This time next week, my youngest daughter is starting full time school. For the record, my answer to the near constant refrain of ‘What will you do with your time?” is “write Musketeer hijinks in outer space.”
We’re heading into a slightly NSFW batch of chapters starting this week. I kind of assumed everyone knew Musketeer Space wasn’t all that Safe For Work anyway because the language has never been especially mild, but for those of you who don’t want to be caught reading sexytimes on their computer, just to let you know, there’s some coming up.
PREVIOUSLY IN MUSKETEER SPACE: Dana D’Artagnan is pretty sure that Milord kidnapped her squeeze Conrad, and her hottest lead is the clamshell tablet that Milord gave to his political crush, the Marquise De Wardes, and the Marquise promptly regifted to Dana. Also the Musketeers live in space and they’re about to ship out to war any day now, but Dana is too busy trying to seduce Milord via text message to worry about all that.
NOW READ ON.
Chapter 36: Sexting the Enemy
“They look like teardrops,” Planchet observed at one point.
“Nothing so innocent,” Athos replied darkly.
No matter where you went on Paris Satellite, the vid-feeds were there to remind you about the Siege of Truth Space.
The Sun-kissed ships were grey-silver streaks of metal – teardrops was a poetic enough description for the shape of them, if it wasn’t for the implied lethal force within their shells. The first wave of Cardinal’s Sabres and Royal Musketeers had reached Truth Space already, positioning themselves around and between the silent Sun-kissed fleet.
No shots had been fired. No diplomatic exchange had been made. And, to the extreme frustration of those Sabres and Musketeers left out of the first wave, there was no word yet as to when reinforcements would be called to the front.
“The first war with the Sun-kissed started when we broke ranks and shot first,” Porthos said. “I’m not surprised that the Regent is holding back, this time around.”
“She can’t seriously think we can make peace with those monsters,” Athos replied with a chill to his voice.
“But wouldn’t it be nice if we could?” Aramis sighed.
Dana had heard similar conversations among her friends every day for the last week, and they were still no closer to being sent to the front than she had been at Bee’s party on the Matagot.
What she was doing, as they all awaited further orders, was dating Vaniel De Winter.
This had not been Dana’s plan. One dinner, she had thought, with perhaps drinks and dancing afterwards. Getting close to him made a lot of sense, because he did not know she had any particular interest in Conrad Su, and she needed to know if he was the one responsible for the kidnapping.
Also, it took her mind off the whole going to war thing, not to mention the awkward, unsatisfying subspace communications she had managed to exchange with her family on the beleaguered Gascon Station.
But somehow, one dinner had turned into another, and another. The location was always the same as wherever the Marquise de Wardes was dining, with friends or political allies or on one occasion a very attractive and muscular young man whose dinner suit had no sleeves.
If it wasn’t mildly terrifying, it would have been hilarious, because while Dana flirted awkwardly with Milord at these dinners, she also flirted with far greater enthusiasm with him via clamshell, still pretending to be the Marquise.
Luckily for her, he seemed to enjoy the game so much that he had not actually tried to speak with the Marquise in person again. Instead, he made conversation with Dana at the restaurant, coldly “ignored” the Marquise (who needed no prompting to likewise ignore him) and then spent hours afterwards typing flirtatious banter at the woman he believed to be her.
Did this mean that Dana was dating Milord twice over? She had an awful feeling that she was. It was exhausting, to be honest, but it was exhilarating as well, to have a secret like this and to be skirting the edge of danger so closely.
He was dangerous. She had to keep reminding herself that he was dangerous, because he was also clever and witty and occasionally so awkward that it made her want to mock him, and then kiss him, or possibly both at the same time.
Thanks to Athos and Grimaud’s exciting project of ‘let’s build a ship from random parts because life isn’t difficult enough’, Dana and the others now spent a lot of their downtime either scavenging the junk field and the shipyards, or hanging out in the maintenance workshop where the Pistachio was taking her final shape.
When asked, they referred to it as ‘helping.’
Today, Dana lay full length on a welding bench, pretending to be someone else while flirting via text message. So basically acting like she was fifteen.
She had quite enjoyed replying to:
What are you wearing?
A welding mask and steel capped boots.
Though it had required quite a lot of explaining afterwards as to why the Marquise de Wardes might possibly have worn such an outfit. It was amazing how far the phrase ‘diplomatic tour of the city’ got you.
Dana had teased him with:
A fashion thing, you wouldn’t understand
before providing a genuine explanation, and then shifting into a far more enticing description of lingerie and where exactly she would like him to put his hands someday.
“You sexting your boyfriend again?” Porthos asked. Like Dana, she was “helping” the finishing work on Athos’ new ship by staying well away from the newly painted hull or any of the other essential jobs. Everyone knew that Porthos was prepared to accidentally break things in order to not be asked to perform certain tasks, and so Athos had not even tried.
“I don’t have a boyfriend,” said Dana, barely looking up from the clamshell where the virtual flirting had definitely segued into something about five minutes away from cybersex. “I have a mission.”
“Still not entirely sure how you’re planning to rescue one fellow by hooking up with another,” said Athos, climbing out of the Pistachio specifically to move Porthos slightly further away from the tail fin of his new ship, which was about to have a new tattoo printed on to it by sonic wave. “Is it a ‘kids today’ situation?”
“Everything involving dating ever is a ‘kids today’ situation for you, Athos,” said Aramis, who had taken charge of the sonic wave, programming in the design for the spray. “No one wants your romantic advice.”
“I give excellent romantic advice,” said Athos, sounding genuinely hurt.
“All you ever tell me is that love is for idiots, pretty people aren’t to be trusted, and I should stop flirting with obvious villains,” volunteered Dana.
Athos tilted his head slightly at her. “Those are extremely wise words which all sound like things I might have said. What’s your point?”
“So this is fun,” said Dana, ignoring his question. “But it’s late enough in the day that we’re probably not going to be called out to the Siege of Truth Space, and I have a date tonight.”
“Wear something pretty,” advised Porthos.
“Dance like it’s your last night on Earth,” said Aramis.
“Don’t sleep with a man just because you think he might have kidnapped your boyfriend,” muttered Athos.
“I’m going to take your recommendations under consideration!” Dana said loudly, and left before they could say anything else.
The part Dana had not shared with them was that tonight’s date was not technically with Milord De Winter.
Actually it wasn’t at all with Milord De Winter.
Dana had been visiting the Matagot a lot this week, meeting with Vaniel before their dinner dates, as well as occasionally taking tea with Bee and her appalling New Aristocrat friends. Every visit, every excuse, was for a single purpose: continuing the illusion that Dana D’Artagnan had an innocent but genuine crush on the Valour Minister of the Interior.
And every time she stepped on board the ship, there was Kitty Columbina.
This was the part that Dana felt slightly bad about, but only slightly, because Kitty did after all work for someone who might possibly be a criminal mastermind.
But Kitty liked to flirt with Dana, quite a lot. And Dana had been flirting back.
So this evening, with Milord and his sister-in-law off at some Palace shindig (which did not, thank goodness, include the Marquise de Wardes as an invited guest, otherwise the jig would almost certainly be up), Dana visited the Matagot specifically to spend time with Kitty alone.
Kitty was oddly fascinating. She wass bubbly and warm and sarcastic, all qualities that Dana rather enjoyed. Tonight, she was wearing earrings shaped like strawberries, and a mini dress with flying ponies printed on it.
She also apparently hated her boss.
It wasn’t obvious at first, not with all the smiling and the banter and the public politeness. But Dana had discovered by process of elimination that the best way to make Kitty smile was to say something disparaging or sarcastic or downright mean about Milord De Winter.
This was useful, it had to be useful, but Dana didn’t really want to think about useful right this second, because that was going to make her feel really bad about the fact that she was kissing her way down Kitty’s neck, and making her giggle with the teasing trace of her fingertips.
If she was a good person, then she wouldn’t have planned to kiss Kitty at all. It would have been an accident when their friendly flirtation shifted into this, the slide of soft mouths together, and the shivery feeling of leaning so far into another person that you could share each other’s heat.
Dana D’Artagnan was not a good person. She was a Musketeer in her heart, and that didn’t always mean good. She has a job to do, and a man to rescue if it was still possible. She had rescued a lot of people one way or another, since setting foot on Paris Satellite. Why couldn’t she rescue Conrad Su, one last time?
Except for the inconvenient fact that she was going to be summoned to battle any day now. Dana was running out of time, and the fastest way to figure out what Milord is hiding might well be found in Kitty’s knickers.
An assistant who hated her boss was useful, it had a lot of potential. Dana needed to earn her trust fast, and this, she had convinced herself, was the best way to do it.
It didn’t hurt that Kitty was really, really good at kissing. She arched back against her desk, scattering tiny plush animals in all directions. “What was that you were saying before we got distracted?” she laughed.
Dana leaned in, kissing her nose and then her cheek, their eyelashes fluttering together. “I forget. I like your office.”
“Milord’s is nicer,” breaths Kitty, one hand squeezing Dana’s upper arm. “Wow, you’re strong. All those muscles.”
“I work out. Why is his office nicer?”
“Because he’s the boss, and he has more money than anyone needs, and he has a really nice couch.”
Dana grinned wickedly at that. “A couch, you say?”
Kitty squealed as Dana picked her up, and carried her into the office, which was conveniently unlocked. Because you know what? If she was going to fail at this mission, if there was a chance maybe she wouldn’t find Conrad, or he wass dead already, and it’s all Milord’s fault…
Then frankly, eating out a hot girl on the bastard’s couch was the least she could do.
“KITTY!” called a voice from the outer office some time later. Dana and Kitty stared at each other in dishevelled shock.
“He’s back early!” Kitty gasped.
They weren’t entirely naked, but there are several items of clothing that had to be reclaimed or adjusted before Kitty looked even slightly respectable, and even then, there was a wildness about her hair and a sleepy well-fucked expression on her face that wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Hopefully Milord wasn’t observant about these things.
“I’ll keep him out there,” Kitty whispered, straightening her clothes one last time, while Dana sacrificed all dignity to hide behind the couch, pulling her boots on as she did so. On impulse, she reached up and gave Kitty a last heated kiss, just to make her blush.
“What the hell are you doing in there?” snapped Milord, sounding irritable as Kitty burst through the doorway.
“Sorting out those meeting notes for tomorrow, like you asked me to, even though I haven’t had a night off in three weeks and some of us don’t get invited to gallivant around Palaces, eating caviar sandwiches and goosing Duchesses or whatever.” Kitty managed to sound bored, sarcastic and casual all at once. Dana wanted to applaud her.
“It’s not as much fun as it sounds,” said Milord, sounding amused. Obviously he enjoyed a little lack of respect in his employees. It was one of many odd facts that Dana had to mentally file about him.
“Whatever. Next time, bring me back a plate of gold-plated cupcakes.” There was a sound as Kitty smacked him in the chest with a tablet. “Here, all the prep work is done. You’re welcome. Get an early night or go chase after one of your smart ladyfriends. I’m going to watch the holo-soaps in your office, because you’ve got the biggest wall screen.”
“It’s your respectful attitude, Kitty, that’s what I appreciate most about you,” Milord drawled.
“Oh, sorry. I’m going to take full advantage of your giant wall screen, if that’s okay with you, SIR.” There was a pause, as Milord looked over the work Kitty had handed him. “No hot date tonight?” she asked archly.
“Not for me,” said Milord. “I did bump into the Marquise de Wardes at the Palace dinner -”
Dana held her breath, wondering if the two had spoken to each other and figured out what had happened with the stray clamshell.
“Oh, your adorable political crush,” Kitty laughed. “The way you mix work and pleasure is so messed up, it’s almost artistic.”
“I live for your amusement.”
“Did she swoon into your arms after all that sexting?”
“No, she pretended not to know me. It’s a very special connection that we have. These notes are adequate, thank you.”
“A compliment? I may swoon. You must be in a good mood. If it’s not the Marquise de Wardes putting that smile on your face, what is it?”
“Let’s just say, the Cardinal and I have come to an understanding.”
Kitty gave a squawk at that. “You’re not sleeping with her, are you?”
“Mind out of the gutter!”
“Just saying, she’s a bit old, and I wouldn’t have thought she was your type. Then again, I wouldn’t have thought Little Ms D’Artagnan was your type either, and you’ve been wining and dining her all week.”
Dana froze at the mention of her name. What was Kitty up to? Was this a trap?
“You’re such a gossip,” said Milord, sounding almost fond.
“There isn’t a lot else to do around here since I have to work the same stupid hours as my boss and that means I don’t get a life…”
“You know perfectly well that I’m not romancing D’Artagnan for the fun of it.”
“I guessed as much,” said Kitty, with half a yawn as if this wasn’t massively important information. “Keeping an eye on her for the Cardinal, then?”
“I’d rather have her within line of sight if she’s going to pull another stunt like that business with the diamond studs, yes.”
Dana almost stopped breathing. Milord knew? He knew she was the one who had foiled the plot with the diamonds. Did that mean that the Cardinal knew too? How much trouble was she in here?
“Her Eminence wants that mess hushed up, doesn’t she?” chimed in Kitty now. “So embarrassing for her.”
“For all of us,” Milord said sharply. “Believe me, if it wasn’t for the Cardinal insisting we not move against her, I would have had my revenge against that ridiculous D’Artagnan child already.”
“And instead you’re dating her.” Kitty laughed, utterly relaxed. Dana had never heard anyone lie so comfortably – it was impressive and kind of scary.
“There are many ways to enact vengeance,” said Milord. “The Cardinal needed me to take the Su tailor out of the equation – and if that works as a punishment for D’Artagnan as well, that’s a bonus.”
Rage burned through Dana. She wanted to burst through the doors and punch Milord in the face. But Kitty had given her this gift, and she did not want to waste it. So she waited and listened, anger settling cool and deep in her stomach.
“Go to bed, sir,” Kitty said now, all brisk like a meditech. “Go on, get out of here. I bet you haven’t slept in days, stupid man.”
“There’s that respect again, Kitty. It shines out of your pores like sunshine and rainbows.”
“I want to watch my stories, and I don’t want to have to peel you out of bed in the morning on no sleep. You don’t pay me enough for that. Speaking of which -”
“No, Kitty, no pay raise,” Milord said, and he did actually sound tired. “It’s all going to be worth it, you’ll see.”
“Yes, yes, nefarious plots, we love it when a plan comes together, whatever. Go away and be unconscious for a while.”
There was a shuffling sound, then a doors opening and closing. Dana stretched her legs out, leaning against the wall of Milord’s office.
Finally Kitty came back in, raising an eyebrow. “That’s the sort of thing you were after, I suppose.” She was all business now.
Dana stood up, feeling awkward and grateful. “Kitty, I don’t know what to say.”
The assistant frowned at her. “People always think I’m stupid. Because of the hair and the bling and the attitude. But it’s actually pretty hard to fool me.”
“Why?” Dana blurted out. “Why all this tonight, if you knew -?”
“That you were only spending time with me to get the dirt on Milord?” Kitty shrugged a shoulder, giving Dana a tiny smile. “You’re hot. And I wanted you. I’m not stupid. I work for someone who is kind of evil, but pays me really well. I’m not ditching him or this job. The occasional rebellion is how I sleep at nights.”
Dana leaned in and kissed her, meaning it entirely. Kitty kissed her back, but only for a moment before she pulled away. “Get out of here. I think there might actually be some torture devices along with the treadmills and Pilates machines in that gym of his. You don’t want to get caught.”
“Do you -” Dana hesitated. “I hate to ask any more of you.”
“No, I don’t know where he’s keeping that boy of yours,” Kitty said, her tone turning cold. “I don’t get let in on the super secret stuff, like where they keep high profile kidnapping victims.”
“If you find out, do you think you could get in touch?”
“I don’t know, Dana. That’s asking a lot.”
Dana reached out and took Kitty’s hand, grazing the backs of her knuckles with a kiss. “Okay. I won’t ask.” For now, she added silently.
What the hell was she going to do now?
You have been reading Musketeer Space, by Tansy Rayner Roberts. Tune in next week for another chapter! Please comment, share and link. Musketeer Space is free to read, but if you’d like to support the project for as little as $1 per month, please visit my Patreon page. Pledges can earn rewards such as ebooks, extra content, dedications and the naming of spaceships. Milestones already unlocked include the Musketeer Media Monday posts, the Robotech Rewatch posts, and “Seven Days of Joyeux,” a special Christmas prequel novella which was released in December 2015. My next funding milestone ($300 a month) will unlock GORGEOUS COVER ART.