A/N: Middy Miles, thank you for pointing out the weird verb tenses to me. I'll be more careful about that. Sincere thanks for your constructive criticism :)
To Bramblepool and Sarasponda: Why thank you very much! :D
Thanks for the reviews y'all!
Disclaimer: not mine!
BTW: this chapter is supposed to be a little choppy, with emphasis on sights/sounds and emotions. Be nice, Alek just lived through a bombing.
There was dust in his nose.
That was the first thought that Alek had as soon as he came back into consciousness.
Then registered the wailing. It was heartbreaking; keening the death of the loved one. The type of sound that almost freezes his bones.
He sat up groggily, rubbing his eyes-
And promptly smacked his forehead into Deryn´s.
"Dummkopf" she gasped, giving him a fierce hug.
"I thought you would never wake up!"
Volger stood over him, tense as he scanned the area for enemies.
There was pain in his lungs, in his head-
He focused on breathing.
"How long was I out? And what happened?" asked Alek after a moment.
"A bomb," said Volger. The man grew more laconic in stressful situations.
"You were out for a barking half-hour!" Deryn said at the same time.
Was there blood in his mouth?
She put a hand to his head. "How do you feel, you daftie?"
He groans. "My head hurts like-"
He looks at Deryn. She huffs. "Well don't censor your swearing for my sake. I'm the one who taught you how to swear in English, remember?"
He grimaced. "But it's the thought of the thing-"
She rolled her eyes, and mumbles something like "daft polite princes."
Alek looks around the street and tries to make sense of the scene. "Why was there a bomb?"
"I suspect," says Volger dryly, "that the Germans did not appreciate the British peace party right in their homeland." Alek can see the anger in Volger's face. "I told Dr. Barlow not to send you, the deserter Clanker Prince right into the heart of Germany. But did she listen to me? Of course not..."
Deryn was quick to defend the boffin. "She thought with equal attendance of Clankers and Darwinists at the party tonight that he would be safe-"
"Obviously not," cut in Volger. "They had no qualms killing diplomat Fröese when he became a listening ear to our cause."
This jogged Alek's slow memory. "Why did they poison him? They had a bomb in the building already, right?"
Volger shook his head. "My guess is that Fröese knew of the plan, but the plotters betrayed him and decided to dispose of him as well."
"That doesn't make any sense! If he knew of the plan, why didn't he warn anyone? Why would he just leave us in there?" Deryn looked frustrated.
Alek shook his head to clear it. Nothing seemed to add up; who was the real perpetrator here? He knew that he was missing something vital...
Volger shrugged elegantly. "Now is not the time, Miss Sharp. We can think more on this later, but for now we need to get out of here and away from the building. You never know when someone will recognize us and shoot."
Deryn had to help Alek to his feet (much to his chagrin) and he realized that Volger and Deryn must have moved him while he was unconscious. He clearly remembered being in the middle of the street when the explosion happened. Now they were on the edge of the street under a building's awning.
Either they had moved him while he was unconscious, or the explosion had thrown all of them that far. He gulped and rubbed his neck again. He twisted his shoulders and could feel the grating in his spine. Alek knew he would not be sleeping well tonight.
They took off down the street, Volger in the lead.
The townsfolk were frantically pushing past them, going in every which direction. Alek could hear them calling to each other, trying to find loved ones in the wreckage.
And the whole time, he was thinking, this is my war. My family started this war...
And his heart was heavy.
They reached the air-port, where their ship, the Hydra, was docked. It was a large brick building, one of the first built in Germany, for Magdeburg was an important port city long before the creation of fabrications.
Suddenly, Volger pulled them aside, down an alley and away form the building. "Wait. If our enemies were determined enough to kill one of their own to get to us, our ship for the return home may not be safe," he said.
Alek frowned. "How else are we going to get home?"
Volger said, "I suggest that we head deeper into the country until we come across a port with a British or American ship to gain passage on."
"Farther into Germany? What purpose would that serve?"
"Think about it, Alek. Whoever these clart-heads are, they definitely won't expect us to go farther into Germany after being almost killed. They'll expect us to run home with our tails between our legs like scared little message lizards."
Alek nodded, understanding. "And now that you can speak German pretty fluently, we'll fit in well. The only problem is, we need a port with a friendly ship."
Volger turned his eyes toward Deryn. "Miss Sharp, you look like you have a plan."
Deryn looked thoughtful. "Well," she said slowly, " we could head South-east to Leipzig. It's not too far and my brother's ship the Minotaur is there until the end of the week."
Deryn's brother? The infamous Jasper Sharp? A seasoned soldier... who also didn't know about his relationship with Deryn.
Annette pushed past the throngs of people. She tried hard to push the panic threatening to overwhelm her into the back of her mind.
A German town hall had just been blown up! What on earth was she supposed to make of that? She shook her head to clear it- the sound had temporarily (she hoped it was temporary) damaged her hearing.
She decided to move, in case someone else got the idea to bomb another part of town. She turned and began jogging at a reasonable pace down the road a few miles. Passing overturned carts and stands, she could hear the sound of animals and people in pain. The aftershocks of the bomb seemed to have spread toward the east, the opposite direction of where the inn she had been standing in.
As she ran, she thought. And tried not to panic.
What was she going to do now?
What did this mean?
Well, one side was definitely opposed to the peaceful diplomacy that had been going on in that building. She was inclined to think that the Germans were the side responsible- blowing up a building just didn't seem like a Darwinist's style. She didn't even know if the Darwinists had bombs; they seemed more likely to use some godless creature to create havoc instead.
Annette stopped once out of the city limits, as it seemed unlikely anyone would bother bombing here. Sitting down on a fallen log, she contemplated her options.
London was still the destination, that was certain. But how to get there? She certainly wasn't going to join any Darwinists who may be left in the city.
Annette decided to head west toward the Netherlands. Perhaps in Amsterdam she would be able to find a ship to take her to London.
She hoisted her bag and was grateful that her Grandfather had thought to send her with a good deal of money on her trip. She would definitely need it to buy passage to Great Britain.
Refusing to cry, she set off due west, toward London.
A/N: Ooooh, so close! They were in the same city and now they're heading in opposite directions. *evil author laugh*
My apologies on the delay. I'm in Florida on vacation so it's hard to get chapters up and published.
So, how did you like this chapter?
Thoughts on who the real 'bad-guys' are? (I haven't really given enough information on this yet, we'll revisit the topic in a couple chapters)
Also, question: is there canon or headcanon on the design of the Minotaur? I'm hoping not; I have a design for it already. But if there is, please let me know!