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This sequel to Airborn finds Matt Cruse interning as a navigators assistant on a somewhat disreputable flying freighter. When the crew sights a legendary ghost-ship, rumored to have disappeared into the sky with loads of treasure, their attempt to salvage it nearly ends in calamity. Matts thanks for saving everyones life is to have his internship canceled and to be sent back to the airship officer academy in Paris.
Matt is no stranger to meagre rewards. His reward for bringing the Pirate Szpirglas to justice just covers his tuition and little else; and though he has an instinct for navigation, he fears that mathematics will be his undoing. So he is uncertain of his future, and insecure about his finances, all the more with his heart set on the fast-flying heiress Kate de Vries. So when Kate proposes that they do a little salvage operation of their own armed with Matts memory of the ghost-ships last known coordinates he eagerly accepts, hoping a little gold in his pocket will make him a more acceptable match for her.
But with partners in adventure comes romantic rivalry. On the one hand, there is the gypsy girl named Nadira whose magnetism Matt feels, even while he remains devoted to Kate. On the other hand, there is the handsome captain whose pressurized skybreaker is equipped for salvage operations at altitudes that would be fatal for most airship crews. Confused by his own feelings and desires, subdued by a sense of inferiority to the dashing captain and the wealthy girl, Matt focuses grimly on the prospect of treasure. But when they finally board the drifting hulk of the Hyperion containing the floating laboratory and museum of a rich inventor and big-game hunter, long thought to have crashed survival becomes a more immediate problem.
Survival becomes a problem, first, because of the thinness and coldness of the air 20,000 feet above Antarctica. The problem grows more serious when the Hyperion is separated from Slaters ship due to gusting winds. The arrival of a band of deadly pirates with their own skybreaker, and their own reasons to want Hyperion and her contents all to themselves, makes survival a pretty scanty prospect indeed. And topping it all is the discovery of a high-altitude, flying, giant-squidlike creature with high-voltage tentacles and an efficient method of stalking its prey. Even human prey.
As it turns out, Matt is valuable after all. His agility, fearlessness, and physical stamina make him the key to his friends survival. But between a shipful of pirates, a deadly squid thing, and the inherent dangers of spending time on a shipwreck drifting at the height of Mount Everest, saving his friends may be easier than saving himself. Prepare for a memorable, Icarus-like leap into the wide blue yonder, and a fight for survival that is really, literally, like none you have experienced before. Prepare to face the question whether survival or treasure is more important. And because of the way Matt answers this question, and the meagre rewards that seem to be his lot in life, prepare for the possibility of another sequel…