Episode Seventeen: Invasive Operations. Part Two.
A/N: This is for Jeremy. You know what you did. Thank you.
Richard’s very first introduction to the so called “Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte”, as Magpie Jones introduced him grandly was when the other man looked around Middleham and sniffed dismissively.
“Is this where I’m to be banished?” The man complained, looking over at Aspen Strong. “This drafty English castle?” He waved his hand around the grand entrance.
Richard was gratified to see that he wasn’t the only one who bristled. Jones’s red tinted lips tipped down and he caught Kami and Harmony Susuki grimacing at each other.
Strong rolled her eyes and squeezed his shoulder with her metal hand. “You’ll get used to it. Here, let’s get you something to eat and get caught up.” She glanced around. “Although maybe we should get Doctor Russo to look at you first?”
Jones shook their head. “She left to arrange her sabbatical. We have to make it look natural, she can’t just up and vanish.”
Strong shrugged and continued to drag Bonaparte with her. He did not seem to expect her strength and stumbled over his own feet following along, glancing around at the castle’s tapestries and the small glowing panels that were embedded among the masonry.
These were the panels that Richard had spent the majority of his morning studying. There was at least one is every room and he discovered that when activated they played small scenes, the actors appearing in a beam of light that Richard could pass his hand through, as if they were made of fog. To his understanding they represented what the life of the castle would have been like to live in.
It had shocked him, when Richard activated one of the panels and was confronted with himself. The representation was fairly close, although the clothes were plain and he seemed too old. But the scene was of himself, with Anne. They were in audience with several nobles, their hands lifelessly clasped together as they listened.
Richard played the scene several times, his heart tight as he stared at Anne. Her representation was a poor one, her features plain and wooden, but Richard could look into her eyes and with a little imagination, it was almost as if she was before him again. Before everything had gone so terribly wrong, their son taken from them and her own health plummeting like a dove shot out of the sky.
He’d only been pulled from his musings when Jones found him and pulled him along to meet the Emperor Bonaparte. Richard eyed the young man again, who was being instructed on how to use the food and clothing dispenser by Strong. His countenance seemed noble enough, but his name was not one that Richard was familiar with.
“Where is he from again?” He muttered to Jones.
“He’s Corsican and French by marriage. I suppose you could also count him as Austrian if you tried,” they said.
Richard snorted. “Why didn’t you drag Leonardo down here, then?”
“Oh! We should introduce him, shouldn’t we? Would you get him, please?” Jones asked, eyes wide.
Richard’s refusal was on the very edge of his tongue, pressing up against his teeth before he remembered that he had no authority here. He clenched his jaw together and spun on his heel, towards the stairs.
“Thank you!” Jones called out after him.
Leonardo took his own good time in answering Richard’s summons.
He was disheveled and was biting back a yawn when he opened the door. He seemed disappointed to see Richard, mouth twitching into a small frown.
“Ah. Richard, how lovely. Good morning,” Leonardo mumbled, leaning against the door frame. “What can I do for you?”
“It’s noon, the day’s half over. Have you been asleep the entire time?” Richard’s voice rose incredulously. Leonardo waved his complaint away, smothering another yawn.
“I was reading all night.”
Richard frowned and mentally marked down sloth onto Leonardo’s list of faults. “There’s a new person downstairs.”
Leonardo regarded him blankly.
“Another one. One like us. He was Emperor of France, apparently.”
Leonardo blinked and straightened up. “Emperor? Well that is something,” he muttered and nodded to Richard. “I’ll be down shortly. What is his name?”
Leonardo nodded again and whirled away, snapping the door shut in Richard’s face. Relieved of his duty, Richard took the opportunity to return to the chapel. After all, Jones never said he had to return.
Leonardo was enjoying the future. More than he ever could have guessed. It was as if he had finally found where he was meant to be. Everything about it was fantastic. There was a quote in one of his own biographies “It was as if Leonardo had woken to find the world still dark.” Leonardo was awake again and found that everything was illuminated to an almost painful degree.
Leonardo made his way into the heart of the castle and he could hear Aspen speaking to someone.
“So I still unclear. Are you technically French or Italian? Because you were Emperor of France but your army was Italian?”
Leonardo had just stepped off the final stair as the man answered. “I am Corsican. Neither Italy nor France had a right to claim and oppress my home.”
Aspen’s eyebrows were raised as she listened to him. She was resting her chin on her human hand. As Leonardo drew close she waved at him.
“Either way I guess you’ll have company here, beside all the barbarous British. Leonardo, come and say hello to Napoleon Bonaparte.”
The man turned in his seat and blinked at Leonardo, thin brows drawing together slightly. Leonardo offered his hand and bowed slightly from the waist.
“I’m pleased to know you. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard the news from Corsica.”
Napoleon nodded, still staring at Leonardo as if he couldn’t place him. “Yes. And you are?” He glanced at Aspen.
“Leonardo as in da Vinci. He died in France, right?”
Leonardo smiled, thinking back on his borrowed chateau. “Ambroise. It was beautiful.”
Napoleon’s eyes had widened and he suddenly stood, taking Leonardo hand and shaking it enthusiastically. “You! You painted the Mona Lisa!”
Leonardo smiled. “Si. You admire her?”
Napoleon’s smile was a wide and toothy thing. “I love her. I put her in my bedroom, in the Tuileries. She is the best of all the portraits I have ever seen. Not even David could capture the like on canvas.”
The praise made Leonardo flush. “Oh. Well, thank you. She’s not finished,” he admitted.
Aspen slapped her hand down on the table. “Perfect! Since the two of you get on, Leonardo can you show Napoleon around the rest of Middleham? You know, get him all caught up? I need to speak to Magpie.”
Leonardo nodded and gestured to the door that led into the courtyard. “Your highness, I’ve been reading up on the history of this castle. I think you’ll be interested to learn about the Nevilles.”
Napoleon’s lip curled back and out of the corner of his eye, Leonardo saw Aspen flinch.
“I doubt there is, but I would like to take a look at the fortifications. Are there maps, as well? I want to know where exactly on this damned island I am.”
With Napoleon taken care of Aspen headed back up to the offices where she found Magpie and Harm looking over his program for finding the recently-resurrected.
“Is Napoleon all settled in?” Magpie asked. Aspen leaned against the desk and watched as Harm did something clever with the coding.
“Yep. I drafted Leonardo to help. What’s this?” She asked, gesturing to the screens.
“I was thinking it over last night. If we’re trying to figure out how many of these uh,” Harmony looked at Magpie to fill in.
“Temporarily-displaced,” Magpie said at the same time Aspen shouted “dead people!”
“Zombies,” Harmony nodded at Aspen. “If we’re trying to find zombies and we know they don’t have IDs then instead of combing every millimeter of the planet with the smart recognition program all we should need to do instead is use subtraction right?”
Aspen looked at him blankly. “What? How?”
“We can always know how many IDs are currently on Earth. There’s a live counter right on the Federation site. Look,” Harm pressed his display and it popped up on the screen. As Aspen watched the counter fluctuate around 11 billion, the last five digits changing faster than she could read them. Harm pressed another button and it froze.
“Then all we need to do is take the Terran-tracking life sign counter, the one that the Federation uses on a private database.” Another number, this one at 11.4 billion and Harm pressed it. “So then I’ll subtract the two and remove the calculations from the Martian colony.”
“But how does that help us find them?” Magpie pressed. “All we’ll know there’s a discrepancy.”
Harm smiled and held up a finger. “Ah! I’m glad you asked boss. Now all I have to do is find the life signs that don’t have a corresponding ID…” He swiped his fingers across the board. “So these are the remaining ones. What I’ll do now map out each of these life signs.”
He flicked his fingers up and the holo-globe popped up. As Aspen watched little blips of light started appearing. They then kept appearing, like a little leak that reveals a serious problem in the plumbing.
“I think you’re calculations must be off,” Aspen said. “There must be-”
“It’s one hundred and forty-seven,” Harm told her. “The flickering ones are accounted to births/deaths.”
“But the others…” Magpie slid their fingers over the globe, spinning it. “Look! There’s these three in Vegas City. And over here in Moscow. And look, here’s where we are! Oh my god.” They looked at Aspen and Harm, eyes wide and horrified. “If there’s really this many…”
“Then what the hell are we going to do?” Aspen finished.