The Lush of Lichtenstein
A Venus 1888 Adventure
Betty navigated using the mountains on her left. She believed that the British settlement was near the end of the range, which did not appear to be too far away, but the map she had found on the aethership had no scale.
She moved carefully through tall grass. Since her departure, Betty had progressed through a region that had been labelled “Aklete” on the map, whatever that meant. She narrowly avoided a large, bipedal carnivore when it spied a four-legged dinosaur with a spiky tail and pursued it. Unfortunately, the prey resisted, and she had to wait for their melee to finish before she could continue. Ultimately, the spiked beast thwarted the predator, which stormed off with a deafening roar.
Wary of other creatures, Betty proceeded slowly, the rifle at the ready. She stopped every few feet to listen before continuing. This slowed her pace uncomfortably, but it was better to be alive and reach help that be killed for the sake of expedience. She was getting tired and needed to rest. She considered what to do. Should she climb a tree or stay close to the ground? Much of the wildlife that she had observed was enormous. She would have to find a very tall tree and climb quite high to avoid them. However, if she got too high, she might fall prey to the flying reptiles that owned the skies.
But staying on the ground was no safer. In addition to the dinosaurs, Betty had also seen a purple-striped tiger in the distance, several herds of deer-like animals, and some six-legged bear-like creatures. She had no doubt that there were countless other threats that had avoided her gaze.
Betty was in the midst of a meadow of grass that was almost a foot taller than her. The ground beneath was fairly dry, and the trail she trampled down would provide a path to return by, but there were no trees nearby. Behind her she could see the plateau over the top of the stalks, but ahead there was only the orange-red sky.
Betty continued warily until the tall grass suddenly gave way. Beyond a rocky outcropping, she could see a vast sea, and on the coast, Betty saw a settlement surrounded by a wooden palisade. But the drop off was significant. She would either have to climb down or find another way.
She peered over the cliff and ducked back suddenly, retreating into the tall grass as a flying reptile flew up from below. She dropped to the ground and crawled away further into the grass, and the giant beast doubled back and started pecking where she had been. It found her trail and pursued her, but Betty was ready, and she fired point blank into its face. The creature pecked at her a few more times. She crawled back, chambered another found, and fired again into its chest. It continued to peck a few more times before suddenly collapsing.
* * *
“Captain,” the sentry shouted, “gunshots from the Aklete plateau. The Colonel wants you to investigate.”
Captain Beverly Brighton-Campbell looked up from her paperwork. The young officer hid her surprise from her subordinate and kept a neutral expression.
“Thank you, private,” she said evenly. “Dismissed.” Gunshots from the plateau meant that someone had ignored the edict against trespassing on the Aklete land. Her majesty’s government did not want a war with one of the larger tribes on Venus.
Beverly rose from her desk and donned her cartridge belt. Then she drew her revolver and checked to see that it was fully loaded before returning it to its holster. Of course it was. She had not fired a single shot since she had been assigned to Dromopyle. The edict against trespassing limited her role to policing the border and ensuring that no one crossed it in either direction. This infraction would blemish her otherwise spotless career.
Beverly put her baldric over her shoulder and pulled her brown hair out from under it. In the months since taking command of Delta Company, she had let her own personal discipline lapse. Now, however, there may be some action, either with the trespassers or with other Terrestrial troops. As such, Beverly pulled up her hair and clipped it in place.
She drew her sword. The shiny steel gleamed as it had when it first left the swordsmith. Rue Britannia was etched into the blade. Beverly had never had occasion to use it. She tested the edge and found it to be sufficiently sharp. Then she returned it to the scabbard and took her helmet off the rack.
“Assemble Alpha Platoon for reconnaissance,” Beverly shouted to Sergeant Courtney Lewis, “and find Shady.” The Sergeant was a foot taller and fifty pounds heavier than Beverly, and had the command presence to keep her girls in line. Delta Company was composed of fresh troops. Beverly was assigned as their commander and deployed to Dromopyle to whip them into shape. Alpha Platoon had the most promising soldiers, but those twenty girls still had no experience engaging a hostile force.
“Yes, sir,” Lewis said, snapping a salute before marching into the barracks. Beverly heard a commotion inside, and a few minutes later Alpha Platoon emerged and arranged themselves at attention in two rows of ten. Lewis returned a few minutes later pulling a native woman by the collar of the red coat she wore. The woman was otherwise naked except for an animal skin loincloth.
Lewis released the woman and went to inspect the soldiers. The Sergeant looked over each row from the front and behind, checking gear and ensuring all was in readiness.
“All right and tight, sir” the Sergeant shouted with a salute. Beverly looked over the assembled troops for a long moment.
“Ladies,” Beverly said with authority, “we have been assigned to investigate the gunshots that were heard. Shady will take us up to the top of the plateau. This may be your first engagement with hostile forces, either native or colonial. Be ready. Be diligent. Be observant. Be careful.”
“Shady,” she said slowly to the native, “please take us to the top.” She knew that the woman understood enough English to know what was required of her, and speaking slowly did not make a difference, but it was a habit Beverly had yet to break. The woman started toward the gate. The Captain nodded to her Sergeant.
A moment later, Beverly Brighton-Campbell followed the native guide and led her column through the palisade gate and into the jungle.
TO BE CONTINUED…