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

Maximilien was woken by a sharp pain to his neck. He jerked but couldn’t gather the strength to scramble away. He’d been unbound as his captor no longer considered him a threat. He’d had another three encounters with the terrible force-feeding tube and each one left him weak, trembling in a huddle on the floor. Inevitably his abdomen would cramp into knots and he’d expel some liquid bile onto the floor. 

His mind was unraveling. It was gradually pulled apart by a single thread, where the frayed fabric could be easily punched through by his visions and dreams.

Max squinted up. His eyesight was becoming increasingly terrible. If he was blinded, he’d no longer have to see the phantom of Camille sitting across from him, his head cradled in his lap. No more Danton looming over him, or Marat castigating him for his mistakes. 

“Don’t speak. Well actually, you’re welcome to try.” Rainbow Miller’s voice was close to him. Her shadowy outline shifted.

Maximilien wanted to beg her for release. If she could undo what she’d done and allowed him back into death, he’d forgive her anything. But he opened his mouth and tried to force the words but nothing happened.

“It’s a localized numbing agent for your vocal cords. Don’t worry, it won’t last forever,” Miller said.

There were footsteps and then Maxime lost touch with the floor. He was pulled to his feet, but unable to stand, so he was dragged. The touches were impersonal and felt far away, the pressure on his arms barely registered. Brount was barking and the smell of lilacs and sawdust was in the air. 

The sun was brought through the window of his study. His desk was neat. Downstairs there were the quiet sounds of the household below. It was not Arras. But it was home, with Eleanore and Antoine, Camille and Lucile coming by with the baby. Coulthon and his puckish humor. David’s sticks of sketching charcoal forgotten on the settee. Danton with his ill-gotten wine, climbing the steps to meet with him, his eyes bright in his scarred face. Antoine inside his rooms, his curls falling into his eyes as he worked on the next report for the Comittee. The rain over Paris, washing away the blood into the Seine…

Maximilien was forced back into his body when the first jet of water hit him in the face. He gasped and then choked. He’d been pinned back to the wall and could now only thrash his head back and forth to try and avoid the frigid spray. He opened his mouth the scream but nothing happened. Not at all. 

XXX

Julia Jenkins, Lt. had joined the Federation with her twin brother. Jerome had always been more of a playboy, more interested in the simple answers than duty and so remained earthbound. Meanwhile Julia ascended, picked by hand for her ambition and service for Chikara Haruka.

She didn’t know why they were on the Bastille, only that Haruka had ordered it suddenly, urgently. In less than two hours a discrete cargo ship was lifting off and headed towards the artificial ring that served as part space station part prison. Haruka stood in the back watching the infamous Rainbow Miller, who did not look at all concerned to be suddenly arrested and whisked away. 

Now they’d been on the base for days and rumors grew. Miller had been freed and now it seemed she was doing bizarre experiments on an android prototype.

“It insists that it’s an AI and we’re trying to sort it out,” Miller explained shortly when Julia asked. “Hit the water again.” The android hadn’t even been given a designation. Julia wrote it off as one of Miller’s many quirks. She thought she’d heard Miller referred to it as “Max”. 

Julia felt uneasy, watching it squirm against the wall. It was unnervingly silent, especially since it often spoke to Miller when they performed fuel injections. Now however it just slumped to the side, wet and broken looking. 

Miller walked forward her cane tapping on the ground and stood before the android. She examined it closely for a moment, opening its ocular lenses, it’s auditory systems, it’s chassis and frame before humming and gesturing them forward. 

“You can take him back now and consider yourselves dismissed for the night. We’ll perform a fuel injection in the morning.” 

Julia almost breathed a sigh of relief. She was tired and her uniform was soggy from the ice-cold water. She and Briggs unlocked the android and it sagged between them, forcing them to drag it’s heavy frame back to the holding cell.

“Why even have a fuel injector and not just a charger like every other android?” Briggs grumbled. She was just as soaked as Julia. “What’s the bloody point?” 

Julia shrugged. “You’ve heard the stories about Miller. Why does she do anything?” 

 

“To see if it can be done,” they chorused together, then broke down into giggles. Miller was almost a meme, someone so absurd but popular that it was easy to craft her into farce. 

Julia finished toweling off while Briggs grabbed her basketball. “Do you want a game? Larousse and Yu should be getting off soon and we can do doubles.” 

“I need to call my brother, but I’ll be down in a second,” Julia told her. Briggs shrugged and grinned. 

“Blow him a kiss for me.”

“Fuck off.” 

XXX

The quarters on the Bastille were serviceable, if old-fashioned, a relic of the period they originated in. Julia kept banging her hip on the cold metal desk, which was just a sheet of steel that jutted out of the wall, soldered on. Everything about the room was far more authoritarian than anything the Federation designed now. 

Julia replicated herself a small bowl of pistachio ice cream while waiting for the connection. They were rationed 4gb of data per day and most of hers went to dessert and her calls back to earth. She’d put in a token bet on if Blanche was going to come out as dating his bandmate but didn’t have any real hope of winning.

“Hey! How’s it going Jewels?” Jerome was flushed and smirking when he picked up a clear sign that he’d recently gotten laid. Julia rolled her eyes. 

“Not as good as it’s going for you, apparently. Who was it this time?”

Jerome winked. “Not telling. You wouldn’t know him anyway.” 

Julia wrinkled her nose but dropped it. Same old Jerome. “Fine. How’s Aspen? Is she psyched for Blanche’s concert?”

For a moment Jerome looked blank. “Oh uh. You know I don’t know if she’s going to see it. We’ve been pretty busy here.” 

Julia laughed. “What? At Middleham? What, too many school field trips to handle? Chasing aliens away from the moat?” 

“Middleham doesn’t have a moat,” Jerome corrected her automatically. Julia rolled her eyes again.

“Oh right.” She let the silence linger for a beat before sighing. “So are you going to tell me why you’re busy or what?”

There was a flash of an expression she’d never seen on her twin’s face. Panic. Jerome was supposed to be the charming, romantic one of the two, the one who thought on his feet and used his charm to get in and out of sticky situations. 

“Jerome?” She asked again when he was quiet for too long. 

“We’re having some renovations done to the castle. Jones is freaking out about it, working me and Aspen to the ground. There’s all kinds of people hanging around now,” he finally said. His voice was calm and the cadence natural. He even met her eyes. 

“Jerome.” Her voice came out like the whip-crack she’d never heard except for in movies. 

He sighed. “I’m being real with you, Jewels. We’re having renovations, there’s a bunch of strangers in the castle, that’s it. Please, can we talk about something else? How’s it going with your posting?”

Julia could feel it deep in her gut that she shouldn’t let him off the hook. If she pressed Jerome long enough he’d cave to her, like he always did. But there was that expression, the look in his eyes. Whatever was happening at Middleham, it wasn’t for her to know. 

“It’s going alright. It’s been uneventful for the most part. I haven’t seen my CO for like, a week now but I think we’re being farmed out to Miller anyway- oh fuck!”

On-screen, Jerome was wearing a similar look of alarm, not amusement like she’d expected for her slip up. It was pretty common for Julia to usually forget about Chikara’s NDA and accidentally blurt out scuttlebut to her family. It was how Jerome found about Chikara’s impending marriage a month before the official press release.

“I didn’t say that!” She said quickly. “Forget it, Jerome.” 

Typically he would, with a grin and wink. But now his eyes were large and she could see where a vein ticked in his forehead. 

“Did you say Miller, like,” he glanced over his shoulder and leaned into the screen, “Like Rainbow Miller?”

Julia shook her head frantically but it was too late. Jerome groaned and leaned back, rubbing a hand over his face. He looked up at the ceiling and muttered something that the audio didn’t catch. He looked back at the screen. 

“Okay. Is there any way you can tell me where you are?”

XXX

“Jewels, you’re late. Get over here and help me against Yu!”

Julia is distantly aware of putting on the best performance of her life. Her body moves on autopilot, grab the ball, pivot on one foot, bounce it under Yu’s legs right to Briggs. She smiles when her partner shoots and yep, scores. 

In her head, she’s a wreck. 

Jerome had told her the most ridiculous story. Dead white men, up and walking around? Some bizarre experiment that Miller had done, or maybe it was aliens or whatever. Now they’re being hunted by Chikara, the Federation’s most loyal supporter, President Zhu’s strong right arm to keeping the Federation peaceful and orderly.

She’d kidnapped him off the fucking street, in broad daylight, as he screamed. Jerome sent the security footage you saw the panic in his actions, the same that he had when you’ve grabbed him. Shorn and isolated and oh god…

Julia didn’t believe him at first. Miller was up here because she was running secret experiments, Government Eyes Only. Where else would they hide, then in the Bastille? Who would investigate this lonely place willingly? It was a test on a rogue AI, ensuring that it’s wasn’t really developing past its programming. Everyone had stories about an android with so much personality you could swear it was living.

It wasn’t saline, those were tears. It wasn’t a new nitro mix for fuel it was a liquid food, it wasn’t an injection it was cold-blooded torture. I’m a fucking monster.

As soon as Julia had been convinced, something that only her brother could do, she’d confessed everything that had happened, the cold sweat of disgust all over her body. The ice cream melted as she cried, Jerome trying to tell her that she couldn’t possibly know, this was something that Chikara and Miller cooked up. She gasped out what had happened, what they were doing to the man. Jerome’s face had paled and he scrubbed a hand over his face. The warning that they had used up almost all of Julia’s data made them both jump. 

“Look. You can’t let Chikara and Miller know that you know, or that I know. Just…play along.”

“Play along?!” Julia shrieked. “We fucking used a high-pressure hose on him today! I’m don’t want to-”

“Two minutes.” The computer’s smooth voice cut across Julia’s hysteria.

“You’re going to have to, otherwise Chikara will have us all up there, Jewels. Please,” Jerome begged. “I’m going to tell Magpie and we’ll make a plan to rescue him. You won’t have to do it very long.”

“It’s the goddamn Bastille,” Julia snarled, tears dripping onto her console. “You don’t just fly up here and ask nicely to be let in.”

“One minute.”

“We’ll make a plan. Play along. I’ll make sure to keep you out if it. Just promise me you won’t try and interfere with Chikara or Miller. Promise me?”

Julia hesitated. Her heart was shredded. Her trust in her brother, her loyalty to the Federation and Chikara, her horror at what she’d unknowingly done. The knowledge was a fork, the tines pulling through her tender soul. 

“Promise!” Jermone barked.

Julia jumped and eyed the countdown. “Fine, I promise. Just, get up here soon please?” She begged. 

Jerome breathed a sigh and smiled. “I will. I love you.”

The feed cut out. 

XXX

Robespierre seemed to be wilting. His already pale skin was becoming translucent, sapped of vitamin D. His eyes were bloodshot and swollen, the green of his eyes disappeared behind the black. He didn’t react when Rain poked him with a needle. If it weren’t for his rapid heartbeat and shallow breathing, he could be mistaken for a corpse. 

“We’re going to have to change the fuel,” Rain tsked. It was simply easier to allow the indulgent fantasy of a broken android than waste her breath on the guards. She stood up from her crouch and nodded. “Grab him and let’s go.” 

One of them moved promptly but there was a moment of hesitation from the other. She glanced at Rain before reaching for Robespierre. 

“Is there an issue?” 

She startled and adjusted her grip on Robespierre, tightening on his arms. “No Ma’am.” 

Rain watched her carefully before turning on her heel to lead them from the cell. So far no one had raised any objections, there had been no suspicions on her conduct. Rain guessed that Chikara had ordered this silence.

“Pin him down.” 

Robespierre struggled weakly. “Non. Non. Arretez.” Rain wondered if she should have numbed his vocal cords again.

Once again the guard shows just the flicker of hesitancy but Rain seriously considered throwing her from the room anyway. Or telling Chikara.

Robespierre gagged around the tubing, convulsing before going limp and shutting his eyes tightly. Rain messed with the recipe and it’s slightly thicker when she poured it down the funnel. Robespierre gagged again when it hit his stomach. Rain can see the tremors in his hand as he flexed his fingers around the arms of the chair. 

She watched carefully as she flushed the mixture with water, looking at the guards. One of them, a shorter more muscular woman from the independent State of Texas watched with barely concealed boredom, her eyes glazed over. The other one, taller and lithe, was standing at stiff attention. She wasn’t shivering or fidgeting, but there was a deliberate control in her stance. 

Rain sat back after she finished. The taller guard moved to unbind Robespierre. 

“Stop. We’ll leave it like this for a bit.” 

There, in the girl’s eyes was what Rain was looking for. Panic, fear, anger. She almost smiled. I see you figured it out. But were you smart enough to see it or did you have help?

“You’re dismissed. We’ll come back for it at,” it was just after six, “two hundred hours.” 

“What? That’s two hours!” She blurted out and Rain made a show of blinking in surprise.

“Yes. It doesn’t have anywhere to be. I’m running a simulation and need to check on in. Check the perimeter and then we’ll take the android back two hours,” she said, shrugging lightly. “I do have other things to do up here you know.”

For one moment Rain was sure the girl was going to refuse, her eye’s quickly flickering over the tube that was still running down Robespierre’s throat. But she and other guard gave a crisp salute and matched out the door.

Rain flicked off the light as she left, considering her next move.      

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 Three.

Part Three.

A/N: Who here thought I’d just forgotten about the whole dog subplot? Surprise!

Ava paced her cell, tail brushing along the walls. 

Norma rolled over onto her back. “You’ll tire yourself out,” she yawned.

Ava growled.

“You shouldn’t worry. The humans aren’t going to harm us. We’ll get food and water. It’ll give Baby and Jep a chance to rest while we plan.”

Her pads were sore from scraping over the concrete but Ava’s heart felt like it was going to explode from her ribs, like a rabbit from the undergrowth. “They’re going to alert Rain, I just know it.”

“We escaped from her once,” Norma pointed out.

“And who’s to say we’ll do it again?” She barked, the sound echoing off the scentless flat walls. Immediately the other cages were filled with the sounds of barks and snarls. Ava could hear Bobby and Berwald among them and ran to the gate, pressing herself along it to try and scent them.

Then there was the painful squeaking of the door and Ava could feel all of the fur along her spine rise. She had not come so far only to have humans lock her away. 

“What’s the issue here?” It echoed along the walls and they all fall quiet. Someone whimpered. “Keep it down, damnit.” There were footsteps and a shadow, far bigger than Rain’s or Ava’s human black out the lights. Ava bared all of her teeth, her growl coming all the way up from the bottom of her ribs. 

“You’re the troublemaker.” He pressed a hand against the grating and Ava snaps at it, nothing playful about it. He quickly withdrew his hand. “Alright! We’re still trying to figure out just where the hell you came from, so don’t take it out on me, huh?”

Ava doesn’t relax until he’s walked away and shut the door behind him. 

“Do you think they’ll find Rain?” Norma asked. “She was taken away by those other humans…”

Ava wished she felt more certain when she snorted, “no.”

XXX

A small report from Clio: A Muse. 

It is 3000 on Earth and 109 on Mars. 

Currently, Her Excellency Unathi Hua Zhu is President of the Terran Federation. The Dante is in year seven of its mission to Alpha Centauri. The Galactica Corp has just recently broken records for the largest trade ever made with alien terrestrials, exchanging one billion gigabytes of data on Terran history and culture in exchange for Jupiter’s moon Ganymede. The ongoing debate of if the Federation should dispose of the Moon prison, the Bastille. The defense claims that it is a scar across Earth’s face. The opposition argues the impracticality of dismantling and disposal. 

Reparations have continued on the New Great Barrier Reef. Divers have been working on cultivating artificial coral and prompting the return of sea-life. Volunteers continue cleaning up the plastic island in the Pacific. The Federation would like to remind everyone that offshore dumping is punishable by five years on a labor farm.

The Stadium for the New Cape Town Olympics had been completed, with 45,000 seats. This will be the tenth anniversary of inviting alien ambassadors to the games. There are still negotiations for alien participation in 3004.

Blanche has been topping the music charts for the past sixteen weeks and his face has been plastered all over Cairo and Madrid in anticipation for his first duel streaming concert, using the newest holographic technology. On the independent scene there’s musical comedy conglomerate, No Boats Allowed. Two Non Identical Twins have just come out with a trending cover of Nena’s 99 Red Balloons. There’s been talk of adapting Shakespeare’s Macbeth into a  West End musical.

Doctor Rainbow Miller’s prototype for the next long distant hovercraft has mysteriously vanished and set back production for months, much to the anger and disappointment of the Federation, as they had already pre-ordered fifty test units. ID data capacity has been increased, to adjust for the new average human lifespan, 139. 

There has been an inexplicable rash of grave robbing across the planet. None of the thieves have caught, leading to the theory that they are receiving off-world assistance. Several alien governments have been questioned or bribed. The Komali have spontaneously dropped contact and missed a rendezvous to meet their ambassador. No one can find Rainbow Miller. 

Officially, Major Haruka Chikara is stationed in Cairo as part of the presidential cabinet. However, she cited a private emergency and has refused all calls except from President Zhu. There are rumors that she might have finally consummated her marriage with her alien husband, but no one has seen him for weeks, either.  

There have been seven successful resurrections thus far.   

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 Seventeen: Invasive Operations. Part One.

A/N: This part contains depictions of force-feeding and suicidal thoughts.

“Why isn’t he eating?” Chikara demanded when she caught sight of the security screen.

Rain shrugged, shuffling the pack of cards she’s replicated. The Bastille was not the most exciting posting she’d ever had and that included the six months she washed petri dishes for chem lab.

“No idea. His mental state has declined steadily since he’s been a prisoner so he might have decided to simply,” she flipped the cards from palm to palm, “give up.”

Chikara’s cheek twitched and Rain raised an eyebrow at her. “Is there a problem, Major?”

“Keep him alive. He’s evidence,” she barked.

Rain shrugged. “Yeah, in the case you’re building against me, no doubt. Why should I try and help you?”

“I can arrange for you to join him.”

“You can. But I think you’ll also need my help in finding the other two. What else?”

Chikara was silent for a long moment, dark eyes inscrutable. “Because you want to,” she finally said.

Rain blinked. These were the first words Chikara Harurka had said to her that she couldn’t outright disagree with.

She set the cards aside and glanced at the viewscreen. “You have me there.”

Chikara nodded. “You may use any means necessary,” was her final declaration before leaving.

Rainbow smiled. Any means huh? Well then once again Robespierre, I apologize.

XXX

“They took me shortly after you were taken to the National Razor. I bore it for you, but they would not let me take your name. I was severed from you, because of you, Maxime. Babet lost her husband because of you. Lucile lost her son, the son you name, because of you.”

Maximilien Robespierre would have given much to drive a needle into his ear, to prevent the soft voice from getting into his head.

Eleonore Duplay was sitting beside him, her white linen dress drenched in blood from the neck down. She looked much like she had the morning Maxime had left for the last time.

“Cornelia, I’m so sorry.” His eyes were dry and aching. He had nothing more for her, not even tears. It didn’t occur to Maximilien that Eleonore never would have wanted them, just as he wouldn’t have wanted hers.

Maximilien had been disturbed from his visions when a hand roughly grabbed his arm and he was jerked to his feet.

“Move!”

Stumbling blind Maxime walked forward. The invisible barrier that had kept him in the room was gone and another pair of arms grabbed him and led him for what felt like hours. His eyes felt as if they had swollen nearly shut, reducing the world to hazy grey blur. Almost immediately his calves cramped into bunches of knotted rope in his legs from kneeling and sitting for so long.

Maximilien could only assume this was when they would finally execute him.

Eventually, harsh hands grabbed his bare shoulders again and maneuvered him into a room. It was blessedly dim. He was shoved into a metal chair, goosebumps promptly breaking out over his skin. His wrists, ankles, and neck were firmly strapped against the chair.

“Hello again Robespierre.”

He gasped. “Rain? Madame Miller? You’re alive?”

She stood over him, her features blurred. “I am. Did you think the Federation was going to kill me? You really are from a very different time,” she said, her voice colored by humor. Maxime heard her take a seat next to him, her voice coming close to his ear.

“I want you to know, I didn’t mean to drag you into this. I wanted change. It won’t matter much to you, but I am sorry, Robespierre.”

He wasn’t able to turn his head at all, but he tried to make sense of her expression. Rain’s face seemed to be obscured by water. “What do you mean?”

In her typically irrelevant tone, “you’ll see what I mean.”

Lights flipped on directly over him and Maxime cringed away from the painfully bright light. There was the sound of metal on metal.

“Open your mouth.”

Dread built in his stomach as he meekly complied. Promptly a metal bit was shoved into his mouth, depressing his tongue and making so he couldn’t shut his jaw. Maxime recoiled and tried to squirm away.

“Restrain him.”

Someone grabbed his head, fingers sinking into the soft skin of his temple. A whimper tried to crawl out of his throat but Maxime ruthlessly beat it back. The would not have his submission. Not here, not when he was being held with no trial or accusation against him.

There was a moment of stillness and the only thing Maximilien could hear was the thunderous sound of his heartbeat. Then there was a smell, like lamp oil only stronger.

“I recommend you take a deep breath in,” Miller said. Maxime had no time to contemplate this advice before there was something rubber at his lips, in his mouth, at the back of his tongue and snaking all the way down his throat. There was the heavy taste of iron, the tube had scraped his tongue and he was bleeding

He gagged and tried to scream but found he couldn’t make any noise at all. He tried to shake his head loose but the talon-like fingers just held him tighter. Down, down, down. Maxime could feel the pressure of the tube behind his lungs and all the way into his stomach. He was shaking when they finally stopped feeding it into him.

Tears that Maxime hadn’t been able to shed for Eleonore now trailed down his face, scalding hot. The part of the tube still out of him was lifted over his head, so it was fed directly into him. After another painful moment of silence, he felt something being poured into the tubing, the cold liquid hitting his stomach directly and he gagged again. His toes curled against the metal floor. He gripped the arms of the chair, feeling his nails break under the pressure.

“It’s very emotive,” someone said softly. “Is it the pressure that’s evoking the saline?”

“You got it in one, Jerkins,” Miller said absently.

“Why wasn’t it taking fuel? Some defect for a prototype to have.”

“Classified,” Miller muttered. “Just shut up and keep him still.”

Maximilien was enveloped in a fog of horror. Time slipped away from him and he was horribly unprepared when the tub was roughly yanked back out. He tried to scream but the best his abused throat could do was a croak. He was made to stand and promptly crumpled to the floor. Someone grabbed him under the arms and they dragged him back to the cell.

As he laid on the floor, shivering, Maxime finally realized the totality of his imprisonment. He was not even going to be allowed to die. There was truly no escape.

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.”

Season Two. Episode Fifteen: No One So Little Loved. Part Three.

Episode Fifteen: No One So Little Loved. Part Three.

Richard stared passively at had once been Middleham’s chapel. It was reconstructed, like the rest of the castle but it lacked all of its previous luster. The altar was dusty and the wood hadn’t been polished in a while. All of the candles were unburnt and the pews had been roped off.

Richard walked straight up to the altar, and knelt, ignoring the dimness of the room. He breathed deeply, trying to focus on prayer. There’s no smell of incense, only stale air. There’s no priest or sacraments but for the first time since coming back to Middleham Richard felt a little better.

Richard is…adrift.

Somehow, Leonardo has neatly slotted himself into the new rhythm of the castle, like all of this is normal. As if speaking of raising the dead is anything other than evil and irregular. Leonardo acted as if he was born to this century. Richard remembered that Rain told them that he and the Italian were born the same year, Richard can’t see how.

The castle’s inhabitants are just as strange to him. Aspen, the black skinned solider women, which raised uncomfortable memories of the Maid of Orleans, however she at least has been treating Richard with confidence so far. Harmony- a Moorish looking magician, or at least in regards to the magical map they used to find Richard and Leonardo originally. He’d seemed nervous around Richard, often tripping over his words around him. He doesn’t have any idea where Kami could be from, her skin is as pale as his but her eyes are dark and her face was pleasingly open and smooth. She’d been friendly with him, but distant, seeming to favor Leonardo, as everyone else had.

Magpie alone had seemed to taken an interest in Richard, but Richard had kept his distance. Magpie reminded him of either a woman with very heavy features, or an extremely graceful gentleman, he couldn’t make up his mind. Leonardo had called Magpie a ‘knife’. Richard thought he understood, mostly, he’d met eunuchs in the service of his Edward’s wife. But he had the peculiar feeling that he didn’t have the whole picture.

Richard let his hands drop from his penitent pose and stares up at the stain glass window. Like everything else in the chapel it was slightly dusty.

“What I am I doing?” He asked softly. There was no reply from the portrait of Mary and the Christ child on her lap. Richard rubbed his temple and with a sigh got to his feet, staggering slightly from his knees going numb.

“Richard? Are you in here?”

As if in answer to his thoughts, Magpie was standing at the door to the chapel, hands clasped.

“Magpie,” Richard acknowledged shortly. They stood there for a moment, Richard staring shamelessly and Magpie examining him in turn.

“What are you doing in here, in the dark?” Magpie finally asked.

Richard gestured. “Praying.”

Eyes widening slightly, Magpie started towards him. “Really? Why?”

Richard sputtered, but they appeared sincerely to question him. “I-I haven’t since Rain preformed her witchcraft. She had no chapel in her house, and I couldn’t find any cross to-”

“No, no I mean, why do you feel like you need to pray?”

Richard gaped at Magpie. “To show devotion, to God.”

Magpie’s eyes turned from intently studying his face to the altar and glass window. They hummed under their breath.

“You owned the first bible that was written in English, in Britain,” Magpie said. Richard nodded. “You considered yourself especially devoted to God, huh?”

Richard shrugged. “I’ve always felt it was important, yes.”

Magpie suddenly smiled, dark eyes shining. “I’ve always admired that about you, that you valued knowledge.”

He didn’t know what to say to that so he averted his eyes to the door, and made a quick side step.

Magpie held up a hand. “Wait Richard, I’m sorry I didn’t meant to interrupt you, but I did have something I needed to speak to you about.”

They stepped over the rope, and sat down on the first pew and looked at him expectantly. Richard hesitantly sat down as well. Magpie brushed a hand through their odd silver hair.

“We might be bringing another person here, a doctor. Her name is Russo, and Aspen is going to speak to her tonight. She studies the human skeleton.”

Richard didn’t say anything, wondering where Magpie was trying to take him with this.

“She could, well, she could fix your scoliosis,” Magpie gestured to his back.  Richard stiffened, frowning.

“Pardon me?”

“Your spine, how it curves. It’s usually done when you’re younger but she’s extremely experienced and-”

Richard abruptly stood up, heart racing.

“My back is none of your concern. It’s of no matter,” he snapped. Magpie looked taken aback.

“Surely you’d be more comfortable with it fi- healed.”

Richard shook his head empathetically. “I do not want any of this centuries witchcraft applied to my body, because the last time I woke up from death.”

Magpie frowned deeply. “Well, she’s coming here one way or another. I hope you’ll let her give you a physical at least.”

“Give me a what?!” Richard demanded.

Before they could discuss it any more Aspen called out to Magpie.

“Boss! Boss, Harm has an update on Bonaparte!” Aspen skidded into the room. She took a second glance at Richard but continued on to Magpie. “He says we have firm confirmation, an old security camera on St. Helena picked it up.”

Magpie shot to their feet. “Let’s go!”

XXX

Leonardo watched in amazement as Harmony’s fingers flew over the glass, while the man stared up at the screen, muttering to himself.

He had a sudden realization that this might be what others saw when they observed him. Leonardo grinned.

Aspen, with Magpie and Richard hard on her heels. “You have a lock on him, where is he? Can we go-”

Harm held up a hand. “I have a general idea of his location, but only one camera caught him.”

He flicked his fingers over the glass and an image flew up onto the screen. Leonardo saw Richard jump slightly, in the corner of the room.

“That’s him, according to the facial recognition from Bonparte on the Bridge of the Arcole.” The image was of a svelte man, who was frowning stonily, his brown hair tied back in a que. His features bespoke of some sort of inner nobility, but his clothes were simple cotton and he walked bare foot. He was being led with a stern hand on his arm. His eyes showed confusion, but not fear.

“Oh my god, he looks like a baby Napoleon!” Magpie cooed. Aspen rolled her eyes.

“Is that really what we should focus on right now? Harm, can you tell who, uhh, resurrected him?”

Harm shook his head. “It’s not clear. There’s only a couple hundred people who live on the island now, but they’re mostly independent agents. There’s some small web businesses, a church, some farms. The security footage is from just outside of the church,” he added, glancing over his shoulder, lights reflecting off his glasses.

“Is he in any immediate danger? Can you tell if the Federation has tracked him down yet?” Magpie asked.

Harm shrugged. “There’s no activity in the area, so I’d guess we’re in the clear.”

Magpie bit their lip and put their hands on their hips. “Keep an eye on him. Aspen has to go and talk to a doctor about a horse…”

Aspen frowned at Magpie. “Boss, I don’t think that means what you think it means.”

Leonardo looked at Richard, still hovering in the corner. The man shook his head, and muttered, “Don’t ask.”

Season Two. Episode Fifteen: No One So Little Loved. Part Two.

Episode Fifteen: No One So Little Loved: Part Two.

Leonardo had been eleven years old, the first time he realized what he was.

He’d been walking back from his mother and step-father’s house, idly swinging a stick he’d found. His gaze was on the sky, watching the birds.

The laborers were coming in from the vineyards and the sun was setting over the hills. One of them had stripped to his waist, his shirt draped around his shoulders. The sun reflected off the sweat that dripped down his neck and chest. Leonardo could still remember the way the muscles moved under his arms and stomach. His first lesson in anatomy, burned into his eyes. Something uncomfortably warm settled over his skin and in his belly.

Leonardo stood off to the side of the road, watching them walk by. Some of them raised their hands and waved to “Accattabriga’s son.” He waved back, eyes till firmly fixed on the shirtless man.

As he grew older he realized what had happened that evening, the first touches of attraction, of arousal.

And as Leonardo grew, he also came realized how dangerous it was.

At seventeen he was arrested. While Florence was lenient in its policy on sodomy, Leonardo knew how close he could have been to imprisonment, or execution. This served as an important lesson in his life: no matter how much he showed, the truth of his nature should always be obscured.

Until now.

Leonardo’s hands landed on Jerome’s shoulders as they stepped close together. Jerome’s white teeth flashed against his dark skin right before their lips met.

Leonardo shut his eyes, taking a deep breath through his nose as a warm tide rushed through him, tingling starting through his fingers and toes. Then Jerome tilted his head slightly and there was a wet questioning pressure on his lips. Leonardo made a noise in the back of his throat as the kiss deepened. Jerome grabbed at his waist and pulled them flush together.

The sun had reached its zenith by the time they pulled apart, and Leonardo ran a trembling hand through his hair. It had been a very long time since he’d been kissed like that.

Jerome sighed quietly, and grinned at him. “I have to go home before my shift starts tonight.”

Before he could think it through Leonardo blurted out, “I have a bed, you know.” Then he flushed.

Jerome’s eyebrows had risen up to his hairline. “You know, in other circumstances…”

Leonardo waved his hand. “I misspoke. If you needed to sleep, then I’m assuming that my chambers could serve.”

After leaning over and pressing a kiss to his cheek, Jerome backed away. “That’s nice of you to offer, but I have other stuff I need to do, and my sister is expecting me to call her today.”

Leonardo blinked. “You have a sister?”

“Yeah she works in security too, doing something for the capital.” Jerome slung on his jacket, and smoothed down the front. “She likes me to call every week or so. But,” he winked, “I might take you up on that offer some other time.”

Leonardo smiled. “I’ll keep that in mind.”

XXX

Clio had been wandering around the prison where Robespierre was being kept when she suddenly blinked and was in another place entirely.

Startled, she looked around and groaned aloud.

“For the love of Zeus, what are you people doing now?” She groused, leaning back against a brick wall.

The room was brightly lit by large windows going across the top of ceiling and the floor was simple hard worn wooden planks. At one end of the room two people were clustered around a computer screen. The woman was intently studying the text, muttering to herself. The man leaned over her, hand braced on her hard back chair.

“I don’t know Lotte, are you entirely sure of this?”

“You got what we needed, didn’t you Hamm? We’ve come this far. And I have it on good authority that Miller herself had something to do with this. Besides, can you imagine what the local government of Corsica would do for this?” She smiled.

The man looked frowned uncertainly, but finally sighed and shrugged.

“You’re funeral, Lotte. Let’s do this!”

Clio turned her head and caught sight of a steel operating table, where piles of different minerals were neatly organized. Next to it was an old fashioned defibrillator.

“Oh dear.”

XXX

The empty brightly lit room was quickly becoming Maximilien’s least favorite place in the world. His eyes ached, his stomach was twisted into knots, and there wasn’t a position he could lay in that didn’t make him bruise. Curled towards a corner was the closest thing he could find to comfort. He was mumbling the Declaration of the Rights of Man to himself when he heard the most unlikely thing: a dog barking.

Max raised his head, eyes squinted. It was impossible but it sounded like Brount. He was hearing things, there was no way Brount could be here. His beloved dog was dead, like everything else. In an eternal sleep and lost to time.

But…

Max shut his eyes and laid down on his back, trying to pull himself back, back to Arras after he’d originally gotten the hound. He’d enjoyed talking walks in the evening, just into the fields, past the multitudes of cathedrals and churches. The puppy bounding around his ankles, and snapping at birds and rabbits.

“Do you remember at le Grand, being told not to trample the wheat? Did you get a massive dog simply to spurn them?”

Maximilien eyes snapped open and he looked over at the wall. Incredibly, impossibly, there was someone standing there.

Camille Desmoulins flicked his hair back from his eyes and smiled at him. His head wobbled precariously and red blood seeped into his cravat.

“Bonjour M-m-maxime!”

Max’s mouth dropped open. Then he screamed, a rending, tearing sound that hurt his throat and ears. Tears involuntary came to his eyes with the force of it. He clapped hands to his eyes and buried his face in his knees.

“Non, non, non, non!” He moaned. “You cannot be real, you cannot exist.”

“You’d like that, w-wouldn’t you?” Camille muttered. “I’m sure it would be very con-convenient for you, Maxime, if you could click your fingers and make me vanish.”

Horrified to his core, Max slowly raised his head, eyes still screwed shut. “I would never-”

“And yet, you did,” the figure returned viciously. Then he stepped closer. Maximilien cringed against the wall.

“You’re not real. You do not exist. This isn’t happening,” he told himself firmly, even as very real fear soaked into his heart. Camille ignored him (as he always did) and soon stood over Max.

The younger man stared down at him before dramatically whipping off his head and throwing into Maximilien’s lap.

The ghoulish face, will blood staining its lips and teeth smiled gently up at him.

He screamed again, clawing at his own face as he scrambled to his feet, pressing himself to the wall and scuttling away from the figure and the head that tumbled to the floor.

For a long moment the only sound was Max’s harsh breathing. He kept his eyes closed and pressed his face to the wall.

“He’s not real. He wasn’t here. Camille is dead,” he muttered.

Because I killed him.

Max took a deep breath and turned his head to look. The room was empty.

Season Two. Episode Fifteen: No One So Little Loved. Part One.

Episode Fifteen: No One So Little Loved. Part One.

Despite his dire predictions, Maximilien found that he was able to keep the bread down. Even better, his hands were left free, not that there was anything to do, but he hoped this was a sign that perhaps his jailers were coming around to the idea that Max was innocent of whatever crime they were charging him with. A little voice in his mind, one he’d been ignoring since his resurrection, stuttered, “M-maxime, you know exactly what they can charge you with, d-don’t ignore me.” He shoved it aside, the images it conjured and the hot flare of anger and grief in his stomach.

In the meanwhile, he sat in the middle of his cell and wondered if there was anyone else here. Maximilien refused to think of it as the Bastille, since he was convinced that they could not possibly be the same place. He might not have been as well versed in architecture as he had been other areas, but even Max realized that a previously square prison couldn’t not suddenly become a circle.

He had not heard another voice since his hands had been released and no guards had even passed by his cell. Did they intend to keep him here in solitary? Would this be his tomb, if the bread and water stopped appearing? And even if they did…when would Maximilien decide that it was no longer worth eating?

It felt impossible to measure time, since the hideously bright lights of the cell reminded on at all times. He covered his eyes, sighing in the mild relief of darkness and curled up, facing the entrance. The hard floor was beginning to bruise his hip and ribs, but he didn’t dare sleep exposed on his back, with nothing more than what the Supreme Being gave him.

Maximilien slept, somehow. Possibly his body was simply so fatigued that is just gave up the possibility of being aware, and let him drift away into a gray fuzz that wasn’t even mentally restful. Feeling worse than when he went to sleep, Max awoke to the sound of displaced air.

There was another small loaf of bread and glass of water within arm’s length.

XXX

Aspen arrived at Middleham to see Richard walking around without a coat and examining the outer walls.

“Good morning. Have you seen Magpie yet?” She asked.

The former king shrugged. “There was a commotion this morning. Now they are gathered around Harmony’s screen.”

“Did they say anything about an attack this morning, in Paris?” Aspen asked curiously. She still wasn’t sure how far Magpie was expecting to communicate with the formerly dead.

Richard’s face stiffened. “They did not say anything to me. But Leonardo seems to understand what is going on, so they speak to him, instead.”

Aspen winced and ran a hand through her hair. What must it feel like to have previously been the most powerful man in the room and now be talked over by strangers using your castle as a glorified office lot?

“Well come inside with me, and we’ll find out what’s going on together,” Aspen clapped Richard on the arm. He stared at her, eyebrows raised.

“What?”

“You’re a maid but you speak to me as another man, or solider.” They started walking towards the door and Aspen snorted.

“Yeah?”

“It makes no sense. Are you like the Maid of Orleans, or do all women fight on the battlefield now?” Richard asked. Aspen shrugged.

“There’s hasn’t been a draft on earth for over seven centuries. So only people who want to fight, or be in the armed force, are. Some of them are women,” she explained simply. Richard seemed to mull this over while they walked through the castle.

It seemed that everyone else was crammed into Harmony’s office. Jerome and Leonardo stood towards the back. Leonardo’s head was tilted to the side and his gaze was on the screen, even as he restlessly fiddled with something in his hands. Jerome was leaning against the wall, arms crossed over his chest. He grinned at Aspen.

“Good of you to join the party,” he hissed. Aspen knocked the back of her metal hand against his chest.

“So, do we know yet? Is it really him?” She asked quietly. Jerome shrugged.

“That’s what Harm’s trying to figure out. So far the facial mapping hasn’t returned anything, and the footage of the explosion is too low res to see if anyone was in the room when the explosion happened.”

Aspen twisted her mouth. “So…we don’t know anything?”

Jerome nodded. “Pretty much.”

Leonardo leaned over. “I have a question. We are worried about another resurrection, si?” Aspen and Jerome nodded. “Why?”

Aspen blinked. “What do you mean why?”

“Why is the possibility of another one such a concern? If this Frenchmen is brought back, we can simply find him, as you did with us, and bring him back here,” Leonardo said simply.

Richard moved from Aspen’s side. “Are you saying you think we should just let it happen? Something as unnatural and devilish as the dead rising?” He demanded.

Leonardo raised his hands. “I’m saying that if the process has already begun, and we don’t have the means to stop it, there’s more to risk by trying to prevent it.”

Richard and Leonardo stared at each other, Richard with suspicion and Leonardo with careful expressionless.

Aspen was spared from finding out if she would need to prevent a fight between the two by Magpie.

“I don’t like saying it, but Leonardo might be right about this. We simply don’t have anything to go on until the recognition program picks something up. It’s possible that this is even unrelated.” They snorted, crossing their arms. “But that’d be a big coincident, for Napoleon’s tomb to suddenly be targeted right after someone figures out how to bring back the dead.”

They turned back to Harmony. “Is there a way to have it run continuous scans, so we know the second anything pops up?”

Harm waffled for a second. “That’s a huge order, boss. Going through the mass amounts of public visual fees like that…each search could take a full 24 hour cycle, and that’s if we know what we’re looking for.”

“But you think you could do it?” Magpie pushed. Harm gave them a shaky smile.

“Sure?”

“Atta boy.”

Aspen smiled at Harm over Magpie’s shoulder and gave him a big thumbs up. Next to her Jerome was suppressing his laughter. She quickly dropped her hand when Magpie turned around.

“Well, there’s no point crowding him now. Anyway, Aspen I need to see you in my office,” they flicked their ring burdened fingers at the door.

Everyone but Harm and Kami evacuated the office. Richard immediately making for the first floor. Leonardo wandered away but Aspen saw him give Jerome a glance before turning around. She tsked at him. He shrugged and grinned.

“I’m clocking out. I’ll see you later.”

Before Aspen could tease anymore Magpie appeared at her elbow. Coming up just past Aspen’s shoulder, they hovered like their namesake.

“Have a good day Jerome. Aspen.”

She nodded and followed them back to their office. As soon as the door closed the Agency director sat down at the desk and folded their hands neatly on top of it.

“Have you given any more thought to our previous discussion?” They asked promptly. Aspen stared at them wide eyed.

“Uhhh?”

Magpie frowned and tilted their head, silver bangs falling over. “The XD? A doctor for Richard?”

“Oh right! No, I haven’t. Why, did you find someone?” Aspen sat down, leaning forward on her knees. Magpie turned on the desk and flicked a file across the top of it.

“Check her out.”

Aspen raised an eyebrow. “Primavera Russo?”

“She’s out of The Milanese Academy of Medicine for her focus, osteology. Then Cairo University for her second…”

“Biodiversity and infectious dieses?” Aspen looked at Magpie questionably. “Why’s that matter?”

“She’s been a leading expert in the field of study extinct or rare dieses. Historical ones.” Magpie nodded significantly.

“She sounds like a lock.”

“I think so, which is why I want you to go talk to her.”

Aspen jerked back. “What? Me, why?”

“I’m a higher profile, in regard to the Federation. You’ll be able to move across the security checkpoints easier, and you’ll need to get used to the subterfuge.”

Now totally lost, Aspen stared at Magpie. “What? What subterfuge?”

Magpie sighed. “This morning’s incident reminded me of something. It was just a brief clip in the news but almost two weeks ago there was a rash of grave robbing. The official report was alien dissidents, but I’m beginning to think that it was probably another person who knows about whatever Rain used to bring back Richard and Leonardo.”

They stood up and paced behind their chair while Aspen considered this.

“If it’s somehow…leaked that there’s a technology to bring people back from the dead, then we’ll need to keep moving quickly to keep them from falling into the wrong hands. Can you imagine the damage some of these people could do? I know we’re talking about Napoleon now but there’s greater evils that le petit caporal.”

Magpie met Aspen’s eyes. They both frowned.

“You don’t think, not him.”

“I dread it.”

Aspen stood up. “Send me Doctor Russo’s information. I’ll find her after I clock out today. If you’re right, then we definitely want to stay under the radar, and if I go after work it’ll look more personal.”

Magpie smiled. “Thanks Aspen.”

She waved it off, but something cold had settled in her stomach. What had she gotten herself into?

XXX

Jerome Jenkins made his leisurely way around the castle, humming under his breath. His jacket was slung over his arm and he paused to look in every open door.

As he strolled he reflected on the morning’s events. It would be an interesting next few days he was sure. He grinned to himself, in a number of ways, probably.

After spending nearly a half an hour searching Jerome found Leonardo in an out of bounds area, the southwest tower. The tower still had many of its original stones that crumbled and flaked under Jerome’s finger tips when he brushed his hand over them.

Leonardo did not look up from where he was sketching away, eyes and hands focused exclusively on the paper.

“I wondered if you were going to find me,” the Italian said lowly, without taking his eyes away from the paper. Jerome leaned against the tower wall, and peered down. It was without a doubt far enough to kill a man. He swallowed and leaded back.

“I hoped that I wasn’t misreading the, situation,” Jerome said slowly. Leonardo finally looked at him and his light brown eyes were alight with playfulness. A familiar smiled was on his face.

“And what situation do you think that is, Signore Jerome?”

Instead of answering Jerome draped his jacket over the wall and took a step towards Leonardo. He was taller, but only barely.

“Why don’t you put that sketchbook down and find out?” He challenged quietly. Leonardo’s smiled widened and Jerome braced himself.

Season Two. Episode Fourteen: Crime. Part Three.

Episode Fourteen: Crime. Part Three.

Maximillien didn’t know how long he’d been alone when suddenly there was a small sound like displaced air and the unmistakable smell of bread hit him. He looked up from where he’d pressed his face into his knees, mumbling Rousseau’s Emille.

There was a brown lump sitting in the middle of the floor and next to it, a glass of some sort. Max scrambled to it as fast as his prone form would allow. His stomach been long empty and he’d been feeling lightheaded. Next to it was water, and he licked his dry lips.

He stared down at the bread and wondered if he was intended to eat it with his hands still bound when a voice spoke from on high.

“If you promise to comply, we will release your restraints.”

Two passions warred passionately in his mind for a moment. The base, animal desire for food, nutrition, a full stomach against his righteous indignation against his unjust imprisonment and not wanting anything to be easy for his captors.

Eventually, as if just to spite him, his stomach growled loud enough to echo in the plain white room and Max sneered.

“I will comply. Please, unbind your wretch.”

There was the sound of displaced air again and suddenly his hands were free.

Max had never tasted anything better than that bread. Nothing had been sweeter than the pure water than ran over his lips and tongue. He tried to pace himself, knowing that he could easily make himself sick if he went too fast but every bite seemed to simply make him hungrier.

XXX

“What’s your game, Miller?” Chikara asked, frowning. Her arms were stiff behind her as she watched the naked form stuff his mouth with bread. Next to her Miller sighed.

“We’re developing a base line, and a little bit of insurance. He needs to think that we’re trustworthy before we mess with his head.”

“Explain.”

“Please.” Chikara looked at Miller blankly. “You’re supposed to ask politely when you want something Major. You say, ‘please explain’.”

Chikara took out her laser pistol. “You will explain now, on the orders of the Terren Federation or suffer the consequences.”

Miller looked at her and then at the weapon in her hand. “Did you threaten your way to the top Chikara? Haven’t you ever played nice with anyone?”

“That is not information you need to know, now tell me what I need to know.”

Miller pushed the barrel away from her distastefully. “Fine. Look at this.”

She pulled up an information file, a civilian accessible one. There was nothing really special about it. It was about some sort of plant.

“What does it do?” Chikara finally had to ask.

“In essence, it’ll cause him to have visual and audio hallucinations. Fairly intense ones if anything I’ve read is correct. In addition it can also cause headaches, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, chills, so on and so forth. Point is, it’s not a good time.”

“You’re just going to make him ill? What’s the point?”

“Did you just ignore the first part of my description?” Miller asked impatiently. “The object is to get him to have hallucinations. If you’ve read his biography, it seems to me Robespierre is a gentleman with a lot of regrets. So if I were to play something like,” here Miller pressed a button and the sound of a hound barking filled the room. “This, he’ll probably think there are literal hellhounds after him, to punish him.”

“He’s so superstitious?” Chikara sneered. Miller shook her head.

“No. But our emotions do funny things when we’re stressed.” She turned from Chikara. “Trust me, this will work.”

XXX

Clio was startled.

This was unusual, because part of the very MO of being a Muse was to understand what what going on, wherever you were, but here she was: startled.

“What nowI?” she asked and crossed her arms.

Rain was bent over her computer terminal, giggling like a small child. She was on some sort of file sharing site, something buried layers deep, hosted on some ancient server and deliberately esoteric.

“You’re a regular witch, you know that?” She asked Rain’s head. “Simply terrible.”

“Oh I don’t know, I like her. She could be a great Trickster if she wasn’t so self-absorbed,” the Hyena sounded tired.

“So was Endor, but no one even remembers her now days,” Clio sniped back. She leant over rain’s shoulder. “She’s trying to pass on her wisdom.”

“Good for her.”

“Bad for everyone else,” Clio paused. “They’re humans. They’ll try it. They’ll succeed. Rain’s holding their hand through it. Whoever they bring back next…”

“Is not my problem. This is all your show, sister.”

Clio rolled her eye, ignoring the sting of being called sister. “Thanks for your support. Go help your human.”

“He’s out of my hands now,” Spectra said quietly. Clio gasped.

“Spectra!”

“It’s all up the Unknown now.” She grinned suddenly. “Perhaps Frank’s death will buy his life.”

The Hyena was gone before Clio could wince at the crassness.

XXX

Aspen was woken from a dead sleep by an alarm blaring. She went from unconscious to on fire in a half second.

“Turn to any news channel!” Jermone barked as soon as he flipped the feed on. Aspen switched over to the music feed she’d been watching before she passed out after she got home last night.

“This morning, November the 25th, in Paris, there was a concentrated droid attack on the Hôtel des Invalides. The attack damaged the east wall and the tomb of Napoleon the First. The Emperor’s tome was cracked, but appears to be intact. Thus far no Alien governments have come forward with any suspicious figures. Major Haruka has yet to release a statement.” The broadcast repeated while Aspen stared in stunned amazement.

“Napoleon?” She said.

“Magpie wants you here on the double. They’re convinced this is no coincident,” Jerome warned. Aspen pulled off her over large sleep shirt, the one with Blanche on it, and started untangling her braids.

“Has Harm seen anything?” Her voice was muffled, as she pulled on the layers of her uniform. Undershirt, long sleeve, lightweight armor, dark blue uniform jacket with the white detailing around the shoulders.

“He and Kami are on their way right now. They have a have other problems to worry about then just our domestic troubles.”

Aspen did up her trousers and buckled the belt. “Switch over to the headset,” she ordered the computer, slipping on the c shaped bit of silicone over her ear and tapping her temple. A miniature portrait of Jerome appeared in the right hand corner of her vision.

“How are the guys?” She asked, jogging down the stairs and getting into her personal transport, prepared to gun it from Alexandria to York.

“Asleep. Or at least I think so. Leonardo stayed up speaking to me, but Richard disappeared by midnight.”

“Spirits Jerome, he’s been alive for less than a year, quit hitting on him.”

He grinned. “What makes you think it’s me?” The banter relaxed them both and Aspen took a deep breath, focusing.

“Cause it’s always you.”

XXX

Rain smiled to herself, sipping her tea and nibbling on a scone.

It hadn’t been very hard to find a taker for the information she was selling. A little nudge and all of Chikara’s plans unraveled. She could lock Rain up all she wanted, but she could never put the knowledge that Rain had passed down once it was out of the box.

Even now it was making the rounds on the deep web. Posing as an alien, she’d sold the information, the process, the evidence. Requests trickled, rained and poured in. it had been taken from the hosting website within hours and re-posted and re-uploaded. Chikara would be hard pressed to find the original, and even now it wasn’t as if she contain it, there wasn’t enough code blockers in world.

God bless the internet and it’s virus like tendencies.

Rain watched and crews cleared away the rubble the wall, and carefully examined the tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte for damages.

All it takes is a single strand of intact DNA. Crack open that tome and you’ll have the raw data for an entire army of Bonapartes.

Now there was an idea to make the Federation tremble, an entire army of un-ID’d egomaniac white men. Rain could hardly stop herself from laughing.

The door opened behind her and Rain turned her chair around to see Chikara Haruka standing there, the bright white light of the Bastille framing her. Marie Rivera stood behind her, an unmovable behemoth of carefully groomed muscle, waiting to snap Rain’s neck.

“I’ve been watching the news. Seems like you have quite a situation, down there.”

Chikara took slow measured steps to her. Rain couldn’t stop smiling, even as her fingers and toes tingled.

“What are you gonna do about, Major?”

Chikara was standing next to her now, eyes fixed on the news feed. The camera focused on the crack of the tome. Dust was spilling out of it.

“You can keep me up here and place an embargo on all of the Komali data, but,” Rain laughed, “You can’t stop it now, the fox is in the henhouse.”

Chikara stared at her, her dark eyes unfathomable. “Is that what you think, Doctor Miller? You think the entire weight of the Federation, an entire united people can not find one pre-electronic savage? You think I don’t have the power to make sure that whatever you’ve done can be undone?”

She leaned down, bracing her hands on Rain’s seat. “You have no idea what wars I fought to ensure the unity of the Federation. This is one battle, and it will be over quickly. You’re ideas have failed and when I track the dissenters who wrought this, they will be the first to test your theories on breaking a man’s mind.”

Chikara stepped back. “Marie, you’re going to be Doctor Miller’s personal guard from this moment. She does not take breath without my grace.” She did a sharp about face and Marie saluted, her hand over her heart.

“I have to go clean up her mess now.”

Season Two. Episode Fourteen: Crime. Part Two.

Episode Fourteen: Crime. Part Two.

Leonardo raised an eyebrow at the screen.

“You found us by using cartography?”

Harm tilted his hand back and forth. “Not exactly. The program maps facial features from portraits, or sculptures, or photographs. Then it searches the entire Federation database, basically every scrap of data that’s been collected since before World War Three, and searches it for matching characteristics.”

Leonardo nodded, mostly following it. Richard looked blankly at the man.

“This program is a map, and it’s what they used to find us,” Leonardo tried to translate, glancing at Harm to see if he was being accurate.

“Basically.”

“A map,” Richard said. “But how did you know we were returned?”

Kami interjected. “We didn’t. The program simply matched you out of random chance. If the security footage wasn’t a public archive, and within the search parameters it would have missed you completely.”

Leonardo sat back. “Luck?”

“Fate?” Magpie piped up hopefully. “We are the historical and heritage branch of public relations for the Federation. If you should be found by anyone it should be us…”

Leonardo kept the politely dubious look off his face, and instead turned back to Harm. “Do you think you’ll be able to use this to find Robespierre?”

“Why on in the saint’s names would we want to?” Richard asked in sotto voice. Leonardo ignored him.

“Leonardo has a point. You did say that the aliens, the Komali, want to have you destroyed right?” Harm asked cautiously. Magpie gasped dramatically.

“He was a pivotal part of the French Revolution of 1789! They can’t destroy him!”

Harm and Kami exchanged a look and Leonardo wondered if this was common for Magpie.

“Chikara can do whatever she wants, Mags,” Harm said. “You know that.”

“I reject the factual evidence of your statement and choose to believe that she’ll keep him alive until further purposes.” Magpie tilted their head up proudly.

Aspen cleared her throat pointedly.

“Any-way,” Harm drawled, turning back to the computer, “we can try.”

Leonardo watched over the man’s shoulder as he tapped the screen with long elegant fingers.

“What I’ll do is take any of the portraits and sculptures that still exist of him, compile them in a matrix and search the database using it.”

Magpie nodded their head once. “Do it.”

Aspen gestured at Richard and Leonardo, her metal fingers clicking slightly. “Come on. They’ll be at this for a while. Leo, has Richard shown you the rest of the castle?”

Leonardo shook his head and rose to his feet. Kami looked vaguely startled, looking up at him with wide grey-brown eyes.

“Something wrong?” He asked.

She shook her head. “Nothing. You’re just…surprisingly tall.”

Leonardo smiled slightly. “That’s not the first time I’ve been told that.”

“You’d make an excellent swordsman, with that reach.” Richard said, as they walked out of the room.

Leonardo snorted slightly. “Not likely. I find war the most disgusting enterprise of man.”

Richard looked at him, then at Aspen, then back to Leonardo. He opened his mouth then sighed and rubbed his temple before brushing past then both and walking off.

“He was the last English king to die in battle.” Aspen pointed out gingerly. Leonardo shrugged.

“I care not. You must agree, if your arm was lost in a conflict.”

Aspen hesitated, mouth twisting back and forth. “I dunno. That’s…a hard question don’t you think?”

They turned right and Leonardo slowed to study some of the glass plaques embedded into the wall. Each presented information about the castle.

“How so? Battle, death, pain, madness. I do not understand how any of these can benefit thinking men,” Leonardo said stiffly.

“Well. Didn’t you design war machines, for uh, uh someone?” Aspen pointed out. Leonardo winced. Before he could explain about he intended services for Il Moro or Borgia, Aspen continued. “Also it seems to me a lot of human evolution has been based on conflict. I don’t think that’s good necessarily but it might be important, I guess.”

Leonardo hesitated, considering her words. “I believe that art evolves the human race,” he finally said.

Aspen smiled and shrugged. “Well of course you do. You’re the one of the, almost them most famous artist in earth history.”

Leonardo smiled. “Grazie.”

“No, really.”

XXX

Aspen found Magpie later in their office. They were bent over an old-fashioned book, mumbling under their breath and with a tablet propped up by lots of coffee cups.

“Hey boss. How’s it going?” Aspen grinned slightly watching Magpie jump, their elaborately done silver hair quivering.

“Aspen! How’s Richard, and Leonardo? Did you show them the kitchens, the-”

Aspen held up her hand. “Richard already knows where everything is, although he has some choice words for some of the inaccuracies.” Apparently the kitchens were too small and the lack of stables and horses were dire. “Leonardo seems more interested in the databases than the building.”

Magpie nodded, relaxing back into their chair. “Makes sense. Richard spent lots of time here, in his youth and adult life. Leonardo seems to have been largely transient. Florence, Milan, Rome, back to Florence, back to Milan, and then France,” they rattled off. “I’ll have Harm teach him the basics.”

Aspen seated herself in the chair. Soon Jerome would be here to relive her. She’d left Richard wandering the halls, seemingly lost in his thoughts. Leonardo had already disappeared into his room, long nose pressed to a tablet.

“So, we’re keeping them. What next?” Aspen prompted.

“What?”

“They’ll need a doctor, you know to check them out and make sure they don’t have any extinct germs on them. Didn’t they both live during the first plague?”

Magpie blinked. “Good point. It was towards the end of the plague years but if either of them have it…”

“Yeah, the last thing we need is a relapse of the White Plague.”

Magpie winced. “Yes. But they’ll also need recent inoculations. And Richard’s spine.”

“What about it?”

Magpie showed her the tablet. It had a picture of a skeleton with a curved spine on it.

“His scoliosis is usually resolved in childhood. We’ll need to find a XD, someone who can also perform surgery to fix it.”

Aspen raised an eyebrow. “Why do you think he’ll want it fixed? Have you asked him?”

Magpie hesitated. “No, I just figured he’d want it.”

Aspen blinked, surprised. “I thought you’d be the first to be talking his ear off, asking about every detail of his life.”

“I will! I want to but,” here Magpie smiled sheepishly. “I’m a little nervous to. He’s been this pedestal, this goal in my life for so long.”

Aspen laughed. “You’re over complicating it boss. You gotta remember, he’s just a human, like the rest of us. He got into a right pissy mood when Leonardo told him he didn’t like warfare. He’s been wandering around all day, looking like he’s been hit over the head. If anything, I think he could really use someone who knows their stuff to talk to.”

Magpie blinked at her. “There’s surprisingly profound Aspen.”

“Hey! I can be sensitive, even if I was just a grunt,” Aspen threw up her hand, smirking at Magpie.

They laughed. “I guess you can. Alright, we’ll work on it tomorrow. Do you happen to know any XDs who could be trusted with this?”

Aspen shook her head. “You’ll want to fry Harm or Kami about it, not me. I’m surprised you don’t.”

“I never spent much time with any doctors. I dislike the smell of chemicals, paper and old stone are better.”

Aspen left with that concept in her head. Old stones and paper huh?