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

The children fell and fell. It was exciting at first, until it was not. Then Claire tried to make it interesting, shouting out a five second geolologic commentary as they fell through successive layers of rock. Other than the fabled treacle layer (“Ooh, Sir Pratchett was right!”) the others were not amused, and the budding geologist had enough difficulty controlling their fall without analyzing strata.

Then she realized, after the first hour of their descent, that they were burning through the little ship’s fuel supply far too quickly. If they ran out of fuel, they would crash against the tunnel wall or floor, if it had a floor. To preserve fuel, they had to let themselves free fall, engaging the engines in short bursts only to slow their descent and avoid the walls of the tunnel.

Then it became a dreadful trip. The ship dropped like a stone, then slowed with a jerk as Claire brought the engine pods to bear. Even Mirabelle, who enjoyed the sensation of falling (being greatly addicted to carnival rides), was miserable after the first hour. The others felt worse, and poor Annabelle felt quite sick. After four hours, Claire realized something else.

“At some point, I am going to fall asleep,” she observed. “It may not be for some time, but I won’t be able to help it. Someone shall have to take over.” She looked at Adolphus. Gerhardt groaned. “So you had better sleep while you can, so you can take over. You all should.”

“Nonsense, Claire!” Mirabelle protested. “You can’t do everything all alone.”

“Who can sleep through all this falling, anyway?” Adolphus said.

“You have to try!”

“I’ll stay up with Claire,” Gerhardt said. “I’ll work the lights and be your look-out. Then the girls can do that for Adolphus on his watch.”

This was agreed, with some grumbling on Adolphus’ part about having to share a watch with the twins. He found his brother to be a far more sympathetic partner, but the girls insisted that Adolphus needed watching, and they were just the watchers he needed.

Just as Adolphus and the twins were settling in nests of soft stuff they found about the ship, the Count woke up. He was quite confused about where he was, why he couldn’t move his hands, and why his stomach felt inside out. They sat him up against a cabinet and fed him some cookies. After a handful of cookies he remembered where he was and realized why his hands were tied, and became quite rude. Adolphus gagged him.

“Now that I think about it,” Adolphus said, “I have heard our parents mention the Count. He was mean to mother.”

“Nonsense!” Mirabelle said.

“People aren’t mean to mother,” Gerhardt added.

“He was though. So he’s either braver than that mustache makes him look, or just as foolish.”

The Count turned quite red at this, and kicked his feet against the deck for so long that the children emptied out a cupboard and shoved him in it.

“We’ll have to give the prisoner food and water whenever we have some,” Gerhardt said, “otherwise it’s cruelty.”

“Isn’t it cruelty to shove him in a cupboard?” Annabelle asked, for the sake of argument.

They considered, for a moment, the muffled thumping from the cupboard.

“No,” Mirabelle said, “We can’t have him waking the yeti.”

They considered, for a much longer moment, the yeti.


Claire’s brow was furrowed, and she was biting her lip in concentration, and her voice was so awful with worry, that Adolphus and the twins all lay down again at once. Bettina was already asleep, for no one had asked her to do anything. Gerhardt searched the launch again, in case there was tea or coffee or anything useful they had missed.

After only ten minutes, Annabelle got up again, telling her brother that having her eyes closed made her more sick. She poked about the tiny ship, trying to find anything to relieve her discomfort, and finally settled on examining the unconscious yeti. She studied, as best she could in the light from the control panel, the moss on its head and neck.

The moss had not supplanted the hair, but was intertwined with it. She fished her tweezers from her pocket and began separating the moss from the creature’s hair, working gently, so the yeti would not wake. It was tedious work, but concentrating took her mind off her motion sickness.

Then Gerhardt found a forgotten sweets bag with a few hard lumps of sugared ginger. They used Mirabelle’s hammer to break them apart, and Annabelle sucked on a bit until it was chewy. It made her stomach much better. She kept working on the sleeping yeti until, exhausted, she fell asleep, snuggled against its shaggy bulk.



This story began with On Grandmothers. The previous episode is At the Grandiere Club Aeronautique and the next is Out of Cookies.
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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