Episode 5 Larra and the Quest of the Ludendorff Chapter 5 Katie's Expedition

Discussion in 'Episode 5 - The Quest of the Ludendorff' started by L'Espion, Jan 30, 2019.

  1. L'Espion Active Member Author

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    The Adventures of Larra Court

    Episode 5
    The Quest of the Ludendorff
    Chapter 5 Katie’s Expedition

    Katie attempted to gain altitude as the tropical storm closed in. She might just be able to climb over it, but the Westland Wessex trimotor was not noted for its climbing ability. There was really no place to land. She knew the plane was somewhere in the vicinity of the Lost World, but had not reached the clearing that had enabled them to land as in the previous expedition.

    Steiner had returned two days ago with the news of the failure of his and Larra’s mission. He was not supposed to tell anyone outside the Foreign Ministry, but Steiner did not think that the veil of secrecy should extend to Larra’s faithful companions. He had told them everything. The Foreign Ministry might not like it, but Steiner had his own sense of what was right and wrong.

    Larra’s telegram, plus reports of the departure of the Ludendorff, had decided Katie on a bit of a gamble. She knew that nothing on earth would stop Larra from trying to stop the airship from leaving, so the fact that it had left meant either that she had not reached it in time, or that she had tried to stop it and failed. That could mean that she was hiding somewhere in Germany, in a German prison, or on her way back to England. That meant it was up to Katie and the rest of Larra’s companions to try to complete the mission. Before she had left, Larra had arranged an alternative plan. If her mission did not succeed she intended to return to Africa and make her way into the Lost World. Katie was sure that Larra would want her to try on her own if she failed to return. Consequently, she had loaded up her plane with as much equipment as it would carry and had taken off for Africa. With her were Larra’s two other female companions. One was the exotic oriental, Jia Li, a master of Chinese martial arts. The other was her longtime friend, Amy. Of course, that meant Steiner had come as well. It was a small enough party to go up against the huge expedition that the Germans had launched, but waiting for the British government to act would have driven them all mad.

    The plane had first flown to Malta, where it had picked up a load of fuel. It was not the most convenient stopping place, but it avoided landing anywhere that was friendly to the Third Reich. Next the plane had proceeded to Cairo and then had flown south to Khartoum in the Sudan. There they had refueled and headed off in the direction of the Lost World. Katie was trusting to her navigational skills to find the mysterious region that lay hidden in the heart of Africa.

    They were almost there. Katie had taken on such a huge load of fuel in Khartoum that she still had enough to make it to Kampala. The sudden appearance of the storm, however, had placed an obstacle in her path that she would have to deal with before proceeding further.

    The immense anvil-shaped storm clouds loomed closer. The storm was closing fast. Should she try to fly away from it or try to go around it? To go back would mean having to return to Cairo and wasting valuable time. She did not have enough remaining fuel to double back and then resume her original course. To go around would also use up precious fuel and the storm stretched from one side of the horizon to the other. There was no telling how wide it was.

    Katie continued to climb. Just possibly she might get high enough to avoid the worst of it, but she knew that on her present course the passengers in the plane were in for a rough ride.

    “Hold on,” she warned, “it’s going to get very bumpy.”

    Behind her she heard the sound of seat belts clicking into place, then she was too busy trying to control the plane as it entered the upper layers of the thunderhead. Below her violent bolts of lightning ripped through the cloud, and the sound of immense thunderclaps came to her ears.

    “I wouldn’t want to be down there,” Katie muttered, as she held onto the bucking control column. Controlling the aircraft now took all of her concentration. Even in the upper reaches of the storm, the violence of the wind was formidable. The plane was buffeted from side to side and frequently hurled about in updrafts and downdrafts. Rain pelted fiercely against the windshield completely obscuring any forward vision.

    Katie hauled on the control column, trying to gain a little more altitude. She was almost above the storm. A few more minutes and the plane should have passed through the worst of it. And then it began to snow. Katie knew that this represented real danger. If the plane was weighted down by a buildup of snow on the wings and fuselage, it would become too heavy to fly above the storm. She poured on more power, trying through speed to climb still higher, but the snow was already clinging to the plane. Despite all she could do Katie felt the plane slow, and then it began to slowly descend through the clouds. Immediately, the already powerful winds began to batter the plane even more strongly. Now, even using all her strength, Katie could barely keep the aircraft under control.

    KRAACCCKK! A powerful bolt of lightning struck the plane. The trimotor suddenly veered to the left as its port engine lost power.

    “Must have taken out the engine,” said Katie aloud. “Hold on everyone. I’m going to have to dive through the storm!”

    She put down the nose of the shuddering aircraft, increasing speed as she attempted to regain control.

    The plane fell like a stone, twisting and turning in the violent turbulence of the thunderstorm. Lightning flashed and immense explosions of thunder occurred on all sides. Katie knew that her only chance was to try to dive right through the cloud and try to regain control at a lower elevation.

    Helpless, but trusting to Katie, the rest of the passengers clutched the arms of their seats. The sound of the thunder was so incredible that it was like being inside an immense drum. Lower and lower the aircraft plummeted, the air shrieking past the wings and fuselage.

    Suddenly they were through. Below them was the green of the African forest. Katie yanked on the control column with all her might. She had to pull the plane out of the dive!

    “Help me!” she implored. In the seat beside her sat Steiner. He needed no further urging, but grabbed the copilot’s column and pulled with her.

    Slowly, almost agonizingly, the plane leveled off, but it was still dropping. Katie realized that she was now too low to avoid a crash. Desperately, through the rain beating against the windscreen, she looked for someplace to set the plane down. At first all she saw was thick forest, and then at the last second she spotted a small opening. Not sure of what it was, but with no other choice she pulled the diving plane into it.

    Branches whipped by as the plane smashed through a screen of trees, and then they were down.

    An immense wall of water erupted as the plane touched down. Unknowingly, Katie had plunged the plane into a swamp. Quite by chance she had probably found the safest place among the sea of trees that would have ripped the plane to bits, probably killing them all.

    The plane plowed into the mixture of soil, water, and vegetation, wrenching to a sickening halt. Then it slowly settled into the quagmire.

    Water burbled in through the many cracks in the plane's fuselage. Dazed, but still conscious the passengers broke open the cabin door. Grabbing what they could they splashed into the swampy water amidst a driving rain.

    The battered party dropped into waist deep water. Struggling forward through the mixture of water and muck, they headed for firmer ground. Behind them the plane settled a little deeper, pulled down by the weight of its engines and load of fuel.

    “At least it didn’t explode,” thought Katie as she reached solid ground. Turning, she set down what gear she had managed to grab and helped the person behind her. Within a short time the rest of the party joined her under the relative shelter of the huge trees bordering the swamp. There they waited out the storm.

    After about an hour, the rain eventually let up. By this time all that was left of the plane was its tail sticking about two feet out of the swamp. They assessed their equipment. Between them they had managed to salvage five rifles and several hundred rounds of ammunition, but lacked food, medicine, and had only the clothes on their backs.

    “Maybe I should swim to the plane and see if I can get anything else out of it,” volunteered Steiner. “We need more than this to survive in a jungle environment.”

    “Not a good idea,” replied Jia Li. The plane seems to be still sinking. You could get trapped in there.”

    As if to emphasize her words, the plane sank another foot to the accompaniment of a sickening sucking sound from the bog. Steiner nodded agreement. They were stuck with what they had.

    “It’s getting close to night,” said Amy. “Probably a good idea if we find somewhere dry to camp.”

    The group agreed. Moving away from the plane they climbed toward still higher ground. Perhaps they could find a large tree to shelter beneath and perhaps even some dry firewood.

    A hundred yards farther on they found what they were looking for. An immense fig tree spread its aerial roots over a wide area of ground, providing a dry sheltered place in the middle of the forest.

    “This will do,” said Katie. “Perhaps we can figure out where we are tomorrow.”

    A loud rustling in the vegetation about twenty feet away caught the attention of the entire party. They all turned to look as an immense multi-toothed head thrust itself into the partial clearing.

    “My God,” exclaimed Jia Li, “a dragon!”

    “No,” corrected Katie, “it’s a dinosaur!”