Airman by Eoin Colfer

By Eoin Colfer

Conor Broekhart used to be born to fly.

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An elongated golden envelope swaying gently over its leather-bound basket. But Declan Broekhart was not interested in decoration, he was interested in specification. ‘A bit more pointed than others l’ve seen,’ he noted. ‘Aérodynamiqué,’ corrected Vigny. ’ Catherine unhooked herself from her husband’s arm. ‘A cotton-silk blend,’ she said, craning her head back to squint at the balloon. ‘And twin screws on the basket. A neat piece of work. ’ Vigny was surprised to hear such technical observations from a female, but he disguised his shock with a few rapid blinks, then smoothly delivered his answer.

Wondered Declan. The bullet was not enough to ignite the hydrogen,’ explained Vigny. ’ Catherine was badly shaken. For the first time in her short life, mortality was at hand, and not just her own. By stepping into the balloon’s basket she had put her child’s life at risk. She folded her arms across her stomach. ‘We must descend. Quickly. ’ In the fraught minutes that were to follow, Vigny proved his skill as an aeronaut. He perched on the basket’s lip, gripping a stanchion in one hand and the gas-release line in the other.

I’ll take care of it, Majesty. ’ The king was excited again, the old soldier in him relishing the chase. Unlike most old soldiers, he did not relish the kill. These smugglers would be sent to work the diamond mine on the prison island of Little Saltee, but not harmed unless it was unavoidable. ‘Come now, we have dawn light and low tide. ’ The king touched his cap to Catherine, then strode off down the jetty towards a small company of Saltee cavalry on horseback. It was, in fact, the entire Saltee Army mounted division.

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