The light of the early morning sun barely pierced the noxious cloud layer over London, tuning the bland brown day into a slight brighter bland brown day. Jak, as always, was the first to wake. And the first to be seated around their communal fire behind the main tent. As he watched the water boil to make his morning tea he fiddled with his cane, spinning it between his fingers and around his neck with practiced technique and dexterity.
It'd been three days since Rin's...outburst.
He hadn't slept properly since that night. Not out of guilt for the man he murdered or anything foolish like that, no of course not, it was more out of over thinking. Rin wanted to leave...how long had she thought this? Did the others think it? Why didn't she tell him sooner?
Despite recent events Rin wasn't one for making hasty decisions, and she wouldn't put forward the idea to him unless she had thought it through thoroughly. And the more he thought about it, the more Jak realised he also wanted to leave.
There were no two ways about it, London was fucked. The plague was eating it up from the inside out and spreading through half of mainland Europe, it wouldn't be long before one of them started coughing and bleeding from the eyes. If that happened to one of my troupe...It was different if they were killed on the job, that was their fault, their inadequacy. But if they we killed by a sickness because he was too scared to move them to a knew location...that was his fault. No one else's.
With small bubbles just starting to bead along the side of the cooking pot Jak took it off the fire and carefully dipped his porcelain tea cup into the water, filling it about three-quarters full before adding in the dried leaves. The colour bled from the leaves almost instantly and with a gentle roll of his wrist water and tea began to mix together slowly. Good tea takes time. He thought with a smile, rolling his wrist without conscious thought. A laugh broke from Jak's lips as he heard Eugen snoring in his caravan. He's as big as a bear and snores like one too. It's a wonder Stella gets any sleep at all.
'You're up early,' said a rough voice.
'Good morning to you too,' he laughed, taking a sip of tea to test the taste. Still bitter, needed a sugar or two.
Rin grunted a reply, scratching her head and yawning widely she clumsily made her way over to Ivan's favourite deck chair and slumped into it. Since her attack she had taken to wearing a scarf around her neck to hide the ugly bruise the bartender had left her with, every time Jak saw that he wanted to kill something. 'Did you sleep well my dear?'
'Better than last night,' she said un-informitively, brushing her hands down her hair in a vein attempt to flatten it down after a night wrestling with her pillow.
Jak smiled. Rin hated tea. But they did this every morning, it was a ritual of theirs he supposed. 'I'm calling a meeting today.'
'Over breakfast? Never a good idea, you know how Ivan get's like when he eats. He'll not hear a word you say.' she said leaning over their food box and cracking three eggs over a tin tray she placed on a wire stand over the flames. What she said was true, Ivan had a ferocious appetite. Almost as ferocious of Cerberus, his pet female Lyger, and when good was on the table he had a tendency to forget about everything else.
'Well needs must, by the way were's Glitch?' As if on queue there was a smash of glass and a brass cooking pot went bouncing across the courtyard. Looking at Rin's trailer Jak saw one of her windows broken, Glitch's huge brass face staring through it as if curious to how it got there.
'I left him to do the washing up.' said Rin as if nothing had happened.
'When are you going to fix him?' Jak asked turning back to her.
'What's to fix, Jak?'
He shook his head and let the point rest. She had an affinity for that great brute that he would never understand, if he were his robot Jak would have decommissioned him years ago and sold his parts for scrap. 'I've been thinking about what you said...you were right.'
Rin looked at him, her metallic eye glinting in the fire light. 'Good.' she nodded. 'Where do you want us to go?'
'I think a better question is where can we go. Europe is dying, and I don't want to be the fleas on the dog when it drowns. Only the London docks are closed, I figure we head up to Liverpool, find a ship there. But the longer we stay the more likely we are to get out, they'll quarantine the whole of London before long, and then they'll be no work for an honest criminal.'
'Figure of speech dearest.' he smiled. 'So, you brought it up. Where do you want to go?' without saying a word Rin pulled a leaflet out of the breast pocket of her blazer and threw it to him.
Jak looked at it and laughed dryly, 'And they call me mad.'
An hour later the whole troupe was gathered around the fire, sitting and joking with one another over breakfast. It was odd to see such an eclectic bunch of people getting on so well. Rahman and Yasmin, the Persian twins, couldn't have looked any different from the acrobat triplets. The twins were wiry and skinny with shiny black hair, pale brown skin and dark tattoos all across their arms and legs, the triplets were completely different. Pale and tall with sharp, angular features, wide eyes with irises the colour of wet slate and auburn hair, they were complete opposites of each other. But they sat together almost every day, always besides Eugen of course, who was never too far away from his wife.
In his well made suit and bowler hat Eugen could have passed for an ordinary man, albeit an ordinary man that was wider than a door and almost as tall as one. But dressed in his everyday clothes he could blend in anywhere across the city, but beneath those clothes was the body of a god. Every muscle honed and etched to perfection, complete with two mechanical arms built by Rin herself, exact replicas of the flesh ones he had before the war.
Next in the large ring of people was Florica, she'd been part of this circus long before Jak had and she had known him since he was a boy, the gypsy woman was short and stout with a great net of messy grey hair that had small rodent bones woven into it here and there. She was sat in deep conversation with Ivan, her hands absentmindedly shuffling her deck of tarot cards as she talked. True to Rin's prediction Ivan was so busy burying his face into a plate of bacon and eggs that he couldn't possibly be listening to what ever Florica was saying. The huge Russian was a former explorer, with several great archaeological discoveries to his name, but had quickly gotten bored of digging up tombs and bones of dead men. After some persuasion Jak convinced him to join them, a man of his skills with animals always came in handy. And Cerberus was handy in a tricky spot.
Who today, wasn't actually sat beside her master. The huge golden Lyger was sat behind everyone else with Spence, who worked on her mechanical lower jaw with a pair of tweezers and a screwdriver. The various magnifying lenses held over her eyes from the brim of her hat helping her to see the delicate intricacies of the Lyger's jaw. As Spence worked on Cerberus her numerous mechanised animals sat around her, the falcon preening its metal feathers and the snake winding its way up and down her arm as she worked. And lastly was Felix, the ginger irishman hoofing down his food on the blade of one of his throwing knifes, he was never too far from Spence.
Jak had to give him credit. He kept trying.
'Alright listen up,' Jak said, slamming the bottom of his cane onto the ground to get their attention. Everyone fell silent and looked at him, even Ivan, even if it was with half a fried egg hanging out of his mouther. 'Rin and I have a proposal for you. We want to move the troupe.'
'Wha'?' said Ivan with a mouthful of food.
'You heard.' said Jak carefully. 'But, we both agreed we wanted to tell you all first.' he lied. Rin hadn't agreed to that at all.
'Where do you want to take us, Jak?' asked Stella, the only female acrobat, her grey eyes looking up at her husband briefly as she took his metallic hand and squeezed it.
'Here,' Rin said, showing them the leaflet. 'Oil Slick, Utah.'
'America?' spat Felix.
'Well done numb nuts.' said Spence.
'Why?' asked Eugen easily. 'Jak I know the plague is bad, but none of us are sick,'
'Praise be to mechanical Jesus,' interrupted Felix.
'No. Not yet. But how long do you think it will be before one of us gets sick Eugen? Could you live with yourself if Stella became ill?'
'Why America?' asked Yasmin politely.
'No plague there.' said Rin simply.
'No, but I tell yeh' what is therr'. A whole lot oh fuckin' yanks.' spat Felix again.
'Oh come on,' said Lucian, one of the triplets. 'Half of them are irish anyway. You'll fit right in.'
'Jak, son.' said Florica. Everything went quiet when she spoke, she'd been around when this circus had been nothing but jugglers and pick pockets. She deserved to be listened to. 'I know why you feel like you have do this, but we have a good thing going here. Between the money your pickpockets bring in, the things the triplets steal and the coin the rest of us get for our services...we're doing alright.'
'Exactly, we're doing alright. I don't want to do just alright...I want to do great. Here, we're just a small fish in a big pond, over there...we'll be a huge fish in a tiny pond. We'll own everything, have every governor and judge in our back pockets with no one to oppose us!' Jak paused with a mad smile across his face. 'Look me in the eyes and tell me none of you want that.'
A moment passed where the troupe looked at one another. 'We're in,' smiled Stella looking up at Eugen.
'I guess so are we then,' said Lucian and Cameron simultaneously.
'I've been with this circus for nearly forty years, I'm not leaving now.' said Florica with a wicked grin.
'We're with you comrade!' said Ivan loudly, prompting a loud roar from Cerberus.
'America, sure, why not.' Nodded Spence.
'We're coming too.' smiled the twins.
'Felix?' asked Rin.
'Sure I'm fuckin' comin'. You're not all leaving me behind.'
'Excuse me!' yelled a deep voice that none of them recognised. Jak turned on his heel to see five police officers with three of their huge metal bots stood behind them. 'Scotland Yard. We're looking for a woman believed to live at this address.' said the lead bobby, his moustache twitching at his talked.
'Ah,' smiled Jak. Well isn't this awkward.