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

The Tomato Queen glared at the children. The Chief of the Capsicum Guards stood behind her smiling in a nasty way that made Claire’s stomach flip. The other members of the Court, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants alike, suddenly found the ground fascinating, staring down in silence.

The Queen left off examining the children, and looked at Lady Aubergine. “Well?”

Adolphus looked in panic at the twins, who were huddled together, speechless. Gerhardt still scowled, but Bettina had put Eglantine’s skirt between her and the angry tomato.

“Majesty,” Eglantine began, but was interrupted.

Claire stepped forward, willing her stomach to stay where it belonged. She approached the Queen and dropped to one knee before her.

“Oh Great Queen,” she said, “our parents are searching for us. They are big people-”

Mirabelle hissed a word from behind her.

“Important people, with much wealth. When they arrive you shall be repaid for your loss.”

The Queen considered her. “How do you know they will come?”

“Of course they’ll come,” Gerhardt said. His tone was belligerent; his belief unfailing.

“We are only children,” Claire said, “yet we survived in the wilds for weeks. Our parents have great power. They shall come.”

“Power? What sort of power?” The Queen spoke sharply. “Have they soldiers?”

“They don’t need soldiers,” Adolphus said. “They are-” He looked down at his brother and whispered, “What’s Merlin?”

“Wizard,” Gerhardt said, but as he answered German in German, did not give his brother the information he needed. But Mirabelle understood Adolphus’ ploy.

“Magicians,” she spoke loudly, staring down the Queen. “Our parents are great magicians. When they come, if we are unharmed, you shall be glad to meet them.”

The Queen stepped forward and grabbed Claire by the chin, pulling her face up to examine it. “Are you threatening me?”

Claire met the Queen’s eyes with as much dignity as she could muster. “Of course not, your Majesty. My siblings and I only speak the truth. Our parents will come, and they will pay you back.”

Later, in Lady Aubergine’s rooms, with the raucous finches giving them cover from eavesdroppers, Gerhardt exploded.

“How can you lie like that?”

“I never lied,” Claire said. “Our parents will come, and they will pay her back for however she treats us.”

“They are not wiz-” His voice crept louder with every word, so he was interrupted by a pillow, held to his face by Mirabelle.

“Beheld by a primitive culture, advanced science is explainable only as magic,” Adolphus said. “You’ve always had trouble understanding the relativity of truth.”

Gerhardt escaped the pillow, but kept his voice quiet. “Either something is true or it’s false!”

“In this case it’s just a matter of semantics.”

“What?”

“Of which word you use and what you mean,” Adolphus said. “If we’d said scientist, they wouldn’t have understood. We say magician and they understand. It amounts to the same thing – these people don’t even have metal. If Father shows up with a ball-lightening generator, or even a pistol, it may as well be magic.”

“I hope Lady Aubergine is all right,” Annabelle said. “She didn’t do anything but take care of us like the Queen told her to, but her majesty seemed angrier at her even than us.”

“When you’re as nasty at that queen,” Claire said quietly, “just being nice is a challenge to her authority. I don’t think the queen likes Lady Aubergine. Why would she make her lady-in-waiting if she doesn’t like her?”

“Dash it! I hate bullies,” Adolphus said.

“Particularly a bully with an army,” Claire added. The children lapsed into uneasy silence, waiting for their protector to return.

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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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