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

Schöneluft Log, 1900.07.05 (continued)
Ulrik Manfred Adler, acting Captain

.

Tianjin is not far by sky. I wanted to inspect the broken railway and examine the enemy’s forces, but the storm was too dangerous. I took her above the clouds for speed, and arrived above the city with the hour. The situation in Pekin was worse than I had believed, but the violence and destruction there did not prepare me for Tianjin. Nor had my childish daydreams.

I had almost outrun the storm; it blew up behind me, trying to push us out to sea. The engines struggled against it. The city was shrouded in ragged clouds and the smoke of many fires. I hovered at the edge of the storm scanning the burning city. Where would she be? Where could I even begin to look for her?

I was distracted, not thinking clearly. That is the only defense I can offer. Chef had been pacing the great room behind me since Pekin. He stood beside me now, gaping out the window.

“Mon Dieu! C’est la Mongolie!”

I am such a fool. I raised my head. Above the tattered clouds the USS Lincoln listed aft, her tail on fire and sinking slowly. Engine room explosion. The pride of the United States Pacific fleet fell, swarmed by War Wings. Harsh war cries echoed between the silk cliffs of the envelopes as fierce archers glided spirals around the wounded American, pelting its struggling airmen with iron rain. Above us, the fighting platform of the Mongol raider ship crowded with howling men, shoving each other for the chance to soar.

I am a fool with the fool’s own luck. The Mongol was engaged. The death of the American airmen bought a few moments of life for us on the Schöneluft.

Even as the great ship fell in flames, sharpshooters fired on, belts clipped to the listing rail of the Lincoln’s fighting platform. Every shot sent a gliding warrior screaming to the ground, but the Americans were surrounded. For every glider that tumbled to earth, another dozen rained deadly iron-tipped arrows onto the sharpshooters’ platform. Dead men crumpled against the rail, still harnessed to their stations. Rifles slipped from lifeless fingers and fell end over end, flashing in the morning light like a signal code. Death, it said.

War Wings are gliders made of yak hide and wood. When the rider leaps from the airship he has no plans to return. He must fight his way onto the victim ship or spiral to the ground, riding thermals like a vulture. They saw us. I sounded the alarm. Klaxon blared and lights flashed.

A warrior swooped down from the Mongol ship towards the Schöneluft. He drew his bow and loosed an arrow at us. “Too soon,” I thought, “you’re not close enough.” Strange thing to think; stupid of me. There was something odd about the arrow’s flight; the arc was wrong. Then it exploded, sending fiery shrapnel screaming into the envelope. I screamed a string of curses and leapt for Mein Herr’s rifle. I must have put the butt of it through the windowpane, for next I knew I had fired. The War Wing glided towards us still, as though its rider was alive. Then a current of air struck it sideways and it spun out of control, falling to earth like a broken deck chair heaved overboard. And that was it; I had killed a man.

;

Ulrik’s adventures began here, with “Meanwhile, back at the Airship”.

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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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