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

Episode Sixteen: The Emperor. Part Three.

A/N: Guys. Small confession. I’m not the world’s biggest Napoleon fan, so if he’s not quite as fluid in terms of thought process and characterization as some of the others, that’s why. I may or may not resent him for being The World’s Worst Jacobin.

The Island of Saint Helena.

Clio perched on one of the ceiling beams, looking down on the mortal below her. His eyes were closed but she wasn’t sure if he was sleeping or just playing at it.

“Now that’s a big fish,” Spectra said from beside her. She swung her back legs, her yellow-eyed gaze amused. “These mortals have some ambition.”

“Just like Rainbow,” Clio pointed out. “And look how that’s turning out.”

“Just like him and he kicked off a whole era of silly alliance making. Which in turn led to the most shocking war-“

“Until the next most shocking war and the one after that, so on and so on. Yes. I know. But how could he have known that? How could he ever be asked to see beyond his own small life?”

Spectra shrugged. “Mortals get better at it with age. Mine seems to understand the difference between diplomacy with words and diplomacy with a knife, you know.”

Clio sighed. “You have to hold him to his own. He was a weight-bearing spine when the previous years had seen nothing but cripples.”

“You’re soft on him,” Spectra grinned. “This is your background come to light. You prefer the direct attack, the blunt weight of a club.”

“Don’t blame me, blame my lineage,” she said with a sniff. “Oh look, he wakes.”

XXX

Napoleon Bonaparte wasn’t entirely sure how much sleep he had gotten but there was light still streaming through the windows of his room. So he’d either fallen to Morpheus for an entire half day, or it had been a meager few hours. He opened his eyes and slowly sat up.

He’d never before considered himself blessed to be able to sit up, but after a month of feeling like his abdomen was being crushed in a vice, it was an ability he was never going take for granted again.

Once up, he promptly checked the door, which had been locked after he’d been tossed in here. The handle was missing and it was barred from the outside. Napoleon snorted. They knew how they had and taken proper precautions then.

Likely the English.

He examined the one window, which was ten feet from the floor and barred. The bed was bolted to the floor. There was a single plate which had previously held a small loaf of bread, butter, and some smoked shellfish. The plate was made of some lightweight material that hadn’t broken when he threw it against the floor, hoping that the disturbance would cause a guard to come, or break into a shard to fashion a weapon with.

Not much to engineer an escape, frankly. Napoleon sat down and stared at the door.

It a perfect world, word his resurrection would have already spread and those still loyal to him would undoubtedly come for their Emperor. However, nothing had gone right over the past few years so he didn’t think was about to start.

Napoleon did not know how long he had been laying down on his cot when he heard the door unbolting. He quickly got to his feet, holding himself ready.

The door swung open and the two masked people who had been looking over Napoleon when he woke are standing in the doorway, with some foreign styled pistol aimed directly at his chest. He lifted his head in challenge: like any man would dare to fire boldly at him.

“You will come with us.” The speech is strange, stilted. It’s a very unnatural voice as well, it sounds like metal grating on cobblestone.

Napoleon lifted his head higher. “You will not give me orders. I de-“

Before he can give them his list of requests and demands to get into contact with whoever the hell is running France in his stead, one of them stepped forward and hit him with the barrel of the pistol. Napoleon found blood dribbling down his chin and he was dragged along by the arms outside.

The sun seemed stunningly bright and he shook his head, clearing spots and trying to shake off their hold off his arms.

There was a very loud buzzing noise from overhead and Napoleon looked up, expecting to see a myriad of hornets. A dark shadow passed overhead and then began to float down to the ground. He gaped at the flying object, which was a stern grey and black and shaped in a wedge with two wings. It opened and figure clad entirely in black matte fabric exited, holding a very large rifle.

In a strict military fashion that Napoleon would have been proud to see in his own ranks, the soldier marched directly toward them.

“You have the credits?” One of his captors called out.

In an oddly mechanical voice, the soldier replied. “Yes. Right here. Release him and I will send it over.” He held up his fist and Napoleon could just make out that he held something shiny. Silver? He was insulted, he was worth more than just a fistful of silver!

“Maginot line exchange?” His captor called again. The soldier nodded once. He pressed his arm and much to Napoleon’s amazement, a part of the uniform detached and hovered next to him. He placed the silver on the floating object and slowly started sending it towards them. Napoleon could just make out the air it displaced to keep it hovering.

His captors seemed unphased and they shoved him forward. “Walk. Slowly. If you run, we will shoot. Understand?”

Napoleon glared over his shoulder, but nodded once and began a slow march over the parched earth. His heart pounded in his chest but he kept his chin up. What coward what shoot him in the back and suffer the wrath of his Empire?

The floating object passed him halfway and he could hear a high-pitched whine. He glanced at the silver and saw it was pressed into a small square, almost as flat as paper. Untarnished and good quality but such a small amount that he scowled.

When he finally made it to the solider, he turned around and faced back across the hostage line. They had the silver but the floating thing zipped back quickly. The soldier caught it and slotted it back into his uniform.

“Satisfied?” He called out, voice still grating out oddly. The captors looked at the silver, examining it closely and even holding it against the sun.

“No tracer?” One of them shouted, looking at them suspiciously.

“Of course not. This is off the books.”

Finally, they seemed prepared. “Get on your ship and leave,” one of them barked, leveling the pistol at them.

The soldier nodded and with a firm hand on Napoleon’s shoulder, steered him ahead. He was herded up the metal ramp and pushed into the cabin of the ship. The soldier slapped hand down on the wall and the door slowly shut. He ripped off his helmet-

“You’re a woman!” Napoleon blurted out. The African woman looked at him and grinned shakily.

“Sure am. You’re Napoleon,” she glanced over him quickly and moved to the front of the ship. “I kinda thought you were going to be shorter.”

Before he could formulate his furious reply to this or demand to be released, she powered the thing on and he could feel the vibrations under his feet.

“I’ll get you out of those cuffs soon, but we only have about thirty seconds until they realize that credit card is a forgery and then we’re totally fucked,” she said brusquely. “You’ll probably want to sit down,” she said, glancing over her shoulder and gesturing to bench on the side of the ship.

“Why would I-“ but before he could get out the rest of his demand, there was a high whine of sound and then the impact of something hitting the metal outside of the ship.

“Fuck! Sit down!” She barked and pressed the glass panel in front of her. The ship was still being bombarded when it lifted into the sky and Napoleon pressed himself against the hull, eye closed. It felt as if his stomach he been left behind.

He could hear the woman hissing and cursing as she steered the ship and the feeling of it weaving back and forth on the open threatened to make him very sick.

Finally, it evened out and there was a gusty sigh. “Okay, we’re over open water so we should be good,” she said softly. He jumped when there was a hand on his shoulder. Napoleon opened his eyes and saw her smiling at him. He glanced at the front and saw that it seemed to be steering itself.

“Here, stand up and turn around. I can get those off,” she said, pulling the leather gloves off her hands. He started when he saw one of them was made of metal. He turned and faced the bulkhead.

“I’m sure you have a lot of questions about all of this,” she said, voice carefully level. He felt tugging on the restraints and they suddenly popped open. “I can answer a few of them, but my boss will be able to answer even more. Right now our biggest priority is to get you to safety.” Napoleon turned around.

“What did they ask for my ransom?” He asked.

The woman blinked. “How much money? A billion credits from the Corsican government.”

“Oh,” he said. “A billion. Is that what you gave them on that silver?”

She nodded. He shrugged. “That’s good enough, I suppose. Where are we headed? Paris?” He asked, heading towards the bow.

“Ah, well,” she stuttered as he inspected the navigation. It was sleek and clean, comprised of entirely glass panels.

“How do you steer this?” He asked before she could answer his question. “There is no wheel.”

“Thank gods, a question I can answer,” she muttered. “This is the navigation array, this is propulsion, and this is altitude. Honestly, it’s pretty fool-proof. The Federation does know how to streamline things.”

He looked up, eyebrow raised. “Federation?”

“The Terran Federation,” she said. “That’s where you are now.”

Napoleon nodded absently. “So if not Paris, then where?”

She pulled a face and fingered the end of her golden braids. “You aren’t going to like this, but we’re going to castle, in England. It’s called Middleham.”

He sneered. “So I see. From one jailer to another.”

She sighed. “It’s not like that. There’s a lot of people who are trying to get to you and won’t hesitate to kill you. You’ll see when we get there,” she assured him.

Napoleon scowled. “And what’s your name, madame?”

“I’m Ensign Aspen Strong. I work security at Middleham.”

He cast a dubious look at her. While the woman did seem to be well built enough to be a fishmonger, he’d never heard of a woman who worked as a soldier.

She steered him to the back and pushed him onto a bench. “Look, we’ll be back at Middleham in about an hour and a half. Why don’t you get some rest?”

Napoleon’s stomach growled. Strong smiled. “There’ll be food there, too, don’t worry.”

He rolled his eyes. “English food.”

 

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

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

A/N: *Comes back almost 1 year later.* I told I wasn’t done yet! To everyone who has been patiently waiting on me to update again, thank you. Special shout out to whoever is doing a regular check in China. I really appreciate it. Hopefully, I will get back up to doing weekly updates.

Rain stretched her back and looked over at Marie Rivera, still standing at parade rest as she watched Rain.

“Can you go get me a coffee? His heart rate has dipped so it’s not as if we can do much right now,” Rain said, kicking her legs up onto the console, smiling as Rivera scowled.

“You don’t understand how orders work, do you?” Rivera said. Rain smiled ever wider.

“I do, I just don’t care. You’re Chikara’s second, she clearly trusts you not to fuck this up. So just go get me the coffee,” she insisted. Rivera stared at her for a long moment before finally sneering and turning to the door.

“Two sugars, two creams,” she called at her jailer’s back before the door locked.

Rain waited for just a moment before turning back to the console and switched her feed from Robespierre’s pathetic figure to the piggy-backing counter she’d applied to her program. It kept an inventory of how many IP addresses had downloaded it.

Right now it was over 500. Rain smiled: if even half of those managed successful resurrections it wouldn’t take very long until the Federation realized something was amiss in their picture-perfect surveillance society.

Chikara Haruka wanted to bury the past, did she?

Well if there was one thing that Rain could remember from her school days it was that history always had a funny way of coming back for people who didn’t respect it.

XXX

Richard grit his teeth and recited Hail Mary under his breath. He yelped again when a sharp pain applied to his shoulder.

“Will you stop that?” He snapped at Russo who merely stared at him, unimpressed.

“No. Since you can’t tell me what Rain inoculated you again you and Leonardo get to have all of them done. Frankly, it’s a minor miracle that neither of you caught anything yet.” She muttered under her breath as she turned away, “Or that we haven’t caught anything from you.”

Richard glared at her turned back.

“Courage, Richard,” Leonardo said lightly, leaning against the wall. “It could be Rain doing all of this to us.”

This didn’t comfort him as Leonardo probably thought it would. Richard also sourly noted that Leonardo hadn’t volunteered to go first either.

“This is the last one. Then we just need to do a quick scan and I can work on getting you a spine,” Russo said and poked him again. Richard gritted his teeth and endured.

Leonardo watched in interest as she slowly waved a long metal pole over him, staring down at a display. He slowly crept over, craning his neck to see it better. She noticed and her lips quirked up into a small smile.

“Here, you hold this and tell me what you see,” she said and thrust it to the Italian. Richard scowled slightly. Why did everyone seem to innately trust the Leonardo? There was nothing to suggest that he was a priest or another especially educated individual. His artwork seemed to be the largest motivator for admiration but there were thousands of artisans.

Leonardo fumbled it for a moment before steading and staring at it intently. He quirked his head to the side.

“It appears that his spine has curved out of shape. The bones have changed, becoming angled. But not all of them. The ones above his hips and neck are still straight,” he glanced at Russo, who nodded. “You said you could replace the damaged ones, si?”

She nodded and looked at Richard. “Not all of the bones need to be replaced. But what this means is we will need to identify and measure the ones that do need to be. Since you’re past maturity we will actually also need to calculate how long to make each one, since we can’t add any more to your height.”

Richard nodded, lost. Hesitantly he decided to ask, “How will you remove the bones?”

Russo frowned slightly. “Well, typically we would do it in an operating lab where we could simply put you out and then swap each vertebra, using microsurgery. Then we would keep you under for a few hours to watch for complications. After that, you’d be looking at about six weeks to two months of PT.”

“PT?” Leonardo asked.

“Physical therapy. Helping the muscles to heal and the spine readjust to its new shape. It wouldn’t be totally painless but it would require the least amount of trauma possible.” She sighed. “Since we’re limited to staying here however it’s slightly more complicated. I’ll have to work on finding a way to bring in medical transporters, laser scalpels, the bone printers and training someone to assist in the operation.”

“What does that mean?” Richard asked.

Russo looked him over. “It means I’m going to have to resurrect some old techniques. It’ll take some time,” she said, sounding apologetic.

“I’ve been this way for over a thousand years. What’s a few more days?” Richard asked dryly. He saw Russo quirk a smile in his direction.

“That’s the spirit,” she told him.

XXX

Leonardo rubbed his shoulder, slightly sore from the multitude of injections. The needles were narrower than a grain of sand but the force that they were plunged into his skin left a bruise none the less.

“I guess the dead just have thinner skin,” Aspen said with a grin.

The night was now falling over the castle and Aspen had left for the night after taking Russo back to Italy, with promises to return after she had sorted out her affairs and found some way to transport supplies.

Magpie was staying but both Kami and Harmony had both left as well.

“No offense but this place isn’t exactly the picture of modern comfort,” Harm confided in Leonardo. “Magpie is great but Kami and I have a life outside of this,” he waved a hand around at the castle. “We’ll be back tomorrow.”

Now Middleham was dark and quiet. Leonardo was sitting up, teaching himself about basic medical operations. He was surprised at the amount of disinfecting that seemed to take place. He never thought that so much of what caused complications in injuries had to do with infections.

Leonardo blinked and looked up as a breath of cold air stole over his face.

“Hi. I knocked but there was no reply.” Jerome was standing in the doorway, hand on the door. “I’m checking in on everybody.”

“Everybody?” Leonardo asked, leaning back in his chair, stretching slightly.

“You, Richard and Mags. They’re not looking to leave anytime soon,” Jerome said with a twist to his lips. He gestured. “Can I come in?”

Leonardo smiled. “Please. I was just finishing some texts that Doctor Russo gave me. She thinks I have the makings to become her medical assistant for Richard’s surgery.”

Jerome sat back on the bed, resting against the wall. “Yeah? That doesn’t surprise me. From everything I’ve ever heard you’re a pretty smart guy.”

Leonardo laughed aloud. “I’m flattered that people think so highly of me. I hope I don’t disappoint.”

Jerome tilted his head and slowly drew his eyes over Leonardo, before meeting his gaze boldly. “You’re looking pretty good from where I’m sitting.”

In all his life Leonardo had never been so blatantly propositioned. He couldn’t imagine having anyone stare at him the way Jerome was currently as if Leonardo was an especially well-prepared meal. He flushed and Jerome’s expression grew even more smug and satisfied. He patted the place next to him.

“Come here. You don’t have to sit so far away.”

When Leonardo was fifteen he had modeled for Verrocchio’s David. He’d borrowed armor from a soldier and wielded a sword left-handed. While Andrea had worked the other students had used Leonardo for practice. It was here, long after the workshop had closed and the other apprentices had gone to bed that Leonardo first laid with another man.

“Come, Leonardo,” Angelo said drawing him close, breath smelling of watered wine and his already calloused hands eclipsing Leonardo’s. He was still taller than Leonardo then. “Show me what talents you already you possess with that sword.” They went down on the floor of the studio, hands on skin and hair tangling as Angelo hovered over Leonardo.

The excitement, tinged with the despair of shame and danger if pursued rushed back over Leonardo as he stared at Jerome, slowly rising from his desk. It wasn’t more than two steps to the bed but Jerome pulled him in, hand on his wrist so Leonardo instead landed on his lap.

“There’s room here too,” he whispered and kissed him.

Jerome, in Leonardo’s estimation, was a lovely kisser. He knew the rhythm and steps of the old dance. He wasn’t interested in simply staying confined to Leonardo’s mouth, often trailing off to nip playfully at his neck or gently kiss his cheeks.

“You’ve some talent for this,” Leonardo murmured.

Jerome pulled back. “I practice,” he returned with a grin.

That were the last words spoken between them for some time.

XXX

Aspen yawned as she entered Middleham. The main hall was already occupied with Magpie, who looked annoyingly cheerful for seven in the morning and Russo who looked as tired and grumpy as Aspen felt.

“Good morning! We’re waiting on Kami, Harm, and Jerome to start debriefing,” Magpie said, brushing a sliver bang back from their face. “Can you check if he’s on his way down?”

Aspen nodded, already headed to the back staircase, more interested in the coffee upstairs than where Jerome was. However, she found Jerome before she was even anywhere close to the staff facilities.

He was stepping out of Leonardo’s room.

Aspen gaped openly as he gently shut the door and then started tiptoeing to the staff area. She followed behind and apparently Jerome was distracted enough that he didn’t notice until he was at the replicator.

Jerome turned and jumped narrowly avoiding slashing hot coffee all over them both.

“Dear god Aspen, what the hell are you trying to do, give me a heart attack?” he demanded. She ignored him instead scrutinizing him carefully, looking for the evidence of getting up close and personal with a formally dead Italian.

“Did you sleep with Leonardo last night?” She asked finally.

Jerome smirked. “A gentleman doesn’t kiss and tell,” he said.

Aspen slugged him in the arm. “You’re not a gentleman, you’re a slut. I can’t believe you!”

Jerome opened his eyes wide and adopted a look of contrition. “What do you mean?”

Aspen shook her head and pushed past him to help herself to the replicator. “If Mags catches you, they’ll lose it. You can’t go sleeping around with all these dead people, Jerome.”

“Um he came on to me. Also, why not? We’re trying to introduce them to the year three-thousand. I just gave him a warm welcome.” Jerome winked.

Aspen rolled her eyes.

XXX

Magpie had retreated to their office when Aspen returned to the main floor. She came across Harmony and Kami coming in.

“Harm had an idea for tracking potential ressurections last night. He’s going to experiment this morning,” Kami explained when her husband promptly bolted for his office, taking the stairs two at a time.

Aspen nodded. “I’ll let Magpie know. Have you seen Russo yet?” Kami shook her head. “That’s fine, she said it didn’t know how long it would take for her to sneak away.” She continued onto Magpie’s office.

“How’s it going boss?” She asked, sitting down across from Magpie.

They looked up and said gravely, “I think you should go today.”

Aspen blanked for a moment before realizing what Magpie was referring to. “You want me to go get Napoleon today? What’s the rush?”

Magpie turned on the desk display. “I was up all last night, trying to dig up what I could on why he might have been resurrected. I came across an anonymous source that leaked this document that was sent to the Corsican government.”

He once declared that France must choose. Now so do you. We have him and he can be yours for one billion credits. What is your history worth to you? You have 48 hours. After that, he will be destroyed.

Aspen glanced up at Magpie. “You think this refers to him?”

Magpie nodded. “According to the leak, a lock of hair was included, presumably to authenticate him.”

“Forty-eight hours. The exchange would be today,” Aspen said. A cold ball of dread had gathered in her stomach.

“Yes.”

“You want me to go steal him out from under the Corsican government, knowing that if Haruka catches me I’m dead?”

“Yes.”

Aspen sighed. Here she was, thinking that working security on an old castle tourist-trap would be easy. She was indeed a fool. “I’m finishing my coffee first. Also, Harm apparently figured out a faster way to find the resurrections. He’s working on it now.”

Magpie brightened. “Really? How?” Aspen shrugged.

“Kami didn’t say, but he’s working on it now. I’m sure you could send Leonardo to spy on him, they seem to get on well enough.”

Not as well as he and Jerome get on, her mind snickered. Aspen fought to keep from smirking.

Magpie nodded, looking thoughtful. “He seems to be adjusting the best.” They snorted. “Well of course. He’s the one who was always ahead of his time.”

“What about Richard?” Aspen asked. She remembered the gloomy look on his face from yesterday.

Magpie shot her a helpless look. “I don’t know what to do for him yet. I think Russo will help but,” they shrugged. “Who knows?”

Aspen nodded and sighed. What have we gotten ourselves into?      

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.