It was without a doubt the best rooms William had ever been given by a patron before. Everything was in plush velvet, rich furs of bears, tigers and lions and silk table runners.
“The boss wants you two to be as comfortable as possible,” said the chippy little man who had taken Will and his companion to the rooms. They had walked barefooted through empty marble halls, though Will was sure he could hear distant laughing and speaking.
“How very considerate!” Said his companion, a tall man with long and dark hair. His accent was not purely English however. “Perhaps we will now be allowed to find out why we are here?”
The little man laughed. “To write for the Boss! He’ll come by soon enough when he comes up with what he wants, but until then,” he bowed, “he’d like you to sit back and relax.” The man winked. “There are menus on those shelves should you want anything. An-ee-thing.” He winked again and Will almost rolled his eyes.
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Over the next few days Leonardo noticed a distinct shift in the mood of the castle.
“Fencing?” He repeated when Aspen told them at breakfast.
She nodded. “Yeah. Sword fighting for practice. It’s great for your reflexes and flexibility.” She took a bite of her breakfast, pieces of sugared wheat and dried fruit in milk. “Probably strength too, if you use heavy swords.”
“Will you be teaching us?” Napoleon asked, casting a dubious look over Aspen.
She shook her head. “I never learned. It’ll be Kami.”
Leonardo frowned. “I do not approve of violence in that way.” He shook his head. “I do not want to fence.”
“No one will make you, don’t worry Leo.” Aspen smiled at him then glanced at his breakfast: coffee. “But uh, you should definitely have something other than that. Otherwise Russo might make you eat that cup, too.”
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Robespierre had just rejoined them, and Richard was sharply reminded of how much he disliked the diminutive Frenchman when he limped his way up from the kitchens, into the grand entrance. He clutched the heavy shawl around his shoulders. He also wore a pair of heavily tinted glasses. He looks the part of a beggar, Richard thought. Robespierre hair had also been shaved down to the scalp and it appeared to grow like a wild hedge.
“Cold,” he rasped. Richard had heard that something happened to his throat, reducing his voice to whisper.
“Yes, it is rather. Here,” Russo pushed a cup of tea over to him. “You’ll warm up.”
Richard rolled his eyes. Across from him Bonaparte had stood up to sit down next to Robespierre, who looked up at him. Bonaparte bent toward him, whispering something that Richard couldn’t hear but made Robespierre suddenly smile widely, stretching the scars over his face.
“Aw, that’s sweet,” Aspen Strong said. She was seated next to Richard, also watching as Bonaparte and Robespierre bonded over something.
Richard snorted and Strong nudged him playfully. “Come on. He was such a soggy plum after we got him back. Frankly this is way better.”
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Maximilien focused on keeping his eyes closed. Even the very dim light filtering through made his temples throb in a muted agony. He knew that the subtle sting of something in his hand was helping to keep it at bay, he’d managed to parse that much since waking up. There was a lightly accented woman’s voice that kept up a steady stream of chatter, likely so he could easily track it around the room.
“This is going to be cold, but the medicine in it is going to help the inflammation in your eyes. We need it to go down before I can start working on your corneas.” There was a gentle clattering nearby and he flinched. “I’m curious, have you always been sensitive to light?”
He tried to swallow, throat still aching. But he was able to force the syllable out. “Yes.” His voice was a quiet raspy husk of what it used to be.
“There’s not a single portrait of you with them on,” the voice remarked. “Was that a vanity thing?”
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Napoleon had always awoken early. He just couldn’t stand the feeling of wasting time on sleep. When he’d been on campaign, he would sometimes wake just after midnight to pour over his maps or wake his aides to send missives.
Now stuck, he still found himself waking early, wandering through the castle, often ending up in the Harmony Susuki’s study, where he could easily spend hours reading through the various war reports that had happened since his death.
Typically, one of the women would find him, chin propped on his hand, staring unblinkingly at the diagrams of battles long won.
However, for once he was interrupted by something far more interesting: raised voices outside of the door. Napoleon leaned back in the chair, looking over at the door.
“Are you sure you want to do this, Jerome? You don’t-“
“I have to do this, Mags. It won’t take a genius to put together that Julia’s source is me. Since Miller saw Aspen they’re definitely going to know we had something to do with this if I stick around.”
There was silence. Napoleon, cognizant of the creaking chair, stood up and padded over the door.
“We’ll miss you. Everyone,” Jones said quietly. The tall negro was facing away from Napoleon, but he could see Jenkins face. The young man ran a hand over his face and sighed.
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Maxime was drowning in blood.
It was in his mouth, his throat. The very smell made his eyes water and churned his stomach. He was trapped wherever he was, standing in a warm pool of blood that he couldn’t avoid getting into his mouth.
He wanted to scream. But he didn’t dare open his mouth, for fear of all of it flooding it into him. Then, much to his horror, he could feel it creep up his face. Into his nose, leaking into his mouth past his lips and clenched teeth. It stung as it got into his eyes, warm and salty as tears.
He was fully swallowed in it before he finally decided to just open his mouth and let it happen.
Maximilien woke with a gasp.
He failed under an unfamiliar weight. Something was covering him from neck to feet and he couldn’t claw his way out from under it.
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Episode Twenty One – Dante in Hell.
A/N: Specially formatted extra-long episode! Aspen Strong: Secret Agent: The Movie.
This was such a terrible idea, Aspen thought to herself.
She was barely floating along, using just enough of a propulsion to gently drift towards the Bastille, which loomed ever closer. The red emergency lighting made all the blue controls on her panel pop, but only served to remind her that she couldn’t use any of them. If the Bastille detected any unauthorized ship coming towards them and inquired, it would ruin everything.
Such a bad, bad idea. Why didn’t I leave for Mars?!
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“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Kami said quietly.
“No, you’re not sure?”
Aspen sighed and rubbed her forehead. “No, I’m positive this is a terrible idea. The number of things that can go wrong is ridiculous. But I swore to Magpie I was going to go along with this.”
She was walking Kami and Harmony out to the transporter point. They were preparing to go pick up Cherry for the holiday break and then onto the interstellar travel depot to go to the Martian colony. The flyer was nearly prepared for its slow mission disguised a piece of junk. They had the information from Julia about the security rounds on the Bastille.
Everything was in place, but Aspen still felt a horrible sense of unease. She was sleeping poorly, expecting Chikara Haruka and Marie Rivera to break open the door of her condo and arrest her. Probably hide her on the Bastille like they did with Robespierre and leave her forgotten in the dark.
Aspen shivered and rolled her shoulders back, looking over her shoulder. Middleham was shrouded in mist, a light layer of snow and frost covering the stiffened and dead grass.
Kami touched her hand. “You don’t have to, you know. You can get out of here too.”
Aspen shook her head. “I gave my word.”
“Are we ready to go, love?” Harmony asked gently. “You’ll take care, Aspen?”
Kami walked over to the console with Harmony. She waved for a moment, face still pinched and then they were both gone. Aspen sighed and stood there for a long moment before finally about-facing to head back to the castle.
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Leonardo cursed as he cut his hand on yet another piece of jagged metal. He withdrew it and examined the slice that ran along his palm.
“Careful,” Harmony admonished, distractedly. “The dermal regenerator is on the table.”
Leonardo slid out from under the ship and rolled to his feet, staggering slightly. He put a hand up to his head. It felt slightly fuzzy and Leonardo shook to clear it.
He picked the regenerator and examined it. It was simply a metal wand, with a flat panel. Leonardo placed the panel over the cut, which was still bleeding sluggishly. He pressed the button on the top and the small machine lit up blue and hummed. Leonardo hissed as he could feel his skin knit back together. After a moment, he took it away. All that was a left was a thin pink line.
Leonardo adored the future.
He yawned as he turned back to the ship. Aspen Strong was on top of the flyer, using a laser tool to mold two pieces of metal to the top. It was blackened and already punctured with holes.
“I can’t believe I have to do this to my ship. This is butchery,” she muttered.
“It’s the Federation’s ship, Aspen,” Harmony said. He stood and stretched. “I need to go check in with Kami and Mags. Do you want anything?”
“Coffee,” Leonardo said.
Aspen looked at him sharply. “Have you had any water today, Leo?”
Leonardo cocked his head. “No. Why would I?”
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Once Maximilien had given Charlotte and Henriette one of his beloved doves to care for. A moment of childish negligence and the poor bird was dead.
He’d given Camille to Georges for careful keeping in the way he needed to be watched and as a lamb taken in by a lion, Camille had been destroyed.
He’d carefully helped craft a document to free France from her chains and within months seen it betrayed and violated.
Maximilien’s whole life was a constant cycle of destruction. He would nurture and build only to see it pulled apart like cooked meat as soon as he turned his attention away.
Something must have been wrong with him, if Maxime could never care for things the way they needed to be cared for. Now, he was being punished for it.
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Richard longed for a paper book.
The slick glass tablets, thin a piece of parchment, did not hold the same feeling of satisfaction as holding a page and turning it to reveal the next. The slippery action of sliding his fingers along the screen was too fast, too immaterial.
Richard did take solace in the fact that there now there was much more to read, indeed more than he ever thought he could read if given another ten lifetimes, but bitterly longed for paper.
He’d remained in his room, today. The atmosphere of the castle was distinctly cold since the discussion of Robespierre. Leonardo had been his usual distant self, only conversing with the guards and the staff in tense, quiet tones. Bonaparte, too, had been quiet, reading and mumbling to himself in a corner of the solar lounging in a chair with his feet to the fire.
Richard had no desire to speak to this self proclaimed Emperor of the French. He did not seek out the company of Leonardo. He felt the quiet disdain of the staff and guards. Richard, as he had for so much of his life, had no company but himself.
He sat in his room and studied the grounds instead. The weather had stripped the leaves from the trees and he felt that there was snow on the way. Richard had noticed that it seemed to roll in harshly, unexpectedly. He shuddered. Were the seasons not even a constant he could depend on, anymore?
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Leonardo didn’t know what to think anymore. It was…unnerving.
This evening’s revelations had left everyone subdued. Richard had left for the chapel, where he spent most of his time and Napoleon left for Harmony’s office, muttering something about world war.
Leonardo was left alone in his room, his hands and mind restless. He considered seeking out Jerome but discarded it the idea immediately. Jerome hadn’t even looked at him as he left the grand hall this evening, distracted by his sister in trouble.
So Leonardo paced the floor and thought.
Robespierre was imprisoned and apparently injured. The Bastille, the moon prison that Napoleon had been so certain was destroyed, was impregnatable. That sounded like a likely place to start. He took up the small electric tablet and laboriously typed in Bastille.
The moon prison was the most prominent result. Examining it, Leonardo did have to reluctantly admit that it seemed to be impossible to either escape or board. It reminded him of a large, segmented tube. There were few windows to the darkness outside of the Bastille and no doors. Leonardo gathered that to gain access you would need to dock on some unseen portal. He begrudgingly admitted this seemed reasonable. If you were a suspicious prince you would want to disguise the entrance, just to make it less appetizing to attack.
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