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

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Madame von Hedwig scanned the street behind the administrative headquarters of the Armée Aeronautique. The grand façade opened to an expansive court surrounded by other imposing colonial government buildings. They had entered through the front, so she knew there would be no one of use to her there. The back door proved more fruitful.

There were no trolleys or steam cabs to be found in the colonial outpost, but all the pedicab operators nearby spoke French, and they all knew where the airmen went to drink. The boy pulling her chair was young, hardly older than Adolphus, yet he was working late into the night. Madame grossly overpaid him, and asked him to wait for her outside the bar. It was a dark hole in the wall, the first story in the middle of a row of cheaply constructed European-style buildings, elaborate iron railings overhanging the street.

Madame plunged in. She had not slept in over two days, but was fueled solely by desperation. At the sound of the door, all heads turned to examine the newcomer. She did not look around the room or meet any glances, but approached the bar.

“Pardon, Monsieur,” she said to the barman, “I am looking for someone.”

“I am most certainly someone!” declared a slurred voice at her left elbow. “I am the man you seek, cherie, c’est moi.”

Madame leaned over the bar. “I am looking for Capitaine Charette.”

The barkeep bore the delicate features of the Hmong people, and spoke flawless, if accented French. He studied Madame vonHedwig, from the top of her short-crowned broad-brimmed hat (trimmed with live growing ivy) to her green and cream striped walking skirt, then his eyes flickered again to the look on her face.  He shrugged.

“She’s not here.”

“I need to find her.”

“She’s not here.”

“Lives are at stake.”

The barkeep shrugged and turned away, then turned back with widening eyes as he tried to pull his wrist from her grip. She leaned further into him and spoke softly.

“My children’s lives.”

He looked deeply into her eyes, then pointed with his other hand. “In the back corner. The sad man, he might know.”

“Thank you.” She released him and headed for the back. Her slurring admirer blocked her way.

“Well done, cherie. What can I get you to drink?”

She pushed him gently back on to his barstool.

“Coffee.”

.

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

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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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