Steampunk Family

A Research Date

November 21, 2009
This entry is part of a series, Voyage to Antafrica»

“Ulrik, you are in charge.” Herr vonHedwig cast a stern eye over his assembled family. “This means what, children?”

“No arguments!” Claire glared at her siblings.

“No visiting the boiler crew,” sighed Adolphus, “no entering the galley, no throwing things at the galley, no talking to or otherwise bothering Chef.”

“No weapons, fighting, or dueling,” the twins chorused.

“No open flame, even in the laboratory, until your return,” Gerhardt recited.

“No boom,” said Bettina, her lower lip pouting.

“Thank you,” Father said.  “If you dutifully follow these rules, Ulrik will have no reason to dart you.”

“Father, that isn’t funny!” Claire objected. “Any tranquilizer strong enough to take me down would kill little Bettina!”

“Ulrik, you will not, of course, kill any of the children in our absence?”

Ulrik clicked his heels together. “Certainly not, mein Herr.” He drew a small role of cloth from the pocket of his lab coat, and unrolled it to reveal 6 tiny glass vials, each marked with a vonHedwig child’s name. “I have calculated the dosage quite precisely.”

“There you are, Claire, nothing to worry about.”

“Do rocket skates count as open flame?” Mirabelle asked.

“I’m afraid so, love,” Father said.

“Oh no!” Annabelle protested. “Then what shall we do all day?”

“I don’t suppose you could study?”

This suggestion was met with contempt. There were currently no tutors on board, and the children had grown rather lax in their academic habits. The lessons Mother and Father taught were so active that they never seemed like a lesson – experiments in the lab, dissections in the greenhouse, lively discussions on current events, thought-provoking questions about the landscape running away beneath the airship. After yesterday’s day of discovery, hours of motionless reading and writing would be deadly dull.

Luckily, an unlikely source of relief arrived. A small figure appeared in the door, covered in a hairy coat and waving a pair of skis over his head. He shouted at Ulrik in a language none of them entirely understood, but Ulrik grasped his meaning immediately.

“Please dress in all your warmest things as quick as you can, children,” he said. “The boiler chief has consented to take us all tobogganing in his launch.”

The children cheered, and ran to their cabins to change, shouting thanks at Ulrik and the boiler chief. Bettina stopped in front of him and curtseyed. His lips curled into a smile showing his yellow teeth, and he patted her head. Although she was too young to assist in the boiler room, she often accompanied one of her siblings on a shift, just to watch the crew at work. As she had not yet blown up anything they cared about, she was a great favorite among them.

Herr vonHedwig made his way to his own launch, where Madame waited for him. He stopped by the galley first, to ask Chef to prepare a picnic hamper. He, too, was pleased by the plan.

Chef (by Annabelle)

Chef (by Annabelle)

“Enfin, peace at last!” he said. “I must with the making of many marshmallows, for where do zhey go? Zhees picnic will have cocoa but no marshmallows.”

Herr vonHedwig chose not to enlighten Chef as to the marshmallows’ fate, but joined his wife at last for their expedition.


This story began with On Grandmothers. The previous episode is The Children’s Hypothesis and the next is Aboard the Schmetterling.
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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