“As you can see, Dr. Hutchins, my balloon works.”
Amelia Duchagne gestured out over the magnificent view. They were standing in a large basket, hovering over the River Seine. All of Paris was visible to them, and it seemed as though they were flying higher than even the garish construction Gustave Eiffel was undertaking. Above their heads was a massive golden sphere: This was the balloon itself, its interior heat being provided by a phlogisten burner of Dr. Duchagne's own invention.
“I'll admit, it's impressive.” said Dr. Hutchins, adjusting her glasses with a nervous expression. “Will you take us down, now? Your inventions are usually dangerously flawed, and I'd rather examine this contraptions' faults from the ground.”
“Dangerously flawed? Poppy****, Dr. Hutchins.”
Abruptly, the bottom of the basket gave way. The two women immediately tumbled downwards! Amelia's hand shot out to the strap of a sand-bag, halting her fall. Lavender Hutchins, for her part, fell further, and a second later she was hanging from Dr. Duchagne's legs. The two women were dangling from the bottomless basket, high above the river.
“Oh dear,” said Amelia, “Perhaps you were right.”
“Perhaps? My dear Dr. Duchagne, that is quite the understatement,” replied Lavender, looking up at Amelia's petticoats. “Hold still. I will climb up your body and deactivate the phlogiston burner.”
“No!” protested Amelia, “Let go! The Seine will catch you safely-”
Lavender was not listening. She reached higher on Amelia's legs, trying to pull herself up. She got a steady hold of a bunch of cloth, and decisively, she heaved herself upwards. One inch- six inches-
There was a sudden ripping sound, and Amelia heard a scream. Looking down, she could see Lavender Hutchins tumble through the air, holding a great amount of whipping white cloth in her outstretched hands. Moments later, she fell in the river with a loud splash. Amelia nearly swooned, seeing how far down it was, but she was relieved to see Lavender come up swimming.
“It was a good idea, Dr. Hutchins.” she muttered to herself. She reached for another strap, and begun to climb the inside of the basket. Before long, she had the phlogiston burner within reach, and turned the dial. The wind whipped through her skirts and her legs felt strangely cold, as the balloon floated sideways. Little by little, it swept away from the Seine and slowly sank towards the Notre Dame! Amelia tried to reach for the steering mechanism, but it was out of reach, on the other side of the basket.
“Oh shoot!” she declared to herself, seeing the wall of the cathedral approach much faster than the ground. She made a split-second decision: As the walls of the Notre Dame came ever closer, she reached again for the dial, turned it up to maximum, and jumped!
The balloon shot off upwards like a rocket, narrowly avoiding the collision! Amelia herself tumbled through the air, her skirts whipping about her – and then suddenly, they shot up over her head as she jerked to a halt!
Her skirt had caught on a gargoyle. The resulting force had pulled her dress up almost completely over her head, and her naked legs were flailing wildly above the citizens of Paris.
“Mon Dieu!” shouted a man, “She isn't wearing any underpants!”
It was true: Amelia still wore her shoes, stockings and corset, but to her horror, she could feel the warm breeze of Paris stroke her naked buttocks. She hung there helplessly, suspended above the gaping crowd, with the gentle blond triangle of her womanhood on public display! Desperately she struggled to pull her skirts down or herself up, but it was utterly impossible.
“Excusez-moi!” she called out in a polite and barely-restrained voice, “Could anyone help me down?”
“You are in luck, my lady!” came a shout from below. “The famous daredevil Saint-Pierre Martin is going to scale the Notre Dame today! He will get you down tout suite!”
“Saint-Pierre Martin?” said Amelia, and her cheeks flushed hot with shame, “Will that not draw a huge crowd?”
“Oui madame!” the voice responded, and the sound of a magnesium flash accompanied it. “Us journalists are already here waiting for him.” There came another flash. “Hold still, s'il vous plaît...”