Thomas Jefferson stepped smartly into the cramped meeting room, stifling and close in the inhuman heat of a Philadelphia summer, and after looking about and seeing no one in the crowd whom he did not know, rubbed his hands together vigorously and shivered.
“Cold out there,” he said with feeling, to no one in particular. “And not a great deal more suitable in here. Why don’t we just go on without him?”
John Hancock moved around him to close the door before he spoke.
“We agreed, Tom. This won’t mean anything, no matter how well it turns out, if at least one of them isn’t involved at all times. Besides, we might miss something. We don’t have enough human perspective.”
“Is that what he has, John? The man’s a lecher, a drinker, loud, obnoxious… and he’s late. Again.”
Hancock placed his hand’s around Jefferson’s, the latter sighing with pleasure at the warmth.
“I know, I know, Tom. You wonder how they’ve gotten this far if Ben Franklin is the best they have to offer. But there’s no doubt he’s the smartest human being in this part of the world; if I hadn’t scanned his DNA myself, I’d be afraid he was one of us. Still, all they need is a push in the right direction, and they could do great things.”
“And they could make great mistakes, too. We did. If we hadn’t, we wouldn’t be here.”
There was a low murmur of agreement from the delegates around the room, not participating in the conversation and yet part of it. To a man, they wore woolen coats, high stockings, and powdered wigs. They had told Franklin and the other humans that such ostentation only matched their solemn purpose, but in truth it was designed to keep them warm. The weather outside was a nippy 300 degrees Kelvin; it was warmer inside, with the windows closed and the press of bodies, but of all the men in those muggy quarters, not one brow sparkled with a single drop of perspiration. Not one creature inside its organic plastic skin did not secretly wish to throw caution to the winds and build a roaring fire.
And not one dared. They had run too far to risk discovery now.
“Good God, gentlemen!” The door burst open to the shout and cheer of a man who will never admit to making his fellows wait in uncomfortable conditions. “Bad enough we have to meet in the summer, but don’t any of you need air?” One or two of the delegates opened their mouths as if to reply, but Ben Franklin took off his spectacles to polish them and continued with hardly a pause for breath. “Still, even worse for George’s boys, eh? Those Scots grenadiers don’t know weather like we’ve got. They’ll be as limp today as Tom Paine in his first whorehouse!”
The others followed Franklin’s lead in taking their places, so used to his outrageous antics that they didn’t even look at Paine, whose confused expression only confirmed John Hancock’s earlier concerns.
“Well, shall we get started, then?” Franklin resumed. “I want to go over what young Mr. Jefferson and I drafted last night. You gentlemen were very correct to pair the two of us together. The boy has the most celestial concepts of government, but no earthly idea as to how to express them in a way that a man might understand. No earthly idea at all.”
A graduate of UCLA’s writing program and more workshops than are good for anyone, Brian K. Lowe was born fifty years too late to be a pulp writer, but that hasn’t stopped him from trying. You can find the evidence at a growing list of venues including Daily Science Fiction, White Cat, and Buzzy Mag.