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.