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.”

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