If you missed it over the week leading up to Christmas, I posted the festive prequel novella “Seven Days of Joyeux” along with some great, vibrant art by Katy Shuttleworth. I am hoping to commission an ebook cover from Katy in the coming year, if my Patreon campaign reaches the $300 milestone, so now would be a great time to sign up as a Patreon sponsor if you haven’t already.
Musketeer Space will be running for another 7-8 calendar months or so, for those of you keeping track.
Thanks so much to all the current Patreon subscribers, whose support made it completely justifiable for me to work on the festive prequel story on top of all the other things I’m supposed to be doing. I had so much fun writing “Seven Days of Joyeux,” and getting to know more about Aramis, Athos and Porthos before Dana D’Artagnan crashed into their lives.
If you’ve been holding off on starting to read Musketeer Space because the 1 chapter per week thing bugs you, you can definitely read the prequel without having read the ongoing series. If you’ve come here straight from Chapter 31, you don’t have to stop and read “Seven Days of Joyeux” right now, but it may enhance your reading experience.
PREVIOUSLY ON MUSKETEER SPACE: The solar system is at war, and Dana D’Artagnan is preparing for battle along with her new best friends, the three Musketeers. Her home space station of Gascon has been attacked by the shapechanging aliens known as the Sun-kissed, who are now occupying the space around the planet of Truth. Oh, and a scary political secret agent might well have kidnapped her non-boyfriend. Things are complicated.
NOW READ ON.
This was not the first time that Athos had lost a spaceship he loved.
It was not even the third time.
He always promised himself that he wouldn’t get attached. But while avoiding intimacy was something he found easy when it came to people (most people), spaceships had a way of getting under his skin.
It didn’t help that he always refused to get a bland, factory settings ship. Oh, no. He had to go hunting for one with personality, every single time.
So here they were again.
“Where old spaceships go to die,” he said aloud.
This was the old storage yard that time, space and Musketeers forgot. It was full of the remains of salvaged, damages and abandoned ships, a low-ceilinged area beneath the Musketeer space dock. It was a treasure trove for engies looking for spare parts, but finding enough parts to assemble a complete dart was something of a pipe dream.
He was still going to try.
“I can’t believe Treville made you come scrabbling down here for a replacement for the Parry Riposte instead of ordering you a new ship,” said Porthos from where she sat on the hull of a beautiful dart that had once been called the Saucy Nancy, but had been sliced into four separate pieces in a laser battle.
Athos remembered that battle. The Musketeer who piloted her had ended up in three pieces.
“I can,” said Aramis, poking at the rubble of a broken tail fin with her boot. “She threatened to, after he lost the Balestra last year.”
“That was one time, and I found her again!” Athos protested.
“I can’t see how that redeems you for literally losing a spaceship.”
“At least when he finally blew her up, it was in service to the Crown,” Porthos teased.
“I did not – I hate you all.”
D’Artagnan’s laugh, loud and enthusiastic, rang above their bickering. It was her first visit to the land of broken spaceships, and she looked like a wide-eyed child at Joyeux. Then again, she always looked like a child to Athos.
He had to keep reminding himself that she was twenty, not twelve, and that the three of them didn’t actually have to feel guilty that their friendship was going to corrupt her irretrievably.
Well. Maybe they should all feel a little guilty.
“Why do they hang on to all this stuff?” asked D’Artagnan, whose spacer mentality was having trouble computing that so much yardage on a space station might be reserved for slabs of steel and spare parts, instead of dissolving it all down to its atoms to be re-used as freshly printed parts.
“Because you can’t print personality,” said Athos firmly. “Who wants a ship without any scratches on the hull?”
“Me, I do, my ship is perfect,” Porthos said, waving a hand as if she was volunteering in class. “You just take pride in saving broken things.”
Athos refused to respond to that on the grounds that it hit a little too close to home, and he didn’t want anyone to start assuming metaphors where none existed.
Grimaud emerged from behind a stack of cables and hatchways, with her usual headphones slung around her neck instead of clamped over her ears. “Treville offered him a new ship,” she said. “He refused to accept until he was completely sure there wasn’t something down here that could be salvaged.” And with that betrayal, his engie stood there and smirked.
Athos calmed himself by imagining several ways that he could kill her, silently, with no one ever suspecting it was him.
Aramis and Porthos shot identical looks of delight at Athos.
“You ROMANTIC,” Aramis howled.
“I might swoon,” Porthos agreed.
D’Artagnan just grinned at him, all over her ridiculously young face, as if she found all these revelations simply delightful.
Athos growled at them all.
“Speaking of which,” said Grimaud, and crooked her fingers. “Found something you might want to see, boss.”
Well. He might be furious at her ganging up on him with the other women, but he still trusted her implicitly when it came to engineering matters. Athos followed Grimaud deeper into the yard, with the others trailing behind.
“This one is a possibility,” said Grimaud, tapping a silver dart with most of its side attached as she walked past it. “Someone’s stripped out the internals, but there isn’t much I wouldn’t be able to replace with a hull as sturdy as this to work off.”
“But?” Athos said patiently. He knew a red herring when he saw one.
“But then there’s this fellow.” Grimaud stopped suddenly, and everyone else bumped into Athos, all craning their necks to see.
“Oh,” said Aramis in a baffled sort of voice.
“Seriously?” said Porthos. “Is that even a dart?”
D’Artagnan clambered around all of them, half-tripping over her own pet engineer, whose name Athos could never remember. Pigtails? Anyway, Pigtails spotted what they were all looking at a few seconds before D’Artagnan and responded with a shrill sound and a clap of her hands.
Athos stared, doing his best to ignore them all as he took in the sight. It was an old musket-class dart, practically an antique.
“It’s even older than the Buttercup,” breathed D’Artagnan, which meant nothing to Athos.
“It’s so ugly,” said Porthos, sounding giddy.
It was old and slightly bulbous and it was an odd greenish colour that Athos had never seen on any ship ever. It was so far from a modern dart that he wasn’t even sure that the designation fit. It wasn’t streamlined and elegant like the Parry Riposte had been.
He was a little bit in love already.
“It’s a classic, I suppose,” D’Artagnan said doubtfully, trying to be polite.
“It’s amazing,” Pigtails said, punching Dana lightly on the arm. “I’d love to get my hands on it. So jealous, Madame Grimaud.”
“Please,” said Aramis heavily. “Please tell me you’re not taking it home, Athos. It’s not a stray cat, it won’t benefit from a little food and attention…”
Athos held his hand up to silence them all. “I’m being seduced,” he informed them. “Don’t spoil our moment.”
Grimaud gave him one of her rare, dazzling smiles. “Guess what it’s called?”
“I can’t even,” said Athos, slowly circling around the hull. It was even uglier from behind. He had never seen such an awkward-looking ship.
“I am not going to be seen in public with you in that ship, war or no war,” Porthos threatened.
But it was too late. Grimaud was smiling, and Athos twitched his mouth back at them, and Pigtails was already begging them both to let her help with the restoration.
“Some battles, you just have to let yourself lose,” D’Artagnan told Porthos, patting her sympathetically on the shoulder.
“It’s SO HIDEOUS,” Porthos whispered back, as if the ship was physically hurting her with its unfashionably retro appearance.
“On the bright side,” Aramis said, blowing Athos a kiss. “Our boy will probably crash it or explode it within a few months.”
“That is no consolation!” Porthos wailed.
Athos didn’t care about any of them. “How much work does it need?” he asked Grimaud.
“All the work,” she said with a wry smile. “Give me four days.”
That week, the Great Restoration of the Pistachio took over everyone’s lives. Dana was fairly sure that Planchet was hiding her return to Paris from Madame Su precisely so that the other engineers wouldn’t get to have all the fun. And it did take all the engineers – not only Grimaud and Planchet, but Bonnie and Bazin too.
This period, between the declaration of war and the shipping out date, involved what the Musketeers referred to as ‘the chase after outfits.’ Each of them had to get their helm and harness (which was to say, their entire outfitting for war) in good order, and while most of them were lucky enough to have an intact ship, there were still weapons systems to install or upgrade, repairs to be made, and so on.
Dana herself had none of this to worry about, which left her far too much time to – well, to worry. Not only about her friends who would be seeing direct action in the battles to come, but also about the disaster back on Gascon Station. Messages from her family were few and far between, and she had only managed to speak to her Papa for a couple of minutes all up, in between his burn treatments.
The news cycle was all about Gascon Station, where there were at least more interesting images than the silent, unmoving siege of alien ships around the orbital cities of Truth, though plenty of those pictures cycled through the media feeds too.
Waiting was a quiet agony that was never be openly discussed.
Dana found Athos in the storage yard, seated in a low-slung deck chair and sipping the largest cup of coffee she had ever seen, as he “supervised” the work of the engineers. He wore over-sized safety goggles and had his feet up on an antique computer bank.
She pulled up a jettisoned slab of air ducting and perched beside him . “What’s the pink line about?”
It was drawn in chalk, a wide shape around the work-in-progress that was the Pistachio. A second chalk line encircled Athos and his deckchair.
“Grimaud and I have come to an agreement,” he said evenly, taking a slurp of his coffee.
“Are you not allowed to cross the chalk lines?” Dana asked, suddenly realising what it must mean. “Not at all? I mean, I understand her not wanting you poking your nose into the ship…”
“Oh, thank you very much.”
“But why aren’t you allowed to leave the yard, either?” She would have thought that Grimaud would prefer Athos to be anywhere but here.
“We needed some new parts – the harness in particular, but other bits and pieces that we couldn’t reclaim from the yard.”
Dana didn’t like the cagy tone in Athos’ voice. “And?”
“And the budget that Treville gave me for a replacement ship shrunk somewhat when she found out about the expenses from the Gilded Lily back on Valour.” He winced. “There was shouting.”
Not undeserved, Dana thought to herself, but did not say it aloud. “So how did you get the parts?”
“I played for them with a bunch of Mendaki smugglers.”
Dana blinked several times. “I thought Porthos was the problem gambler.”
“Yes, well we don’t all keep our vices in separate boxes, D’Artagnan,” he said sharply. “Sometimes Aramis drinks too much. Sometimes I fuck people I shouldn’t…”
“Okay, I get the picture. Did you win the parts?”
“Grimaud found out that I used her as a stake in the betting,” he grumbled. “She’s taking it personally.”
“You are a genuinely terrible person,” Dana said, smacking him in the chest.
“She’s the most valuable resource I have. Everyone wants her as their engie.”
“That’s not an excuse for putting her up as a stake, Athos. That is the complete opposite of a reasonable excuse!”
He lifted his safety goggles briefly so she could see the swelling black eye he was sporting. “Grimaud agreed with you.”
“I’m not even slightly sympathetic,” Dana told him sternly.
They fell into a long silence together, Athos sipping occasionally from his coffee. “I believe I owe you an apology,” he said after a moment.
Dana almost fell off her temporary seat. “You what now?”
“The business in the cellar,” he said, waving a hand vaguely. “I said more than I should have. My past is not something I want to burden others with.”
“What’s said on Valour stays on Valour,” Dana said lightly. “Anyway, there was a lot of wine. I hardly remember what you said.”
Athos gave her a narrow look. “You’re lying, aren’t you?”
“You can’t prove anything.”
“Hmm.” He looked unimpressed by her attempts at tact. “Anyway. I’m sure my vast wealth of miserable experience will serve as some form of useful life tutorial for you.”
“Like, don’t trust pretty men who talk sweetly about politics?” Dana suggested lightly, thinking of her own recent adventures.
Athos’ mouth twitched. “Damn straight.”
Bonnie and Planchet went past, carrying lengths of cables and tubing. Planchet gave Dana a little wave as she went, obviously in heaven to be working on an actual musket-class dart. Athos stood for a moment, his feet brushing the very edge of the chalk circle that Grimaud had drawn around him. “Not the b-clips!” he called after them. “I don’t care if it adds to the authenticity of the model, I want silver connections in the harness.”
A hand that must be Grimaud’s emerged from the hatch of the Pistachio, gave him a rude gesture and then disappeared again.
“Madame Grimaud says she knows what she’s doing,” translated Planchet with an apologetic smile.
Athos scowled, and dropped back into his chair. “What about you, D’Artagnan? I presume Commandant Essart requires you to provide the extra outfit for war just like we do? Hope that metal monster of yours is in decent condition.”
“I’m not actually with the mecha squad any more,” Dana admitted softly.
Athos tore his goggles off to look at her. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Amiral Treville requested me on loan,” she admitted. “Not as a Musketeer, just – supplies transport. But it means I’ll be in the middle of it all, at least, not stuck back here on defensive detail, so…”
There was something unfamiliar in his expression. He looked at her for a long moment, then nodded to himself. “Of course, if you really want to make sure you see action, there’s always the Cardinal’s Sabres, I hear they’re recruiting.”
“Shut up,” she said gruffly, poking him in the knee with her boot. “I have some self respect.”
He clapped his hands. “Oh, speaking of self respect, dinner tonight at Hotel Coquenard. Prepare to witness some extremely awkward mating rituals.”
“I – don’t even know how to reply to that sentence,” said Dana, dizzied by the rapid switch in conversation. “Isn’t that a really fancy hotel over in Gilles Section? How can we afford it?”
“Let’s just say it’s who you know,” said Athos. He looked unusually smug, which in retrospect Dana should have taken as a big neon warning sign.
Dana was so out of her depth that she was practically floating in space. She had allowed Aramis to raid the suitcase of frocks from the Duchess of Buckingham, which seemed a perfectly reasonable way to dispose of the bloody things, but somehow this turned into them both playing dress-up. An hour later, here was Dana in a formal gown, including long lace gloves and stupidly uncomfortable shoes.
This was not the plan. She hadn’t even realised that there needed to be a plan, but if there had been a plan, it would have been everything that wasn’t this.
Aramis, of course, wore Buck’s clothes as if she were a Duchess herself. She had re-inked her henna tattoos since their return to Paris, with an extra bracelet of stars and leaves painted on to the back of her neck, dipping down below the sweep of the gold satin of the dress she had poured over her slender curves.
Dana, shorter and more muscular than Aramis, but with a much flatter chest, had never even attempted to wear that particular gown, as she was pretty sure it would turn into something indecent on her body. On Aramis, if it was indecent, it was the graceful, awesome kind of indecent that Aramis could totally rock.
After something of an argument, Aramis had forced Dana into a simple but devastating black cocktail dress that went past her knees. She also insisted that Dana wear the Prince Regent’s opal on her cheekbone instead of hidden away near her elbow.
Dana felt ridiculous, but the appearance of Porthos swept away any concern that she might be overdressed. Their friend was squeezed into a purple corset and layered tulle skirt, with a fierce collection of garnet and pearl jewellery wrapped around her neck, wrists and fingers. Her wig was high, as dark red as the jewels, and her face glowed with professional warpaint.
“I’m missing something, aren’t I?” Dana said in a low voice to Aramis as they followed their friend into the bright, horribly expensive lobby of the hotel and headed for a restaurant that looked like it belonged in the Palace itself. “Also, where’s Athos?”
“Oh, Athos was never going to turn up,” said Aramis in Dana’s ear as they were escorted to a table for three. “He hates these scenes.”
Dana tried not to freak out about this, but it was difficult. “I also hate scenes,” she said in a desperate whisper. “Why did no one warn me there was going to be scenes?”
Porthos gave her a lipsticked smile as the waiter fussed around them. “Because revenge is best served cold, possibly with a nice soup and salad to start,” she said, not bothering to keep her own voice down at all.
“Porthos is here to make a point to one of her gentlemen friends,” said Aramis, perusing the menu idly. “We’re here for damage control, in case things get out of hand.”
Dana decided right in that second that Athos had to die. Slowly, by fork. Given that each place setting in this restaurant had at least twelve forks per person, that was starting to look entirely possible.
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 ART.