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

Part Four.

However getting to Cairo, even in the new world of terrors and marvels was proving easier said than done.

They had gone back to the carriage, after getting lost once.

“I thought you said you lived here for five years,” Richard pointed out to Robespierre.

“It was closer to four and a half actually,” Robespierre snapped. “Additionally, if you haven’t noticed, the city has changed significantly.”

“Oh please do not start now. You’ve actually managed to be civil to each other all morning,” Leonardo begged.

Turning onto rue Honore the three of them stopped dead, all bickering pushed aside.

“Turn around slowly,” Leonardo advised lowly, staring at the carriage which was now surrounded by uniformed figures. The carriage itself was being dismantled, and carted into a larger one, that was hovering a few feet off the ground. “Just walk back the way we came.”

Richard turned stiffly and fell in beside the other two men. Leonardo looked the least suspicious, shoulders relaxed, sketchbook tucked under his arm, and staring around as if there was nothing wrong. Robespierre kept glancing over his shoulder, his step quick and light.

They managed about a block before, as if of one mind, they all three broke into a run.

Sprinting past people of all colors and bright lights and crystalline buildings, Richard ran as if Lucifer himself had risen to chase him. The three of them raced away, dipping down countless alleys and nearly crashing into others. Eventually Richard slowed, and the others caught up with him.

“How on earth did they find us?” Robespierre panted out, clutching his side. He looked as if he did not run very often, face flushed and hair coming lose from the loose tail he wore at the base of his neck. He skittered to a stop next to Richard.

Leonardo slowed to a stop as well. He coughed twice, bent over at the waist.

“It was Rain,” Richard said grimly. “She would have told them we stole her property.”

“Likely. They could have also tracked us independently. The how isn’t important now. We need to get out of the city,” Leonardo spoke shortly.

“How?” Richard demanded.

“That terrible light machine that Rain took us in, we can use that,” Robespierre pointed out.

“We need the IDs to use them.” Leonardo shook his head, then stopped. “Unless, unless! We could tell them that we need to see Kamala that we were sent from Rain.”

“Yes, do you remember, Rain was able to get us on the um, uh, object,” Robespierre stuttered out.

“And you think this Kamala will help us?” Richard demanded, grabbing Leonardo around the arm. The man’s eyes took a distant look, and his mouth twisted slightly.

“Si.”

Richard met Robespierre’s eyes.

“Then let us go to Cairo.”

XXX

However first they had to get there.

Leonardo had found a city map, and was scanning over it. Richard watched in fascination it’s bright surface displayed images for food, hotels, and shows.

“What’s with the windmill?” He asked Robespierre.

The Frenchmen shrugged. “It wasn’t here when I was here. Neither was ah, the burlesque.” He adjusted his glasses, frowning dubiously.

Leonardo tapped the map and it magnified upon one part. “There it is. We should be able to use these, transporters to get to Cairo. They should be,” he turned to the east, “this way. They are located next to the Tuileries Gardens.”

Out of the corner of his eye Richard saw Robespierre shudder. The man’s footsteps were a little slower, a little more ponderous as they followed Leonardo.

The sun was high in the sky and Richard judged it to maybe be around ten in the morning. All of the odd people who lived now walked around, faces bent downwards to their lit up tablets or watching nearly transparent screens, projected out of bands they wore around their wrists. Some wore spectacles, that were lined with fine blue threads, and randomly laughed or smiled as if they were mad.

Richard grimaced. It was all mad. He hardly understood at all, from why Rain had seemingly picked him out of the blue, to how carriages floated magically.

Secretly, Richard was hoping that this other woman, was practiced in some art like Rain’s and would be able to return him home.

They turned onto a large square, with fine, large fountains on either side and the massive iron tower to the west. It was mostly deserted, with some people sitting around the fountains.

“Look, there they are.” Leonardo pointed to the magical transporters. He was smiling slightly, and raised an eyebrow at them. “Now we just have to- Robespierre?”

Richard glanced over and found the Frenchman had gone stiff and pale, as if in death. His eyes were enormous and round behind his glasses.

“What now?” Richard snapped.

Robespierre moved his mouth but no sound emerged.

“What?”

“I-I died here.” Robespierre gasped. His lips had gone a pale blue and he was shaking from head to toe. Leonardo stepped forward.

“Robespierre, it’s past. There’s no one here to hurt you now.” His tone was that of talking to a skittish horse, a low gentle tone.

However whatever had possessed the Frenchman had taken full hold of his body. His eyes were hazy and his breath was coming in short ragged breaths. He swayed on his feet slightly and his hands flitted around his face, clawing at his cheeks and forehead.

Richard took a step away.

“He’s been possessed,” he hissed to Leonardo. “Do something!”

“It’s not possession, it’s- it’s panic. Fear. Robespierre!” Leonardo grabbed the shorter man around the shoulders and shook him gently. However this had the opposite of the intended effect because Robespierre merely gasped and his eyes rolled back. He went slack in Leonardo’s grasp. The Italian cursed and glancing around, dragged him to the nearest bench, sitting him down. However he was insensible, mumbling and flailing weakly. Leonardo caught his hands and gripped them in his own. He touched the man’s face, gently tapping him.

“Shhh, shhh. Robespierre, Maximilien. Maximilien, you are alright. There is nothing here to hurt you. The guillotine is gone,” Leonardo crooned gently. Richard watched hypnotized as Robespierre seemed to come back to himself, gently. He groaned and his eye lids fluttered.

“How on earth did you do that?” Richard demanded. Leonardo shrugged.

“I’ve known men who had night terrors before. This is not so different.” He turned to the still shaken man, who was looking lost. “Maximilien, can you walk?”

The Frenchman put a hand to his head, but stood up, shakily.

“Oui, I-I think so.”

Leonardo dragged them both into the nearest building, Robespierre still looking shaken and pale. Richard looked back over his shoulder at the square behind them. To him it still looked innocent and mostly barren. However, from the way Robespierre clutched the wall to stay upright it was clear something had happened to him there. If Richard had to guess, it probably had to do with the ghastly scars that crossed the man’s face.

Richard thought that he’d probably deserved it, whatever had happened to him.

Leonardo didn’t seem to think so, practically holding the other man upright.

“Maximilien, it’s alright,” the Italian said quietly, patting his shoulder.

A cough from behind made them all turn.

“May I help you gentlemen?” The speaker was a dark haired, dark skinned women, dressed in simple back and white clothing. Richard looked around and realized a few people had stopped eating and were looking at them.

Clearly a tavern of some kind.

“Ah, yes. We are here to eat,” Richard told her.

The women looked at them with wide eyes, confusion and a hint of exasperation creeping in.

“Alright, do you have a reservation?”

A what? Richard wondered.

“No, I don’t think so,” he said aloud. The women stared at them silently, mouth open slightly.

“Let me see if we have any open tables. Why don’t you take a seat right on that bench and I’ll be back in a moment.” She gestured and watched them warily.

As soon as the women was gone Richard turned to Leonardo.

“What do we do?” He asked quietly.

“Maximilien, are you alright now?” Leonardo asked.

Robespierre nodded, looking less ashen than he had. “Oui.” A flush appeared on his face. “I’m sorry, I don’t know what came over me.”

Leonardo patted his shoulder again. “It’s alright, we don’t mind.”

Richard snorted. “I mind.” Leonardo shot him an unimpressed look.

Robespierre stood. “We should probably go before -”

“Gentlemen? We have a table open, right this way.” She gestured, clearly expecting them to follow her. Leonardo looked at them helplessly before following.

Richard set his jaw. “I blame you,” he hissed as he brushed passed Robespierre to follow the women. Robespierre glared at him, mouth twisting. He opened his mouth to respond but was cut off.

“Falla finita!” Leonardo snapped at both of them, grabbing Robespierre’s wrist, leading him along. “Petty bickering gets us nowhere.”

They were led to a table with three chairs set up around it.

“A waiter will be with you gentlemen in a moment, please look through our selection at your leisure.” With that the women quickly left, looking over her shoulder as she did.

Richard glanced around and found that they were still being stared at. Some of the patrons were whispering to each other, looking apprehensive or shifting in their seats. A table close by had a small ebony-skinned child, who was gazing gape mouthed at them. The little boy touched his mouth then looked at his hand, and to his father, then back at Richard. He crinkled his nose and pointed, looking back to his father.

“Don’t point, Beni,” the man chided him. He looked up at Richard, looking embarrassed. “Sorry. He’s just never seen anyone, um, like you.”

Richard frowned. “Like me?” Self-consciously he lowered his right shoulder.

“You know, white.”

“Oh.” Richard sat back. He glanced over to Robespierre and Leonardo. Robespierre was holding his hand to his cheek, and was anxiously biting his lower lip.

Leonardo was fidgeting with something in his lap, apparently oblivious to the conversation. However he looked up and made eye contact with the boy, grinning slightly.

“You are Beni, si?”

The child nodded shyly.

“Do you like birds?” Leonardo held up a folded cloth napkin, cleverly arranged to look like a little sparrow. The boy gasped and held out his hands. Laughing, Leonardo slid the napkin over where it was eagerly picked up. The boy held it up to his father who examined it, eyebrows raised.

“That’s very impressive, sir. What do we say, Beni?”

“Thank you,” he lisped quietly.

Leonardo laughed. “You’re welcome, Beni!”

Richard glanced around again and while many people had gone back to eating, the remaining gawkers were now exchanging amused glances or smiles. He looked at Leonardo with new eyes.

Robespierre was looking at Leonardo as well, a small smile on his face.

“That was a friendly thing to do,” he said quietly.

The Italian shrugged. “If we are attracting attention, it may as well be positive, si?”

Robespierre tilted his head. “I’ve never thought of it that way.”

Richard meanwhile had been suitably by distracted the menu.

“Do either of you have any idea what any of this is?” He asked quietly. Robespierre looked at it and quirked a coppery eyebrow.

“No, I’ve never seen any of it. Leonardo?”

“It looks like raw fish,” the Italian said after a moment of scrutiny. Richard looked at him blankly.

“Why would anyone -”

Leonardo hushed him, a man with an apron was headed over to their table.

“Afternoon gentlemen. Is there anything I can get you drink to start off with?”

Richard pinched the bridge of his nose. “Yes. Three beers.”

The waiter nodded. “Alright.” For a moment he seemed to scrutinize his face and Richard noticed a sort of glimmer went over the man’s eyes.

“And have you gentlemen looked over the menu?”

Leonardo nodded. “The uh,” he cast a frantic look over the hologram, “dragon roll?”

“Sounds good, I’ll be back with your beers in just a moment.” With that the waiter turned away.

Richard scrutinized Leonardo. “What is a ‘Dragon roll’?”

Leonardo shrugged. “It says it has eels and avocado.”

Robespierre cast a worried look at the Italian. “What is an avocado?”

“I do not know, but I suppose you will find out.” Leonardo leaned back in his chair.

“Us? Why not you?” Richard shot back.

“I don’t eat the flesh of animals.” Leonardo shrugged, smiling slightly.

“What?” It was the most absurd thing Richard had ever heard. Even Robespierre looked surprised, raising his eyebrows at the Italian.

The waiter came back and handed the beers out.

“Is there anything else I can get you gentlemen?”

“Yes. May I please have a glass of water?” Robespierre asked.

The waiter nodded and turned away until Leonardo called him back.

“Ah, and a small bowl of rice please?”

With the waiter gone, Richard turned back to Leonardo.

“What on earth do you mean you don’t eat animals?”

Leonardo shrugged slightly. “I do not wish to treat my body as a mausoleum, littered with dead things,” he flicked his fingers dismissively. “If you can get your subsistence without harming other living creatures, why wouldn’t you?”

Richard snorted derisively. But Robespierre was blinking at Leonardo as if they had only just met.

“That’s…That’s a very good point,” Robespierre said.

Richard rolled his eyes, but before he could argue back, the waiter returned with the ‘Dragon Roll.’ He set a small dish of rice in front of Leonardo and the water in front of Robespierre.

“There you go gentlemen. Is there anything else I can do for you?”

“No, merci,” Robespierre smiled at him.

“Excellent, the bill will be posted right at the bottom. Just transfer your credits when you’re ready to leave. Enjoy!”

Robespierre smile vanished as the waiter left.

“We don’t have any money,” he hissed as Richard reached forward to grab the one of the segments of the ‘Dragon’. It was wrapped in rice and something green. Richard picked it up and examined it closely.

“So?”

“So we can’t pay for what we’re about to eat, and that’s thievery.” Robespierre reached forward as if to stop Richard. In retaliation Richard popped the whole segment in his mouth.

It was cold and there was something slimy to it, but he could taste an underlying fishiness to it, just the mildest hint of brine. Robespierre was staring at him, sallow face pinched in disgust. Leonardo was also looking at him, mouth twisted slightly. Richard chewed and swallowed.

“It’s not bad. Additionally when I return to England, and explain who I am, we will more than easily be able to pay for some fish. It’s fine,” he insisted. Robespierre, looking mulish, crossed his arms over his chest and threw his head back. However Leonardo timidly started to peck at his rice.

Despite how meager it seemed, Richard found he was not going to be able to finish the Dragon and contented himself with the beer. He noticed that Robespierre did not touch his, or any of the food, simply sipping at the glass of water and casting cold looks at him and Leonardo. Richard resisted the desire to roll his eyes. When Leonardo had finished his rice, and took a cursory sip of beer, the waiter reappeared.

“How was everything gentlemen?” He asked genially.

“Serviceable,” Richard said.

“Excellent, thank you monsieur,” Leonardo cut over him. The waiter beamed and looked at them expectantly. Richard held himself carefully still, gripping his beer chalice.

The moment lingered and it seemed that the waiter was going to press the issue, until someone called for him. With a rather annoyed look he left. Richard sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. He got to his feet, and blinked. The beer had gone to his head faster than he thought.

“We should go,” Leonardo opinioned lowly, looking around. Richard nodded and grabbed the bag from under the table.

“I can’t believe you,” Robespierre was still hissing at them as they walked back outside, heading around the edge of the square to where the machines were. Richard knew the man must be feeling better because now he simply would not. Shut. Up. “Stealing, from the mouths of citizens! Refusing to pay your tab, and knowing you wouldn’t be able to!”

“Would you have us starve instead?” Richard demanded. However before Robespierre could respond, a voice from behind them shouted, “Hey! Hey! Stop! Someone stop them!”

It was the waiter.

Several people had turned to look, curious. Richard and Robespierre froze.

“What do we do?” Richard looked at Leonardo. The Italian grabbed Robespierre and pulled him along as he broke into a sprint.

“I have an idea, run!”

With that the three of them sprinted for the transporters.

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