Somewhere north of Boulder, Colorado.
Ava lifted her head, sniffing at the wind. Dusk had settled over the forest and all manner of small easily killed animals were merging from their holes. Between Bobby, Berwald and Lester the kill pile was quickly flowing with mice, birds and small rabbits. Jep sniffed at a rabbit, it’s throat torn out, and whined.
Ava huffed, shaking herself. “Don’t turn it away Jep. It’s food.”
The little spaniel whined again. “It’s bloody.”
Ava tossed her head. “You’ll get used to it.”
She trotted pas him to where Baby was flopped over in the shade of a tree. The long day run had been hard on the smallest member of the pack. Norma was looking after her.
“She’s not made like the rest of us. It’s exhausted her. We’ll have to give her all night and probably some of the daylight tomorrow to recover,” the Corgi said. Ava nosed the puppy, who whimpered.
“She’ll adjust,” Berwald growled from behind. There was a thump and Ava turned to see a freshly killed crow on the ground.
“This will be for naught if members of the pack start dropping from exhaustion and hunger,” Norma warned. Berwald bared his teeth at her, and Norma growled right back. Ava raked her large paw down the side of Berwald’s face.
“Stop it. Norma’s right. We’ll let Baby recover, and start south tomorrow evening. We head for the cities. We have to find our humans,” she ordered. Berwald crouched down low on his belly.
He walked away, tail hung low, and catch in his mouth.
“You’re going to have to get that under control,” Norma sniffed.
Ava privately agreed but kept her tongue in her mouth.
Rain was working very quickly. Her fingers blurred over the touchpad.
She’d seen as Marie Rivera and Chikara’s private forces had taken Robespierre, throwing the man into the back of the transport vehicle. It was on its way to the Bastille even now, and Chikara herself was getting ready to meet it there. In the top of the line newly minted Moon Flyer, it would only take them about three hours to get up there. All Chikiara had to do was get her officers in line and arrange a cover story for her absence at HQ.
It was a miracle Rain was even still allowed to go anywhere without a body guard but everyone had been called to Chikara’s side as she announced her trip. Rain had snuck away and using a tricky piece of old-school hacking had gotten into her personal notes.
Notes that were now being uploaded to the internet.
“Information is meant to be free, chienne,” she whispered, grinning savagely at the screen. The process was destroying what she’d left on her personal sever and nesting it as a private program in the cloud.
It would take them months to find it, if they even could.
She finished her final keystroke, as the sound of boots approached the room. Quickly Rain shut the browser down and hit a hard shut down on the screen.
“What are you doing?” Asked the young guard.
“Looking at porn,” Rain answered flippantly. “Is Chikara ready then?”
She turned when a voice spoke from the front of the room. “Yes, Doctor Miller. Jerkins, put her in handcuffs. I think She needs to learn to keep her hands to herself.”
Chikara was dressed in her military uniform, dark blue with silver edging. “We are meeting Marie at the Bastille.”
Rain sneered. “Joy.” Her hands were securely crossed at the wrist behind her. Jerkins, the guard grabbed her shoulder securely. “Careful, I have a limp. You should carry me,” she told her.
Chikara ignored Rain’s irreverence. “Come. We’re leaving.”
Richard woke from uneasy sleep with Leonardo tapping insistently on his shoulder.
“Wake up. We’re near to Middleham,” the Italian told him. Richard noted the heaviness around his eyes and wondered if he’d slept at all.
He sat up and peered over Aspen Strong’s shoulder. They were descending, and he noted that the sun was beginning to set. His heart caught as he saw the familiar sight of the Keep.
“I have to fly this into the underground launch pad, we keep it out of sight for historical accuracy.” Aspen was carefully guiding the flying machine down. She angled it down and Richard could feel the floor under him tip forward as she gently descended into a large hole in the ground. It was dimply lit, and Richard could see other machines against the walls of the cave. It landed with a gentle thump and there was silence as the machine went dark.
Aspen opened the back of it again and hopped off the ramp. Feeling a little like cattle, Richard walked down it. After Leonardo followed him off and Aspen closed it she led her way back out of the hole. A metal door, like a drawbridge closed it after them. Richard breathed the smell of the distant river and the heather of the wind whipped moors. In the distance trees creaked and overhead some storm clouds were gathering. Richard could feel the building rain storm in his bones.
Over taking Aspen and Leonardo Richard strode ahead of them, needing no leading here. In his minds eye he could practically see George ahead of him in horseback, calling over his shoulder to ‘Hurry up Dickon!’
The main part of the castle was right ahead of him, and feeling his heart thumping in his chest, he jogged across the bridge to the main doors. This he knew, as if by instinct.
Richard’s arms strained as he pushed the doors open. The creaked but swung into the great hall.
His cousin seated on the dais at the end. His Lady Anne coming to greet him. His son. He’ll open the door and all will be right again. He’ll wake up from this dream and Edward will be alive and Richard will still be his most loyal servant.
“Aspen’s back!” Someone shouted and Richard’s dream disintegrated before his eyes.
Several people, all but one darker than him, rushed into the hall and stopped cold. Richard was still hovering between the outer door and the hall, when a cold hard hand, like it was wrapped in a gauntlet, grabbed his good shoulder and pushed him in.
“Look what I brought!” Aspen cheered. “The king comes back!”
Leonardo came to stand next to him, looking around at the castle.
“So this is England?” He asked under his breath.
“The north, yes.” Richard aid back, watching as from the group of four as a shorter man pushed his way to the front. His hair was shaved all the way to his brown skin, except for the top of his scalp, where he had a tuft of silver hair. He was staring at Richard with almost unseemly amazement, mouth gaped.
“Uh you doing okay Magpie?” Aspen asked.
“Oh my god. It’s really you. It’s really Richard the Third,” he choked, eyes filling with tears. Richard shifted slightly, an unnerved prickling along his neck.
“Did Rivera get the other one?” One of the other men spoke up. He was looking at Aspen, who nodded.
“You’ll never guess who it was, Harm,” she hissed.
“And who is this one?” The shortest person there, who was still taller than Richard, whispered, looking at Leonardo.
The Italian bowed. “Leonardo ser Piedro da Vinci, at your service.”
The assembled group went quiet and even Magpie tore his gaze away from Richard.
“Leonardo…da Vinci?” Aspen asked slowly.
“Like the Mona Lisa, da Vinci?” The other woman asked. Leonardo tilted his head.
Magpie whipped out his tablet and quickly typed something in before turning it around. There was a small portrait of a woman who was smiling, her hands contently folded over each other. At first glance Richard didn’t think there was anything particular about it, but the longer he stared the more lifelike she appeared. He cast a surprised glance at Leonardo. He hadn’t know he was a court artist, clearly this was a woman of some import to have a portrait like this.
Leonardo brightened. “Ah! Si, Giaconda.”
The assembled group gasped.
Aspen put her metal hand to her head. “Oh my god. We kidnapped Leonardo da Vinci, and King Richard the Third.”
Magpie on the other hand was beginning to smile. He grasped each their hands in turn, shaking them enthusiastically.
“Gentlemen, I can hardly tell you what an honor it is to welcome you here to Middleham.”
Maximilien found himself jerked awake when the vehicle landed. He listened, heart pounding, as metal scraped along metal.
Could he possibly make a run for it once the door opened? He didn’t think so. Instead Max backed into the corner, resolute to at least make it difficult for them to dislodge him. The walls were nearly freezing to the touch, but he gripped them tightly.
The doors opened and light poured in. Instinctively he raised an arm to block it and there was a thumping as another person joined him in the vehicle. He was rudely grabbed and nearly pushed out of the box, stumbling and nearly falling onto his face.
Another set of hands grabbed his shoulders and whipped him around before he could get his bearings and his wrists were bound behind his back. He was pushed forward by a firm hand on the back of his neck.
Maximilien twisted, trying to dislodge it, heart rapidly thumping as memories of the guillotine rose within him.
“Non! I demand to-“
“Quiet, move!” He was shoved forward again, this time stumbling forward. His glasses slipped and his surroundings blurred.
They rushed him down a long dim hallway that seemed to curve continuously. Max was jerked still when they wheeled him around and brought him face to face with a featureless sliding door.
“Chief, we are bringing the android to you now. Security code forty-seven.”
The doors slid open and Maximilien was dragged in.
He shook his head, trying to see pas the shatter glass over his eyes.
A woman sat behind a desk, her dark hair pulled back into a neat bun. She glanced up at him and frowned.
“I told you to take those,” she nodded at Max, and someone pulled his glasses off. Now blind, Maximilien blinked rapidly in the harsh light.
“I am Maximilien Robespierre. Where am I?” He demanded.
She nodded at him again.
“Secure him in number five after processing.”
They started to drag him away.
“Welcome to the Bastille.”