Steampunk Family

Home Again!

September 22, 2012
This entry is part of a series, Voyage to Antafrica»

Captain Charette was right. After a blind, turbulent, and smelly flight through the southern edge of Antafrica’s sulfurous volcanic cloud, the Lucy Stone and her crowd of passengers spent only six hours hovering a scant forty feet over the waves of the Pacific, before a steamer picked them up. But they were far further north than the Captain had calculated. They ship that saved them was a Brazilian vessel bringing Puerto Rican sugar workers to Hawaii via New Zealand.

They were given the run of the ship and towed to Honolulu. Adolphus spent most of the three-day trip in the engine room, where he was able to add Portuguese and Spanish swear words to his repertoire.

Their holiday mood was dashed when they reached Honolulu. Headlines darkened all the papers and the news was discussed on every street corner. China was in flames. The country people, left hungry by a summer of drought, rose up against the Europeans occupying their country. Taking this chance to free her nation from from occidental interference, the Dowager Empress had backed the peasant-led Boxer rebellion with her own Imperial Army. Even more shocking, she had taken the unprecedented step of allying with her people’s ancient enemy, the Mongols.

“She’ll get more than she bargained for,” Herr von Hedwig said. “Does she think the Khans will get rid of the Europeans for her, then shake hands and go back to the desert?”

“So the Empress has traded one invader for another?” Annabelle asked.

“Or several invaders for one,” Madame said. “England, Germany, France, Russia, and Japan were negotiating with each other to divide China’s wealth between them. Now she will have only one enemy within.”

“The Khans will be united only as long as it takes to defeat the allies,” Herr von Hedwig said. “Then they will divide China amongst themselves, either by treaty or war. I suspect some of each is most likely.”

The mighty American warship Lincoln, victor of the Spanish American War, conqueror of the Philippines, and pride of its Pacific fleet had gone down over Tianjin, although rumor said it had destroyed Kahn Ganzorig’s airship before crashing into the city. Japan, Russian, America and the European alliance converged their navies and air fleets on the shores and skies of the waking dragon, but so far their hard-won gains had been temporary.  Whatever foothold the occupying alliance found was soon undermined by the Boxers on the ground and the Mongols in the sky. Pekin was lost, with thousands of troops and missionary families rumored slaughtered.

Captain Charette lost no time in refueling. Herr and Madame von Hedwig rushed through shops, supplying the little ship for the voyage to Nepal and beyond, not knowing how far they would need to go to reunite their family. Not only had their eldest daughter been scheduled to arrive in Pekin on the brink of the insurgency, but they had sent a seventeen-year-old boy into a war to find her.

Four days later the Lucy Stone passed from Sikkim to Tibet through the Jelep La and cruised the last hundred miles clinging to the hips of the snowy Himalayas. After an anxious two hours Gerhardt called out.

“She’s there! She’s right where we left her!”

“But has she moved from there?” Madame murmured.

Herr von Hedwig peered through his telescope. “Most definitely. There are scorch marks on my hull.”

This quiet pronouncement caused a stir amongst the children that faded into silence as the Lucy Stone sped to rendezvous with the great ship. With only half a mile to go a light began flashing from the Schöneluft’s windows.

“All’s well!” Mirabelle shouted. “It’s Philomena!”

They docked quickly, the boiler crew’s nimble fingers securing a gang plank in place and tethering the racer to the giant air yacht.

“Good Lord, von Hedwig,” Captain Charette exclaimed. “Look at that little chap! Of all the wild rumors about you, don’t tell me this one is true!”

The crew member in question sneered at her. Adolphus, who was never far from her elbow (just in case she needed help flying her racer or anything) stepped up.

“It’s customary to salute, actually. And please, they hate to be called cute.”

“Good Lord!” She repeated, but saluted nevertheless.

Ulrik appeared at the Schöneluft end of the boarding plank. His right hand was bandaged, and he held his left leg stiffly.

“Permission to come aboard,” Herr von Hedwig said.

“Welcome home,” Ulrik replied. He clicked his heels together and winced in pain.

Philomena had so little to tell of her own adventures that she told Ulrik’s as well. Ulrik apologized again and again for the damage to the ship and the loss of the ball-lightening generator.

“Oh Ulrik, as if Father cares about that!” Philomena’s eyes shone. “You saved the ship and rescued me and blew up the Mongol…you were so brave!”

Ulrik fixed his eyes on the carpet. “Everyone saved the ship. The grandmothers put out fires. The boiler crew blew up the Mongol ship. And I would be dead but for Arnaud.”

“Arnaud?” Claire asked.

“Chef’s given name is Arnaud,” Mother said. “We shall have to buy him some new saucepans. I don’t know what you have done, Ulrik, to be so favored by Chef that he would sacrifice one of his precious pans to save your life. He’s down there making a feast now. Out of dust and air, he says, for there’s nothing left in the larder. On top of the fire he says two hundred pounds of rice are missing.”

Ulrik’s ears reddened, and he began explaining where he’d left the rice.

“Never mind that,” Father interrupted, “we’re out of just about everything. I don’t fancy taking the children into a war zone, so China’s out.”

“Assam,” Mother suggested. “We’re low on tea.”

“A good start, and it’s nearby,” Father said. “However, we have repairs to make, and I owe the crew a new launch.” When they first returned Father had sent everyone to bathe and change their clothing while he and Mother talked to Ulrik alone. Then he had taken a very nice bottle of brandy to the boiler room to thank the crew for their heroic defense of the ship, where he found sketched on the wall a large schematic of exactly the new ship they wanted.

“We’ll have to make our way to a sophisticated manufacturing region,” he continued, “call upon Monsieur Renard, perhaps.”

Adolphus leapt from his chair. “May I have a Renard, Father?”

“No.”

“I’ll share it with Claire, and, and everyone!”

“No.”

“Please, I’ll-”

Father raised one eyebrow and pointed at Adolphus’ abandoned chair. “And I’ll thank you to stop pestering Captain Charette to fly her racer as well. Speaking of which,” he turned to his wife, “she says she’d like to stay on for a bit. Between the yeti and the volcano and the nation of vegetables she hasn’t had so much fun in years.”

Mother laughed. “And most welcome, I’m sure. Perhaps she can find a bit of sky big enough to teach Adolphus to fly in.”

“Where’s Nanny Aubergine?” Gerhardt asked.

“Bettina’s taking her on a tour of the ship,” Claire said.

“She was in the galley when I was there,” Mother offered. “Chef was most taken with her – even allowing her to watch him cook.”

“Never!” Philomena exclaimed. “He won’t have anyone in his kitchen.”

“He’s smitten, I tell you,” Mother said. “I don’t know if he wants to court her or bake her into a souffle, but perhaps we should keep quiet about her origins, just in case.”

“Oh!” Philomena jumped up and opened a drawer in the sideboard, pulling a battered envelope from amongst the nestled silver. “I almost forgot! Herr Otto gave me this for you, Father, when I was in Qindao.”

He opened it, frowning. “It’s from my mother.”

“Oh dear,” Mother said. “What is she dying of now?”

“She says there’s trouble at the factory in Frankfurt.” He handed the letter to his wife.

“Are we going to Germany, Father?”

“We haven’t visited in some time,” Mother said. “Perhaps Christmas? We can go to the Christmas Market.”

“Perhaps,” Father said. “But first some tea.” He signaled the boiler room. When the engines were ready, he took the wheel and headed the Schöneluft for the Jelep pass, towards India, and tea.

The End

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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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3 Comments for this entry

  • Laura L says:

    I loved this story, and can’t wait to read the next one!

  • Kris Consaul says:

    A remarkable achievement. Well done. I don’t have words to fully express my appreciation for all of your effort and creativity. I’m proud of you.

  • I loved this story and am quite sad to see it end. I look forward to reading about the further adventures of the von Hedwigs.

    Have you thought about gathering all of the Antafrica stories into a PDF and offering for download? I’d love to have a copy of the story all in one place.

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