Season Two. Episode Nineteen: Human Needs. Part Three.

PART THREE.

Richard longed for a paper book.

The slick glass tablets, thin a piece of parchment, did not hold the same feeling of satisfaction as holding a page and turning it to reveal the next. The slippery action of sliding his fingers along the screen was too fast, too immaterial.

Richard did take solace in the fact that there now there was much more to read, indeed more than he ever thought he could read if given another ten lifetimes, but bitterly longed for paper.

He’d remained in his room, today. The atmosphere of the castle was distinctly cold since the discussion of Robespierre. Leonardo had been his usual distant self, only conversing with the guards and the staff in tense, quiet tones. Bonaparte, too, had been quiet, reading and mumbling to himself in a corner of the solar lounging in a chair with his feet to the fire.

Richard had no desire to speak to this self proclaimed Emperor of the French. He did not seek out the company of Leonardo. He felt the quiet disdain of the staff and guards. Richard, as he had for so much of his life, had no company but himself.

He sat in his room and studied the grounds instead. The weather had stripped the leaves from the trees and he felt that there was snow on the way. Richard had noticed that it seemed to roll in harshly, unexpectedly. He shuddered. Were the seasons not even a constant he could depend on, anymore?

Read More »

Season Two. Episode Nineteen: Human Needs. Part Two.

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.

Read More »

Season Two. Episode Nineteen: Human Needs. Part One.

PART ONE.

It was an extremely strange experience to sit down in the ancient dining hall in front of a replicated dinner with Leonardo da Vinci across from her and Napoleon next to her. Aspen took a bite of her sandwich and watched Napoleon struggle with his burger. 

“You don’t eat it with a knife,” she pointed out and took the opportunity to take some of his french fries.

“I’m not some savage or student, to eat with my hands,” Napoleon snorted. He persevered with the fork and knife.

Leonardo was clearly lost in his own head, eating with his right hand and sketching with his left. It looked like the designs of an eagle or falcon in flight. 

Harmony and Kami were getting ready to head out for the night, standing in the entryway, speaking to Magpie. Richard was sitting at one end of the table, eating steadily and ignoring Russo who was sitting at the other end. She eschewed dinner, studying the maps of the land around Middleham. 

“Is this whole damn castle built on a swamp? The only safe places to build would be inside the castle walls,” she asked aloud, pointedly.

Richard scowled. “The ground is steady enough to hold the castle,” he snapped.

Russo glared at him. “It won’t always be. You should see the state of the plumbing,” she muttered, looking back down. 

Aspen hid her smile in her coffee. She wasn’t above being amused by petty bitching between the doctor and the Englishman.

Above them, there was the electronic whine of an engine and she glanced up. Cutting it close, Jerome.

Aspen stood and stretched. She grabbed the last bite of her sandwich and stuffed it into her mouth, getting ready to be relieved of duty. Let Jerome keep the keep, as it were. 

But instead of the calm saunter that she expected from Jerome, the door exploded inward, nearly taking out Harmony. Jerome wasn’t even in uniform but he looked wild, his eyes red and breathing heavily. Everyone stopped and looked up at him.

Before anyone could ask Jerome, he spoke. “I know where Robespierre is!”

Read More »

Season Two. Episode Eighteen: Living Will. Part One.

Episode Eighteen: Living Will. Part One.

Richard wouldn’t know how to define the way time passed at Middleham. It seemed both that he spent his days relearning his home and all the changes, but then either Strong or Jones would find him and he would be called for dinner. When he looked back later it would seem that he did nothing for days. 

Jones persisted in their attempts to speak to him but Richard found that all he needed to do was claim exhaustion or illness to be left alone. Outside of their company, however, Richard found himself entirely alone, except for the beings of light. Leonardo did not seem interested in his company, spending time with one of the guards, or speaking to Harmony about computers.

Richard had also found himself lingering in the chapel for hours, praying for guidance and strength in light of this new world he found himself in. He was no longer a king, no longer a husband or father, no longer a soldier. But Richard would be damned before he lapsed and abandoned his faith as well.  

Then Russo returned.

“I had to completely rearrange the shifts at the clinic. Also if anyone asks, I’m visiting a monastery in Tibet,” she told Jones, who grinned shakily. 

“Let’s hope that holds up under examination,” they said. Russo pursed her lips.

“I’ve spent time there before. If it’s for spiritual guidance people are less likely to go looking for me. And I rented a room there.”

“Won’t help if they look for your ID,” Strong pointed out.

“That’s the last case scenario, hopefully. Besides, I’m not missing. I’m not going to drop out of contact with anyone. There’s no reason for the Federation-”

“Chikara,” Strong interrupted. 

“For anyone to go looking for me,” Russo said calmly before casting her gaze on Bonaparte, who was examining her as well. Richard had noticed that he had a soldier’s bearing, feet firmly planted and shoulders stiff. Russo didn’t seem to care, reaching out to embrace his hand. 

“Doctor Primavera Russo.” 

Bonaparte’s eyes flicked over her height, her face, her hand. After what was clearly a moment too long, since Strong and Jones glanced at each other, he took her hand. 

“His Imperial Majesty Napoleon Bonaparte,” he said gravely. 

Russo’s cheek twitched. “Pleased, I’m sure,” she muttered and dropped his hand, turning to Richard. “So I’ve been doing research and I’ve come up with a few experiments about how to make your spine. But first, we’re going to have to come up with a sterilized space to do it.” She grinned suddenly, the first Richard had seen on her. “It would be a fine thing for you to die of an infection in the thirty-first century.”

Richard could feel his face harden. It was something that Anne told him many times that frightened the court since his mood suddenly became unreadable and unnerved his company. 

“Is it so necessary?” He asked quietly. The room stopped, even Bonaparte. 

“What? What do you mean?” Russo looked over at Jones. “What does he mean?”

“I speak for myself,” Richard snapped. “I mean what I say. Is my life at risk, with my back as it is?”

Russo’s grin had long fled and now she crossed her arms over her chest, her face just as stony as his. “No. Scoliosis isn’t life-threatening. But surely you don’t want to be,” she gestured to all of Richard. 

“Please, tell me what I should not wish to be when the Lord Almighty crafted me thus?” Richard replied coldly. Jones laughed too loudly and stepped towards Richard, palms up as if Richard was some horse to need calming. 

“Richard, she-she didn’t mean that. It’s just that… well, wouldn’t you be more comfortable?”

“I don’t think my comfort matters unduly.” Not if it’s God’s will to have me be so. It would be a just punishment for my life.

Jone’s face twisted slightly and for the first time, Richard saw irritation pass over it. “Richard, are you saying you don’t want to have Russo operate on you?” 

Richard stiffened. Jones may think of themselves as the new master of Middleham, but the last virtuous king died with him on Bosworth.

“No. I do not wish it.”

Russo threw her hands up and snarled like a dog. “Fantastic!” 

Jones approached Richard. “Please, Richard it would really be for the best if you-” He backed away, uninterested in their protests.

“No. If he doesn’t want it, he doesn’t have to have it.”

Everyone looked around at Strong. She was leaning against the table, her arms crossed over her chest. She was looking at Richard evenly, expression inscrutable. She looked over at Russo. “You said yourself, it’s not going to kill him. If he wants to live the way he was born, we can’t tell him to change it.” 

Richard blinked. Once again, the maid soldier had surprised him.

Strong bit her lip now. “But I do think that Doctor Russo is right. We’ll need a medical bay. We still don’t know what condition we’ll find Robespierre in.”

Bonaparte startled, eyes wide. “Robespierre?”

Richard looked over at him. “Yes. Do you know him?”

Bonaparte hesitated, eyes flicking around the room. “I did not know him. I knew his reputation as a tyrant, a dictator,” he said slowly as if feeling out the words. 

Richard snorted, mouth twisting. I knew it. For all his words about being an unjust ruler, he ranked petty tyranny over others. 

“He was kidnapped, right before Leonardo and Richard came to Middleham and uh we still can’t find him.” Strong shifted her weight back and forth. “Harm’s still working on it.”

Russo, who still looked mulish, sighed loudly. “I suppose you’ll also want me to fix that when we find him.”

Jones looked over at her with a small smile. “That’d be great, certainly.” 

“Well if you want me to, then get me a layout of the grounds,” Russo demanded. “I’ll take my bags upstairs.”

With one last look at Richard, she scooped up her belongings and mounted the stairs. Richard had the insane desire to laugh, trying to picture any of the ladies of the court doing the same.

Strong cleared her throat. “Well, I need to check in with my commander. I’ll use Mags office.” She nodded at them and turned towards the smaller stairwell. 

Jones seemed to have trouble looking at Richard as they passed, muttering something about checking in with Harmony. Bonaparte and Richard were left alone in the grand hall. 

“Why don’t you want your spine fixed?” Bonaparte asked. “You might as well accepted and soothed them.” 

“I don’t want them to try to fix me,” Richard replied, affronted. “There’s nothing to fix.” 

XXX

Aspen stayed in Magpie’s office, flexing her metallic fingers. The neural processor made it flawless. She could still remember having her real hand, it had only been seven years, but if she’d had it reskinned, even Aspen would admit that she’d never know the difference. She could make out texture, temperature, pressure. In some ways, the prosthetic was even better, since she could exert more pressure than a normal hand could and withstand higher temperatures. The wrist and all the fingers could reverse the joint or rotate in 360 degrees. The metal was military-grade alloy.

Doctors now had to report if they suspected that patients were harming themselves to get prosthetics. They were so much better than human parts that a common ice-breaking question was “if you could get a body part replaced, which one would you want?” 

It was no wonder that Richard’s flat refusal surprised Doctor Russo. 

But it was a good reminder. 

Aspen looked up when the door opened and Magpie stepped in. To their credit, they didn’t even look surprised.

“Aspen.” 

She relaxed and smiled. Magpie was one to wear all of their emotions on their sleeves. Even just her name had no bite behind it. 

“Boss.”

She stood up and waited at ease while Magpie settled in, looking much like their namesake in a nest. Ruffled feathers and all. 

“I’m assuming you’re hovering for a reason?” Magpie asked. 

“Permission to speak freely?” 

Magpie startled. “You’ve never asked before,” they said slowly. “I’ve never had a reason to ignore your advice before.”

Aspen shrugged. “We’re in uncharted waters here, boss. We’re harboring three fugitives and figuring out how to turn Middleham into a safe haven. I figured I should at least observe the basics, right?” 

Magpie snorted. “Alright. Permission granted. What is it Ensign Strong?”

Aspen relaxed her stance. “I think we’re going to need a psychologist.” 

To her surprise Magpie sighed and nodded. “Yes. I think so too.” They shook their head. “I wasn’t expecting Richard to refuse treatment like that. I thought he’d want to be able to…” They shook their head again. 

“Be normal?” Aspen guessed. Magpie looked up sharply. “That’s quite ableist of you.”

“I didn’t think that he’d consider his spine to be a part of his…identity,” Magpie admitted. “I’ve studied the late medieval period for two decades. I knew I was in love with it the first time I read about the Hundred Years War. At first, it was a bitter love. A perfect example of European excess and the so-called divine right of kings. And then I slowly grew fascinated by the people who fought it. And who was more fascinating than the perfect prince who might have committed fratricide to secure his position?” Magpie was frowning heavily, looking into the middle distance. “All of my research, sitting in sealed rooms wearing a mask and gloves to handle thousand-year-old texts and I thought…” They sighed and looked at Aspen with a lopsided smile. “I thought I knew him.”

Aspen shrugged. “I’m not a historian. I couldn’t tell you anything about it. But I do recognize the signs of a displaced soldier,” she said as gently as she could. “And more than his spine, it’s his head and heart we’re going to need to look out for.”

“It sounds like you’ve given this some thought. Alright. Do you have an idea? Who were you assigned to after you lost your arm?” 

Aspen laughed. “Absolutely not! Gods, I wouldn’t subjugate anyone to Leddi. That man could make you think up was down. Also, he was a hardcore atheist and that’s not gonna fly with this crowd.” 

“True. We’ll need to appeal to Richard’s spirituality.”

“And Leonardo’s and Napoleon’s. And Robespierre’s if we can ever fucking find him,” Aspen said pointedly. 

“I think Robespierre was an atheist,” Magpie said absently. “But you’re right. We should make it part of the deal. Weekly counseling, like we would for any trauma. Okay, so who did you have in mind?”

“An old college friend of mine, Robin. A double major in theology and psychology. He’s out in Rome and actually did four years as a chaplain on a ship.” 

Magpie raised one perfect eyebrow. “Really? A practicing priest?” 

“I don’t see how we’re going to get Richard or any of the rest of them to trust him if he wasn’t,” Aspen admitted. 

Magpie sighed. “Contact him. See if he has any interest, but subtly.” 

Aspen groaned. “Great. More subterfuge!” 


A/N: I’m not going to do this often, because it’ll be too easy for me to just start posting essay’s down here about my Opinions on History, but I felt this update was going to warrant some clarification. First, in regards to Richard’s back, the original draft has him do the surgery. But upon further consideration and rereading some thoughts from his biographers, it occurred to me that it was as Aspen said, “ableist” and considering Richard’s piety, out of character for him to just be okay with allowing an invasive operation to change a fundamental part of who he is. Secondly, in regards to some of the statements Magpie makes on Robespierre which are incorrect, one should remember that Magpie’s specialty is Medieval Europe, not the Enlightenment or French Revolution. If a historian doesn’t actively tap into a time period, they might not know any more than any other academic on the subject.     

Season Two. Episode Seventeen: Invasive Operations. Part Two.

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.

XXX

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?”

“Bonaparte.”

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.

XXX

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.”

XXX

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.

Season Two. Episode Sixteen: The Emperor. Part One.

Episode Sixteen: The Emperor. Part One.

Aspen set the flyer down inside the underground lot and flipped off the engines. She turned around to look at Russo, who was fiddling with the straps of her belt.

“Well then, let’s go and meet everyone, shall we?”

Russo nodded mutely.

Aspen led the way into the castle and pushed her way past the double doors.

Magpie was sitting at the grand table, fingers drumming on the table and looking over a spread of tablets. They looked up at Aspen’s arrival and shot to their feet when they saw Russo.

“Aspen, and Doctor Russo, I presume?”

They started forward with a huge grin on their face.

Russo shook hands, looking surprised. “I don’t think we’ve ever met before.”

“We haven’t but I’m delighted you are here anyway. You can just call me Magpie.”

Russo nodded then gestured to Aspen. “I was told that you had a most,” she hesitated, “interesting project that you wanted my assistance on.”

Magpie nodded. “Yes, I do. How much has Aspen told you?”

“That you have a dead man living in the castle,” Russo said flatly. Magpie shot Aspen a raised eyebrow. She shrugged her shoulders.

“That’s a partial truth. You see, we actually have two dead men living in our castle.”

XXX

Leonardo was woken from a light doze by a knock on the door.

“Hey, Leonardo? Are you awake?”

He blinked and shook his head, coming awake near instantly. He rolled off the bed and crossed to open the door. Aspen was standing there. Her brown eyes flickered over Leonardo’s shoulder and she leaned to the right slightly, peering into his room.

“Something I can help you with?” He asked eyebrow raised.

She grinned at him, shameless. “Funny, I thought Jerome might be here.”

Leonardo fought the urge to flush. “Non, he went home.”

“Hmmm, really? I knew he wasn’t a gentleman.” Aspen smirked.

Leonardo put up a single finger, hushing her. “He has been nothing but proper. Now was there a real reason for you to wake me or are you just here to tease me?”

She shook her multitude of braids back from her face, sobering. “Yes actually. We have someone we want you and Richard to meet. Magpie is waking his highness now, so come on,” she waved him on with her mechanical hand.

Leonardo darted back to grab his notebook and the new lead pencil that Jerome had brought him and followed Aspen’s broad frame down.

There was a striking black-skinned woman with long hair who was sitting at the table with her hands clasped tightly around a cup. She looked up as Leonardo and Aspen came down. She glanced over at Aspen.

“Who is this?”

Leonardo bowed at the bottom of the stairs. “I am Leonardo ser Piedro da Vinci, signora.”

He heard her gasp and looked up, smiling slightly.

Her brown eyes were wide and her mouth gaped open slightly. Leonardo noticed the way her eyelids fluttered as she glanced over his face as if trying to see if he was recognizable. Leonardo doubted it, the only (official) portrait he’d ever done of himself was considerably different than how he looked now.

“Leonardo da Vinci?” She asked faintly, as he walked forward. “Like, the Gian Giaconda, Leonardo?”

He nodded and she took a deep breath and braced her hand on the table. Before she could ask anything else Magpie arrived with grumpy looking Richard in tow.

“Here he is! This is his highness Richard the Third, King of England,” Magpie announced grandly. Richard glanced at the woman then back to Magpie.

“Who is this woman?” He asked. Leonardo winced, seeing her expression darken slightly. Magpie also flinched and Aspen buried her face into her human hand.

“I’m doctor Primavera Russo. Jones invited me here to see if I can help you,” the doctor said and held out her hand, pointedly remaining seated. Leonardo raised his eyebrows. He’d been in the presence of many men who would have had her promptly beaten for such a flagrant display of disrespect to royalty.

Richard’s expression went wooden and he stiffly shook her hand, before turning to Magpie.

“I told you, I am not having anything more done to my body. Your doctors have already done enough to me.”

Magpie looked hurt for just a moment, their goldish-brown eyes dimming and casting to the floor.

Russo bristled. “Look, I came here of my own volition. Furthermore, it’s for your own good,” she sniffed.

Richard whipped around and Leonardo took a step back while Aspen stepped forward.

“For my own good?! How dare-” Richard growled.

The doctor stood up and Leonardo realized that she’d been disguising her height. She was as tall as Leonardo was and seemed to tower over Richard. To his credit, the ex-king did not shrink away.

“Yes, I dare. Jones is trying to do something nice for you, and if it’s true that you come from the 16th century, it’s something that you can’t even imagine. But if you’re going to be an ass about it, I can just as well leave,” the doctor snapped in his face. Leonardo looked over at Aspen who had her eyebrows raised.

Magpie stepped between the two and with a little effort forced them apart.

“I think we got off on the wrong foot here,” they muttered, before turning to Richard with a sigh.

“Richard, please. I want to help you, and so does Doctor Russo.”

Russo scoffed and tossed her head.

Magpie turned to the doctor. “Also, about you leaving…”

Russo raised an eyebrow. “What about it?”

Aspen stepped forward. “Well the Federation or, I guess Haruka, is not pleased with these guys. She already sent Rivera after them once. And I’m not sure how long it’ll take her to realize where we’re hiding them.”

Russo frowned. “But this is why you needed someone to come here? And that’s how you found me?”

Aspen shrugged. “Basically. So now that you know, we’re gonna need you to take, like a vow of silence or something.”

The doctor’s frown intensified. “You didn’t tell me this earlier,” she growled. “I’m not wild about the idea of Haruka arresting me and sending me to do farm labor.”

Aspen shrugged again. “We needed to get you here.”

Russo growled again but was interrupted by Richard. “She should leave. I have already informed Magpie I do not wish anything more done to my body.” He turned his back to the doctor. “I will be in the chapel.”

Magpie sent a slightly panicked look at Aspen and then at Russo.

The doctor stormed forward, her curls bouncing. “Hey! I’m here to help, and from the look of it, I could completely straighten your back! But I guess if you don’t care about your quality of life…” She trailed off.

Richard had stopped.

“That’s impossible,” he said rigidly. “There’s nothing that can be done.”

Russo stepped forward again. “Actually, yes there is. It should have been done when you were a child, but it’s not too late.”

Richard finally turned, looking wary. “How?”

Doctor Russo tilted her head slightly. “Well, I’d probably have to make you a prosthetic and replace the one you have now. It’s been done before. The only issue would be making you one when you can’t leave this castle.”

Richard moved back towards her. “Replace it? How?”

“It’s a little complicated. It’d be easier to show you if this place is wired for database access.” She looked at Magpie who was beaming.

“Yes. Yes, absolutely!”

Richard looked between them. “Are you sincere? My back could be as it once was?”

Russo nodded. “Yes. I can do it.” She glanced at Magpie with a raised eyebrow. “I won’t be able to fix his attitude though.”

XXX

On the moon prison, The Bastille.

Maximilien kept waking up, even though he never seemed to fall asleep. The light had burned into his eyes and a thin grey mist was beginning to obscure his vision. It felt like a hot needle being shoved into the base of his skull every time he opened his eyes.

Max had never been a strong man, his childhood had been punctuated by illness that left him thin and pale. During the Revolution, he would work himself up to the brink and then find himself dangling over a long dark fall. Now imprisoned, he could feel his meager strength leeching away. While the bread and water were sustaining him, Maxime had no idea for how long until he would drift into that hazy space of illness.

Maybe I’m already there, he thought as he opened his eyes and saw a figure standing against the wall.

“Well this is certainly a fine mess,” Georges Danton said. “For someone who insists that he is irreproachable in terms of respectability and virtue you certainly find yourself on the wrong side of the law, eh Robespierre?”

Maxime closed his eyes, heart racing erratically. Danton could no more be there than Camille could and he couldn’t bear the sight of his bloodied lips any more than he could his last vision.

“Come mon ami. I thought you said you would love me till death, now you won’t even meet my eyes,” Danton goaded him and Max looked up flushing.

“I do, I did,” he hissed. “I wasn’t the one who-“

Danton walked closer and Max swallowed his arguments.

He’s not real, he’s not real, he’s not real. He can’t harm you any more than the air can.

“Who what, Maxime? I implore you, finish your accusation. At least time you do it to my face,” Danton’s voice had no trouble filling the room.

Heart still racing Maxime found his feet and suddenly-

He was back in his rooms. The window was open to the Duplay’s courtyard. The bedroom door shut but unlocked. Danton seated at his desk as Max paced.

“You’ve been corrupted,” Max said, resisting the urge to shout. “You took bribes.” It felt like a slap to the face. Camille had vouched for his honor. Maxime told Danton as such and to his fury, the big man merely shrugged.

Maxime gasped and staggered to the side, furious. Danton was still standing in front of him and with a cry of anger and grief, Max rushed towards him.

He slammed into the white wall and fell back, the taste of metallic-salt filling his mouth. As his eyes fogged over he rolled onto his side and spit the blood out of his mouth. Max shuddered remembering his teeth being shattered in his mouth after he was shot.

Maxime curled into a ball into one of the corners of the room, his hands clasped over his ears, nails digging into the flesh of his bare scalp. He couldn’t tell if it was his imagination or the past rising from its grave to haunt him but he could dimly hear the screams and shouts of the sans-culottes, the slish-thunk of the national razor, the shouts of the Convention. He desperately wanted to sleep and leave this nightmare but it refused to come to him.

Maximilien couldn’t imagine being anymore miserable than he was and thought longingly of Rain’s house. Even Richard’s company would be welcome at this point.

Cutting through the mist of blood-red noise, there was the increasingly familiar sound of displaced air. Maxime turned over and looked at the center of the room.

There was a small loaf of bread and a pitcher of water.

Season Two. Episode Fifteen: No One so Little Loved. Part Four.

Episode Fifteen: No One so Little Loved. Part four.

It was only a two and half hour flight from Middleham to Vienna, where Doctor Primavera Russo was taking her sabbatical. Aspen didn’t know what was she was going to find, when she got there and decided to practice what she was going to try and explain the situation.

“Hello Doctor. I’m Aspen Strong, and I work for the Historical Reclamation Agency. My superior would like to know if you’ll come stay with us at Middleham for a while. Why? Oh because one of the most famous scientists in the Federation decided to resurrect a dead king with a spinal condition. We’d really appreciate it and you can stay in a renovated castle. But don’t tell anyone, because Chikara Haruka will come down on us like the wrath of god.”

Aspen groaned and buried her face in her hand.

“What the hell am I doing?” With a story like that she’d be lucky if she got away without being diagnosed with some sort of psychosis. She wouldn’t even believe herself, not if she hadn’t personally walked Leonardo da Vinci through the aspects of her prosthetic earlier.

Aspen sighed and focused on setting the flyer down in a public lot. She was the only one, most preferring the convenience of transporting. She leaned back in the seat and stared at the Danube in the distance.

“Doctor I need to talk to you,” she muttered and popped the door open. Evening was settling over the city. She brought up navigation, and turned right onto the street. She went over her words in her head, trying to figure out the sequence that would be most likely to work.

It was only a short walk to the clinic Russo was staying at. Aspen took a deep breath and pushed the door open.

“I’m sorry, we’ll be closing soon,” were the first words out of the bored looking receptionist’s mouth. Aspen frowned. The young man had his feet propped on the desk and he was reading from his tablet.

“I’m looking for Doctor Russo. Is she here?” She decided to ignore his rudeness, keeping her tone light.

His gaze didn’t even flicker. “I said, we’re closing soon. You gotta come back to tomorrow.”

Aspen sighed and stepped over the desk so her shadow fell over him, then grabbed the tablet out of his hands with her prosthetic. He yelped and finally looked up at her, blanching slightly when he realized how tall and built she was, and that she was in uniform. She looked at what he’d been reading and blushed.

“Look, guy, how about you get Russo for me, and I give back, alright? I’ll even ignore your terrible customer service,” she waved the tablet at him.

Aspen had never seen a teenager move so fast, scrambling to his feet and disappearing out of sight. Aspen grinned and dropped the tablet back to the desk.

Kids.

She dropped into parade rest and glanced around the room. It was a small clinic, with washed white brick walls and some holographic displays of the brain or heart.

“Hello? I’m sorry I’m taking any appointments now,” A feminine voice spoke and Aspen turned to see one of the gorgeous women she’d ever met standing framed in the doorway, still in scrubs.

She was shorter than Aspen, but most human women were. Her long red tinted-brown hair hung in loose curls to her waist, even though it was kept back in a ponytail. Her velvet smooth black skin was clear of blemishes and her brown eyes were sharp and spoke of an excellent mind behind even better features.

Aspen blinked and stepped out of rest, extending her hand. “Doctor Russo?” The doctor shook her hand easily, heart shaped mouth frowning slightly.

“Yes, but I don’t know you?”

“Ensign Aspen Strong. I Was hoping I could talk to you, personally. Not for an appointment,” she hastily added When both the receptionist and Russo opened their mouths. “It’s personal.”

Russo frowned. “I really don’t usually.”

“I’ll make it your time, I promise, it’s for Magpie Jones, from the Historical Reclamation Agency,” Aspen added, a touch desperately. Russo blinked.

“Magpie wants something from me?”

Aspen nodded, but kept her mouth shut. Finally Russo sighed and nodded. She turned to her receptionist.

“John, finish cleaning and lock up here. I’ll see you tomorrow. I’ll get my coat, Ensign. There’s a coffee shop we can talk at a block down.” Russo disappeared back into the clinic proper.

Aspen frowned but shrugged, falling back in parade rest. She only had to wait a moment before the doctor reappeared, untangling her hair from her coat.

It was a silent walk, with the doctor leading. Aspen practiced her little speech her head again.

The coffee shop was a vintage one, with actual baristas, and Aspen fumbled for a moment, and ended up ordering a mocha with a lot of milk.

The doctor led her over to a window seat and they sat across from each other. Russo took a sip of her chai and looked Aspen straight in the eye.

“So what does Jones want from me?”

Aspen took a deep breath. “We would like you to come to Middleham,” she began slowly. “There’s a project we would like you to work on.”

“Has Jones discovered something? They knows that I’m in the medical field, right?” Russo asked.

Aspen nearly laughed. “Yep. We looked you up.  Milanese Academy of Medicine and Cairo University right?”

“Yes. So I’m Jones’s first choice? Alright, what do they want?”

Aspen sighed then placed her hands on the table and looked Russo in the eye. “This is going to sound, well insane, but we need you to perform an operation. Privately, on the premises of Middleham.”

Russo looked at Aspen like she was crazy.

“Excuse me?”

“I’m serious, it’s very urgent that you come with me and examine a man with um, profound scoliosis,” Aspen said. Russo stood up, frowning heavily.

“If this is a joke, it’s in terrible taste. I’m a very busy woman and I don’t appreciate having my time wasted. You can tell Jones that they can-”

Aspen lurched forward, nearly upsetting the table.

“It’s not a joke and I’m dead serious. Please I need you to come with me, to Middleham and you will see what I mean, but you need to come with me, please.”

Russo looked at her dubiously. “You’re oddly insistent about this.”

Aspen grit her teeth. “You’ll understand if you come with me.”

Russo’s eyes widened, and she took a step back looking ready to run from Aspen.

Aspen took a deep breath. “I know this sounds crazy, but we have the, the original owner of the castle staying with us and you’ll see if come with me to Middleham. I promise.”

“The original owner?” Russo frowned. Then her eyes widen a fraction and she looked down at Aspen.

“If I remember my English history lessons, that was a castle built by the Plantagenet dynasty,” she said slowly. Aspen nodded slowly.

Russo held up a delicate finger and sat back down.

“An original owner? One with scoliosis?” Her head tilted. “Do you have any proof of this?”

Aspen shook her head. “Historical artifacts need to remain on the premises,” she emphasized. Russo sucked in a breath through her teeth.

She took a moment to think, taking a sip of her drink. “If this is some sort of bizarre ploy by Jones to get more support for the reclamation project, I’m going to be furious,” Russo finally said.

Aspen sighed and gave the doctor a wry smile.

“I wouldn’t worry about that, the Boss had other tricks up their sleeves for that.”

XXX

“We’ll take the transporter,” Primavera Russo said as they left the coffee shop. “Which station did you come from?”

Aspen gestured. “I took the flyer from Middleham. We’ll go back that way. It’s a two hour flight, approximately.”

Russo tilted her head, frowning pensively. “Well, if you insist.”

The two women fell into step, and the sun gradually set on Vienna.

The moment Russo strapped herself into back bench and Aspen closed the door, she finally turned to face the doctor and blurted out, “we have King Richard back at Middleham and Magpie wants you to fix his spine.” She took a deep breath and smiled shakily. “Sorry, I hate lying to people.”

Russo stared at her, eyes wide.

“How?”

Aspen flipped the flyer on, and powered the vertical engines. “It’ll be easier to explain it when we’re back at Middleham. Needless to say, it kind of a complicated story. You know who Doctor Rainbow Miller is right?”

Russo’s look of shock deepened.

“She didn’t, she wouldn’t!”

“From everything I’ve heard so far, Miller absolutely did,” Aspen said grimly. “It’s worrying, we can’t seem to find her anymore…”

Russo shook her magnificent head. “I heard heard from her intern, Kamala Manson that she’d gone on an extended sabbatical.”

Aspen frowned. “That seems entirely too convenient.” She shook her head. She didn’t like this intrigue, not one bit.

XXX

The Moon Prison: The Bastille.

“Is that what you’ve been telling people about me? Tsk tsk, Chikara. That won’t hold up under scrutiny,” Rain grinned and kicked her heels out in front of the chair. “Someone is going to come looking for me and realize I’m not where I’m supposed to be.”

Marie Riviera scowled, her heavy pale features washed out in the Bastille’s bright lighting. “The only one who will come looking for you is Manson and she’s the one who’s passing the information around for us. Major Haruka has thought of everything.”

Rain smiled. Not everything. She hasn’t bother to make sure the information hasn’t been leaked. I’ve been watching.

“Of course she has, Marie darling.”

Rain turned her attention back to the screen.

Whatever Robespierre was seeing must have been chilling because the man hadn’t stopped shivering for over an hour. It could have also been that Rain was degree by degree lowing the temperature of the cell. Exposed as he was, Robespierre must have been feeling it.

He’d curled himself into a corner and from the way he rocked, Rain guessed he was crying.

She rolled her eyes. She wondered if Richard or Leonardo would have held up better under the circumstances. She hoped so.

XXX

Somewhere in the American Northwest.

The pack had been on the outskirts of the forest, next to a town when it happened.

“Hey!”

Ava lifted her head from the chicken carcass she’d been eating, fur bristling at the unfamiliar voice. A human male was approaching the pack and quickly. He held a lead in his hand, and a shepherd dog like Berwald, pulled him forward.

Ava growled, planting her paws firmly into the ground. The rest of the pack stopped what they were doing to watch. Lester and Bobbie also dropped their meals, dropping into protective stances as well.

“Whoa, alright there girl. Let’s just cool out alright? I’m not going to hurt you. Where’d you come from?” The male said quietly. Ava bared her teeth. The other dog tensed and curled back his top lip.

“Kirk, get back, down boy,” the man pulled the lead slightly. He fumbled at his hip for something and Ava threw her head back, howling.

The pack launched themselves forward as one, Berwald snapping Baby up in his jaws. Ava bowled the man and his dog over, racing for the tree line.

Ava could fly over the ground, but she still out run the beam of light that locked her muscles in place and sent her muzzle first into the dirt. Around her she could hear the rest of her pack dropping to the ground with her. She wanted to scream her anger, but all that came from her jaws was a whimper.

A shadow fell over them. The man and dog stood next to Ava’s head.

“Yeah, we have a bunch of stray dogs along the woods. Bring some crates and water.”