than he, and filling the entire sky it seemed, was a red dragon, wings rending the stormy sky behind it. On it’s back was Henry Tudor, bearing a sword. Richard knew he could gore him, if only he can get close enough. He’s not afraid of a child, of a puffed-up traitor. He’s going to kill him and bring an end to all this suffering.  

But it was never going to be enough, because even as he raced to his foe, the dragon reached down and snatched him off the ground, teeth tearing into his side. There was a disorienting moment before the dragon closed his mouth that Richard could see out, into the sky, but then the beast swallowed and Richard was dropped into darkness.

He landed, squealing in shock, anger, and pain, in the sick of the stomach. Bile engulfed him and Richard paddled furiously to stay afloat in the foul liquid.

Around him he could see the bones and tusks of his family. His father’s head, crowned in a ring of white roses and thorns, his brothers, Edmund, Edward, and George, and sister, Margret. His son, like him but in miniature, flesh melting off his bones and flesh seared red.

Anne, throat torn out and eyes closed, was bobbing in the red sludge. Richard paddled harder, but the thick liquid was wearing him down and he knew that soon he would not be able to hold himself up any longer. He moved over to where Anne was, and slowly allowed himself to stop swimming.

Richard woke with a start, painfully banging his foot off the metal frame of the bed. Curing, Richard rolled over and grabbed the injury. Thankfully the pain chased the worst of the fog of the night terror away. By the time the ankle stopped throbbing Richard had nearly gotten his heart beat under control.

He laid back down and clapped a hand over his eyes, frowning grimly.

In that moment, he was eight years old again, homesick and mourning his family all over again.   

A Fiction Agreed Upon. Episode Seven: Rest in Pain. Part Three.

During the Revolution Maximilien’s habit had been to stay up until at least midnight, writing his drafts, revising, answering correspondence, and while working on the Committee, arguing bitterly with Collot d’Herbois and Barras.

However he found himself more easily tired now. It was as if death had sapped all of his energy, he thought, somewhat wryly.

Max persisted, eyes tracing over the familiar words of Rousseau. He knew that he it did him no good to dwell, but it didn’t stop him from wanting the comforting presence of what he knew.

Rainbow Miller kept hinting at his reputation after his death, but Max very carefully kept from that as well. For him, it had been less than a week since he made his speech to thunderous applause at the Jacobin club, tried to make his declamation to the Assembly, been arrested, escaped jail, seen his comrades shot, been injured, and finally sentenced to death.

It seemed to him that ripping open the wound, as if to blood let, would do nothing to aid his adjustment to his current situation.

So he re-read The Social Contract, Émile, and made it into Confessions, before inevitably, his eyes started to close.

He was in the Pantheon. Torchlight from a wildly swinging latern made shadows sway along the tombs. Maxime looked around and realized he was standing among familiar bodies. Camille and Lucile rested closest to him, eyes closed peacefully. At first Max convinced himself they were sleeping, but then he looked closer and realized that Camille’s head was actually simply placed near his neck, not on it.

There was no blood.

Max walked between the bodies of Augustin, Charlotte, Henriette. The Duplays. Horace. Saint-Just. Danton.

“These are yours.” Max suddenly realized that Marat had been standing next to him the entire time. He still had Corday’s knife sticking out of his chest. He gestured to Louis Capet and Marie Antoinette.

Max shook his head. He could not speak with the scent of death rising up around him.

Marat took his arm and started leading him past more bodies. Brissot, Couthon, Mirabeau, Bailey.

“These are all the ones that you caused to be killed,” Marat, in his typical fashion gesticulated wildly, arm sweeping around, the knife in his chest wobbling with every movement. His voice started to be pitched higher and higher. “Jacobins, Girondists, Indulgents.”

Max stumbled to a stop, and clapped a hand to his mouth. He could feel bile, oily and hot, rising in his throat. Grey mist rose in front of his eyes. Was it the torchlight or had Augustin’s head turned to him? Was Camille blinking slowly or was it his mind?

“The entire Revolution, lumped in with the ilk of Cromwell.” Marat finished, standing in front of Max. His yellow eyes seemed to burn in the strange atmosphere of the Pantheon.

He opened his mouth to speak and instead felt the bile rise, and rise until he was gagging.

But it was not bile at all. A huge, grey, slimy worm emerged from his mouth, spilling out down past his neck and chest, squirming lazily. Max’s mouth hung open dumbly as the weight of the worm forced his tongue to the side. He could taste the rot and dirt from the invertebrate in his mouth.

Marat took hold of the warm and yanked on it, and Maximilien nearly fell into him. The suddenly hands from all around were grabbing at him, at the issue of his mouth.

“Terror shall be the order of the day.”

“You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.”

Words that he’d never said, never declared spilled from the worm while the dead tried to rip it from his body. Pale, stiff hands pawed at his face and shoulders.

With a final yank, delivered by Phillipe Lebas, still bleeding from temple, the worm was ripped from his mouth. Maximilien looked at the slimy appanage.

But it was not the disgusting insect from inside, it was a sluggishly bleeding tongue instead.

Max woke with a start, hands flying up to his face and knocking his new glasses askew. His skin was clammy and shivers ran over belly and back. He shuddered as his fingers brushed over the raised skin of the guillotine scar.

He put the book on the side of bed, and curled himself under the covers, still shaking with the aftershocks of the dream.

It took a long time for him to fall back asleep.    

A Fiction Agreed Upon. Episode Seven: Rest in Pain. Part Two.

Leonardo rubbed distractedly at his eyes, blinking in the harsh light. He’d gone to his borrowed room after dinner, and the collective decision to try and leave Rain had been made.

His mind felt crowed by too much, the past few days catching up with him.

One moment Leonardo had been dying in France and the next he was alive in North America. It felt to him like he was only half-awake, a disquieting feeling, as Leonardo had always prided himself on his ability to see things as they really were. However now he was reliant on Rain’s interpretation, locked inside of her home and blocked at odd junctures from outside information.

Leonardo found the animated laughing mask that blocked him from certain ‘websites’ infuriating.

He sighed and went back to staring at the tablet screen: he’d been reading his companions histories.

Richard, it turned out had a whole scandal behind his rule. Having lived in Milan for a good portion of his adult life, Leonardo found it hard to be scandalized by the theory that Richard may have had his nephews killed to clear his way to the throne. Abhorrent, but nothing that Leonardo had not heard from Nicco or seen Caesar Borgia before. He was mildly surprised to find that Richard had died younger than he or Robespierre, however. There was something so…ancient in the ex-king’s bearing, that it made Leonardo assume he’d been an old man when he’d died. He presumed that it had something to do with the man’s spine. The official biography said it was ‘scoliosis, a twisting of the spine that occurred in adolescent. It would account for the pained grimace the man seemed to carry constantly.

Meanwhile, he also found himself stunned and entranced by the times Maximilien Robespierre came from.

Leonardo could scarcely wrap his head around the philosophe of the period, phrases from ‘The Rights of Man’ swimming before his eyes, let alone the frantic action that followed. An entire populace rising against their sovereign. Leonardo thought he’d seen the height of madness during the French Occupation of Lombardy, he could only imagine the horrors of what all of France would be like in a riot.

He found himself drawn to the guillotine, drawing it over a dozen times in his notes, from different angles and sizes. Once he’d included a headless corpse, simply to amuse and frighten himself. It was such a perfect method of death, from the height of blade to the materials used. Leonardo already wanted to see if there was a way to improve it.

Robespierre, shockingly, seemed to be at the very epicenter of much of the Revolution. His name was repeated from 1789 to 1794, and even cited by the men who followed after him. For such a withdrawn and diminutive figure, Robespierre must have been an amazing orator when he put his mind to it, Leonardo concluded.

He rubbed his eyes again and smother his yawn. He spun the pen in his hand, and followed the spinning movement. Slowly, his eyes shut.

Falling asleep is something your brain does automatically. You close your eyes for one moment and your brain shuts down higher functions.

Leonardo was still sketching, firelight playing over his paper while his red chalk chased the flickering shadows. It seemed like hours later when a knock on the wooden door disturbed him. Without getting up he was at the door and opening it.

It was the Officers of the Night, but Leonardo could not identify their faces. They took him, and suddenly Leonardo was standing in front of the moral guardians of Florence. Except they wore tri colored slashes and had feathers in their hats. This didn’t strike Leonardo as odd.

“Leonardo ser Piedro da Vinci you stand accused of indecency and sodomy. Evidence has been brought before the court,” Salai, dressed as Bacchus, stepped forward and smiled at Leonardo, “and you have been sentenced to death.”

Leonardo blinked again and he was walking up to the scaffold. Except it wasn’t. The shape of the guillotine was back by the stars in the inky sky, were kites flew, calling out to one another before landing and pecking at the eyes of dead and skeletal bodies. Leonardo looked over at the executioner and found a crooked-backed Lorenzo de Medici holding the rope. He grimaced as he was tied down to the plank.

As it ever was, his own patrons were the most destructive aspect of his life.

He had the perfect angle to survey the crowd before the blade came down. He felt no fear, only a curious sensation of inevitability. He heard the blade fall, but felt no pain. His head fell and met the wood of the scaffold.

Leonardo sighed as he woke up. He groaned when he realized he’d drooled all over his sketches and the desk. The clock only read a half hour later. The dream had left nothing but a vague feeling of illness, a sudden queasiness that left an ache in his temples and a greasy feeling at the back of his throat.

He rubbed his eyes again, and surrendered to the inevitable: clearly it was time for bed.

A Fiction Agreed Upon. Episode Seven: Rest in Pain. Part One.

PART ONE.

Richard was back in the kitchen, face set soberly. His back was to a corner and his arms crossed over his chest.

He eyed them both when they sat down. Rain was nowhere to be seen. “She headed off to the basement, and told me not to leave the house.” He sneered. “Did Leonardo tell you what Miller told us? About the,” Richard waved his hand at the back of his neck.

Robespierre nodded grimly. “Oui.” He sat down, crossing his arms tightly over his chest.

Richard shook his head slowly and rubbed a hand over his face.

“I’ve never imagined a future could be like this,” he muttered lowly. “The barbarity of it.”

Robespierre nodded in agreement, and frowned sourly.

“I agree.” The words came out slowly and very quietly. Leonardo smiled slightly. Clearly it pained the other man to admit the two of them could agree on anything.

“So what do we do about it?” Leonardo asked quietly. Both of the other men looked at him.

“Do?” Richard asked.

“Si. We can’t just sit here and let ourselves be trapped here, as some entertainment to Rain,” Leonardo whispered urgently.

Robespierre nodded again. “We could leave in the middle of night. We’d have hours ahead of her.”

“She said the government here will catch up to us,” Richard pointed out.

“Maybe that’s what we want, to be caught.” Leonardo stroked a hand over his chin.

Richard turned his steely gaze to Leonardo. “What do you mean?”

“It’s clear that Rain will not let us go. And we cannot leave without help. Ergo, we should seek to be caught. Perhaps someone will be sympathetic to our plight.” Leonardo spread his hands out and shrugged his shoulders.

“That’s… not very optimistic,” Robespierre pointed out slowly.

Richard made an abortive frustrated movement, as if to draw a weapon from his belt, fingers scraping his belt. “I’m not fond of the idea of just waiting for our opportunity to leave,” he growled.

“What do you suggest, murdering Rain and running for it?” Robespierre suggested acerbically. Richard turned to the corner, hands braced on the countertop.

“No,” he finally said, after a heavy silence. “But if the opportunity doesn’t arrive within a fortnight, I’m taking my leave of this place, aid or no.”

Richard pushed his way past Leonardo on his way out of the kitchen.

“Well, that went well,” he sighed. Robespierre snorted.

“He won’t ever listen to good sense,” the Frenchman opinioned. “Only to his own.”

Leonardo shrugged again. “We can try at least.”

XXX

That night, dinner passed as a quiet, awkward affair. Rain, over a simple meal of bread, olives, wine, and fish, which all three of her guests were familiar with, and so spared her the quickly exhausting task of trying to explain every food in the replicator to them. Richard would eat whatever you in front of him, as long as it was hot, while Leonardo seemed intent on questioning her on every aspect of the dish.

Rain put her fork aside and looked at each of the three men in turn. Richard was tearing into the bread and chasing it with wine. He kept his eyes on his plate and Rain thought she could see a muscle in his cheek twitching. Leonardo was seemingly intent on his olives, and Robespierre was taking tiny delicate bites of fish, ignoring the wine entirely.

“Look, I know you don’t understand now, but really, the IDs were the best solution for the Federation. It brought some stability back to the planet after World War three and the environmental fallout.”

The flat unimpressed stares that she was met with made Rain half throw her hands up.

“Out of anyone, I’d think the three of you could appreciate that the most, you know, stability.”

“There’s a difference between stability and a leash,” Robespierre said quietly.

“Because the Terror was the most effective means of governing,” Rain snapped back. Robespierre tilted his head, myopic gaze glittering with confusion. Rain took a deep breath and flapped her hand in his direction. “Never mind.”

Leonardo cleared his throat gently. “When do you return to work? Surely you’ll be missed.”

Rain leaned back and smirked. “I have another month of leave before anyone expects me back.”

Richard glanced at Leonardo, who shrugged and smiled affably.

“Wonderful. I’m sure you still have much to show us.”

Rain brightened. “Yeah! There’s a lot you’ve missed being dead the past fifteen hundred years. Oh, I should show you movies tomorrow.” She smirked. “Disney is going blow your mind.”

Leonardo nodded, smiling pleasantly. He had methodically been tearing a slice of bread into smaller and smaller chunks.

“I’m sure it will be enlightening.”

Rain beamed and got up from the table, taking her dish to the replicator and recycling it.

“Don’t stay up too late, we have princess movies to watch tomorrow!” She ruffled Leonardo’s hair, and limped away.

XXX

Leonardo ran his hand through his hair, smoothing it back down from where Rain had touched it.

Richard and Robespierre were silent, both of them staring at him. He sighed.

“Two weeks, and I’m willing to try our fortune by leaving.”

Richard nodded grimly and looked at Robespierre. “And you?”

Robespierre glanced over the rim of his glasses and sighed. “I will not stay here, not if there is a chance to return to France.”

Leonardo nodded and smiled gently. “I would like to return to Italy, as well.”

“England. York.” Richard muttered.

The three man sat in silence, thinking of their homes, a calling in their bones that couldn’t be denied.

 

A Fiction Agreed Upon. Episode Six: Threshold. Part Four.

PART FOUR.

The hound was still trailing him.

Richard had left Rain’s oddly garish and huge house early, stopping only to grab bread. She’d locked the so termed ‘replicator’ so he couldn’t get beer, but this the bread would serve to break his fast.

Richard wasn’t entirely sure where he was going, only grappling with his fierce desire to get away from Rain, from the odd Italian and the French usurper. However about ten minutes into his walk, he realized that he’d gained a shadow, in the form of Rain’s massive hound, Ava.

“Get,” he barked sharply at it. The dog stared at him, seemingly unimpressed. Richard scowled at the beast and finally with a sigh, trekked on.

The woods around Rain’s house were not like those around the city of York. The trees were sparse, the air itself was thinner. He was climbing up a steep incline, his lungs burning. However it was more alive he’d felt since the morning of the battle with Lancaster, so Richard took what he could get. When Richard felt he was high enough, he sat down at the base of a large pine tree and wiped the sweat from his face with his shirt. It wasn’t fine enough material for him to worry about ruining, he reasoned. Ava, who had been sniffing at bushes ahead of him, turned and climbed cat-like back down the rocky incline. She sat a few feet from him, back stiff and ears pricked forward.

“How did you fall in with Miller, hmm?” Richard asked the dog. “You seem like a beast of good sense.”

Ava turned her head to him, and cocked it to the right.

‘Same as you,’ her expression seemed to say. ‘No choice but to fall in line with her mad commands.’

Richard nodded then stopped himself.

“I am not going to start talking to dumb beasts,” he muttered and crossed himself.

Ava threw herself down on the ground and turned her back to him while Richard ate his breakfast. He offered the last bite to the hound.

“Don’t be offended. I won’t be talking to the mad Frenchman either, and you’re far better company than him.”

XXX

By the time Richard had found his way back to the house, (a few times he had been turned around and run in the property lines, as marked by high wooden slate fences) Rain was nowhere to be seen. However Robespierre was bent over a book, a stoneware cup of…something in front of him. The Frenchman didn’t look as Richard and Ava entered. Richard fumbled with the ‘replicator’ for a few minutes but finally got the blasted device to serve him a simple stew. Although it still wouldn’t give him beer.

He sat across from Robespierre, and stared at the man’s twisted face. He mouth was moving minutely as his eyes moved along the pages. Richard leaned slightly to make out the title, neatly stamped on the front. “The Social Contract.”

“Hmm?” Robespierre looked up, blinking slowly. He looked as if he’d been asleep and was only just awakening. He blinked again and looked around.

Richard gestured with his spoon.

“What is that you’re reading?”

Robespierre stiffened but replied, “The great philosopher, Jean-Jacques Rousseau.”

“Someone you knew?” Richard guessed, by the way Robespierre carefully said the man’s name. Maybe some uncle or cousin. Robespierre turned the book over in his hands and looked at the cover, fingers spread over it protectively.

“I knew him, but only by the words he spoke to me, the eternal ideas he passed down through his writings. He and I were of one kin, the same situation, the same-”

Richard, fearing that Robespierre would continue in this thread, put a hand up. “Stop. I believe I understand.”

Robespierre narrowed his eyes at Richard’s hand, and his mouth twisted mulishly. “Hmph. You do, do you?”

“Yes. He’s another usurper, isn’t he?” Richard leaned forward, bracing himself on the table. He pointed empathetically at the book.

The other man stood, chair legs scraping. He flattened the book with his hand, and in shrilly ringing tones began to read. “Man is born free; and everywhere he is in chains. One thinks himself the master of others, and still remains a greater slave-”

Richard stood up as well.

“My sovereignty was ordained by the Lord! I reigned by his wish, and that of my people!”

“You did nothing for the people, not if you ruled without their consent.” Robespierre rapped the table with his knuckles, punctuating his words.

Richard felt a hot wave of fury wash over him, while guilt curdled in his stomach. He pushed it aside and focused on his anger.

“Nothing for my people? Twenty years of devoted service to my brother, to my country, ensuring their protection and welfare is nothing to you?” He growled. “What did you offer to them? Paltry freedoms, gifts, guardianship?”

Robespierre’s whole face twitched, as if Richard had touched some open wound that hurt him terribly.

“I have never,” he took off his glasses and fixed his gaze on Richard “ever aspired to be the guardianship of society.” He shoved his glasses back on. “All I have wanted was for the good of the people.”

Richard snorted. “No one is ever just in it for the good of the people.”

“Maybe not your kind,” Robespierre snapped.

Richard drew a deep breath, preparing himself to tear into the Frenchman. However he stopped as Rain and Leonardo entered, still talking.

“And that was how the theory of relativity was developed.” Rain stopped and looked at Richard and Robespierre, who were standing there, flushed from their debate and Richard’s cold stew on the table. She grinned and winked.

“Are we interrupting something?”

XXX

Leonardo raised his eyebrows the same time Robespierre flushed. Richard stared at the two of them blankly.

He must have been outside for a long while, the skin of his nose and forehead was burned.

Robespierre snatched the book off of the table and tucked it under his arm.

“Non. I was just leaving.” With that he stalked off, upstairs towards the bedrooms.

Rain rolled her eyes. “Drama queen, amirite?”

Leonardo shrugged, reluctant to get in between the two.

Richard sat back down, looked at his bowl and sighed.

“When can I return to England, Miller?” He asked, voice plaintive. Leonardo found it prudent to busy himself at the replicator.

“Um, never. No one can know you’re here.”

“What?” Leonardo spun around, eyes wide.

Rain looked at him, brown eyes surprised.

“Well of course. You’re supposed to be dead. Dead men can’t just roam the streets of earth.”

“How would they even know? Who remembers us after all this time?” Richard asked in exasperation, throwing a hand up.

Rain smiled. “I didn’t exactly pick low profile people. I would say that most people would know who Leonardo is at least, you’re definitely still remembered in England and Robespierre in France.”

“We can take different names, they don’t need to know it’s us,” Leonardo pointed out. Rain rolled her eyes again.

“It’s not the names. It’s the fact you don’t belong. And everyone will know it too.”

Rain stood up and turned her back to them, before moving her hair off her neck. There, just over the top vertebrate was a small silvery marking of some sort.

“What is that?” Richard asked slowly. “Some mark devilry?”

“No. It’s something that every person, man, woman, alien, child, has on planet earth. They’re called IDentifiers. They’re given to you immediately when you come to earth. If you’re a natural born citizen, it’s when you’re born. If you’re an alien it’s when you’re signed in as a citizen. It’s how the Federation has kept the planet at peace for so long.” She turned.

“Everyone, from the children being born right this moment, to the old people dying has one. It’s hard to cause trouble when the government knows where everyone is all the time. It measures your heartbeat, brainwaves, tracks all your records, credits, job, housing, family, medical records, everything. And the three of you are the only ones on the planet without one. You try and go anywhere without it, and well…” She shrugged. “Let’s just say, you won’t be able to avoid the Federation for very long.”

Leonardo knew he looked pale, and Richard was looking at Rain with true fear in his eyes.

“So we’re trapped? Here? With you?” Richard croaked. Rain huffed, and crossed her arms.

“You make it sound so bad. It’s better than the 16th century right?”

Richard sprang away from his chair and bolted down the hall to the front door. They heard it slam and Rain sighed.

“I never knew they were going to be so much trouble. I should have done Ghandi like Kam said,” she muttered, then turned to Leonardo, who was still reeling. “Can you go collect out wayward revolutionary? I’ll go after our highness, King Richard.” Before Leonardo could speak, she waved her hand in the direction that Robespierre had taken.

He found Robespierre in his room. The door was practically open and the other man didn’t seem to be doing anything, other than absently stroking Pallas so Leonardo gently tapped on the wooden frame of the door.

“Robespierre?”

The door opened the rest of the way, and he entered. Robespierre looked up at him.

“May I help you, citiz- monsieur Leonardo?” He seemed to stumble over the title.

“Please, just Leonardo. May I sit?” He gestured to the bed. Robespierre shrugged.

The two remained silent for a long moment. Leonardo was still processing what Rain had said.

The violation of it chilled his soul. He tried to imagine what someone like Il Moro would have done with a power like that and shuddered. To be constantly tracked, noted, followed.

If the Officers of the Night had that power…

“Are you alright?” Leonardo jumped.

Robespierre was staring at him. “You’ve gone pale and grey.”

Leonardo swallowed hard and closed his eyes. In hushed tones he explained to Robespierre what Rain had told them. When he opened his eyes, Robespierre looked as horrified as Richard had.

“Oh god. What do we do?” he choked out.

Leonardo shrugged.

“For now, go downstairs.”