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

I swung out again. My gun fouled in the War Wing’s rigging, but I must have jarred him. Instead of slicing through me his axe sliced through the rung I stood on. I hung by my elbow, gun caught in braided yak hair and yellow ribbons. I flailed, kicking the rider in the face and gaining the next rung.

I scrambled up the ladder, leaving the useless gun and drawing my sword. The rider grabbed the ladder and came after me, but the rising storm wind caught in his wings. He was pulled east, taking the ladder and me with him. My feet slipped off; the fall jerked my arms and I hung, legs thrashing. I struggled to regain my footing, but the rope ladder was nearly horizontal as the Wing pulled us. He gained another rung, then another while I flailed. The wind whipped us both around and I managed to shove a foot through the rungs, then onto the next one.

The Mongol rider pulled a gleaming horn handle on his chest and his War Wing apparatus spun off free into the wind. The ladder answered to gravity again, and the rider was coming, axe waving, war cry bellowing. I’ve no idea how to fight sword against axe, no idea at all. I squatted down on the rung on which I was perched, and sliced off the rope ladder just below my feet. The war cry ended in a shout of surprise, and he was gone. I scrambled back into the airship.

I clapped Chef on the arm. “Well done, sir, good throw!”

“Oui, oui, mais ce que le singe?”

I looked where he was pointing. A grey-blue balloon floated in the darkening sky above us. I recognized it at once. The boiler crew had taken it from Mein Herr’s laboratory, and it meant destruction for us all. Hanging from the balloon was Herr von Hedwig’s Ball Lightning Generator.

I had myself prepared the device for launch in the anxious hours before we reached Pekin. But it was to keep myself busy, not from any intention to blow us all to Hell deploying it. It was uncontrollable and unpredictable – an experiment. Most of the lightning it generated fizzled out within a few yards, but occasionally the damn thing blew itself up. This one was the seventh we’d built, and had never been tested.

I stared, calculating. The Schöneluft was gaining altitude on the Khan’s airship. We would be even with her soon, but War Wings still leapt from the fighting platform to pepper our hull with flaming shrapnel. If they reached a gasbag inside the ship not even the Grandmothers’ secret formula could keep us from following the U.S.S. Lincoln to a fiery death.

I could either fight the attackers, or race up to the lab and reel the Lightening Generator back on board. If the boiler crew had activated the Generator, I didn’t want it back on board.

I ran to a speaking tube a few yards away and blew the emergency signal.

“Holen Sie uns hier raus! Get us out of here!”



Photo by Scotto Bear from North Beach, MD, USA (051231_sun) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
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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