Thursday, April 5, 2012

Random ficlets

So, here are the ficlets I told you about. The first one is called "Fortify?" because it relates to the Bonus Chapter and Art, the second one "I Promise" for reasons you'll soon discover, and the third "Happy April Fool's Day" for obvious reasons. They contain other explanations with the actual stories, too, in case you get confused. Read away!
Disclaimer; this isn't mine. Well, it is to an extent, but not enough to count.

A tribute to The Bonus Chapter and Art, posted to the Westerblog on December 16, 2011.
Four people stood crowded around a table, huddled over cluttered maps and diagrams. They were all tired, worn out from a long day of hard scheming. The sun was drooping an eyelid at them in the sky, yawning as it fell into its place below the horizon. Alek watched it with a sort of jealous fixation, counting the minutes ticking by, waiting for the moment he could retire to his bedroom for a well needed night’s sleep.
Deryn snapped her fingers in front of his face, “Oi! Have you gone daft on us again?”
“What? No,” he said, shaking his head to clear it. A yawn was building up in his throat, and he was determined to stop it. He clamped his jaw down tight, and Deryn raised a single eyebrow at him, a talent he could never seem to master, and clapped him on the shoulder.
“We’re almost done, your princeliness. Just hang in for a squick more, aye?” Deryn took a step closer to him, taking hold of his hand under the high table just out of sight of Count Volger and Dr. Barlow.
“Dylan is right. We must only finish part three of the plan before the evening is over,” Dr. Barlow said.
“The evening is over,” Bovril repeated. “Mr. Sharp.”
Deryn shook her head and sighed, pulling the creature onto her arm. “What is part three, exactly?”
Alek blinked a few times to stay focused as Dr. Barlow spoke. “It is quite simple, of course. In simplicity, we must fortify the...” she trailed off as Alek and Bovril started laughing maniacally. “What on earth is so funny, Aleksandar?”
Between his cackling, Alek managed to choke out, “It’s the--that Volger--he--fortified!
Deryn was staring at him, opened mouthed, Dr. Barlow had her lips in a surprised “o” shape, and the count rolled his eyes, remembering that absurd moment on the eve of the new year when he had been quite fortified, as he had called it. Alek continued to laugh, clutching at his sides, not entirely sure why exhaustion made everything so funny.
“It would seem,” Volger began to roll up a map, “that we are quite finished. Until tomorrow, then?”
Deryn nodded vigorously and towed Alek away from the table, muttering about barking daft princes the whole way to their rooms. Quite daft indeed, he thought, but at least Deryn’s hand was warm in his and he was done thinking about maps and plans for the night.
He had more important things to think about at the moment.
A/N: You may not have understood the reference if you haven’t read The Bonus Chapter as many times as I have. A little background would suffice, I assume, so for you have have a small portion of The Bonus Chapter, written and owned entirely by Scott Westerfeld, to explain a little better, “‘...Given that I am about to throw myself into a party full of boffins and secret agents, I would not call myself drunk—merely fortified.’” -Count Volger. Make sense now? You can probably now understand why I break out into insane fangirl giggles when they speak of ‘fortification’ on the show Downton Abbey, or, much worse, when I see milk for kids that is specially ‘fortified’ (with vitamins and such, of course, but that hardly seems important.), or when I feel I have to write a somewhat canonical drabble about it. Hope you enjoyed!

Moving on...

Oh, no. Not here! Not now!
Deryn looked around the small dining room, the one that she’d gotten used to since returning to London, just to avoid the eyes of the boy on one knee in front of her. She was sure that she’d turned positively scarlet with embarrassment, but one small glance at Alek told her that there was no way she was redder than him.
“Deryn Artemis Sharp,” he stuttered, “Y-you are the love of my life. It doesn’t matter how young we are, or how old, but you will always be.”
Deryn blinked and said, “Alek, I’ve only known you for--” she quickly calculated in her head “--seven months!”
“Really? Because it feels like I’ve known you my whole life. Everything before I met you--that wasn’t living, Deryn. My life began the day I found you on that glacier, and lord knows I want to keep living this life. I look at you, and the world becomes infinitely better--Deryn, I look at you, and there’s no where else I need to be. It’s where I belong.” He paused, searching her eyes. Blisters, but his were beautiful. They were shining, and he had that faraway look in them, but now they had an immeasurable amount of intensity, too. Deryn had never seen him like this, and it almost scared her. “I’m not asking you to marry me right now, Deryn.”
“Then what are you barking asking?”
“I’m asking you to accept my promise. With this ring, I promise you that I’ll always love you and only you. By accepting, you promise the same to me. Please, Deryn. I need you more than anything.”
“Oh, Alek--” her eyes were swimming with tears. “I--I love you, you barking daft prince.”
“So--?” Alek’s eyes were wide, waiting.
“Yes. Yes, I promise,” she whispered.
He barely had time to slip the ring on her finger before they were kissing, and his lips tasted of salty tears and promises.

And Finally...

Author’s Note: Okay, you all will certainly be very confused if you read this without taking a peek at Mr. Westerfeld’s April Fool’s Day prank on his readers first. You can find it at: “”. The wonderful idea arose on the Blog that someone should write a fanfic about it, and so.... this happened. I hope you enjoy!
This was probably the worst day of Deryn’s entire life.
She’d always imagined that her wedding day would be the best, but, of course, in her child’s daydreams she’d been marrying the dashing boy, not--well, being him.
Her secret was in danger of being discovered, and Lilit had offered to help. She’d reassured Deryn that Dylan getting married would dispel any doubt as to her--his--gender. It was all a barking mess, really, and she wasn’t entirely sure how it had happened.
“Ready to go, Dylan?” Lilit popped in the doorway just as Deryn was pulling on her boots.
“Isn’t there some rule that says I shouldn’t be seeing you in your dress before you walk down the aisle?” Deryn asked defeatedly.
Lilit sighed. “Isn’t there some rule that says I can’t marry a girl?”
“Bu--” Deryn sputtered, pulling Lilit into the room and darting a glance down the hallway to make sure no one had heard. “That’s the point, you ninny!”
“Honestly, Mr. Sharp, is the really the way to treat your bride? We shall have to work on that,” she said drily, and left to find her procession of bridesmaids.
Deryn didn’t even know anyone in the wedding party aside from Bovril, who was serving as the ring bearer. Of course she couldn’t invite her own family, and when she’d asked Alek to be her best man, he’d refused, looking extremely hurt. She had thought he would understand, now that he knew her secret, but he hadn’t spoken to her since, and that had been nearly a month now. Her loneliness among all these Ottomans was terrible.
Count Volger and Dr. Barlow would both be there, and Klopp, Hoffman, and Bauer, all in the audience. The only one of them that knew was Count Volger, and as she stepped to take her place on the altar, she could feel his cool, disapproving glare. Barking Clankers.
The organ began to play, and Deryn tried not to break down into furious sobs at her situation while all the people marched down the aisle. She had to pretend to be happy and forced herself to break into a large smile when Lilit strode in. The girl looked radiant in her dress, and her acting was flawless. She had the air of a woman in love, like she could barely keep from running to the altar. She gave Deryn a reassuring nod, taking her place beside her groom.
The preacher began his long speech, droning on about marriage, and Deryn’s stomach twisted into a million knots, her legs shaking and turning to jelly.
Just as Deryn was about to protest that she couldn’t do this, the far wall of the chapel splintered and exploded inward. From the space that had been panels of carefully painted wood and stained glass and a door, a giant metal stormwalker stumbled in. Squinting through the dust, Deryn could just make out the form of someone piloting the thing, viewport completely open. He looked oddly familiar...
As the dust cleared, she saw his face. It was pale, pulled into a tight grimace. He held a pistol and a sword, and he was yelling. It took a moment before Deryn could make out his words.
“Deryn! Wake up you Dummkopf! You’ve already slept in past breakfast!”
“What?!” Deryn pulled open her eyes to see Alek’s eyes alight with amusement, his dark red hair a tumbled mess because he hadn’t combed it yet. “I missed breakfast?
“Yes,” he shrugged, “but I brought you some.” Alek held out a biscuit slathered with jam, and pointed to a mug of coffee waiting on the bedside table. “What in blazes were you dreaming about? You looked like were having a nightmare.”
It was only then that she saw the cleverly hidden worry in his brow. She smiled at him brightly. “You don’t barking want to know,” she said, pulling back her covers and shoving him toward the door, “Get out of here, you barking daft prince. I have to get ready, and so do you!”
“But the ceremony isn’t for another three hours!” he complained.
Deryn raised an eyebrow. “And you’re going to need every second of it if you want to look like a proper groom.”
“I may need a few more if I want to look as good as my bride,” he replied sweetly and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek before retreating out of her reach. Deryn could feel the blood rushing to her face.
“Aye, you will,” she agreed half heartedly and leaned forward, kissing him on the lips long and hard. He already looked perfect, even with the tousled hair and wrinkled pajamas. She shivered and her stomach did a flip at what he would look like waiting for her at the end of the aisle. “But you did have time for that. Besides, you may just move a little faster now and not be late. Wouldn’t want you barging in on a walker...”
“Pardon me?”
“Nevermind. Now go already!” She shut the door behind him.
“I love you, Deryn,” Alek whispered through the door. A broad grin stretched across Deryn’s face. She didn’t think she’d ever quite get used to hearing those words from him, no matter how many times he said them.
“I love you, too, Alek.”
Maybe this really would be the best day of her life.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Chapter 23!

This is the long awaited chapter 23. I sincerely hope it doesn't disappoint. A quick lesson on the origin of "Sincere": It actually means "Without wax"--stemming from in ancient times when they made marble statues. Sometimes there would be flaws, and those would be filled with wax, but when they got out into the sun... melted wax. So "sincere" statues were true ones that had no wax. Just remember, the next time you sign your letters with, "Sincerely, me." you're saying your letter has no wax. Well, more that what you've stated above is genuine or real, but that's beside the point.
But I'm just keeping you from the action here. Without further ado...
Disclaimer: I don't own this. Really, we've been over this before.

That boy was looking at him. The one that was on the train. What was his name, again?
Oh. Tad.
Deryn was making sure to stay out of his line of sight, but it was hardly necessary. Tad’s eyes were glued on Singe because he thought the boy was Dylan. As it was, Singe didn’t think Tad would recognize her given that he thought she was a girl, when she was pretending to be a boy and--
Singe shook his head. It was all so barking confusing with that girl. As long as he could keep the boy from realizing he wasn’t Dylan until they could sort this all out, it would be fine. He gave Deryn a nod to show he understood the situation. She sighed in relief and set back to taking care of the unconscious girl. The pretty one from the cellar.
“What are you looking at?” Singe said gruffly.
Tad raised an eyebrow. “You.”
“Like the uniform? It’s great out here in the cold mountain weather. You should really get yourself one of these.” He couldn’t help but taunt the boy a little. He was wearing only a pair of trousers, a shirt and thin jacket, and boots, and he kept shivering.
“I would, but my wrists are tied,” he managed, teeth chattering. His lips were turning blue.
Groaning inwardly as the sympathetic part of himself took over, Singe pulled his outer layer off and draped it over Tad’s shoulders. He hissed as the frigid mountain air sliced through his middy’s uniform.
“Compromise, you see? You have a coat, but your wrists are still tied. I’m happy, your happy.”
“I can hardly say I’m happy.” He rolled his eyes. “But thank you.”
“Can’t have my prisoner getting frostbite, can I?” Singe patted him on the shoulder a little too hard, and Tad nearly fell over. “Don’t you worry, though. It’s perfectly warm on the ship. The heat from the gut is quite comfortable.”
He turned away to address his assembled men as the Clanker cringed.
“That’s all of us, aye? Count off.” He waited patiently as his men numbered themselves off to sixteen and ignored Tad’s comment about not knowing Darwinists could count so well. Pulling out his semaphore flags, he sent the ready signal to the bridge. He could almost see the splotch of the captain’s head nod.
The scent of vented hydrogen filled the air and the ship dropped quickly. A ladder dropped from the cargo hatch when the beastie was ten yards above the ground, and Singe watched as the airmen climbed up with various found things. One of the bigger men carried the Clanker girl on his shoulder, and Singe clipped himself to Tad’s belt and untied his hands.
Once everyone was up the ladder, the ship rapidly spilled ballast and they shot upward. Now it was time to inventory their findings.
“What’ve we got, lads?”
“A midshipman!” Levi cried gleefully, and was rewarded by many slaps on the back, even a hug. He turned pale and grimaced, though Singe wasn’t quite sure why.
“Two Clankers, obviously. This here is Thaddeus Welker. Say hello, Tad,” Singe said, and continued, not waiting for a reply. He gestured to the girl.  “I’m not sure who this lass is, though. Anything else?”
“I’ve got a funny looking box and a lump of mechanical parts,” a man offered, and Singe nodded, only mildly intrigued. That could be expected of any Clanker hideout. As for the box, it probably only caught the man’s attention because he’d seen the seal in Constantinople, or so Deryn had explained. He’d personally never seen it before, but that was mostly because he’d spent almost the whole trip inside the air beast, much less where he could see the official symbol of the sultan.
The head rigger stepped in and took over Singe’s job, and he gratefully took leave to his room after seeing that the prisoners made it safely to the brig. He promised to bring Tad breakfast with a sarcastic air kiss. The girl still hadn’t woken up.
The moment his head hit the pillow, he was asleep.
It wasn’t very hard to carry two breakfast trays, especially since they had barely any food on them. With the whole ship still on half-rations, the prisoners wouldn’t be eating any better.
Singe hesitated a moment before unlocking the door to the girl’s cell. It wasn’t unpleasant down here in the brig, but it certainly wasn’t the best conditions. He stared down at one of the trays he was carrying sullenly; there was a stale biscuit and a mug of old coffee, which was warm, at least. Sighing, Singe pulled the few potatoes he’d saved and wrapped in a napkin from his own breakfast earlier and placed them on the one for the girl.
The door opened with a click that hardly echoed in the small room. In the corner, a slight form was huddled, knees folded in on herself, holding them tightly; like a hug, Singe thought. When she looked up, he was caught by the greenness of her eyes.
“You’re meal,” he said curtly. The girl nodded dumbly but didn’t say a word. “Do you speak English?”
“Yes. Some.” Her voice was distracted, eyes fixed hungrily on the tray he held. Quickly he handed it to her and stood silently as she swallowed the biscuit in three bites, the potatoes in two, and washed it down with the coffee. She let out a deep breath when she was done and leaned her head against the wall. “Thank you.”
“I’m just doing my job.”
“For the potatoes,” the girl pursed her lips and inclined her head, making the grimy blond hair fall into her face. She must have seen the other tray, the one for Tad, that had none. She certainly didn’t miss much, did she?
“What’s your name?” He asked suddenly. In the moment it took her to process the words, she let her long legs stretch on the cot, which pulled the hem of her trousers up well past her ankles. He would be embarrassed about seeing this, but she had such an effortless grace that he didn’t think to look away.
“I have two names,” she said slowly, “I am Rachel. My men call me Ronnie when we work. You understand?”
“Y-yes.” He stuttered. “I am--er--Eugene.”
He stood awkwardly, not sure what to do next. Rachel extended a calloused hand toward him. “I am pleased to meet you, Eugene.”
He took her hand gently and was surprised by the firmness of her shake. “The pleasure is mine, Rachel.” She let go of his hand and folded her legs up again, leaving a space next to her on the small cot.
“You sit? You are tired,”Rachel offered, patting the spot next to her. Singe was, in fact, very tired from all that had happened. He sat gingerly on the edge, careful to leave as much space as possible between them. Utterly aware of both her closeness and the way she was staring at him, he decided his boots were extremely interesting.  She’s a Clanker, he reminded himself. The enemy.
But then why was he so drawn to her?
“So...” Singe picked at his fingers.
“You want to ask a question?” She reached over and touched his shoulder lightly, and Singe had stop himself before he took hold of her hand.
“Yes, I do,” he admitted. There was a silence as he tried to figure out how to phrase his words.
“Why... why do you...”
“Why do I work with the men?” Singe nodded, and she shrugged. “Because it is what I like to do. I always have liked machines. My father paid the commander to take me up and work. The men I work with... they call me Ronnie so they forget I am a girl.  It is not customary for a girl to work like I do.”
“I understand. I know someone who’s a lot like you.”
“Uh--well, that’s hard to explain. Look, I won’t be back until tomorrow, with breakfast. They may come and question you, to get information on what you were doing in the mountains.” Because she’s a Clanker, he didn’t say, but made sure he reinforced the fact to himself. “Please, tell them what they want to know.”
Rachel pressed her lips together, shaking her head. “You should go. Thaddeus still needs his food, yes?”
He stood stiffly and walked to the door, not looking back even though he could feel Rachel’s eyes on him. She’s a Clanker. He couldn’t like her.
But that hadn’t stopped Deryn, had it?
Setting his jaw, he pushed the door open and slipped into Tad’s cell, lit only by a small worm lamp. The only furnishing was a fabricated wood cot covered with a few blankets and a hard pillow, just like Rachel’s--no, it would be better to think of her as Ronnie--cell. The boy was laying on top of it all.
“I come with breakfast, your countship,” Singe said sarcastically to hide the knot in his chest. Tad sad up upon his arrival.
“Not much of a breakfast,” he replied, wrinkling his nose at the stale biscuit and mug of warm, bitter coffee. “And I’m not a count. Yet. You seem well rested, Mr. Newkirk.”
“As much as I can be. But I can’t stay and chat. Fraternizing with the enemy isn’t part of my duties.”
Tad leaned against the wall, a smug grin stretching across his mouth. “Oh, I think you can stay and chat for as long as I want you to.”
“Excuse me?”
“You see, Mr. Newkirk, I have this all figured out.”
His spine was prickling. “You have what figured out?”
“All of it. You might want to seal that door.” Singe did, but he kept his eyes on the Clanker boy the whole time. He’d already made the mistake of responding to Newkirk when he was supposed to be Dylan, and he wasn’t about to make another.
“It wasn’t hard, really. Once I realized that you weren’t Dylan, the pieces just clicked into place. To think, the British Air Service would be so shamed! A girl...”
Freezing in place, hands clamped tight on his jacket, Singe turned to Tad. “What did you just say?”
“A girl in the British Air Service. They’ll be very discredited when the world finds that out. But I could be persuaded to keep my quiet, at a price.”
“Oh, I’ll persuade you, alright,” he growled, pulling out his rigging knife. “Breathe one word about Deryn and I’ll--”
“Deryn? So that’s her real name?” Tad asked coolly, then muttered to himself: “But which one?”
Singe blinked. Did Tad think that Deryn had more than one real name, or...
“Ah, I’d suppose that’s Dylan’s name, then? You know, it was very clever of--”
“Stop. What do you know? Tell me from the beginning.” Singe took a leveling breath and set his jaw.
“But that would be absolutely no fun. No, I’ll leave you guessing.” He shrugged, turning to his breakfast. “You can go now.”