Steampunk Family
This entry is part of a series, Voyage to Antafrica»

Mother conscripted Claire and Ulrik to help her study the terrain for the types of rock that would indicate the Cretaceous period of the earth’s development, the period in which plant life began to reproduce using seeds instead of spores or other more primitive methods.  Father piloted the Schoneluft slowly, giving them time to examine the bare faces of the cliffs around them, and bare faces there were.  Despite the millennia of accumulated snow, many of the mountains were so steep that no blizzard, no matter how fierce, could find purchase on the vertical precipices.

Mother lectured all the children in what to look for, how the mighty rocks had developed deep in the crust of the earth, and how they had subsequently achieved their lofty positions.  Adolphus had begun by helping the search, staring earnestly out the broad windows of the great room, but after an hour his observation book had far more doodled inventions on the page than notes on mineralogy.  The younger children had not even pretended they would help.  The twins locked themselves in the children’s lab to experiment with roller skates and Chinese fireworks, and to give Bettina practice with her lock picks.  Gerhardt was in his room, which was far easier than fighting the girls over laboratory space, working on his marshmallow crossbow.

When they broke for lunch, Mother asked Adolphus for his notes.  He flushed pink as he turned them over.

“I see,” she said.  “You may keep this notebook, and continue your own work after lunch.”

“No, Mother!” Adolphus protested.  “I can find your beastly rock if Claire can!”

“No doubt, my dear, if you were at all interested in mineralogy, you would excel at it, but I think your talents are better used correcting the differential on this cog system you drew in the margins, here.  I think you’ll find that if you were not watching for my ‘beastly rock’ your calculations would make more sense.”

Adolphus took back the notebook, dropping his voice to a whisper as Ulrik passed by.  “I’ll do better this afternoon!”

“You may try, if it amuses you, liebshen, but if it were me I would follow my heart, not someone else’s ambition.”  With that she smoothed his always-tousled hair, and went to the table.

Claire appeared suddenly where Mother had been standing.

“Don’t sneak up like that!” Adolphus grumbled.

“You weren’t even looking out the window,” she accused.


“It wouldn’t matter if you had.  You couldn’t tell shale from chalk, must less igneous from sedimentary.”

“Could to!  You’re not going to find Mother’s rocks either!  If she doesn’t, Ulrik will.  He’s better at everything than you are.”

“Children, do sit down, the soup has been served,” Mother said, and that ended that.

When Herr vonHedwig joined them, Gerhardt wasted no time.

“Father, when are you going to stop blowing things up so we can go sledding?”

Bettina giggled.  She had taken to eating mashed potatoes and peas at every meal (to Chef’s great annoyance) and was causing an avalanche of peas to cascade down her potato peak.  “Boom,” she sang quietly to herself.

“As a matter of fact, I have postponed further experimentation due to unforeseen complications with the landscape.”

“Boom, boom, boom!”  Bettina sang.

“Exactly,” Father agreed.  “In addition, your Mother’s research takes precedence, as we only have a month here before we’re due back in Shandong.  Perhaps we’ll explore the Steppes after that.  Plenty of room for experimentation, there.  When we’ve identified some likely areas to search for Mother’s ancient seeds, she and I will take the launch and search them out, just the two of us.”

“Oh, how charming, my darling,” Mother cooed, “a research date.”

“While we are gone, Ulrik can take you sledding.”

There was a cheer around the table, muffled somewhat by mouths full of sole in buerre marnier, and in one case, mashed potatoes.

“Ulrik,” Father added, “I recommend you invite the Boiler Crew on your excursion.  If they’re interested, they make take you down in their launch.”

After lunch, Adolphus returned to his window post with determination, studying precipice and crevice diligently for nearly two hours, but alas, his attention waned at last.  As his eyes wavered from the rock face before him they dropped to the snow-covered fold below, and he was startled by a most curious observation.

Adolphus is startled by a Great Discovery.

Adolphus is startled by a Great Discovery.

This story began with On Grandmothers. The last episode is With a Bang and the next is Assault on the Galley.
Entries in this series:
  1. On Grandmothers
  2. With A Bang!
  3. In Search of Ancient Angiosperms
  4. Assault on the Galley
  5. The Sorrows of Chef
  6. Faeries, Helpful Siblings, and other Mythological Creatures
  7. Meanwhile, Back in the Lab
  8. A Day of Discovery
  9. The Children’s Hypothesis
  10. A Research Date
  11. Aboard the Schmetterling
  12. The Cave
  13. The Cage
  14. Knee of the Yeti
  15. Kidnapped!
  16. A Clue
  17. The Yeti and the Comb
  18. Fighting the Count
  19. Fighting the Yeti
  20. Falling
  21. Breadcrumbs
  22. The Search is On
  23. Flight to Saigon
  24. On the Streets of Saigon
  25. The Sad Man
  26. At the Grandiere Club Aeronautique
  27. If you Give a Count a Cookie
  28. Out of Cookies
  29. Stuck!
  30. Airships Float?
  31. Where is Claire?
  32. Drowning
  33. Into the Drink!
  34. Boat!
  35. Mushroom Trip
  36. Ambush
  37. The Variegated Strangler
  38. In a Strange Land
  39. Hand over Hand
  40. The Last of the Gouda
  41. An Unusual Breakfast
  42. Downstream
  43. What's for Dinner?
  44. Axe and Fire
  45. Meanwhile, Back at the Airship
  46. Over the Gobi
  47. Return of the Grandmothers
  48. Warning from Huang
  49. Anxious Hours
  50. Ulrik Prepares
  51. Destruction by Dawn
  52. Finding Philomena
  53. No Luck in Pekin
  54. The Children Rescue...Something
  55. Corndog Liberation
  56. The Fate of Corndogs
  57. Have you Tea?
  58. Antafrican Hosptitality
  59. Onion Porridge
  60. Homesick
  61. On the Hunt
  62. Farm Living
  63. Singing for Supper
  64. You Say Potato...
  65. Curiosity is the Foundation of Discovery
  66. An Awkward Position
  67. Trouble Comes Riding
  68. Capsicum Capture
  69. To the Palace
  70. The Death of the Lincoln
  71. War Wings
  72. A Long Way Down
  73. Enter the Lightning
  74. Before the Queen
  75. You are a Tomato!
  76. A Sunken Ship
  77. Eglantine Aubergine
  78. Children of the Soil
  79. At Night in the Nightshade Court
  80. At Night in the Nightshade Court
  81. At Night in the Nightshade Court
  82. The Price of Popcorn
  83. Ulrik and Chef
  84. Fire!
  85. Claire's Bluff
  86. Tomato Queen and Aubergine
  87. It's Going to Blow!
  88. Rhodri in the Gardens
  89. The Servant's Fountain
  90. History Revealed
  91. Fight at the Fountain
  92. Repercussions
  93. Father Discovers the Yeti
  94. Aboard the Lucy Stone
  95. Summoned
  96. The Queen's Accusation
  97. The Queen's Rage
  98. The Khan
  99. The Last War Wing
  100. Eglantine Departs
  101. Thumping Rhodri
  102. Bad News from the Boys
  103. Where's the Count?
  104. In Search of the Count
  105. Spying on the Queen
  106. Confronting the Count
  107. Orphaned?
  108. Orphaned?
  109. Montesanto's Experiments
  110. Montesanto's Experiments
  111. The Queen's Tantrum
  112. Bettina's Tantrum
  113. The Flaming Queen
  114. Uprising!
  115. Uprising!
  116. Escape
  117. On the Run
  118. The Mysterious Coach
  119. Red Racer!
  120. Revolution Reset
  121. By the Acid Sea
  122. Farewell Antafrica
  123. Home Again!
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