A Fiction Agreed Upon. Episode Six: Threshold. 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.”


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?”


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.


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.”

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


In the dark of the night Clio trailed around Rainbow’s home, her one eye roving over some the scientists curiosities. This was undoubtedly the most boring part of her job as a Muse. The waiting. When she’d had her sisters and son around it hadn’t been as bad, but now on her own Clio was relegated to re-reading the ancient earth texts Rain had carefully stored on her bookshelves. She was starting to wish for any company, even Spectra’s, when out of the corner of her eye, she noticed the large hound pad past, making her way to the back door.

“Smart dog,” she muttered to herself as the hound stood on her hind legs to press the door knob down then nose it open. Rather than letting the door swing shut behind it, the dog carefully picked up a stone it it’s mouth and positioned it in the door, preventing it from closing.

“Curious and curiouser,” Clio muttered, setting her book aside and getting up to follow the dog out. She phased through the door easily enough and walked over the slightly dry grass to where, much to her surprise, all of the dogs were assembled. She sat down, knees folder under her and resting back on her heels.

While the dogs weren’t talking, she had the definite feeling they were certainly communicating. One of the them would bark or growl softly, the others would respond, yipping, shaking or growling back.

“I’ll be struck, Spectra might be right,” the older Muse muttered, and hoped that the Hyena trickster might never find out she admitted it aloud.

The dogs stayed on the back lawn for nearly an hour before the big hound, yawned and stood up. She was easily the tallest dog there, and with a quick shake she turned and trotted back up to the house. One by one the other dogs followed her in. Clio stood and stretched, strolling alongside the smallest one, a fluffy tan dog with bright black eyes who stumbled once or twice in her exhaustion. They filed into the living room where most of them curled up on the rug, closing their eyes and falling asleep.

However the big hound, the curly haired white poodle and the long short dog went off to in the direction of the bedrooms. Clio followed along, figuring now was a good a time as any to check on her charges.

Three of them were asleep. Rain, with her long dark hair spread over her face and pillows, and her faithful cane next to her bed. Richard was on his back, frowning thunderously even in his sleep. Wryly, Clio wondered if he was dreaming of ghosts. Finally Robespierre was tossing and turning, sleeping clothes stuck to his body with sweat. When the poodle saw this, she whined, and leapt up on the, resting her head next to the distressed sleeper. It seemed to calm him somewhat, and Clio left slightly amused at the dogs reaction.

Leonardo was still not asleep. Examining his intense pose, Clio wasn’t even sure if he was aware that it was nighttime. The Italian was busy writing notes in his sketchbook, pages already scattered around him.

“A true follower of Hephaestus, aren’t you?” She asked the mortal teasingly. Leonardo smiled and shook his head at something he read, going back and scratching out part of his notes. “Hmph. You seem to learn better than your fellows at least.” She sat herself at the end of his unused bed, ignoring how she sank into it several inches, rather than the bed giving way under her weight. The downside of being incorporeal.

Leonardo sighed gustily, running a hand through his dark hair and then stroking it over his beard. He seemed surprised when he ran out of hair to pull, looking down. He chuckled ruefully.

“Keep forgetting you aren’t in your sixties anymore?” Clio asked rhetorically. Leonardo rubbed his eyes and sat back, yawning massively into his hand. Clio laughed. “You look just like your name sake when you do that!”

She moved out of the way when Leonardo stood up and stumbled into the bed, landing facedown and slumping into the mattress. It was a far cry from his usually graceful bearing.

His snores started almost immediately and Clio sighed.

It was times like this where she’d give up limbs, love, vitality to have the gift of dream walking like Spectra did. She was intensely curious as to what her mortal charges might have been dreaming.

Of their past lives? The strange future they were now living in? Past loves, or of their enemies closing in around them? Did they dream at all?

Clio sighed again and walked soundlessly over to where Leonardo had been sitting. She Leafed through the sketches. He was already drawing to the small portion of the world he’d been exposed to. Rain made her appearance as Athena, an old Milianese captain’s helmet on her head, while her braid curled around her face like a serpent. He made sketches of the inventions she shown him, and geographical maps of North Dakota. Richard popped up as well, Leonardo already speculating on his uneven shoulders, and a hurried drawing, no larger than Clio’s palm, was of a curved spine, nearly exactly like the scoliosis that Richard suffered from.

Leonardo seemed to have developed an interest in the bullet scar in Robespierre’s face as well, since he had one full sized drawing, and several in minute, drawn to detail it. In a gory example, Leonardo had apparently speculated on how Robespierre had been shot, and showed an eruption of blood pouring from his mouth.

Finished with her snooping, Clio rearranged the papers back on the desk. She looked over at the sleeping Italian again. He seemed peaceful in his sleep, face lax, and Clio grimaced, thinking of the days ahead of the three men and Rain.

“Yeah, well, enjoy in while you can,” she told him, before quietly leaving his room.


Leonardo was not entirely sure what time it was when he woke up, face pressed into the sheets. He hadn’t slept until late and he was surprised to find his internal clock wasn’t entirely calibrated to the new surroundings yet. However when he sat up and stretched, still amazed to find that after years of waking with creaking and aching bones he was now able to move as smoothly as if his joints had been recently oiled, he looked out the window and found that the sun was already overhead and warming the earth.

Leonardo got up and stripped to change clothing. His nose wrinkled when he realized he smelled of sweat, and the odd sharp tang he was coming to associate with the future. The old clothing, Leonardo neatly piled at the end of the bed and made a mental note to ask Rain about later.

Standing bare in front of the replicator, Leonardo took his time and slowly flipped through the variety of clothing that it offered. This machine, much like the one back at Rain’s lab, did not seem immune to being charmed, and therefore Leonardo soon found himself well threaded in a rose colored shirt, and the same kind of lose hosiery that Rain had foisted on him the day before.

‘Denim’, she called it.

How they got the weave that close, Leonardo was looking forward to finding out.

Down the stairs and through the living room, Leonardo was only able to find Rain and Robespierre.

“Richard left hours ago. But Ava was following him, so I’m not very concerned,” Rain told him. Then she wrinkled her nose at him. “You know I think you could use a shower Leonardo.” She glanced over at Robespierre as well. “Probably you and Richard as too.”

Rain heaved herself to her feet, and gestured for them to follow her.

“I don’t know why she keeps expecting us to know where things are in her house,” Robespierre muttered tartly.

Leonardo shrugged. “She probably keeps forgetting we aren’t from her time.” Robespierre coughed under his breath.

“She likes to remind us well enough.”

Rain opened the door to a room that was tiled from floor to ceiling in white and blue granite tiles. When Leonardo stepped onto the floor, it wasn’t cold, but instead a pleasant warmth on the bottom of his feet.

Rain was standing next to an alcove and they watched her twist one of the silver knobs. Steaming water poured from a spout over her head. She pointed at the knobs. “Red is hot, the blue is cold, and the one in the middle changes where the water is directed. The three of you can use this bathroom.” She limped past them, ignoring their amazed expressions. “Like hell I’ll let you use my bathroom,” she muttered.

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


Leonardo had to restrain himself from immediately investigating all of the cabinets, boxes, doors, and panels of the kitchen. Rain had rested her cane against the table that connected to the white marble counter top. The wood was a dark brown that shined dully in the bright white light from the overhead lights. Rain slapped a panel next to the window over the sink and the coverings slanted to allow sunlight to stream through, brightening the kitchen even more.

The fluffy dog in Leonardo’s arms yapped away, paws scrabbling against the new tunic Rain had given him.

“Put her down, she’ll be fine,” Rain ordered absently, flipping her long hair back and tying it up. Leonardo thought he caught sight of some kind of mark on the back of her neck, but she turned before he could confirm what he saw.

Richard had trailed in after Leonardo, apparently leaving Robespierre’s company to the dogs. Except for one: the hound, Ava, had followed Richard in, yellow eyes fixed on him. Richard looked up at the electric lights, eyes narrowed.

“Where are the candles?” He asked Leonardo, who smiled excitedly.

“There are none! They are e-lec-tric,” he carefully pronounced the unfamiliar word. Richard frowned.

“What does that mean?”

Rain interrupted before Leonardo could explain about the tiny filaments that illuminated using the same energy as lightening.

“You’re close Leo, but actually most of lighting used these days are actually florescent, which uses chemicals instead.”

“Chemicals?” Richard said, the same time Leonardo mouthed the word, “Leo?” half amused, half dismayed at Rainbow’s impropriety.

“Yep. Became cheaper than threading copper wires. It’s also easier to make for the replicators.”

Richard sat down at the table, slumping into the chair. It was quite different from how he usually held himself, stiffly upright.

“I do not understand any of this. The chemicals, the transporter, where the food comes from.” He waved a hand around. Ava who was so tall, she could put her head in Richard’s lap even as his feet dangled a hand’s height from the ground, pushed her muzzle into his free hand. Leonardo had the feeling that admitting such weakness was not in this man’s nature. He glanced at Rain.

She scoffed. “You’ll adapt. It’s not so hard.”

Leonardo, dismayed, looked back to Richard. The man’s face had hardened into a stony expression of dislike.

“Indeed. It looks like I’ll have to,” Richard muttered, grey eyes fixed in such a way that Leonardo knew he was thinking of things other than Rain’s flippant statement. The dog in his arms whined and Leonardo finally released her to the ground, when she quickly padded away out of the room. Ava huffed, nosed Richard one more time, and followed the puppy out.


“Who are they?” Baby panted up at Ava. “The tall one, he smells strange, but nice.”

Ava huffed. “I don’t know. I can smell sad things from them both, but not from Rain.” She sat down in the living room, eyes fixed on the kitchen door.

She hadn’t expected Rain to come home so soon. If Ava hadn’t picked up the sound of her arrival, the pack would have been caught easily in the back yard. Lester and Bobby had just enough time to bury the remnants of the rabbit Lester caught before coming in to greet Rain as she expected.

Usually if Rain had another person over it was Kam, who smelled like rivers and sand and always looked at Ava like a caught rabbit. But these men were strangers, smelling of things that Ava associated with Rain, but not like her exactly.

She rested her head down on her paws, still staring at the door. Were they her mates? Ava didn’t think that Rain was the type to take a mate, she seemed like too much of a loner, but maybe she’d been wrong. Or were they part of Rain’s pack, like Lester, Bobby, Norma were to Ava? She smelled of them, but they weren’t her litter mates.

As Ava considered the mystery Pallas padded into the room, with the third and smallest male, who had a hand placed on her back. Ava huffed in surprise.

Pallas wasn’t known in the pack for being particularly friendly. She tended to be snappish, except with Baby, who was an exception from her rough tongue by virtue of being a puppy. Pallas had snapped at even Rain before, the result being Pallas being sent outside until Rain wasn’t mad anymore. Pallas definitely wouldn’t have let Rain rest her hand on her back, but she seemed perfectly at ease with this strange male stroking her dense curly fur. She woofed her greeting, raising her head. Pallas ignored her alpha, attention fixed on the male, who smiled at Ava.

He bent at his waist, teeth flashing for a moment before he held out a hand for Ava to smell.

“Hello Madame.” He rubbed Ava’s ears and the back of her neck. “Yes, you seem to run a very nice household here,” he spoke softly and kindly to her. “Nicer than your mistress, anyhow,” he huffed. He withdrew his hand and Ava whined, licking his hand. He made a rumbling sound at the back of his throat. “Yes, you are a good girl, hmmm?”

He was stopped when Pallas growled, leaning her weight on his leg, trying to move him from Ava.

“Mine, get your own human,” she snapped at Ava. Ava growled back, ears flipping back.

“He’s not your human.”

“Yes he is, I know it. He smells like mine.” Pallas drew a lip back.

The male interrupted them, placing a hand on Pallas and one on Ava. He cooed at them again, dropping to his knees.

“Shh. Enough of that.” He resumed petting them, hand soft and warm. Pallas reluctantly sat down next to Ava, still trying to get as close to the male as possible.

This one smelled of the same kind of sad things that the other two males did, Ava noted. The smell of salt and metal and bitter. She noticed for the first time however, he was also injured. He smelt of sickness, and blood. She raised her head up higher, sniffing at his mouth. She turned to Pallas.

“He’s sickly,” she woofed. Pallas rolled her eyes, before resting her head on his bent leg.

“I know that. I’ll protect him.”

Ava’s heart sank for her pack mate.

The pack had never been outside of the fenced area and house that made up Rain’s territory. Rain herself hardly stayed here for more than a couple days. It didn’t seem likely that her males would be staying either. Pallas couldn’t really think she would be able to stay with this small sickly male?

But before she could point this out to her, Rain came into the room.

“There you are, Robespierre.”

The male quickly stood, dusting himself off. Pallas got up as well, attention fixed on him, she tried to move closer to him, but the male moved away. Pallas whined, raising her paw to him.

“No,” the male snapped, and Pallas dropped back, sinking to the floor next to Ava. The hound put her nose to her muzzle.

Rain laughed. “I didn’t know you knew much about dogs.” She sat herself on the couch

The male shrugged and sat himself on one of the other chairs. He sat stiffly, every muscle tensed. Ava watched as he arranged himself on the furniture, legs neatly crossed and arms folded over his chest.

“Some things,” he muttered. Ava cocked her head, watching him with narrowed eyes.

These males, whoever they were, would need watching.


The moon had risen by the time Rain finally went to bed. Ava waited until she could hear slow even breathing before getting up and padding out of the room. She nosed her way into each of the bedrooms.

Closest to Rain was dark haired male, who smelled the most like blood and warmth, things Ava associated with being Alpha. The smell of protection, nourishment, the feeling of the pack when they were together. She watched as he stirred in his sleep, twisting and shifting. Often she could hear him mutter or yelp. When Ava rested her head on the end of the bed for a moment, his stirring ceased and his breath eased.

“Anne,” he sighed. Ava huffed and continued her rounds.

Across from Rain was the smallest male. Despite his brusque dismissal of Pallas earlier, Ava still found the poodle resting across the end of the bed. His sleep did not seem any easier than the male Alpha’s. The smell of sickness seemed thicker now and Ava moved on quickly.

The final male was the one she’d been most concerned about. He didn’t smell like anything Ava knew. There were scents she could identify, like wood, chemicals, paper, but beyond that the male smelled the same way the night sky did: big.

He wasn’t asleep when Ava crept into his room. His hands were busy and he was reading from one of Rain’s tablets.

Norma, who had the most talent at reading human text was perched next to him.

“He’s been reading and drawing now for hours. He keeps throwing the ball,” she poked it with her long nose, “and asking me to bring it back.” The Corgi yawned and rested her head on her paws. “It’s tedious really. Bobby would be better at this than me.”

“You know Bobby doesn’t speak, and he can’t read, so it’s up to you to keep an eye on this one and tell me what he reads. We need to find their connection to Rain,” Ava ordered. Norma rolled her eyes and huffed.

“Yes Alpha.”

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


People crowded the streets, as busy as any market day in Paris and yet, as Maximilien looked around, everything was so clean. There were no rivers of mud, no clouds of flies over stagnant water, no thick hazy of smoke rising from the houses or shops.

It was….deeply unnerving.

He trailed after Leonardo and Rain, who was talking at top volume and as fast as she could move her jaw.

“This isn’t even the biggest city on the continent, wait until I take you guys to the capital of Colorado. It has a population of over a million people.”

“A million?” Max interjected. Rain nodded, and then pointed to the towering glass buildings around them. Greenery trailed down the face of some, and trees seemed planted on the tops of others.

“All of these are high rises. More people live in apartments now than ever lived in houses. Especially since the third world-”

“All of these are apartments? But, where are the business?” He interrupted, looking around. A nearby corner had as sign and as Max watched its lettering swam before his eyes, before it became legible.

“Red River?” He asked.

“Named after the country we’re in. After the second U.S. Civil War, and the Great Division the Dakota’s became one country, with Montana and Wyoming.

Max blinked in surprise.

“Second civil war?” He muttered.

He supposed that America’s revolution had been more turbulent than it’d appeared to him in 1781, if they’d had two civil wars already.

“We’re at the transport station, I can’t explain now. Here, where’s Richard? Richard? Good. Follow me.” Rain pushed open more of the glass doors and started down a staircase to some kind of underground tunnel. It seemed to be lit with multi colored lights that morphed from yellow, to green, to blue, and back again. Rain’s silhouette was swallowed quickly as she descended.

Richard and Leonardo glanced at each other. Max sighed quietly before starting after her.

“Where else can we go?” He asked quietly. After a moment, he heard them step down after him.

Rain waited at the bottom, and pushed them over to line of people who were facing towards a large oval platform. As Maximilien watched, a family stepped onto the platform, and the operator pushed a button on the glass screen. In a whoosh of light, the family disappeared.

“Pretty awesome, right?” Rain asked smugly and then turned around to face the three men.

Leonardo, who had Richard’s shoulders in an iron grasp, forcibly held him in place, while Max watched with a horrified gaze.

“They’re gone,” he muttered hoarsely. Rain rolled her eyes, and grabbed him firmly by the elbow.

“It just breaks down molecules and puts them back together at another location. Don’t be a child.” The line moved forward and Max’s heartbeat doubled.

“I don’t think I want my molecules broken down.”

“It’ll be fine.” Leonardo whispered quietly, even as his eyes darted to the front of the line nervously.

“Well it’s this or I make you get in one of the flying machines.” Rain squeezed Max’s elbow. The line lurched forward again. He watched a couple disappear in a flash of light. Richard was now actively struggling in Leonardo’s grasp.

“I will go nowhere in that-” he was cut off when, with an exasperated sigh, Rain turned around and slapped him. Several people turned around to stare.

Rain grabbed the back of Richard’s neck. The ex-king, seemed to be stunned by the blow and stared wide-eyed into her face.

“You. Have. No. Choice.” She punctuated each word with a small shake.

“Ma’am?” All four of them jumped when a woman spoke up from in front. They were next in line. “Is everything…alright?”

Rain smiled. “Yes, sorry. Doctor Rainbow Miller, I work for the Federation. My address should already be in the system.” With an arm around Maximilien and another around Richard, she stepped up onto the platform with Leonardo.

The operator, a pretty dark-skinned woman wearing a blue jumpsuit frowned. “I need to scan their IDs as well, Doctor.”

Rain turned her sharp gaze on her. She smiled, and Max saw the operator shrink back.

“I think you’ll find I have a pass for guests under my account.” She pushed back her long dark braid and offered the back of her neck. Max heard a beep and the operator bit her lip after looking at the screen. When she didn’t move, Rain frowned.

“Do I need to speak to a supervisor?” Her tone seemed mild but the operator quickly shook her head.

“No ma’am. You’re fine. I’ll transport you straight away.”

“You do that,” Rain muttered dryly, before standing in the center of the platform, still gripping Richard and Maximilien tightly. Max shut his eyes, anticipating something like the feeling of having his face torn apart by another bullet.

There was a bright flash of light and a small shiver seemed to run from the top of his scalp to the bottom of his feet. He tried to open his eyes and found he couldn’t. He couldn’t move at all. He wasn’t even sure he was breathing anymore, or that his heart was beating. Everything was quiet, still, and very bright.

When the light finally died away, Max blinked and looked around, before his jaw dropped open. Gone was the underground tunnel where they had been standing, now they were outside, standing in the street, looking a large house. Richard was patting himself down. Looking around, eyes wide. Leonardo let out a quiet breath and grinned, clapping Max on the shoulder.

“See, was that so hard?” Rain scoffed and limped ahead of them. “Honestly, such a trouble. Here I was think I’d picked more enlightened men.”

Richard was rubbing his face where she’d slapped him and scowling fiercely after her. While Max didn’t like to think he would agree with Richard in any capacity, he found himself sympathetic.

Rain’s condescension was quickly becoming grating.

“And here we are.” Rainbow flung the door open, the lights automatically flickering on. Leonard, Max and Richard stepped in slowly. Rain limped ahead of them, whistling. “Come on, babies!”

The sound of the paws slapping on the floor and barking announced the arrival of Rain’s dogs. Robespierre’s eyes widened. Richard braced himself against the wall. Leonardo took a step back. From around the corner a pack of eight dogs, all different breeds ran straight for the door, letting out bark and yips of excitement. Rain crouched down with her arms open, the dogs immediately slobbering on for her troubles.

The largest of the dogs, a shaggy hound with stately lope sniffed at Richard, big yellow eyes on the former king.

“That’s Ava. She is my big alpha girl, aren’t you sweetie? I made her. She’s a wolfhound and German Shepard mix,” Rain explained, smiling up at the three men.

Rainbow picked up a piebald spotted grey short-legged dog with a long tail. “This is Norma, a welsh Corgi.” The dog wagged her tail, grinning. “And that’s Lester,” she pointed to a pointed German pointer. “The German Shepard is Ava’s half-brother, Berwald. That is Bobby, the Border collie, and Pallas, the poodle. Here is Jep, my King Charles’s Spaniel. And here’s Baby! She’s the baby of the pack.”

“She looks like a ball of sheep wool with eyes.” Richard said curiously reaching out to touch the Pomeranian. Rain frowned pouting-ly, moving the puppy away. Leonardo took the fluffy dog instead.

Max found himself trying to pet all of the dogs, seemingly at once. Pallas the poodle kept coming back for more and whined when he took his hands off her.

“Here come on you guys. I can make food.”

With that, Rain started back down the hallway. The men and the dogs followed them. Richard felt a tug on the hem of his sleeve, and saw that the hound, Ava, had latched onto him, white teeth glinting.

“It seems you have a friend Richard.” Leonardo said cheerfully still carrying the fluff ball. Richard frowned. “Get.” Ava tugged harder, her tail starting to wag playfully. Behind him, Max snorted.

“Smart dog.”