The floor rumbled as Deryn struggled to find her footing amongst the layers of her dress.
"Barking skirts," she muttered as she was tossed back on her bum.
She was knocked back into something solid and warm, and an arm closed around her chest. Before she could scream out, Alek's voice came from behind her.
"Got you," he said.
Deryn twisted around in his grip while he pulled them both under the table. He looked as scared as she felt. The war had been wrapping up in the last few months, thanks in part to Alek's diplomatic work, but they both knew Britain wasn't out of danger yet. Alek and Deryn were both soldiers at heart, and this smelled like danger to their instincts. A boom rang out on the other side of the wall, followed by the sound of the pneumatic workings of a machine.
A very large machine.
"Clankers!" Deryn hissed.
The sound of metal hitting the wall made the room shake, followed by shrieks from the wedding guests and the clatter of plates and silverware hitting the ground. Bits of plaster fell from the ceiling and rained onto the floor. Another crash against the wall caused cracks to show in the plaster, while the glass chandelier above the table danced and swung dangerously. A final boom and the machine was through the wall, tilting forward ominously. It was a Stormwalker, just as Deryn had feared. The explosion of machine through wall caused a spray of plaster, coating Alek and Deryn's faces, hair, and clothes.
Deryn spat out a mouthful of dust and looked down at herself and groaned. So much for looking nice on her wedding day. She couldn't even manage to look half-way decent in a dress for a few hours without somehow ruining the barking thing! She glanced back at the walker and realized it hadn't moved since it burst through the wall. In fact, through the dust swirling around the machine, she could see that it appeared to be stuck halfway in the room. This was her chance. She slowly moved from her crouched position under the table and reached toward a steak knife that had landed near her feet.
"What are you doing?" Alek hissed.
"Cover me," Deryn replied.
Alek knew she was going to do something stupid, but he also knew he wasn't likely to stop his new wife once she had her mind set on something. He also knew that of all the people in the room, the two of them had the most military training and had a responsibility to try and intervene.
Deryn stood upright and faced the walker. She swept her now-dirty dress up, revealing her boots (she knew they'd be good for something today) and shouted out, "Oi, Clanker! You ruined my dress!"
Taking a running start, Deryn leapt at the walker with knife in hand and Alek close behind. She climbed up the front, only slipping twice due to the excess fabric, and made her way to the front of the pilot's cabin. Deryn paused when she heard rustling inside, followed by some muffled shouting.
"Get out here, you bumrag! You've gone and ruined my wedding, and scared my guests have to death!" she shouted.
Deryn heard more muffled shouts then the pneumatic rise of the pilot's window. She braced herself for the attack. She was ready, and she was face to face with . . . Newkirk.
"Newkirk! What in blazes-?"
Newkirk, out of breath and sweating, with hair plastered to his forehead, puffed out, "I made it! I didn't—think—I could—do it."
"Newkirk! I almost killed you!" She looked down at her steak knife. "Or, almost sliced you, anyway. What are you on about?"
Now that the immediate sense of danger was subsiding, Deryn's alarm was slowly sliding into annoyance—a familiar feeling where Newkirk was involved. Newkirk explained how on the way to the wedding he had caught some German soldiers skulking about near the reception site, and after a tussle he managed to knock them out. When he saw that their backup was on the way, he quickly climbed into their vehicle and waddled off with it. Unfortunately, he didn't have a barking clue as to how to pilot a Clanker walker, and ended up just stumbling into the building like a drunkard. It hadn't been an attack at all, but Newkirk fumbling about with the controls.
Alek helped Newkirk out of the machine and onto the floor while the rest of the wedding guests attempted to recover from the shock of the apparent attack. Once he had regained his composure, Newkirk took a look around him, embarrassed at the wreckage he had caused. He turned to say so to Alek, but was distracted by Deryn's appearance. He had never seen her dressed as a proper girl before. His eyes swept over her, taking in the dusty hair, the dirty wedding dress, and the dried mud on her boots. He grinned.
"Midshipman Sharp, looking dashing as ever, eh?"
Deryn rolled her eyes. "Don't start with me, Newkirk, or I'll have to clock you. Now let's see if we can enjoy the rest of this wedding." She took him by the arm and led him over to her guests so he could begin his apologies. The sooner he did that, the sooner she could get some much needed alone time with her new husband.