Steampunk Family


June 6, 2010
This entry is part of a series, Voyage to Antafrica»

Gerhardt was gone. Mirabelle grabbed the net, kicked out of Adolphus’ grip, and leaned over the edge to look for him. She expected to see him bobbing in the current downstream with only the hope of catching onto Claire’s rope to save him, but Claire’s rope was no longer stretching into the blackness downstream. Instead, here was Claire herself, standing in a perfectly round boat with a surprised Gerhardt sitting beside her.

Mirabelle turned back and leaped at her siblings. Adolphus and Annabelle caught her. She grabbed Gerhardt’s shoe and reassured her horrified twin.

“He’s safe! Claire’s back; it’s time to go.”

There was little left on the ship worth taking. They loaded up the rope, the last of the food and tools, the algae lamp and their sodden winter clothing, and last of all the yeti, dragged onto the raft with considerable heaving and ho-ing.

Claire’s raft was white and perfectly smooth on the outside. The floor of it was concave, and soft ridges stood up in rays from the center to the edge. The ridges crushed under foot, giving off an earthy smell. She had a long pole and two oars. Adolphus commandeered the pole and was singing a lullaby, the only Italian song he knew, and pretending to be a gondolier. Unfortunately, he had forgotten most of the words, and substituted the Italian curses he had learned from the Count. The result was quite obscene.

“Language, Adolphus,” said Claire, employing an oar to keep them away from the cave wall.

“Where did you get this boat?” Mirabelle asked. “Are there natives to trade with?”

Annabelle was tying Gerhardt’s shoe back on rather sternly, as though she could keep a hold of him with tighter laces. Gerhardt was examining the crushed ridges of the boat’s floor.

“No one built this,” he said. “It’s a mushroom.”

“Correct!” Claire beamed. “You’re a promising mycologist!”

Gerhardt’s eyes shone with fanatical gleam. “Monsieur Verne was right! These are the giant mushrooms from the center of the earth. This river must flow into the central sea!” He was a bit over-excited, having just plunged to his almost-certain-death.

“I didn’t reach any sea,” Claire said. “I let the current take me downstream, just to reconnoiter.”

“Without telling anyone!”

“Well, I didn’t think I’d be gone so long. Anyway -”

“You released our prisoner,” Adolphus admonished.

“I needed the rope.”

“He was my prisoner, too,” Adolphus said. “What gives you the right to release my prisoner without asking?”

“I needed the rope! Besides, what were you going to do with him? He’s an evil botanist, not a collectible.”

“But now he’s loose in the center of the earth,” Gerhardt protested. “He may lie in wait for us. He may enslave dinosaurs the way he enslaved the yeti.”

“It wasn’t right to leave him tied up in a cupboard,” Claire said. “It was morally wrong and it made the cupboard smell bad. Any anyway, I needed the rope to explore and discover how we could best survive our predicament.”

“Well no one put you in charge and you’ve no right to release the prisoner and commandeer all the line,” Adolphus said. He was glaring at his sister, and she stood up to glare back. Mirabelle sighed and took her oar while Annabelle took up the other.

“Your crazy ideas weren’t going to solve any problems! If you’d let the balloons go we all would have drowned.”

“If you hadn’t taken the line, we’d be floating right now.”

“We are floating right now!”

“Not in the air where we belong!” Adolphus’ face was turning red. “We had to abandon the monkey’s ship because of you, and we almost died doing it. That is not leadership!”

“I don’t want leadership!” Claire shouted, “I never asked to be in charge.”

“Good! I’m the next oldest, I’m in charge.”

The twins booed this heartily, their protests echoing through the gloom.

“I’d put Bettina in charge before you!”

“Good,” said Bettina.

This discussion quickly degenerated into unfounded accusations and name calling, and if no oar was raised in anger (and none was), there was deliberate splashing, and the occasional Italian curse.

Finally Gerhardt snatched Annabelle’s oar and shoved hard on the cave wall. The mushroom boat jerked and Claire and Adolphus sat down with a thump. He returned Annabelle’s oar, thanking her, then turned to his older sister.

“What did you find, Claire?”



This story began with On Grandmothers. The last episode was Into the Drink! and the next is Mushroom Trip.
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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