At long last... an update!
There are a few spoilers for what happens in RAM VI and at the end of ROM VI Crown of Thorns in this chapter. Chapter 3 has them as well, but you have to squint... and even then it's still a little vague.
Remember Everything on Mars
"Her Majesty disappeared?"
Wordsworth sighed, leaning back in his chair. "Yes. I'm afraid so." He admitted, smoking a lit pipe as he answered his student.
Former priest and AX agent, Hugue de Watteu, peered at his mentor under the hood of his cape. It was less than hour since he arrived back in Londinium. He'd been scouting the Albion border towns when he received word from Kate to return to the capital. From what he learned, almost two days had passed since the disappearance of the Queen.
"Is she dead?"
The Albion gentleman glanced at the orb on his desk, expression grim.
"It was a possibility I had considered. But this particular lost technology is a defense system type." Wordsworth shook his head. "No - Her Majesty's alive. It's what happened to her that I'm less certain of."
"Our true problem," a second voice interrupted, having stayed silent until now. Petros opened his eyes, arms folded as he slouched against a wall. "Is those monsters will use this against us."
Monsters - he meant the New Human Empire.
"I'm afraid you're right." Wordsworth met the other man's cool gaze with a slight nod. "The Empire will surely take advantage of this - and the Order manipulating it. Without Queen Esther, Albion's confidence will be undermined." For a moment, he seemed worried, but the look quickly vanished. "In any case, I've already asked Kate to arrange a meeting between the Duchess of Erin and Lord Walsh to discuss a temporary solution."
At the mention of the Duchess and Count, Petros stiffed. Thinking he would have to see either of those two was enough to fill him with irritation and dread. But even his dislike for the black-haired woman (who was completely lacking in morals) and the Methuselah (who he respected but was still a vampire) was overshadowed by regret.
He had been in the hall, standing guard for the Queen when the Professor's shout had caught his attention. Like a true Knight of the Church he had rushed to help, and even now Petros still didn't understand what he'd seen.
A sphere of blue light... and the person he swore his allegiance to fading... more than anyone he felt the weight of failure to not keep her safe.
- the final request of His Holiness, Pope Alessandro XVIII.
When Petros had learned of Cardinal Medici's plans to assassinate the Albion Queen, a person His Holiness voluntarily supported, he had immediately traveled to Prague against orders to stop it.
But despite his best efforts, the assassination attempt couldn't be avoided.
However, at the last possible moment, it was His Holiness who had taken the fatal blow, saving the Queen from certain death.
Recalling the red haired girl gently holding the dying Pope, and his final words as he asked Petros to help Esther escape, to protect her, it made him feel deeply ashamed. That one request, and Sister Judith's callousness for what she'd done, had changed everything for him.
Straightening, he was about to inquire how to search for the missing Queen when Hugue interrupted with a question of his own. "Master, why did Her Majesty disappear in first place? Was it part Illuminati's programming?"
Petros scowled at him. "Does that matter now? We should focus on finding Her Majesty!"
"Actually, Hugue makes a good point." Professor cut in. "The Illuminati is an artifact that creates a magnetic field to isolate and protect objects within a certain range, but perhaps it has secondary function as well." He reached under his desk, pulling a suitcase out. "I'll have to do some investigating. In the meantime, Albert - I mean, the Deputy Prime Minister of Albion security, will keep knowledge of Queen Esther's disappearance to a minimum." He looked at Petros. "By the way, could you deliver this to someone for me? I can't do it myself right now."
Petros skeptically took the suitcase. "Deliver to who?"
"The Duchess of Erin."
Seeing his colleague's fearful expression, the Professor smiled cheerfully. "I'm sure Her Majesty would appreciate you delivering her clothes and jewels to the Duchess for safe-keeping."
The thought of meeting that woman alone made Petros' skin crawl. He glared at Hugue, who was pointedly looking away. Taking a breath and squaring his shoulders, Petros nodded his head with exaggerated seriousness. "Understood. I will deliver this without fail!"
Wordsworth beamed. "Excellent! I'm counting on you Petros!"
The former Chief Inquisitor bowed and left the office, passing the two guards outside the door that ensured the Professor (under temporary house arrest) stayed inside. Hugue nodded respectfully before he too was gone - likely to intercept the Count of Manchester when he arrived at the Port of Londinium tonight. After the heavy damage inflicted on the Ghetto with the Inquisition and Mary's attempted purge, the original Methuselah population had relocated to an island off the Albion coast. With them gone, the underground city had remained vacant until the Empire declared war on western Europe.
Now the Ghetto was considered a refugee for the people who had fled the continent... and in the more restricted areas, the headquarters for the disbanded AX agents.
Suddenly, a woman's voice chimed in his ear.
"That went well."
"Ah, Kate. I just finished speaking with Petros and Hugue. Are there any new developments?" The Professor suddenly focused on his empty office. "Has Leon sent word from Germanicus? What about the Earl of Memphis?"
"Dandelion says there's been no change."
In front of his desk, the holograph of a nun flickered into existence. She was a beautiful woman with a mole under her eye. But her delicate features, which gave her a motherly appearance, were drawn in concern.
"Either Queen Esther's disappearance hasn't been leaked... or the King is withholding knowledge of it, were not sure. As for the Earl, there's still no word from the Empire."
"I expect it will take more time until he can contact us again. Regarding Ludwig II, he's always been a rather cautious and unpredictable monarch." Wordsworth bit the stem of his pipe, tapping a gloved finger on the wood of his desk. "It was wise to have Leon stay in Germanicus after AX was dissolved. I was recovering in Rome due to my own injuries at the time, but from what I've heard, Ludwig II took an interest in him during that RozenKruetz fiasco in Vienna six years ago."
"Yes. That's when he first offered to have Leon work for him."
"And the incident has worked marvelously in our favor." He acknowledged, glancing at the lost technology perched on his desk. "However, I have little doubt our 'Blood-stained Youth' is aware of his bodyguard's double-agent status."
Picking up the Illuminati, Wordsworth examined it for a moment.
"Albion's alliance with Germanicus is fragile at best, even with the war on the Empire. Ludwig II is likely using Leon to assure us there won't be a confrontation... for now at least. In truth, I was hoping the Illuminati could give Her Majesty a bit of an advantage over him, something to haggle better cooperation from Germanicus."
Kate's hologram flickered uncertainly. If AX hadn't been dissolved... if Rome wasn't destroyed and the Vatican. Kate bit her thumb anxiously. If Caterina and Tres -
The blonde haired woman focused on the orb Wordsworth held up for inspection.
"What does this look like to you?"
She stared at it a moment, then frowned. "It... it looks like some sort of measuring unit."
Wordsworth nodded. "Its appearance corresponds to the shape, size and power fluctuation of the magnetic field it generates." He inspected the small indentations on its surface. "Unfortunately, I found little information on the Illuminati in historic records. Most of my knowledge was based on experiments and research of similar lost technology."
Kate looked suddenly ill. "You let her test something so dangerous?"
"I'm sure Her Majesty is fine, Kate." He assured, setting the orb back on his desk. "And I already plan to take full responsibility. By the way, when is Lord Walsh scheduled to arrive in Albion? Hugue went to meet him."
"Twenty-one-hundred hours. 9 p.m tonight."
Wordsworth nodded before glancing around his office. It had been relocated from Buckingham Palace to a secured area in the underground a month ago. The arrangement was pleasing despite the slight inconvenient of the location. And it wasn't long before he was immersed in fascination with the secrets of the Ghetto.
- it was also where he discovered the Illuminati.
Like most lost technology it had been in dire need of repair, although its condition had more to do with the pitiful scraps Wordsworth found then its actual age. He would almost swear someone had taken a sledgehammer to it...
Puffing on his pipe, Wordsworth continued, "At any rate, it will be convenient with Lord Walsh here. Not only can he help with a solution for Her Majesty's disappearance, he also knows the technology of the underground and can access the Ghetto's restrict files. Perhaps one of them will hold the answer to our problem."
Kate felt a slight stir of hope but kept her expression of calm, instead asking, "Shall I make tea then? You and the Count have a long night ahead. It might help."
"That's true. Thank you, Kate."
With a decisive nod her hologram vanished and the Professor was alone in his office. He stared at the empty space a moment before turning away, his attention resting on the source of their problems.
"... a long night indeed."
His mouth set in a determined line, Wordsworth stood from his chair.
There was work to do. He had to prepare for the Count of Manchester's arrival.
A folder was dropped onto the metal table. Esther stared at it, then at Abel standing across from her.
"We found no record for that name in our computer system." He pulled out a chair and sat down. "We also ran the serial number of your confiscated gun. It's registered to an officer in the Security Department. She was found unconscious in a storage room almost twenty minutes ago." Opening the folder, he glanced at the first page.
All this information was collected in the last forty minutes by security. But since it wasn't really important right now, Abel skipped ahead to more pressing matters.
"We also questioned the person who gave you the file found in your pocket. He claims to have no connection with you or the assassination attempt on Cain." Abel looked up from the report. "He also mentioned you intended to give that file to me."
Esther stayed quiet. She didn't know where this conversation was going.
Abel continued. "I want to know if shooting Cain was a mistake." He stared at her hard. "Was I the real target?"
"No!" Esther cried out. She could understand how someone else might get to that conclusion, but it surprised and hurt a little that he'd think she would do that to him. "No, of course not." She said again, voice soft.
Abel looked at her strangely. Her vehement denial had surprised him, but he decided not to comment. "Was anyone else involved in the murder attempt?"
She shook her head.
He drummed his fingers on the table in irritation. That wasn't much of an answer. "So you acted alone?"
"Then attacking him was personal? And don't answer with a fucking head shake!" He snapped. This was getting to his patience, and he didn't have much to begin with. And it wasn't like she couldn't talk either... "What?" he asked, suddenly noticing the weird look Esther was giving him.
She stared at him worriedly. "Are you alright?"
"You acting a little..." Esther trailed off when Abel narrowed his eyes at her. The hostility in his expression took her by surprise. He was so different, and not just in looks. The contrast with gentle priest and this hot-tempered young man was almost a physical pain.
"A little...?" Abel urged her threateningly.
But Esther still couldn't talk. She could only think about how much he'd changed. After the disaster in Prague, Abel and Ion had followed Cain to the Empire. The Earl had later told her they had separated after sneaking into the Capital, and that Father Nightroad had gone to help Seth.
Was that battle what changed him? Esther wondered. She knew the two Krusniks had disappeared after it. And that the Yeniceri had found the severed head and corpse of the Empress in the debris of the environmental room. Was that when it happened? Had Cain done something to him? She hadn't been surprised when Rozenkruetz used their contacts in the Empire to manipulate information, declaring Abel the 'Assassin from the Vatican' to start a war with the Outer. But for Abel to suddenly change sides and protect Cain... why?
Her hands fisted in her lap, but as soon as Esther realized what she was doing, she relaxed. "I just wanted to know why you're so serious about this." Esther said finally, keeping her voice level.
Abel looked at her closely. "You really don't understand, do you?"
"Understand..?" Esther knew she wasn't going to like whatever he said next.
Abel leaned forward in his chair. "You're in a dangerous situation. There's a million people in the Mars Colony... and right now, more than half of them want you dead." he looked straight at her. "It's your choice to cooperate or not. I don't really care, but if you give us the information we want the charges against you might turn from a death sentence to life imprisonment."
Esther stared at him. She wasn't really worried about being in any danger. In fact, out of everything he said, one word stood out more than the rest.
"Mars...?" Esther ventured hesitantly. "We're on another planet?"
It was Abel's turn to stare. "You didn't know?" When Esther didn't deny it, he frowned. "I find that hard to believe. The Red Mars Project was established by the United Nations forty-two years ago - in 2080. There isn't a person alive who doesn't know about it." That's what he'd thought anyway. How the hell could she not know this stuff? The girl almost killed the Head Administrator an hour ago!
Abel ran a frustrated hand through his hair. Shit, what was he supposed think now? Was the girl a hired assassin or just plain nuts? Did he even want to choose? Not to mention he still had to send that incident report back to Earth -
Abel froze. "What did you say?"
Esther's hands were starting to shake. This was to sudden for her. She wasn't expecting a situation like this. How could she just accept it? It was to unreal. "You're lying." Her voice was weak. It reflected how she felt exactly. "You must be."
What happened next was almost to fast to follow.
Abel stood, knocking over his chair and seizing Esther by the front of her shirt. "Lying!?" He shook her. "Lying!? What the hell makes you think I'm lying!?" It took everything he had not to hit her in that moment. Esther remained quiet, and he shook her again. "Answer me, damn it!"
If he'd been calm, Abel would have noticed Esther's face had lost color. But he didn't. Not at first. Only when she started trembling did Abel notice Esther was staring at him in shock, fear, and horror. Embittered at the sight, he shoved her away.
"This interrogation is over."
Snatching the folder off the table he left the room in disgust. Esther slumped in her chair, head down and eyes staring vacantly at the floor. Moments later, she heard the swoosh of a door opening and footsteps enter the room.
"This is... impossible... how... it's not true... a lie..."
Confused and terrified, words fell from her lips in a stream of broken thoughts as her surroundings became less distinguished, the walls and table bleeding together in foggy white and greys.
"... it must be a lie."
The eerie fog was broken by a ray of light.
Esther sat up and blinked in confusion at the closet-sized room. She vaguely recalled a woman had brought her here after the interrogation. She must have lost consciousness after she left.
"... this is the past."
Her sight focused on the glass wall in front of her. On the other side was an empty hallway, the lights so bright it made her head hurt. Esther leaned against the wall and stared at the red welts on her wrists. They stung a little, and her arm hurt where Abel had pinned her. There was also a curious ache at the back of her skull...
The red haired girl folded her legs and tucked them under her chin.
She didn't understand. He wasn't anything like the priest Esther knew centuries in the future. His attitude had shocked her, even frightened her, and she wasn't sure how to deal with him like that.
But at least one thing was certain - and that was how Abel and Cain could survive for so many years. They were both Krusnik. And Seth... she was a Krusnik. Her battle against Radu-Dietrich in the environmental room had proved it. And because Seth has lived over eight hundred years, it was logical the other two could be as old - even older than the late Empress.
She exhaled a shaky breath. Everything was to complicated. She knew nothing about the past, and as long as she was here, she might accidentally change it...
"... I can change it."
Esther froze at this sudden realization.
A person normally couldn't change the past. In fact, it was absolutely impossible. But that wasn't true now. She was in the past and that meant the future could change.
But it was also a dangerous thing to consider.
Esther didn't know the circumstances of how the Father and Cain became the immortal life-force known as Krusnik. She only knew they weren't Krusnik now. A gunshot couldn't hurt Cain if he was. So if this was before he was a Krusnik... then it was possible for him to die.
Friends... family... so many people could be saved. But killing him was also risky. She didn't know the full consequences of tampering with the past. The only thing she knew was if Cain died things would be better...
... and it was with that thought Esther made a decision.
She was going to change the future.
The Albion Methuselah now live on Neverland, the island where Professor Berrie was experimenting on children and the case Abel and Leon resolved in the RAM II novel. This actually does happen at the end of ROM VI, as for Ludwig II asking Leon to work for him, that happened in the unfinished RAM VI, Apocalypse Now.
Hope you guys didn't mind the spoilers!