The beast roared and darted forward before Alek had the chance to grab the saunters. Luckily he was clipped in or else he would have flown off the saddle. It was fortunate that did not happen because this beast showed no signs of stopping. With every massive bound the Capitoline took, the whole saddle bounced upward, floated for a moment, and then jolted back down as the beast hit the ground.
Alek could hear its massive paws striking the ground with four loud thuds. His eyes began to water from the wind in his face so he pulled on his goggles to see where he was going. It was not till then that he ventured a look behind him. The airship was still anchored on the hilltop they were dropped on, but was far behind them.
Alek leaned forward and grabbed hold of the saunters. With each bound, his clip pulled him down towards the ground. The saunters helped steady him for a moment. He ventured a slight left turn with his hands. The beast roared out in defiance and quickly veered left, sending Alek and Deryn reeling to one side.
"What was that?" Deryn shouted over the wind.
"I'm not sure," He answered back. He looked down at the dials for a moment. The two at the right, labeled 'amps,' were pressed all the way to the right in the red zone. "We're taking in too much electricity from the Captioline's movements," Alek told her.
"What do we do?" she asked clearly worried.
"See that lever above the dial? Pull it down to a quarter power," Alek barked. She quickly did as she was told and the dials slowly moved back left. The beast seemed to calm down a bit. It huffed a little quiter as its strides became less violent. The movements now were smoother and predictable, letting Alek think clearly for a moment.
Gods Wounds this animal was fast. Dr. Barlow told him it could out run a Stormwalker but Alek did not believe that until now. Of course, the Stormwalker was more comfortable and would never get tired. But this beast worked well with just the two of them.
The empty grasslands ahead soon turned into a low riding forest. The beast slowed down a bit and began weaving through the trees with excellent precision. Each bound was now a carefully executed maneuver. The Capitoline's head darted around looking for a route through the trees, which it seemed to do with ease. Alek couldn't keep up with its movements so he gave up on the saunters for now. He figured that he could use them when he knew where he was going.
"Where are we headed first?" He asked Deryn. She had her goggles on too and was eyeing the compass.
"Head south by south-east. We need to pass in between Soissons and Paris. Do you reckon we'll do that by sundown?" She asked.
"At this pace I guarantee it. When do you want to stop for the night?"
"Whenever the beast gets tired," She guessed. Alek frowned. That could be this time tomorrow for all he knew. Alek did not think he had it in him to continue past sundown.
"We'll try and see if– Woah!" Alek ducked as a low hanging branch flew over him, narrowly missing his face. Deryn ducked as well but did not seem the least bit phased. In fact, she seemed to be enjoying this.
"It's not flying, " she said. "But its pretty close," She told him with a big smile on her face. Alek was glad she could enjoy things like this despite everything else.
The beast started flying up a hillside in the forest, sending both riders backward with their straps taught. Alek saw they were drifting westward, so he used the saunters to lightly nudge the beast back to the southeast. The beast was much more agreeable now, and the saunters felt familiar again. It's just a walker that's alive, he thought.
"Siossons and Paris," he heard from behind him. Bovril was now nestled in the compartment where the furs were packed. His eyes were wide and he seemed to be taking in the sights with enough curiosity to drown any sense of fear. But then again, Alek could not remember any instance where Bovril showed signs of fear.
They past the top of the hill and could see the countryside that lay out in front of them. Miles and miles of beautiful French countryside lay ahead as Alek bounced up and down on the creature's back. This was going to be an interesting first day.
"Whew!" Alek heard Deryn grunt, as she dropped from the saddle with a thud. The beast heaved with each breath, shaking Alek on the saddle up and down most nauseatingly. He began to unclip himself when she stopped him. "Wait! Throw me down the first day's meat before you get down," she bellowed.
Alek turned to look for the meat rations when he was reminded that he needed to contact the Barlows at sundown. He muscled a large leather pack from the bowels of the saddle and tossed it down. It hit the ground with a thump and rolled to a stop. "Thanks Clanker," he heard her yell.
He continued rustling through the bowels of the saddle with his forearm buried deep in its contents. Suddenly, the whole compartment lurched forward and Alek clung onto whatever was in his hand. The beast must have been digging into its dinner, he thought, and began shaking the saddle back and forth. Alek found what he was looking for and turned it clockwise a quarter. "Got it," he said through gritted teeth, before he lost his grip. He stumbled out of the saddle, rolled off the beast's back, and hit the ground with a thump.
"Ugh, useless . . . godless creatures," he cursed with the wind knocked out of him.
"Easy there, Clanker. Don't want to insult anything this size," Deryn said from the beast's front.
"Ok Clanker?" Bovril asked from atop the saddle. He appeared to enjoy the ride the Capitoline was giving him.
"Well," Alek coughed, "at least one of you was concerned for my well being. I'm alright Bovril," he said as he rolled over and pushed himself up.
"What were you doing anyway?" Deryn asked.
"Connecting the antenna to the main circuit. We need to contact the Barlows at sundown and your soulless beast threw me off his back." He gestured to the beast that was now licking the remnants of the leather pack.
"Easy your highness. She's just eating. And what makes her soulless?" she asked.
"The fact that she is against god's creation," He said casually while climbing back up the Capitoline's flank.
"Well, fine. It's barking better than all that metal you Clankers live in. No life, no feeling, no nothing. Just a heartless scrap of iron." Alek had passed up to the top of the saddle again and Deryn was shouting from the ground.
"Very well, Clankers are heartless and Darwanists are soulless," Alek said while easing himself to the front of the saddle. He put his hand on the release lever for the antenna. "But, if you put the two together," he started and pulled on the release mechanism. The antenna shot upward from in-between the beast's shoulder blades. For a moment, there was a slipping sound of metal against metal as the pole shot upwards. It came to a quick halt and was towering 30 feet above the beast, Alek guessed. He let out a satisfied sigh, "and you get a completed being."
"Or you get a demon with no heart or soul," Deryn laughed.
"Maybe to our enemies. Lets hope none find us on the way through France," Alek said while pulling a pair of headphones on and began listening.
The woods they settled in where thick. The spot they picked was atop a hill that overlooked the surrounding area in front of them. Crickets were already chirping and the air was laced with a chill. Alek noticed Deryn was already digging into her dinner rations. Bovril was now sitting on top of a rock just above the Capitoline's head and was looking curiously into its eyes and mimicking its noises.
Alek couldn't help but feel oddly comfortable with his surroundings. He daydreamed about how he wouldn't mind trips like this for recreation some day, as long as he could keep similar company. He and Deryn could travel anywhere they wanted. A sense of freedom filled him up before he was shaken back to reality by the static-cluttered voice of James Barlow.
"Hail One. Hail One. Capitoline One."
Alek picked up the mouthpiece and hailed back. "Return One, return One. Capitoline One. Status Green." No freedom yet, he thought. We need to find her brother first.
A/N: Before history buffs get at me, remember Tesla used similar tech aboard the Leviathan on the way to America to communicate so think of this as a stretch of that part of history too.
Happy Friday to all my lovely readers. I've noticed some are fellow leviathan fanfic artists of which I adore already so thank you all for reading. I'm flattered really.
Now, next chapter is Monday so sit tight. Review if you want but don't feel its necessary. Cheers.