the smuggler’s bible

Edouard

The library has three copies of the Principia. Edouard checks them out under an assumed name and puts them where Isaac Newton is sure to be looking. One goes under the bed in Grantham, another in a cupboard at Trinity College and the last on a bedside table at his house in the year 1683 as a last-ditch failsafe.

Then he stops for a drink.

“Mischief is gratifying,” he says to the bartender, “but a paradox is real artistry. I’m talking causal loops, man. It’s like reaching in to start a top spinning and accidentally shaking your own hand.”

Edouard

Edouard smiles out at the crowd gathering on the station platform in the shadow of the big locomotive and quickly finishes stuffing his shirt tails into pressed blue trousers, then adjusts his crisp conductor’s cap. Glancing down, he notices the name tag on his jacket says “Spencer,” so he plucks it off and makes a spectacular over-the-shoulder toss into the waste bin.

“Good morning, everybody,” he says, pushing through the throng toward the engine, beaming and winking as he goes. “Who’s ready to set off for beautiful and verdant … uhm.”

“Chicago?” somebody says.

“That’s right, Chicago. Probably. With any luck.”

Edouard

Exile isn’t so bad, really, if you can somehow manage to divorce the intense feelings of shame and resentment from your everyday run-of-the-mill habit of being a sore loser. The ex-Emperor spends most of the morning revising Elba’s legal systems, then takes a walk along the coast.

“Amazing,” a man says, stepping out from behind a very convenient pile of driftwood and trailing dark wisps of smoke. “Just amazing. Sunnier than I expected.”

“But it isn’t France.”

“No, I’m sure it isn’t. And, honestly, I’m glad you brought that up,” the man says. “It’s sort of what I’m here about.”

Edouard

The Palace of Versailles, France, 1919 CE

“Okay, let’s try and power through,” the scruffy looking assemblyman says, pulling at his collar. “Germany loses the colonies—France gets Cameroon, Belgium gets Ruanda, et cetera.”

“Yeah! And only birds can live in Austria!” somebody shouts from the back of the room.

Mopping his forehead, the assemblyman continues: “Reparations are settled, pecuniary and otherwise. The occupation plans are pretty well hashed out and—”

“Call it, uh, Birdtopia!”

“—And independence is secured for Czechoslovakia and Poland.”

“No wait, that sucks. Call it Ostriche-ia!”

The French delegate raises his hand. “Maybe ‘the feather-land?’”

“Yes!”