Thankyouthankyouthankyou Jett-Wolfe-98, EllieStone, and MistressMine for the reviews! I appreciate it SO much! :D You are all awesome!
All original characters and plotline belong to Scott Westerfeld; I own nothing!
Basil is pronounced "Baz-ill" :)
Alek squinted in the sunlight as he watched Deryn followed the dark-haired figure up the ratlines. He felt a tad of nervousness but knew she would be glad to be up so near to the sky.
"Lollygagger," Bovril muttered into his ear, imitating her lilt.
"Yes, yes," he said to the creature. "I think it's this way," he said as he turned the corner.
Down at the bottom of the steps, he saw a man sitting with his legs stretched out over the bottom stair. He looked quite wild; his hair was unkempt and stuck out in several directions, as though he'd just woken up. He was holding an apple in one hand; it looked as though he had been whittling it. In his other hand he held a small paring knife. But it was his actual hand that was interesting: it was not made of flesh and bone as hands usually are but rather metal and gears. The metal was formed to look just like how one's bones and tendons must look under the skin, only the dark color of steel, of course. His sleeve was rolled up just to the forearm, exposing the whirling mechaniks as he moved his dark, pointy fingers. Alek found himself staring at it as he slowly descended the stairs; it was fascinating to watch it work. Everything must have been incredibly well-oiled for he moved that hand just as naturally as the other. Alek wondered if the entire arm was that way.
"Way hay and up she rises, way hay and up she rises, way hay and up she rises early in the morning," the man sang softly as steadily moved the knife, causing bits of apple to fall onto the floor.
Alek stepped on a creaky stair and the man looked over the round glasses balanced on the end of his nose and directly at him.
"Oh, hullo! You must be the new galley boy the cap'n sent?" he said in a cockney accent.
He nodded as he stepped off the final step, though he didn't particularly enjoy the term "galley boy". But coming from this man, who looked much older than him; probably close to Count Volger's age, Alek didn't really mind.. "Yes, sir. I'm Alek."
"Sir?" he repeated, chuckling a bit. "It's Basil to my friends. Pleasure to meet you, Alek," he said as he stuck of the mechanikal hand.
Alek couldn't help but glance down at it. From his shoulder, he heard Bovril imitate the whirring of the gears.
"Oh, that!" Basil said, looking down at the appendage. He dropped the apple and knife into his apron pocket and rose. "Lost that serving in the Royal Navy!" he said as he flexed his wrist and fingers.
"You mean… that," Alek said as he motioned to the arm, "is a Darwinist creation?"
"No, 'course not! While I was aboard the HMS Ondine, I fell overboard during a battle. Thought I was done for sure until I washed onto an island where a retired Clanker doctor happened to live. He took me in and fashioned me a new arm. Can't say I would have chosen it, but it was awful nice of him."
Alek finally took his hand and shook it, a bit surprised at the coldness of the steel. "You're English, then?"
"Irish, as a matter of fact, though I was raised in London. 'Course they dispatched me after my accident. Didn't even get a medal for it! Cooking's the only work I've been able to find since. What's that with you?" he asked, motioning to Bovril.
"This is Bovril. It's my perspicacious loris," Alek answered.
"Perspicacious loris!" Bovil repeated with great enthusiasm.
Basil clicked his tongue and let out a low whistle, which was promptly echoed by the creature. "Can't say I've ever seen one of these before. Where'd you get such a thing?"
Alek cleared his throat. "A.. friend of mine created it. Doctor Nora Darwin Barlow."
Basil's eyebrows went up. "A true Darwinist creation, through and through! I bet Morgan'll like that. Come this way and I'll show you the galley."
Alek followed Basil through the small hallway, listening as he pointed at the few doors they passed, telling him that this was the pantry, that one was where he slept, and the last one was a closet completely dedicated to the collection of sea urchins (evidently the Captain had a real liking for tea steeped with them). And then they came to the end of the hall where there was a door that was divided in the middle; the top of which was open, making it more like a window. Basil opened and held it for Alek as they passed through.
The Galley was rather cramped. It probably wouldn't have been if it weren't for the maze of wide counters in the center of the room. There was a large, brick oven with stovetops on either side against the back, behind all of the counter space. Pots and pans were strewn about as well as other various dishes.
And it was positively brimming with food. Half-carved roast chickens, wheels of cheese, fruits, vegetables, and other various victuals were scattered about on the counters. Hunks of smoked meats hung from the ceiling as well as herbs, onions, and brightly-colored peppers; mounds of loaves of bread sat on countertops in the corners. The inventory was impressive. There were lots of Japanese-looking things as well: stalks of dry noodles tied together and bags of rice were scattered here and there; they must have picked those up in Osaka. A delicious, sweet smell wafted through the room. A young man zipped past them hurriedly while carrying a large cake pan filled with luscious yellow batter.
"And this here's Morgan! Morgan, lad!" Basil said.
The young man didn't acknowledge him until he had set the cake pan into the oven and closed it. He took a moment to catch his breath and smiled in their direction. He threw off his oven mitts onto the counter off to the side, where there was a half-assembled cake that looked particularly delicious. Basil walked over to inspect it.
"Bleeding carbuncles, lad! It's only cake for a bunch of sailors!" he said as he circled it.
Morgan smiled meekly in the direction of his voice. "That's for the captain's birthday tomorrow, actually. And I want it to look nice." He turned towards Alek. "Hello!" he said as he wiped his hand on the white apron around his waist and extended it towards Alek about a foot away in the wrong direction. "It's a pleasure to meet you." He stood there, expectantly awaiting Alek to take his hand.
"Don't mind the misbalance," Basil said casually, still admiring the cake. "Morgan here's blind."
"Blind," Bovril repeated. Alek hushed it.
"That's right, beastie! Blinder than a barnacle," Basil said as he came over and waved his hand in front of Morgan's face just to prove the point. "And the best baker in the ocean!"
Morgan smiled slightly. "I don't know about the best."
Now that Basil mentioned it, Alek noticed that Morgan's eyes were not actually gray as they looked but ever-so-slightly cloudy. It wasn't much, though; it more that they weren't focused, like he wasn't looking at anything in particular. Alek shook his hand, surprised a bit by his firm grip, and returned the greeting. "I'm Alek. It's very nice to meet you, Morgan."
Morgan smiled at him. "And who's that with you?"
"Oh, this is Bovril-"
"Says it's a 'perspicacious loris'!" Basil interrupted.
Morgan laughed. "It sounded like you had two heads for a moment. I've never met a perspicacious loris before!"
Alek chuckled slightly. "Yes, it repeats bits of conversations."
Morgan reached into a bowl behind him and came back with a piece of carrot. "Does Bovril like carrots?"
The creature cautiously leaned forward from Alek's shoulder, it's small nose wiggling as it inspected the vegetable. It grabbed the carrot from his hands quickly and greedily began nibbling on it. Morgan laughed.
"We aren't really supposed to have animals out here, so perhaps Bovril wouldn't mind spending the day with Murdoc."
He motioned to the corner of the kitchen below a round window where there was a large, blue bird sitting on a perch. It was obviously a parrot, though it had coloring Alek had never seen before. It was completely blue with a stripe of yellow around its mouth and a golden circle around its eyes. There was a silver ring around its foot attached to a cable.
"I hate keeping him tied up like this," Morgan said as he walked over. He unclipped the cord and held his arm out for the bird to crawl onto, "but we really aren't supposed to have animals down here as it is, and I know he'd be a wreck if I left him alone all day," he stated as he came back, sliding his hand along the counter for guidance. "So I figure that as long as he's not where we cook it's all right. Murdoc, say hello to Bovril."
The bird twisted its head sideways and squawked curiously. Bovril looked back at it silently with large, observant eyes, not moving. Alek took the loris from his shoulder to get it closer to the bird, at which Bovril's paws dug into Alek's hands slightly and the creature tensed up.
After a moment of staring, Murdoc broke the silence. "Bleeding carbuncles!" it said, presumably mimicking Basil.
Bovril blinked at it and then repeated the phrase. After a few exchanges, Morgan brought Murdoc back to his perch and Alek set Bovril down to follow. The beastie climbed up the wall and onto the windowsill just above the parrot and the two began chattering away.
"Are they all right?"
Alek nodded then remembered Morgan couldn't see him. "Yes, I think they'll be fine," he said as he heard Bovril echo "Haul the anchor!"
Morgan smiled then reached up into a cupboard and pulled a clean white apron. "Here, you're going to need this," he said.
Alek took it hesitantly, still not fully believing the irony of the situation, and tied it around his waist.
"Can you cook at all, Alek? Or bake by any chance?" Basil asked.
"I haven't done much of either in my lifetime, I'm afraid," Alek admitted. Though he knew he should be ashamed to admit so, Alek had secretly hoped that Deryn was a stereotypical female in the aspect of cooking. He should have known better than to confine her to such standards, however, for she was terrible at it.
"Well, there's a lot to learn, and not much time to do so. But I have faith in you. If Morgan can do it, anyone can!"
Alek swallowed, feeling slightly nervous. The most he'd ever cooked was with Hoffman, and that was a bit of bacon over a fire.
Morgan grinned, not paying much attention to the jab. "Don't listen to him," he whispered. "It's fun."