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By Eoin Colfer

Conor Broekhart was once born to fly.

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Providence,’ breathed Captain Broekhart. ’ The basket swung like a pendulum, grazing the lower curve of Lady Liberty’s cheek with each pass. The copper bust rang, attracting gawkers like church worshippers. Catherine held on to her baby son, absorbing the impact as best she could. The envelope’s threads popped with cracks like gunfire. ‘The balloon will not hold,’ said Vigny. ’ Declan nodded. ’ He grabbed Le Soleil’s anchors, tossing one to Vigny. ’ Vigny tested the anchor’s weight. ’ Both men threw their anchors high between the last two rays of Lady Liberty’s crown.

I almost died, Victor. ’ These simple sentences were a considerable effort, and each phrase was punctuated by a fit of coughing. ‘That’s it now,’ said Vigny. ‘The old Nick. ’ The king came down slowly, his journey interrupted by several explosions. Once his feet had found purchase on the top rung, Nicholas descended quickly. There were other lives at stake here after all, and if he got Victor killed because of his own monumental carelessness, the Frenchman would plague him from the afterlife. Victor had him by the elbows before his boots touched the cobbles, whisking the king away to the relative safety of the keep.

True,’ agreed Victor Vigny. ‘But I think he will have fled. We no longer present such an enormous target, and by now the gendarmes will be on his trail. I imagine it was an anarchist. ’ In the Trocadéro gardens, the entire crowd had pooled below the basket. They had come to the World Fair expecting spectacle, but here was high adventure. The Aeronautical Squadron leaned long ladders against the wicker basket to rescue Le Soleil’s stranded passengers. Catherine climbed down first, aided by the gallant Captain Vigny.

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