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

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An hour before, in the office of the Commander…

“Oui, oui, Monsieur von Hedwig, she is a remarkable flier. And I must admit, a natural-born leader. Men would follow her into hell itself.”

The Commander of the Armée Aeronautique in Saigon stared at his brocade curtains as though they might tell his story for him.

“I would follow her into hell,” he muttered.

Behind him, Herr vonHedwig silently riffled through the papers on the Commander’s desk. He didn’t have time for reminiscing.

“Why then did you not promote her? Because she is a woman?”

“That is a complication, but not the reason, though that is most likely what she thinks. No, Monsieur, it is because she is American. She has served most loyally, yes, but how can I give a foreigner authority over so many French?”

Herr vonHedwig sighed, running a hand through his hair. His fingers got caught. The hot Saigon night was curling his already thorny hair into brambles. He extracted them, and captured his wild mop under his hat.

“Where is her racer berthed?”

Not two minutes later he was in a pedicab, racing to the Grandiere Club Aeronautique.

She was not in her hanger, though he found a ground crew fueling her Renard. She was not on the dance floor, waltzing in the swirl of elegant couples. He found her in the bar, surrounded.

“Mais non, ma cher, you must dance with me before you go!”

“No, no, she must drink a brandy with me, for old times sake!”

Phineas raised his voice to be heard above the crush. “I am sorry gentlemen, but La Belle Capitaine is otherwise engaged.”

The crowd parted to better view the interloper.

“Madame, I must beg you to come with me.”

La Capitaine was astonished. “Von Hedwig? What are you doing here? And what is afoot?”

A chorus of disapproval answered her questions.

“Go away, von Hedwig, La Capitaine will dance with me.”

“After she dances with me, Bertrand!”

“I beg your pardon, gentlemen.” Madame Charette broke through her throng of admirers to lay her hand on von Hedwig’s arm. “I have promised the next dance to Monsieur von Hedwig. With that, she strolled from the bar towards the dance floor, leaving a dozen broken hearts behind her.

“I thank you, Madame. You are most generous to dance with me when I am incorrectly attired.” He nodded down at his impeccable linen suit. “It is on the most urgent business that I sought you out; I did not have time to don the tux.”

“That’s all right, I don’t mind shaking things up a bit.” She smiled. “And what is this urgent business?”

“The dastard Montesanto has kidnapped my children and taken them down a volcanic tube in the Himalayas. I need you and your ship to find them.”

“Volcanic tubes in the Himalayas? Fascinating.”

“The journey shall be dangerous, as you know better than anyone, but I must also warn you that Montesanto is a villain. Although I have never before considered him to be a threat, he may now have under his control one or more yeti.

Madame Charette threw back her head and laughed. Heads turned from every direction to see the source of such an indecorous outburst.

“Yeti!” She gasped, wiping a tear from her eye. “My dear chap, you had me from ‘kidnap’, but this is the most promising development I’ve had in years. Lead on, sir, lead on!”

They met Madame vonHedwig at the door. Charette reached out and took both her hands.

“Madame, whatever service I may render you in this time of anxiety is yours.”

“I thank you, Madame, with all my heart. Let us be away!”

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This story began with On Grandmothers. The previous episode is The Sad Man and the next is If you Give a Count a Cookie.

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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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