Chapter 2 When Angry Plants Attack
"Airship's grounded and we've been forced to recharge the accumulators from the backup solar array - bloody PVCS is knackered again," the Wing Commander shouts from the temporary barricade of branches and detritus as she snaps off several suppressive bursts from the Bren. "Beasts are at it again trying to get inside the wire; we have to hold them back until we get power back to at least eighty percent." The Bren stutters out another series, she shifts her flak jacket and turns to her batman, "Corporal Johnson, seems we will be here for a bit, would you zip down to the ship and fetch my Peterson pipe? You know, the Rosslare with the amber stem? Bring fifty grams of the toasted Cavendish blend as well. If we're out of Cavendish, fetch the TK-6 instead." Turning to the Professor, "In future, you always turn up like a bad penny; didn't next time teach you anything?" Corporal Johnson slides down the ladder, hair streaming behind her like a pennant and scampers off in a flash like a weaver. "Oh, and Corporal, two more magazines for the Bren, if you please. It appears that we will have a busy morning." To which Johnson waves her hand in acknowledgement, continuing her mad zigzagging dash across the open ground to the dirigible's cargo bay door. A leaden grey sky, typical of this time and place, caps the discussion.
"One reads ambulatory plant life in the Cross Guide and hardly imagines a Venus Flytrap-like plant with the size, agility and speed of a giraffe." Hair dark as the night with silver comet streaks disturbed by the indifferent breeze, the Wing Commander pauses, turns from the Bren and ties her hair back in a Japanese style topknot. "They might make mention in the Guide of ‘carnivorous' as well don't you think?"
The Professor brushes his bushy grey mustache thoughtfully with long fingers without reply, considering that they might have missed that detail or a few others when he and Barrowman wrote that entry in the guide.
"Ensign Edwards was certainly shocked, lost a boot and the best part of his right ear. I suppose we shall have to call him ‘one-ear' or ‘lefty' now. Hardly the nickname for a future officer rating." she observes as she slams another magazine and racks the Bren. "Damn you and your crap survey Barrowman ….. and for that mind-altering evening in Barcelona," she whispers to herself as if to a lover in her bed. But that whisper is lost on the wind and to the chattering weapons.
"Well, inter-species intercourse is typically and generally contra-indicated for survey team members. At least it says that in the survey team guidebook." He speaks with some confidence, having written wide swathes of the unnecessarily prolix book. Perhaps for the benefit of the enlisted ranks and recent academy graduates it should have had a simple statement saying something like, "No sex with plants, especially those that may be omnivores or carnivores – yes, those that might try to eat you during the act of mating." That might have made the point sufficiently clear for the more determined crew members.
"The Ensign is a randy bounder, or so the other crew members have commented. Well, fair enough, have, in a word, complained. But yes, well, for myself, I try to avoid eating anything with gluten."
"And Corporal Johnson?" he asks with a knowing smile. He tugs at the lapels on his herringbone jacket creating a bulge where the jacket covers the Bowie knife clipped to his belt at his hip.
Off to the right Corporal Johnson bounds back onto the parapet, hefts her M-79 and blasts a beehive round into the encroaching plants. "Sir, the Corporal wishes to report, that based upon her recent mandatory Air Service biometric screening exam, that she is entirely gluten free," she comments with a wry smile, "and cholesterol free as well."
"But a bit fidgety at night, and a blanket thief, although not as bad as some of the lads, I must admit," WC Wendell shouts above the chattering Bren.
The Corporal lobs an HE round into the wall of plants pressing against the outer concertina wire which results in a concussive blast and the hideous screaming of shredded and dying plants, "I don't recall any complaints from last night, but then I thought you were busily and repeatedly making some sort of appeal to one or more higher deities. That ultimately is the problem with polytheistic religions, just which one or ones do you cry out to for relief?" A pause and a wide grin as she chambers another round, "With all due respect, Commander."
"Cheers, Corporal," as the Commander sprays the Bren from side to side. "Did you remember the Rosslare?"
"That's one powerful weed wacker, that you've got there, Corporal." The Professor is curious as he often experiences problems with Hairy Vetch perniciously invading the modest lawn of his equally modest summer estate on Lake Balaton.
The Corporal lovingly cradles the grenade launcher in her arms and pats the dull metal barrel with her hand, "Aye Professor, bog standard kit for a Geordie girl out on the town - well, at least for a Newcastle Friday night. I like to think of it as the ‘Salad Shooter' ….. when one is of a mind to properly shoot salad."