Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Fictitious Interlude

What you see before you is not another chapter of Orion, but a few little ficlets.
So you're probably wondering how these came to be. Have all of you heard of the game "Apples to Apples"? If you have, great. If you haven't, this will be confusing. My brother and I picked out four of the green (adjective) cards per "round" and had to write a fic about one of them. See if you can guess what the words are from just reading them :) I'll tell you at the end what they ACTUALLY were.

Alek bit his lip. This was going to be harder than he thought. What could he possibly get for Deryn on her birthday? He had barely any money, and his first idea had been to make something for her—a card, or something of the like.

But then he had remembered that Deryn was an artist, and he most certainly was not. Anything he could make would pale in comparison to the simplest of her works. So Alek was back to square one. He sat in one of the high backed chairs in their hotel room, miserable.

Flicking at a tassle on the stool with his toe, he didn’t notice Bovril scamper in. It lept onto the back of the chair and down to his shoulder, startling him.

“Any perspicacious advice for me?” He asked, defeated. The loris’s nose twitched, and it cleared it’s throat.

“Be creative,” it said simply, and Alek thought he saw it’s shoulders shrug, if that were even possible.

“Thanks,” he replied drily, sighing. Then it hit him, and he stood abruptly, knowing exactly what to do, and Bovril tumbled off his lap. With a yelp and what was possibly a new curse Deryn had taught it, Bovril stalked out of the room.

A day later, Alek led a blindfolded Deryn through an iron door way, grinning like an idiot. “Why on Earth didn’t you warn me about the elevator?” she growled. “Dummkopf,” she added halfheartedly, not really in the mood to be upset with him. It was her birthday, after all.

Alek didn’t say anything, just reached behind her and slowly untied the cloth over her eyes, letting his arms rest on her shoulders relishing in the touch of her soft golden hair on his fingers. He resisted the urge to lean in and kiss her, but he didn’t want to ruin her view.

She let out a small gasp, taking in the entirety of the London skyline. Then she shrugged, “Nothing I haven’t seen before,” she said, but he could tell by her tone and the way her face was lit up that she was amazed. She’d always liked being as close to the clouds as she could get.

“Ah, yes, but not with such a wonderful dinner to go with it.” He pulled out a seat around the table he’d set up earlier that day, perfectly placed for her to admire how high up they were—the highest building in London. Or, at least, the tallest one open to the public—and himself. The food steamed as the cover came off, and Deryn smiled.

“The potatoes are a nice touch,” she said appreciatively, sitting down. “How did you come up with this?”

Alek just smiled at her. “I had to be creative.”

“Well, that’s delicious,” Newkirk said, his lip curled.

What?” Alek asked incredulously. “How can you find that ‘delicious’? If my English is correct—”

“Did your English classes teach you sarcasm?” Dylan said, not taking his eyes off the enormous pile.

Newkirk coughed and took a step back, waving a hand in front of his nose. “That is one big piece of clart.”

“Well, what did you expect, Mr. Newkirk? The bears are the size of houses, after all. I’m glad I don’t have to clean that up.”

Alek shook his head. “What are we even doing here?” His eyes wandered along the trail, stretching as far as the eye could see in either direction. He was comforted by the fact that the Leviathan was moored a mere hundred meters away, ready to take them from the strange lands of Siberia.

“How old do you reckon it is?” Newkirk wondered aloud, ignoring Alek’s question, and picked up a stray stick from the trees that surrounded them, poking at it. “A few days, at least.”

Alek stumbled backward, thoroughly stunned. “Why would you do that?” He would never understand Darwinists, he supposed.

Newkirk shrugged. “For fun,” was all he said, and turned abruptly toward the ship and picked his way along the trail back toward it. Dylan was chuckling a high tone, and when Alek turned his gaze toward him, the boy paled.

“What?” he asked defensively.

“Why ‘delicious’? Of all words, why that one?” Alek shuddered, and the color returned to Dylan’s face. He chuckled nervously and cleared his throat, leading Alek back to the ship.

“I haven’t a barking idea, Your Princeliness.”

Deryn could feel the color rising in her cheeks, making her face hot. She wanted terribly to avert her eyes but couldn’t bring herself to.

Barking spiders, but the boy was trying to flirt with her.

Alek had his forearm laid awkwardly on the table, low enough that he had to lean over in what could not have been a comfortable position. The top button of his shirt was undone. A piece of hair fell over his eyes, and he furrowed his brow for a moment before he blew it from his face with an undignified noise that could only be described as that of an elephant.

“Yes?” Deryn asked, trying to sound more amused than embarrassed.

He propped his elbow up against the table now, running his fingers through his hair. “Hey, there… you.” His voice was low, an attempt at being seductive.

“Hi.” She replied hesitantly, and Alek cleared his throat, standing up and taking a slow step forward.

“I was wondering,” Alek began, and when he voice squeaked at the end, he paled and cleared his throat once more. “If you would like to—um—have dinner tonight. With me,” he added hastily.
Deryn let her mouth drop open slightly, her eyes wide and eyebrows slightly raised. “If you’ll stop doing that.”

“Doing—doing what?” He tilted his head toward her, gazing at Deryn through his lashes.

“That. Flirting.” The word stumbled from her mouth unbidden. She grimaced, almost ready for him to scoff and deny it.

“Oh. Am I that terrible at it?” Alek asked, redoing the button and straightening his shirt.

Deryn nodded. “Hopeless.”

“Well, I’ve reserved a table at that café you like for this evening, if you’d like to join me.”

“I’d love to, Alek, just, please, don’t ever do that again.”

Alek smiled at her, hooking his arm around hers. “I hadn’t planned on it.”

Deryn flexed her bicep. Alek’s eyebrows shot up, and she fought off the grin tugging at the corners of her mouth.

“See it and weep, your princeliness,” she gloated, admiring her own muscles. Deryn looked up in time to see him take a glance at his own arms, slight and thin without a few months of climbing about in the ratlines to have strengthened them up, even though she’d been off them herself for nearly a month.

“I guess I can see the appeal of an airman to a lady,” Alek admitted, eyebrows slightly raised in amusement. 

“Quite masculine, I’d assume. Although, that’s really not what I’m looking for…” he trailed off, waggling his eyebrows at her. Deryn felt her stomach do a little flip, but squashed down the feeling. A barking sod she was if that was all it took to get her insides twisting.

“And what, exactly, is it that?” she asked. Alek chewed at his lip as though trying to form his thoughts into words.

“I think you know, Mr. Sharp,” was all he said. Alek grinned widely and reached out for her hand, leading her away from the crowded courtyard of the Society and into a more secluded area.

Deryn raised her eyebrows as he leaned into her against the wall, his lips inches from hers. “Are you sure about this, Alek? I may be a little too masculine for you to handle.”

“Quite sure,” he murmured against her mouth, and any reply she would have had was smothered by his kiss.

[Insert all your guesses here]

The words were:

Hope you enjoyed these! :)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Chapter 28 (At last!) (As said by SW)

A/N: Sorry it's been so long since I updated, but I've been away taking classes at a college for a week. It was super fun. Anyway, this was an amusing chapter to write. The first part was originally going to be a drabble, but it fit too perfectly with the chapter. And I DID do my research to see if it actually tasted good (It does…)

Luckily for them, the townsfolk were used to drunken sailors acting crazy, so barely any of them were staring. The problem was, though, that Singe wasn't drunk.

"This stuff is amazing!" he shouted, shaking his spoon at Deryn. "I can't believe you don't like it, Dylan!"

She merely raised an eyebrow at him, and Alek tried not to laugh. Both the way Singe shoveled down the yogurt and how Deryn carefully avoided looking at him doing so were terribly amusing.

"That's disgusting," she moaned, swatting half-heartedly in the midshipman's direction. "Would you barking cut that out?"

Her hand fell to the table with a clatter, a bare centimeter from Alek's, stirring up the steam coming off of their mugs. It was deathly cold, being this far north, let alone the fact that it was still winter. The three of them were bundled in a second layer of clothes and still shivering, their breath fogging the moment it left their mouths.

And yet, this was one of the best days of Alek's life.

They'd wandered through town already, and stopped at a quaint little foreign foods café on the square when it had begun to drizzle. It had lasted a mere minute, but Alek was glad for the respite from Singe's crazy fascination with window shopping and Deryn's utter lack of attention to it. She'd been busy watching all the men, eagerly taking in their mannerisms and copying them almost flawlessly.

Alek had been busy watching her.

"Mmm…" Singe waggled his eyebrows at Deryn, enjoying taunting her. She bit her lip and swiped the bowl of yogurt from his hand, dumping it in his coffee.

"Is it so delicious now?" She challenged him. Singe's eyes bugged out, and he stared pitifully at the dissolving mound in his cup.

"Now why'd you go and do that?" he pouted.

"For fun," Deryn said, one eyebrow arched. "Go on. See if you like it now."

Alek bit his tongue laughing, and he stopped paying attention to the midshipman just long enough for him to take a big gulp of the contaminated drink.

Now a few passersby were beginning to take interest, but at least they did it discreetly. They watched over top of their newspapers or ate their food absently, waiting to witness what would happen next. Maybe some expected a fight to break out.

Disappointed in having not seen the boy's initial reaction, Alek kept his eyes riveted on the pair. Singe pursed his lips, contemplating, and then broke out into a huge grin. "Blisters, that's sodding brilliant," he gasped, and then took what was left of his yogurt and slopped it into Alek's coffee, slogging down the rest of his own. "Go on, try it!"

Alek watched the slowly melting, light purple lump in the middle of his mug with distaste, sure that there would be blueberries waiting for him at the bottom. He picked up his spoon and stalled by swirling it around until his coffee had become a creamy brown. Avoiding Deryn's acid gaze, he brought the cup to his lip and sipped.

Black coffee was not something Alek usually liked, but he didn't want to spare even the extra farthing on cream. So when the strong bitterness filled his mouth, he wasn't surprised. But the light taste of blueberry juice took the worst of the tart flavor away, and that was what lingered on his tongue, like the candies his mother used to give him for behaving the few times he'd been in public when his parents were still alive.

It felt like the eyes of the entire square were on him, collectively holding their breath for his verdict.

Careful to keep his tone neutral and his face blank, he said, "It's not bad." It was cowardly of him, he knew, but he couldn't humiliate Deryn in front of so many people, and he couldn't outright lie. So he chose a safe middle ground. "Why don't you try it, Dylan?"
She glared at him, hard, and shuddered. "You couldn't pay me five pounds to do that," she growled.

"Oh, come now, I think we could come to an agreement," Alek coaxed her, holding out the glass. "It's really just the same as putting cream in, and a few blueberries."
The girl must have seen the message in his eyes, because she grudgingly took the coffee and gulped down a small bit. She leaped straight into the air, shouting, "Blisters, that's sodding brilliant!"

It took Alek a moment to realize just how sarcastic she was being, giving her just enough time to lean behind a bush and fake gag.

"Barking terrible, really," she said once the laughter from their audience had died down.
He could see how only the count and Bovril had seen through her disguise. They were so distracted by her boyish charm that the thought would ever occur to them, and no one would want to believe that someone so purely entertaining could possibly be anyone other than who he said he was.

Alek sighed.

"Well, then," he concluded, fishing through his pocket and pulling out a few small coins. "We'd better be off."

"Aye," Singe agreed, and Deryn nodded. They both slapped a coin or two on the table, standing up at nearly the same time. Singe burrowed more deeply in his pocket to find enough for a tub of yogurt to bring back to the Leviathan.

In moments, they were strolling through town again, the gravel of the street grinding under their boots. Alek noticed the difference between his and the other two's. He still wore the boots of his Hapsburg Guard uniform, now repaired several times with the soles almost worn through, and suddenly an idea popped into his mind. Putting his hand back into his pocket, he counted out how much money he had left.

"Dylan, do you mind if we take one more stop before returning?" Alek asked experimentally.

She shrugged.

"We've got until sundown," Singe reminded them. Much to the disappointment of the crew, the captain had announced their curfew as such, which meant the ever-popular nights of drinking and dancing were just out of reach of the weary sky sailors.

"Of course," Alek agreed. "I'm in need of new attire, if I remember correctly." He shot Deryn a glare, making sure she remembered the Society's New Year's party when he'd lost an arm wrestling competition and ended up wearing a dress, and the only reason Deryn had given as to her motives was that she'd wanted to see him in something other than his usual uniform.

"It's about barking time," was all she said.

"I saw a nice little shop on the way here, about a block down," Singe said, pointing to their left. "The prices looked good on their jackets and trousers. The boots were a little pricy, though."

Alek sighed, following the midshipman. Singe's ability to remember things was like Deryn's to track down food—uncanny, amusing, and the slightest bit unsettling.

They stopped in front of a door tucked in between a sweet shop and a hotel, so small that it seemed like an afterthought. Letters painted above the window read, "Paul's Fine Apparel". The small, faded awning was barely as wide as Alek was tall and spanned half the length of the storefront, a thick layer of snow nestled firmly on the top.

Alek would never have looked twice at a place like this in his old life—that's how he thought of it now—, let alone shopped in it.

A bell above the door dinged as he pushed it open, and a heavy-set old man lumbered out from the back. "Hello, and welcome to Paul's. How may I help you?" he said a bit tiredly, but the look on his face said he was happy to have customers.

"I'd like to find a new set of clothes, please," Alek said. "If you could just adjust some ready made things, it would be much appreciated. I haven't enough money for newly tailored clothes," he admitted.

The man looked him up and down, and nodded. "That'll be simple enough. A bit scrawny, aren't ya?"

Alek blinked, looking down at himself. Indeed, he had lost a few pounds since he'd lived in a castle, but he hadn't thought it to be so apparent. He just looked more like Deryn or Singe now instead of a prince, and that didn't bother him in the slightest.

"Can I do anything for the two of you?" he asked, turning to the others. Deryn shook her head, and Singe shrugged, stepping back. "Well, then, it'll be about fifteen minutes. I'll have this lad back to you soon."

He shooed Deryn and Singe off, pulling out some light brown trousers and a tunic of dark blue.

"If we just take this in a little, it should do ya fine." He instructed Alek to don the shirt, and the moment Alek had his off, the coldness hit his chest with a fury. Shivering, he pulled the other on quickly. It was soft against his skin.

Alek stood awkwardly under the seamster's scrutiny. The man saw his discomfort, pursed his lips, and began to make conversation.

"So what's a lad like you doin' up here? You ain't a midshipman, I can tell that."

He frowned, pondering on whether to tell the man his position. "I work for the Zoological
Society of London, Sir, and am here on a diplomatic mission."

"Hmm," the man—Paul, Alek guessed—said. "I know why you're here."

Alek jerked, narrowly avoiding a needle prick. "Pardon me?"

"Everyone's heard the rumors, Lad. Hold still." He pulled a needle through the under arm of the shirt, and instantly that side seemed to fit better. Alek gulped uncertainly.

"About the Sultan," the man told him, "A boy like you's certainly heard about what happened to him in their revolution?"

"He was kidnapped by the Kizlar Agha," Alek offered, and Paul nodded.

"And taken to somewhere mysterious for his own safety. No one's supposed to know where he is, but 'round here, we think he's in the hills on the British Mainland, hiding out, plotting his own comeback with the Clankers."

"I see," Alek said, realizing this was the wild gossip of bored villagers, "And you think we're here to put a stop to him."

"Sharp as a tack you are," Paul mumbled, rolling his eyes. There was a pause as he had Alek pull on the trousers next. Then he asked, "So, are ye'?"

Alek sighed, his nerves now settled, and decided to let the man have something to tell his mates at the bar tonight. "Well, I can neither confirm nor deny that," he said elusively, which made it blatantly obvious what the man would assume the true answer to be.

"Ah, yes." He pulled the needle through swiftly a few more times and bit the end of the thread, tying it. Nodding appreciatively at his work, he held out his hand for payment, and Alek dropped the coins into his hand.

He waved goodbye as he left, clothes in hand, and met up with Singe and Deryn at the end of the street.

As they passed back through the square on their way back to the ship, Alek smiled, seeing that the café's advertizing blackboard had a new item chalked on:

Yogurt in coffee.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Chapter 27

A/N: Hello, dear readers! I have chapter 27 for you, obviously. I realized that I’d been forgetting about both Max and Bovril (Sorry!), so I gave you an ample dose of both of them this chapter. You’re welcome J. I really don’t have anything else, so enjoy!
Disclaimer: I did not magically become Scott Westerfeld, so most of this stuff isn’t mine.  L


Deryn turned around to find Max grinning at her in the light of the cargo bay. “Excuse me?” she asked.

“I’ve come up with a name for my Roth Turtle. Zeus.”

Deryn looked at Max accusingly, crossing her arms. Bovril slipped on her shoulder a bit, but quickly regained its position, rolling the new word around in its mouth gladly.

“And why is it you felt the need to inform me of this, Max?” she said, giving him a withering look.

“Because I just knew it would make you smile, Mr. Sharp. Don’t try to hide it,” he chided, and despite herself, Deryn could feel the edges of her mouth tilting up infectiously. “See? I told you so.”

“Bum-rag,” she mumbled, and Max broke into laughter. Deryn stared at him disbelievingly. The man was ridiculously optimistic whenever she saw him. Max couldn’t even bring himself to be properly offended when she insulted him.
Maybe he knew she didn’t mean it.
“A bum-rag indeed, Mr. Sharp, a bum-rag indeed,” he mused. “But don’t you want to know why I chose such a brilliant name for such a brilliant creature?”

“Not particularly, no,” Deryn grumbled at him, but regardless of her answer he launched into a speech of exactly how he’d come about naming the barking turtle “Zeus”.

“Well, you know how all of the Monkey Luddites blether about how Darwinism is so godless? I thought to m’self, what if I fixed that problem and gave Darwinism a god?  So I named my turtle after the most famous of the ancient gods. Problem solved.”

Deryn’s eyebrows rose almost of their own will. “Nice of you to think of everyone. Except that you’re still not supposed to name the beasties,” she added.

He thought about that for a moment, glaring pointedly at the loris and effectively reminding her that there was an exception to that rule right on her shoulder. It simply curled around her neck and returned his gaze, wide eyes gleaming.

“Brilliant. Just barking brilliant. Now you’ve got the beastie saying it,” it said, parroting exactly what Deryn had once said to Alek. “Mr. Sharp,” it added thoughtfully.

Max shrugged. “And I still don’t care.” He gave the bundle of newspapers in his arms a hard look, and then said, “Would you like a periodical? I’ve picked up more than enough for my crew.”

“Aye, if you wouldn’t mind” she said, gladly accepting the thick sheaf of paper. On the front were several tightly spaced columns of print, and the title read, “Shetland Pony Breeders Worry about Wolf Attacks”. Deryn held up the paper and pointed to it. “Now, this here is some quality reading.”

He shrugged. “Anything to pass the time. Good day, Mr. Sharp.” He patted Deryn on the shoulder before turning away to finish overseeing the income of goods.

Deryn eyed the crates of food with undisguised glee. She hadn’t had a real meal in several days, and the thought of one set her mouth watering and her stomach rumbling. She’d best find Alek and Newkirk so they could spend their precious hours in port exploring the city.

“I don’t see why they’re complaining,” Lauren grumbled, swirling the teacup clasped in her hand, “It is their barking fault, after all.”

Alek’s spine went rigid and his cheeks colored. Regardless of the fact that he was well and truly a Darwinist, Deryn supposed, he still had an underlying loyalty to the country of his upbringing.

Deryn had just finished reading a section of the paper on the peace talks between the Clanker and Darwinist powers aloud, both of whom were quite eager to end the war, but neither wanted to admit it. There were war debts all across Europe, and someone had to pay them.

It seemed fair that it should be the Clankers.

“They don’t have the money!” Alek growled, barely containing his anger at the middy. “No one has.”

Bovril shifted uncertainly on Deryn’s shoulder, muttering nonsense very quietly.

“Except America,” Melissa chirped. “Really, you should see all that’s going on back there. Our dad’s the—he’s high up in the government, is all, and he knows we’re better off than the rest of the world. Last I heard, he’s trying to send aid over here.”

“That’s not my point,” argued Lauren. “What I’m trying to say is that Germany and all their lot should have to pay for starting the war. It will teach them not to do it again.”

Melissa raked her fingers through her cropped, dark blond hair. “Or, they’ll hate us and get revenge in the future. Please, Levi, promise me you won’t be going into politics.”

“They need to know that they can’t just—“

“And your solution is for them to instead freeze without roofs over their heads in the winter because instead of fixing their own destroyed cities, they’ve been paying for ours?” Alek’s fingers were pressed hard to the rim of the window.

Lauren was about to agree that, yes, that seemed appropriate when Alek spun around to face her. “They’re people, too! Just like you and me! They have lives! There are children out there who had nothing to do with this war who are suffering, and for what? Because their higher-ups were the daft ones? Tell me how that is fair, I beg of you.” His voice had gone deathly quiet, so that Deryn had to strain her ears to make out his words. “Please.” He steadied his gaze right into her eyes, daring her to contradict him one more time.

Lauren couldn’t meet his glare. She mumbled, “I hadn’t thought of it like that,” and abruptly stood, leaving the mess in a hurry.

“Of course you hadn’t,” Deryn said. “That’s the problem, isn’t it? No one seems to think about it.” Her hand snaked into Alek’s, and his shook in her grasp. He squeezed tightly and nodded his head in thanks.

Newkirk and Melissa made a point not to look at their interlocking fingers. Maybe their minds still hadn’t wrapped around the thought that Dylan—Deryn—Sharp and Alek Hohenberg were together. Deryn felt a delighted twist in her stomach at the word.

“I’d better go,” Melissa said, sighing. “Levi and I should be taking our shore leave soon,” she shrugged, though nothing of her stiff back and pressed lips made the gesture nonchalant. “I’m sorry about him. He can be—”

“There’s no need to apologize for him, Miles,” Alek said.

She nodded to him slowly. “Aye.”

“Speaking of shore leave,” Newkirk began, stretching back in his chair and showing Deryn and Alek a wide grin once Melissa had disappeared, “Are you two going to be off on your own, or is a poor, lonely sap like me invited along?” he asked, and stuck out his lower lip in what was supposed to make him look pathetic.

To an extent, it worked. But then Bovril leapt from Deryn’s shoulder and right onto Newkirk’s, and he yelped, tearing the beastie away and holding it at arm’s length with poorly concealed alarm. It stretched out its wee hands at him, making the Monkey Luddite grimace. “Are we taking this along?” he asked uncertainly.

“Of course you’re coming with us” said Deryn, taking the loris back, and Newkirk’s eyes lit up. “And Bovril won’t be coming; it’s too conspicuous. Right, your princeliness?”

“Yes,” Alek agreed, supplying a small grin. “Say we meet at the ramp in half an hour?”

Bovril climbed up into the ceiling of the mess and peered down at them with interest.

“Sounds great,” Newkirk said, and swiped his jacket from the chair. He bounded to his cabin with a “See you then!” shouted down the corridor.

Deryn raised her eyebrows and tilted her head to the side, shaking with contained laughter. “Barking daft lad,” she muttered, and flipped open the newspaper she’d been clenching in one hand.

Alek let go so she could read it without sitting at the table, and Deryn felt the urge to tell him not to. But it was too risky. The opening to the hallway was in a popular part of the ship, especially with so many crewmen taking shore leave.

She settled instead for feeling the imprint his fingers had left on her palm and began reading an article about what the town’s boffin was up to—pigment changes in fur and skin on beasties.

“How about those purple llamas, Mr. Sharp?” Alek asked playfully from where he’d been reading around her shoulder.

Deryn chuckled. “I think it’s for their horses, Dummkopf,” she said.

“I see,” Alek mused, “Although a purple llama would be most entertaining, don’t you think?”

“Most entertaining.” She took a fleeting glance at the dockyard below, seeing the men scrambling about like dolls. “We should go if we’re going to meet Newkirk.”

Alek pursed his lip, as though considering the fact. “I suppose so.”

He snapped for Bovril, who scrambled down from the ceiling and landed lightly on his shoulder.

“Most entertaining,” Bovril chuckled.

A/N: That really is pretty much what brought about WWII. The Allies made Germany take all the blame and pay the war debts, so they were in terrible shape and looking for something—or someone—to do to get behind and show the world they weren’t worthless and horrible. They were more susceptible to  people like Hitler, who gave them something to blame and a goal to be better not just than they are now, but anything in the world. You see?
Moral of the story; look at both sides when making a decision. And that sounded corny, but it’s true.