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

Episode Sixteen: The Emperor. Part One.

Aspen set the flyer down inside the underground lot and flipped off the engines. She turned around to look at Russo, who was fiddling with the straps of her belt.

“Well then, let’s go and meet everyone, shall we?”

Russo nodded mutely.

Aspen led the way into the castle and pushed her way past the double doors.

Magpie was sitting at the grand table, fingers drumming on the table and looking over a spread of tablets. They looked up at Aspen’s arrival and shot to their feet when they saw Russo.

“Aspen, and Doctor Russo, I presume?”

They started forward with a huge grin on their face.

Russo shook hands, looking surprised. “I don’t think we’ve ever met before.”

“We haven’t but I’m delighted you are here anyway. You can just call me Magpie.”

Russo nodded then gestured to Aspen. “I was told that you had a most,” she hesitated, “interesting project that you wanted my assistance on.”

Magpie nodded. “Yes, I do. How much has Aspen told you?”

“That you have a dead man living in the castle,” Russo said flatly. Magpie shot Aspen a raised eyebrow. She shrugged her shoulders.

“That’s a partial truth. You see, we actually have two dead men living in our castle.”

XXX

Leonardo was woken from a light doze by a knock on the door.

“Hey, Leonardo? Are you awake?”

He blinked and shook his head, coming awake near instantly. He rolled off the bed and crossed to open the door. Aspen was standing there. Her brown eyes flickered over Leonardo’s shoulder and she leaned to the right slightly, peering into his room.

“Something I can help you with?” He asked eyebrow raised.

She grinned at him, shameless. “Funny, I thought Jerome might be here.”

Leonardo fought the urge to flush. “Non, he went home.”

“Hmmm, really? I knew he wasn’t a gentleman.” Aspen smirked.

Leonardo put up a single finger, hushing her. “He has been nothing but proper. Now was there a real reason for you to wake me or are you just here to tease me?”

She shook her multitude of braids back from her face, sobering. “Yes actually. We have someone we want you and Richard to meet. Magpie is waking his highness now, so come on,” she waved him on with her mechanical hand.

Leonardo darted back to grab his notebook and the new lead pencil that Jerome had brought him and followed Aspen’s broad frame down.

There was a striking black-skinned woman with long hair who was sitting at the table with her hands clasped tightly around a cup. She looked up as Leonardo and Aspen came down. She glanced over at Aspen.

“Who is this?”

Leonardo bowed at the bottom of the stairs. “I am Leonardo ser Piedro da Vinci, signora.”

He heard her gasp and looked up, smiling slightly.

Her brown eyes were wide and her mouth gaped open slightly. Leonardo noticed the way her eyelids fluttered as she glanced over his face as if trying to see if he was recognizable. Leonardo doubted it, the only (official) portrait he’d ever done of himself was considerably different than how he looked now.

“Leonardo da Vinci?” She asked faintly, as he walked forward. “Like, the Gian Giaconda, Leonardo?”

He nodded and she took a deep breath and braced her hand on the table. Before she could ask anything else Magpie arrived with grumpy looking Richard in tow.

“Here he is! This is his highness Richard the Third, King of England,” Magpie announced grandly. Richard glanced at the woman then back to Magpie.

“Who is this woman?” He asked. Leonardo winced, seeing her expression darken slightly. Magpie also flinched and Aspen buried her face into her human hand.

“I’m doctor Primavera Russo. Jones invited me here to see if I can help you,” the doctor said and held out her hand, pointedly remaining seated. Leonardo raised his eyebrows. He’d been in the presence of many men who would have had her promptly beaten for such a flagrant display of disrespect to royalty.

Richard’s expression went wooden and he stiffly shook her hand, before turning to Magpie.

“I told you, I am not having anything more done to my body. Your doctors have already done enough to me.”

Magpie looked hurt for just a moment, their goldish-brown eyes dimming and casting to the floor.

Russo bristled. “Look, I came here of my own volition. Furthermore, it’s for your own good,” she sniffed.

Richard whipped around and Leonardo took a step back while Aspen stepped forward.

“For my own good?! How dare-” Richard growled.

The doctor stood up and Leonardo realized that she’d been disguising her height. She was as tall as Leonardo was and seemed to tower over Richard. To his credit, the ex-king did not shrink away.

“Yes, I dare. Jones is trying to do something nice for you, and if it’s true that you come from the 16th century, it’s something that you can’t even imagine. But if you’re going to be an ass about it, I can just as well leave,” the doctor snapped in his face. Leonardo looked over at Aspen who had her eyebrows raised.

Magpie stepped between the two and with a little effort forced them apart.

“I think we got off on the wrong foot here,” they muttered, before turning to Richard with a sigh.

“Richard, please. I want to help you, and so does Doctor Russo.”

Russo scoffed and tossed her head.

Magpie turned to the doctor. “Also, about you leaving…”

Russo raised an eyebrow. “What about it?”

Aspen stepped forward. “Well the Federation or, I guess Haruka, is not pleased with these guys. She already sent Rivera after them once. And I’m not sure how long it’ll take her to realize where we’re hiding them.”

Russo frowned. “But this is why you needed someone to come here? And that’s how you found me?”

Aspen shrugged. “Basically. So now that you know, we’re gonna need you to take, like a vow of silence or something.”

The doctor’s frown intensified. “You didn’t tell me this earlier,” she growled. “I’m not wild about the idea of Haruka arresting me and sending me to do farm labor.”

Aspen shrugged again. “We needed to get you here.”

Russo growled again but was interrupted by Richard. “She should leave. I have already informed Magpie I do not wish anything more done to my body.” He turned his back to the doctor. “I will be in the chapel.”

Magpie sent a slightly panicked look at Aspen and then at Russo.

The doctor stormed forward, her curls bouncing. “Hey! I’m here to help, and from the look of it, I could completely straighten your back! But I guess if you don’t care about your quality of life…” She trailed off.

Richard had stopped.

“That’s impossible,” he said rigidly. “There’s nothing that can be done.”

Russo stepped forward again. “Actually, yes there is. It should have been done when you were a child, but it’s not too late.”

Richard finally turned, looking wary. “How?”

Doctor Russo tilted her head slightly. “Well, I’d probably have to make you a prosthetic and replace the one you have now. It’s been done before. The only issue would be making you one when you can’t leave this castle.”

Richard moved back towards her. “Replace it? How?”

“It’s a little complicated. It’d be easier to show you if this place is wired for database access.” She looked at Magpie who was beaming.

“Yes. Yes, absolutely!”

Richard looked between them. “Are you sincere? My back could be as it once was?”

Russo nodded. “Yes. I can do it.” She glanced at Magpie with a raised eyebrow. “I won’t be able to fix his attitude though.”

XXX

On the moon prison, The Bastille.

Maximilien kept waking up, even though he never seemed to fall asleep. The light had burned into his eyes and a thin grey mist was beginning to obscure his vision. It felt like a hot needle being shoved into the base of his skull every time he opened his eyes.

Max had never been a strong man, his childhood had been punctuated by illness that left him thin and pale. During the Revolution, he would work himself up to the brink and then find himself dangling over a long dark fall. Now imprisoned, he could feel his meager strength leeching away. While the bread and water were sustaining him, Maxime had no idea for how long until he would drift into that hazy space of illness.

Maybe I’m already there, he thought as he opened his eyes and saw a figure standing against the wall.

“Well this is certainly a fine mess,” Georges Danton said. “For someone who insists that he is irreproachable in terms of respectability and virtue you certainly find yourself on the wrong side of the law, eh Robespierre?”

Maxime closed his eyes, heart racing erratically. Danton could no more be there than Camille could and he couldn’t bear the sight of his bloodied lips any more than he could his last vision.

“Come mon ami. I thought you said you would love me till death, now you won’t even meet my eyes,” Danton goaded him and Max looked up flushing.

“I do, I did,” he hissed. “I wasn’t the one who-“

Danton walked closer and Max swallowed his arguments.

He’s not real, he’s not real, he’s not real. He can’t harm you any more than the air can.

“Who what, Maxime? I implore you, finish your accusation. At least time you do it to my face,” Danton’s voice had no trouble filling the room.

Heart still racing Maxime found his feet and suddenly-

He was back in his rooms. The window was open to the Duplay’s courtyard. The bedroom door shut but unlocked. Danton seated at his desk as Max paced.

“You’ve been corrupted,” Max said, resisting the urge to shout. “You took bribes.” It felt like a slap to the face. Camille had vouched for his honor. Maxime told Danton as such and to his fury, the big man merely shrugged.

Maxime gasped and staggered to the side, furious. Danton was still standing in front of him and with a cry of anger and grief, Max rushed towards him.

He slammed into the white wall and fell back, the taste of metallic-salt filling his mouth. As his eyes fogged over he rolled onto his side and spit the blood out of his mouth. Max shuddered remembering his teeth being shattered in his mouth after he was shot.

Maxime curled into a ball into one of the corners of the room, his hands clasped over his ears, nails digging into the flesh of his bare scalp. He couldn’t tell if it was his imagination or the past rising from its grave to haunt him but he could dimly hear the screams and shouts of the sans-culottes, the slish-thunk of the national razor, the shouts of the Convention. He desperately wanted to sleep and leave this nightmare but it refused to come to him.

Maximilien couldn’t imagine being anymore miserable than he was and thought longingly of Rain’s house. Even Richard’s company would be welcome at this point.

Cutting through the mist of blood-red noise, there was the increasingly familiar sound of displaced air. Maxime turned over and looked at the center of the room.

There was a small loaf of bread and a pitcher of water.

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

Season Two. Episode Thirteen: Illumination. Part Three.

Episode Thirteen: Illumination. Part Three.

“This is unbelievable!” Clio snapped and crossed her arms.

Next to her, Spectra snorted. “No kidding. Usually I do all of the animal work, but it seems you have a regular mixed bag of genres, friend.”

They were standing and watching as Doctor Rainbow Miller’s dogs dug into a cluster of recycling cans on the edge of the a small mountain town.

The dogs had run all day and night and were now nearing what used to be the old town of Boulder. The puppy, the fluffy little dog with eyes like black buttons seemed to be having the time of her life, rolling in rotted produce and buffalo. The bigger dogs were more sedate but rooted through the trash none the less.

Clio threw her hand up. “Unbelievable. I’m one of the oldest and most respected Muses on all of the Orphan Planet. I’ve been seen entire religions be built, then thrive and crumble into dirt. I’m the last direct descendent of Zeus! And where does it get me?” She stamped her foot and tossed her head, her one eye flashing dangerously. “Dog watching, and babysitting the dead.”

Spectra laughed her high dangerous cackle, throwing her head back and grasping her sleek white pantsuit in her clawed hands.

“Oh go away trickster. You have other mortals to torment!” Clio shouted.

Spectra grinned, sharp teeth peeking past her lips. “You bitch now, but when the Man recalls you, you’ll be sad to leave your babies as always. Also dog sitting is no bad gig.”

Clio huffed and turned away. Spectra left.

“Stupid hyena. If you lived in my time Heracles would have skinned you and made you a loin cloth.”

XXX

Ava stiffly sat on the edge of the pack, head lifted and turned to the breeze to catch the scent of the close by human settlement. They’d found an abandoned hole to cluster together in and now she sat sentinel.

The pack had run all day, despite Baby and sometimes Jep, the spaniel needing to be carried in one of the larger dog’s mouths.

“Waiting on your human?” An amused voice asked and Norma crept out of the shadows, her long low body brushing along the ground.

“No. I will never wait on a human,” Ava swore. Norma yawned and laid down on her side.

“You do know must humans aren’t Rain, right? Most of them seem to be kind to us and ours.”

Ava didn’t respond, lifting her nose higher.

“We can go over the mountains. There’s an ocean on the other side. Rain’s males might have gone there,” Norma told her quietly.

“We’ll go around them, towards the north.”

Norma huffed in understanding. They two dogs watched the dark night sky.

“I’ve heard it said that at one point, when our ancestors roamed this land that there were countless pinpricks of light in the sky, called stars. I saw them once on one of Rain’s machines.” Norma spoke softly, a hint of wishing in her high whine.

Ava looked upward. She couldn’t see anything other than the velvety darkness.

“Do you think we’ll see stars?” She asked the older dog.

Norma rolled over and tucked her forepaws down towards her chest.

“Someday maybe. Let’s think of tomorrow, for now.”

“For now,” Ava agreed.

XXX

Leonardo sighed and sat down on one of the cots.

The tour had finally left, the high childish voices echoing in the stone hallways. He and Richard crept back down, Richard grumbling about having to sneak around his own home, and found themselves in the middle of some mild chaos. It seemed to be the status quo.

“We can’t just turn them out, Marie is still out there!” Aspen was saying loudly to Jerome, whose hands were held up in either platitude or protection.

“I’m not saying that! I’m just saying that we need to think this through first, alright?” Jerome said steadily.

“There’s nothing to think about,” Magpie declared, their hands on their hips. “We’re having them stay, until we can figure out a more permanent place.”

“More permanent?” Leonardo asked, bemused. Everyone’s head twisted around to stare at them.

“Well yes. While we can’t return you to your own time, there’s no reason you can’t live comfortably on earth,” Magpie said.

“But what about?” Richard gestured to the back of his own neck. “Won’t your government know?”

“Not if you live carefully. You won’t be able to use transporters or move around very much, but there’s low tech villages that still exist, ones where people aren’t expected to flash their neck for every little thing,” Harm said.

Leonardo nodded, but his heart sank. What was the purpose of his mind if he was simply going to fritter it away in some village? Was that what he’d gone to Florence for? To Milan and Rome?

Next to him Richard didn’t look any happier but, he seemed to sink in on himself, exhaustion finally making his shoulder bow.

“Right well, that’s settled. Now we’re going to set you up with rooms for the night, it’s been a long day,” Magpie ordered. The look on Richard’s face as he was ordered to bed in his own home was quite amusing.

Leonardo’s new room was in one of the towers, with a simple desk and a cot that had been quickly replicated and assembled. The narrow window allowed a shaft of sunlight in, but Leonardo yawned hugely. It was past seven but the sun was still high. He theorized that it was because England was so much further north than Italy had been.

He turned his face toward the pillow, yawning again. Leonardo could hardly remember being so tired in his entire life. He wondered where Robespierre was, if he was safe or already dead. He wondered what stone Middleham was made out of, he wondered what made Richard’s spine twist…

Leonardo fell asleep still asking questions.

Season Two. Episode Thirteen: Illumination. Part Two.

Episode Thirteen: Illumination. Part Two.

Maximilien Robespierre decided he was really very tired of being dragged around. His vision was blurred and every few steps he stumbled as the guards marched quickly down a long curving corridor. The lighting was a flat washed out yellow light, and when he squinted at the walls, it didn’t seem like there were any windows.

Where on earth was he?

The woman who’d barked orders and had his glasses taken had said it was the Bastille, but that was impossible. That most hated symbols of tyranny was gone, he’d lived through its deconstruction. Seen it’s crumbling sad architecture himself.

How could this be the Bastille?

Maximilien was jerked from his theories when the guards made a sharp right and he nearly twisted his ankle on their boots.

He was released and he stumbled away from them, hands subtly out so he could feel if he was going hit something.

“Take your clothes off,” was all the one of the escorts said. Max gaped.

“Excuse me?” He managed to get out of his strangled vocal cords. One of them moved and he realized that they were both likely armed. A cold sweat broke over his skin.

“Remove them or we will do it for you,” she insisted.

Max hesitated, but just for a touch too long because the next thing he knew one of them caught his wrists, twisting them around to hold them behind his back and the other was cutting his clothes away with quick efficient movements. Stunned he froze before trying to twist his hands out of the tight grip.

“Stop resisting,” she ordered and lifted his wrists higher up his back. Now trying to move made it feel as if he was going to break his own arm.

Maximilien grit his teeth as the sharp blades ran along the front of his torso, his shirt falling open. His heart raced and a grey fog swirled around the edge of his vision.

“Why are you doing this?” He burst out, the shirt pushed off his shoulders to fall in scraps at his feet.

Neither answered, and he gasped as his hands were pulled yet higher. His belt was ripped away and he screwed his eyes shut as both his trousers and small clothes were pulled down to his ankles. A firm grip on his ankle and one shoe, then the other, was removed.

Max’s wrists were finally released and he swayed, rooted to the spot, as the feeling came back to his hands. The guard behind him nudged him forward.

“Step into the shower. We’re not done yet,” her palm was warm in between his shoulder blades. The touch made him shudder.

They made him place his palms on the cool tile in front of him. However when the cool touch of metal was applied to the back of his neck, he gasped and lashed out.

“Grab him!”

Arms like steel crushed him and another strong hand grabbed the back of his neck, and pushed his face into the tile. Max closed his eyes again and willed himself calm, shaking as the snip snip snip of scissor went all around his head, hair falling in tangled strands to the floor.

Maximilien was panting by the time they were done, heart racing and knees shaking. The arms released him and he sagged against the wall. Both of his guards backed away and he was privately grateful. Until the moment very cold water started pouring over him, He flinched away, but a barked out “Don’t move!” made him freeze.

The water pounded down on his newly shaved head and shoulders. It never became any warmer and his teeth were chattering by the time they were done.

He was grabbed again and this time his hands were firmly locked behind his back in crossed metal cuffs before they grabbed his arms and started marching him down the corridor again.

Max shivered as they walked for a very long time. It could have been in circles for all he knew, everything here looked the same, but eventually they stopped, and he was pushed into another room. This time, without his hands to catch himself, he stumbled and landed painfully on his bare knees. By the time Max righted himself, his guards were gone and there was slightly blue haze on the air.

Head spinning Maximilien stared, as if he could will them to reappear and explain what in the hell just happened.

His heart beat slowed as Max concentrated on breathing. He pushed himself to his feet, and slowly walked over to the blue haze. He took a deep breath and stepped forward.

Or he tried to, because when he brought his bare foot into contact with the haze it felt as if someone had splashed cognac onto an open would, stinging and burning along his toes and the ball of his foot.

He leapt back and hissed quietly. He squinted as he looked around, trying to make out the greater details of his room-his cell.

It was a plain white tile room. There was not bed or mattress, no chair or desk, no windows. He walked the circumference and nearly broke his ankle when he stepped into a hole that he assumed was meant to serve as a commode. And that was it.

Max sat down, cross legged, in a corner of the cell. His back pressed into the smooth tile, and feet braced flat on the floor. It was cold and he shivered again.

Had Richard and Leonardo gotten away?

Were they, like him, trapped in here somewhere?

Had they been killed in the struggle? The last he’d seen was Leonardo being pulled away and he’d assumed that he’d done the sensible thing and run away, but now Max was realizing that it might not have been that simple.

He tilted his head back and stared at the ceiling, squinting slightly. These lights were likely going to cause a massive pulsing headache in his temples before long but, that seemed like the least of his problems currently.

Maxime sighed.

Why did that women who’d arrested him, taken his glasses, and put him in here seem to hate him so? And would she see him through to a trail, or was this a classic, common case of injustice, as Max had fought against during his life?

He curled up tighter, and rested his forehead on his knees, his back protesting.

What would happen to him now?

XXX

Rainbow Miller spun her chair idly, her hands still handcuffed behind her.

“So now you have him naked and contained, hm Chikara? What comes next?”

Chikara Haruka stood next to her, hands placed neatly behind her back and feet even with her shoulders as she observed the first prisoner the orbital moon prison, the Bastille, had seen in two decades.

“You do, Doctor Miller.”

Rain stopped her spinning, looking up at the head of Federation security. “Me? I’m flattered Chikara, I never knew you thought so highly of me.”

Haruka looked down at her. “I don’t but you will put to rights what you have done, and it starts now.” She leaned down and pressed a button on the com station in front of Rain.

The doctor leaned forward, her long dark braid falling over her shoulder. She read the first few lines before slowly looking up at Chikara.

“This is about physical and mental interrogation techniques…”

Chikara nodded once. “Yes.”

Rain tilted her head. “I’m sorry but it was my impression that the Federation banned torture at the end of the last World War.”

Chikara stared at her. “Do you know why everyone in the Federation wears an ID?”

“It makes tax collecting simple?” Rain replied snidely.

“Because not only does it protect the population form each other, it also protect them from the government. ID and ID tracking is nearly public knowledge. It doesn’t take much to find anyone on any of the Federation planets or space stations. If you have a relative on a labor farm, you can easily check their wellbeing by just knowing their ID number,” Chikara explained.

Rain rolled her eyes. “I know. I’m one of the top scientists the Federation never hired. I know how the system works.”

“Then you’ll also realize that IDs prevent the Terran Federation from harming any of its citizens. All 80 billion of them are protected by public knowledge.”

“Yes, so?”

Chikara suddenly leaned down into Rain’s face, her dark brown eyes were like a tree struck by lightning.

“Except for three of them. The three you created and unleashed onto an unknowing population, with their savage ideas, and unknown contagions, and their violent hideous customs,” Chikara hissed, eye lashes fluttering with the force of her hate.

She straightened back up.

“And now Doctor Miller, you are going to help me and be in charge of cleaning up your mess. You are going to take apart that beast you’ve unleashed and when I find the other two, you’re going to do the same to them,” Chikara stabbed her finger empathetically at the screen where Robespierre was curled up into his corner.

Rain stared at her with wide eyes.

“Good god. And people say I’m a maniac,” she muttered. Louder she said, “No. I will not help you torture a man to insanity Chikara. I might play fast and loose but even I’m not that unethical!”

“You were unethical enough to bring these wretches back, weren’t you?”

“Yes but that was quick and painless! You’re talking about breaking a man’s mind on a metaphorical wheel, and I won’t do it.” Rain spun her chair around, chin up in the air. “You can have one of your kept scientists see to it and I’ll go directly to the labor farm, thanks.”

She heard Chikara sigh softly and after a moment a firm grip on her chair turned her back to the com station.

But now it wasn’t showing Maximilien. It was showing Kamala Manson.

“She’s your intern, correct?” Chikara asked, her tone crisp. “I have two officers following her and waiting on my word to be brought into custody. Her charge will be treason, just like you. She’ll serve right there with you on one of the Federation Farms in Arizona. I can arrange it,” her fingers snapped, “that fast.”

Rain’s mouth went dry. Kamala was walking along the Nile, her face buried in a tablet. Her wedding ring glinted in the sunlight.

“I will give you three seconds Doctor Miller, and then I will make the call.”

Kam had been so scared of the Labor Farms, she’d squealed immediately to Chikara’s husband.

“Three.”

She’d walked out on Rain, leaving her to her own devices. She didn’t even know about Robespierre or Richard.

“Two.”

This wasn’t her fault. Rain couldn’t destroy what might be a good, possibly great career of a kind young woman for that of ex-dead Frenchman.

Sorry Robespierre. Sacrifices have to be made sometimes and it looks like you’ve lost the day.

“On-.”

“Call your boots off. I’ll do it,” Rain snapped.

For a moment it looked like Chikara was going to do it anyway, but she pressed her communicator and ordered, “Abandon your target.”

Rain sighed and flexed her hands.

“Alright, you have what you want. Now take these cuffs off. I can’t very well find out how to destroy someone with my hands bound now can I?”