David landed, feline-silent. His soles slid a fraction on the rain slick tiles, but the slipper treads, his own design, gripped before he could push off, running on over the roof.

A gibbous moon delineated the roofscape into shades of grey, outlined in silver. Below David’s feet the guards needed their lanterns and search lights, but up here, he stepped lightly and surely.

For the sheer joy of it he pirouetted over a gap, spinning silently just feet above the head of one sentry, to land on the next building. He could have laughed, whooped, punched the air just to feel it slide between his fingers. He reached the roof’s end, launched himself into space, reached for his next landing. And fell.

He knew the roofs like he knew his own hands. Where was…? Yesterday’s storm.

The lightning.

Was there something about a fire?
The scorched rafters now flashing upwards before his eyes confirmed the suspicion.

So much for being graceful. He twisted, reaching beneath his cloak as he spun, and pulled the spring gun. Eighty feet? If not, it would be soon.

He fired, the gun’s kick adding to his downward speed before its tip embedded in mortar, trailing a gossamer thread to the gun where David gripped it in gloved hands. The thread went taut, adapting his fall into a swoop, swinging him over the cobbles. A patrolling guard looked up, wondering why birds were flying at night, but saw nothing outside of the shadows.

David, the microhooks in his gloves and slippers allowing him to cling to a building’s dark side, breathed. Cocky. Too cocky. Dead embassy staff, even guards, are something which tend to be commented upon. He kicked out, propelling himself to the facing wall, and used the opposing buildings to jump upwards.

And now there was only the final jump. He stood on the verge of a hundred foot drop. Between him and his target, the embassy’s searchlight. Perched on its own tower, and bathing the courtyard in a rotating patch of sun.

He judged the distance. Cracked his knuckles. Grinned. Too easy. But the near miss earlier urged caution. He gave into it and allowed a three step run up.

He catapulted into space. Around him, air. Above, only stars. Below… damp cobbles, swiftly rising up.

The spring gun came out again. Fired. The search light’s operator felt a slight shudder on his platform and made a mental note to report it the next morning, missing completely the darker patch of night sailing past him.

David landed on the balcony in a half crouch, one knee down, head bowed, his cloak falling about him in a suitably pleasing style. You have to think of the look of the thing.

The effect was spoiled somewhat when he looked up and the bedchamber was empty. The lanterns lit, the plump burgundy linen made, but empty of people.

He sighed, but pulled the package from his cloak and slid it on a table.

“You know we have servants for that kind of thing?”

The voice was rich, like velvet. The effect it had on his spine and made him smile as much as its unexpected entry.

She came from behind the curtain. Her lips curled in a self-satisfied smile.

“Now where would be the fun in that?”

She smiled again and picked up the package. “David. You shouldn’t have.”

He bowed theatrically, one hand sweeping floor, and said, “It’s all because my lady loves them,” as she pulled the first chocolate from the box.

About the Author

“Hi all, my name’s Michael, my favourite colour is blue and I like long walks on the beach.

“Oh, and steampunk. Never forget the steampunk.

“The first story I sold in fact was steampunk, in the first Penny Dread Tales anthology, and I’m currently working on a novel that explores the question ‘what would the Napoleonic wars have been like if Bonaparte had access to giant tanks?’

“Bit of a spoiler, but the answer is ‘so much more awesome’.”