By Eleonor Arnason (excerpt)
“The replica of America on Ishtar Terra, and the remains of the USSR on Aphrodite Terra,” said Arkady in a genial tone. “It might make a good story. At least they did not ask for mostly naked natives. We don’t have any, except in saunas and swimming pools.”
The city was not large. They were soon out of it and rolling through agricultural land: bright green fields of modified Earth crops. The rain let up, though the cloud cover remained. By mid-afternoon, they reached the forest. The fields ended at a tall wire fence. Beyond were trees. Green, of course. Chorophyll had evolved only once on Earth and been imported to Venus. But the netive forest’s greewn always seemed richer, more intense and varied to her. Purple dotted the ragged foliage of the low bottle-brush trees. The foliage of the far taller lace-leaf trees was veined with yellow, though this was hard to see at a distance.
The trucks stopped. Arkady climbed down and opened the gate, then closed it after the trucks were through, climbed back into the cab and flipped on the radio. “Large herbivores can break though the fence and do sometimes,” he told the truck in back. “Fortunately for us, they do not like the taste of Terran vegetation, though they can metabolize it. Unfortunately for us, the only way for them to learn they don’t like our food is to try it.”
“Ah,” said Jasper.
“I got images of you opening the gate,” Maggie said. “Bright green fields, dark green trees and you with your AK-47. Very nice.”
The trucks drove on. The road was two muddy ruts now, edged bu an under story of frilly plants. The air coming in her partly open window smelled of Venus: rain, mud, and the native vegetation.
Animals began to appear: pterosaurs, flapping in the trees, and small reptiloid bipeds in the under story. Now and then, Ash saw a solitary flower, cone-shaped and two meters tall. Most were a vivid orange-yellow. The small fling bugs that pollinated them were not visible at a distance, but she knew they were there in clouds. Now and then Maggie asked for a stop. Ash had her camera out and did some shooting, but the thing she really wanted to capture – the robot – was invisible, except for the lens-head, pushed out a window at the end of Maggie’s long, long neck.
Midway through the afternoon, they came to a river. A small herd of amphibianoids rested on the far shore. They were larger than the street pigs in Venusport, maybe five meters long, their sprawling bodies red and slippery looking. Their flat heads had bulbous eyes on top – not at the back of the head, where eyes usually were, even on Venus, but in front, close to the nostrils and above the mouths full of sharp teeth.
Maggie climbed out her window onto the flat bed of the second truck. She braced herself there, next to the Pecheneg, and recorded as the trucks forded the river. The water came up to the trucks’ windows, and the bed was rocky, but the trucks kept moving, rocking and jolting. Nothing could beat a Ural.
“A gutsy robot,” Arkady said.
Alexandra answered over the radio. “She has four sets of fingers dug into the truck bed, right into the wood. A good thing, I don’t want to fish her out of the river.”
Ash aimed her camera at the amphibianoids, as the animals bellowed and slid into the river, vanishing among waves. Maggie was more interesting, bu she still couldn’t get a good view.
The truck climbed the now-empty bank and rolled back onto the road. The Leica climbed back into the cab. “Not mega, but very nice,”Maggie said over the radio.