Steampunk Family

The Search is On

February 20, 2010
This entry is part of a series, Voyage to Antafrica»

Madame took off the moment her husband was on board. Although she was agitated, her flying was steady, and they soon arrived at the mouth of the tunnel that had swallowed their children. There was no place to land. They anchored, to a stalactite above them and a stalagmite below. Herr von Hedwig rappelled down to the site, bathed in the Schmetterling’s searchlight.

Madame paced between the hatch and the controls, wringing her hands. A dozen times an anxious question leapt to her lips; a dozen times she quelled it. Her husband examined the cave mouth, called for more line, and then went deeper, out of her view. She stayed at the line, alert for any signal from him. At length, one came – again, more line! He was descending. She focused the spotlight down into the blackness. Although her beloved was lost from her sight, she hoped the light would be of use to him. He carried the lantern as well.

At last, the signal to wind in the line. At last he returned.

“The ship was here; they went into the tunnel. There are scratch marks along the floor.”

“Why did they go in there?” Madame’s voice strained with the effort of control.

“The blackguard must have forced them. He must have a yeti or two with him. The children would have overpowered him otherwise.”

“Let us follow!” She cried. “Let us go after them immediately!”

“My darling, we cannot leave Ulrik to freeze to death, nor the boiler crew.”

“Of course not. We shall return them to the Schöneluft first.”

As her husband closed the hatch and stowed the line, she piloted away from the cave mouth and towards the valley below.

Herr von Hedwig stood behind her, his arms around her waist, face buried in her hair. After some minutes, he groaned.

“It can’t be done.”

“What can’t be done?” Madame’s voice could have cut glass.

He untangled himself to stand beside her, and waved a hand at the instrument panel.

“This Schmetterling – it’s a runabout, a weekend getaway. It’s not capable of searching hundreds of miles of underground tunnels.”

“We only have to follow the marshmallows!”

“How many marshmallows do you think they have left, after a day on the slopes? We’re lucky they had any. And dashed lucky they thought of using them.”

“They are clever children,” she said.

“Brilliant, I’d say. But the marshmallows will run out before the tunnel does, if that aviatrix was right. And we would run out of fuel before we got close.”

Madame cut the engines, leaving them floating a hundred yards above the grieving Ulrik.

“How did she do it?”


Madame stomped her elegantly booted foot. “La Capitaine! How did she fly from Krakatoa to Fuji? Armée Aeronautique scout ship?”

“No, no, she’s a racer. Has one of those Charles Renard racing crafts. Sweet goer, apparently.”

“Where can we get a Renard?” Madame demanded.

“My dear, you’re brilliant!”

“No, I’m desperate.”

He kissed her. “You are brilliant, and we are in luck. La Belle Capitaine is stationed in Saigon.”

“Will she help us? Surely she will not deny a mother’s grief?”

“Surely not. Nor will she turn down such a challenge.”

He took the controls and landed to pick up Ulrik and the icy-haired boiler crew, dejected and wrapped in blankets.  His wife stared at the mountain looming above them, as though she could see into its very heart.

“Take care of each other, children. We’re coming.”


This story began with On Grandmothers. The previous episode is Breadcrumbs and the next is Flight to Saigon.
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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