Steampunk Family


April 25, 2010
This entry is part of a series, Voyage to Antafrica»

Every time the tunnel branched the children stopped the ship and got out to examine their choices. They looked, listened, and smelled, straining for a hint of the Earth’s surface. For the most part, they just picked a random way. Whenever they made a choice, Gerhardt marked the tunnel.

He was out of marshmallows, but now that they could disembark he marked the wall with paint or chalk or whatever else the little ship could spare, signing GvH, so his parents knew where to find them, and so their path of discovery was marked for posterity.

“Perhaps we shall go down again,” Gerhardt said, “and find the center of the earth like Professor Lidenbrok.”

They were not going down, but up, ever so slightly, for the rest of the night and into the third day, when the smooth walls of their volcanic tunnel opened into a natural cave. The cave branched off their tunnel to left and right, but they could not get out and examine the cave to decide which way to go. The floor of the cave was covered with water!

“It’s an underground river!” Adolphus was making a map of the tunnels they traveled and the tunnels they passed, using the ship’s compass and altimeter to help him. “I shall call it Hedwig Fluss.”

They decided to go downstream. The twins used the spotlight to search for blind cave fish to study. Gerhardt fashioned a fishing line to search for blind cave fish to eat. They were going to fast to catch anything, really, but the change of scenery brightened everyone’s mood considerably.

The cheerful air of exploratory expectation lasted seven hours. Gerhardt and the twins were trying to make a net to drag under the ship to catch their fish, Adolphus was decorating his map, and Bettina was helping Claire steer. Adolphus and the twins should have been sleeping in preparation for their steering shift, but everyone was too excited to think about that.

Then trouble began (again). Claire noticed drag on the ship’s controls. With the same amount of thrust, they weren’t going as fast. She let up, releasing the engine controls and listening. She heard nothing unusual. The engines hummed, the river rushed beneath them, Gerhardt and the girls bickered companionably about net making.

Claire gently engaged the aft engine pods. They moved forward, but again she felt the drag, and this time she heard a scraping sound.

“We’re stuck!” She released the engine controls again, and leaned far over the instrument panel, trying to see all around the ship.

“The cave is getting narrower,” she said. “Our balloons are scraping the ceiling.”

Claire and Adolphus lifted Gerhardt to the gondola ceiling, where an access panel lead to the balloon net. He decided that it was possible to bring the net closer to the ship, but he would have to crawl all over the rounded top of the gondola.

“Too dangerous,” Claire said.

“Nonsense! Faintheart’s not afraid, are you?” Annabelle called up though the hatch.

There was a short silence.

“It is a bit slippery up here.”

Mirabelle sighed. “Come down. We’ll tie you to a line.”



This story began with On Grandmothers. The previous episode is Out of Cookies and the next is Airships Float?

Photo credit Michael Spencer.
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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