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

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

Leonardo had been eleven years old, the first time he realized what he was.

He’d been walking back from his mother and step-father’s house, idly swinging a stick he’d found. His gaze was on the sky, watching the birds.

The laborers were coming in from the vineyards and the sun was setting over the hills. One of them had stripped to his waist, his shirt draped around his shoulders. The sun reflected off the sweat that dripped down his neck and chest. Leonardo could still remember the way the muscles moved under his arms and stomach. His first lesson in anatomy, burned into his eyes. Something uncomfortably warm settled over his skin and in his belly.

Leonardo stood off to the side of the road, watching them walk by. Some of them raised their hands and waved to “Accattabriga’s son.” He waved back, eyes till firmly fixed on the shirtless man.

As he grew older he realized what had happened that evening, the first touches of attraction, of arousal.

And as Leonardo grew, he also came realized how dangerous it was.

At seventeen he was arrested. While Florence was lenient in its policy on sodomy, Leonardo knew how close he could have been to imprisonment, or execution. This served as an important lesson in his life: no matter how much he showed, the truth of his nature should always be obscured.

Until now.

Leonardo’s hands landed on Jerome’s shoulders as they stepped close together. Jerome’s white teeth flashed against his dark skin right before their lips met.

Leonardo shut his eyes, taking a deep breath through his nose as a warm tide rushed through him, tingling starting through his fingers and toes. Then Jerome tilted his head slightly and there was a wet questioning pressure on his lips. Leonardo made a noise in the back of his throat as the kiss deepened. Jerome grabbed at his waist and pulled them flush together.

The sun had reached its zenith by the time they pulled apart, and Leonardo ran a trembling hand through his hair. It had been a very long time since he’d been kissed like that.

Jerome sighed quietly, and grinned at him. “I have to go home before my shift starts tonight.”

Before he could think it through Leonardo blurted out, “I have a bed, you know.” Then he flushed.

Jerome’s eyebrows had risen up to his hairline. “You know, in other circumstances…”

Leonardo waved his hand. “I misspoke. If you needed to sleep, then I’m assuming that my chambers could serve.”

After leaning over and pressing a kiss to his cheek, Jerome backed away. “That’s nice of you to offer, but I have other stuff I need to do, and my sister is expecting me to call her today.”

Leonardo blinked. “You have a sister?”

“Yeah she works in security too, doing something for the capital.” Jerome slung on his jacket, and smoothed down the front. “She likes me to call every week or so. But,” he winked, “I might take you up on that offer some other time.”

Leonardo smiled. “I’ll keep that in mind.”

XXX

Clio had been wandering around the prison where Robespierre was being kept when she suddenly blinked and was in another place entirely.

Startled, she looked around and groaned aloud.

“For the love of Zeus, what are you people doing now?” She groused, leaning back against a brick wall.

The room was brightly lit by large windows going across the top of ceiling and the floor was simple hard worn wooden planks. At one end of the room two people were clustered around a computer screen. The woman was intently studying the text, muttering to herself. The man leaned over her, hand braced on her hard back chair.

“I don’t know Lotte, are you entirely sure of this?”

“You got what we needed, didn’t you Hamm? We’ve come this far. And I have it on good authority that Miller herself had something to do with this. Besides, can you imagine what the local government of Corsica would do for this?” She smiled.

The man looked frowned uncertainly, but finally sighed and shrugged.

“You’re funeral, Lotte. Let’s do this!”

Clio turned her head and caught sight of a steel operating table, where piles of different minerals were neatly organized. Next to it was an old fashioned defibrillator.

“Oh dear.”

XXX

The empty brightly lit room was quickly becoming Maximilien’s least favorite place in the world. His eyes ached, his stomach was twisted into knots, and there wasn’t a position he could lay in that didn’t make him bruise. Curled towards a corner was the closest thing he could find to comfort. He was mumbling the Declaration of the Rights of Man to himself when he heard the most unlikely thing: a dog barking.

Max raised his head, eyes squinted. It was impossible but it sounded like Brount. He was hearing things, there was no way Brount could be here. His beloved dog was dead, like everything else. In an eternal sleep and lost to time.

But…

Max shut his eyes and laid down on his back, trying to pull himself back, back to Arras after he’d originally gotten the hound. He’d enjoyed talking walks in the evening, just into the fields, past the multitudes of cathedrals and churches. The puppy bounding around his ankles, and snapping at birds and rabbits.

“Do you remember at le Grand, being told not to trample the wheat? Did you get a massive dog simply to spurn them?”

Maximilien eyes snapped open and he looked over at the wall. Incredibly, impossibly, there was someone standing there.

Camille Desmoulins flicked his hair back from his eyes and smiled at him. His head wobbled precariously and red blood seeped into his cravat.

“Bonjour M-m-maxime!”

Max’s mouth dropped open. Then he screamed, a rending, tearing sound that hurt his throat and ears. Tears involuntary came to his eyes with the force of it. He clapped hands to his eyes and buried his face in his knees.

“Non, non, non, non!” He moaned. “You cannot be real, you cannot exist.”

“You’d like that, w-wouldn’t you?” Camille muttered. “I’m sure it would be very con-convenient for you, Maxime, if you could click your fingers and make me vanish.”

Horrified to his core, Max slowly raised his head, eyes still screwed shut. “I would never-”

“And yet, you did,” the figure returned viciously. Then he stepped closer. Maximilien cringed against the wall.

“You’re not real. You do not exist. This isn’t happening,” he told himself firmly, even as very real fear soaked into his heart. Camille ignored him (as he always did) and soon stood over Max.

The younger man stared down at him before dramatically whipping off his head and throwing into Maximilien’s lap.

The ghoulish face, will blood staining its lips and teeth smiled gently up at him.

He screamed again, clawing at his own face as he scrambled to his feet, pressing himself to the wall and scuttling away from the figure and the head that tumbled to the floor.

For a long moment the only sound was Max’s harsh breathing. He kept his eyes closed and pressed his face to the wall.

“He’s not real. He wasn’t here. Camille is dead,” he muttered.

Because I killed him.

Max took a deep breath and turned his head to look. The room was empty.

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

Episode Fifteen: No One So Little Loved. Part One.

Despite his dire predictions, Maximilien found that he was able to keep the bread down. Even better, his hands were left free, not that there was anything to do, but he hoped this was a sign that perhaps his jailers were coming around to the idea that Max was innocent of whatever crime they were charging him with. A little voice in his mind, one he’d been ignoring since his resurrection, stuttered, “M-maxime, you know exactly what they can charge you with, d-don’t ignore me.” He shoved it aside, the images it conjured and the hot flare of anger and grief in his stomach.

In the meanwhile, he sat in the middle of his cell and wondered if there was anyone else here. Maximilien refused to think of it as the Bastille, since he was convinced that they could not possibly be the same place. He might not have been as well versed in architecture as he had been other areas, but even Max realized that a previously square prison couldn’t not suddenly become a circle.

He had not heard another voice since his hands had been released and no guards had even passed by his cell. Did they intend to keep him here in solitary? Would this be his tomb, if the bread and water stopped appearing? And even if they did…when would Maximilien decide that it was no longer worth eating?

It felt impossible to measure time, since the hideously bright lights of the cell reminded on at all times. He covered his eyes, sighing in the mild relief of darkness and curled up, facing the entrance. The hard floor was beginning to bruise his hip and ribs, but he didn’t dare sleep exposed on his back, with nothing more than what the Supreme Being gave him.

Maximilien slept, somehow. Possibly his body was simply so fatigued that is just gave up the possibility of being aware, and let him drift away into a gray fuzz that wasn’t even mentally restful. Feeling worse than when he went to sleep, Max awoke to the sound of displaced air.

There was another small loaf of bread and glass of water within arm’s length.

XXX

Aspen arrived at Middleham to see Richard walking around without a coat and examining the outer walls.

“Good morning. Have you seen Magpie yet?” She asked.

The former king shrugged. “There was a commotion this morning. Now they are gathered around Harmony’s screen.”

“Did they say anything about an attack this morning, in Paris?” Aspen asked curiously. She still wasn’t sure how far Magpie was expecting to communicate with the formerly dead.

Richard’s face stiffened. “They did not say anything to me. But Leonardo seems to understand what is going on, so they speak to him, instead.”

Aspen winced and ran a hand through her hair. What must it feel like to have previously been the most powerful man in the room and now be talked over by strangers using your castle as a glorified office lot?

“Well come inside with me, and we’ll find out what’s going on together,” Aspen clapped Richard on the arm. He stared at her, eyebrows raised.

“What?”

“You’re a maid but you speak to me as another man, or solider.” They started walking towards the door and Aspen snorted.

“Yeah?”

“It makes no sense. Are you like the Maid of Orleans, or do all women fight on the battlefield now?” Richard asked. Aspen shrugged.

“There’s hasn’t been a draft on earth for over seven centuries. So only people who want to fight, or be in the armed force, are. Some of them are women,” she explained simply. Richard seemed to mull this over while they walked through the castle.

It seemed that everyone else was crammed into Harmony’s office. Jerome and Leonardo stood towards the back. Leonardo’s head was tilted to the side and his gaze was on the screen, even as he restlessly fiddled with something in his hands. Jerome was leaning against the wall, arms crossed over his chest. He grinned at Aspen.

“Good of you to join the party,” he hissed. Aspen knocked the back of her metal hand against his chest.

“So, do we know yet? Is it really him?” She asked quietly. Jerome shrugged.

“That’s what Harm’s trying to figure out. So far the facial mapping hasn’t returned anything, and the footage of the explosion is too low res to see if anyone was in the room when the explosion happened.”

Aspen twisted her mouth. “So…we don’t know anything?”

Jerome nodded. “Pretty much.”

Leonardo leaned over. “I have a question. We are worried about another resurrection, si?” Aspen and Jerome nodded. “Why?”

Aspen blinked. “What do you mean why?”

“Why is the possibility of another one such a concern? If this Frenchmen is brought back, we can simply find him, as you did with us, and bring him back here,” Leonardo said simply.

Richard moved from Aspen’s side. “Are you saying you think we should just let it happen? Something as unnatural and devilish as the dead rising?” He demanded.

Leonardo raised his hands. “I’m saying that if the process has already begun, and we don’t have the means to stop it, there’s more to risk by trying to prevent it.”

Richard and Leonardo stared at each other, Richard with suspicion and Leonardo with careful expressionless.

Aspen was spared from finding out if she would need to prevent a fight between the two by Magpie.

“I don’t like saying it, but Leonardo might be right about this. We simply don’t have anything to go on until the recognition program picks something up. It’s possible that this is even unrelated.” They snorted, crossing their arms. “But that’d be a big coincident, for Napoleon’s tomb to suddenly be targeted right after someone figures out how to bring back the dead.”

They turned back to Harmony. “Is there a way to have it run continuous scans, so we know the second anything pops up?”

Harm waffled for a second. “That’s a huge order, boss. Going through the mass amounts of public visual fees like that…each search could take a full 24 hour cycle, and that’s if we know what we’re looking for.”

“But you think you could do it?” Magpie pushed. Harm gave them a shaky smile.

“Sure?”

“Atta boy.”

Aspen smiled at Harm over Magpie’s shoulder and gave him a big thumbs up. Next to her Jerome was suppressing his laughter. She quickly dropped her hand when Magpie turned around.

“Well, there’s no point crowding him now. Anyway, Aspen I need to see you in my office,” they flicked their ring burdened fingers at the door.

Everyone but Harm and Kami evacuated the office. Richard immediately making for the first floor. Leonardo wandered away but Aspen saw him give Jerome a glance before turning around. She tsked at him. He shrugged and grinned.

“I’m clocking out. I’ll see you later.”

Before Aspen could tease anymore Magpie appeared at her elbow. Coming up just past Aspen’s shoulder, they hovered like their namesake.

“Have a good day Jerome. Aspen.”

She nodded and followed them back to their office. As soon as the door closed the Agency director sat down at the desk and folded their hands neatly on top of it.

“Have you given any more thought to our previous discussion?” They asked promptly. Aspen stared at them wide eyed.

“Uhhh?”

Magpie frowned and tilted their head, silver bangs falling over. “The XD? A doctor for Richard?”

“Oh right! No, I haven’t. Why, did you find someone?” Aspen sat down, leaning forward on her knees. Magpie turned on the desk and flicked a file across the top of it.

“Check her out.”

Aspen raised an eyebrow. “Primavera Russo?”

“She’s out of The Milanese Academy of Medicine for her focus, osteology. Then Cairo University for her second…”

“Biodiversity and infectious dieses?” Aspen looked at Magpie questionably. “Why’s that matter?”

“She’s been a leading expert in the field of study extinct or rare dieses. Historical ones.” Magpie nodded significantly.

“She sounds like a lock.”

“I think so, which is why I want you to go talk to her.”

Aspen jerked back. “What? Me, why?”

“I’m a higher profile, in regard to the Federation. You’ll be able to move across the security checkpoints easier, and you’ll need to get used to the subterfuge.”

Now totally lost, Aspen stared at Magpie. “What? What subterfuge?”

Magpie sighed. “This morning’s incident reminded me of something. It was just a brief clip in the news but almost two weeks ago there was a rash of grave robbing. The official report was alien dissidents, but I’m beginning to think that it was probably another person who knows about whatever Rain used to bring back Richard and Leonardo.”

They stood up and paced behind their chair while Aspen considered this.

“If it’s somehow…leaked that there’s a technology to bring people back from the dead, then we’ll need to keep moving quickly to keep them from falling into the wrong hands. Can you imagine the damage some of these people could do? I know we’re talking about Napoleon now but there’s greater evils that le petit caporal.”

Magpie met Aspen’s eyes. They both frowned.

“You don’t think, not him.”

“I dread it.”

Aspen stood up. “Send me Doctor Russo’s information. I’ll find her after I clock out today. If you’re right, then we definitely want to stay under the radar, and if I go after work it’ll look more personal.”

Magpie smiled. “Thanks Aspen.”

She waved it off, but something cold had settled in her stomach. What had she gotten herself into?

XXX

Jerome Jenkins made his leisurely way around the castle, humming under his breath. His jacket was slung over his arm and he paused to look in every open door.

As he strolled he reflected on the morning’s events. It would be an interesting next few days he was sure. He grinned to himself, in a number of ways, probably.

After spending nearly a half an hour searching Jerome found Leonardo in an out of bounds area, the southwest tower. The tower still had many of its original stones that crumbled and flaked under Jerome’s finger tips when he brushed his hand over them.

Leonardo did not look up from where he was sketching away, eyes and hands focused exclusively on the paper.

“I wondered if you were going to find me,” the Italian said lowly, without taking his eyes away from the paper. Jerome leaned against the tower wall, and peered down. It was without a doubt far enough to kill a man. He swallowed and leaded back.

“I hoped that I wasn’t misreading the, situation,” Jerome said slowly. Leonardo finally looked at him and his light brown eyes were alight with playfulness. A familiar smiled was on his face.

“And what situation do you think that is, Signore Jerome?”

Instead of answering Jerome draped his jacket over the wall and took a step towards Leonardo. He was taller, but only barely.

“Why don’t you put that sketchbook down and find out?” He challenged quietly. Leonardo’s smiled widened and Jerome braced himself.

Season Two. Episode Fourteen: Crime. Part Three.

Episode Fourteen: Crime. Part Three.

Maximillien didn’t know how long he’d been alone when suddenly there was a small sound like displaced air and the unmistakable smell of bread hit him. He looked up from where he’d pressed his face into his knees, mumbling Rousseau’s Emille.

There was a brown lump sitting in the middle of the floor and next to it, a glass of some sort. Max scrambled to it as fast as his prone form would allow. His stomach been long empty and he’d been feeling lightheaded. Next to it was water, and he licked his dry lips.

He stared down at the bread and wondered if he was intended to eat it with his hands still bound when a voice spoke from on high.

“If you promise to comply, we will release your restraints.”

Two passions warred passionately in his mind for a moment. The base, animal desire for food, nutrition, a full stomach against his righteous indignation against his unjust imprisonment and not wanting anything to be easy for his captors.

Eventually, as if just to spite him, his stomach growled loud enough to echo in the plain white room and Max sneered.

“I will comply. Please, unbind your wretch.”

There was the sound of displaced air again and suddenly his hands were free.

Max had never tasted anything better than that bread. Nothing had been sweeter than the pure water than ran over his lips and tongue. He tried to pace himself, knowing that he could easily make himself sick if he went too fast but every bite seemed to simply make him hungrier.

XXX

“What’s your game, Miller?” Chikara asked, frowning. Her arms were stiff behind her as she watched the naked form stuff his mouth with bread. Next to her Miller sighed.

“We’re developing a base line, and a little bit of insurance. He needs to think that we’re trustworthy before we mess with his head.”

“Explain.”

“Please.” Chikara looked at Miller blankly. “You’re supposed to ask politely when you want something Major. You say, ‘please explain’.”

Chikara took out her laser pistol. “You will explain now, on the orders of the Terren Federation or suffer the consequences.”

Miller looked at her and then at the weapon in her hand. “Did you threaten your way to the top Chikara? Haven’t you ever played nice with anyone?”

“That is not information you need to know, now tell me what I need to know.”

Miller pushed the barrel away from her distastefully. “Fine. Look at this.”

She pulled up an information file, a civilian accessible one. There was nothing really special about it. It was about some sort of plant.

“What does it do?” Chikara finally had to ask.

“In essence, it’ll cause him to have visual and audio hallucinations. Fairly intense ones if anything I’ve read is correct. In addition it can also cause headaches, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, chills, so on and so forth. Point is, it’s not a good time.”

“You’re just going to make him ill? What’s the point?”

“Did you just ignore the first part of my description?” Miller asked impatiently. “The object is to get him to have hallucinations. If you’ve read his biography, it seems to me Robespierre is a gentleman with a lot of regrets. So if I were to play something like,” here Miller pressed a button and the sound of a hound barking filled the room. “This, he’ll probably think there are literal hellhounds after him, to punish him.”

“He’s so superstitious?” Chikara sneered. Miller shook her head.

“No. But our emotions do funny things when we’re stressed.” She turned from Chikara. “Trust me, this will work.”

XXX

Clio was startled.

This was unusual, because part of the very MO of being a Muse was to understand what what going on, wherever you were, but here she was: startled.

“What nowI?” she asked and crossed her arms.

Rain was bent over her computer terminal, giggling like a small child. She was on some sort of file sharing site, something buried layers deep, hosted on some ancient server and deliberately esoteric.

“You’re a regular witch, you know that?” She asked Rain’s head. “Simply terrible.”

“Oh I don’t know, I like her. She could be a great Trickster if she wasn’t so self-absorbed,” the Hyena sounded tired.

“So was Endor, but no one even remembers her now days,” Clio sniped back. She leant over rain’s shoulder. “She’s trying to pass on her wisdom.”

“Good for her.”

“Bad for everyone else,” Clio paused. “They’re humans. They’ll try it. They’ll succeed. Rain’s holding their hand through it. Whoever they bring back next…”

“Is not my problem. This is all your show, sister.”

Clio rolled her eye, ignoring the sting of being called sister. “Thanks for your support. Go help your human.”

“He’s out of my hands now,” Spectra said quietly. Clio gasped.

“Spectra!”

“It’s all up the Unknown now.” She grinned suddenly. “Perhaps Frank’s death will buy his life.”

The Hyena was gone before Clio could wince at the crassness.

XXX

Aspen was woken from a dead sleep by an alarm blaring. She went from unconscious to on fire in a half second.

“Turn to any news channel!” Jermone barked as soon as he flipped the feed on. Aspen switched over to the music feed she’d been watching before she passed out after she got home last night.

“This morning, November the 25th, in Paris, there was a concentrated droid attack on the Hôtel des Invalides. The attack damaged the east wall and the tomb of Napoleon the First. The Emperor’s tome was cracked, but appears to be intact. Thus far no Alien governments have come forward with any suspicious figures. Major Haruka has yet to release a statement.” The broadcast repeated while Aspen stared in stunned amazement.

“Napoleon?” She said.

“Magpie wants you here on the double. They’re convinced this is no coincident,” Jerome warned. Aspen pulled off her over large sleep shirt, the one with Blanche on it, and started untangling her braids.

“Has Harm seen anything?” Her voice was muffled, as she pulled on the layers of her uniform. Undershirt, long sleeve, lightweight armor, dark blue uniform jacket with the white detailing around the shoulders.

“He and Kami are on their way right now. They have a have other problems to worry about then just our domestic troubles.”

Aspen did up her trousers and buckled the belt. “Switch over to the headset,” she ordered the computer, slipping on the c shaped bit of silicone over her ear and tapping her temple. A miniature portrait of Jerome appeared in the right hand corner of her vision.

“How are the guys?” She asked, jogging down the stairs and getting into her personal transport, prepared to gun it from Alexandria to York.

“Asleep. Or at least I think so. Leonardo stayed up speaking to me, but Richard disappeared by midnight.”

“Spirits Jerome, he’s been alive for less than a year, quit hitting on him.”

He grinned. “What makes you think it’s me?” The banter relaxed them both and Aspen took a deep breath, focusing.

“Cause it’s always you.”

XXX

Rain smiled to herself, sipping her tea and nibbling on a scone.

It hadn’t been very hard to find a taker for the information she was selling. A little nudge and all of Chikara’s plans unraveled. She could lock Rain up all she wanted, but she could never put the knowledge that Rain had passed down once it was out of the box.

Even now it was making the rounds on the deep web. Posing as an alien, she’d sold the information, the process, the evidence. Requests trickled, rained and poured in. it had been taken from the hosting website within hours and re-posted and re-uploaded. Chikara would be hard pressed to find the original, and even now it wasn’t as if she contain it, there wasn’t enough code blockers in world.

God bless the internet and it’s virus like tendencies.

Rain watched and crews cleared away the rubble the wall, and carefully examined the tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte for damages.

All it takes is a single strand of intact DNA. Crack open that tome and you’ll have the raw data for an entire army of Bonapartes.

Now there was an idea to make the Federation tremble, an entire army of un-ID’d egomaniac white men. Rain could hardly stop herself from laughing.

The door opened behind her and Rain turned her chair around to see Chikara Haruka standing there, the bright white light of the Bastille framing her. Marie Rivera stood behind her, an unmovable behemoth of carefully groomed muscle, waiting to snap Rain’s neck.

“I’ve been watching the news. Seems like you have quite a situation, down there.”

Chikara took slow measured steps to her. Rain couldn’t stop smiling, even as her fingers and toes tingled.

“What are you gonna do about, Major?”

Chikara was standing next to her now, eyes fixed on the news feed. The camera focused on the crack of the tome. Dust was spilling out of it.

“You can keep me up here and place an embargo on all of the Komali data, but,” Rain laughed, “You can’t stop it now, the fox is in the henhouse.”

Chikara stared at her, her dark eyes unfathomable. “Is that what you think, Doctor Miller? You think the entire weight of the Federation, an entire united people can not find one pre-electronic savage? You think I don’t have the power to make sure that whatever you’ve done can be undone?”

She leaned down, bracing her hands on Rain’s seat. “You have no idea what wars I fought to ensure the unity of the Federation. This is one battle, and it will be over quickly. You’re ideas have failed and when I track the dissenters who wrought this, they will be the first to test your theories on breaking a man’s mind.”

Chikara stepped back. “Marie, you’re going to be Doctor Miller’s personal guard from this moment. She does not take breath without my grace.” She did a sharp about face and Marie saluted, her hand over her heart.

“I have to go clean up her mess now.”

Season Two. Episode Fourteen: Crime. Part Two.

Episode Fourteen: Crime. Part Two.

Leonardo raised an eyebrow at the screen.

“You found us by using cartography?”

Harm tilted his hand back and forth. “Not exactly. The program maps facial features from portraits, or sculptures, or photographs. Then it searches the entire Federation database, basically every scrap of data that’s been collected since before World War Three, and searches it for matching characteristics.”

Leonardo nodded, mostly following it. Richard looked blankly at the man.

“This program is a map, and it’s what they used to find us,” Leonardo tried to translate, glancing at Harm to see if he was being accurate.

“Basically.”

“A map,” Richard said. “But how did you know we were returned?”

Kami interjected. “We didn’t. The program simply matched you out of random chance. If the security footage wasn’t a public archive, and within the search parameters it would have missed you completely.”

Leonardo sat back. “Luck?”

“Fate?” Magpie piped up hopefully. “We are the historical and heritage branch of public relations for the Federation. If you should be found by anyone it should be us…”

Leonardo kept the politely dubious look off his face, and instead turned back to Harm. “Do you think you’ll be able to use this to find Robespierre?”

“Why on in the saint’s names would we want to?” Richard asked in sotto voice. Leonardo ignored him.

“Leonardo has a point. You did say that the aliens, the Komali, want to have you destroyed right?” Harm asked cautiously. Magpie gasped dramatically.

“He was a pivotal part of the French Revolution of 1789! They can’t destroy him!”

Harm and Kami exchanged a look and Leonardo wondered if this was common for Magpie.

“Chikara can do whatever she wants, Mags,” Harm said. “You know that.”

“I reject the factual evidence of your statement and choose to believe that she’ll keep him alive until further purposes.” Magpie tilted their head up proudly.

Aspen cleared her throat pointedly.

“Any-way,” Harm drawled, turning back to the computer, “we can try.”

Leonardo watched over the man’s shoulder as he tapped the screen with long elegant fingers.

“What I’ll do is take any of the portraits and sculptures that still exist of him, compile them in a matrix and search the database using it.”

Magpie nodded their head once. “Do it.”

Aspen gestured at Richard and Leonardo, her metal fingers clicking slightly. “Come on. They’ll be at this for a while. Leo, has Richard shown you the rest of the castle?”

Leonardo shook his head and rose to his feet. Kami looked vaguely startled, looking up at him with wide grey-brown eyes.

“Something wrong?” He asked.

She shook her head. “Nothing. You’re just…surprisingly tall.”

Leonardo smiled slightly. “That’s not the first time I’ve been told that.”

“You’d make an excellent swordsman, with that reach.” Richard said, as they walked out of the room.

Leonardo snorted slightly. “Not likely. I find war the most disgusting enterprise of man.”

Richard looked at him, then at Aspen, then back to Leonardo. He opened his mouth then sighed and rubbed his temple before brushing past then both and walking off.

“He was the last English king to die in battle.” Aspen pointed out gingerly. Leonardo shrugged.

“I care not. You must agree, if your arm was lost in a conflict.”

Aspen hesitated, mouth twisting back and forth. “I dunno. That’s…a hard question don’t you think?”

They turned right and Leonardo slowed to study some of the glass plaques embedded into the wall. Each presented information about the castle.

“How so? Battle, death, pain, madness. I do not understand how any of these can benefit thinking men,” Leonardo said stiffly.

“Well. Didn’t you design war machines, for uh, uh someone?” Aspen pointed out. Leonardo winced. Before he could explain about he intended services for Il Moro or Borgia, Aspen continued. “Also it seems to me a lot of human evolution has been based on conflict. I don’t think that’s good necessarily but it might be important, I guess.”

Leonardo hesitated, considering her words. “I believe that art evolves the human race,” he finally said.

Aspen smiled and shrugged. “Well of course you do. You’re the one of the, almost them most famous artist in earth history.”

Leonardo smiled. “Grazie.”

“No, really.”

XXX

Aspen found Magpie later in their office. They were bent over an old-fashioned book, mumbling under their breath and with a tablet propped up by lots of coffee cups.

“Hey boss. How’s it going?” Aspen grinned slightly watching Magpie jump, their elaborately done silver hair quivering.

“Aspen! How’s Richard, and Leonardo? Did you show them the kitchens, the-”

Aspen held up her hand. “Richard already knows where everything is, although he has some choice words for some of the inaccuracies.” Apparently the kitchens were too small and the lack of stables and horses were dire. “Leonardo seems more interested in the databases than the building.”

Magpie nodded, relaxing back into their chair. “Makes sense. Richard spent lots of time here, in his youth and adult life. Leonardo seems to have been largely transient. Florence, Milan, Rome, back to Florence, back to Milan, and then France,” they rattled off. “I’ll have Harm teach him the basics.”

Aspen seated herself in the chair. Soon Jerome would be here to relive her. She’d left Richard wandering the halls, seemingly lost in his thoughts. Leonardo had already disappeared into his room, long nose pressed to a tablet.

“So, we’re keeping them. What next?” Aspen prompted.

“What?”

“They’ll need a doctor, you know to check them out and make sure they don’t have any extinct germs on them. Didn’t they both live during the first plague?”

Magpie blinked. “Good point. It was towards the end of the plague years but if either of them have it…”

“Yeah, the last thing we need is a relapse of the White Plague.”

Magpie winced. “Yes. But they’ll also need recent inoculations. And Richard’s spine.”

“What about it?”

Magpie showed her the tablet. It had a picture of a skeleton with a curved spine on it.

“His scoliosis is usually resolved in childhood. We’ll need to find a XD, someone who can also perform surgery to fix it.”

Aspen raised an eyebrow. “Why do you think he’ll want it fixed? Have you asked him?”

Magpie hesitated. “No, I just figured he’d want it.”

Aspen blinked, surprised. “I thought you’d be the first to be talking his ear off, asking about every detail of his life.”

“I will! I want to but,” here Magpie smiled sheepishly. “I’m a little nervous to. He’s been this pedestal, this goal in my life for so long.”

Aspen laughed. “You’re over complicating it boss. You gotta remember, he’s just a human, like the rest of us. He got into a right pissy mood when Leonardo told him he didn’t like warfare. He’s been wandering around all day, looking like he’s been hit over the head. If anything, I think he could really use someone who knows their stuff to talk to.”

Magpie blinked at her. “There’s surprisingly profound Aspen.”

“Hey! I can be sensitive, even if I was just a grunt,” Aspen threw up her hand, smirking at Magpie.

They laughed. “I guess you can. Alright, we’ll work on it tomorrow. Do you happen to know any XDs who could be trusted with this?”

Aspen shook her head. “You’ll want to fry Harm or Kami about it, not me. I’m surprised you don’t.”

“I never spent much time with any doctors. I dislike the smell of chemicals, paper and old stone are better.”

Aspen left with that concept in her head. Old stones and paper huh?

Season Two. Episode Fourteen: Crime. Part One.

Episode Fourteen: Crime. Part One.

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

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

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

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

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

XXX

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

“Audio?”

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

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

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

She glanced over and saw Jerkins frowning ever so slightly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes, Major Haruka.”

XXX

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

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

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

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

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

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

He sat down at the table and began to eat.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Welcome to the historical figure finder!”

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

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?”

Season Two. Episode Thirteen: Illumination. Part One.

Episode Thirteen: Illumination. Part One.

“So let me get this straight,” Aspen held her head in her hands. She ground the heels of her hands into her eyes. “You, Leonardo da Vinci-”

“Si, madam.”

“And you, Richard the third-”

“Yes?” The former king growled around the bread in his mouth. Aspen wrinkled her nose at his table manners.

“Were brought back to life by a famous technical scientist-“

“Is Rainbow Miller famous?” Leonardo asked, voice pitched in interest. Magpie had given him a new notebook and he was sketching idly in it. From the way he kept glancing at her, Aspen had to guess that her arm was going to be on the first pages, which was flattering and bizarre. Leonardo was drawing her.

Spirits, what was her life?

“And you escaped after the alien she stole the technology from tracked her down at her house?”

“In her flying carriage,” King Richard added, gulping down beer. Magpie watched him with wide eyes, mouth half open in wonderment.

“Her flying carriage?” Kami asked voice weak.

“Si. It was magnificent,” Leonardo answered promptly. “It carried us from North America to France in a matter of hours!” He gestured expansively.

The entire Historical Society looked at each other. Kami and Harm grabbed each other’s hands under the table, Magpie’s eyes were focused on Richard, Aspen and Jerome stared at each other eyebrows raised.

“Do you know of any civilian vehicles that can make that trip?” Aspen asked out of the corner of her mouth. Jerome shook his head minutely.

“Maybe something that Miller was working on?” He offered softly.

Aspen shrugged helplessly, looking back up the table at the two men.

Richard as soon as getting “home” had asked, well demanded really, beer, bread, and venison stew. In that order. Magpie had nearly trampled Aspen in their eagerness for the staff room replicators. Typically, Magpie had already knew what kind of beer and bread to serve and Richard had dug into his meal as if he’d been starved. Aspen wondered if that was so far off. Both men seemed extremely exhausted and frazzled.

Aspen, for her part could hardly tear her eyes away from Leonardo, frantically sketching away, scratching at the paper. His eyes darted from face to face and all around the room.

“So after you got to…”

“Paris,” Leonardo answered promptly.

“Paris, what then? How did you get to Egypt?” Kami led the questioning.

“Robespierre led us through Paris, and we used the uh,” Leonardo looked over at Richard waving his hand about for the word.

“The light wizardry that moves people place to place.” Richard explained.

Kami looked at Magpie for translation. They blinked slowly, head tilted.

“The transporters?” They asked.

Leonardo smiled. “Si! Those!”

“You used the transporters? But how? You don’t have any IDentifiers,” Harm pointed out.

Leonardo shrugged. “We told them that Rain had ordered us to Egypt, and to use her pass.”

Harm groaned. “No wonder Haruka and Marie Rivera found you so fast. They would have been tracking Miller’s number.”

“Number?” Leonardo asked.

“The number that matches IDs. Everyone has one, well except for three recent additions to the Federation,” Harm gestured to Leonardo and Richard and including the absent Robespierre.

“Well that might also work in our favor too, since they can’t be traced back to us,” Jerome pointed out.

“Which is good since I don’t fancy going one on one with Marie,” Aspen muttered. She still had a sick oily feeling in her stomach about how close she’d come to Chikara’s right-hand.

“Where do you think they have taken Robespierre?” Leonardo asked Magpie. They shrugged.

“I don’t have much experience with the military side of the government, outside of where Haruka has tried to stop the Heritage reclamation projects. I’d have to guess somewhere is Cairo, likely in one of the holding cells in HQ.”

Leonardo frowned. “There’s no possibility of rescue?”

Aspen laughed before she could stop herself. Every head flung around to stare at her. Leonardo’s face was one of a man who was not used to being laughed at and clearly expressed she’d better have a damn good reason for doing so.

“Sorry, but if your friend-“

“Not a friend!” Richard barked out.

“If your associate is anywhere near the HQ then he’s irretrievable. Every guard there would have been handpicked by Chikara Haruka, trained and groomed to her standards. Then there’s the millions of diplomats there, and all of the administrators and that says nothing of the politicians. And if I had to bet, you and Richard are going to become the top of the Most Wanted. If you walk anywhere near HQ, it’s probably over for you,” Aspen explained.

Her declaration was met with silence, Leonardo cast his gaze down to the table, frowning slightly and Richard staring at her.

“Are you a solider?” He asked.

Aspen shrugged. “I was. Now I’m a security guard.”

Richard narrowed his eyes. “A body guard? For him?” He nodded at Magpie.

Everyone startled and looked at each other. Magpie flushed slightly, a deep red flush on their high cheekbones.

“Y-your highness, I’m sorry there’s been a misunderstanding,” they said. “I am not a man.”

At this Richard also blushed. “Oh, I’m sorry my Lady, I didn’t realize. My apologies,” he said gruffly. “During my time the ladies of the time wore their hair long.”

Everyone shuffled awkwardly. Aspen hadn’t ever realized how much stock she’d given to how obvious Magpie made their non-binary status evident. She hadn’t even thought about what pre 21st century people would think.

“No no, my lord. I’m neither a man nor a woman,” Magpie explained. “I don’t conform to either gender. My name is Magpie and that is who I am.”

Richard blinked at them, face serious. Leonardo’s jaw had dropped slightly, expression nearly vacant.

“You’re a eunuch?” Richard tried again, visibly struggling. Magpie shook their head, brushing a stay lock of shining silver hair from their eyes.

“No, simply… not gendered.”

With a hard twist to his mouth, Leonardo reached over and grabbed the spoon from Richard’s limp fingers and the fork next his elbow.

“So this is their fairer sex, si?” Leonardo asked, holding up the spoon. Richard looked over at him, eyebrow raised and nodded. Leonardo held up the fork. “And this represents man.” Richard nodded again.

Leonardo leaned over and grabbed the ceramic bread knife from where Richard had been slicing from the loaf. “So this is our new friend Magpie?” He looked over at them for confirmation.

“Yes, that’s mostly it.”

“You’re…a knife?” Richard asked, looking dubious. Magpie shrugged.

“Sure. Let’s say I’m and knife and I preferred to be called as such.”

Richard finally nodded, and Aspen breathed out. However Magpie beamed happily, clearly over the moon about sitting in the same room as their favorite historical figure.

Leonardo looked around at the rest of them. “And what do the rest of you do? Does the Federation support the decision to reside here?”

Kami raised her hand, ready to be ambassador of goodwill as always. “I’m Kami Susuki, and I came on as Public Relations manager for Magpie. Also we don’t live in Middleham, we just work here as part of the Heritage Reclamation project for the Federation.”

Leonardo nodded even though Aspen was sure there was no way he could have understood half of Kami’s spiel. The shorter woman gestured to Harm, sitting next to her.

“And this is my husband Harmony Susuki.”

He raised a dark hand, fingers rubbed smooth from his work on slick glass screens all day. “You can call me Harm for short. I work on all of the technical aspects of the Reclamation Project.”

“He’s the one who code- I mean wrote the program that found you.”

“Wrote the program?” Leonardo asked, a bemused twist to his lips.

Harm waved it away. “You’re pre-computers, and we’ll have plenty of time for me to explain all of this too you later, don’t worry.” Leonardo nodded, still looking unsure.

Jerome jumped in, grinning broadly at Leonardo. Aspen narrowed her eyes.

Jerome he’s recently returned from the dead, you don’t need to hit on him yet!

“Hi I’m Jerome, and I work with Aspen as part of Security for Middleham. Typically I work nights and I love Renaissance, uh, art!”

Richard snorted, tearing off another piece of bread. “What are you, a Moorish mercenary?”

Jerome frowned. “No I trained with Federation, like Aspen. But I went in specifically to serve as an officer for a posting on earth.”

Richard grunted, rubbing at his temple. Aspen noticed he seemed to do that a lot.

Leonardo sighed heavily and clasped his hands together in front of him, and rested his forehead against them as if he was at prayer. He looked up after a moment.

“We were told there is no possibility of returning home, to our own time,” he said softly. It wasn’t so much a question as a plain sad statement of a fact.

“Time travel doesn’t exist, it’s true,” Harm confirmed. “I’m sorry.”

Richard closed his eyes for a moment and Leonardo sighed again.

Then the most incredible thing happened.

Richard straightened up in his plain wooded chair, rolling his shoulders back and raising his chin up so he could meet the eyes of everyone at the table with a cool surveying stare. He placed his hands flat on the top of the table.

And in that moment, King Richard the Third, last of the Plantagenet dynasty was in the room.

Leonardo sat up as well, and Aspen saw that’s he’d carefully composed his face into a slightly worn but kind expression and she saw in her mind’s eye the artist who had served princes all over Italy and changed how the human body was looked at forever more.

“So, what comes next?” Leonardo asked, spreading his hands out, gesturing to the table at large.

Before anyone could collect themselves and answer his question, a loud mechanical tone sounded through the remade castle. Leonardo and Richard jumped and Magpie slapped their forehead.

“Oh my god! I forgot about the tour!”

“Tour?” Richard whipped his head around and asked Magpie. “What tour?’

“They’re from London, a bunch of primary student coming up to behold a piece of their history. Okay, the two of you are going to need to stay in one of our offices until it’s over. Come on, Harm, you go get Drizz and Blake.”

“Who?” Leonardo asked standing up as Aspen rushed over and grabbed Richard dishes with one hand and using the other to guide Leonardo away.

“Our tour guides. They’re repurposed retail androids that Magpie found and Harm fixed. Usually androids are just decommissioned but they’re good with groups and it’s easier than hiring. Now come on! I’d hate to try and explain you to a bunch of kiddies.” She dragged the Italian away, despite his head being twisted around as Kami opened the grand doors to hurry out to the grounds where the group was waiting.

She got them up the stairs to the staff rooms and pushed them into the break room. Richard took back his half empty bowl of stew, even though it must have been stone cold and sat gingerly in one of metal chairs.

“Whatever happened to wood?” He grumbled.

“It became a protected substance after mass deforestation and before replicators.” Aspen answered.

“Mass deforestation?” Leonardo said in alarm at the same time Richard dubiously said, “Protected substance?”

Aspen sighed and sat down. She figured she could leave it to Jerome to warn the kids off from touch the ancient artifacts. She had her own living artifacts to worry about now.

“Yeah well at one point wood was worth more than gold. You see when the earth population started to rise and we started to consume more…”

A Fiction Agreed Upon. Episode Twelve: Fraternite. Part Three.

Part Three.

Somewhere north of Boulder, Colorado.

Ava lifted her head, sniffing at the wind. Dusk had settled over the forest and all manner of small easily killed animals were merging from their holes. Between Bobby, Berwald and Lester the kill pile was quickly flowing with mice, birds and small rabbits. Jep sniffed at a rabbit, it’s throat torn out, and whined.

Ava huffed, shaking herself. “Don’t turn it away Jep. It’s food.”

The little spaniel whined again. “It’s bloody.”

Ava tossed her head. “You’ll get used to it.”

She trotted pas him to where Baby was flopped over in the shade of a tree. The long day run had been hard on the smallest member of the pack. Norma was looking after her.

“She’s not made like the rest of us. It’s exhausted her. We’ll have to give her all night and probably some of the daylight tomorrow to recover,” the Corgi said. Ava nosed the puppy, who whimpered.

“She’ll adjust,” Berwald growled from behind. There was a thump and Ava turned to see a freshly killed crow on the ground.

“This will be for naught if members of the pack start dropping from exhaustion and hunger,” Norma warned. Berwald bared his teeth at her, and Norma growled right back. Ava raked her large paw down the side of Berwald’s face.

“Stop it. Norma’s right. We’ll let Baby recover, and start south tomorrow evening. We head for the cities. We have to find our humans,” she ordered. Berwald crouched down low on his belly.

“Yes, alpha.”

He walked away, tail hung low, and catch in his mouth.

“You’re going to have to get that under control,” Norma sniffed.

Ava privately agreed but kept her tongue in her mouth.

XXX

Rain was working very quickly. Her fingers blurred over the touchpad.

She’d seen as Marie Rivera and Chikara’s private forces had taken Robespierre, throwing the man into the back of the transport vehicle. It was on its way to the Bastille even now, and Chikara herself was getting ready to meet it there. In the top of the line newly minted Moon Flyer, it would only take them about three hours to get up there. All Chikiara had to do was get her officers in line and arrange a cover story for her absence at HQ.

It was a miracle Rain was even still allowed to go anywhere without a body guard but everyone had been called to Chikara’s side as she announced her trip. Rain had snuck away and using a tricky piece of old-school hacking had gotten into her personal notes.
Notes that were now being uploaded to the internet.

“Information is meant to be free, chienne,” she whispered, grinning savagely at the screen. The process was destroying what she’d left on her personal sever and nesting it as a private program in the cloud.

It would take them months to find it, if they even could.

She finished her final keystroke, as the sound of boots approached the room. Quickly Rain shut the browser down and hit a hard shut down on the screen.

“What are you doing?” Asked the young guard.

“Looking at porn,” Rain answered flippantly. “Is Chikara ready then?”

She turned when a voice spoke from the front of the room. “Yes, Doctor Miller. Jerkins, put her in handcuffs. I think She needs to learn to keep her hands to herself.”

Chikara was dressed in her military uniform, dark blue with silver edging. “We are meeting Marie at the Bastille.”

Rain sneered. “Joy.” Her hands were securely crossed at the wrist behind her. Jerkins, the guard grabbed her shoulder securely. “Careful, I have a limp. You should carry me,” she told her.

Chikara ignored Rain’s irreverence. “Come. We’re leaving.”

XXX

Richard woke from uneasy sleep with Leonardo tapping insistently on his shoulder.

“Wake up. We’re near to Middleham,” the Italian told him. Richard noted the heaviness around his eyes and wondered if he’d slept at all.

He sat up and peered over Aspen Strong’s shoulder. They were descending, and he noted that the sun was beginning to set. His heart caught as he saw the familiar sight of the Keep.

“I have to fly this into the underground launch pad, we keep it out of sight for historical accuracy.” Aspen was carefully guiding the flying machine down. She angled it down and Richard could feel the floor under him tip forward as she gently descended into a large hole in the ground. It was dimply lit, and Richard could see other machines against the walls of the cave. It landed with a gentle thump and there was silence as the machine went dark.

Aspen opened the back of it again and hopped off the ramp. Feeling a little like cattle, Richard walked down it. After Leonardo followed him off and Aspen closed it she led her way back out of the hole. A metal door, like a drawbridge closed it after them. Richard breathed the smell of the distant river and the heather of the wind whipped moors. In the distance trees creaked and overhead some storm clouds were gathering. Richard could feel the building rain storm in his bones.

Over taking Aspen and Leonardo Richard strode ahead of them, needing no leading here. In his minds eye he could practically see George ahead of him in horseback, calling over his shoulder to ‘Hurry up Dickon!’

The main part of the castle was right ahead of him, and feeling his heart thumping in his chest, he jogged across the bridge to the main doors. This he knew, as if by instinct.

Richard’s arms strained as he pushed the doors open. The creaked but swung into the great hall.

His cousin seated on the dais at the end. His Lady Anne coming to greet him. His son. He’ll open the door and all will be right again. He’ll wake up from this dream and Edward will be alive and Richard will still be his most loyal servant. 

“Aspen’s back!” Someone shouted and Richard’s dream disintegrated before his eyes.

Several people, all but one darker than him, rushed into the hall and stopped cold. Richard was still hovering between the outer door and the hall, when a cold hard hand, like it was wrapped in a gauntlet, grabbed his good shoulder and pushed him in.

“Look what I brought!” Aspen cheered. “The king comes back!”

Leonardo came to stand next to him, looking around at the castle.

“So this is England?” He asked under his breath.

“The north, yes.” Richard aid back, watching as from the group of four as a shorter man pushed his way to the front. His hair was shaved all the way to his brown skin, except for the top of his scalp, where he had a tuft of silver hair. He was staring at Richard with almost unseemly amazement, mouth gaped.

“Uh you doing okay Magpie?” Aspen asked.

“Oh my god. It’s really you. It’s really Richard the Third,” he choked, eyes filling with tears. Richard shifted slightly, an unnerved prickling along his neck.

“Did Rivera get the other one?” One of the other men spoke up. He was looking at Aspen, who nodded.

“You’ll never guess who it was, Harm,” she hissed.

“And who is this one?” The shortest person there, who was still taller than Richard, whispered, looking at Leonardo.

The Italian bowed. “Leonardo ser Piedro da Vinci, at your service.”

The assembled group went quiet and even Magpie tore his gaze away from Richard.

“Leonardo…da Vinci?” Aspen asked slowly.

“Like the Mona Lisa, da Vinci?” The other woman asked. Leonardo tilted his head.

“The who?”

Magpie whipped out his tablet and quickly typed something in before turning it around. There was a small portrait of a woman who was smiling, her hands contently folded over each other. At first glance Richard didn’t think there was anything particular about it, but the longer he stared the more lifelike she appeared. He cast a surprised glance at Leonardo. He hadn’t know he was a court artist, clearly this was a woman of some import to have a portrait like this.

Leonardo brightened. “Ah! Si, Giaconda.”

The assembled group gasped.

Aspen put her metal hand to her head. “Oh my god. We kidnapped Leonardo da Vinci, and King Richard the Third.”

Magpie on the other hand was beginning to smile. He grasped each their hands in turn, shaking them enthusiastically.

“Gentlemen, I can hardly tell you what an honor it is to welcome you here to Middleham.”

XXX

Maximilien found himself jerked awake when the vehicle landed. He listened, heart pounding, as metal scraped along metal.

Could he possibly make a run for it once the door opened? He didn’t think so. Instead Max backed into the corner, resolute to at least make it difficult for them to dislodge him. The walls were nearly freezing to the touch, but he gripped them tightly.

The doors opened and light poured in. Instinctively he raised an arm to block it and there was a thumping as another person joined him in the vehicle. He was rudely grabbed and nearly pushed out of the box, stumbling and nearly falling onto his face.

Another set of hands grabbed his shoulders and whipped him around before he could get his bearings and his wrists were bound behind his back. He was pushed forward by a firm hand on the back of his neck.

“Move.”

Maximilien twisted, trying to dislodge it, heart rapidly thumping as memories of the guillotine rose within him.

“Non! I demand to-“

“Quiet, move!” He was shoved forward again, this time stumbling forward. His glasses slipped and his surroundings blurred.

They rushed him down a long dim hallway that seemed to curve continuously. Max was jerked still when they wheeled him around and brought him face to face with a featureless sliding door.

“Chief, we are bringing the android to you now. Security code forty-seven.”

The doors slid open and Maximilien was dragged in.

He shook his head, trying to see pas the shatter glass over his eyes.

A woman sat behind a desk, her dark hair pulled back into a neat bun. She glanced up at him and frowned.

“I told you to take those,” she nodded at Max, and someone pulled his glasses off. Now blind, Maximilien blinked rapidly in the harsh light.

“I am Maximilien Robespierre. Where am I?” He demanded.

She nodded at him again.

“Secure him in number five after processing.”

They started to drag him away.

“Welcome to the Bastille.”

A Fiction Agreed Upon. Episode Twelve: Fraternité. Part Two.

Part Two.

Aspen led them to another warehouse through the most convoluted means Leonardo had ever experienced. When he asked her why, she pointed to the corner of a building opposite them.

“See that? The black thing? It’s a camera. Its recording images of us and sending them to Federation surveillance. It’s actually how we found you guys. And probably how Chikara Haruka found you too. If the cameras catch us, they’re going to figure out who rescued you, and then it’s all over.”

She crouched low and moved quickly around the corners of the exterior of the warehouse. Leonardo and Richard followed.

For Leonardo, he kept replaying the instance of Robespierre’s capture in his head. How the Frenchman’s eyes had widen in terror, his fingers wrapped desperately around Leonardo’s wrist, as the soldiers tore them apart. He kept looking over his shoulder expecting the floating vehicle to appear to spirit them away as well.

Exhaustion was beginning to set in and he was relieved when Aspen finally opened the door to a warehouse. “Okay, this is it.”

They entered and Leonardo stared around at the dusty boxes, illuminated by the bright sunlight beaming down through the glass windows.

In the middle of the expensive and mostly barren room was a sleek looking machine, in a dull grey. It sat on three struts and arched like the shape of a predatory bird on a upward flap. Aspen walked to the back of it. They followed her, and she opened a ramp up into the machine.

“Okay, get in.”

Richard frowned but went forward, stepping on the metal ramp gingerly, as if not confident in its structural integrity. Leonardo followed him in then turned to see Aspen punch a button on the screen next to it, raising the ramp back up to close it.

She pushed by them to sit at the front of the machine. Leonardo watched as she tapped the flat panel and around them the machine came to life.

Aspen turned around and raised her eyebrows. “You’re gonna want to sit down,” she told them smiling slightly. Richard did so, gripping the edge of his seat as an added precaution.

Leonardo supposed he still remembered the adventure with Rain’s ‘carriage’.

Aspen typed commands quickly, and above them the ceiling of the building opened up. Leonardo guessed what was going to happen next and sat down, leaning over so he could watch out the large window in front of Aspen.

He felt the vibrations through the machine and the moment the unseen engine kicked in to lift it off the ground. Richard leaned back, with his eyes shut.

Despite the desperate situation Leonardo couldn’t help but feel a smile come over his face. He’d dreamt of flight for so long, and here, it was achieved by humans so easily.

They lifted up and out of the building, into the bright sunlight. He watched as Aspen effortlessly steered the flying machine by sliding her fingers over the glass panel. It tilted upwards and sped up, the clouds misting past.

“Where are we going?” Richard grit out, fingers curled into the bench.

“Um, the north of England. To a castle called Middleham,” Aspen said absently. Richard’s eyes flew open and he whipped his head around to stare at the woman.

“Middleham? It still stands? What of York?” He demanded.

“Yeah, I mean, it’s not the original, it’s basically all been rebuilt, but yeah it’s still there. Magpie the person in charge of it, they’ve been working to restore all of these old historical places.” She looked over her shoulder. “I’ll be able to explain more once the experts are here with us.” She laughed slightly. “I’ll be honest, I was never really into history in school…”

Leonardo suddenly chuckled, rubbing a hand into his eyes. The true absurdity of the situation was getting to him. “Va bene. Me either!”

Aspen grinned at him. “We should be there in in about 90 minutes. Maybe you should try sleeping?” She offered.

Leonardo wasn’t sure if he was going to be able to, his mind racing, and having lost his sketchbook in the scuffle with the soldiers.

Richard, however, swung his legs up onto the bench and draped an arm over his eyes.

“Wake me when we get to Middleham,” he ordered, and then fell silent.

Leonardo fell quiet too, but as he stared down at his hands, he wondered about where Robespierre was, if he was even still alive.

XXX

Clio adjusted her toga and ran a hand through her curly hair.

“You’re a right pain, do you know that? Now I have to follow two different lines of narrative,” she told the prostate figure, sitting where he’d been thrown on the floor of the government containment vehicle. He seemed to be in shock, his arms curled protectively around himself and shuddering every so often.

She huffed but kneeled down next to him. His glasses had been cracked, but it hardly mattered, she doubted that he would have been able to see anything anyway.

Clio sat next to him in silence for a while, observing the human.

She’d been born a muse, unlike many of her colleagues, and had always felt drawn to the invisible tide that connected stories. She felt that this one, the semi obscured figure in front of her, was going to be a keystone.

She couldn’t sit in the dark with him for long, Richard and Leonardo would reach York before Robespierre was, but she figured that even her presence might ease the tension in his soul.

XXX

For a long time Max was aware of nothing further than the darkness of the vehicle he found himself in. There were slight vibrations under his feet but further than that he couldn’t sense anything out side of the doors. He felt his way around the space but couldn’t find any handles on any of the walls, at last concluding that there weren’t any on the inside.

Finally Maxime sat down in one of the corners to wait. His fingers drummed on the metal surface and he chewed his bottom lip. His eyes ached to see anything in the darkness but it seemed to go on forever. He had the terrible feeling if he fell into it, it would consume him.

Closing his eyes brought little comfort, still aware of how cold and still the space seemed.

He laid down on his side and brought his knees to his chest for warmth. He wondered if Leonardo and Richard had gotten away or if they had been captured as well.

Exhaustion seemed to sink into his bones, and despite the cold and metal bruising him Max slowly feel into a fitful sleep.

A Fiction Agreed Upon. Episode Twelve: Fraternité. Part One.

Part One

“What do we do now?” Robespierre asked when they found themselves back on the street. Richard thought furiously. They had no allies, and no resources. They could return to Rain and see if they could lay low until the aliens left, but it seemed unlikely. Richard sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose.

“Leonardo? Opinions?”

The Italian shrugged. “I see very few. We have tried Paris, and now Egypt. Florence is gone. London seems to be the remaining choice.”

Richard scowled. “We should go to the North.” There was chance he might still be remembered fondly in York.

They started walking towards the industrialized area that Richard had seen as Kamala guided them to her house. Much to Richard’s disappointment, there seemed to be a large fence barricading the way in.

“We should head back to the transporters then, oui?” Robespierre asked. His nasal voice sounded quietly dejected.

“Si, we can go around the back of these warehouses to there.” Leonardo gestured offhandedly, staring at the machinery being built on the other side of the fence. “Look,” he stopped them both. “It’s all being built by machines.”

Richard took another glance and realized the Italian was correct. Without any men around at all machines seemed to be operating independently, lights flashing, beeping and clanging like the sounds of a thousand men-at-arms on horse back. They moved harmoniously. Richard saw them cross back and forth rapidly, never stumbling or crashing into each other as one would expect from such massive objects.

“That’s incredible,” he admitted. With one machine it was doing the work of a hundred men.

Robespierre was staring at them, lips pursed in thought. “Oui, but then, where do the people work?”

Leonardo tilted his head. “Maybe this world allows for everyone work as artisans, or grocers, or farmers.”

Richard snorted. “That’ll be the day. I bet most of them are in service to lords, as soldiers.”

Robespierre considered this. “Do you think that with machines doing all this work people have enough work? I mean, have either of you seen any deprived people, other than the students that we met?”

Richard thought about it and looked around. The streets were suspiciously clean and clear of the rabble one would expect in a large city like this. No beggars crouched in doorways or blind and crippled people languishing in the hot sun.

Leonardo seemed to have realized the same thing. “Maybe, there aren’t any.” He said slowly, wonder in his voice.

He and Robespierre were staring at each other in amazement.

“Could it be, that there is a place for everyone in this society? That everyone has a purpose and is happy?” Robespierre was beginning to smile, the scars on his face twisting. He placed a hand over his heart, seeming extremely moved by this concept.

Richard scoffed again, starting to walk on.

“That’s no’ possible.”

XXX

Aspen adjusted her earpiece again.

“Okay, it looks like they are headed towards the center of the city again. They’re next to the warehouse district, to the south. Just land in our warehouse and track them down from the street.” Harm was instructing her from Middleham, carefully tracking Richard and the other two men who seemed to be traveling with him.

“Affirmative Harm. Have you figured out what the hell I’m supposed to say to him once I’ve caught up?”

“Magpie is working on it, don’t worry.”

Aspen rolled her eyes.

It had taken them an hour to find the three after Richard had jumped into the transporters, going to Cairo of all places. After making sure it seemed like they were going to stay in the city for a moment, Aspen had jumped into a civilian transport glider.

Usually this was used to transport historical artifacts and exhibitions from place to place, and moved more slowly and sluggishly than Aspen was used to, having come from flight school. She wiped her sweaty palms on her pants and took a deep breath.

She was pretty sure this was about to count as treason, at least in Chikara’s eyes. If they were caugh…

But if he really didn’t have an ID, as Aspen suspected that he didn’t, Richard would be untraceable. And as long as she stayed in the blind spots, no one need ever know that it was Aspen who had anything to do with it.

She landed the glider in the warehouse and opened the back hatch. Then she picked he way across the crowded concrete floor, covered in pressure sealed boxes of artifacts that were so old, they’d circled from being priceless to being garbage.

Aspen slid the containment door open with a grunt, it protesting with a loud groan.

“Okay, tell me where to go, Harm.”

“Alright they’re heading north. Take a left and head them off a couple blocks up. Hurry though, they’re a little far ahead of you.”

“Got it,” Aspen knotted her braids back as she broke into a light jog. Thank the Federation for primary school track team. “Do you have a way to tell him to come with me yet?”

“Magpie says to tell him you are from Middleham. Maybe call him sire?”

Aspen snorted. “I’ll keep that in mind.”

“You’re getting close, a couple more meters and you’ll be on par with them.”

She turned her head to the right, eyes scanning for the shape.

It shouldn’t be hard, he’ll be one of the only white people in Cairo, she thought.

As she crossed siding of the last warehouse, she saw them. Slowing down to a trot, she turned to intercept them.

And stopped cold.

“Shit!”

Aspen spun back around the corner, and hissed, “It’s Marie Rivera!”

“What?!” Harm gasped. “Why is she here?”

“I don’t know but she’s coming up fast on them,” Aspen peeked around the corner again. “Fuck, this looks bad.”

XXX

Federation headquarters, Cairo, Egypt.

Behind Rain, Chikara Haruka stood perfectly still, arms crossed behind her back.

“Do you have them in your sights?” She asked to the viewscreen that was projecting what Marie’s combat contacts were seeing.

It was the warehouse district in Cairo, the streets barren and sunbaked. Just ahead of Marie, probably 20 meters, was Richard, Leonardo and Robespierre. They were walking quickly but clearly hadn’t realized that a group of armed soldiers were trailing behind them. She watched Richard and Robespierre argue back and forth and Leonardo intervene. Her stomach clenched.

Run, sense the fact you’re being hunted and run! Rain thought desperately.

“Yes, we’re approaching now.”

XXX

Richard was the first to notice. His eyes widened and he grabbed Leonardo’s arm. They all stopped.

“Those are the men from Paris, the ones who were around Rain’s flying carriage,” he said.

The black glad figures were walking quickly up to them and just behind them was another large carriage, painted in dark blue and silver. It blocked the street in it’s enormity and Richard started backing away.

“How did they find us?” Leonardo asked, bewildered. “We’re thousands of miles away!”

He grabbed onto Robespierre, who looked increasingly like a cornered hare.

“We need to run, come on!” Richard shouted and broke into a sprint. Behind him he heard the pounding of feet. However the end of the street was wide open, and so long as they could stay ahead of their enemy it would be fine.

XXX

“Yes, yes! Run this way, this way towards Aspen!” She muttered to herself, watching as the three men finally caught onto what was happening. Richard broke into a run, and despite his puny size he made good distance.

The other two, the ones the program hadn’t identified, weren’t getting as far. She watched horrified as the smallest male was caught around the waist and the tallest stopped to try and pull him from the soldiers grasp.

XXX

Rain had mentally cheered when the three had broken into a run but she watched as Robespierre was caught and Leonardo was surrounded. She hissed aloud as Richard broke back into frame, anger all over his face and fists flying.

“Use the riot gear!” Chikara harshly ordered.

Neck cuffs were brought out, aiming to capture Leonardo who was still determinedly hanging onto Robespierre’s arms. They got the hook around Frenchman, who cried out and struggled even more, attempting to twist himself away from who was grabbing at him. There was little chance now of escape for Robespierre now, however. They had him by the neck.

Run, just run! He’s toast, so get out of there! She thought desperately, hoping Richard and Leonardo would heed her advice.

XXX

“Leonardo come on!” Richard shouted over the scuffle, he could feel men closing in around him and the back of his neck prickled. This wasn’t a fight he could win, not alone. Robespierre seemed well and truly stuck, with a long black metal hoop around his throat, and being dragged back to the floating carriage. There was a second one approaching Leonardo and it was only when Richard forcibly grabbed the back of the Italian’s jerkin that he stumbled back.

“Robespierre!” Leonardo shouted in alarm as Richard caught his wrist and dragged him away.

“Arrêtez! Arrêtez! Leonardo!”

Richard glanced over his shoulder and saw Robespierre being forced into the carriage. He was utterly controlled by the black metal leash around his throat. They forced him to the back, Robespierre stumbling from the force they used. His glasses had half fallen off his face and Richard could read the true fear in his eyes. For one moment he could feel pity rise in his chest.

However there was no time dwell. He ran faster, hanging onto Leonardo to make sure he was following. The end of the street was near, and Richard counted on Leonardo to lead them back to the transporters. They could go to London, and seek sanctuary in Westminster.

They whipped around the corner and made it a meter before from the massive door of a warehouse, an arm shot out and dragged them in.

XXX

Thank you! Aspen thought frantically. Richard and Leonardo had run in the right direction. She hurriedly closed the warehouse door behind her. The two men were apparently too stunned to cry out as she held a finger to her lips and listened.

Boots thudded past. She heard Marie Rivera shout orders and more footsteps sprinted past.

“Do you have them? Where are you?” Harm demanded over the earpiece. Aspen ignored him, still listening closely.

“Who are you?!” The taller male demanded. She held out her hand, teeth grit. It sounded as if Haruka’s forces had moved on, as she couldn’t hear anything more from outside. Now all she had to do was get them back to the glider and to Middleham.

“What happened? Where are they taking Maximilien?” The man was still speaking, ignoring her signal. She heard Richard hiss.

“Leonardo, shut up. She’s just saved us.”

Aspen liked him best already. She waited for a count of thirty and breathed out. Unless they were planning a stealth approach and had narrowed in on their location already, Aspen was probably safe with Richard and Leonardo for the moment.

She finally backed away from the door and turned her full attention to the men.

XXX

The woman who saved them, her waist length hair in lots of tiny intricate braids and partially dyed gold, turned towards them and Richard’s eyes dropped to her arm.

Her metal arm.

They eyed each other for a moment before she finally spoke, her voice quiet and deep.

“Hi. I’m Aspen Strong. Um, this is a rescue and not an arrest.” She rubbed the back of her head with her human hand, combing her fingers through the braids.

“Is that what happened to Robespierre?” Richard asked. She gaped at him for a second. Her eyes slid to the left, and her head tilted just slightly.

“The other guy, he’s Robespierre?”

Leonardo jumped in, apparently getting over the shock of being told to be quiet. “Si! Where are they taking him?”

Aspen shrugged. “I have no idea. Maybe to a labor camp, or possibly straight to Chikara Haruka.”

“Who?” Richard demanded. Was this who had been following them with soldiers?

“She’s head of security for the Federation. She’d uh, probably not taking your sudden resurrection well, I’m guessing.” Aspen tilted her head again and nodded slightly. “I think all of her guys have moved though, so we can move to the other warehouse. Then we’ll go to England.”

Leonardo held out his hands, looking distressed. “Wait, we have to retrieve Robespierre.”

Aspen blinked at him. “Um. Good luck with that. He’s probably already miles away and surrounded by officers and grunts.”

Richard took firm hold of Leonardo’s arm again. “We’ll have to leave him, there’s nothing we can do about it now.” He addressed Aspen.

“Lead on.”

A Fiction Agreed Upon. Episode Eleven: La Égalité. Part Three.

Part Three.

Kamala almost ran them over, her had frantically whipping back and forth as she scanned the street. She turned the corner and stumbled directly into Richard, who caught her before she could fall to the ground. She gaped at him for a moment before brushing off his hand.

“How on earth did you even find me?” She demanded to Leonardo, who shrugged.

“Observation. Also you mentioned that you lived in Cairo, so it seemed natural to assume you would be here.”

She shook her head, apparently stunned. “You are outrageously lucky. Tomorrow I leave for a tour on board the U.F.S. Omega.”

“What is that?” Richard asked, curious despite himself.

The tall woman looked down at him, eyes wide. “A spaceship.”

Richard blinked and decided that now was not the time to demand a reasonable answer to his question. She led them down progressively smaller avenues, until they emerged onto a quiet street, lined on one side with stately sand colored building on one side a massive river on the other. Leonardo stopped and stared.

It amazed Richard how the man could shrug at things like people disintegrating and being kidnapped from his own time but a river stopped him in his steps.

“She’s beautiful,” Leonardo whispered, eyes round.

“The Nile? Yeah, the view is great.” The woman nodded her head to the building on the end of the street. “Come on.”

Past the building seemed to be a more industrialized area and Richard watched as sparks flew out of a refinery.

A smithy of some sort?

As Richard ponder the chances of getting a sword here, he was led a set of exterior stairs until Kam stopped in front of a door. She placed her hand on the screen outside of it and he heard the lock click. She pushed it open and waved them in.

“Um I guess I’ll get you guys water. And have any of you eaten?” She stuttered out as Richard looked around.

The rooms were small, no bigger than a servants quarters in Middleham. There was one small bookshelf, with some small volumes set in it. Robespierre was already edging his way over it. Past that a large east facing window, which was already losing light, and an evil look cat that perched next to a suspended potted plant. Most of the room was taken up by a large lounge, and short long table. One wall held one of the omni present screens and Richard decided that he was simply going to have to get used to seeing those everywhere he went.

Kamala tapped him and handed him a glass of water. There was ice in it. Even as he marveled, Richard wondered what this world had against beer, now.

“Here. I guess you guys have been running around all morning, from what Leonardo was saying.” She passed out another to Leonardo who was staring out the window to the river. He took it absent mindedly.

“Oui. It has been…trying,” Robespierre said quietly.

Kamala cleared her throat and sat down on the lounge. “So why are you here, exactly?”

Richard did not see a reason to dissemble and so asked her bluntly: “Do you have a way to send us back to where we belong?”

She sputtered, coughing on her own drink. “Like time travel?” She finally choked out.

Richard shrugged. “I suppose so.”

Kamala shook her head. “Time travel was disproven hundreds of years ago, at least with the elements that we currently know about. It’s impossible.”

Even Leonardo turned at this proclamation. Richard closed his eyes for a moment, his jaw clenched and a carefully cultivated self-control prevented him from showing how deeply that hurt him.

He really was never going to go home. To see Anne, or Lovell, or Edward. He was never going to ride in the forests near Middleham, hunting game, or go to York for the Christmas Mass.

It was a dream and to have it ripped it away was one of the greatest cruelties he’d felt in a long time.
When he opened his eyes, Robespierre had turned away, a hand over his eyes and Richard felt a flash of empathy for the man. He must have left someone behind as well.

Leonardo however looked uncharacteristically angry, staring at Kamala with a heavy frown.

“Why did you bring us back, if there is no way to return us to where we belong?”

Kamala shifted uneasily in her seat, twisting the cup in her hands.

“It was Rain’s idea,” she muttered resentfully.

Before Leonardo could berate the girl further, footsteps desended from a staircase past their kitchen. Another young woman, her skin the tone of fertile earth stepped onto the landing and did a double take.

“Oh hi, sorry I didn’t know we had people over Ka.” She smiled sheepishly.

Kamala was beginning to look alarmed, her gaze darting nervously from the woman back to them.

“It’s fine Tammy. They were getting ready to leave, anyway.”

Richard jerked. “Excuse me? You still haven’t-”

“And I can’t, so that’s that, right,” Kamala said, chewing her lip. The woman looked from Kamala to Richard them she clicked her fingers.

“Friends of Rain’s I bet?”

Leonardo coughed. “In a manner of speaking.”

“So she’d ready to come crawling back?” Tammy leaned down to grin at Kamala. “See baby, I told you, old woman can’t get along without you.” Then she kissed her on the mouth.

Richard blinked, mouth falling open.

Robespierre seemed to have been equally wrong-footed as he immediately began coughing. Richard glanced at him and found him sputtering into a handkerchief. Kamala broke the kiss glancing over at the Frenchman. Richard opened his mouth to speak and was immediately cut off by Leonardo.

“So you won’t help us? Help Rain?” His voice was oddly pitched, almost too loud and forcibly emotive.

Kamala looked at the three of them and shook her head. “I’m sorry, but no.” Tammy twisted her head to stare at her.

“Kamala-”

“No. This is Rain’s doing and I’m not interested in any of it anymore. If she’d gotten in over her head, she’ll just have to figure it out on her own this time,” Kamala said firmly, even as her eyes refused to meet any of theirs.

Leonardo sighed.

“I understand.” He placed the glass on the low table and smiled sadly. “Thank you for seeing us then, Kamala.” He offered out a hand to her. She stood and Richard noticed that she was nearly eye to eye with the other man.

“I am sorry, for this,” she offered weakly, shaking his hand.

Leonardo tilted his head, but didn’t say anything.

“Um, well it was nice meeting you.” Tammy said, still standing behind the lounge looking bewildered. Leonardo dipped his head to her, then turned to Richard and Robespierre.

“We should go,” he murmured, gesturing for them lead the way out.