Season Two. Episode Twenty: The Destruction Cycle. Part Two.

Leonardo cursed as he cut his hand on yet another piece of jagged metal. He withdrew it and examined the slice that ran along his palm.

“Careful,” Harmony admonished, distractedly. “The dermal regenerator is on the table.”

Leonardo slid out from under the ship and rolled to his feet, staggering slightly. He put a hand up to his head. It felt slightly fuzzy and Leonardo shook to clear it.

He picked the regenerator and examined it. It was simply a metal wand, with a flat panel. Leonardo placed the panel over the cut, which was still bleeding sluggishly. He pressed the button on the top and the small machine lit up blue and hummed. Leonardo hissed as he could feel his skin knit back together. After a moment, he took it away. All that was a left was a thin pink line.

Leonardo adored the future.

He yawned as he turned back to the ship. Aspen Strong was on top of the flyer, using a laser tool to mold two pieces of metal to the top. It was blackened and already punctured with holes.

“I can’t believe I have to do this to my ship. This is butchery,” she muttered.

“It’s the Federation’s ship, Aspen,” Harmony said. He stood and stretched. “I need to go check in with Kami and Mags. Do you want anything?”

“Coffee,” Leonardo said.

Aspen looked at him sharply. “Have you had any water today, Leo?”

Leonardo cocked his head. “No. Why would I?”

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Season Two. Episode Twenty: The Destruction Cycle. Part One.

Once Maximilien had given Charlotte and Henriette one of his beloved doves to care for. A moment of childish negligence and the poor bird was dead.

He’d given Camille to Georges for careful keeping in the way he needed to be watched and as a lamb taken in by a lion, Camille had been destroyed.

He’d carefully helped craft a document to free France from her chains and within months seen it betrayed and violated.

Maximilien’s whole life was a constant cycle of destruction. He would nurture and build only to see it pulled apart like cooked meat as soon as he turned his attention away.

Something must have been wrong with him, if Maxime could never care for things the way they needed to be cared for. Now, he was being punished for it.

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Season Two. Episode Nineteen: Human Needs. Part Three.

PART THREE.

Richard longed for a paper book.

The slick glass tablets, thin a piece of parchment, did not hold the same feeling of satisfaction as holding a page and turning it to reveal the next. The slippery action of sliding his fingers along the screen was too fast, too immaterial.

Richard did take solace in the fact that there now there was much more to read, indeed more than he ever thought he could read if given another ten lifetimes, but bitterly longed for paper.

He’d remained in his room, today. The atmosphere of the castle was distinctly cold since the discussion of Robespierre. Leonardo had been his usual distant self, only conversing with the guards and the staff in tense, quiet tones. Bonaparte, too, had been quiet, reading and mumbling to himself in a corner of the solar lounging in a chair with his feet to the fire.

Richard had no desire to speak to this self proclaimed Emperor of the French. He did not seek out the company of Leonardo. He felt the quiet disdain of the staff and guards. Richard, as he had for so much of his life, had no company but himself.

He sat in his room and studied the grounds instead. The weather had stripped the leaves from the trees and he felt that there was snow on the way. Richard had noticed that it seemed to roll in harshly, unexpectedly. He shuddered. Were the seasons not even a constant he could depend on, anymore?

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Season Two. Episode Nineteen: Human Needs. Part One.

PART ONE.

It was an extremely strange experience to sit down in the ancient dining hall in front of a replicated dinner with Leonardo da Vinci across from her and Napoleon next to her. Aspen took a bite of her sandwich and watched Napoleon struggle with his burger. 

“You don’t eat it with a knife,” she pointed out and took the opportunity to take some of his french fries.

“I’m not some savage or student, to eat with my hands,” Napoleon snorted. He persevered with the fork and knife.

Leonardo was clearly lost in his own head, eating with his right hand and sketching with his left. It looked like the designs of an eagle or falcon in flight. 

Harmony and Kami were getting ready to head out for the night, standing in the entryway, speaking to Magpie. Richard was sitting at one end of the table, eating steadily and ignoring Russo who was sitting at the other end. She eschewed dinner, studying the maps of the land around Middleham. 

“Is this whole damn castle built on a swamp? The only safe places to build would be inside the castle walls,” she asked aloud, pointedly.

Richard scowled. “The ground is steady enough to hold the castle,” he snapped.

Russo glared at him. “It won’t always be. You should see the state of the plumbing,” she muttered, looking back down. 

Aspen hid her smile in her coffee. She wasn’t above being amused by petty bitching between the doctor and the Englishman.

Above them, there was the electronic whine of an engine and she glanced up. Cutting it close, Jerome.

Aspen stood and stretched. She grabbed the last bite of her sandwich and stuffed it into her mouth, getting ready to be relieved of duty. Let Jerome keep the keep, as it were. 

But instead of the calm saunter that she expected from Jerome, the door exploded inward, nearly taking out Harmony. Jerome wasn’t even in uniform but he looked wild, his eyes red and breathing heavily. Everyone stopped and looked up at him.

Before anyone could ask Jerome, he spoke. “I know where Robespierre is!”

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

A/N: This part contains depictions of force-feeding and suicidal thoughts.

“Why isn’t he eating?” Chikara demanded when she caught sight of the security screen.

Rain shrugged, shuffling the pack of cards she’s replicated. The Bastille was not the most exciting posting she’d ever had and that included the six months she washed petri dishes for chem lab.

“No idea. His mental state has declined steadily since he’s been a prisoner so he might have decided to simply,” she flipped the cards from palm to palm, “give up.”

Chikara’s cheek twitched and Rain raised an eyebrow at her. “Is there a problem, Major?”

“Keep him alive. He’s evidence,” she barked.

Rain shrugged. “Yeah, in the case you’re building against me, no doubt. Why should I try and help you?”

“I can arrange for you to join him.”

“You can. But I think you’ll also need my help in finding the other two. What else?”

Chikara was silent for a long moment, dark eyes inscrutable. “Because you want to,” she finally said.

Rain blinked. These were the first words Chikara Harurka had said to her that she couldn’t outright disagree with.

She set the cards aside and glanced at the viewscreen. “You have me there.”

Chikara nodded. “You may use any means necessary,” was her final declaration before leaving.

Rainbow smiled. Any means huh? Well then once again Robespierre, I apologize.

XXX

“They took me shortly after you were taken to the National Razor. I bore it for you, but they would not let me take your name. I was severed from you, because of you, Maxime. Babet lost her husband because of you. Lucile lost her son, the son you name, because of you.”

Maximilien Robespierre would have given much to drive a needle into his ear, to prevent the soft voice from getting into his head.

Eleonore Duplay was sitting beside him, her white linen dress drenched in blood from the neck down. She looked much like she had the morning Maxime had left for the last time.

“Cornelia, I’m so sorry.” His eyes were dry and aching. He had nothing more for her, not even tears. It didn’t occur to Maximilien that Eleonore never would have wanted them, just as he wouldn’t have wanted hers.

Maximilien had been disturbed from his visions when a hand roughly grabbed his arm and he was jerked to his feet.

“Move!”

Stumbling blind Maxime walked forward. The invisible barrier that had kept him in the room was gone and another pair of arms grabbed him and led him for what felt like hours. His eyes felt as if they had swollen nearly shut, reducing the world to hazy grey blur. Almost immediately his calves cramped into bunches of knotted rope in his legs from kneeling and sitting for so long.

Maximilien could only assume this was when they would finally execute him.

Eventually, harsh hands grabbed his bare shoulders again and maneuvered him into a room. It was blessedly dim. He was shoved into a metal chair, goosebumps promptly breaking out over his skin. His wrists, ankles, and neck were firmly strapped against the chair.

“Hello again Robespierre.”

He gasped. “Rain? Madame Miller? You’re alive?”

She stood over him, her features blurred. “I am. Did you think the Federation was going to kill me? You really are from a very different time,” she said, her voice colored by humor. Maxime heard her take a seat next to him, her voice coming close to his ear.

“I want you to know, I didn’t mean to drag you into this. I wanted change. It won’t matter much to you, but I am sorry, Robespierre.”

He wasn’t able to turn his head at all, but he tried to make sense of her expression. Rain’s face seemed to be obscured by water. “What do you mean?”

In her typically irrelevant tone, “you’ll see what I mean.”

Lights flipped on directly over him and Maxime cringed away from the painfully bright light. There was the sound of metal on metal.

“Open your mouth.”

Dread built in his stomach as he meekly complied. Promptly a metal bit was shoved into his mouth, depressing his tongue and making so he couldn’t shut his jaw. Maxime recoiled and tried to squirm away.

“Restrain him.”

Someone grabbed his head, fingers sinking into the soft skin of his temple. A whimper tried to crawl out of his throat but Maxime ruthlessly beat it back. The would not have his submission. Not here, not when he was being held with no trial or accusation against him.

There was a moment of stillness and the only thing Maximilien could hear was the thunderous sound of his heartbeat. Then there was a smell, like lamp oil only stronger.

“I recommend you take a deep breath in,” Miller said. Maxime had no time to contemplate this advice before there was something rubber at his lips, in his mouth, at the back of his tongue and snaking all the way down his throat. There was the heavy taste of iron, the tube had scraped his tongue and he was bleeding

He gagged and tried to scream but found he couldn’t make any noise at all. He tried to shake his head loose but the talon-like fingers just held him tighter. Down, down, down. Maxime could feel the pressure of the tube behind his lungs and all the way into his stomach. He was shaking when they finally stopped feeding it into him.

Tears that Maxime hadn’t been able to shed for Eleonore now trailed down his face, scalding hot. The part of the tube still out of him was lifted over his head, so it was fed directly into him. After another painful moment of silence, he felt something being poured into the tubing, the cold liquid hitting his stomach directly and he gagged again. His toes curled against the metal floor. He gripped the arms of the chair, feeling his nails break under the pressure.

“It’s very emotive,” someone said softly. “Is it the pressure that’s evoking the saline?”

“You got it in one, Jerkins,” Miller said absently.

“Why wasn’t it taking fuel? Some defect for a prototype to have.”

“Classified,” Miller muttered. “Just shut up and keep him still.”

Maximilien was enveloped in a fog of horror. Time slipped away from him and he was horribly unprepared when the tub was roughly yanked back out. He tried to scream but the best his abused throat could do was a croak. He was made to stand and promptly crumpled to the floor. Someone grabbed him under the arms and they dragged him back to the cell.

As he laid on the floor, shivering, Maxime finally realized the totality of his imprisonment. He was not even going to be allowed to die. There was truly no escape.

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

Episode Sixteen: The Emperor. Part One.

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

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

Russo nodded mutely.

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

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

“Aspen, and Doctor Russo, I presume?”

They started forward with a huge grin on their face.

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

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

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

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

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

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

XXX

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

“Hey, Leonardo? Are you awake?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Who is this?”

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

He heard her gasp and looked up, smiling slightly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Russo scoffed and tossed her head.

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

Russo raised an eyebrow. “What about it?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Richard had stopped.

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

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

Richard finally turned, looking wary. “How?”

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

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

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

“Yes. Yes, absolutely!”

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

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

XXX

On the moon prison, The Bastille.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Danton walked closer and Max swallowed his arguments.

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

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

Heart still racing Maxime found his feet and suddenly-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Season Two. Episode Fifteen: No One so Little Loved. Part Four.

Episode Fifteen: No One so Little Loved. Part four.

It was only a two and half hour flight from Middleham to Vienna, where Doctor Primavera Russo was taking her sabbatical. Aspen didn’t know what was she was going to find, when she got there and decided to practice what she was going to try and explain the situation.

“Hello Doctor. I’m Aspen Strong, and I work for the Historical Reclamation Agency. My superior would like to know if you’ll come stay with us at Middleham for a while. Why? Oh because one of the most famous scientists in the Federation decided to resurrect a dead king with a spinal condition. We’d really appreciate it and you can stay in a renovated castle. But don’t tell anyone, because Chikara Haruka will come down on us like the wrath of god.”

Aspen groaned and buried her face in her hand.

“What the hell am I doing?” With a story like that she’d be lucky if she got away without being diagnosed with some sort of psychosis. She wouldn’t even believe herself, not if she hadn’t personally walked Leonardo da Vinci through the aspects of her prosthetic earlier.

Aspen sighed and focused on setting the flyer down in a public lot. She was the only one, most preferring the convenience of transporting. She leaned back in the seat and stared at the Danube in the distance.

“Doctor I need to talk to you,” she muttered and popped the door open. Evening was settling over the city. She brought up navigation, and turned right onto the street. She went over her words in her head, trying to figure out the sequence that would be most likely to work.

It was only a short walk to the clinic Russo was staying at. Aspen took a deep breath and pushed the door open.

“I’m sorry, we’ll be closing soon,” were the first words out of the bored looking receptionist’s mouth. Aspen frowned. The young man had his feet propped on the desk and he was reading from his tablet.

“I’m looking for Doctor Russo. Is she here?” She decided to ignore his rudeness, keeping her tone light.

His gaze didn’t even flicker. “I said, we’re closing soon. You gotta come back to tomorrow.”

Aspen sighed and stepped over the desk so her shadow fell over him, then grabbed the tablet out of his hands with her prosthetic. He yelped and finally looked up at her, blanching slightly when he realized how tall and built she was, and that she was in uniform. She looked at what he’d been reading and blushed.

“Look, guy, how about you get Russo for me, and I give back, alright? I’ll even ignore your terrible customer service,” she waved the tablet at him.

Aspen had never seen a teenager move so fast, scrambling to his feet and disappearing out of sight. Aspen grinned and dropped the tablet back to the desk.

Kids.

She dropped into parade rest and glanced around the room. It was a small clinic, with washed white brick walls and some holographic displays of the brain or heart.

“Hello? I’m sorry I’m taking any appointments now,” A feminine voice spoke and Aspen turned to see one of the gorgeous women she’d ever met standing framed in the doorway, still in scrubs.

She was shorter than Aspen, but most human women were. Her long red tinted-brown hair hung in loose curls to her waist, even though it was kept back in a ponytail. Her velvet smooth black skin was clear of blemishes and her brown eyes were sharp and spoke of an excellent mind behind even better features.

Aspen blinked and stepped out of rest, extending her hand. “Doctor Russo?” The doctor shook her hand easily, heart shaped mouth frowning slightly.

“Yes, but I don’t know you?”

“Ensign Aspen Strong. I Was hoping I could talk to you, personally. Not for an appointment,” she hastily added When both the receptionist and Russo opened their mouths. “It’s personal.”

Russo frowned. “I really don’t usually.”

“I’ll make it your time, I promise, it’s for Magpie Jones, from the Historical Reclamation Agency,” Aspen added, a touch desperately. Russo blinked.

“Magpie wants something from me?”

Aspen nodded, but kept her mouth shut. Finally Russo sighed and nodded. She turned to her receptionist.

“John, finish cleaning and lock up here. I’ll see you tomorrow. I’ll get my coat, Ensign. There’s a coffee shop we can talk at a block down.” Russo disappeared back into the clinic proper.

Aspen frowned but shrugged, falling back in parade rest. She only had to wait a moment before the doctor reappeared, untangling her hair from her coat.

It was a silent walk, with the doctor leading. Aspen practiced her little speech her head again.

The coffee shop was a vintage one, with actual baristas, and Aspen fumbled for a moment, and ended up ordering a mocha with a lot of milk.

The doctor led her over to a window seat and they sat across from each other. Russo took a sip of her chai and looked Aspen straight in the eye.

“So what does Jones want from me?”

Aspen took a deep breath. “We would like you to come to Middleham,” she began slowly. “There’s a project we would like you to work on.”

“Has Jones discovered something? They knows that I’m in the medical field, right?” Russo asked.

Aspen nearly laughed. “Yep. We looked you up.  Milanese Academy of Medicine and Cairo University right?”

“Yes. So I’m Jones’s first choice? Alright, what do they want?”

Aspen sighed then placed her hands on the table and looked Russo in the eye. “This is going to sound, well insane, but we need you to perform an operation. Privately, on the premises of Middleham.”

Russo looked at Aspen like she was crazy.

“Excuse me?”

“I’m serious, it’s very urgent that you come with me and examine a man with um, profound scoliosis,” Aspen said. Russo stood up, frowning heavily.

“If this is a joke, it’s in terrible taste. I’m a very busy woman and I don’t appreciate having my time wasted. You can tell Jones that they can-”

Aspen lurched forward, nearly upsetting the table.

“It’s not a joke and I’m dead serious. Please I need you to come with me, to Middleham and you will see what I mean, but you need to come with me, please.”

Russo looked at her dubiously. “You’re oddly insistent about this.”

Aspen grit her teeth. “You’ll understand if you come with me.”

Russo’s eyes widened, and she took a step back looking ready to run from Aspen.

Aspen took a deep breath. “I know this sounds crazy, but we have the, the original owner of the castle staying with us and you’ll see if come with me to Middleham. I promise.”

“The original owner?” Russo frowned. Then her eyes widen a fraction and she looked down at Aspen.

“If I remember my English history lessons, that was a castle built by the Plantagenet dynasty,” she said slowly. Aspen nodded slowly.

Russo held up a delicate finger and sat back down.

“An original owner? One with scoliosis?” Her head tilted. “Do you have any proof of this?”

Aspen shook her head. “Historical artifacts need to remain on the premises,” she emphasized. Russo sucked in a breath through her teeth.

She took a moment to think, taking a sip of her drink. “If this is some sort of bizarre ploy by Jones to get more support for the reclamation project, I’m going to be furious,” Russo finally said.

Aspen sighed and gave the doctor a wry smile.

“I wouldn’t worry about that, the Boss had other tricks up their sleeves for that.”

XXX

“We’ll take the transporter,” Primavera Russo said as they left the coffee shop. “Which station did you come from?”

Aspen gestured. “I took the flyer from Middleham. We’ll go back that way. It’s a two hour flight, approximately.”

Russo tilted her head, frowning pensively. “Well, if you insist.”

The two women fell into step, and the sun gradually set on Vienna.

The moment Russo strapped herself into back bench and Aspen closed the door, she finally turned to face the doctor and blurted out, “we have King Richard back at Middleham and Magpie wants you to fix his spine.” She took a deep breath and smiled shakily. “Sorry, I hate lying to people.”

Russo stared at her, eyes wide.

“How?”

Aspen flipped the flyer on, and powered the vertical engines. “It’ll be easier to explain it when we’re back at Middleham. Needless to say, it kind of a complicated story. You know who Doctor Rainbow Miller is right?”

Russo’s look of shock deepened.

“She didn’t, she wouldn’t!”

“From everything I’ve heard so far, Miller absolutely did,” Aspen said grimly. “It’s worrying, we can’t seem to find her anymore…”

Russo shook her magnificent head. “I heard heard from her intern, Kamala Manson that she’d gone on an extended sabbatical.”

Aspen frowned. “That seems entirely too convenient.” She shook her head. She didn’t like this intrigue, not one bit.

XXX

The Moon Prison: The Bastille.

“Is that what you’ve been telling people about me? Tsk tsk, Chikara. That won’t hold up under scrutiny,” Rain grinned and kicked her heels out in front of the chair. “Someone is going to come looking for me and realize I’m not where I’m supposed to be.”

Marie Riviera scowled, her heavy pale features washed out in the Bastille’s bright lighting. “The only one who will come looking for you is Manson and she’s the one who’s passing the information around for us. Major Haruka has thought of everything.”

Rain smiled. Not everything. She hasn’t bother to make sure the information hasn’t been leaked. I’ve been watching.

“Of course she has, Marie darling.”

Rain turned her attention back to the screen.

Whatever Robespierre was seeing must have been chilling because the man hadn’t stopped shivering for over an hour. It could have also been that Rain was degree by degree lowing the temperature of the cell. Exposed as he was, Robespierre must have been feeling it.

He’d curled himself into a corner and from the way he rocked, Rain guessed he was crying.

She rolled her eyes. She wondered if Richard or Leonardo would have held up better under the circumstances. She hoped so.

XXX

Somewhere in the American Northwest.

The pack had been on the outskirts of the forest, next to a town when it happened.

“Hey!”

Ava lifted her head from the chicken carcass she’d been eating, fur bristling at the unfamiliar voice. A human male was approaching the pack and quickly. He held a lead in his hand, and a shepherd dog like Berwald, pulled him forward.

Ava growled, planting her paws firmly into the ground. The rest of the pack stopped what they were doing to watch. Lester and Bobbie also dropped their meals, dropping into protective stances as well.

“Whoa, alright there girl. Let’s just cool out alright? I’m not going to hurt you. Where’d you come from?” The male said quietly. Ava bared her teeth. The other dog tensed and curled back his top lip.

“Kirk, get back, down boy,” the man pulled the lead slightly. He fumbled at his hip for something and Ava threw her head back, howling.

The pack launched themselves forward as one, Berwald snapping Baby up in his jaws. Ava bowled the man and his dog over, racing for the tree line.

Ava could fly over the ground, but she still out run the beam of light that locked her muscles in place and sent her muzzle first into the dirt. Around her she could hear the rest of her pack dropping to the ground with her. She wanted to scream her anger, but all that came from her jaws was a whimper.

A shadow fell over them. The man and dog stood next to Ava’s head.

“Yeah, we have a bunch of stray dogs along the woods. Bring some crates and water.”