…Look, I don't really even know.
"I wish everyone was a sci-fi geek because then there would be no violence in the world. There'd be no wars. There'd only be people e-mailing each other."
Alek lifted his sword, eyes narrowing and flashing blue as a glow began to emanate from around him. Holding his ground, he faced the intruders. "What do you want?" he barked out regally, despite being dressed only in moon and stars pajamas.
They only stared silently back, visors veiling their faces and blasters secured and aimed straight at the young prince's chest.
He didn't need to ask, though. Alek recognized the full moon symbol of the house of Hapsburg – these were his grandfather's soldiers. He lifted the sword higher, closing his eyes and concentrating on the powers he'd been granted by being born a Hapsburg.
As his sword glowed blue with energy, there was a flash of white light behind the invaders, and they fell to the ground. Shocked, Alek lost all of his concentration and stared at the soldiers sprawled before him. "Wha-" he began, only to look up in the face of his mentor, Count Volger.
"We must hurry, young prince," the count commanded, sheathing his sabre, a blade made of the purest white harksteel, a dangerous and deadly metal that could slice through steel. "These men may be accounted for, but others will soon follow."
Alek nodded, sheathing his sword and tossing on his uniform – a blue military garb, with long pants and an embroidered jacket, a golden crescent moon and two conjoined stars sewn over his heart. As he followed his mentor down the halls of his mansion, he shuddered. "Count, what's happened? Why have they attacked us?"
"No time to explain," Volger said, shushing him and halting to peer cautiously around a corner. Realizing the coast was clear, he continued to lead Alek through the house until they reached the launch room.
Alek stopped, realizing what the count was up. "Surely you don't mean for us to flee, do you?" he asked in disbelief, staring as Volger opened the hatch to the shuttle, a cruiser/fighter meant for soldiers and long-distance travel.
The count turned and looked pointedly at Alek. "Indeed I do. Now come. Our three crewmen are already aboard."
"Count, this is ridiculous! It's only a few invaders! We can fight them off, at least until Father and Mother come back! Then they don't stand a chance!"
Volger winced. "Listen, boy, we don't have time for this. Get aboard, now, and we'll discuss all later."
Alek refused to budge, a dawning look coming over his eyes. "How do I know you're not with them? Maybe they were sent to protect me, because you're going to kidnap me and use me for ransom, or, or worse! Are you working for the Golden Alliance, Count? Is that it? Am I pawn, that you must be rid of before I cross the board and become powerful?"
"Fool!" Volger spat, stepping away from the cruiser and marching straight towards Alek. "You pompous fool! Lose your swollen head and get on the cruiser!"
Alek replied, "No." His russet hair swayed side to side with his head, and his arms crossed over his chest.
"So help me, I will knock you out and drag you on board myself!" exclaimed the count, reaching out an arm to grab Alek.
The prince jumped backwards. "No! I know your plan now! My parents will come and arrest you, you'll see! And to think I once trusted you!"
"Gods," murmured the count, rubbing his forehead. With a sigh, he shot his arm out and grabbed Alek's collar, pulling the boy up close until they're faces were inches apart. Glaring, Volger matched Alek's feeble stare. "I don't have time for this!" he shouted, causing Alek to flinch. "You need to get on board now!"
Alek protested weakly, "But my parents-"
The count roared, "YOUR PARENTS ARE DEAD!"
"And how did you say you came to be stranded in space?"
"My engines died, sah."
"But you were moving?"
"Indeed, sah, as I'm sure you can attest to."
"How did you manage that?"
"Simple thing, that! I just moved the rudder up a wee bit, then angled the wing flaps and jammed the thrusters hard!"
"…You're joking, right?"
"Not at all, sah! You see, I'd already learned all this in the manuals, they tell you down to the last barking detail what to do when you get in a rather sticky situation, and I was certainly knee-deep in clart there when you found me, oh, aye, indeed I was! Rather lucky you chaps showed up, eh?"
"Hrm, indeed. Now then, Mr…."
"Mr. Sharp. We don't have time to take you back to the training grounds – we're on a very important mission, and we don't have the time for nonsense detours."
"Oh, aye sah."
"So I suppose you'll be staying onboard with us for a while then."
"Now, hold on a bit, lad. We can't have a load of useless weight on board."
"Of course not, sah."
"So you'll be joining ranks with the other middies. Is that clear?"
"Yes, sah! Oh, yesyesyes, don't you worry about a thing, sah, I won't let you down, I'll be the finest bloody middy the world's ever seen! 'Tis all I've ever wanted, you see, since I was a wee lad, and - "
"Your quarters are down the hall. There're a few empty rooms, the ones without nametags, so take your pick. Since you don't have any possessions with you, it seems, we'll get you outfitted with some of the spares. Come down to the mess hall once you've sorted out your quarters and we'll discuss details there."
"Aye, sah!" With a smart salute, Deryn Sharp watched as the gruff Mr. Rigby took his leave, rubbing away an obvious headache, shoulders slouched in the universal sign of 'I-give-up'.
Giddy with glee, Deryn could really care less. She practically bounced down the hallway to the empty rooms at the back, flung the door open to one, and promptly claimed the room as her own, executing a flying leap onto the sparse mattress.
She was a middy! A real middy! She'd always dreamed of serving onboard a real ship, but it had actually come true! Of course, she had to watch her step a bit. No need to make enemies, though she doubted she would. After all, she had a positively 'entrancing' personality, as everyone said back home. No one could look away.
But let's see…she had the name down. 'Dylan' Sharp, she'd decided on. It had a nice ring to it – not too boyish, not too manly. Perfect for a girl like her. And she'd cut her blonde hair short a while ago, cropped just like a boy's. Ma hadn't been too happy about that. The voice was still a bit of a work in progress, but she thought she sounded pretty good, especially considering all her practice.
And the rest should all work out just fine, Deryn was sure of it.
Heading down to the mess, the giddiness finally wore off, though she was still ridiculously barking happy, to be sure. A cocky grin on her face and a swagger in her walk, the new middy jaunted on into the mess hall and gave a cheery 'hullo' to Mr. Rigby once more. At the sense of another presence, her eyes widened and she snapped a quick salute. "Captain," she addressed, standing sharply at attention.
"At ease," said the captain, a smile on his face. "My name is Captain Hobbes. So you're the new Mr. Sharp, are you?"
"Aye, sah," Deryn replied.
"Dylan, wasn't it?"
"Take a seat, lad."
"Aye, sah." Deryn sat down on the bench of the table.
"Now, I have some unfortunate news. You already know that we can't drop you off for a while yet at any safe ports, correct?"
Here the captain sighed. "I wish we could, I truly wish we could."
Deryn stiffened. "Sah, I'll be the hardest working middy you've ever seen, believe me! I'll do my best, I promise, aye, you can count on me! Anything you want, I'll do, I promise, just please let me stay!"
Flapping a hand, the captain said, "Young sir, I do not doubt you will work hard. But the reason I wish we could drop you off is not because of your attitude, or strange and sudden appearance in space, but your timing. Just this morning we received news that the Silver Alliance, specifically Austria, has launched an attack on Serbia for the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and his wife, Sophie. Now, the system teeters on the edge of war. And if I know the Bulldog, he won't hesitate in backing up Serbia, no matter if the assassin was theirs or not. I fear there is to be an all-out war between the Silvers and Goldens, mark my words."
Deryn sat in silence, taking all of this in. She'd known for a while that the peace system had slowly been falling apart, and had, like many others, predicted a coming war, but not this soon.
The captain continued. "I hate to have to drag someone as young as you – " Deryn bristled " – and the other middies into potentially fatal situations, but I'm afraid I have no choice. Once we stop on England to pick up the key member to our mission, we cannot stop. If I let you stay onboard my ship, I need you to promise me one thing."
"Anything, sah!" Deryn exclaimed, talking faster than she felt she ever had before.
The captain stared her hard in the eyes. "You will always obey any of my orders, or those of the crew. These are dangerous times, and I don't want to see boys on the verge of manhood lay down their lives for a political game. I need to know I can trust you."
"Always, sah," Deryn promised, eyes solemn.
"Good," said the captain, leaning back and folding his arms across his lap. "Now, let's fetch us some dinner and talk some more about your arrangements under the Leviathan's roof."
I'm a sci-fi nerd. And I've seen a bunch of AUs around here, and then I thought the classic thing – Let's recycle it in SPACE!
So we have this.
Also, yes, I did give Alek powers. Why? Because that boy's fencing skills are not going to get him by in a world like this. Unless I gave him a lightsaber, that is, but I'm already ripping off one author's characters – figured I'd best leave the other's alone outside the actual section. xP
Did you enjoy? I'm game for a sequel, like always, if you folks so desire.
And one last quick question – any folks really good at poetry willing to beta a chapter for me? I'm attempting my hand at a Leviathan version of Poe's The Raven, as a sort of writing exercise, but I want this one proofread before it goes public.
Glad to be back! ;)
See you in the next chapter!