Steampunk Family


February 7, 2010
This entry is part of a series, Voyage to Antafrica»

“Stop!” Claire shrieked. “Stop fighting it! Lie down!”

“What?” Mirabelle yelled.

“It ignored me! Get down!”

Gerhardt and Bettina dropped like stones, and the twins followed. The yeti halted, looking around for its attackers. Behind it, Claire crawled across the tilting floor to Adolphus.

“We need engines,” she whispered, “to slow us down when we crash.”

“How about an anchor, to stop us falling?”

Claire nodded, and Adolphus turned to address the ship.

“Has anyone seen the anch-?”

The question died on his lips. The gondola was strewn with debris, and the starboard windows shattered. His younger brother and sisters lay as though dead, and a 7-foot, distressingly not mythological, bleeding, growling, angry animal glared at him from amidships.

He gulped, and slowly spread his arms wide, displaying his tragically empty hands. The beast stepped towards him. With a screeching, grinding noise, the ship slid again. The yeti gave a bark-like roar and covered its ears, glaring at Adolphus.

“You chaps better find the anchor while it’s ripping me up, or we’re all done for!” he shouted.

The yeti roared again, lunging at Adolphus. Its weight and momentum were too much for the little ship, which spun off of the stalactite holding it, and plunged into the blackness.

“Aaaaaaahhhhhh!!” the children screamed again.

There was a tremendous thud, and they all stopped screaming to listen. They were falling, definitely falling, but not as fast as they had first feared. Only three of the gas balloons were gone, and those remaining slowed their descent. They could not guess the source of the thud.

Claire recovered first. “Light!” she shouted. “Bettina, I know you have matches!”

Bettina did not answer. In truth, the wind coming in the broken windows would blow a match out.

“Here!” came Gerhardt’s voice. “I have the torch!”

A moment later the youngest vonHedwigs united in the darkness, and there was light. The small bright white flame showed the yeti sprawled on the floor, unmoving. That had been the tremendous thud. Gerhardt hurried around the prone beast to illuminate the control panel.

“Thank you,” Claire said. “Adolphus, how did you start the engines?”

They turned to the panel, but were abruptly thrown against it. The ship’s hull scraped against rock with a crash and a shudder. For a moment they slowed, but then, with a terrible POP POP, two more balloons exploded, and they bounced off the wall, falling faster than ever.

Adolphus scrambled at the cluster of controls, and the engines coughed to life. He swung all the engine pods to vertical lift full throttle. The little ship strained against its own weight, slowed its descent, but could not rise. They had lost too much gas. Claire took over the controls, while Adolphus and Annabelle searched for exterior lights.

Mirabelle and Bettina were binding the yeti’s limbs together with some line they found coiled in a corner, talking soothingly to the creature as they did, although it was still unconscious. Gerhardt felt the yeti’s head for blood. Finding none, he moved to the fallen Count. With a frown of stern disapproval, he began examining man’s wounds. A nasty gash on his head was bleeding freely. The first aid kit had been with Ulrik when they took off, so Gerhardt had to rummage through the ship’s detritus for adequate bandages.

“Ah ha!” Annabelle’s triumphant cry was muffled, as she was lying beneath the control panel. Dazzling spotlights burst to life, beams swinging wildly on the rock face of the tunnel through which they fell. “Crazy monkeys,” she muttered.

A group of dials lit up when she found the switch, allowing Adolphus to focus the spotlights on their descent.

“It’s so smooth!” Claire exclaimed. “No wonder we’ve hardly hit anything.” She deftly adjusted the engines, controlling their inevitable fall. “This is more a tunnel than a cave. Perfectly round, too. Could it be man-made?”

Gerhardt finished his reluctant ministrations on the Count, and recommended his sisters tie him up as well. “He’s in bad shape, but he’ll still be nasty when he wakes up.”

“Ooh, there went a side branch off the main shaft,” Claire said. “If there’s one big enough I could try to land her.”

“We’re still going too fast for that,” Adolphus said. “It would have to be awfully big.”

Gerhardt looked up at this exchange, suddenly struck with an idea. He grabbed the welding torch from where his sister had wedged it into the console, and called for Bettina. “Come to the window, and hold it steady,” he instructed.

“Where are you going with my light?” Claire demanded.

“Breadcrumbs,” he said. With that, he loaded his marshmallow crossbow and fired through the flame of the torch, out the broken window. The flaming marshmallow arced through the air and stuck to the tunnel wall above them. Gerhardt waited for what he judged was about a hundred yards, and fired again.

And so, the vonHedwig children descended into unknown darkness, with a trail of flaming marshmallows the only evidence of their fall.



This story began with On Grandmothers. The previous episode is Fighting the Yeti and the next is Breadcrumbs.
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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