Over the next few days Leonardo noticed a distinct shift in the mood of the castle.
“Fencing?” He repeated when Aspen told them at breakfast.
She nodded. “Yeah. Sword fighting for practice. It’s great for your reflexes and flexibility.” She took a bite of her breakfast, pieces of sugared wheat and dried fruit in milk. “Probably strength too, if you use heavy swords.”
“Will you be teaching us?” Napoleon asked, casting a dubious look over Aspen.
She shook her head. “I never learned. It’ll be Kami.”
Leonardo frowned. “I do not approve of violence in that way.” He shook his head. “I do not want to fence.”
“No one will make you, don’t worry Leo.” Aspen smiled at him then glanced at his breakfast: coffee. “But uh, you should definitely have something other than that. Otherwise Russo might make you eat that cup, too.”
“Leonardo, you’re going to go see Robin at one today. His rooms are all set up.” Russo told him while they were examining the progress on Robespierre’s eyes. The inflammation had gone down, all though the pupil was still sluggish to react when Leonardo ran the light over them. He felt Robespierre flinch under his fingertips.
“Why?” He asked bewildered.
“I did that physical on you. This is the same except Robin is going to be evaluating your emotional and mental state of health,” Russo said. “Don’t worry about it. We’re all doing it. Robespierre, you’ll be going to see him at two.”
“Why do I have to talk to Varma about my mental state?” Leonardo demanded. “I’m perfectly fine.”
Russo flipped her hair over her shoulder. “I never said you weren’t. We all have to do it Leonardo.” She turned her attention back to Robespierre and sighed. “Your eyes are improving. Slowly.”
Robin Varma’s rooms were slightly different than Leonardo’s. Rather than just being the large open bedroom with a fireplace and desk, his had multiple rooms and when Leonardo looked at the brick work, he realized it was different than the rest of the castle.
“Aspen told it me it’s renovated from one of the office spaces in the castle,” Varma said. “I believe that all of Middleham was rebuilt as part of the historical reclamation movement.”
“Why did they give us the old bedrooms?” Leonardo asked, sitting down on the edge of an overstuffed chair by the fire. It was banked but the room was still plenty warm.
Varma poured him a cup of tea. “Black tea with ginger. You might like it,” he said before sitting down himself. “I imagine that Magpie thought you might be more comfortable in the older rooms.”
“Freezing to death?” Leonardo asked. He was not used to how cold England was.
“Because it’s closer to what the rooms were when you were alive,” Varma replied. “But you could ask Magpie about changing. I sure they wouldn’t mind.”
Leonardo fell into silence, drinking the tea. The porcelain was cool against his fingers. Varma was looking at the fire, silent.
“Doctor Russo said that you need to evaluate my mental and emotional states,” Leonardo said. He kept his tone light, so as not to risk offending the man.
Varma nodded. “Yes.” He sighed heavily. “But only if you are willing, Leonardo. From what others in the castle have told me, you are extremely well adjusted to the future already. I believe that one person said it was as if you were already a native to this time.”
Leonardo smiled slightly. He shrugged. “I do feel very comfortable in this time period,” he agreed. “It is wonderful. The free information on everything! Science, reason has at last come into her own.”
Robin nodded. “I’m sure it’s very satisfying for a man as curious about everything as you are.”
Leonardo nodded. “Yes.”
Robin sat back in his chair and looked Leonardo over. “Is there anything you are concerned by? Any fears about this transition?” He prodded. “Perhaps I can help you by clarifying anything you aren’t understanding.”
Looking for time to answer, Leonardo took a sip of his tea. “I think we are all concerned by what happened to Robespierre,” he finally said. “Why would the Federation do that to him?”
Robin sighed then smiled ruefully. “You pick the one question that is the most difficult to answer, of course.” Leonardo shrugged. “It is a multifaceted issue, Leonardo. Much of it has to do with Major Chikara Haruka. Have you done any research on her?”
Leonardo shook his head. “No. All I know what has been mentioned in conversation.”
Robin nodded. “Understandable. Chikara Haruka has been the very picture of decorum in the Federation for over a decade. No one could doubt her devotion. She came from a small colony on Mars that faced a long period of troubles and it’s my opinion that it still haunts her.” He looked Leonardo over. “You came from when Italy was still having civil wars every other year?”
Leonardo grimaced. “Si.”
“Then perhaps you can sympathize with her. If I had to guess, Haruka values peace and stability over everything else. And you, Richard and Robespierre present a distinctly destabilizing element in the Federation.”
“How so?” Leonardo asked, bewildered. “All we have done is exist.”
“But your existence is a threat. Diplomatically, because you were made with stolen technology. Politically, because there was no agreement to bring you back. Socially, because you have no IDs and therefore cannot be traced by the Federation. You are an anomaly, a threatening one.” Robin counted off his thick fingers with each point.
Leonardo thought about this, starring into the fire. “But why the brutality? If you are right about Haruka, then why did she not just have him executed?” He asked at last.
Robin tapped his fingers on his chair. “Once again, this is my own opinion. I have never met the Major or Doctor Miller. Everything I know about them is second hand. But I would guess that it was Miller’s idea to work Robespierre over. I would consider her to be Haruka’s opposite. She might have done it to prove that she was in control of the situation. She might have done it on Haruka’s orders but carried it farther than the Major intended. She might have even done it without the Major’s knowledge.”
“Why?” Leonardo burst out.
Robin sent him a look. “Because she is also a curious person. I think she just wanted to know what would happen.”
Leonardo left Robin’s rooms more shaken than he’d been when they’d started. He slipped out onto the castle’s snow-covered grounds.
He began to pace the circumference, counting his steps under his breath. This was a habit he’d picked up in Milan, when he would walk along the moat in the evenings as the sun set over the hills.
Leonardo felt abruptly and cripplingly heartsick. He ducked around one of the weathered stone walls and took some deep breaths. He did miss Milan, his workshop, long nights talking to people. It was true that he’d always been frustrated by the philosophies of his time, the lack of interest in the world that so many seemed to take for granted, he’d had his familiars.
Here, even as he rejoiced in finally having his every idle curious thought answered, Leonardo’s heart ached. He would never be able to go home again.