“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Kami said quietly.
“No, you’re not sure?”
Aspen sighed and rubbed her forehead. “No, I’m positive this is a terrible idea. The number of things that can go wrong is ridiculous. But I swore to Magpie I was going to go along with this.”
She was walking Kami and Harmony out to the transporter point. They were preparing to go pick up Cherry for the holiday break and then onto the interstellar travel depot to go to the Martian colony. The flyer was nearly prepared for its slow mission disguised a piece of junk. They had the information from Julia about the security rounds on the Bastille.
Everything was in place, but Aspen still felt a horrible sense of unease. She was sleeping poorly, expecting Chikara Haruka and Marie Rivera to break open the door of her condo and arrest her. Probably hide her on the Bastille like they did with Robespierre and leave her forgotten in the dark.
Aspen shivered and rolled her shoulders back, looking over her shoulder. Middleham was shrouded in mist, a light layer of snow and frost covering the stiffened and dead grass.
Kami touched her hand. “You don’t have to, you know. You can get out of here too.”
Aspen shook her head. “I gave my word.”
“Are we ready to go, love?” Harmony asked gently. “You’ll take care, Aspen?”
Kami walked over to the console with Harmony. She waved for a moment, face still pinched and then they were both gone. Aspen sighed and stood there for a long moment before finally about-facing to head back to the castle.
She’d explained to her mother and aunts that work was going to keep her for the holidays, but everything worked out, she might be able to get time in the New Year to see them. Aspen couldn’t decide it made it easier or harder to work on a different continent from her family. She wouldn’t want to have to keep explaining why she was spending so much time at Middleham especially since it was currently “under renovations” but she also missed spending time with her cousins, visiting the beach and helping with holiday cooking.
It did help that on one else in the castle seemed to be missing the holiday, either. Aspen wasn’t sure what she’d do if Napoleon or Richard started pining for traditional Christmas festivities. Although, Aspen was positive any of them knew it was close to the 25th, anyway.
Leonardo was working on the flyer, holding a soldering mask over his eyes while he drew careful lines down it’s side, slowly ruining it. She winced to see the amount of aesthetic damaged they’d done to the ship overall.
“I believe we’re nearly ready,” Leonardo said. “The systems are still operational?”
Aspen nodded and pried open the door. “I did a check on them last night. Everything was still up and running at full capacity.”
Leonardo smiled and rubbed his hands together. Aspen wondered if he’d be so pleased if he had to go to the Bastille himself.
“Magpie is going to want to have a meeting about how the whole thing is going to go down, so don’t get too excited yet,” she reminded him. Leonardo nodded.
“I’m simply pleased this is coming together.” He wiped his hands off with an already stained towel. “Did Harmony and Kami leave alright?”
“Yeah. I think it’s for the best. Where’s Doctor Russo?”
“She’s with Jerome, rearranging the kitchens.”
Aspen nodded while she walked around the ship, eyeing it critically. “It’s the best solution till we can get the med-bay up and running.” She sighed again then looked up at Leonardo. “Come on, lets go find Mags and get this show on the road.”
He nodded and fell into step beside her. Aspen had noticed that he had been ominously quiet all morning and grimaced internally. She couldn’t wait to go talk to Robin she wouldn’t have to keep playing pretend counselor. “Hey. You doing okay, Leonardo?”
“Hm? Yes. I’ve just been thinking.”
Aspen barely restrained her snort. “What else is new? Can I ask what about?”
Leonardo glanced at her. “Do you and Jerome speak often?”
Aspen furrowed her brow. “Um. I mean we’ve worked together for a while. He’s invited me to bars and I took him to one of Blache’s concerts.”
They’d come to a complete stand in the middle of the hallway. Leonardo, who was a very graceful man on his feet, held himself almost unnaturally still. Aspen bit her lip before steeling herself.
“Are…you two having um, problems?”
Leonardo shot her an odd look. “No. He mentioned something last night. We were speaking of my previous life and he said I should consider looking into some of the laws regarding intimate relations.”
The hell kinda pillow talk leads to that? Aspen wondered. “Okay? Did you need any help?”
Leonardo crossed his arms over his chest. “I could not be persecuted for something I did a thousands years ago, si?”
Aspen sighed. “I really don’t know. I feel like that’s part of what we’re trying to prevent right now, right? With Robespierre and everything, who knows.”
Leonardo’s mouth twisted but he nodded. Aspen began to slowly walk down the hall again, but now she was just as distracted.
Do we have any jurisdiction to prosecute anyone who’s resurrected? Robespierre apparently wasn’t the greatest guy… so do we hold him accountable to the executions he did? Do we want to?
Aspen shook the thought off as they walked into the hall turned workshop. Magpie and Jerome were inside, and both turned towards her. Magpie was ashen, their eyes wide. Jerome’s hands were shaking on the tablet he held.
“Oh god. What now?” Aspen asked immediately.
Robespierre was pinned in the chair, head forced back and throat budging from the rubber pipe within it. His closed eyes watered, pouring down his cheeks.
Across from Rain, Jenkins was still, hands clenched tightly at her sides. To anyone else she would seem to just be at a very stiff attention, but Rain had been watching the vein twitching in her temple for the past ten minutes, as her pupils contacted.
Rain suddenly stood up.
“You two, get out. I need to speak to Jenkins.”
Jenkins’s eyes flicked to her and she paled. The other two security guards glanced at one another before exiting the room.
For a moment, Rainbow Miller drew her eyes over the young woman. Too well trained to even question why I’d single her out. Hmph, Chikara you do have a type, don’t you?
After a few minutes of contemplation, mostly just to make Jenkins nervous, Rainbow leaned back in her chair and smirked.
“Have long have you known?”
A small bead of sweat trailed down Jenkins temple. “Excuse me, ma’am?”
Rainbow nodded at Robespierre. “About him. The fact he’s not an android,” she clarified when Jenkins continued to stare blankly at her. “You have too many tells, Lieutenant.” She leaned closer. “So why don’t you tell me how you found out.”
Jenkins shivered, looking deep into her eyes, pupils contacted tightly. A snake before the wily mongoose.
“Did you guess because you looked at what we’ve been pouring into him and realize it’s just a mixture of milk and eggs? Or did you look at his scar realize that no fucking android would have a scar? Or,” Rain paused, watching her mark carefully, “did someone on the outside tell you?”
The answer was in the sharp intake of breath. Rainbow sighed and leaned back. Pathetic.
“You’re not going to tell me who. If you weren’t close to whoever it was, then you would have already turned them in,” Rain guessed. “You can’t be that morally afraid for this man. You’ve kept assisting in his torture. Ergo, you’re protecting your source.” Rain pointed out each invisible point in the air, stabbing her finger toward Jenkins. “Simple.” Boring.
Jenkins swallowed. “Why?”
“Why? Why do this-this terrible thing?” Jenkins asked pathetically. She gestured weakly to Robespierre. “Is-is he a threat? Are we helping the Federation? Please, tell me why,” she whispered.
Rain snorted. “Once, a man of great renown, a hero of two worlds, a pillar of morality for his time asked a question. Do you know what it was?”
Jenkins shook her head.
Rainbow smiled. “It was Lafayette and he asked, why not?” She rose and groped for her replacement cane. “Come. Leave him here and save us a trip for later.”
Jenkins followed her out quietly. The rest of her security promptly sprang to attention. Rain flicked her hand. “We’re done for today. You can escort me back to the security center.” She glanced at Jenkins and smiled. “I assume you’ll keep today’s conversation in confidence?”
Jenkins nodded stiffly, before preforming a tight about-face.
I’m about to put you in check, Chikara. You think you have me caged? You really don’t understand your people at all, Rainbow Miller thought to herself.