A Fiction Agreed Upon. Episode Ten: La Liberté. Part Two.

Part Two.

The temperature must have been colder than Max remembered it, because he couldn’t stop shivering as they walked along the river. That had not changed at least, still winding her way through the quarters under bridges and cutting her way down south. However, walking along it made Max even colder, the gentle water seeming to suck warmth straight from the air itself.

“Here,” Leonardo offered him his jacket, made of a course wool and held together by a single line of metal teeth that came together cleverly.

“M-merci,” Max said through chattering teeth.

Richard did not seem affected by the cold, but he was English, so that was to be expected, at least according to Maximilien. They were all cold hearted.

“Is there another place we could go?” Richard asked, lowly. People passed them on the street but did not seem to pay any attention to them. However it seemed to Max that every passing glance was going to catch onto their furtive actions, and they would be sent back to Rain, or worse, to the alien.

Maximilien stopped, looking over the river. They were walking along the same path he used to take to the Jacobins.

“If my club is still there, we’d be welcomed.” Probably.

“And what does that entail? Richard asked, dubiously.

Max rubbed at his temples. “They are good men, who only ever held the best interests of the people in their hearts.” He stared at Richard coldly, lowering his hands. “Not that you would understand that-“

Richard growled. “Listen you little-“

Before Leonardo could intervene or Richard could finish his insult Maximilien turned a corner and stopped dead, causing them all to trip into each other.

“Robespierre?” Leonardo tapped him gently. “What is wrong?”

Max, speechless, simply raised his hand and gestured. The other two men finally looked up.

“My god,” Richard breathed.

“Dio mio,” Leonardo agreed.

“That, was not there the last time I was here.” Max said dryly.

Ahead of them, rising over what must have been the very heart of the city was a tall metal sculpture. It rose like a mountain over a plain, lit up in golden lights, illuminating the entire city. It was dazzling and Maximilien couldn’t quiet decide if he adored it, or hated it. Leonardo started toward it, eyes wide.

“What is it?”

“I have no earthly idea. A building of some sort?” Max guessed. Leonardo had whipped out his notebook and was sketching it furiously, seeming entranced by the thing.

They all jumped when a voice spoke from behind them.

“First time in Paris?”

The speaker was an older woman, with a cart of plants. She wore a long grey and yellow striped scarf around her head, and her brown eyes studied them intently. She adjusted her cart so it was carefully between them.

“Ah, yes?” Leonardo spoke for them all, the smallest hesitation in his voice. Maxime coughed, struck by the sudden insane urge to laugh.

“La dame der fer is beautiful, no?”

Richard pointed. “That?”

“Oui. She’s stood there for over a thousand years. She’s been rebuilt twice, but she’s made her way through.” The woman looked at it fondly, and it suddenly struck Max that this was his national kin.

“Are you from Paris, citizeness?” The title slipped out without him meaning it to, and he winced. The woman cast him an odd look.

“Oui.” She grinned suddenly and snapped her fingers. “The north?”

Max inclined his head bashfully. He was never going to lose his Artoise accent and had been teased about it more than once from Camille. “Oui.”

“I am surprised you have not been to visit, then. Too much time in Monaco?” She waved the thought away, smiling playfully. “Ah it does not matter. Young people. If you are going to see her, you need to continue down this rue.” She winked. “She is hard to miss.”

Max bowed. “Merci beaucoup, madame.”

She shook his hand when he rose, her soft hand gripping his firmly. “And thank you for your service, sir,” she told him gravely, before hefting her cart away.

“Service?” Richard asked when they started away. Maximilien shrugged.

“I don’t know what she meant.” He looked at Leonardo, biting his lip, a sudden thought occurring to him. “You don’t think she recognized us, do you?”

“She thought you were a solider, your scars.” Leonardo waved at his own face and neck. Max felt his stomach drop to his shoes.

“Oh.”

“You should be honored. She thought that you had been in battle.” Richard remarked.

Maximilien stayed silent. He still didn’t quite know how to feel about the bullet scars on his face. They pulled and itched fiercely, and he was uncomfortably reminded of that day. The smell of blood, and gun powder in the air. Augustin screaming, Couthon’s body thudding to the ground. The bang of the gun going off in Phillipe Le Bas’s hands.

He shuddered.

Night had settled in around them and Max looked up at the stars. Or he tried to. Nothing more than a few distant pinpricks of light could be seen. He blinked in bewilderment.

“What on earth happened to the sky?”

The other two stopped and looked up. After a moment Richard growled and pinched the bridge of his nose.

“What else? Lands hand sank beneath the ocean, the stars are gone, and I’m in Paris. Did the end of days happen and no one notice?” He demanded at large. For a horrifying moment Maximilien found himself agreeing.

Leonardo was still staring upward.

“It’s the lights,” he muttered after a moment.

“Pardon?” Max asked.

Leonardo gestured around. “All these lights, they are much stronger than candles or fires, si?”

“Yes.”

“All of the light they are giving off, it is obscuring the stars.” He shrugged, then stiffened, a wide-eyed look of amazement coming over him. “Which would mean the same thing happens during the day when the sun is out! Which would mean that the stars are stationary as well!” He clapped, beaming widely. “I knew it!” Richard snorted.

“The sun is not stationary. It goes around the earth.”

Maximilien raised a hand, smiling slightly. “Actually it does not. Leonardo is right, the sun is the center and all the other planets rotate around it.”

Both of them looked at him in silent amazement. Max shrugged.

“It was taught to me in Louis le Grand. I’m sorry if I don’t know the specifics.”

“I was right?” Leonardo sounded stunned, a deep contrast to the confident tone he’d been using till then. “Dio mio.”

“Never mind that, what the devil do you mean, the earth isn’t the center? The Lord made it,” Richard demanded. “That’s what the Church says.”

“Yes, and it’s incorrect,” Maximilien raised his eyebrows in emphasis.

Richard looked between the two of them.

“Heretics. I’m surrounded by heretics,” he muttered, jaw set. Maximilien could barely prevent himself from rolling his eyes.

Leonardo seemed to have shaken himself from his amazed stupor. He let out a nervous little chuckle.

“We should keep moving, si? We still have no place to sleep tonight,” he pointed out. Maximilien nodded, then gestured.

“It’s this way.”

Or it used to be.

A Fiction Agreed Upon. Episode Ten: La Liberté. Part One.

Episode Ten: La Liberté.

Part One.

It was evening and Richard was half asleep when He became aware that the vehicle was descending. They’d all started falling asleep somewhere over the ocean, a sight so enormous that even Leonardo had been disturbed by it. Robespierre had been the first to go, slumping over with his hands protectively curled over his chest. The Leonardo, leaning against the window and muttering in Italian. Richard had tried to stay awake, instincts reminding him strongly he could easily be in a vehicle with two people who would see him dead. However eventually the monotony of the location and the comfortable interior wore him down and Richard had found himself slipping into a sleep-like trance.

He reached over and shook Leonardo roughly.

“I think we are nearing Paris.”

The Italian snapped awake near instantaneously. Which was good because the invisible woman who spoke to them came back on.

“Nearing the city of Paris. The capital of the country of France, and largest European nation. Please enter address.”

Robespierre was still dead to the world so Richard very gently threw an apple at his head.

“We are in your precious Paris. Where can we go to spend the night?” He barked at the blurry eyed Frenchmen.

“Ah, 398 Rue Saint Honore,” he muttered, rubbing at his eyes under his glasses.

“Address Accepted. Arrival estimated, six minutes.”

Leonardo stretched, arms bending behind his head and flexing his spine off the seat.

“Where is it that we are going, Robespierre?” He asked, twisting.

“My home, the Duplays should-” Suddenly Robespierre cut himself off, looking stricken. “Oh.”

Richard turned on the bench to stared at him with incredulity. “Did you give us a dead man’s location?”

Robespierre opened his mouth to respond, cheeks already flushing with anger, before Leonardo smoothly cut across them.

“It’ll give us a starting point. All we need is a place to land, and this is good enough. We are never going to get anywhere with the two of you sniping at each other every five minutes. Dio mio, make you peace already!”

Richard and Robespierre stared at each other for a few moments before turning away. Leonardo looked at each other them in turn and muttered something under his breath. Richard thought he heard the words, ‘gone by myself’ and bristled slightly. However before he could the vehicle dropped gently to the ground with a thump. All three of them clutched the seat in surprise.

“Well, I suppose we are here,” Leonardo commented, still sounding sour with the two of them. He pushed a button on the central console and the machine’s light’s extinguished. The tiny chip that he’d used to start the vehicle up slid out and Leonardo grabbed it, stowing it away in some interior pocket. He turned to look at Richard and Robespierre with a raised eyebrow.

“Coming?”

XXX

Maximilien couldn’t believe that he’d forgotten that the Duplay family would be long dead. In the dreamy moment between sleep and waking he’d thought himself still in the year two of the Revolution. He could have sworn that he could hear the familiar clatter of the workmen just outside his window, the sounds of Brount barking, the footsteps coming up the staircase to his rooms.

He clambered out of the flying carriage, and looked up at the rooms that used to be his.

They were gone. There was a large glass building in it’s place. The lights were dim and reflected the starlight.

Max felt all of the air in his lungs pushed out, as if someone had hit him in the chest. It felt as if he’d been shot all over again.

“It’s gone. It’s completely gone,” he whispered. Leonardo gently patted his shoulder.

“I am sorry, Robespierre.”

He stared at the building, backing away. He looked down when his heel hit against a metal plaque.

“Residence of Maximilien Robespierre from 1790 till his death 1794.” Richard read, looking down at it.

Maximilien stared down it numbly.

So this was what he came down to? A small plaque on the ground, dully noting his death. His position wasn’t even noted. He wondered if his, Charlotte and Bonbon’s house in Arras was gone too. The thought that it might be gone felt as if someone had forced a large icicle into his chest, sharp and cold. He swallowed heavily, and set his jaw.

“I’m fine. I would not expect them to memorialize me, not if Billaud, Barere, and Collot d’Herbois persisted in saying I had mastery over the Committees.” He clenched his hand at his side.

The cool night was closing around them and street was quiet. Somewhere a dog barked and Max was struck with a homesickness for his family so intense that for a moment he thought he was going to be ill. Instead he took and deep breath and gestured down the avenue.

“The Seine is that way. It will take us to the heart of Paris, if nothing else. Or the Tuileries is behind us.”

Leonardo, still looking at him softly, nodded.

“Lead on, Robespierre, you know the city best,” he offered quietly. Richard rolled his snorted and re-adjusted the bag on his shoulder, but held his tongue.

Max nodded and with a shuddering breath turned away from the glass building.

A Fiction Agreed Upon. Episode Nine: Lions and Tigers and Boars. Part Three.

PART THREE.

Ava slowly crept out from under the bed in Richard’s room.

Strangers had been in the house, smelling of ozone and metal. They’d taken Rain away.

She slowly nosed the door open, smelling the air. The men were gone too, and from the way Pallas’s human had said goodbye, they weren’t coming back.

The pack was alone.

The other dogs were creeping out from where they’d been hiding. Pallas was carrying a scrap of fabric in her teeth. When Bobby tried to sniff it, the poodle growled so furiously that the boarder collie yipped and backed away into the wall, tail tucked.

“What happened?” Baby asked, crouched low to the floor, shaking. “Where’s Rain?”

“Gone. She was taken by the strangers.” Berwald growled. The German Shepard shook himself, hopping from one front paw to another. “Alpha, we should leave now. Rain is gone, and the house is empty. We will never have a better chance to run.” At this the pack burst in a flurry of barks and howls. Ava ignored them, sniffing the ground. She could smell the men, and the under lying sense of fear. They thought they were going to be hunted. She shook her tail. Well if it was hunt they wanted, a hunt they would receive.

“We are leaving.” Her announcement quieted the rest of her pack. Norma jumped off the table, where she’d been lying.

“Where are we going to go, Ava? Where can we go?” The little corgi demanded.

Ava turned and bounded over to the door, energy suddenly filling her. She clawed it open, uncaring of the way her claws scratched the door. There was no need for secrecy now.

It opened and a fading light filled the hallway. It would be sunset soon, all the better for them.

“We’re going to go after the men!” She crowed. “We’re going to rejoin with them. They are our humans now.”

Pallas dropped the fabric she’d been clutching. Ava now realized it was a piece of one of shirts that the small, sickly, Robespierre had worn.

“The men? My human?” She demanded. Ava shook herself in excitement, tail going faster.

“Yes. We leave at sunset. Everyone should eat. Norma, use the food maker.” She ordered. Ava turned to face the sun, the wind blowing the scent of many animals, humans, things, over her. Out there somewhere, she could feel the pull of her human, of Richard.

I’ll find you. And then we’ll run.

A Fiction Agreed Upon. Episode Nine: Lions and Tigers and Boars. Part Two.

PART TWO.

Rain woke to the sound of someone banging furiously on her bathroom door.

“Doctor Miller! I know you are in there! The humans you brought back are gone, open the door!”

Rain grinned to herself. She knew they would figure out something.

Three men who had been dead for a thousand years, lose in the world, and on the run from the government?

Now this was becoming interesting.

Rain grabbed her cane and hoisted herself to her feet. She made her way leisurely over to the locked bathroom door, trying not to look too pleased when she opened the door.

“Oh dear. Where ever could they be?” She opened her eyes wide and looked up at the alien. Maltass sneered. “Do not toy with me. This is a diplomatic incident and as soon as your government hears about this, you will be in prison and those things you made will be destroyed.”

A buzzing sound overhead made Rain look up, eyes going wide with genuine shock now. She looked back at the ambassador who dipped their head in satisfaction.

“Ah, there they are now!”

“You- you didn’t actually call them, did you?” Rain sputtered.

“I contacted your head of security, Major Chikara, directly,” Maltass hissed.

Rain attempted to rush past the alien, only to grabbed firmly by the back of the neck in their large hand.

“Let me go! You don’t know what you’ve done!” She snarled and attempted to hit the Komali with her walking stick.

“Causing trouble again are we, Doctor?”

A tremor went up her spine and Rain looked down the hall. At the top of the stairs stood Marie Rivera, Chikara’s metaphorical right hand. The tall heavily built woman looked down her snub nose at Rain. Officers of the federation rushed up the stairs and grabbed the stunned Rain from Maltass’s grasp, quick clapping a pair of electro-magnetic cuffs on her. She dropped her cane as she wrists twisted over on another, effectively making it impossible for her to use her hands together. The officer dragged Rain forward, tight grasp on her shoulder both restraining and supporting her as she was made to stand in front of Marie.

“I always knew it would come to this. Doctor Rainbow Miller, you are under arrest for treason and banned experimentation. Anything you say can and will be held against you. You will be held at the South west labor camp to await tr-” Marie cut herself off and put a hand to her ear, frowning.

“Yes, I understand. Alright.”

Marie clicked her fingers at her helmeted officers.

“Change of plans. Chikara wants to see to Miller personally. We’re headed to headquarters.”

“Personally?” Rain asked, despite the cold slimy worms of fear crawling through her belly. People always did say she had more curiosity than sense.

Marie smiled. It was a beautiful smile. She had a full broad face, with eye’s so pale they almost seemed gold, and dimples in both cheeks. However, it only served to make Rain shudder, despite its beauty.

“Oh yes. Chikara is very curious to follow up on these claims about the technology you stole. She promised the Komali she would investigate personally. It means she’s going to want to speak to you,” Marie leaned in closer, to where Rain could feel her peppermint scented breath waft over her, “One on one.” Marie clicked her fingers again. “Load them up and let’s move out!”

XXX

Chikara Haruka was not a tall woman. She was shorter than even Rain, which in a world where the average height was six foot even and you were only five eight was impressive. Despite this Chikara’s presence seemed to have no problem making up for what her size lacked. From her carefully starched uniform and shiny black hair, pinned back in a severe bun, Haruka’s bearing suggested a person who did not suffer fools or mischief makers lightly. Marie went to Chikara’s side, speaking quietly. Rain was held back by two massive guards, arms pinned down.

Rain had only met Chikara in passing, when she had first started working for the Federation. As officials, both excelling in their fields, both had been pressed into going to the occasional balls or galas that the Federation had. Rain had the feeling that Chikara was much like herself, more interested in field work than the pomp and circumstance of bureaucracy. Rain caught sight of a plain gold band on her finger and mused that her marriage to Zebadiah had not gentled her at all. However, considering the circumstances of her marriage, Rain could understand why.

Chikara Haruka’s wedding had been highly publicized. She had been wedded to a member of an alien species as the final effect of a long reaching treaty. Rumor had it that Chikara had only been chosen because she was the only unmarried member of the high government.

Rain wondered if Chikara knew that Zebadiah also has the technology blueprints as well.

Zebadiah shook his head. “Alright. Then I’ll tell you plainly. If you do not give me the data on this technology, I will report it, and you will find yourself on a labor farm in short order, never again to work with science. And then I will still take it when the government seizes your possessions. So you can give it to me the easy way, or you can give it to me the hard way. Regardless I will have it.”

Rain smirked.

‘Joke’s on you Zeb. Your wife is a step ahead of us both. But I bet she wants to be rid of you far more than me.’

Marie stepped back from the shorter woman, who eyed Rain, brown eyes blank and emotionless.

“Doctor Miller, do you know why you’re here?”

“Because you’re a fascist,” Rain relied flippantly, smiling.

Marie sneered, however Chikara didn’t change her expression even slightly.

“Doctor Miller, why did you take the data from the Komali, despite having electrically signing a contract with the Federation?”

“Because I could.”

“Doctor Miller do you understand that you have broken the law and you are going to be charged in jury of your peers, before going to prison?”

Rain held her head up proudly. “Yes. I don’t care, information should be free to use. I don’t mind going to prison for doing my job.”

Chikara’s eyes flared with emotion suddenly.

“Your job? You’ve endanger the life of every person on this planet. Not just from Komali, but from those things you brought back,” Chikara stabbed the air empathetically. Marie handed her the tablet, and Chikara frowned thunderously, scrolling though whatever was there.

“Savages. Murders. Imbeciles. And you’ve loosed them on the public.” Chikara looked up, and Rain’s confidence started to sieve out of her. “Before I put you onto a labor farm for the rest of your life Doctor Miller, you will help us catch the beasts you made, willingly, or by any force required.”

A Fiction Agreed Upon. Episode Nine: Lions and Tigers and Boars. Part One.

PART ONE.

While Maximilien couldn’t fully relax, not with knowing how far away the earth was, he decided that if he sat in the middle of back bench, and concentrated on the tablet that Leonardo had passed back to him.

An uneasy silence had fallen over the three men, and Max was uncomfortably aware this was the longest the three of them had been alone together. By themselves, without potential supervision or intervention. A shiver raced up his spine, and he held himself more stiffly against the leather seat.

“I wonder how long it will take to get to Paris?” Richard asked suddenly, looking over at Leonardo, who had taken the opportunity to press his face against the glass and was scribbling furiously.

“Tap the center panel, it has the rout mapped out for us, and will have an estimate.” Leonardo never took his eyes off the ground. Max leaned over slightly, trying to see past the other man’s broad shoulders. He caught sight of swirling sketches, thick lines and sprawling city maps.

Richard raised an eyebrow but sighed and did so.

“Seven hours?!” He pinched the bridge of his nose. “Dear lord.”

“It’s faster than three to six months it would have taken us.” Leonardo pointed out mildly. Maximilien smiled slightly.

“Less comfortable though,” Richard grunted and stretched his back. “An ale wouldn’t go amiss right now.” Max noticed that Leonardo turned all of his attention to the man when he did this, intelligent brown eyes watching carefully. His pen stopped abruptly and Leonardo flipped to a blank page, rapidly scratching out curves.

“Well the faster we get there, the faster you can have your ale,” Leonardo said calmly.

“Praise the lord,” Richard said dryly.

XXX

Clio sighed and sat down cross legged on the self piloted hover car. The three men inside did not know that technically, their trans-Atlantic flight in vehicle as small as this shouldn’t be possible, but she did. At the moment she was using her own personal powers of plot to move them more quickly forward. If anyone ever caught on to them, she felt confident in her ability to navigate them away from danger.

“You’re an awful lot of trouble for minor bi-pedals, you know,” she muttered, crossing her arms.

“Humans, they think they know everything,” Spectra said, sitting down next to Clio. “You should see mine. He’s already stopped an assassination attempted and found roommates and he’s only been there for twenty-four hours!” The anthropomorphic hyena grinned proudly.

“If only, I’ve put up with weeks of this,” Clio rapped her knuckles on the roof.

Spectra smiled even more widely, sharp teeth glinting in the sunlight. They hung past her lips, shiny and clean. “Oh please, I know you like the hard cases, and humans most of all.”

Clio sniffed dismissively but did not refute the other Muse’s rather appropriate understanding of Clio’s unique tastes in narratives.

“Only because I was raised on earth, nothing more,” she defended herself. Spectra smirked and laughed, dissolving with the wind.

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

PART FOUR.

Rain had taken her sedative upstairs and passed out in her bathroom, propped against the toilet when they went looking for her. Despite the fact Richard didn’t really think it would do much good, he dragged a chair from out of his room, and jammed it under the door-knob.

Leonardo was busy downloading information he though had been useful from Rain’s database, maps, records, biographies, and some of the older more digestible medical textbooks he’d found. He sent Robespierre down into Rain’s private lab to take what batteries and cords he thought they would need. The Frenchmen originally protested this.

“That’s still her property.”

“It’s for a common need, and from what I’ve gathered, talking to her, Rain could replace anything we take three times over. I wouldn’t worry too much about if we’re going to leave her bereft or not,” Leonardo placated him, although Robespierre still did not look entirely convinced.

Richard busied himself by stripping the bedding from the beds, and stuffing them in all bags he could lay his hands on. Most of them were flimsy looking, made with thin slippery material, and delicate looking stitching. He scowled, but resigned himself. If they happened to come upon anything better, Richard felt confident he’d be able to trade for it.

Within a quarter of an hour, the three men were leaving Rain’s house. Before they’d left, Ava had grabbed Richard’s wrist and growled.

“Stay.” He ordered, taking his hand back. To his surprise, the hound obeyed and sat down, watching him mournfully.

“Good girl,” he said at last, giving the dog a scratch. Robespierre patted her on the head.

“Smart dog,” he cooed. Richard rolled his eyes.

“Let’s go, I don’t think that alien will be out much longer.”

Leonardo nodded and slipped out ahead of them, bag with the electronics slung over his shoulder. Richard gestured to Robespierre.

“Traitors first,” he said. Robespierre didn’t say anything, but Richard could see the disdain that shone in his eyes for a moment, before he turned and followed Leonardo.

Richard was careful to relock the door, and jammed a large stone in front of it for good measure, although he didn’t imagine it would hold either the alien or Rain for very long.

Leonardo was in the shed next to Rain’s house, studying one of the vehicles. He walked around it, muttering in Italian. Richard was more than prepared to walk the distance into wherever the ocean was to catch a ship, but Leonardo insisted that this would be much faster.

“Do you know how to work it?” Richard asked, frowning.

“Theoretically, it’s simple enough.” Leonardo smiled at him. “Simply start the engine and then enter the destination of where you want to go.”

Robespierre, looking hesitant, asked, “Do you know how to start it?”

Leonardo revealed a data chip in his hand. “No, but this does. Apparently it’s something that Rain was working on. Get in and we’ll see how it works.”

Richard sighed and eyed the vehicle. It resembled a horseless carriage, however it was made entirely of metal. It sat on the ground, and looked entirely immobile. He consoled himself by remember the horrifying journey here, and thinking that at least this mad Italian was not asking him to be unmade and sent thousands of miles.

All things considered a horseless carriage he could deal with.

Richard, after fiddling with the lever on the door, eventually made his way into the front of the carriage. A smooth panel was in front of him.

Leonardo slid in after him, with considerably more grace.

“Robespierre, you will have to sit in the back, there is no more room here.”

Richard smirked to himself.

Leonardo fiddled with the panel and it lit up under his fingers. He found where to insert the tiny metal bit and slid it in carefully. The panel flickered, once, twice, and then it beeped.

“User accepted. Destination?” A smooth male voice asked.

Leonardo fished in his bag for the map.

“Florence?”

The panel flashed red.

“Negative destination. Florence sank in 2310. Please select another destination.”

“Sank?” Richard muttered. He and Leonardo glanced at each other.

“Well I suppose it was built on a swamp,” Leonardo said sadly. “Any other suggestions?”

“Paris,” Robespierre said from the back seat. The panel flashed green before Richard could demand London instead.

“Destination accepted. Please fastened seat-belt and prepare for lift-off.”

The three men exchanged looks. Leonardo mouthed the term, ‘lift off’, and frowned.

Richard’s concerns were closer to home.

“What in the saints names are sea-AHHHHH!”

All three of them screamed as the vehicle let out a beep and went from motionless to quickly rising, crashing straight through the shed’s roof. Richard watched with wide eyes as the ground dropped away. He had the funny feeling his guts had stayed. He shut his eyes and gripped the leather bench tightly.

“We’re flying! My god, we’re really flying!” Leonardo seemed to have recovered the fastest, and was laughing in delight. Richard grit his teeth as he could feel the carriage change direction. Robespierre seemed to share his issue, since he could hear him wretch.

“Richard, Maximilien! Open your eyes, it’s incredible,” Leonardo said, shaking his arm like a child. Richard shook his head and wrenched his arm away.

“Absolutely not.”

“Are you mad?” Robespierre demanded, sounding shaky.

Leonardo sighed, and Richard bristled. “For heaven’s sake. It’s perfectly safe in here, and you can see the whole of North America. We’re surrounded by clouds and all the sky is spread out under us. The sun is shining and we’re flying. Please, I’m sincerely asking that the two of you open your eyes and join me.”

Richard pressed his lips together tightly. He didn’t want to see how high they were from the realm of men, from what he knew. But he also understood the logic behind what Leonardo was requesting. He couldn’t very well spend his entire journey to Paris with his eyes shut.

He took a deep and calming breath before slowly opening his eyes.

The whole vehicle was awash in bright sunlight, glittering off the glass panel in front of him. The leather was already warming under him and Richard cynically wondered how long it would be till it became unbearable. However very slowly he looked around, eyes going wide and round.

They were surrounded by fluffy white clouds, the kind that always beckoned him out of the castle as a child, and reminded him of summers spent riding with Ned and George. The sky was a rich royal blue, and when he gathered his courage and looked out one of the glass windows the earth below them was a wash of greens-browns-greys. He could make out massive glass buildings, some of them rising into the clouds with them.

He looked over at Leonardo, who had tears sparkling in his eyes.

“We’re flying. I’d dreamt of it for so long, and now,” he touched the glass that separated them from the outside. Richard couldn’t help but feel moved by the other man’s sincere emotion.

“It’s so far away,” Robespierre whispered from the back. He too had his hand pressed to the glass.