In other news, jet lag sucks. It really, really sucks. I was basically assuming it was one of those mind over matter things like writer’s block? But no, I actually keep keeling over randomly at various times of the day, as if I have been beaten over the head with something heavy.
Jet lag really REALLY sucks. But my trip to Loncon3 was otherwise awesome. I got to meet so many online friends and colleagues, and plenty of wonderful new people too. I AM OMG SO GLAD TO BE HOME.
We didn’t win a Hugo for Galactic Suburbia or Verity, but while I was away my crime novel (writing as Livia Day) A Trifle Dead was nominated for two different awards, the Silver Falchion in the US and the Davitt here in Australia. So that’s pretty bloody awesome.
And I was pretty delighted with all the stuff that did win Hugos. So that was nice!
Never mind all that, you’re here for Musketeers. Allow me to provide…
PREVIOUSLY IN MUSKETEER SPACE: Madame Su is a perfectly sensible businesswoman and entrepreneur whose young husband Conrad is handsome, loyal and a magnet for trouble. He works as a tailor in the Palace, making silk coats for the Prince Regent, and playing Zero-G TeamJoust with him in his spare time. When Conrad was abducted for his part in yet another ridiculous Palace conspiracy, Madame Su turned in desperation to her young lodger, Mecha-Cadet Dana D’Artagnan, to help them. While Dana had her own (probably unimportant) adventures, Madame Su was arrested by the red guards. None of this has anything to do with her. She is so over this. Conrad is going to be in so much trouble when he gets home.
NOW READ ON!
Part 15: Whatever Happened to Madame Su
While Dana D’Artagnan and her new friend Conrad Su were entangling themselves in the politics and love life of a nation, and the Duchess of Buckingham had been entangling herself with the Prince Consort of the Solar System, one person’s fate had – until now – been somewhat forgotten.
But have no fear; we shall learn her story now.
Madame Su was a straightforward woman. She ran her businesses with a tight hand and a shrewd attitude to the bottom line. She made most of her decisions based on what was practical – though like most people, she also appreciated the luxuries that life and a successful business afforded her. A silk suit, a gold necklace, a pretty young husband with a prestigious position at the Palace.
She had no interest in politics, apart from the fact that it often deprived her of Conrad, because his closeness to the Prince Consort made him a regular target of investigation.
Up until now, however, the inconvenience had been minor, and had not directly affected her.
But here she was, under arrest, deep in the holding cells of Church jurisdiction on Paris Satellite, an installation referred to often as The Armoury because, of course, it was full of Sabres.
In truth, Madame Su had not seen many Sabres at all. The red guards who had arrested her (and set up a trap in her apartment to arrest any of her friends and customers to called on her) were raw recruits, new to Paris. The Cardinal was known to be a generous employer, and it was common for each month’s complement new guards to be given the Paris detail before being sent further abroad on matters of significance to the Church.
This explained somewhat why Madame Su’s regular bribery of her local red guards to keep them from looking too closely at her business affairs, had made no difference at all in this instance.
After many long, miserable hours alone in the holding cells, Madame Su was dragged out to face the Commissary, whose task it was to interrogate her about the activities of her husband.
The Commissary was a short, squat woman who looked rather like a tortoise. She also had very little interest in TeamJoust one way or another, which was unfortunate, because her attempt to discreetly discover what political conspiracies might involve Conrad Su were overwhelmed by Madame Su’s need to complain loudly about the terrible effect that sporting loyalties had upon husbands.
Actually, Madame Su had a lot of complaints to make about her husband, and they had been building up to a critical level over the last several hours. They all came spilling out of her at once, and the Commissary was obliged to listen, though she stopped taking notes when it became obvious that very few of these complaints had anything to do with Church or Crown politics.
In attempt to stem the flow and bring the topic back to relevancy, the Commissary tried to raise the subject of Madame Su’s lodger. “I believe you have a D’Artagnan staying on your property?”
“Oh,” said Madame Su, finally finding something to smile about. “Yes. It’s good to have a strong pair of hands around, what with never seeing my husband, and the business relying so much on me being at my absolute best…”
The Commissary coughed. “We have in fact brought this D’Artagnan in for questioning.”
Madame Su froze for a moment. “You have?” she said in alarm. “But oh, that’s no good, she was going to find my wretched husband for me, she can’t do that if you have her in here!”
“We plan to locate your husband ourselves, don’t worry about that, Madame Su,” said the Commissary, before the other words sank in. “She? You mean he.”
Madame Su looked confused. “I do?”
“Is your D’Artagnan married, perhaps?”
“I suppose she might be.” Madame Su was outraged all over again. “I only charge for one in that room! Are you telling me she has been concealing a husband and only paying half? Oh, it’s terrible what young people try to get away with these days. If she’s that untrustworthy, she probably hasn’t even started looking for my Conrad.”
The Commissary made a mental note to apply to the Cardinal for a pay rise. “Let’s get this D’Artagnan in here and see what he has to say, shall we?” She spoke into her comm chip. “Sergeant, bring D’Artagnan up from the cells to join us.”
After a few moments, the confusion in the interrogation room reached its peak, because the man who was brought in by two of the red guard was a tall, blond pilot in a battered flight suit and bright blue Musketeer jacket. He bowed politely to them both.
Madame Su stared at him, waiting for an explanation.
“Now perhaps, we can get somewhere,” said the Commissary. “Sit if you like, D’Artagnan. This may be a long night.”
“I’d prefer to stand, if you don’t mind,” said the Musketeer with a polite bow in the direction of Madame Su. “The holding cell to which I was directed was so small that I could barely stretch my legs.”
“Fine,” sighed the Commissary. “We have invited you here to help us with our enquiries about the whereabouts of Mr Conrad Su. Do you think you can shed light on this matter?”
“I can’t think how I could,” said the Musketeer, leaning against the back wall of the interrogation room, and stretching his arms and legs in slow succession. “I’ve never met the man.”
The Commissary turned to Madame Su. “Is that correct, Madame? Has D’Artagnan never met your husband?”
“Well, I don’t know,” said Madame Su, looking at the Musketeer in confusion. “That is, I don’t think she had, before I sent her to find him, but she might have met him since, if she rescued him from his abduction as I… I’m sorry, you do know that this isn’t D’Artagnan, don’t you?”
“That’s quite correct,” said the Musketeer. “Apologies for the interruption, but I am not D’Artagnan.”
“You mean that you are not the Madame D’Artagnan who pays rent with Madame Su, but you are… her husband, then?” said the Commissary, paddling furiously.
“I have no wife,” said the Musketeer, and for the first time his tone seemed less than light.
“So your name is not D’Artagnan?”
“Not in the least.”
The Commissary blinked twice and looked at Madame Su. “Who is this man?”
“I thought you knew!” she exploded. “He’s not D’Artagnan, that’s for sure.” She gave the Musketeer a dirty look. “And if she has been hiding a husband, I am certainly going to charge her double and backdate the rent!”
“Madame, I assure you, I have not been hiding out in D’Artagnan’s apartment,” the Musketeer said. “I haven’t even been inside, though I was invited. I have quite reasonable rooms of my own elsewhere in Paris.”
“So who are you?” the Commissary demanded.
“Captain-Lieutenant Athos of the Royal Musketeer fleet.” He smiled politely at her, and raised his wrist. “You can scan my ID if you like. I tried to suggest this when I was first brought into the cells, but for some reason all the guards were very keen to keep my presence here off the records.”
“That happened to me too,” said Madame Su thoughtfully.
“What an astounding coincidence,” said Athos of the Musketeers.
Early retirement, the Commissary decided. It was the only reasonable response to a farce like this. “You said your name was D’Artagnan,” she growled.
“Did I?” said Athos. “The guards who arrested me are all a bit new, I’m afraid. I was heading along to my friend’s new quarters, and suddenly I was surrounded, and one of them asked if I was D’Artagnan in a very fierce voice…” he held up his hands, as if helpless. “Well, I didn’t like to embarrass them by pointing out the obvious.”
“The obvious,” repeated the Commissary.
“I’m sure Madame Su here can help iron out the details of the obvious differences between myself and Mecha-Cadet D’Artagnan,” said Athos.
“I can think of a few,” said Madame Su, rolling her eyes.
The door of the interrogation room burst open, and a woman stood there in a bright pink flight suit that marked her as civilian. She had a long sweep of black hair, a nasty scar slashed across her face, and she looked like she was about to murder someone.
“Please return to the front desk immediately,” blustered the Commissary, getting to her feet. “You have no right!”
“I wouldn’t be too sure about that,” said Athos, his eyes on the intruder as if she was the most dangerous thing in the room.
“My credentials,” snapped the woman, holding her wrist out to the Commissary, who scanned her stud with the clamshell on her desk. Special Agent Captain Rosnay Cho, Security Level 22, rattled across her screen.
Level 22 meant that the agent reported directly to the Cardinal herself. With visions of her early retirement disappearing into smoke, the Commissary stepped back with a polite nod of her head. “I cede these prisoners to you, of course, Special Agent Cho.”
“Only the woman,” said Cho. Her eyes flicked briefly over the Musketeer who called himself Athos. “This one can rot in your holding cells for as long as you like.” She held out one hand to the terrified Madame Su. “You are coming with me. A mutual friend has some very important questions to ask you about your husband.”
The journey that followed was the most terrifying time of Madame Su’s life. It was particularly fraught when Special Agent Cho discovered that the ship she had intended to use to transport them to Luna Palais was missing, along with her engineer, and that there were no security records of how this had happened.
After further delays and quite a lot of enraged shouting, they were eventually packed into a borrowed red and white Sabre dart, bound for the moon.
During the journey, Madame Su thought about every insulting thing she had ever said about the current Regent and especially her good-for-nothing husband the Prince Consort. Was this her fault? Had she been recorded somewhere, saying something she shouldn’t? It was a relief when the dart docked a good distance from the Palace, and she realised they were going somewhere else altogether: a private residence, which contained no angry members of the royal family.
Special Agent Cho let herself in through the front door, spoke briefly to a servant, and then dragged Madame Su along with her until they reached a botanical atrium at the centre of the residence.
The greenness and realness of the plants was something of a shock to Madame Su, who preferred her vegetation pre-packed in plastic pouches, with salad dressing.
Special Agent Cho pushed her way through several fronds of greenery, dragging her prisoner along with her, until they found a corner of the atrium which was occupied.
The woman was younger than Madame Su herself, perhaps forty years old, and greying at the temples. She wore a thick apron and gloves, her dark hair tied back in a bun as she concentrated on snipping stray flowers from a strong vine with a pair of vicious-looking secateurs.
“Hello, Rosnay,” she said, sounding quite serene. “How is it all going, then?”
“Mixed results,” said the agent through gritted teeth. “I brought you a present, Eminence.”
“So you have.” The woman looked Madame Su over, as if perusing fabrics in a warehouse. “I think we’re going to require tea, don’t you?”
“I’d rather find my missing Moth, actually,” Special Agent Cho said angrily. “You won’t believe what those cunning bastards have…”
“Tea,” said the gardener in a very firm voice, not to be denied. “And little sandwiches, with lots of butter. Our guest looks tired and hungry.”
Madame Su, who was not entirely stupid, and had guessed what the title “Eminence” meant, did her best not to burst into tears. This was not a random woman in a random house. This was Cardinal Richelieu.
Chances were very low that she was going to get out of this alive.
“Tea would be nice,” Madame Su said in a small voice.
“Jolly good,” said the Cardinal, snipping another dead-head from her vine. “Tea, sandwiches and a chat. Just what the medipatch ordered.”
It was the most awkward tea party in the history of the solar system. Madame Su did not dare say anything without being asked directly. Special Agent Cho still vibrated with fury over what had happened to her spaceship. The Cardinal was pleasant enough but remained on edge, and regularly received messages upon her clamshell in between sips of tea and bites of toast point.
The sandwiches were tiny and tasty, and the tea was excellent, but there is nothing like the fear of immediate execution to make even a splendid spread taste like dust on the tongue.
“Your husband, Madame Su,” said the Cardinal after a long moment. She still did not look like a grand religious leader, with only a small solar star hung at her throat to mark that she belonged to the Church of All. She wore black flight fatigues, as if she were a soldier rather than a priest. Her hair was now dressed with a constellation of pearl pins. “You are aware that he is a conspirator?”
Madame Su did not dare argue this point. “My Conrad always seemed such a good boy,” she whispered, clutching her teacup as if it might fly away into space at any moment. “But the Palace… I am sure there are temptations.”
“Indeed,” said the Cardinal. “Treason can be a terrible temptation, to one so young and vulnerable.”
“I knew nothing about any of this!” Madame Su burst out. “I only wanted my boy back safe, I didn’t -” She broke off, and buried her face in a biscuit, nibbling like a mouse.
A new message came in. The Cardinal read it, her eyes flicking across the words incredulously, and then she smiled. “Tell me then, Madame Su, of everything you know about your husband’s connection to his former teammate, Marie Chevreuse.”
Madame Su pressed her lips together in fear. That woman. That wretched athletic goddess with her winning smile and easy ways. If anyone had corrupted Conrad into his decadent ways, it was her. “I have not had sight of that bitch since she was exiled, and good riddance,” she spat.
The Cardinal did not say ‘indeed’ again this time, but she smiled a warm and reassuring smile. “You think she is a likely ringleader?”
“Trouble from head to toe, that one,” Madame Su grumbled.
Special Agent Cho received a message of her own on her comm stud, and leaped to her feet, asking the Cardinal for permission to take it outside. Her Eminence agreed with a graceful nod of her head.
Madame Su began to think that she was misplaced in her fear – the Cardinal seemed quite reasonable, really, and had made no move to accuse Madame Su of being complicit in her husband’s dealings.
“Why, I could tell you a story or two about that Chevreuse,” she volunteered bravely.
A light sparkled in the Cardinal’s eyes. “Oh, please do.”
It was as if a dam had burst inside her. Madame Su barely paused for breath as she rattled out all of the disreputable, flirtatious behaviour she had witnessed in that cow Chevreuse over the last few years. She only paused when Cho returned, interrupting without any manners at all.
“Your Eminence,” she gasped. “It’s done.”
Instantly, the Cardinal’s face changed, from the politely encouraging lady to a sharp, incisive politician. She turned to Cho, as if she had forgotten Madame Su was even there. “The Colin Guillaume?”
“En route to Valour, with enough time missing from their flight log to account for the unidentified ship that docked briefly at the mecha graveyard.”
The Cardinal shone from within like a diamond. “Evidence?” she purred.
“On board, with the Ambassador.” Cho smiled with all her teeth. “Milord will secure it for himself when they touch down on Valour.”
“You will excuse me, Madame Su,” said the Cardinal, sweeping to her feet. “Other matters to attend to, and my breakfast meeting with the Regent has suddenly taken on more than its usual importance. You may return to Paris Satellite.”
Madame Su blinked, surprised at the sudden release. “I may?”
“I hardly wish to detain you.”
“Your husband, I have been informed, escaped his abduction some time today, and has since returned to his bed at the Palace. I am sure he will be in contact with you tomorrow. But it is late, of course.”
Madame Su’s head was spinning. She stood, and found herself guided to the door by polite servants as if she were the visitor who had chosen such an unwelcome time to be paying calls. “But,” she said again, before she found herself standing alone on the automatic pavement in front of the residence. It hummed beneath her feet, drawing along the avenue of one of the wealthiest areas on Luna Palais.
“Oh, Conrad,” she muttered disapprovingly beneath her breath. “What have you got us into now?”
Her credit stud chimed discreetly, informing her that she had just received a substantial payment from the Cardinal’s office, ‘in compensation for your inconvenience, and for the rendering of future intelligence.’
So, then. At some point during the night, Madame Su had been turned into the Cardinal’s spy.
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 a special Yuletide prequel story to be released in December. My next funding milestone ($300 a month) will unlock COVER ART.