Author : Luke Chmelik
We were about to set in for refitting in the drydocks of Neptune when Capitaine Merroux of the Frégate Royaux Joyeuse came forth with a grand announcement. There would be a night of revelry in her private quarters, a formal ball to commemorate the engagement of le Prince du Sang Amelanchier le Troisième de Lucannes to the Lady Celène Sauvette. All officers were to attend in full dress uniform. As a lowly officier subalterne, this was a rare chance to rub shoulders with the upper echelons of la noblesse militaire, and an even rarer chance to see the beautiful Capitaine Isabelle Merroux. I simply hoped not to be dazzled into foolishness by a flagship’s complement of polished brass.
The enlisted crew had also been infected by the electric atmosphere. Notices were posted, giving an evening’s leave to all non-essential staff, and parties were rapidly organized, far from the eyes and ears of the officers. Certain elements of the rank and file, the ones with musical talent, had even been given special dispensation to perform as a chamber ensemble for the officers. The sounds of viola and harpsichord drifted through the corridors long into the night as each would-be virtuoso sought to outdo the others. It was a rare privilege for them to be allowed to dine with la belle capitaine, and they knew it may never be extended again.
At last the evening came and, resplendent in the indigo serge and gold brocade of an officer of le Marine Solaire, I arrived at the Capitaine’s quarters. The band was playing La Marseillaise, and my chest swelled with pride at what we had achieved this year: The English and Dutch routed, the Spaniards banished to the Kuiper Belt, and the inner planets brought under the control of Amelanchier le Deuxième de Lucannes, le Roi Solaire. With the love of King and country burning in my heart, I cast my eyes upon Capitaine Isabelle Merroux.
She was standing before a vast window opening out onto space, the blue orb of Neptune rising behind her, and the stars glowed like faerie fire amongst her copper curls. She wore a gown of burgundy satin, lavish beyond all compare, and white satin gloves to her shoulders. Our eyes met, across the milling crowd, and I thought I saw her smile before an eddy of fellow subalternes swept me away. I tried to find her throughout the night, but too soon it grew late, and I began to despair.
It was past midnight when I made to leave. The band had struck up a waltz, a slow, sweet song by a Hungarian named Liszt from centuries before. As I turned to go, a satin-gloved hand lit upon my shoulder, and I looked up into the face of Isabelle Merroux. She smiled at me, her face aglow, and words I shall never forget slipped from her crimson lips:
“Danser avec moi, Monsieur Beaujolais?”
Time seemed to stand still. I was enthralled, enraptured by the very closeness of her. The song neared its end, and I groaned inwardly, wishing it would go on forever. As the last melodies faded away, I heard a bustle from the doorway. Turning, I saw a cadre of enlisted men as they broke through the door. Their leader leveled a meson rifle at the Capitaine and hissed through clenched teeth, “Pour la révolution!”
Automatically I pushed Isabelle away, my hand traveling to my hip. Full dress uniform included an epée. There were many of them, and better armed, but some things are worth dying for.