ATTENTION:

New Readers: yes, this prologue is long and a squick boring. However, it's crucial to the story and IT DOES GET BETTER I PROMISE.

Please at least read through Chapter 3 before giving up on it :/

Okay, that's all. Enjoy!

~Secret Keeper

Disclamer: I own NOTHING. Leviathan/Behemoth/Goliath all belong to Scott Westerfeld!

PROLOGUE: In which Captain Hartmann wishes to uncover some secrets, and "Dylan" Sharp becomes a target for the German forces.

"Capture Aleksander of Hohenberg. This is your new assignment, Captain Hartmann."

"Yes sir."

"I don't care how you do it: blackmail, murders, poison, espionage, use whatever strategies you need."

"Sir."

"...You are aware of the state of the war? The battles we Germans have lost? The morale of the troops?"

"Yes, sir."

"Then you understand this is our last chance."

"... I understand perfectly, sir."

"Good. Dismissed."

...

The hour had to be close to midnight. A middle aged German officer sat at a well lit writing desk, scribbling out the last of his orders for the day. Finishing his last note, he leaned back, steepling his fingers, and contemplated the opposite wall of his cabin.

It had previously been some poor peasant's, but the German army had confiscated it several months ago. The man neither knew nor cared where the unfortunate family had gone after losing their home. It was no concern of his.

Captain Hartmann had started out as a lowly midshipman two decades ago, and had quickly risen through the ranks of the German military by showing whit, cunning, and skill to his superiors. He had recently been assigned a new project upon the completion of his previous project.

He smiled grimly. That last project had left him with a few battle scars, but it had been worth it- he had been promoted from Lieutenant.

His new project? Aleksander of Hohenberg, former prince and heir to Austria-Hungary's throne. Aleksander had negotiated a bit with his mother's family, so he was now the Count of Chotkow and Wognin, even though he was no longer prince. Still an important young man.

He was assigned with capturing the unlucky ex-prince. He had no clue what would happen to the former prince, he was only concerned with completing the project. He decided to research the boy and the situation as much as possible. Lucky for him, he already had a few leads.

One of his acquaintances had been a lieutenant aboard the Herkules as it had chased Aleksander all those years ago to the border of Switzerland. Lieutenant Schmidt had been more than happy to supply Captain Hartmann with any details he could.

Not much could be learned from the lieutenant- he had began as a lieutenant via his father's influence, and there was a reason he had not risen in ranks. But no matter. Schmidt had said enough to let Hartmann know that Aleksander was important.

Important enough to send several eight-legged (and bigger) land war machines to intercept him.

Somehow, Aleksander's little Stormwalker had gotten past the blockade, into Switzerland and relative safety. Inexplicably, Aleksander had wound up on one of the most famous Darwinian ship, the Leviathan, soon after escaping capture by the Herkules.

Then, the young prince had escaped the Leviathan while docked in Constantinople, evaded capture by the Clanker powers, and taken down the Tesla cannon. For some unknown reason, he had surrendered himself back to the Leviathan.

What could possibly be the source of the boy's good fortune and safety? It was certainly a strange series of events. Aleksander's constant companion, mentor, and bodyguard Wildcount Volger was obviously a safety barrier to be overcome if the boy was to be captured, but did Volger alone constitute Aleksander's protection? No. Volger was good, a father-figure to Aleksander, but he would never have orchestrated the events with the Leviathan.

Someone else was at work here.

Captain Hartmann was convinced it had to be someone originally aboard the Leviathan. He had thought about the question for weeks- who could have the influence over Aleksander to repeatedly join the ship, turning his back on his own powers, the Clankers, and embrace Darwinism? Perhaps a certain Doctor Barlow? He had heard rumors of her intellect, perhaps she had convinced Aleksander to remain aboard? She was, after all, the granddaughter of the accursed Darwin himself.

He sighed and rubbed his eyes. She still did not explain the situation with Istanbul. Hartmann's sources indicated that Aleksander had been working virtually on his own in the foreign city, with only two of his working men besides him. Neither of them could have orchestrated the rebellion to overthrow the Sultan.

Then, to top off every other confusing thing the blasted prince had done, he had thrown away his title to go work at a zoo three and a half years ago.

It was all very confusing. It was madness. There was no way Aleksander was working alone; he didn't have the initiative. And Volger was known to be pessimistic about the zoo keeping turn of events.

Who was he overlooking? This was important. Hartmann had decided that Aleksander was probably too well protected, getting to him would be too difficult.

Perhaps, then, he could target one of the ex-prince's friends to ransom. He might get lucky.

Hartmann skimmed through the papers before him on the ex-prince again. His finger skimmed down the list, stopping at each heading.

Acquaintances in power: No, no one there besides Tesla (dead) or Dr. Barlow. Others were stuffy dignitaries who had no personal history with Aleksander.

Original Stormwalker crew: no one but peasants and the Count.

That left The Crew of the Leviathan.

Captain Hobbes, perhaps? No, his record contained no indication of any kind of influence that would sway Aleksander. Could the young prince's actions have been for friendship? He skimmed down the list of officers on the airship at the time of the prince's arrival. Someone close in age?

There- two midshipman, both the same age as the prince, had been aboard at the time of his arrival. They were the youngest crew members by far, as the next youngest was midway through his twenties. Perhaps Aleksander's mysterious friend and influencer was one of these.

He read the two names: Eugene Newkirk, and a Dylan Sharp.

Dylan Sharp. Dylan Sharp. Why did that name sound familiar?

Hartmann rummaged through some old newspaper clippings. He rarely kept newspapers, so it was only a slim stack to go through. Oh, yes. A Dylan Sharp had made the headlines in Constantinople, the day after Aleksander had escaped from the Leviathan.

Hartmann scanned the article, smiling. He remembered why he had kept the clipping. One so rarely heard about lowly midshipman in the newspapers, and the young boy's story had been quite thrilling.

Who knew Darwinists could be so brave? The boy was cunning, quick, and brave, the epitome of the perfect airman. Could this be the special friend that had so influenced Aleksander?

Hartmann suddenly had a hunch. Aleksander had made three strange decisions since his parent's death:

1. Boarding the Leviathan in the first place.

2. Coming back to the ship after his escape.

3. Renouncing his title as heir to the throne.

Dylan could conceivably have been a part of the first two decisions, but the third? Hartmann scanned the papers that his spy from the Zoological Society had given him.

There.

When Aleksander was admitted to the Society, Dylan Sharp was admitted as well, and they both served under Dr. Barlow.

Could Hartmann capture and ransom this Dylan Sharp? Was he worth that much to Aleksander? It couldn't be a coincidence that all three of Aleksander's strange decisions had probably involved this Dylan. It was certainly worth investigation.

Smiling to himself, Hartmann composed a telegram to the spy within the Society.

Watch Dylan Sharp. STOP. Note friendship with Subject. STOP. Important STOP Report back. STOP.

And thus began the downfall of Dylan Sharp.

A/N: Reviews are great!

A few notes- I found a list of German surnames/meaning on the web. According to the sight, Hartmann means "strong man" and Schmidt is the German version of Smith. I think. don't judge, I'm getting all my info from the web. Captain Hartmann is not based off anyone in real life.