Colette really didn’t know what to make of the sudden appearance of the Marquise de Belbeuf. It had all been going smoothly before the Marquise introduced himself as “Missy” and politely asked that he be referred to as “he.” That alone, Colette thought, might not be unfortunate, but the fact that he’d asked her to dance was distracting, and she cursed her weakness for an intelligent mind in a beautiful body as she twirled over the dance floor.
Time was of the essence. It was simple, really: wear a sparkling dress laced with charms that make everyone who sees you forget you were there, arrive in the company of your ex’s friends (and feign ignorance when people ask, the charms of the dress stopping them from thinking too hard on Colette’s presence), mingle with the gossips and the well-off, and at midnight on the dot admire the Fallen Star, the most valuable rock in the known universe. Use the turning of the universe at that point in time and space to break the protection spells. Take the rock, leave unnoticed.
Time was of the essence, and Missy was distracting. Across the dance floor, a crew was setting up the stage for their midnight performance. 23:56.
“Your dress is beautiful,” Missy quietly said when they stood close. “Almost as beautiful as you.”
Colette sidestepped and twirled, her skirts billowing. “Your charm is unchallenged, Missy.”
Missy smiled and Colette forgot to count the seconds. “I wonder,” he mused.
“Oh?” Colette internally screamed at herself. She couldn’t risk this heist just because a beautiful person smiled at her. But damn. If only she had more time…
He leaned close to her and whispered: “I wonder if instead of trying to outwit one another for the Fallen Star, you’d be inclined to work together with me.”
Colette swore under her breath.
Missy giggled soundlessly and Colette felt his warm breath on her skin.
There was no time to dwell on things that could be. “It’s one minute to midnight.”
Colette took Missy’s hand and guided it to her waist, leading him off the dance floor towards the double doors leading to the side hall that housed the Fallen Star. Two guards stood watch by the wall, and Colette leaned into Missy and laughed like she was his lover and he was hers.
The guards pretended they weren’t there.
The hall was cast in shadows, the only light coming from the glass front that showed constellations of distant stars and galaxies far, far away. The entire event was aboard a star ship, a hotel and museum founded by French Royalty. French Royalty that was currently by her side, holding her close. (Missy was only minor French Royalty, Colette corrected herself. And if the rumours were true, then he had been disowned. A good motivation to steal a glittery rock.)
The Fallen Star was levitating in the middle of the hall, glittering like solid water. Around it was a sphere of thin gold, the most powerful protection spells in the known universe. Colette forced air into her lungs. There would be time to admire the rock later. She drew her wand as her inner clock announced midnight. From the main hall she heard calls and toasts, confirming her feel of time.
It was probably only a few seconds of the universe turning and halting - but Colette felt it in the iron in her blood. Magic was doing something, and this was the moment she’d been waiting for.
She tapped the tip of her wand to the golden protection spell, feeling the power within. “Open,” she whispered. That was all that was necessary. Until this moment, a part of her had doubted it, but there was intention in magic, and at this hour almost everything was possible. The golden glow vanished, and Colette grabbed the Fallen Star just as her gaping audience started screaming for guards.
Missy called out spells for shields. Colette dropped the rock in her cleavage and - but shit. Her dress had lost the shimmer of the charms that should hide her from the thoughts of those who saw her. She had only meant for the protection of the rock to vanish. Shit. Her heart quickened. Her escape was built on the fact that she went unnoticed, and she could not replicate her dress’ charms quickly enough to be of use.
“Colette,” Missy said gently behind her. “Close your eyes.”
The bright light of a curse flashed beyond her eyelids and glass shattered onto marble floor.
Missy tugged her towards open space, the cold beckoning. There was still the force field between the inside of the ship and the space outside, holding in oxygen and air and fueling the artificial gravity, but the cold was another thing entirely.
“Missy,” Colette asked, “what -”
“Do you trust me?”
“No, of course not.”
Colette grabbed Missy’s suit from the front as he gripped her waist tighter, and they jumped through the shattered glass wall.
Suddenly there was solid floor beneath her feet, and out of nothing a ship materialised around them. Colette couldn’t feel her toes, and stumbled after Missy. A glance over her shoulder showed the confused faces of the guests, and a commotion behind showed the arriving guards. Then the door closed and she could hear Missy’s voice telling the ship’s AI to get them to safety.
“Welcome to my ship,” Missy said at last.
“I assume you’ll want something?” Colette raised an eyebrow.
Missy’s eyes wandered down her body, and up, pausing on her cleavage. “Fifty percent when you sell the Fallen Star, my love.”
“But what if I don’t intend to sell it?”
“Oh, I don’t know.” Missy smiled. “Your magic tricks on your dress were impressive. What about you join my pirate crew?”
“Who else is on your pirate crew, if I may ask?”
“It’s just me, my ship… and you.”
Colette smiled at Missy. The universe was unpredictable and complex, but also so very beautiful.