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

I ran back to Chef and the case of ammunition at his feet. Shells, of course, with the shotgun fallen three hundred feet below. I kicked it away. A case of bullets lay behind it.

“Rifle?”

The Frenchman looked startled, and searched the floor of the corridor. He sprang on the discarded rifle and brought it to me. Strange fellow, to toss a gun aside and fling saucepans. I suppose he’s had more practice with saucepans.

I loaded the gun, lay on the floor and fired out the open hatch at the gliding warriors. The Schöneluft jerked and shuddered in the increasing storm, ruining my aim. I mourned my shotgun, but at least we were moving.

Four of the War Wings were descending, but another seven caught an updraft. They were blown away from us for the moment, but would circle back to attack as soon as they could catch a thermal coming our way. For centuries the Mongols trained hawks and eagles to hunt and even fight for them; I suppose it was a natural progression to take to the skies themselves. The first flying Khan stole his airship from a Russian noble, and they’ve been leaping off them and pillaging for twenty years. They’re damn good at it.

My ears popped. We weren’t leaving the battle scene; we were still going straight up. I took a few shots at the Mongol fighting platform. No luck – they were a dozen yards out of range. The Lightening Generator blew east with the storm winds, quivering. It quivers like that when it’s building a charge. I glanced back at the ascending War Wings. They were just beginning their return loop a quarter mile away.

Fzzap! My head snapped back towards the generator. A sizzling orange ball of light spun away from it. It circled the balloon twice, three times, and flew towards me like a cannon ball! Hissing and spitting sparks, the lightening ball hit the Schöneluft’s wet silk not ten feet from me. It bounced and rolled up the envelope out of sight. Seconds later I heard shouts and the slamming of a port hatch.

I waited for the explosion, but it did not come. The boiler crew must have gotten the laboratory window shut in time. Ball lightening has been known to move through solid walls and force itself through keyholes, but this one seemed content to roll along.

The Generator was quivering again, but the War Wings were coming closer. I concentrated, feeling the wind and the juddering engines and the coming storm. Load, aim, fire. Load, aim, fire. Three fell, but I missed more often than I hit. I must have been tiring; I was top of my class in marksmanship at the Academy. An iron-tipped arrow struck the wooden hatch, an inch from my heart. I jumped back, as though there were anywhere to run. Then I saw sparks from the fuse. I lunged for it, pinching it off before it contacted the gunpowder. It near burned through my fingertip, and my thumb hurt like Hell. Lucky I’m ambidextrous; I can reload with the other hand.

The rider turned in his harness, another exploding arrow pointed at my heart.

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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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