An archive of previous chapters and associated blog posts can be found here at the Musketeer Space Table of Contents. If you would like to learn more about how I’m using crowdfunding to sponsor this project, check out my Patreon page.
Musketeers meeting each other! Are you excited? I’m excited! Thanks to everyone who came up to me at Continuum to talk about the project, to squee about Musketeers, or to ask about crowdfunding your own projects. I rather suspect there may be a spate of Patreon campaigns for me to promote over the next few months… I ended up stepping up in Tehani’s place at the crowdfunding panel with Ben McKenzie, Laura Wilkinson and others, and we had a great time talking about the different platforms, and the highs and lows of running a crowdfunding campaign whether large or small.
Speaking of Continuum I have also been invited to be Guest of Honour at their convention next year which is ridiculously happymaking and will be my first time as GoH at a science fiction event! By then, of course, Musketeer Space will almost be finished…
Ahem, but you’re not here for that. You’re here to meet some Musketeers! Let’s get cracking.
PREVIOUSLY IN MUSKETEER SPACE: Dana D’Artagnan came to Paris Satellite to join the Musketeer division of the Royal Space Fleet but it’s all going wrong. Oh, so wrong.
NOW READ ON!
So far, Dana’s day had been a colossal waste of time. After years of working towards it, she had finally reached the space station of her dreams, only to have those dreams squashed by the reality.
The Musketeers weren’t taking new pilots.
Even if they were, she wouldn’t be top of their list.
She had travelled all this way from the other end of the solar system, sold the ship her Papa had restored with such pride and joy, failed to live up to her Mama’s reputation… it was all such a mess.
Dana could not let herself be angry at Amiral Treville, or even those scruffbag Musketeers who had the best job in the galaxy and seemed to spend all their time pissing about like naughty schoolgirls.
But as she stood on the gantry, looking down across the beautiful ornamental plaza and the pilot in the bright violet flight-suit, she knew who she could be angry at.
That arsehole with the long, beautiful sweep of hair, who had tricked Dana into thinking she wasn’t a pilot, then beaten her painfully in a game of Duel, and robbed her blind. The one who named her embarrassing ship a “Buttercup.” Ro, if that was really her name.
Oh yes, Dana could be angry. As if there was even a choice.
She all but flew down the escalator, dodging people this way and that as she ran across the plaza. She circled around into what looked like a clear area, but nearly collided with a transport cart bringing cryo-tubes in through a large door marked Hospice.
Impatient, Dana waited until they were clear and then bolted forward, only to crash into a man as he stepped out of the Hospice doors. He cried in pain at the impact, clutching his shoulder, and Dana bounced off his chest, landing heavily on the ground.
“Sorry,” she said breathlessly. “I’m after this villainous cow of a— Oh!”
She knew this man. It was Captain Athos the Musketeer, still sporting his frivolous golden beard, and apparently bleeding once again from the shoulder.
Possibly that last part was her fault.
“Shouldn’t you still be in the hospice?” she blurted out.
He growled at her, clutching his shoulder. There was no charming twinkle as he had shown back in the office of Amiral Treville. “With an accent like yours, kid, shouldn’t you have better manners?”
“I didn’t mean to bump you,” Dana said impatiently, scrambling to her feet. “And I said I was sorry. But I must catch her -”
Athos reached out and grabbed her with his good arm, squeezing her shoulder painfully. “If you’re in a hurry now, sweetness, when will you be in less of a hurry? We have a code of conduct on Paris Satellite, and it sounds like you need a fucking lesson in manners.”
Damn it all, that was fighting language. Dana felt sick to the stomach at the thought of Duelling again so soon after the last time, but she was anxious to get after that pilot before she lost her.
“I’m new on station,” she said coldly, removing his hand from her arm. “Where are such things usually done?”
“Level 5, Alpha square behind the Luxembourg,” suggested Captain Athos. “1500 hours.”
“Done! Fine. Whatever.”
Dana spun away from him, picking up speed again as she tore on through the plaza, desperately hoping that she had not lost her prey.
There was the violet flight suit, disappearing into a narrow walkway. Dana ducked and weaved around the crowd, closing the distance between them.
She saw another Musketeer captain from Treville’s office, the curvy and cheerful woman called Porthos, still wearing that splendid custom-made coat and bedazzled belt. It was matched now with a jewelled turban to conceal her pilot’s buzz cut. What a peacock! Dana could not imagine why people bothered with such fashionable fripperies when there were ships to pilot. Porthos stood out from her group of friends, laughing and making expansive gestures as she shared a joke.
Dana measured the distance with her eye between Captain Porthos and the narrow walkway and judged that she could just dart in behind the Musketeer, and not lose even a second’s running time in her pursuit.
As she scampered past, though, Porthos swung her arm up and around and accidentally smacked Dana in the face. Dana’s arm whirled around automatically to slap her away, and the two became tangled in Porthos’ coat.
For the second time in only a few minutes, Dana hit the ground of the plaza, hard enough to knock the wind out of her. As she tried to scramble up and keep going, she heard a horrible ripping sound, and was smacked back down.
Her face grazed on something against the cool artificial tiles, and she lifted her head to find that several diamante studs had detached themselves from Porthos’ belt and were now embedded in her cheek and neck, burrowing themselves happily into their new home.
“Thieving cow!” thundered Porthos, lunging at Dana. It was alarming to see quite so much cleavage bearing down upon her, and the last thing she wanted was another fight.
“Ow!” Dana replied. “Take them back, I don’t want them!” That was it, then. The thief in the violet flight suit was long gone, and Dana wasn’t sure she even had enough anger left to confront her, not after this. Maybe Paris Satellite was trying to tell her to stay out of fights.
Paris Satellite was not subtle.
“What do you want to go thundering around like that for?” grumbled Porthos, wrenching the studs back with far more force than necessary. They made a popping sound as they came free of Dana’s skin. “What are you, twelve?”
“You hit me first,” Dana protested, and one of Porthos’ friends laughed.
“She has a point, Pol,” noted another.
Captain Porthos leaned her heaving bosom even more threateningly towards Dana, who wondered if it had been registered as a deadly weapon. “Want a chance to hit me back, sunshine? Since you’re so keen on making friends.”
Ah, so what Paris was actually telling her was that she needed to get into more fights. Again, without subtlety. Wonderful.
“1600 hours, behind the Luxembourg,” Dana said with a sigh.
Porthos smiled, straightening her turban. When she relaxed, she looked like a satisfied cat. “The very thing, pet,” she said, as if they were arranging a coffee date with shoes and gossip, or whatever it was that girlfriends did together.
“Wear your second best coat,” Dana suggested and took off before the Musketeer could swipe at her . A burst of laughter followed her as she ran off up the walkway, and she was certain it wasn’t “Pol” Porthos they were laughing at.
This place made her feel like a twelve year old, all scraped knees and awkward elbows. She was starting to hate Paris.
It was no use running. The walkway was empty, and Dana trudged along it, keeping her eye out for her prey despite having little hope left. Other walkways branched off from this one every twenty metres or so, and the pilot from Meung could have vanished along any of those branches.
Dana stopped walking altogether and let the moving floor beneath her feet hum her forward, through the echoing tunnel. Signs suggested that this was a good direction to go in order to find lodgings, though she had no idea which hotels or boarding levels were recommended, and which were likely to suck up her credit under false pretences.
She had been an idiot. A double idiot. Not only was she jobless and homeless, but now she was supposed to fight two of the Royal Musketeers, today. Bare knuckles were too much to hope for – and she wasn’t convinced she could take either of them – no, it had to have been Duel they hinted at.
Duel, the pilot’s drug of choice. That had gone so well for her last time.
Dana’s dreams of the new life she would build on Paris Satellite had been royally fucked over. At this rate, she’d be on a shuttle home with her brain bleeding out her ears by supper time.
The walkway hummed directly into another brightly lit plaza, smaller than the other, though with just as many people hanging around. Lots of pilots here too, though there was a higher percentage of civilians as they got further from the space dock. This was a recreation hub by the looks of it, with all manner of virtual sports and games being played out in the open.
In the centre of the plaza, a sonic fountain burst forth with light and sound. Dana felt a ping in the visitor’s stud she had been issued, and her senses flooded with options. She could play reality tennis, conduct an imaginary orchestra, or throw herself into an anti-grav well to practice her swimming strokes. Oh, look, Prince Alek’s Zero G TeamJoust was going to be televised shortly, and she could hire an implant to insert herself virtually into the body of his android teammate.
Everything cost credit points, and the money left over from the sale of the Buttercup wasn’t going to magically increase any time soon. She had to find lodgings, not screw about here.
Still, if the Duel burned out enough of her synapses, Dana would either be dead or in need of hospitalisation by the end of the day shift. So her lack of lodgings would actually be a bonus.
A cluster of Musketeers in their bright blue-and-whites lounged near the sonic fountain with a couple of fellows in Pigeon grey, laughing and chatting together. Dana felt a tug on her heart. That should be her. It was all she had ever wanted, since she was old enough to understand her mother’s madcap stories.
One for all and all for one, and all that bollocks. Everything she’d ever believed about Musketeer camaraderie was here, illustrated in blue and white.
Aramis, the third of the pilots from Treville’s office, stood head and shoulders above her friends, conversing with ease. She was so graceful and clever-looking, exactly the kind of Musketeer that Dana longed to be. Unlike Porthos, she had not succumbed to vanity away from her ship – her braids still remained tightly pinned on top of her head, as if she was ready to run to action at a moment’s notice.
Athos was quite obviously a ruffian with pretensions to aristocracy – or an aristocrat with pretensions to ruffianity, Dana wasn’t sure which – and that Porthos woman was a complete preening egotist. But Aramis was the sensible one, perhaps. Sensible enough to broker peace between her friends and the idiot Gascon who had an appointment to duel with them in a few hours?
Dana made up her mind to try. She was no coward, but the last thing she wanted was to get in a pissing contest over her prider.
The thief from Meung had taught her that much, though she refused to be grateful for it.
As Dana approached the friendly group, she saw that Aramis had her boot firmly on a photosilk that must have fallen from the pocket of her flight suit. No one would knowingly tread on a silk like that – it risked damaging the fibres, and like everything else on Paris Satellite, a replacement would not come cheap.
That was her in.
“Hello again,” Dana said politely, stopping a little away from the group as if she had only just seen them. “We haven’t exactly been introduced, Captain Aramis. But you’ve dropped something there.”
Aramis resisted Dana’s friendly overture with a chill in her voice. “You’re mistaken,” she said firmly. Her smoky eyes gave no sign that she even recognised Dana from earlier in Treville’s office.
Oh, space dung, what had Dana done now?
It was too late for her to take it back, to keep breezily walking as if she hadn’t meant to hover. One of the Pigeons gave Aramis a friendly shove, and snatched up the silk which proved to display a collection of intimate images, each fading into another, of a very attractive white woman with bright red hair.
“Aramis you devil,” he said, choking with laughter and waving the photosilk around to make sure everyone got a good look. “When you said you were friends with Captain Dubois, we didn’t know you meant JUST GOOD FRIENDS.”
Captain Aramis sent Dana a fierce look, as sharp as a slap. “It’s not mine,” she said, grabbing the silk back. “But it obviously belongs to Dubois, so I’ll give it back to her first chance I get. She won’t want you sex fiends staring at her Dyson spheres.”
“I bet you’ll give it to her,” snorted the other Pigeon, and most of her friends fell about in fits of laughter.
One Musketeer, a sleek fellow with his head shaven clean, gave Aramis a dirty look. “Or I could pass it on to her husband,” he said pointedly. “Since he’s my engie.”
Marriage contracts, Dana remembered. On the outer stations, such things were treated pretty casually, as they had been in the olden days. But Paris Satellite was the hub of ‘civilisation.’ Church opinion counted for a lot, especially since the Regent’s rise to power. The Cardinal had supported the Regent’s claim to the solar system over that of her three brothers purely because she swore the same public commitment to righteous morality that the Regents before her had so dramatically tried and failed to maintain.
Faith, obedience and the sanctity of contracts. You could marry anyone you liked in this solar system, for as long as you liked – even aliens, if that was your kink – and when your contract ran out it was no harm, no foul. But publicly breaking a marriage contract before its time was up was enough to ruin anyone, rich or poor, Regent or Musketeer Captain.
A public commitment to making divorce all but impossible could not help but lead to an excessive rise in adultery – that stood to reason. But the political climate right now meant that what went on behind closed doors was enough to get you fired, publicly humiliated, or possibly even arrested, if you were careless enough to be caught.
Dana had just outed a Musketeer captain she barely knew and another she had never met as adulterers. So much for not making today any worse.
“Don’t worry,” Aramis said, her hands stiffly in her pockets. “I’ll take care of it. Discreetly, yeah?”
Her friends cuffed her around the shoulders, continuing to give her a hard time, but Aramis arched her neck at them and laughed it off, teasing them back about their own scandals.
Dana tried to sneak away, agonised with embarrassment. How was she supposed to know that the silk would cause so much trouble? She should never have left Gascon Station. There was no welcome for her among the Musketeers, not in the way had craved since she was a kid sitting on her Mama’s knee, listening to stories about madcap adventures and eternal friendship.
She did not belong here. Treville had made it clear there was no place for her. Why couldn’t she get it into her own thick skull?
Dana tensed as she heard sudden boot steps behind her and then an arm hooked painfully around her neck.
“Well, that was a fine little scene,” Captain Aramis whispered, smiling through her teeth as if she and Dana were genuine BFFs. Her arm, which might look casually friendly to anyone else, squeezed tighter. “Who sent you after me, baby doll?”
“I’m so sorry,” Dana whispered back, unable even to pretend she was not miserable. “I’m an idiot, and I didn’t think.”
“Thinking was most definitely absent,” said Aramis, flicking Dana in the ear with one beautifully manicured fingernail. “Next time you see someone blatantly trying to hide evidence with their boot, how about you leave them to it? Unless you’ve got an arrest warrant for me. Have you an arrest warrant? You have to tell me if I ask you directly.”
“No!” Dana insisted, shocked at the very idea.
“Not a Royal’s Own, then. Or one of the Cardinal’s Hammers?”
“I don’t work for anyone, I -” Dana paused. “Hammers?”
“Sure, Sabres in the air, hammers on the ground. Blunt instruments, all of them. The Cardinal has eyes everywhere, and she would kill to get an arrest warrant for me and my friends. We’re loyal to everyone but her, you understand.” Aramis blinked, and looked directly into Dana’s eyes.
Dana stared back. She had no anger left. She had a horrible feeling that she might cry for the first time since she was twelve years old.
“All right,” Aramis said after a moment. “I believe you. You’re just an idiot, then. Fresh off the shuttle?”
“I’m from Gascon Station,” Dana said sullenly.
“Gascon? Oh Lord, isn’t that somewhere near Freedom? I didn’t think anyone lived out that far anymore.” Aramis shook her head, and the arm around Dana’s shoulder relaxed into a less threatening gesture. It was almost a hug. “Right, then. You’re new, and you’re stumbling around with no idea about anything. Got that much. Sadly I have a moral obligation to do something about you.”
Dana closed her eyes and groaned. She could see where this was going.
Aramis was still talking, her voice musical and as lovely as the rest of her. “You think we don’t see baby dolls like you every other week, prancing off the shuttle all bright-eyed and innocent, thinking the only way to get ahead is to take a Musketeer scalp? We live and die on our reputations, and you have just taken the reputation of one of the finest pilots in our fleet and dragged it through the mud.”
“I’m sorry,” Dana burst out. “I didn’t mean to embarrass you.”
Aramis rolled her eyes. “Not me, you dingbat. Captain Dubois, one of the finest pilots and most indescribably beautiful women in the history of Paris Satellite. Who is in no way my secret girlfriend.” She released Dana, and then patted her on the head. “I’m going to have to fight you, kid.”
“Somehow I thought you might,” sighed Dana. This was how the day was going to play out, then. No getting past it.
“I know an excellent and secluded little place, behind the Luxembourg on Level 5. Do you know it?”
“I think I can find my way,” said Dana. “I’m free at 1700 hours.” In a manner of speaking.
“Excellent. Good chat.” Aramis gave her a mighty thump on the back with surprising strength. “Nothing personal, baby doll. It’s just, well. You pissed me off.”
There was a lot of that going around.
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, visit my Patreon page. Pledges can earn rewards such as ebooks, extra content, dedications and the naming of spaceships. My next funding milestone ($200 a month) will unlock a special Christmas story.