Chasing the Star Garden: The Airship Racing Chronicles (Volume 1) (26 page)

BOOK: Chasing the Star Garden: The Airship Racing Chronicles (Volume 1)
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Chapter 35

he ring of the cannon signaled start. The
’s propellers kicked over hard, and she leapt out of her tower. I watched from the wheelstand as the other ships lifted toward the sky. Everyone went up except us. Low and fast. Low and fast.

Lightning rocked the horizon. We had barely moved from the green of the Champs de Mars, the official race gateway, when the sky flashed white. I winced. My ears rung as the lightning rocked my body. My god, had we been struck?

’s propellers stopped. I heard the door to the gear galley clap open. “Are we hit?” Angus called.

“Fuck! It was close! No, we’re okay! Lily?” Jessup called down.

I opened my eyes and scanned the horizon. In the sky above us, the other ships were turning, moving back toward the airship towers. All of the ships were turning, that is, except the
. In the sky above me, Etienne’s airship was on fire.

“Oh my god… oh my god! Jessup! Take us up!” I screamed.

Jessup cranked the heat in the
’s balloon.

Angus ran across the deck of the ship and started pulling out the airship-to-airship highwire.

“Fuck! Jessup, hurry!” I screamed. Already the
deck and ropes were on fire.

“Where the fuck are the Marshall ships?” Angus screamed.

I scanned around. The Marshall ships that were supposed to fly with us were still docked.

blasted upward like a cork being shot out of a bottle. I turned the wheel to bring us alongside the
as we lifted. We reached the burning ship just as the first of her ropes snapped.

“Lily!” Etienne screamed from the deck of the ship.

started to tilt starboard.

“Now, Angus, now!” I yelled.

He cranked the high-wire launcher and shot the line to Etienne’s ship.

Etienne was screaming at his crew to lash onto the hoops of two-way drag line.

“Come on! I’ll pull you in! Hurry!” Angus yelled.

Grabbing safety belts, the crewmen started to hook on.

“The balloon isn’t going to make it!” Jessup yelled. “Etienne! Come on!”

Another rope snapped. The ship shook as the gondola began to hang sideways.

“Burner is gonna catch! We’ve got to cut her loose or she’ll pull us down too!” Jessup yelled down to me.

I locked the wheel and went to the side of the ship. “Etienne!”

The Frenchman held on tightly to the remaining ropes and tried to make his way to the back of the ship. Angus towed the crewmen toward the
. The high-wire machine cranked quickly and soon Angus was pulling both men aboard. On the
, Etienne was hanging on for dear life as the gondola looked like it was going to capsize.

“He’s not going to make it, Lily! He’s not going to make it! Where the fuck are the Marshall ships?” Angus cursed again.

There was a boom as the burners set the soft fabric of the balloon on fire.

Etienne hung onto a rope, but as the balloon burned, the ship started to plummet toward the ground.

Angus disconnected the high-wire between us as the

Etienne’s crew stood speechless as they watched in horror.

“Take the wheel!” I called to Angus.


Etienne screamed as he let go of the rope and began to free fall toward the ground.

“Angus, come take the fucking wheel and get the
out of here!” I yelled and with a running jump, leapt off the side of the

“Lily!” Jessup and Angus screamed in unison.

The earth rises quickly toward you when you are falling from the heavens. I set my eyes on Etienne, narrowed my body as I’d seen every bird do, and aimed toward him. I gained speed, and a fraction of a second later, I came face to face with Etienne. The look of shock on his face was priceless.

“Let’s try not to die,” I said, and wrapping my arms around him, I held Etienne with all of my strength. I turned, and with my teeth, pulled the pin from Sal’s harness.

A leap of faith. The silk unfurled with a swish like a woman’s gown. The fabric yanked the halter when it filled with air. I nearly lost my grip on Etienne, but he was holding onto me so tightly I could barely breathe.

The parachute held. Our descent slowed. I saw a mob of people rushing across the Champs de Mars toward us.

“Lily,” Etienne whispered aghast. Tears were streaming from his eyes.

“I owed you one,” I said.

We still had some speed as we neared the ground. I pulled my legs up and tried to shelter my head against Etienne’s chest. We hit the ground hard and were separated by the jolt. I rolled across the grass. The landing had knocked the wind out of me, but otherwise I felt all right. The parachute fell on top of me, and I lay under the blanket of white material. It was like lying in a cloud.

Moments later, I heard the
crash to the ground somewhere not far from me. The burners exploded with a boom.

Voices drew close.

“Mademoiselle Stargazer? Are you all right? Are you alive?”

“Etienne est vivant!” I heard someone call. He was alive.

I breathed a sigh of relief.

They pulled the parachute off me.

Overhead, the clouds broke for just a moment to reveal the early evening sky. From the star garden above, a single bright star shone down on me.


A debt of gratitude to:


This book would not have possible without Cat Carlson Amick to whom the novel is dedicated. Thank you, Cat, for being my psychotherapist, astrologer, and cheerleader. And thank you for being Lily’s greatest champion.


Muhterem Boz Karsak for creating the time and space for me to complete this novel. Without you, Lily would still be sitting in my laptop.


Naomi Clewett, José Otero, Toni Lestaz, Mark Fisher, Margo Bond Collins, Kamille Stone Stanton, Susan Houts, Carrie Wells, Andrew Forbes, Michael Hall Jr., and Christopher Adams for your contributions, big and small, to the creation of this novel.


I also want to thank my husband for his tireless support. Thank you for being the star in my kaleidoscope.

About the Author

Melanie Karsak grew up in rural northwestern Pennsylvania where there wasn’t much to do but read books and go for hikes. She wrote her first novel, a gripping piece about a 1920s stage actress, when she was 12. Today, Melanie, a steampunk connoisseur, white elephant collector, and caffeine junkie, lives in Florida with her husband and two children. She is an Instructor of English at Eastern Florida State College.


Keep in touch with the author online. She’s really nice!




[email protected]




A Goodreads author


BOOK: Chasing the Star Garden: The Airship Racing Chronicles (Volume 1)
11.51Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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