(now I’m imagining what Musketeer school would be like – omg imagine the Musketeer Breakfast Club, all grumpy because they were caught duelling in the halls, someone write me that)
As with last week, this one comes with a strong NSFW warning for those who are comfortable reading stories of Musketeers and spaceships at work, on the train etc., but less comfortable doing so when those characters start taking their clothes off.
Clothes are totally coming off!
PREVIOUSLY IN MUSKETEER SPACE: Dana D’Artagnan has had a busy few months befriending Musketeers, training in space mecha, saving the Prince Consort from a terrible scandal, romancing a slightly married tailor (now kidnapped), drinking, duelling and generally getting into trouble. Meanwhile, aliens exploded half of the space station where she grew up and are hovering in Truth Space waiting for war.
Setting up a fake double romance with the mysterious political obsessive known as Milord De Winter might not be the worst thing Dana’s ever done… but that’s only because she doesn’t know the whole story yet.
NOW READ ON!
For two days, “the Marquise de Wardes” did not reply to the bantering texts sent to her from Milord de Winter. Dana could not bring herself to put on that flirtatious persona like a coat, not when she knew for certain that Milord knew everything and considered her an enemy.
It had felt like a game until now. But now she knew that the only reason he had not attacked her outright was because, for some reason, the Cardinal wanted her to stay in one piece.
She felt sick to her stomach, not knowing where Conrad was. The mission with the diamonds was no longer a triumph, not with him lost because of it.
Meanwhile, the preparations for war continued. Aramis had fixed up the damage done to the Morningstar on their diamond mission, thanks to financial contributions from several of her former girlfriends who were obviously used to subsidising the military in this way.
A credit stud with a sarcastic message attached had even arrived from Madame (no longer Minister) Chevreuse, who was apparently working as a press secretary for the Daughters of Peace United Government. Aramis, relieved to know that Chevreuse was not living on Artemisia any more and so was a reasonably safe distance from the Siege of Truth, showed Dana the message. Dana could not help noticing that it mentioned nothing about the impending happy event that Chevreuse (and presumably, her husband) were expecting.
There was no tactful way to check if your friend knew her ex-girlfriend was heavily pregnant, and so Dana continued to say nothing on the topic.
“I suppose there are some benefits to staying friends with every woman you’ve ever slept with,” drawled Athos, who never explained how he had acquired his own war chest, despite outlaying more on the refurbishment of the Pistachio than it would have cost him to order a freshly printed ship.
“I only have affairs with patriotic women,” Aramis said loftily.
Porthos, meanwhile, preened over the brand new helm and harness that she turned up with one day, for Bonnie to install in the Hoyden. “A gift from Chef Coquenard,” she said, sounding pleased. “He felt a guilty about the whole leaving me stranded on Chantilly business.”
“You’re all so shameless,” Dana laughed.
Athos gave her a sharp look. “And your own flirtation with this dangerous politician you are running around with? You’re not using his credit to secretly outfit a ship, are you?”
“No!” said Dana, almost but not quite offended. “I’m after information, not profit.”
“Still,” said Porthos, giving the others a shifty look. “You might be down to pilot the troop transport for the Musketeers, but having a dart on hand for emergencies, that wouldn’t be a bad thing, would it?”
Dana was confused. “What are you talking about?”
“It was going to be a surprise,” said Athos, glaring at Porthos.
“Does that mean we can tell her now?” asked Aramis, bouncing on her heels.
There was no stopping them, after that. They called for Planchet and the other engineers to join them, and the whole gang dragged Dana across the yard to where a very familiar spaceship was docked and waiting for them.
It had been freshly painted, again, in exactly the same dreadful shade. Dana swayed on her feet, staring. She couldn’t believe her eyes. This was Papa’s old dart, the one he had so lovingly restored before sending her on her way to Paris.
(Nice ship. What do you call that colour?)
“We found her in the trading yard on Lunar Palais when we were hunting parts for the Pistachio,” said Planchet excitedly. “She was going to be broken down for scrap and molecules, and Bonnie thought there might be some useful parts, but then Grimaud said we’d probably be better off restoring her and selling her on, and we all figured out that maybe you could do with a ship…”
“You had one like this, didn’t you?” said Aramis, her eyes twinkling. It wasn’t like she, Athos and Porthos had not heard the story of Buttercup and Agent Ro a dozen or more times before. There was something about a third glass of wine that always brought Dana’s simmering resentment about the whole matter to the surface.
Dana had no idea what to say. It was all too much. Her hands shook.
“I have to go,” she said abruptly.
It was Athos who first realised there was something wrong, frowning at her. The others caught on fast.
“Dana, what is it?” Porthos asked.
Dana shook her head wildly. “It’s fine, it’s – I love it. It’s good. I just have to go.”
And before any of them could stop her, she turned and ran out of the engie dock.
Her main thought was to get away, far away, because she couldn’t bear to break down and cry in front of any of them.
That was the other reason that she hadn’t been able to bring herself to play the Marquise de Wardes flirtation game for the last two days. A few hours after she had left Kitty and the Matagot, her thoughts churning, Dana had received a curt, too-brief call from one of her sisters. That was followed by a longer, but still emotionally restrained call from her Mama.
It seemed impossible in this day and age, that anyone could receive injuries that were not immediately reparable by medi-patch. But the power outages and regular equipment failures on Gascon Station had taken their toll, in the hospices most of all.
The death toll from the Sun-kissed attack kept rising, every day, without a further shot being fired. And Dana’s Papa had not been a young man. Half his skin had been regrafted a generation ago, before his retirement as a Musketeer engie. This time around, he had not been so lucky.
An aneurism, in the end. He had gone fast, though after weeks of pain management it didn’t feel especially merciful that it was quick.
Two days since she learned he was gone, and Dana had not cried. It had never worked for her, crying. Hitting things was easier, but finding casual sparring partners was difficult with her friends all wrapped up in the preparation of their ships.
She couldn’t tell them the truth, not yet. She had felt swamped enough by their kindness on the journey back from Valour, after the attacks on Gascon and the Regent’s declaration. More kindness at this point would grind her entirely into the dirt.
So Dana paced and she chattered and she made herself useful, and until her friends gave her the ridiculous, generous, beautiful gift of her Buttercup, she had managed to hide her grief even from herself.
She had to do something.
Not crying, not fencing. What was left?
Dana walked on, with no clear idea where she was going, except away from her friends, and anyone else who might show her kindness. She walked the streets of Paris Satellite, her head full of war and anger and frustration and explosions and skin grafts and…
She had not been there. She was not sure if she could ever forgive herself for not going home the second she heard that Papa had been injured. And yet, she had always meant to leave them, to escape the limited options at home. She had spent her entire teen years planning and working and learning to fly like a demon, with a single goal in mind. To come to Paris Satellite, and be a Musketeer.
If she had the helm of the Buttercup again, she still wouldn’t be a Musketeer. It might feel close to it, some days, but the truth was she had got here months ago, she had reached the mythical city far from home, and she was a washout. That was what she had left her family for. A failed, unreachable dream.
By the time Dana was on her second circuit of the Stellar Concourse, her anger had turned outward again. She wasn’t only furious with herself, she was furious with the solar system, with the unfairness of it all.
Her Mama had flown hundreds combat missions. How was it that Dana’s sweet, harmless engie Papa was the one to be killed in an act of war?
Without even realising she was doing it, Dana found herself heading towards the Luxembourg. But that was ridiculous. The last thing she needed was church – she had never been more likely to punch out a member of the clergy as she was today.
What she needed was a duel, and she wasn’t likely to get one at the Luxembourg without picking a fight first.
A fight, now there was an idea. Never mind swords and duels. Dana wanted to get her knuckles bloody. She wanted to headbutt someone in the face, and know they had deserved it almost as much as she did.
Not a friendly bout. She needed a brawl.
She swung around, away from the Luxembourg. Which bars had the highest number of irritable Red Guards? Athos probably kept a list somewhere on his person. She could call or text him on the comms, but that would involve talking, and he’d probably want to know why she was so upset… oh, wait, what was she thinking? It was Athos.
Dana stopped in the middle of a busy thoroughfare and sent Athos a text via comm stud, her fingers tapping the virtual keyboard on her arm.
Name three bars where I’m all but guaranteed a fist fight with a Red Guard or twelve.
There was barely even a pause before she received the following:
The Crimson Duck
Not yet I’ll let you know, she sent back, and kept walking.
The Bastille was the only one of the three that she knew by sight, because it was the closest bar to the Armoury, and not especially far from Madame Su’s. At least she wouldn’t have too far to crawl home.
Dana strode in and went straight to the bar to order a drink. The room was full of red uniforms, and the back of her neck prickled in a promising way.
Sure enough, she hadn’t even got to order before she heard the words “Hey isn’t she that wannabe Musketeer who runs around with those three assholes?”
Dana gave a savage grin. Perfect.
“Dana?” His voice sounded far away. “Is that you?”
She opened her eyes, and regretted it. She was – in a corridor, curled against a white, blood-stained wall near a drainage vent, the closest thing to a gutter you could find on Paris Satellite. She closed her eyes again, moaning. Her face hurt. All of her head. And her ribs. And…
An arm reached around her waist, steady and reassuring. “Let’s get you somewhere safe.”
Her thoughts were jumbled and she wanted to throw up again, but there was something warm about the voice, something she trusted. “Okay,” she whispered, and it came out more like “Urgh.”
Steady arms drew her to her feet, and pain stabbed hard into her chest.
“Bleeding,” she choked.
“Actually,” said the warm and reassuring voice. “I don’t think that’s your blood.”
“Some of it is.”
Her saviour’s hand jarred against her thigh and the burst of pain sent blackness spiralling through her vision again. She dropped.
Dana dreamed of the Buttercup, of her father’s hands as he restored the old spacebucket from the inside out.
“Papa, yellow, really?” she complained.
“It’s a good colour, chicken. You’ll never mistake it for anyone else’s dart in a lineup. Also, I got it cheap and your Mama says I can’t use it in the kitchen.”
Dana dreamed of Conrad, of the look on his face when they made out on the couch in the Prince Consort’s room, and the odd sort of smile in his eyes when he realised she had arranged for espionage pastries as a distraction technique.
“This isn’t a seduction,” she snapped at him.
He shoved her. “Good, because you’re terrible at it!”
She dreamed of Rosnay Cho, who watched Dana through dark, sympathetic eyes. “If Milord has your boyfriend,” she said with surprising warmth. “I’m sorry, buttercup, but you’re not getting him back.”
Dana awoke, choking on air for a moment. She tasted blood in her mouth and then the pain flowed through her one jagged wave at a time. She took stock. Knuckles. Ribs. Face – jaw, especially. Nose, oh hell. She had lived nearly twenty one years without getting her nose broken, and here she was, thoroughly smashed up.
“Ugh,” she managed.
“That sounds about right,” said the voice she had followed, the one that had tapped directly into the part of her that responded to trust and reassurance. Her rescuer.
Dana’s eyes flew open. Holy hell in a handbasket. She found herself staring directly into the amused face of Milord Vaniel De Winter.
She took stock of her surroundings. Not the Matagot, she rather thought. The walls were too flat and straight – even the most decadently decorated rooms in that frivolous spaceship of his had curved lines somewhere. A hotel room? Dana was stretched out on a beautiful but not entirely comfortable sofa, while Milord had pulled up a chair near her. A tablet lay discarded on the coffee table within reach – had he been working while he waited for her to wake up?
That was either comforting or really creepy. She couldn’t figure out which until she was a lot more awake.
“Now you’re alert, perhaps we can see about medi-patches?” Milord suggested mildly. “I wasn’t sure what the priority was, once I fixed up the knife wound in your leg.”
“Face,” Dana muttered. “Ugh.”
“I didn’t like to assume.” He looked briefly hesitant, which seemed out of character. “There is a hospice on this block, perhaps I should have taken you there.”
“No,” she said, so quickly it made her head spin. “I’m fine, just – medi-patches?”
“In the bathroom. Do you need help?”
She frowned at her legs. There appeared to be nothing wrong with them, and the one with a medi-patch already glowing at her through the rip in her cargo pants actually felt better than it had in ages. Still, they weren’t responding as quickly as she would like. “To my feet. I can take it from there.”
Milord’s hands were warm in hers as he drew her up, and she resisted the urge to fold herself against his chest. It looked warm and inviting, but that might be the concussion talking.
The bathroom made it very clear that yes, she was in an extremely expensive hotel: The Antoine according to the dozens of tiny soaps and lotions with matching packaging.
Several medi-patches had been laid out for her near the sink, along with gauze and tape. Dana worked on her face first, placing the medi-patch along the underside of her jaw and breathing in and out as it had an immediate anaesthetic effect. She placed an urgent patch over her nose and yelled out as it set hard.
There was a knock at the door. “You all right?”
“Nose,” she managed, halfway between a grunt and a wail. “I’m fine.”
She didn’t do anything to the ribs or the hands. They were bruised, not broken, and the dull pain in both of them grounded her. There wasn’t a lot of point in throwing yourself into a brawl if you made all the marks go away instantly.
Dana picked up a sonic spray, slowly cleaning blood from her skin, until her face felt closer to human. She removed the medi-patch from her nose, leaving the one on her jaw because it was sending all kinds of good endorphins into her bloodstream.
A little dizzy, but in a pleasant way, she stepped out of the bathroom. Milord passed her a glass of what turned out to be cognac, and she took a sip, enjoying the heat of it in her mouth. “Thanks for the rescue.”
“Not exactly that,” he said, his voice thrumming with what had to be false concern. “I found you lying in a corridor, some distance from what I heard was an epic bar fight. You rescued yourself long before I happened along.”
“Well,” Dana said with a smile that didn’t hurt nearly as much as it might have five minutes ago, when her nose was still broken. “Thanks for scraping me off the floor, then.”
Milord leaned in, his glass grazing against her own with a quiet clink. “You’re not at all what I thought you were, when we met on that train.”
She wanted to laugh. Thanks to Kitty, sheknew how much he despised her, but he was good – so very good at this. He saw the opportunity for a seduction and here he was, playing that card in the hopes of what, drawing her further into his web?
And here was Dana, feeling self-destructive.
“Vaniel,” she said in a low, husky voice, drawing her glass back to taste more of the cognac.
Her enemy gazed back at her. In this light, his grey eyes seemed almost silver. “Dana,” he said, making her name a caress.
“Let’s stop pretending.” And she reached up, her hand grabbing the back of his collar, pulling him down to her.
His mouth found hers, and he still thought he was the seducer in this scenario, so he kissed her slow and sweetly, like a dance. That wasn’t what Dana wanted at all, and she told him that through nips and bites, increasing the pressure.
Milord’s hand brushed against a bruise she hadn’t even known that she wore on her hip, and she gasped into his mouth, taking him deeper.
They didn’t make it to the bedroom, the first time. She backed him against an antique desk, and he lifted her up on it, so as to more easily strip her of shirt and the soft sports bra she wore underneath. He licked his way down her ribs, tracing the darker patches of bruised skin with his tongue, and Dana sank her fingers into his hair, pulling hard.
His clothes came off far more elegantly than hers did, and she took the opportunity to shed her boots and blood-stained cargo pants. After only a moment’s hesitation, she shed her knickers as well, because it wasn’t like they were being romantic here.
“Implant?” he breathed into her mouth when he came back for another kiss.
Dana nodded and showed him the small medical tattoo on her unbruised hip. “You?”
Milord drew her hand forward to wrap around the base of his cock, which felt heavy in her hand. She found the barrier stud nestled there, against his pelvis, and scratched a nail thoughtfully across it. “Well then.”
They kissed again, mouths knocking roughly together. The journey they eventually made, from the edge of the desk to the bedroom at the far end of the suite, caused the following damage: one broken chair, a stubbed toe (hers), a bruised elbow (his), and a smashed lamp. It was a worthy sacrifice.
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.