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

I scrambled out the hatch and on to the ladder, whirling and swaying through wisps of cloud as the ascension of the airship worked upon my flimsy perch. I shuddered. I hate the damp clinging of working in clouds. Luckily heights do not affect me so.

The Lincoln had burned down to the metal frame and crushed several streets of houses. I wondered where those families would go, with so much of the city burning. Below me, survivors of the American warship parachuted or rode escape balloons. The storm I raced here was catching up with me, and a strong wind blew the Americans out to sea, saving them from landing in the flaming city below.

The Mongols abandoned their attack on the Lincoln, although the lower War Wings still spiraling down to the ground worked to pick off the escaping Americans. Now they would concentrate on us. The Wings were coming, and in greater numbers now.

The nearest fellow was close enough I could see his face. He was grinning, aiming his arrow at me instead of the envelope. I fired; he fell. Reload, fire again. Reload. Fire. Reload. Fire.

I could see them all from the ladder, clinging and spinning in the deadly sky, but they could all see me. We rose steadily, leaving the earliest attackers behind. A load of ballast dumped from the Schöneluft caught one of the wind riders and knocked him from the sky. Water is heavy, especially falling from two hundred feet.

I fired into a line of them, killing the first and wounding the second. The third swooped towards me. Mein Gott! I must reload. His iron-tipped arrow pointed at my heart. As my fingers slid the shell into place, I wondered what it would feel like. A cut? A burn? How long would I feel the arrow as I slipped off the ladder and raced for the earth?

Clang! The man’s arrow flew wild and he slumped in his harness. A copper saucepan preceded his fall to earth. I spared a glance at the hatch above me. Chef leaned out, another saucepan at the ready, shaking his fist and screaming Gallic curses at the falling rider.

I think I may have been smiling. Am I irredeemably wicked, to enjoy such a thing? Perhaps. But I was flying, and fighting, and every moment that was not my last was sweet as honey.

Fire, reload, fire, reload, fire, reload. Around me the angry swarm. Arrows buzzed past, catching in my coat. But I moved with the motion of the Schöneluft, and my movements shook the ladder more. I was a moving target, random and hard to hit.

Then I loaded my last shell, aimed at the nearest Wing. He held no bow – I ignored him and aimed at the man behind him. I started to scramble up the ladder as my brain filled in where the bow wasn’t. The man was waving an axe! I grabbed the hot barrel of my gun, wrapped an elbow through the rungs, and swung. Too soon!

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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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