Thursday, 14 November 2013

NaNoWriMo Day 14 Word Count 2073

The byplay between the two of them had not gone unnoticed by Phillip. He was torn once again – he couldn't be jealous because she was off limits, but he was not happy with the situation.

Mostly, he was unhappy that she seemed interested in Carlisle. He wasn't bothered by Carlisle's reciprocation: he simply felt she should not be so easily caught.

So he was already unhappy when he approached her. Within a few minutes the stress between the two of them rose to unanticipated, previously inexperienced heights. Melissa was still on a high from her reaction to Francis – Frank – and her few moments with Phillip were a shocking pull down to earth. She resented it and made her disapprobation of his attitude clear, although she was utterly unaware of what could possibly be causing it.

He attempted to man handle her onto the floor and she responded by seizing his wrist and forcing him to move away from her. She had been embedded into the local culture long enough that her urge to force him away was not enough to overwhelm her urge to refrain from making a scene. He, likewise, was grimly quiet, although his whitening lips and rigid jaw indicated the depth of control it required. She hissed through her teeth and a smile plastered on her face: “You will never attempt any such action again.”

She dropped his wrist and wiped her fingers disdainfully on her skirt. As she turned to walk away, the man behind her dropped into a bow and adjusted his position to cradle his bruised wrist in the other hand.

Sir Francis had been watching from the other side of the room – like Phillip he was intrigued by the Walking contradiction that Melissa illustrated and had been on the verge of assuming that her familiarity with the other man indicated a more intimate relationship. Their recent interaction, however, proved it was anything but. That or they had just had the most horrendous lover's quarrel.

Not being one to let an opportunity slip by and being quite interested in investigating his response around her (similar to but less intense than Melissa's own reaction) he followed her onto the balcony she escaped to and moved towards her as she leaned upon a balustrade. He was only halfway there when he realised that another gentleman had reached her first.

Paul had seen Melissa and, concerned for her, he had guessed she would seek a quiet spot. Therefore he was waiting on the balcony for her. They spoke in low undertones and it was impossible for Francis to hear anything from his position near the doors with the music spilling out into the garden. Having observed her being distressed shortly after the death of Andy, he was aware she preferred to bury her emotions under a wall of work and other distractions.

He had not known the full extent of the plan and she related it. The two others were going in France to the meeting point specified by Phillip as a safe house. There, they would wait for a day or two, acting as immature and drunk as James had on his previous journey. After a few days, it was anticipated that the official assassins would have relaxed around them enough to start talking about their failed attempts. All three young men had absolute unshakable belief that her pronouncement that the attempts would fail was absolutely cast iron, and therefore bought into the concept wholeheartedly.

It would only take a few days or a week at most before the two of them had enough knowledge of the surrounding areas and the attempts of the other men to target their own research. At that point, they would take a sojourn or two in the general vicinity. Once all the local inns had been located and a preferred option chosen, they would gradually widen their field until they could disappear overnight without raising too many eyebrows. At that point they would use the feedback from the assassins to make their way into the area where this Andy was being held and find his device. From his comments, Melissa knew the French were using it, and based on his inability to escape early on, she knew they must have taken it from him. Finding the device and returning it to Andy was the most guaranteed method of extracting the man.

Once he had it, he would flee and James and Michael would need to escape alone.

She had batted around the idea of using her own version of the device to participate in some way, but Andy had discovered on his first trip that when in Paris the device ceased to work. She had thought about it many times before realising that the comments made by the older Andy about him not being able to exist in the same area as himself held true for the device. Her Andy had been a different person, so was able to meet the other Andy, but the devices were identical and so one stopped working – possibly even existing – in the vicinity of the other.

It was half way through relating this story to Paul that she made the mental connection – the device wouldn't be with Andy. It was in Paris. Presumably it was kept by Napoleon as a treasure or secret weapon.

She clenched her hand and stared out into the darkness. It took a few minutes to regain her composure but it was an endeavour worth engaging in. Beyond the initial tense realisation that the plan they were currently engaged in was unachievable, she also faced the fact that James and Michael could be in significant danger.

She had to get to Paris, retrieve the device, supply it to Andy and leave.

But how?

Now, as the horse beneath her pounded across the French countryside she mocked herself for how simple it had all seemed. It hadn't come immediately, but she had realised a solution fairly rapidly. It took a little convincing ad some serious trust, but eventually she was able to demonstrate to Paul that the travelling device really worked. She didn't mention the time travel aspect, only the spatial travel. Additionally, she glossed lightly over the history of Andy and the delivery of his device into French hands. The story she gave him was accurate, in a sense, but not truthful. The device, she told him, had been given to her by an old friend at the start of her journey and she had been warned that the French had its twin in their keeping. The two devices were kept apart, but now she had to take the chance to retrieve the version the French had. It had to be given back to Andy and enable him to escape, in order for him to both relieve it from the French and to ensure that he could take it out of their reach entirely.

Paul had required some serious investment into this concept and so she had left the ball with him and retired immediately to her home. Once again, she had carried out a room hop, but she had engaged him in the hop immediately rather than risk the confusion she had felt herself on witnessing it for the first time.

Having convinced him, the two formulated a plan. She would transport them to Paris then they would seek out the device – she would monitor her own version and when it began to fail completely they would split up and search in that specific location.

So together they gripped the device, and transported to his rooms to allow him to wear something more practical. She returned to her own property to change as well, and reappeared in his rooms an hour later. Soon they were ready; Paul swilled a large glass of brandy, took hold of one device handle and moments later they discovered themselves in the vicinity of Paris.

It was only a short way from their landing space into the city, but it was a long way from civilisation. Melissa thought she had grown accustomed to everything the world could offer her, but she had not yet seen a country ravaged by war. Around her fields lay barren and buildings fallen ramshackle. In the fields were patches of camping families, small clusters of people driven from the city by lack of funds, but near enough to be able to find work or even follow in the path of the French army.

She coaxed Paul to hold the device and then transported the two of them a mile west. Gradually, they leaped around the vicinity of Paris, drawing ever nearer to the city. Each jump was supposed to be a consistent distance, but gradually the readings of arrival point fell out of sync with the anticipated point. Now, she began a large loop, looking for the central point in the assumption that the interference of the two devices would form a perfect circle.

After a few hours, the two of them, exhausted, had determined that the device was stored in a specific building. They retired for the night – both had been conscious now for almost 20 hours and were exhausted. They simply took a room in a small inn as a married couple. Paul had been a little uncomfortable at first, but when she collapsed into bed fully clad, he did the same. Both slept deeply and well.

The next morning he awoke and immediately regretted his actions. His discomfort caused him to writhe and disturbed her. As she awoke she stretched luxuriantly and raised an enquiring brow.

“Was the mattress not to your liking?”

“My corset,” he grimaced, “it's turned in the night and it's devilish – oh, I beg your pardon – dashed uncomfortable.”

She gazed at him with a laugh lurking in her eyes that she dared not give voice to for fear of hurting his feelings. “Perhaps, given the circumstances, we should dispense with corsetry for this journey. I did not have my maid when I dressed at home, so I am fortunately not in your position, but I understand you may wish to remove yours. I shall repair to the outhouse while you,” she gestured, almost randomly as she sought out the word “adjust yourself.”

She escaped quite smoothly and reached the outhouse – her excuse had not been manufactured, the strains of the night had not been conducive to bathroom stops and the champagne she had imbibed before setting off was making itself known.

Once completed she returned to the inn searching for water for a desperately needed scrub down – the one thing she was having most trouble coming to terms with was the unacceptable lack of cleanliness compared to the standards she had grown up with. Paul as courteously vacated the room as she had for him and the two of them reconvened after ten minutes, after which time they ate breakfast and confirmed between them the specific building they were interested in.

They returned to the Rue on which the building was set. In the daylight, the building was noticeably smarter than those around it – various of which had suffered severe depredations in the not too distant past. One had every window boarded over, whereas this building had shutters closed over those windows which were likely to be broken. They repaired, in a mutual moment of silent understanding, to the market around the corner and, Melissa taking the lead, talked loudly about how inspiring it was to be in the centre of Paris and how nice it was to see that the good buildings of Paris were inhabited by the true leaders of the state rather than aristos. Paul cringed inwardly, convinced she was overplaying it significantly. She, however, had grown up French and knew by heart the glorious addresses of the Emperor.

Now she made free quotes from those she knew had already occurred and it rapidly brought the attention of the populace. Additionally, her fair assumption of a country hick in the big city for the first time (helped in no small way by the fact that she was still reeling from the various experiences of the last few days) lulled them into the attitude of patronising the bumpkins. In this guise they were given every detail of who exactly was in that property and his known movements.

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