Steampunk Family

With A Bang!

August 23, 2009
This entry is part of a series, Voyage to Antafrica»


Madame vonHedwig, for it was her turn at the helm, steered the Schöneluft south and west, to the Great Himalayas, for she had long desired to explore that mysterious region.  She had been corresponding with Julius von Sachs, the eminent Prussian botanist, and Roberto Mantovani, although their correspondence had grown acrimonious of late.  (Madame was a great follower of Hutton, and could not reconcile the observations of the gentle Scot with the violent volcanically-driven continental movement proposed by the Italian gentleman.)  Madame’s interest was in palaeopalynology (the study of seeds). She longed to discover the ancient history of angiosperms, and become convinced that evidence of early seeds might be found in deep in the ice of these majestic mountains.

“What if,” Madame proposed, “what if the tropical land masses of Gondwana and Angara came together much faster than we thought?  The fruited plains thrust up into the heavens to form the lofty peaks of the Himalayas.  The animals would be slain in such an upheaval, but plant material might have been preserved in the sudden cold.  What if there are seeds there, hidden deep in the ancient ice and snow?  Think, my darling, what discoveries await the botanist bold enough to seek them!”

Herr vonHedwig was working on a new invention, a ball lightening generator.  Since ball lightening is unpredictable, and can pass through or randomly bounce off of solid objects, his previous experiments had shown rather dramatic results.  Once, he and Ulrik had generated a spectacular ball of lightening in the Lab.  Its creation caused their hair to stand entirely on end, and had turned poor Ulrik’s hair a rather lovely shade of green.

As they were cheering their success, the ball, which they had thought contained, charged through the wall and into the boiler room, where it bounced around causing great havok while the poor workers tried desperately to fend it off with spanners and hammers.  When a singed and angry boiler chief came to the Lab, chattering in his foreign tongue and gesticulating wildly, Herr vonHedwig decided that this work was best done away from populated areas.  As the Great Himalyas are sparsely populated, he readily agreed to his wife’s scheme.

The children had never seen the Himalayas, and found that they compared most favorably to their beloved Alps.  They gathered in what was called the garden, but was really a flat, railed area on the top of the ship outside the Greenhouse, where they shivered happily.

“They’re enormous!” Adolphus yelped.

“The average peak here is over 5,000 feet taller than Mont Blanc, the highest peak in the Alps,” said Claire.

“Let’s toboggan!” shouted the twins.

Just then, a quarter of a mile or so off starboard, one of their father’s floating ball lightening generators exploded.  Bettina laughed and clapped her little gloved hands.

“The ball blew up its own generator,” Gerhardt said.  “I suppose it was the closest object, and the lightening was drawn to it.”

“Was it drawn to the mass or to the electricity?” pondered Adolphus, and the children were engaged in a lively discussion when they heard a faint and far-off rumbling.  They each looked in a different direction trying to discern the source of the sound, except for Bettina, who still laughed and clapped, and sang out “Boom!”

“Do you hear something?” Claire began, but before anyone could answer, the mountain before them began to crumple.  High above them, for they were hovering at 5,000 feet, the white face of the mountain fell, and rolled down upon itself, and the rumbling became a crashing, and a roaring, and the edifice of the great mountain collapsed, sliding inexorably into the valley below.  Claire threw herself on the twins, knocking them to the deck.  Adolphus, loathe to look away, pulled at Bettina, who kicked him and clung tightly to the rail.  As the avalanche reached the altitude of the ship, a vicious spray of ice crystals gusted over the deck, forcing Gerhardt and Adolphus down for cover at last.  As the disaster echoed from the neighboring peaks, Bettina jumped up and down in delight, shrieking “Again!  Again!”

She was rewarded, as the rumbling of tons of fallen snow dislodged portions of other peaks, setting off chains of avalanches through the high valley.  The children gaped, ineffectually brushing ice from their hair, and marveling at the violent glory of Nature.  The Greenhouse door flew open.

“Are you all right?” Mother asked, swiftly counting heads.  “Come inside, hot chocolate and a warm fire for everyone!”

“Does this mean we can’t toboggan?” asked Mirabelle.  Annabelle had pulled a small spanner from her pinafore, and was using it to chip Bettina’s frozen mittens from the rail.

“We’ll see.  Perhaps when Father has a break in his experimentation schedule… And you most certainly may not start at the top!”

At this the children let out a chorus of protests, which subsided only when the dumbwaiter delivered the chocolate from the Galley.

This story began with On Grandmothers, and continues In Search of Ancient Angiosperms.
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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