Season Two. Episode Twenty Three: Arrivals. Part Three.

Over the next few days Leonardo noticed a distinct shift in the mood of the castle.

“Fencing?” He repeated when Aspen told them at breakfast.

She nodded. “Yeah. Sword fighting for practice. It’s great for your reflexes and flexibility.” She took a bite of her breakfast, pieces of sugared wheat and dried fruit in milk. “Probably strength too, if you use heavy swords.”

“Will you be teaching us?” Napoleon asked, casting a dubious look over Aspen.

She shook her head. “I never learned. It’ll be Kami.”

Leonardo frowned. “I do not approve of violence in that way.” He shook his head. “I do not want to fence.”

“No one will make you, don’t worry Leo.” Aspen smiled at him then glanced at his breakfast: coffee. “But uh, you should definitely have something other than that. Otherwise Russo might make you eat that cup, too.”

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Season Two. Episode Twenty Three: Arrivals. Part Two.

PART TWO.

Kamala Mason got the call when she was at work.

She was wrapping up her lab notes for the day, thinking about if she wanted to grab anything from the old-fashioned bazar before she went home when her communicator beeped.

Unknown Origin: Wyoming?

Kam wondered about it for a moment. I don’t know anyone in Wyoming. Unless…

She got up from her desk and walked out, around the hall, looking over her shoulder before picking it up.

“Rain?” She hissed.

“Hello? Is this a Kamala Mason?” The speaker was a young man, his hair died a shocking pink. Kam could hear the dim sounds of barking behind him.

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Season Two. Episode Seventeen: Invasive Operations. Part Three.

Part Three.

A/N: Who here thought I’d just forgotten about the whole dog subplot? Surprise!

Ava paced her cell, tail brushing along the walls. 

Norma rolled over onto her back. “You’ll tire yourself out,” she yawned.

Ava growled.

“You shouldn’t worry. The humans aren’t going to harm us. We’ll get food and water. It’ll give Baby and Jep a chance to rest while we plan.”

Her pads were sore from scraping over the concrete but Ava’s heart felt like it was going to explode from her ribs, like a rabbit from the undergrowth. “They’re going to alert Rain, I just know it.”

“We escaped from her once,” Norma pointed out.

“And who’s to say we’ll do it again?” She barked, the sound echoing off the scentless flat walls. Immediately the other cages were filled with the sounds of barks and snarls. Ava could hear Bobby and Berwald among them and ran to the gate, pressing herself along it to try and scent them.

Then there was the painful squeaking of the door and Ava could feel all of the fur along her spine rise. She had not come so far only to have humans lock her away. 

“What’s the issue here?” It echoed along the walls and they all fall quiet. Someone whimpered. “Keep it down, damnit.” There were footsteps and a shadow, far bigger than Rain’s or Ava’s human black out the lights. Ava bared all of her teeth, her growl coming all the way up from the bottom of her ribs. 

“You’re the troublemaker.” He pressed a hand against the grating and Ava snaps at it, nothing playful about it. He quickly withdrew his hand. “Alright! We’re still trying to figure out just where the hell you came from, so don’t take it out on me, huh?”

Ava doesn’t relax until he’s walked away and shut the door behind him. 

“Do you think they’ll find Rain?” Norma asked. “She was taken away by those other humans…”

Ava wished she felt more certain when she snorted, “no.”

XXX

A small report from Clio: A Muse. 

It is 3000 on Earth and 109 on Mars. 

Currently, Her Excellency Unathi Hua Zhu is President of the Terran Federation. The Dante is in year seven of its mission to Alpha Centauri. The Galactica Corp has just recently broken records for the largest trade ever made with alien terrestrials, exchanging one billion gigabytes of data on Terran history and culture in exchange for Jupiter’s moon Ganymede. The ongoing debate of if the Federation should dispose of the Moon prison, the Bastille. The defense claims that it is a scar across Earth’s face. The opposition argues the impracticality of dismantling and disposal. 

Reparations have continued on the New Great Barrier Reef. Divers have been working on cultivating artificial coral and prompting the return of sea-life. Volunteers continue cleaning up the plastic island in the Pacific. The Federation would like to remind everyone that offshore dumping is punishable by five years on a labor farm.

The Stadium for the New Cape Town Olympics had been completed, with 45,000 seats. This will be the tenth anniversary of inviting alien ambassadors to the games. There are still negotiations for alien participation in 3004.

Blanche has been topping the music charts for the past sixteen weeks and his face has been plastered all over Cairo and Madrid in anticipation for his first duel streaming concert, using the newest holographic technology. On the independent scene there’s musical comedy conglomerate, No Boats Allowed. Two Non Identical Twins have just come out with a trending cover of Nena’s 99 Red Balloons. There’s been talk of adapting Shakespeare’s Macbeth into a  West End musical.

Doctor Rainbow Miller’s prototype for the next long distant hovercraft has mysteriously vanished and set back production for months, much to the anger and disappointment of the Federation, as they had already pre-ordered fifty test units. ID data capacity has been increased, to adjust for the new average human lifespan, 139. 

There has been an inexplicable rash of grave robbing across the planet. None of the thieves have caught, leading to the theory that they are receiving off-world assistance. Several alien governments have been questioned or bribed. The Komali have spontaneously dropped contact and missed a rendezvous to meet their ambassador. No one can find Rainbow Miller. 

Officially, Major Haruka Chikara is stationed in Cairo as part of the presidential cabinet. However, she cited a private emergency and has refused all calls except from President Zhu. There are rumors that she might have finally consummated her marriage with her alien husband, but no one has seen him for weeks, either.  

There have been seven successful resurrections thus far.   

Season Two. Episode Thirteen: Illumination. Part Three.

Episode Thirteen: Illumination. Part Three.

“This is unbelievable!” Clio snapped and crossed her arms.

Next to her, Spectra snorted. “No kidding. Usually I do all of the animal work, but it seems you have a regular mixed bag of genres, friend.”

They were standing and watching as Doctor Rainbow Miller’s dogs dug into a cluster of recycling cans on the edge of the a small mountain town.

The dogs had run all day and night and were now nearing what used to be the old town of Boulder. The puppy, the fluffy little dog with eyes like black buttons seemed to be having the time of her life, rolling in rotted produce and buffalo. The bigger dogs were more sedate but rooted through the trash none the less.

Clio threw her hand up. “Unbelievable. I’m one of the oldest and most respected Muses on all of the Orphan Planet. I’ve been seen entire religions be built, then thrive and crumble into dirt. I’m the last direct descendent of Zeus! And where does it get me?” She stamped her foot and tossed her head, her one eye flashing dangerously. “Dog watching, and babysitting the dead.”

Spectra laughed her high dangerous cackle, throwing her head back and grasping her sleek white pantsuit in her clawed hands.

“Oh go away trickster. You have other mortals to torment!” Clio shouted.

Spectra grinned, sharp teeth peeking past her lips. “You bitch now, but when the Man recalls you, you’ll be sad to leave your babies as always. Also dog sitting is no bad gig.”

Clio huffed and turned away. Spectra left.

“Stupid hyena. If you lived in my time Heracles would have skinned you and made you a loin cloth.”

XXX

Ava stiffly sat on the edge of the pack, head lifted and turned to the breeze to catch the scent of the close by human settlement. They’d found an abandoned hole to cluster together in and now she sat sentinel.

The pack had run all day, despite Baby and sometimes Jep, the spaniel needing to be carried in one of the larger dog’s mouths.

“Waiting on your human?” An amused voice asked and Norma crept out of the shadows, her long low body brushing along the ground.

“No. I will never wait on a human,” Ava swore. Norma yawned and laid down on her side.

“You do know must humans aren’t Rain, right? Most of them seem to be kind to us and ours.”

Ava didn’t respond, lifting her nose higher.

“We can go over the mountains. There’s an ocean on the other side. Rain’s males might have gone there,” Norma told her quietly.

“We’ll go around them, towards the north.”

Norma huffed in understanding. They two dogs watched the dark night sky.

“I’ve heard it said that at one point, when our ancestors roamed this land that there were countless pinpricks of light in the sky, called stars. I saw them once on one of Rain’s machines.” Norma spoke softly, a hint of wishing in her high whine.

Ava looked upward. She couldn’t see anything other than the velvety darkness.

“Do you think we’ll see stars?” She asked the older dog.

Norma rolled over and tucked her forepaws down towards her chest.

“Someday maybe. Let’s think of tomorrow, for now.”

“For now,” Ava agreed.

XXX

Leonardo sighed and sat down on one of the cots.

The tour had finally left, the high childish voices echoing in the stone hallways. He and Richard crept back down, Richard grumbling about having to sneak around his own home, and found themselves in the middle of some mild chaos. It seemed to be the status quo.

“We can’t just turn them out, Marie is still out there!” Aspen was saying loudly to Jerome, whose hands were held up in either platitude or protection.

“I’m not saying that! I’m just saying that we need to think this through first, alright?” Jerome said steadily.

“There’s nothing to think about,” Magpie declared, their hands on their hips. “We’re having them stay, until we can figure out a more permanent place.”

“More permanent?” Leonardo asked, bemused. Everyone’s head twisted around to stare at them.

“Well yes. While we can’t return you to your own time, there’s no reason you can’t live comfortably on earth,” Magpie said.

“But what about?” Richard gestured to the back of his own neck. “Won’t your government know?”

“Not if you live carefully. You won’t be able to use transporters or move around very much, but there’s low tech villages that still exist, ones where people aren’t expected to flash their neck for every little thing,” Harm said.

Leonardo nodded, but his heart sank. What was the purpose of his mind if he was simply going to fritter it away in some village? Was that what he’d gone to Florence for? To Milan and Rome?

Next to him Richard didn’t look any happier but, he seemed to sink in on himself, exhaustion finally making his shoulder bow.

“Right well, that’s settled. Now we’re going to set you up with rooms for the night, it’s been a long day,” Magpie ordered. The look on Richard’s face as he was ordered to bed in his own home was quite amusing.

Leonardo’s new room was in one of the towers, with a simple desk and a cot that had been quickly replicated and assembled. The narrow window allowed a shaft of sunlight in, but Leonardo yawned hugely. It was past seven but the sun was still high. He theorized that it was because England was so much further north than Italy had been.

He turned his face toward the pillow, yawning again. Leonardo could hardly remember being so tired in his entire life. He wondered where Robespierre was, if he was safe or already dead. He wondered what stone Middleham was made out of, he wondered what made Richard’s spine twist…

Leonardo fell asleep still asking questions.

A Fiction Agreed Upon. Episode Twelve: Fraternite. Part Three.

Part Three.

Somewhere north of Boulder, Colorado.

Ava lifted her head, sniffing at the wind. Dusk had settled over the forest and all manner of small easily killed animals were merging from their holes. Between Bobby, Berwald and Lester the kill pile was quickly flowing with mice, birds and small rabbits. Jep sniffed at a rabbit, it’s throat torn out, and whined.

Ava huffed, shaking herself. “Don’t turn it away Jep. It’s food.”

The little spaniel whined again. “It’s bloody.”

Ava tossed her head. “You’ll get used to it.”

She trotted pas him to where Baby was flopped over in the shade of a tree. The long day run had been hard on the smallest member of the pack. Norma was looking after her.

“She’s not made like the rest of us. It’s exhausted her. We’ll have to give her all night and probably some of the daylight tomorrow to recover,” the Corgi said. Ava nosed the puppy, who whimpered.

“She’ll adjust,” Berwald growled from behind. There was a thump and Ava turned to see a freshly killed crow on the ground.

“This will be for naught if members of the pack start dropping from exhaustion and hunger,” Norma warned. Berwald bared his teeth at her, and Norma growled right back. Ava raked her large paw down the side of Berwald’s face.

“Stop it. Norma’s right. We’ll let Baby recover, and start south tomorrow evening. We head for the cities. We have to find our humans,” she ordered. Berwald crouched down low on his belly.

“Yes, alpha.”

He walked away, tail hung low, and catch in his mouth.

“You’re going to have to get that under control,” Norma sniffed.

Ava privately agreed but kept her tongue in her mouth.

XXX

Rain was working very quickly. Her fingers blurred over the touchpad.

She’d seen as Marie Rivera and Chikara’s private forces had taken Robespierre, throwing the man into the back of the transport vehicle. It was on its way to the Bastille even now, and Chikara herself was getting ready to meet it there. In the top of the line newly minted Moon Flyer, it would only take them about three hours to get up there. All Chikiara had to do was get her officers in line and arrange a cover story for her absence at HQ.

It was a miracle Rain was even still allowed to go anywhere without a body guard but everyone had been called to Chikara’s side as she announced her trip. Rain had snuck away and using a tricky piece of old-school hacking had gotten into her personal notes.
Notes that were now being uploaded to the internet.

“Information is meant to be free, chienne,” she whispered, grinning savagely at the screen. The process was destroying what she’d left on her personal sever and nesting it as a private program in the cloud.

It would take them months to find it, if they even could.

She finished her final keystroke, as the sound of boots approached the room. Quickly Rain shut the browser down and hit a hard shut down on the screen.

“What are you doing?” Asked the young guard.

“Looking at porn,” Rain answered flippantly. “Is Chikara ready then?”

She turned when a voice spoke from the front of the room. “Yes, Doctor Miller. Jerkins, put her in handcuffs. I think She needs to learn to keep her hands to herself.”

Chikara was dressed in her military uniform, dark blue with silver edging. “We are meeting Marie at the Bastille.”

Rain sneered. “Joy.” Her hands were securely crossed at the wrist behind her. Jerkins, the guard grabbed her shoulder securely. “Careful, I have a limp. You should carry me,” she told her.

Chikara ignored Rain’s irreverence. “Come. We’re leaving.”

XXX

Richard woke from uneasy sleep with Leonardo tapping insistently on his shoulder.

“Wake up. We’re near to Middleham,” the Italian told him. Richard noted the heaviness around his eyes and wondered if he’d slept at all.

He sat up and peered over Aspen Strong’s shoulder. They were descending, and he noted that the sun was beginning to set. His heart caught as he saw the familiar sight of the Keep.

“I have to fly this into the underground launch pad, we keep it out of sight for historical accuracy.” Aspen was carefully guiding the flying machine down. She angled it down and Richard could feel the floor under him tip forward as she gently descended into a large hole in the ground. It was dimply lit, and Richard could see other machines against the walls of the cave. It landed with a gentle thump and there was silence as the machine went dark.

Aspen opened the back of it again and hopped off the ramp. Feeling a little like cattle, Richard walked down it. After Leonardo followed him off and Aspen closed it she led her way back out of the hole. A metal door, like a drawbridge closed it after them. Richard breathed the smell of the distant river and the heather of the wind whipped moors. In the distance trees creaked and overhead some storm clouds were gathering. Richard could feel the building rain storm in his bones.

Over taking Aspen and Leonardo Richard strode ahead of them, needing no leading here. In his minds eye he could practically see George ahead of him in horseback, calling over his shoulder to ‘Hurry up Dickon!’

The main part of the castle was right ahead of him, and feeling his heart thumping in his chest, he jogged across the bridge to the main doors. This he knew, as if by instinct.

Richard’s arms strained as he pushed the doors open. The creaked but swung into the great hall.

His cousin seated on the dais at the end. His Lady Anne coming to greet him. His son. He’ll open the door and all will be right again. He’ll wake up from this dream and Edward will be alive and Richard will still be his most loyal servant. 

“Aspen’s back!” Someone shouted and Richard’s dream disintegrated before his eyes.

Several people, all but one darker than him, rushed into the hall and stopped cold. Richard was still hovering between the outer door and the hall, when a cold hard hand, like it was wrapped in a gauntlet, grabbed his good shoulder and pushed him in.

“Look what I brought!” Aspen cheered. “The king comes back!”

Leonardo came to stand next to him, looking around at the castle.

“So this is England?” He asked under his breath.

“The north, yes.” Richard aid back, watching as from the group of four as a shorter man pushed his way to the front. His hair was shaved all the way to his brown skin, except for the top of his scalp, where he had a tuft of silver hair. He was staring at Richard with almost unseemly amazement, mouth gaped.

“Uh you doing okay Magpie?” Aspen asked.

“Oh my god. It’s really you. It’s really Richard the Third,” he choked, eyes filling with tears. Richard shifted slightly, an unnerved prickling along his neck.

“Did Rivera get the other one?” One of the other men spoke up. He was looking at Aspen, who nodded.

“You’ll never guess who it was, Harm,” she hissed.

“And who is this one?” The shortest person there, who was still taller than Richard, whispered, looking at Leonardo.

The Italian bowed. “Leonardo ser Piedro da Vinci, at your service.”

The assembled group went quiet and even Magpie tore his gaze away from Richard.

“Leonardo…da Vinci?” Aspen asked slowly.

“Like the Mona Lisa, da Vinci?” The other woman asked. Leonardo tilted his head.

“The who?”

Magpie whipped out his tablet and quickly typed something in before turning it around. There was a small portrait of a woman who was smiling, her hands contently folded over each other. At first glance Richard didn’t think there was anything particular about it, but the longer he stared the more lifelike she appeared. He cast a surprised glance at Leonardo. He hadn’t know he was a court artist, clearly this was a woman of some import to have a portrait like this.

Leonardo brightened. “Ah! Si, Giaconda.”

The assembled group gasped.

Aspen put her metal hand to her head. “Oh my god. We kidnapped Leonardo da Vinci, and King Richard the Third.”

Magpie on the other hand was beginning to smile. He grasped each their hands in turn, shaking them enthusiastically.

“Gentlemen, I can hardly tell you what an honor it is to welcome you here to Middleham.”

XXX

Maximilien found himself jerked awake when the vehicle landed. He listened, heart pounding, as metal scraped along metal.

Could he possibly make a run for it once the door opened? He didn’t think so. Instead Max backed into the corner, resolute to at least make it difficult for them to dislodge him. The walls were nearly freezing to the touch, but he gripped them tightly.

The doors opened and light poured in. Instinctively he raised an arm to block it and there was a thumping as another person joined him in the vehicle. He was rudely grabbed and nearly pushed out of the box, stumbling and nearly falling onto his face.

Another set of hands grabbed his shoulders and whipped him around before he could get his bearings and his wrists were bound behind his back. He was pushed forward by a firm hand on the back of his neck.

“Move.”

Maximilien twisted, trying to dislodge it, heart rapidly thumping as memories of the guillotine rose within him.

“Non! I demand to-“

“Quiet, move!” He was shoved forward again, this time stumbling forward. His glasses slipped and his surroundings blurred.

They rushed him down a long dim hallway that seemed to curve continuously. Max was jerked still when they wheeled him around and brought him face to face with a featureless sliding door.

“Chief, we are bringing the android to you now. Security code forty-seven.”

The doors slid open and Maximilien was dragged in.

He shook his head, trying to see pas the shatter glass over his eyes.

A woman sat behind a desk, her dark hair pulled back into a neat bun. She glanced up at him and frowned.

“I told you to take those,” she nodded at Max, and someone pulled his glasses off. Now blind, Maximilien blinked rapidly in the harsh light.

“I am Maximilien Robespierre. Where am I?” He demanded.

She nodded at him again.

“Secure him in number five after processing.”

They started to drag him away.

“Welcome to the Bastille.”

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 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.