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

Episode Seventeen: Invasive Operations. Part Two.

A/N: This is for Jeremy. You know what you did. Thank you.

 

Richard’s very first introduction to the so called “Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte”, as Magpie Jones introduced him grandly was when the other man looked around Middleham and sniffed dismissively.

“Is this where I’m to be banished?” The man complained, looking over at Aspen Strong. “This drafty English castle?” He waved his hand around the grand entrance.

Richard was gratified to see that he wasn’t the only one who bristled. Jones’s red tinted lips tipped down and he caught Kami and Harmony Susuki grimacing at each other.

Strong rolled her eyes and squeezed his shoulder with her metal hand. “You’ll get used to it. Here, let’s get you something to eat and get caught up.” She glanced around. “Although maybe we should get Doctor Russo to look at you first?”

Jones shook their head. “She left to arrange her sabbatical. We have to make it look natural, she can’t just up and vanish.”

Strong shrugged and continued to drag Bonaparte with her. He did not seem to expect her strength and stumbled over his own feet following along, glancing around at the castle’s tapestries and the small glowing panels that were embedded among the masonry.

These were the panels that Richard had spent the majority of his morning studying. There was at least one is every room and he discovered that when activated they played small scenes, the actors appearing in a beam of light that Richard could pass his hand through, as if they were made of fog. To his understanding they represented what the life of the castle would have been like to live in.

It had shocked him, when Richard activated one of the panels and was confronted with himself. The representation was fairly close, although the clothes were plain and he seemed too old. But the scene was of himself, with Anne. They were in audience with several nobles, their hands lifelessly clasped together as they listened.

Richard played the scene several times, his heart tight as he stared at Anne. Her representation was a poor one, her features plain and wooden, but Richard could look into her eyes and with a little imagination, it was almost as if she was before him again. Before everything had gone so terribly wrong, their son taken from them and her own health plummeting like a dove shot out of the sky.

He’d only been pulled from his musings when Jones found him and pulled him along to meet the Emperor Bonaparte. Richard eyed the young man again, who was being instructed on how to use the food and clothing dispenser by Strong. His countenance seemed noble enough, but his name was not one that Richard was familiar with.

“Where is he from again?” He muttered to Jones.

“He’s Corsican and French by marriage. I suppose you could also count him as Austrian if you tried,” they said.

Richard snorted. “Why didn’t you drag Leonardo down here, then?”

“Oh! We should introduce him, shouldn’t we? Would you get him, please?” Jones asked, eyes wide.

Richard’s refusal was on the very edge of his tongue, pressing up against his teeth before he remembered that he had no authority here. He clenched his jaw together and spun on his heel, towards the stairs.

“Thank you!” Jones called out after him.

XXX

Leonardo took his own good time in answering Richard’s summons.

He was disheveled and was biting back a yawn when he opened the door. He seemed disappointed to see Richard, mouth twitching into a small frown.

“Ah. Richard, how lovely. Good morning,” Leonardo mumbled, leaning against the door frame. “What can I do for you?”

“It’s noon, the day’s half over. Have you been asleep the entire time?” Richard’s voice rose incredulously. Leonardo waved his complaint away, smothering another yawn.

“I was reading all night.”

Richard frowned and mentally marked down sloth onto Leonardo’s list of faults. “There’s a new person downstairs.”

Leonardo regarded him blankly.

“Another one. One like us. He was Emperor of France, apparently.”

Leonardo blinked and straightened up. “Emperor? Well that is something,” he muttered and nodded to Richard. “I’ll be down shortly. What is his name?”

“Bonaparte.”

Leonardo nodded again and whirled away, snapping the door shut in Richard’s face. Relieved of his duty, Richard took the opportunity to return to the chapel. After all, Jones never said he had to return.

XXX

Leonardo was enjoying the future. More than he ever could have guessed. It was as if he had finally found where he was meant to be. Everything about it was fantastic. There was a quote in one of his own biographies “It was as if Leonardo had woken to find the world still dark.”  Leonardo was awake again and found that everything was illuminated to an almost painful degree. 

Leonardo made his way into the heart of the castle and he could hear Aspen speaking to someone. 

“So I still unclear. Are you technically French or Italian? Because you were Emperor of France but your army was Italian?”

Leonardo had just stepped off the final stair as the man answered. “I am Corsican. Neither Italy nor France had a right to claim and oppress my home.”

Aspen’s eyebrows were raised as she listened to him. She was resting her chin on her human hand. As Leonardo drew close she waved at him. 

“Either way I guess you’ll have company here, beside all the barbarous British. Leonardo, come and say hello to Napoleon Bonaparte.”

The man turned in his seat and blinked at Leonardo, thin brows drawing together slightly. Leonardo offered his hand and bowed slightly from the waist. 

“I’m pleased to know you. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard the news from Corsica.”

Napoleon nodded, still staring at Leonardo as if he couldn’t place him. “Yes. And you are?” He glanced at Aspen. 

“Leonardo as in da Vinci. He died in France, right?”

Leonardo smiled, thinking back on his borrowed chateau. “Ambroise. It was beautiful.” 

Napoleon’s eyes had widened and he suddenly stood, taking Leonardo hand and shaking it enthusiastically. “You! You painted the Mona Lisa!”

Leonardo smiled. “Si. You admire her?” 

Napoleon’s smile was a wide and toothy thing. “I love her. I put her in my bedroom, in the Tuileries. She is the best of all the portraits I have ever seen. Not even David could capture the like on canvas.”

The praise made Leonardo flush. “Oh. Well, thank you. She’s not finished,” he admitted.

Aspen slapped her hand down on the table. “Perfect! Since the two of you get on, Leonardo can you show Napoleon around the rest of Middleham? You know, get him all caught up? I need to speak to Magpie.”

Leonardo nodded and gestured to the door that led into the courtyard. “Your highness, I’ve been reading up on the history of this castle. I think you’ll be interested to learn about the Nevilles.”

Napoleon’s lip curled back and out of the corner of his eye, Leonardo saw Aspen flinch. 

“I doubt there is, but I would like to take a look at the fortifications. Are there maps, as well? I want to know where exactly on this damned island I am.”

XXX

With Napoleon taken care of Aspen headed back up to the offices where she found Magpie and Harm looking over his program for finding the recently-resurrected. 

“Is Napoleon all settled in?” Magpie asked. Aspen leaned against the desk and watched as Harm did something clever with the coding. 

“Yep. I drafted Leonardo to help. What’s this?” She asked, gesturing to the screens.

“I was thinking it over last night. If we’re trying to figure out how many of these uh,” Harmony looked at Magpie to fill in. 

“Temporarily-displaced,” Magpie said at the same time Aspen shouted “dead people!”

“Zombies,” Harmony nodded at Aspen. “If we’re trying to find zombies and we know they don’t have IDs then instead of combing every millimeter of the planet with the smart recognition program all we should need to do instead is use subtraction right?”

Aspen looked at him blankly. “What? How?”        

“We can always know how many IDs are currently on Earth. There’s a live counter right on the Federation site. Look,” Harm pressed his display and it popped up on the screen. As Aspen watched the counter fluctuate around 11 billion, the last five digits changing faster than she could read them. Harm pressed another button and it froze. 

“Then all we need to do is take the Terran-tracking life sign counter, the one that the Federation uses on a private database.” Another number, this one at 11.4 billion and Harm pressed it. “So then I’ll subtract the two and remove the calculations from the Martian colony.”

“But how does that help us find them?” Magpie pressed. “All we’ll know there’s a discrepancy.” 

Harm smiled and held up a finger. “Ah! I’m glad you asked boss. Now all I have to do is find the life signs that don’t have a corresponding ID…” He swiped his fingers across the board. “So these are the remaining ones. What I’ll do now map out each of these life signs.”

He flicked his fingers up and the holo-globe popped up. As Aspen watched little blips of light started appearing. They then kept appearing, like a little leak that reveals a serious problem in the plumbing. 

“I think you’re calculations must be off,” Aspen said. “There must be-”

“It’s one hundred and forty-seven,” Harm told her. “The flickering ones are accounted to births/deaths.”

“But the others…” Magpie slid their fingers over the globe, spinning it. “Look! There’s these three in Vegas City. And over here in Moscow. And look, here’s where we are! Oh my god.” They looked at Aspen and Harm, eyes wide and horrified. “If there’s really this many…”

“Then what the hell are we going to do?” Aspen finished.

Season Two. Episode Sixteen: The Emperor. Part 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?