Leonardo didn’t know what to think anymore. It was…unnerving.
This evening’s revelations had left everyone subdued. Richard had left for the chapel, where he spent most of his time and Napoleon left for Harmony’s office, muttering something about world war.
Leonardo was left alone in his room, his hands and mind restless. He considered seeking out Jerome but discarded it the idea immediately. Jerome hadn’t even looked at him as he left the grand hall this evening, distracted by his sister in trouble.
So Leonardo paced the floor and thought.
Robespierre was imprisoned and apparently injured. The Bastille, the moon prison that Napoleon had been so certain was destroyed, was impregnatable. That sounded like a likely place to start. He took up the small electric tablet and laboriously typed in Bastille.
The moon prison was the most prominent result. Examining it, Leonardo did have to reluctantly admit that it seemed to be impossible to either escape or board. It reminded him of a large, segmented tube. There were few windows to the darkness outside of the Bastille and no doors. Leonardo gathered that to gain access you would need to dock on some unseen portal. He begrudgingly admitted this seemed reasonable. If you were a suspicious prince you would want to disguise the entrance, just to make it less appetizing to attack.
Leonardo browsed through the history of the prison. He snorted. Nothing here to assist. Clearly, if there was a weakness in the prison they wouldn’t make it public knowledge. He was distracted by looking through the history of space travel before returning to the Bastille.
Obviously, if there was a way to break into the Bastille, he wouldn’t find it in the known record. Leonardo set the tablet aside and sighed, before leaning backward.
A way into an impregnable fortress. It’s not as if the basic philosophies of design have changed in the thousand years since I was last alive. If there isn’t a way to enter traditionally, there must be another way in…
Sometimes when Leonardo was working on a problem, he found himself slipping into a reverie. He could lose hours in contemplation. His mind would be free to turn the problem inside out without worrying about the conventions of traditional thinking.
Prison. Locks. Bars. Levers. Keys. Doors. Windows. Trees. Flowers. Hills. The sky. The stars.
He shook his head. The scope was too large.
A prison, a prison. No way in aside from the obvious. No way out? Nonsense. Surely they must need to dispose of waste. Materials that are too large to be recycled or too dangerous to be kept onboard...
Leonardo seemingly woke up to a knock on the door. He blinked heavily before sitting up.
As he guessed, Jerome entered. The man looked tired. Leonardo assumed it was concern for his sister.
“Hey, Leo.” Jerome crossed to the desk and slumped down into the chair. “I’m checking in.”
Leonardo nodded. “It’s been a quiet night. I’ve been doing research on the Bastille.”
Jerome blinked and tilted his head. “Why?”
Leonardo was just as surprised by his question. “I wished to help. You seemed concerned for your sister and Robespierre did not seem to be a bad man.” He smiled slightly. “Nor does it seem wise to leave anyone with Miller for too long.”
Jerome didn’t laugh, still studying Leonardo in puzzlement. “I-I appreciate that. I just wasn’t expecting you to be concerned for any of us.”
“We are friends, si? I find the challenge invigorating anyway.”
Jerome laughed, his expression finally brightening. “I have to say I love the way you see things. Did anyone ever tell you no, when you were alive the first time?” His tone was genuine.
Leonardo’s smile grew. “They certainly tried.” The only one who could ever stop me from accomplishing something was myself.
Jerome laughed again. He seemed to be relaxing slightly. Encouraged, Leonardo asked, “What is your sister like?”
“Julia? She’s the good one. We both went into the service but she was the one with all the drive. I’ve always been fine with coasting but Julia throws her whole self into whatever it is she’s doing.” Jerome leaned his chin on folded arms. “We’re identical twins but I’ve never met anyone who didn’t assume that she was the eldest.”
Leonardo hummed as he reached for his sketchbook. “I’ve never met twins.”
“Really? Well, I suppose that the time period you’re from wouldn’t be great for infant mortality. Twins and triplets are a lot more common now, something like twenty percent of births. Did you have any siblings?” Jerome asked. “I can’t remember if any of the history texts I’ve read mention…”
Leonardo shook his head. “I was a bastard, so my mother was quickly moved away from my grandfather’s lands. Both my father and mother remarried and I had half-siblings on both sides. We were never close.”
“You’re illegitimate?” Jerome raised his eyebrows. “I didn’t know that.”
Now Leonardo laughed out loud. “You didn’t think ser Piero da Vinci was my last name! Everyone called me Leonardo.”
Jerome flushed. “Everyone calls you da Vinci. I think it’s just because everyone knows who it refers to.”
“I’m flattered,” Leonardo said dryly. He stretched, jaw cracking as he yawned. “Do you have the rest of your patrol? Or would you like to stay?”
He watched as a pleasant flush redded Jerome’s dark countenance.
“I have to finish.” Jerome stood reluctantly. “But maybe later? Tonight?”
Leonardo leaned back on his bed, kicking his feet up onto it. “Si. Tonight.”
Napoleon Bonaparte was a cunning man. He had learned to watch, to listen carefully. He knew patience and the thrill of the chase. Of tonight’s discussions, he had only learned one thing: world war.
Let Robespierre stay where he was. The man was dead and declaimed. Napoleon was not unsympathetic but until he knew the allegiance of his captors he could not say anything in regards to the poor man. If they wanted to rescue him, let them. If he perished, God allowed that too.
Napoleon stood in front of the large glass screen Leonardo had shown him yesterday. With no little determination, he navigated it and found the electronic encyclopedia. Conveniently he was simply required to search the phrase.
World War One.
World War Two.
World War Three.
Napoleon hesitated before clicking on the first entry and then settling back into the chair to begin reading. (How nice it was to sit and stand with no pain. His body had returned to its youthful vigor.)
He’d finally read past the assassination which seemed to have begun the entire thing when the door opened.
“Oh. I didn’t realize anyone was still here.”
It was Jerome, one of the negro guards. Napoleon nodded. “Yes. I’ve been reading. Leonardo did not say that this room was off-limits…”
The man shook his head. “It’s not.” He walked closer, looking up at the large window-like screen, which was displaying an etching of Franz Ferdinand. “Oh. Reading about what happened after you died?”
Napoleon didn’t flinch. “Oui.”
Jerome was still looking up. He shook his head. “Crazy. All that chaos, just for one man…”
Napoleon frowned. “I find that most wars are fought for the glory of one man.”
“Right.” Jerome rolled his eyes and before Napoleon could chastise him for it, he had turned on his heel and was leaving. “Just make sure you turn it off before you go.”
Napoleon’s lips curled before he turned back to the screen. “As you say.”
When Leonardo arrived downstairs the next morning, he was in a very good mood. He felt like Napoleon and Richard could see it on his face but Leonardo couldn’t bring himself to care as he sat down and served himself from whatever it was that Richard and Magpie replicated for breakfast. Some fried meats and potatoes. Leonardo frowned. Had the English never heard of fruit?
He sighed and poured himself a cup of coffee.
At the entrance, Jerome and Strong were speaking, with their heads close together. Strong patted Jerome with her metal hand and Leonardo twitched.
He’d like to claim that he wasn’t a jealous person but when he’d seen all of his lovers leave for women, Leonardo couldn’t help but feel the prickles of defensiveness start. He tried to push it away and smile when Strong came over to the table.
“Good morning gentlemen. All quiet then?” She asked cheerfully and reached for the fried meat.
“It was a fine night,” Leonardo said quickly, with a smile. “Yours?”
Strong’s grin widened. “I bet,” she muttered and winked at him. “I just went home. Gods, I’m tired these days.”
Napoleon’s face was pressed close to one of the many tablets the castle had. He was nibbling on a small pastry. Strong looked over at him in concern but was swiftly distracted by the arrival of Magpie Jones, who was in the same clothing they wore yesterday and yawning enormously. They froze at the bottom of the stairs and smiled sheepishly.
“Morning is it?” Jones muttered. “Oh dear.”
Strong glared at Jerome, who shrugged. “Yeah, I’m pretty sure someone was going to send you home. I guess that didn’t happen.”
Jones took the coffee from Leonardo. “It’s alright Aspen. I had lots to do last night anyway. I’ll go home later, once we’ve settled some things.”
Strong opened her mouth to argue but was interrupted yet again by the arrival of Kami and Harmony Suski, coming through the front door.
Napoleon put down his tablet and looked up. “Allons-y! Round two,” he said in sotto.
Leonardo didn’t say anything but privately, he agreed. Jerome stared stonily at Kami who just frowned at him.
Strong’s eyes flicked between the two. She sighed and poured some of the coffee. “Alright, let’s do this.”
Aspen hadn’t wanted to deal with Jerome and Kami first thing but Magpie herded them away into their office and shut the door.
“I spent all last night doing research,” they started, heading around to sit behind their desk. “Everything was off the record but I did find out that there have been odd movements of Federation ships between Earth and the Bastille. The speculation behind it is that we’re going to be dismantling soon.”
It’s not terribly cost effective to keep an empty fortress after all. Not very attractive, either, Aspen thought. It was the same reasoning that people used when questioning the historical heritage sites throughout Europe and North America.
“It must be Haruka. She’s using it as an excuse to travel between the two without questions,” Jerome said immediately.
“Or they might actually be dismantling it.” Kami crossed her arms. “It’s not exactly ironclad evidence.”
Before Jerome could bristle, Magpie held up a hand.
“We don’t know and we can’t speculate. But let us assume that it is because there is a prisoner in the Bastille. Let’s assume it’s Robespierre. We are going to retrieve him. The last question is, how?”
Everyone glanced at one another.
“Magpie, that’s… It’s not possible,” Aspen said.
Jerome cleared his throat. “It might be.” He stepped forward and Aspen saw him blush. “I’ve been spending time with Leonardo. If we give him time he could find a way onto the Bastille.”
Kami scoffed and even Aspen had to frown. “Come on, Jerome. I know the man has a reputation, but he’s a thousand years out of date. He’d have to have a complete crash course in interstellar travel, physics, astrometrics just to get started.”
“But he doesn’t know it’s supposed to be impossible. If we ask him to do it and Harmony walks him through the math and science…” Jerome trailed off as everyone stared at him.
“We can ask.” Magpie was quiet, looking down. “But let’s have a plan B.” They turned to Kami and Harmony. “I think I have a compromise for your concerns.”
It was a simple plan. Winter break was coming up fast and Magpie was prepared to offer paid leave to anyone who didn’t want to stay for operation: Bastille.
“Take Cherry, visit Mars. You’ve brought it up before,” Magpie urged. “We won’t tell you any plans. If we get caught,” they twitched, “then you’re completely innocent to any knowledge about a conspiracy.” Magpie looked around the room. “That’s an offer for all of you, as well. I made the choice to take these people in.”
“It’s my sister,” Jerome said immeadly. “I’m not going anywhere.”
Primavera Russo shrugged. “As far as I’m concerned, if the Federation really is holding an innocent man hostage, it’s my right as a citizen to know and my duty as a doctor to ensure his health.” She flipped her hair back. “I’m staying, even if I do have to put up with insufferable white men.”
Kami and Harmony were holding congress, heads bent close. At last Kami turned, her pretty face still scowling. “Look, it’s a bad idea and I don’t feel bad telling you that, Magpie. But I respect that you want to give us an out. We’ll call Cherry tonight and tell her it’s a surprise for the winter. Would two weeks be enough time, do you think?”
“I mean we’re already doing the impossible, why not do it in an impossibly short amount of time too?” Aspen asked.
Magpie shot her look but smiled slightly. “We’ll have to find out, won’t we? Aspen, you’re staying?”
Aspen startled. “I mean…I’m the only trained pilot. Who the hell else is going to be able to get up there and back?” She asked. Her false bravado hid her nervousness. But Magpie smiled and nearly illuminated the room.
“Thank you Aspen. That’s a relief to have you,” they said. “Alright, so we have a loose plan. Jerome and Harm, you need to talk to Leonardo and see if any of his ideas are viable. If not, we’ll need to figure something else out. Russo, we still need to talk about where we’re going to build an infirmary on the grounds. And-”
“You need to go the hell home, Jones. Seriously you’ve been here like forty-eight hours now. Come back tonight and we’ll get started then,” Aspen said firmly, striding forward to grab the bosses arm. “Get your stuff and I’ll walk you out.”
Magpie was quiet as Aspen escorted them to the transport kiosk.
“Do you think he could?” Aspen asked suddenly. “Leonardo, find out how to get inside the Bastille?”
Magpie’s mouth twisted. “He was undoubtedly one of the most brilliant men of his generation.”
“But he was notably flighty. His skill isn’t the only reason his painting are so valuable. He didn’t finish as many as his contemporaries. He was a good theorist but not necessarily a practical man,” Magpie sighed. “Probably we should focus on the more conventional. Jerome’s sister might have a way onto the Bastille.”
Magpie and Aspen hesitated before the terminal.
“We’ll see you tomorrow, no sooner?” Aspen looked at Magpie critically. She was in no position to boss Magpie around but for someone who was usually so well put together, they looked rough, with circles under their brown eyes, hair mussed and suit rumpled.
Magpie opened their mouth to disagree but cut themselves off with a yawn, hastily putting up their hand. “Oh, alright. Fine.”
Aspen watched at Magpie took the transporter away and sighed, rubbing her temple before sighing. Alright. Time to go deal with everyone else’s egos.