Steampunk Family

Out of Cookies

April 17, 2010
This entry is part of a series, Voyage to Antafrica»

They fell for two days according to Adolphus’ pocket watch, which was miraculously unharmed in all the excitement. They were tense, tired, grubby, irritable, and out of cookies.

Adolphus was once again at the controls, Mirabelle watching the tunnel with him.

“We’re not going straight down,” she said.

“No, the tunnel’s curving. I’ve swung the aft engine pods straight back to keep us away from the wall.” He fumbled at the controls. “There, I’ve got the lights on back there. Would you go watch that wall?”

“Of course. How shall I signal you? I don’t want to shout or whistle, Claire’s just fallen asleep.”

“Is there a light back there? If you flash a light I’ll see the reflection in the window here.”

Mirabelle walked around her twin and moved aft. Annabelle was once again applying her tweezers to the yeti and strange moss that grew into its skin. Concentrating on the yeti helped her forget her motion sickness, so she had made sketches, measurements, and taken extensive notes on the creature. She had even opened the cupboard and questioned Count Montesanto on the moss, but found him most unhelpful on that topic, although perfectly willing to expand her vocabulary of Italian obscenities. (She took extensive notes on this topic as well.) At this point, she had most of the moss removed, but the yeti still did not wake.

Mirabelle signaled her brother as the tunnel curved more sharply every mile. The compass told them they traveled south and east. At the end of the second day the tunnel flattened out, and they ran aground. All the children left the ship to examine the damages to it, and explore the tunnel.

The tunnel itself was a dead bore, the same circular sort of tube they’d been falling through for days. The layers of rock had changed, of course, as they passed through different sedimentary formations and igneous intrusions, but only Claire cared, or even noticed.

The boiler crew’s launch was battered. It had never been a beauty, as the crew had knocked it together from scrap metal and cannibalized machinery. Studying it, they couldn’t tell which dents and scrapes were their fault, and which had been there before.

Numerous gas balloons contained in a rope net normally held the small ship aloft. They had lost five of those, shredded against jagged rock. Six more were punctured and had been slowly leaking gas. They set about repairing and refilling those. When they had finished, she only floated a few inches above the tunnel floor, so they went back inside to sweep out the broken glass and toss out the broken furniture – ounces add up to pounds and pounds prevent lift. It wasn’t enough, so they tossed out the unbroken furniture and most of the random machine parts. This was the hardest task of the day, for several reasons. Gerhardt thought it foolhardy to run a ship into undiscovered territory with no spare parts for the engines. Claire agreed, but Annabelle (who was feeling much better now that they weren’t falling) argued that an airship that couldn’t float was a paperweight. Adolphus hated to throw anything away that might ever be turned into something else, and argued over every decision for the first hour. Then he got bored and took Bettina for a walk.

When they returned the ship was aloft and the ballast was lined up against the tunnel wall. Mirabelle had classified it by function. Then they had to decide what to do.

“We should wait right here until help comes. Mother and Father are surely on their way by now,” Gerhardt argued.

“And eat what?” Adolphus said.

“Go back up?” Bettina nestled between Annabelle and Mirabelle. She was tough, but missed her parents fiercely.

“We don’t have the gas to lift us up that tunnel,” Claire said, “we have to stay here or go forward.

Bettina’s lip trembled just a bit, but she sighed, and held onto the firecrackers in her pinafore pocket for comfort.

“I don’t know what we’re waiting for!” Adolphus said. “We’re probably the first people to ever find this tunnel system. We should explore it! We could make great discoveries.”

“We’ve already made great discoveries. We discovered the yeti,” Annabelle said. “Not that you’ve been very scientific about it!”

“But there’s more just ahead,” Adolphus said, “I can feel it. Besides, I’ll die of boredom if we stay here.”

“Gerhardt’s right, our parents will look for us,” Claire said. “But it may take some time. The Schmetterling would have to be modified to make the voyage, outfitted with extra fuel storage, at least.”

The twins had their heads together, and after a hissing of whispered Welsh, Mirabelle spoke up.

“It pains me to agree with Adolphus, but we can’t wait here for long. We have to find water.”

So it was agreed, and they spent an hour running because they could, playing tag up and down the tunnel, and scratching messages into the rock for their parents to find. The next day, they found water. Far too much water.



This story began with On Grandmothers. The previous episode is If You Give a Count a Cookie and the next is Stuck!

Image credit iAis
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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