Steampunk Family

Warning from Huang

September 24, 2010
This entry is part of a series, Voyage to Antafrica»

Schöneluft Log, 1900.06.29, continued

Ulrik Manfred Adler, Acting Captain

Once on board I tried to get an explanation from Mrs. Huang, who can speak some German when it suits her. I followed her to their lodgings above the boiler room, asking question after question. She disappeared into the silk tent that serves as her bedroom while I waited outside. Then she came out and started inspecting the various jars and vats bubbling in the corners of scaffolding. I believe the ladies make vinegar in them, a commodity for which their region is renown.

She came to the largest vat, and removed the lid. She gave a shriek that brought the other grandmothers scuttling over. Then followed a lengthy and angry-sounding three-way tirade in Mandarin, and then Mrs. Huang remembered her German.

“Hair in tub! Why hair in tub?” she demanded.

I winced. Disputes amongst the various factions onboard the ship are Madame von Hedwig’s bailiwick. I only observe the rules – respect Chef’s rule of the galley, do not enter the boiler room or the Grandmother’s encampment without permission. I am no peacekeeper.

Approaching the tub I verified that there were indeed large clumps of fur floating on the surface. The liquid it polluted was not vinegar, though. It was viscous and sparkled dark and silver. I spent some time conciliating before I could ask a question.

“No, I do not imagine you left this vat full of fur.”

“No, Madame, it is not my fur, nor that of the von Hedwigs.”

“No, I do not imagine that you wish this vat to be furred. Perhaps you could strain the fur out of the tank.”

“No, no, of course you should not have to strain the tank if it is not your fur. Perhaps I might broker a solution…”

At last I discovered that the tank held their secret fireproofing solution, with which they have made the Schöneluft the safest ship in the air – a fireproof dirigible. It all made sense then, of course. The boiler crew must have been soaking in it! They work around fire all the time, and are … eccentric in their clothing choices, when they choose to clothe themselves at all.

All told it was an awkward hour before I was able to broach the topic of the situation on the ground. She would not answer any direct questions, instead (as is typical of the grandmothers) ordered me about.

“Go now, fly boat. Leave China.”

“I cannot. We must go to Pekin.”

“No Beijing, Beijing no good for you. No good.”

“Fraulein Philomena is in Pekin, waiting for us at the German Legation.”

She seemed most stricken by this news and consulted with the other Grandmothers in their own language in hushed tones, so different than the screeched conversation at the vat. Mrs. Wang started to cry.

“You hurry. You not stay. You have…you have…” Unable to find the word, she raised her arms, with one hand to her cheek and the other in front, lined up on one eye, fingers pointing.

My heart sank.

“Yes, Ma’am. I have a gun.”

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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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