Disclaimer: I do not own any of this. Sadly. Scott Westerfeld does.
This was perhaps the most awkward silence that Singe had ever witnessed. “I--I’m not wearing a tie,” he said to Alek, not able to look at embarrassment that colored the boy’s cheeks.
“Oh, well then.”
Deryn didn’t bother to say hello to Alek. “I’m not important enough to include in your meetings, then? That’s just barking lovely,” she snorted. “I’ll see you at mess, Mr. Newkirk.” Deryn turned harshly on her heel and walked back in the way they came.
Alek watched longingly after her, his mouth slightly open. He didn’t say anything, just nodded to Singe and ambled slowly down the hallway, in the direction opposite Deryn.
Not sure what to do, Singe stood alone in the corridor, lost in thought. The world seemed to be falling apart around him, and Singe was stuck in the middle. He’d just got Dylan and Alek back, his closest friends, and now it was all turned upside down because Dylan was a girl, and she and Alek were something... or had been something. They were avoiding each other because Alek thought Jaspert’s death was his fault, and Deryn was letting him believe it. Maybe she believed it, too. If only Singe could tell her that it had been an act of love, and that it wasn’t Alek’s fault that the barking stupid Clankers had gone and ruined it.
It really was all their fault. They were losing the war, and they weren’t about to do it quietly. From what Singe could tell, they were going to cause the Darwinists as much pain as they could, and that included ruining the British Air Service. It shook England to its core, and even the ships that hadn’t been attacked were jumpy and unstable, waiting until it was their turn to be a helpless target.
Singe could even hear the yelling in the bridge, behind the closed door.
But the yelling sounded... excited. He was contemplating whether or not to press his ear to the fabricated wood of the door when a man stormed out. He had a dark gray mustache that curled up at the ends like a smug grin, and at the moment it was jumping wildly on the man’s face as he shouted some words in French. He started when he saw Singe standing against the wall, bewildered.
“Hello, sir,” Singe said, and clicked his heels. “If I may ask, sir, what’s going on?”
The man could hardly stand still; he was shifting his weight from foot to foot, a broad grin pasted crookedly on his face. When he looked at Singe, he took him by the shoulders and told him, “As you English say: We are back in business, boy!”
Singe hesitated. He still didn’t know what was happening, but it would be rude to ask again. The French man let go of Singe’s shoulders, the same giddy smile on his mouth. “We go to top of ship, now! Captain will tell you all!”
As he said that, the all-hands signal sounded, and Singe bade the man farewell and climbed out onto the ratlines, hurriedly making his way topside.
He was joined by many airmen, and soon the ratlines were sagging with the weight of so many men--and one woman. Deryn spotted Singe and made her way toward him in no time. She was still scowling. Singe said hello to her weakly, and she forced a smile in return.
The ship was still around them; not even the hum of the engines could be felt in Singe’s fingertips because they were docked. Deryn was always saying how you could feel the beast moving and everything going on around them through the membrane, but he’d never felt it.
“You know what we’re up here for?” he asked once they’d made it topside.
“No. Seeing as I’m not barking important enough to tell things to,” Deryn spat. Grimacing, Singe kept silent after that, not wanting to draw another biting remark from her. Everyone was gathering at the center of the spine, so as not to upset the ship’s balance, and the captain was standing in the middle of them all, a small circle cleared around him. Singe searched the crowd, but he couldn’t find Alek. Maybe he already knows what’s going on, he thought bitterly, despite himself. He was angry on Deryn’s behalf; she was part of the Society now, so she should be included.
The two of them were near the back, so most of the captains words were torn away, even though there was hardly any wind. He got the gist though; the mission was back on. Orders would be sent out, and all men were to follow them immediately, no questions asked. Though there was some grumbling from the men around him, they obeyed. Orders were orders, after all.
The sun was slowly sagging on the horizon, growing dimmer by the minute.
It was going to be a long night.