Musketeer Space Part 40: Tea, and the Cardinal

teapotIt’s Musketeer Day!

I had a Robotech Rewatch disaster this week, accidentally skipping a disc and reviewing the wrong episode! Have no fear, I’ll be posting a double episode this Saturday to make up for it.

Check out this month’s Musketeer Media Monday post: Bat’Magnan & the Mean Musketeers (2001), in which a Musketeer adaptation gets almost exactly everything wrong, and is mostly forgiven because Catherine Deneuve.

Speaking of Musketeer adaptations, we’ve been marathoning our way through Leverage for the first time, and whenever Richard Chamberlain turns up, I convince myself that Aramis is immortal and training catburglars in the 21st century. Well, he would.

Start reading Musketeer Space from Part 1
Missed the last installment? Track back to Part 39
Read a festive Musketeer Space prequel, “Seven Days of Joyeux.”
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PREVIOUSLY ON MUSKETEER SPACE: The Sun-kissed invaded the other end of the solar-system, and while her friends the Musketeers were waiting to be sent into battle, Dana managed to get into a whole lot of trouble including sleeping with the enemy, losing the Prince’s tailor she was hoping to have an affair with, discovering Athos’ dead husband wasn’t actually dead, and scoring a job that means she’s almost, but not quite, a Musketeer herself.

NOW READ ON!

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This chapter is dedicated to Heather Berberet. Thank you for your generous support and I look forward to hearing what you want to name your spaceship.

Chapter 40 – Tea, and the Cardinal

The last thing Dana wanted was for all three of her Musketeer friends to follow her home and witness whatever Kitty had to tell her, but apparently she didn’t have any choice in the matter.

When they arrived at Madame Su’s Bed and Board, Dana was alarmed to see that Planchet was nowhere in sight, but Madame Su herself had cornered a dishevelled and cranky-looking Kitty.

“So this is your landlady, Dana!” Aramis announced, pouncing on Madame Su with delight which might or might not be feigned. “You didn’t tell me she was so fashionably turned out. Hello, Madame, I’m Captain-Lieutenant Aramis of the Royal Fleet, so glad to meet you at last!”

Porthos jumped into the charm offensive with both boots, giving Madame Su a hearty smack between her narrow shoulder blades. “I hear you’ve been taking good care of our little Dana,” she said heartily. “So nice when neighbours take care of each other. That’s what I always say about Paris Satellite – we might be a giant space station orbiting the moon of an over-heated desert planet no one in their right minds would ever visit, but we’re also a community.”

“You do always say that, Porthos, it’s true,” said Aramis, nodding. “But Madame Su, you must tell me where you got that darling silk suit – I’ve been looking for something like it for ages. Not that my figure is quite as dainty as yours, of course…”

Madame Su was helplessly pinned between the two over-friendly Musketeers, which gave Dana an opportunity to draw Kitty out of earshot, further into the workshop. Athos followed them, one hand hanging casually close to his pilot’s slice and a blank, vaguely harmless expression that was in direct contrast to the set of his shoulders.

Kitty darted a suspicious look at Athos, but got the picture very quickly that she wasn’t going to get to speak to Dana alone.

“I have your dress,” Dana blurted out, handing the sparkly cloth to the other girl.

“That’s a good start,” Kitty snarled back, and it was only then that Dana realised her eyes were red-rimmed beneath the sparkly pink eyelashes. Kitty had been crying. “How about finding me a new job while you’re at it?”

“I thought you were never going to leave Milord’s employ,” said Dana, genuinely startled.

Kitty stabbed a finger into the middle of Dana’s chest. “Well that was before you sent him absolutely apeshit. He accused me of helping you – which I did, by the way, you’re fucking welcome – and when I tried to leave the spaceship he attacked me and locked me in my own office!”

“How did you get out?” Athos asked in a low, measured voice.

“Same way Sergeant Grateful here did, through the ducts,” Kitty snapped. “He scares me, and I am not going back. So you had better find me somewhere to go, Dana D’Artagnan. You broke my funny, slightly morally dubious boss, and now I am stuck with some kind of weird rage maniac out for revenge.”

Dana sighed. “You know the maniac part was always there, right?”

“Not with me, it wasn’t!” Kitty wrapped her arms tightly around herself, looking more distressed than a girl wearing sequinned high-top sneakers ever should. “I have to get off Paris Satellite, somewhere safe, and you are going to help me.”

“Fine,” Dana said, folding her arms. “We’ll help you find a new position somewhere – far from here.” She faltered, and looked at Athos for help.

He sighed. “Aramis knows someone who works for the Daughters of Peace united government. Is that far enough?”

“You mean Madame Chevreuse?” Dana asked.

Athos nodded. “I’m sure she can help this young lady find work – but of course, we’d need good reason to give a reference.” He gave Kitty a stern look.

“I’m a fucking aces personal assistant,” Kitty said, continuing to stab Dana’s chest with a polished teal fingernail.”

“I believe you,” Athos said mildly. “But that’s not exactly what I meant.”

Dana caught on. “Kitty, you need to tell me now, exactly what you know about the kidnapping of Conrad Su, and where Milord is keeping him.”

Kitty rolled her eyes at her. “You mean you’ve got some other boyfriend on the line? How do you find the time?”

“Conrad’s not mine,” Dana assured her. “It’s Athos here who’s in love with him. I’m just being a good friend,” she added, giving Athos a pat on the shoulder to show what good friends they were.

Athos said nothing. This was probably for the best. Dana suspected that his sarcasm levels were currently broadcasting a frequency only robots could hear.

Kitty was unconvinced. “What’s this got to do with the old broad over there?” she asked, nodding at Madame Su, who had given in to the inevitable and was admitting Aramis and Porthos into her office to discuss pattern books and fabric imports over tea.

“She’s Conrad’s wife,” Dana admitted. “That’s why we have to be so discreet about his affair with Athos.”

“Yes, D’Artagnan, ‘discreet’ is the first word that comes to mind when I think of you,” Athos grated out.

“But she’s been working with Milord,” said Kitty. “And the Cardinal. You know that, right?”

“Well, we do now,” said Dana after a horrified pause.

“Quickly then,” said Athos, taking his chance. “Before she comes back and gets a good look at you, Miss Columbina. Tell us everything you know about the whereabouts of Conrad Su.”

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“Aliens,” said Aramis slowly, as the four of them sat around a table on the Promenade. Athos and Dana had decided it was finally time to let Aramis and Porthos in on what had been going on, in case it was the last chance they would all be together for some time. It wasn’t exactly a story that either of them wanted to share over comms.

“You’ve both had sex with aliens,” Porthos added, looking just as bemused.

“The same alien,” Dana corrected.

“Yes, that is entirely the most important detail of the story,” Athos growled. He was on his second espresso, and it was obvious that he was deeply angry at the coffee for not being remotely alcoholic.

“I’m not trying to be insensitive here,” Porthos added. “It’s starting to make a lot more sense now, that’s all.”

“What is?”

Porthos nudged his shoulder with her own. “You, you miserable, self-destructive sod. None of this was your fault, you know.”

“Apart from my failure to properly execute an enemy of the solar system,” Athos said, staring at the table.

Knowing when a change of subject was warranted, Aramis drummed against the table with her long, tapering fingers. “Dana, I have your Kitty on the solarcrawler to the Daughters of Peace tonight, with a suitcase full of plastic unicorns, a reference stud for Chevreuse, and an assumed name. It doesn’t sound like she had much to offer you in exchange.”

“Kitty confirmed that Madame Su is working as a spy for the Cardinal, and has had dealings with Milord,” said Dana. “And she knows that there is an outpost called ‘the Tower’ where Milord keeps his enemies, but she couldn’t tell us where it was.”

“It doesn’t matter,” said Athos flatly. “It’s too fucking late, D’Artagnan. We ship out tomorrow, and we wouldn’t have time to stage a rescue even if we did know where he was.”

“I know,” Dana said, squeezing her hands into fists. “At least I’ll be well away from Milord by this time tomorrow. He won’t be able to touch me in Truth Space.”

“No, he won’t,” said Aramis, but there was something odd about her voice. The others looked up: first Porthos, then Athos, and finally Dana.

Special Agent Rosnay Cho – Ro, to her friends and business partners – stood in the middle of the Promenade, in a peach flight suit. Her long black hair swept down her back, and her scarred face looked quite calm. She beckoned Dana over to her.

“So this is a trap,” Porthos said conversationally.

“Isn’t it nice the way they call attention to themselves so we don’t even have to wonder?” said Aramis.

Athos laid a hand on Dana’s arm. “No,” he said in a quiet voice.

Dana patted his fingers, and stood up. “I’ll be okay.”

“If you go anywhere with her, I will stun you, I’m not even kidding,” said Porthos.

Dana walked over to the special agent. So much had happened since they last saw each other, at the Fountain of Tranquility. They had felt almost like friends, that night. Still, Dana knew better than to trust anything that Rosnay Cho had to say to her.

“I hear you’ve been busy,” said Ro.

Dana’s immediate thought was how much does she know, oh hell, and she could feel her eyes widening like saucers.

“Wow,” said Ro with a laugh. “That bad?”

“Did you want something?” Dana meant for her question to sound businesslike, but a plaintive edge slipped in that she had not intended. Once again she felt twelve years old in the presence of this capable, terrifying older woman.

Ro smirked at her, and drew a paper envelope from one of the many pockets of her pretty flight suit. “I have an invitation for you. Thought I’d deliver it specially.”

“I was going to say that’s nice of you, but I’m pretty sure it’s your actual job to screw with my head, so – thanks, I think?” Dana was proud that her thoughts came out as intelligibly as they did.

Ro gave her a salute – an actual salute. “I hear you’re shipping out tomorrow, Arms-Sergeant D’Artagnan. Thank you for your service, and all that. Try not to get your baby-faced head blown off.”

“I -” said Dana, but she didn’t have the faintest idea what to say in response to that, not at all. As it turned out, her lack of a snappy comeback was fine because Ro was already striding away, her long hair fluttering in her wake.

Three pairs of Musketeer eyes locked on to her as she headed back to the cafe table.

“What is it?” Athos asked at once.

“Never mind what is it, what was that? Dana how many of your suspiciously hot sworn enemies have you been flirting with lately?” Aramis demanded. “Seriously, this one’s my favourite, she is sizzling.”

Dana opened the envelope, and took out a gold-edged card inviting her to take tea with her Eminence, Cardinal Richelieu, two hours from now. She stared at it for a long time.

“So,” said Porthos, sounding far too cheerful. “This is a trap.”

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The Cardinal’s office at the Palace was an elegant salon, stylish and bright instead of the grim, ominously dark room Dana had pictured on the way over here. There were no historical portraits, no dusty religious statues and certainly no angry antique power desk.

Dana had been so sure the Cardinal was the type to have an angry antique power desk.

Instead, the ceiling was painted in a traditional sacred starscape, depicting the view of Honour from orbit, as seen through the viewscreen by the cosmonaut crew of the Third Venturer. The lovely mural was the only part of the room that appeared remotely religious.

A grey-haired woman in military dress reds sat by a window through which spilled a flood of artificial light. She looked like a scholar, or a teacher, with a volume of poetry open on her lap. At Dana’s approach, the woman looked up and smiled, and Dana gave up all hope that this was the Cardinal’s kind-hearted and motherly secretary. No, this was Richelieu herself.

“Arms-Sergeant D’Artagnan,” said Cardinal Richelieu. “We meet at last.” She was smaller than she looked on all the vid announcements.

“You honoured me with the invitation, Your Eminence,” said Dana, which was partly true. It was bizarre for the leader of the Church of All and closest advisor to the Regent to take an interest in a low-ranked pilot who didn’t even belong to her own Fleet – even if the Cardinal wanted her dead (which wasn’t out of the question), she would hardly be expected to do it herself.

“I thought we had better meet here,” said the Cardinal dryly. “Your friends are likely to panic less about the Palace than my private residence.”

Dana agreed silently. Athos, Aramis and Porthos were all standing guard along the gallery across this floor, with an eye to each of the possible exits. She had no doubt that they would have locked her in a cupboard rather than let her attend upon the Cardinal in her own home.

Bad enough that she had walked past several Red Guards and at least three Sabres on the way to Richelieu’s salon, and that several of them had given her an odd look as if in recognition.

“You are from Gascon Station, are you not, Arms-Sergeant D’Artagnan?” asked the Cardinal. She gave Dana a searching look, as if she could see every thought that passed through her head merely by observation. “Your mother was a Musketeer, and your grandmother before you.”

“That’s right, your Eminence,” said Dana.

The Cardinal waved her to sit. “They will bring us tea shortly, my dear, while we extend our acquaintance. I believe you stopped at Meung Station on your journey to Paris.”

That particular detail surprised Dana, though it should not have done. Of course, the Cardinal would know all about her first encounter with Rosnay Cho, and probably every time their paths had crossed since. “Yes, your Eminence.”

“Such a shame that your paperwork was lost, and that you were not able to present yourself properly to Amiral Treville,” said the Cardinal, with a sympathetic smile. “Still, our fearsome Amiral would have been hard-pressed to find employment for you among her troops. The Musketeers have so few resources these days.”

“So I believe, your Eminence,” said Dana, wondering where this was going.

“And oh – so many adventures since then. Your friendships with the infamous Inseparables, your romance with a certain tailor, even your journeys – two journeys, no less – to that picturesque planet Valour. You see, I know all about you, young D’Artagnan. I believe the Prince Consort has particular reason to value your adventurous spirit, and your loyalty. It is to be commended.”

Dana shifted uncomfortably in her seat. “Your Eminence is too kind.”

The Cardinal looked deeply into Dana’s face and was obviously amused by what she found there. “Oh, my dear. Did you think I had called you here to reprimand you? What authority is it that you think I have over one of the Regent’s own Musketeers?” She laughed, her eyes dancing.

Dana was more confused than ever. “May I ask – why exactly did you want to see me, your Eminence?”

The tea arrived, brought in by three servants with impeccable manners who tidied the Cardinal’s book away and set a table between the two women, resplendent with a silver teapot, vintage china cups, and a towering display of pastries.

The Cardinal poured for them both, adding milk to the dark, fragrant tea in the cups. “You are brave, D’Artagnan,” she said. “Though I think there is more to you than that. Youth, bravery and talent make such a compelling combination. The best pilots – and the best soldiers – are strong of head and of heart. Don’t you agree?”

“Yes,” said Dana helplessly. She could do nothing now but surf alongside this conversation and hope that she came out alive at the far side of it.

Cardinal Richelieu smiled warmly, as if Dana’s agreement had meant something else altogether. “Splendid. I believe that you need guidance, my dear. So far from home – and grieving the recent tragic loss to your family. That is why I would very much like to take you under my wing.”

Dana had judged it safe to bring the cup to her lips and take a sip of tea; in actual fact, it now took all of her personal reserves to hold back from insulting the all-powerful Cardinal with a classic spit-take. “Your Eminence?” she said, pouring enough confusion into her words to make it clear that she was asking a question, but didn’t know enough to be sure what question that was.

Richelieu sipped her own tea with infinite grace. “Why, D’Artagnan, I would like to invite you to take up a commission as a Sabre in the Red Guard. What do you say to that?”

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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 2014. My next funding milestone will unlock GORGEOUS COVER ART.

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One reply

  1. Tansy-just blazed through all 41 chapters. Put Ancilliary Sword down to do it. Just saying….

    Can’t wait for Wednesday!

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