“Somewhere that’s not in the building?” Nicholas frowned, and glanced around the room.
Amy nodded. “I’d feel safer.”
Nicholas paused, but then said, “Well, at least you’re dressed for it. Have you ever ridden in a gyrocopter before? It’s a little cold.”
She hadn’t taken off her overcoat. If that counted as “dressed for it,” she was. “Don’t people wear goggles on those things?”
He shrugged. “We’ve got goggles, but you’ll have to leave your hat.”
She turned back toward the stairway. “It’s just a hat. Which way?”
Nicholas turned toward the far end of the room. “There.”
Past the rows of batteries, a round metal stairway stood three-quarters of the way down the room. They walked over to it and Nicholas led her up the stairway and into the first room she’d been in that didn’t take up an entire floor of the building. This room was smaller, feeling more like a shed or a storage room. Two big, cylindrical tanks stood against one wall. Tools hung on another. The last wall was covered with shelving, and shelves held oil cans, parts, tires, gears, strange machines, and cans with unknown liquids.
In the middle of the room stood a machine that might have been a plane except that its wings were smaller and its propeller extended into the air behind the second seat and hung above the passengers.
Nickolas walked to the doors in front of the gyrocopter, unlocked them, and pushed them open.
Immediately the sound of horse hooves on the street combined with the noise of people talking hit Amy’s ears.
“So,” Nicholas said, “We’ll end up landing eventually. What should I call you? You’re going into hiding, so ‘Princess Amelia’ seems like a bad idea, and I’m obviously not going to be saying ‘Her Royal Highness’ either. So what should I do?”
Blinking against the brightness of the sun, Amy walked up to the side of the gyrocopter. “Call me Amy. My family does.” Meeting his eyes, she smiled, and said, “What should I call you?”
He stopped, frowning as he thought, and then said, “My family mostly calls me Nicholas, but my sister and friends at school call me Nick.”
“Nick.” She nodded, and asked, “So what do we do next?”
“We push this thing out on to the balcony. If you take that wing, I’ll take this one.”
In a few minutes, they’d pushed it outside, and shut the doors behind it. This section of balcony was wider than the rest of the floor’s, sticking out over the road.
They climbed in. Nick told her how to put on her seatbelt, and pointed out the goggles stowed in a glovebox. As she was about to put them on, she discovered she hadn’t taken off her hat. She took it off, and stuffed it between her seat and the body of the copter. It was small and meant for traveling. It wouldn’t take too much damage, and if it did, well, it was just a hat.
The rockets at the tips of the blades above her fired, cutting the air with a roar, and she began to wonder how noisy it was. Certainly people on the street were looking up.
Then the gyrocopter lifted into the air, whipping her hair around and into her face. She’d have braided it if she’d known she’d be doing this.
The blades tilted forward, and instead of simply lifting, they were flying above the street. Everyone was looking up at them–including the Harcourts, who had run out onto a second floor balcony, and were shouting something at her that she couldn’t hear over the noise.
She didn’t need to hear it to guess. She could catalog her mistakes. For one, she was flying away unchaperoned with a boy she barely knew. For another, she wasn’t even attempting to keep a proper amount of distance between them. First names and even nicknames were far from appropriate. If anyone ever heard of this her virtue would be in question.
She laughed. A few days ago, she might have been scandalized by all of it. Now, in the face of running from home because she bore the mantle of a being with a near demonic reputation, it all felt completely meaningless.
Of course, she wasn’t sure that the Harcourts would agree, but she didn’t have to think about it until she returned.
She waved at them until the next block of buildings hid them from her view. A part of her knew that waving could only make them more angry, but another part knew that she didn’t care. It wasn’t as if they were her parents, or had any authority over her.
Turning away from them, she looked ahead at the vast city. Nick stayed low, flying above the buildings, but only as much as he needed to.
Turning his head partway toward her, he shouted, “Is there any place you’d like to see?”