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?

Season Two. Episode Fourteen: Crime. Part One.

Episode Fourteen: Crime. Part One.

Maximilien was woken suddenly by the lights flickering on, painfully bright. He tried to turn his head towards the wall but the white tile simply reflected the light and he groaned.

His eye sight had always been questionable, but in bright light it degraded to the point when he wasn’t even able to make out simply shapes or judge distance. Here, the world was nothing more than a white blur.

Max’s arms were still secured around his back and he wasn’t confident he could right himself without doing serious harm to his shoulders. So he simply rocked back on his heels and sat back. His stomach growled. It seemed like it had been a very long time since he’d eaten the bread that Richard had taken from Rain’s house.

He put aside the ache in his legs and stomach and closed his eyes, blocking out the worst of the painful light.

Under his breath he began to recite, “Men, be kind to your fellow-men; this is your first duty, kind to every age and station, kind to all that is not foreign to humanity.”

XXX

Rain was awake with the hypothetical sun, newly showered and dressed in one of the Bastille’s uniforms. She sipped her coffee and watched Robespierre, who had hardly moved from his corner. She frowned and zoomed the feed in on his face.

“Audio?”

The computer beeped in compliance and she listened carefully. Hardly louder than a whisper, Robespierre was speaking, “What wisdom can you find that is greater than kindness?”

“What’s he doing?” The young female guard, Jerkins, asked.

“Experimental android protocol. He’s reciting his last orders,” Rain mumbled distractedly.

She glanced over and saw Jerkins frowning ever so slightly.

“Aren’t you supposed to be doing something? Like rounds?” Rain flicked her hand at the young woman.

Jerkins frowned but stiffly turned around and the gentle hiss of the doors marked her exit. Rain sighed and looked back at the screen. Robespierre was still mumbling under his breath.

Rain tilted her head and brought up his biographical information. “Born in Arras, lawyer, revolutionary, blah, blah, blah, off with his head. Hmm. Who is this?” She tapped under the relations tab and scrolled through a list of family and friends. “I didn’t know you had siblings. Let’s see what else you’re hiding shall we, Maximilien?”

A half an hour later, Rain was still glued to the screen eyes flick over the text rolling by. She didn’t notice the hiss of the doors again. However she nearly hit Chikara with her cane when the short woman bent over her and asked, “What are you doing?”

“Spirits!! Don’t do that! Didn’t your mother ever teach you not to sneak up on people?”

Chikara leveled a flat look at her. Rain sneered back.

“Doctor, the only reason I’m allowing this freedom right now is so you will figure what to do about the problem you caused, now tell me, what are you doing?”

“Keep your skirt on. I’m looking through his biography, seeing who he was close to, what he liked to do, what he hated.”

“What’s the point of doing this? Are you deliberately trying to-” Chikara started, a ferocious snarl on her face.

“Well I can’t very well break him if I don’t know him!” Rain snapped. “If I don’t know how to manipulate his emotions than all we’ll do is hurt him physically. We need to get inside his head, figure out his regrets, his internal dissent. And then we can start, and not before I say!” Rain stood up, fairly towering over the much shorter Chikara.

However the Major didn’t flinch and steeped closer to the scientist. “You do not give the orders here Doctor Miller. You will listen to me, and now you will follow this order, I want your plan for him by the end of the cycle.”

The two women stared at each other, each with mounting dislike. Finally Rain slowly sat down.

“Yes, Major Haruka.”

XXX

Richard woke suddenly, from what felt like a dreamless sleep. He blinked, and for one moment felt incredibly disoriented by the familiar surroundings. However the sounds the sounds were all wrong. There was no gentle clattering of the black smith or the chatter of servants. It was nearly silent in the keep.

Richard dressed in the same clothes he’d been wearing since they’d left Rain and went downstairs. There was no one around and Richard walked through the grand hall, running his hand along the table. It was polished to a high shine and the grain was so smooth Richard could hardly feel it.

He crossed over to the strange hole in the wall that dispensed food and clothing and stared at it.

“Alright, you enchanted wreckage. It’s just you and I now,” he told it. The glowing stone panel didn’t make any noise, but Richard scowled regardless. He raised his hand and braced himself for battle.

Ten minutes later, after an extended spar, he finally had a plate of small cakes, something called ‘syrup’ and a dozen pieces of salted and fried pork belly.

“I’m glad we could come to an understanding,” he smirked at the machine. It beeped submissively.

He sat down at the table and began to eat.

He was through his stack of cakes, his fingers stick with the syrup when Leonardo arrived. His brown hair was damp and even curlier as a result. He was also wearing new clothes as well.

“Where did you get those?” Richard asked in lieu of greeting. Leonardo blinked at him.

“From the replicator, in my rooms. Don’t you have one?”

“What?” Richard scowled. “No I didn’t.”

“Oh. Perhaps you can ask Magpie for a change. I don’t know how many rooms with replicators there might be.”

Leonardo shrugged and wandered around the room, examining the wall tapestries and the panels embedded in the stonework.

“Aren’t you going to eat?” Richard asked, swallowing a bite of the pork. He dragged it through the syrup. It was fairly palatable, he thought.

Leonardo shrugged again, fingers working over the panel. “If I get hungry I suppose…”

They both turned when the far door, the one that was made of metal, not wood, opened and Aspen Strong walked in, brushing her real hand through the myriad of tiny and dyed braids she had. She was mid yawn when she caught sight of them and her eyes opened wide.

She coughed. “Oh my god I almost forgot you guys were here! Good morning.”

“You forgot you had the risen dead in your protection?” Leonardo said dryly and Richard snorted. Aspen grinned and put her metal hand on her hip.

“It was easier to write it off as a dream, believe me. Anyway, is anyone else here yet?”

Richard shook his head. “I haven’t seen anyone.”

Aspen nodded and walked over to the machine. “Magpie will be here soon. They’ll want to talk to you both, one on one. Then Kami and Harm will want to show you the program we used to find you.”

She laughed, and tapped a button on the machine, which chirped happily. She took out a mug.

“Do either of you drink coffee? I take it like a weakling with a lot of cream and sugar but I think it’s gross otherwise.”

“Sugar?” Leonardo asked, interest piqued. Aspen grinned and handed over another mug. Which just meant that Richard also had to have it.

By the time Magpie, with Harm and Kami arrived, Aspen, Leonardo and Richard were had lined up a dozen coffee mug and aspen was explain what was in each and having them try it.

“Spirits! You’re going to give them a heart attack, Aspen!” Magpie fretted.

Aspen waved them off. “They’re fine, there’s not that much espresso in it.”

Richard was beginning to feel rather odd, and shook his head. Leonardo’s eyes were rather wide.

Magpie glared at Aspen and swept up all the cups. “We’re not here for this, and we’ll get them introduced to modern food gradually. Today I want to show them Harm’s program.”

Richard nodded and they followed Magpie up the stairs, to where Harm was already setting up. The dark skinned man grinned at them.

“Welcome to the historical figure finder!”

Aspen snorted. “You’re gonna want to work on that name.”