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

Schöneluft Log, 1900.07.05
Ulrik Manfred Adler, acting Captain

Much has happened in the last two days. We arrived over Pekin the morning of 3rd July, the eastern sky just starting to pale before dawn. It should have been lighter but there was heavy rain lashing the great window I steer by. A storm from the southwest; it will flood the south and blow out to sea without ever touching the parched and starving north.

I flew low in the heart of the storm, watching for threats and landmarks. The Imperial City is unchanged, but in the black fields outside its walls buildings once stood. The Methodist church is gone. I would never have recognized the German Legation; instead of nestled in its block it now stands at the edge of oblivion. The Customs House, the Austrian Legation, the Russian Bank and all the surrounding houses have been burned, reduced to rubble. The destruction is far worse than I imagined! Where is the Imperial Army? They should have been able to stop a mob of peasants.

As I approached the foreign quarter of the city, what I thought to be lightning took on an even more ominous character – firefight. Cannons or mortars flashed explosions of light against the clouds, thundering destruction in the heart of the ancient city. As I maneuvered the great ship closer, I heard the sharp pop of rifle fire.

The fight was in the street outside the German Legation. Philomena! The big guns were firing from the old city wall into the barricaded area in which the few remaining foreign buildings stood, protected only by sandbags, wooden fence, and brave men. I forgot the plight of the Chinese peasants, forgot the safety of the others on board, forgot my own doubts. I thought only of her.

I alerted the crew and passengers. Bypassing the klaxon I flipped the brass switch next to it, the silent alarm. Electric current passed into red glass lanterns all over the ship, flashing a warning. Our friend Herr Tesla designed this ingenious system for us. I studied the battle on the ground. I could not distinguish uniforms or flags in the dark, but could tell that men from the Legations were pressing the Chinese back along the city wall, from one bastion to the next.

“Où est la legation française?”

I drew my sword at the first word – I never heard Chef come in! He must have been pacing the corridor, waiting. I thought he was still drinking brandy in the billiard room. I sheathed the sword, but didn’t answer. Stubborn fellow won’t learn German; I’ll be damned if I’m learning French.

“Where is the Legation of France?”

English now, our compromise.

“Gone. Hold her steady, will you?”

Chef rubbed his eyes, staring at the destruction below.

“Come, man, lives are at stake!”

He took the wheel then, checking the instrument panel. I ran down to the lowest level of the ship, where the galley is attached, grabbing a munitions box on the way. There is no fighting platform on the Schöneluft. It is a family home, a laboratory, a pleasure yacht… I make do. I have a ladder prepared but don’t need it yet.

Lying in the open hatch I lit a smoke bomb and flung it behind the Chinese lines. Hardly a lethal attack, but blind and confused is not so bad. Four more followed before the fellows manning the mortar look up. The shock on their faces was amusing but short-lived, as they applied themselves to the cranks to re-aim the big gun up at the Schöneluft. I lighted a pair of flash bombs before they saw me, so flung them behind the gun as a parting gift. As they were backlit an allied sharpshooter found them. The gun was silenced for now, but there was another, and another crew would soon take over the first. Time to go.

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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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