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

Bettina came over and wriggled between Mirabelle and the gondola wall. The others paid no notice as their dispute became more heated. They were all shouting, or in the case of Gerhardt, muttering while bailing.

“Why don’t we do what we did before?” Gerhardt said. “Let a little gas out and tighten the net. If it doesn’t unstick us you can go back to yelling at each other then.”

“What if we get unstuck and plunge off the top of a waterfall without enough gas to pull us up?” Mirabelle asked.

“What if we just sit here until we die of old age?” Adolphus sneered.

“Why don’t we push you overboard and see how far to the waterfall?” Annabelle leaned forward, but whatever act of unsisterly violence may have tempted her, Gerhardt interrupted her.

“Claire? What do you think we should do?”

His answer was the rushing of the river and the scraping of the hull.

Adolphus and the twins spun away from their argument and scanned the tiny gondola. Claire was not there.

“By golly!” Adolphus ran over to the Count’s cupboard and found it empty. “The Count has escaped!”

“The emergency hatchet is gone,” Mirabelle said.

“Where is all the line the Count was tied with?” said Annabelle.

“Claire gone,” said Bettina.

“Yes, love, we know.”

“The Count has absconded with her!” Adolphus ground his fist into his palm. “Now we’ll have to loose the balloons to pursue him.”

Bettina sighed, and pointed to the gondola door. It was ajar, held open by the missing line, which was tied to an interior hasp and trailing into the river.

“Claire gone on rope.”

“And the Count?” Adolphus asked.

“Gone not on rope.”

“Good Lord! The fellow just jumped?”

“Ran away.” Bettina nodded.

“Before or after Claire?” Annabelle asked.

“Before. Claire need his rope.”

“She’s abandoned ship!” Adolphus declared.

“If she’s still tied to the ship I don’t think she’s abandoned it,” said Gerhardt.

“What is she up to?” Mirabelle sounded cross.

“I wish she’d tell anyone!” Annabelle said.

The children looked at each other, but no one had an answer.

“Well,” Mirabelle said at last, “now we can’t get unstuck without running her down. Let’s work on Gerhardt’s calculation. That way we’ll know how long we can wait for her. We can always pull her back in if we have to.”

“There’s a hasp just outside the door. Let’s tie her line to the outside and get this door shut before we all drown.”

Adolphus was not keen on mathematics, so he took over the bailing while the others worked. Bettina folded paper boats to float across the gondola floor as the water rose. The water sloshed around their ankles, and Annabelle kept an anxious eye on the yeti, watching to see that its nose was above the water.

“The line is tight,” Adolphus announced. “She’s either at the end of it or coming back against the current.”

“I wish she’d hurry,” Mirabelle said. “We’re all going to have to abandon ship soon, and I’d like to know what we’re going to use to float that yeti out of here. We can’t just leave it to drown.”

“I’d worry about us if I were you,” Adolphus said.

“We can follow Claire’s line if we have to,” his brother said, “but I don’t know what we can do for the yeti.”

The water still rose, sloshing over the ears of the unconscious creature. The children were all bailing now; calculation and observation both showing that their little craft, no matter how air-worthy, would not protect them from the watery deep.

“Dash it, where’s Claire?” Adolphus burst out. “And why has she taken the axe? We should be cutting this old heap apart for a barge!”

“You know,” Annabelle said, reluctant to acknowledge her brother’s point, “if we all sat on the roof and could somehow cut away the rest of the ship…”

“We’d lose the engines,” Mirabelle said. “We’d have no way to steer.”

“We could bring ballast, and fly her like a hot air balloon flies!”

Gerhardt shook his head, recognizing the gleam in his brother’s eye that had brought trouble upon him so many times before. “Let’s not do anything hasty. Let’s just prop up the yeti’s head and wait for Claire.”

He and Bettina gathered their discarded winter coats and capes and muffs, struggled to raise the massive animal’s head, and shoved them underneath. As they worked, their older siblings discussed various schemes for breaking up the ship, comparing the various dangers presented by each new idea.

The water rose.

.

.

This story began with On Grandmothers. The previous episode was Airships Float? and the next is Drowning.

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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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