"This would be the second of the laws passed by the apes. The first, Ape Shall Never Kill Ape, was driven into the apes minds by their former masters, some of whom survived under the (somewhat) benign rule of their former slaves." -- by Robert Morganbesser; artwork by Erin Wells.
In the late 1980's, a terrible thing happened to the Earth, a space born plague, brought back by a probe, unleashed a disease that wiped the planet clean of all Canid and felid life. While some animals, such as Coyotes were barely mourned and the rich could no longer own leopard skin clothing, what they really missed were the pets; simple dogs and cats.
But the plague had a secondary affect on primates. While some, Gibbons and lemurs died off for an unknown reason, others; Gorillas, Chimpanzees and Orangutans had their intelligence notably increased. These beasts are close to man and were able to understand at first only simple commands, then later more advanced ones. However, some men saw more than simple pets, they saw a new class of labor - of slave labor.
Apes were turned into the lowest class of society. The Bureau of Ape Management was created and it controlled the new slave class. But in doing this, humanity had set the seeds for its own doom. In the mid 1970's three apes, talking apes had crash-landed in a NASA spaceship, bringing with them the tale of the future, when humans were mute animals and apes ruled. These apes were mercilessly destroyed at the behest of the President's Scientific Advisor, who also lost his life in his quest to see that humanity remained the dominant species on the planet. But he had been too late.
The child of the apes had survived to grow and lead a rebellion against the humans who had enslaved the primates. By doing so, this ape, Cesar, assisted by the humans, sped up the change in dominance on earth.
Where in Cornelius and Zira's memory this had taken centuries; now it had taken less than three decades.
Of course the apes were helped by the self-destructive qualities of mankind. When the ape’s rebellion swelled across first the United States then Canada, finally the rest of the world, a group of disenfranchised humans, no one remembers if it were the Kurds, the Georgians or even an Amerindian
group, used a nuclear explosive to destroy a world economic meeting at Geneva. With the apes in revolt and public disorder everywhere, this was the final movement toward destruction. While the nuclear arsenals of the world had shrunk, there was still enough weaponry left to destroy civilization. Anti-ballistic missile systems, built secretly and in place in space and on land, saved much of the surrounding countryside's, but the great cities were gone. Irradiated and smashed, some held groups of survivors who would die or mutate into creatures barely recognizable as human. They were a new species, Homo Sapiens Mutanis.
But many apes, including those led by Caesar did survive. They moved away from the blasted cities proclaiming them to be forbidden. This would be the second of the laws passed by the apes. The first, Ape Shall Never Kill Ape, was driven into the apes minds by their former masters, some of whom survived under the (somewhat) benign rule of their former slaves.
But the radiation of the wars had a further effect on Earth. It mutated the disease that had killed dogs and cats, causing it to affect the humans. Each decade they grew dumber, less able to understand language or that they had once been the dominant species on the planet. Finally, even the gentle chimps grew impatient with the humans. They were driven out of the cities, into the wildlands to make do as they would. They would serve as sport for Gorillas, as negative role models for Orangutans and as medical experiments for the Chimpanzees, who of all the apes still harbored some sentiment for these dumb animals.
Records of before the war were suppressed by the Orangutans who were supported in this by the Gorilla military. Human history was hidden or wiped out. All that was left was the idea that man was and always had been an animal, capable only of feeding off of, or bothering his ape betters. Finally only Orangutans remembered that man had been the dominant species and they kept that knowledge well hidden.
But on a planet affected by an alien disease, with a higher background radiation than ever before, more mutations are possible.
Fifteen Hundred Years after the death of Caesar…
He stood there in the rain, almost nude and shivering on a tree limb, listening to the thrashing of the gorilla beaters beneath him. He's always been smarter than his fellows, always knew where the best food trees were, where the safest place to go to forage was.
Today had dawned sunny and bright, but storm clouds had risen quickly, even before the small tribe could begin foraging. Then disaster struck, the great horns of the hunters had sounded, followed by the stark whipping noise of the beaters. He had tried to lead the tribe away, but they had panicked and ran in all directions, easy prey for the armed Gorillas. He had climbed into the tree, scratching his side. As the blood trickled from his side, he held a mass of leaves to it, staunching the flow, watching the tribe slaughtered.
A female he liked went down, her head destroyed by gorilla bullets. Then her spasm-wracked body was trampled into the mud by hooves of horses. He felt odd, an emptiness filling him as she died. The oldster of the tribe, forty years old and ancient was taken by beaters. They then proceeded to beat the old man to a pulp, leaving his barely recognizable body for the crows.
Others were taken in nets, to be used either the scientists or expended by the military in training against an unknown enemy. Unknown because in recent ape memory; no enemy had ever risen to challenge their superiority.
He stood there, shivering as the rain pounded down, waiting for the Gorillas to tire of the sport and ride away. From his vantage point, he saw the scaffold go up, dead humans hung from it by their feet. Swiftly an ape hunter went from corpse to corpse, slicing them open and allowing the intestines to spill out. These were buried in a pit, so as not to attract any predators. Apes did not hunt other animals for sport, only man.
The silent man watched as a gorilla, larger than the rest stopped by the last corpse. A smaller gorilla with white streaks in his hair hovered beside him, carrying the larger one's rifle and gear. The larger gorilla raised a hand, causing the butcher to stop. Holding out his other hand he took a cup from the white-haired gorilla then held it by the last human's neck. Bobbing his head in the ape's odd way of acknowledgement, the butcher made a slice on the dead human's neck, allowing the rich, red blood to flow. The large gorilla held his cup to the wound, nose crinkling at the scent of the coppery liquid. Putting the cup to his lips, he took long deep swallows and handed the empty cup back to his squire.
The butcher Gorilla's eyes narrowed in displeasure at this act. "How can you do such a thing Flavius? It's disgusting."
Flavius turned, allowing the hidden human a good look at him. He'd seen this one before. Flavius was chief hunter for the city. Largest of the gorillas, he led by deed not by word. No ape had killed more humans than this one. On his neckpiece, where other officers had decorations of metal, his was of human finger bones. Artfully arranged, each had been colored. Flavius had one good eye; the other was white, glaring out of scar tissue. This had happened when he was on his first hunt. Still young, he'd cornered a savage human and decided to take him with his hands. His eye had paid the price for this boldness. The human had gashed it with a rock then stuck a thumb into the wound. Flavius had pulled the human's head from his shoulders with his bare hands then drank the blood that flowed from the wound. He'd been doing it ever since.
"My reasons are my own, Callas. Mind your business when speaking with me, as well as your manners!" Callas cringed when Flavius roared. He'd been part of Flavius regiment but after several beatings when he was caught being less than active in maneuvers (he'd been drunk on apple wine), he'd transferred out to a hunting unit. Flavius rarely hunted in-groups anymore, preferring to hunt the smarter humans. There weren't many left, but he knew somehow that there were.
"Quilas!" The smaller gorilla, Flavius squire, could not speak. He'd been injured in the throat in a horse accident, but he didn't need speech to do his job. Flavius liked the older gorilla and took care of him, even beating several other gorillas whom he'd caught calling Quilas "human".
"Come back…" Flavius stopped, his broad nostrils sniffing the air. Turning slowly he looked around then settled his eyes on the tree where the human was hidden. Holding out a hand, he felt his rifle thrust into it. A beautiful, semi-automatic weapon, Quilas worked on it diligently. Unlike the regular rifles issued to the military, this one was a bit longer, the bullets hand loaded. Flavius brought the weapon to his shoulder and squinted down the sights. This was when Quilas was most valuable. Blind in the left eye, Flavius was at his most valuable. His master could be blindsided here, possibly killed.
The human froze. He became part of the tree, holding still as a rock, not even breathing.
Flavius lowered the rifle. He thought he'd smelled something but… Handing the rifle back to Quilas he nodded at Callas and headed for their horses.
In the tree, the human remained motionless until the apes left the field. Someday, he thought. Someday they would pay.
While the human, who had been named Odysseus, helped his fellow humans, he did not live with them. He remained where he had been born, in a part of a destroyed city, which he knew had been ruled by his kind. He knew the true history of the apes, how they had been servants, but it had taken him long to discover the truth.
Entering his hideaway through a wrecked doorway that was part of a hill, he pulled branches back across it to hide it. Wilder humans than those who could not speak existed and in times of little food, were cannibals. He himself had eaten the flesh of other tribes, even ape flesh once. Survival was deep in his genes.
Descending a broken staircase of concrete, he went through another doorway. Light filtered weakly in here through cracks in the ceiling. One crack had let down debris that had killed his mother, crushing her skull and breaking her neck. He had been alone for ten summers now, surviving and reading, learning of his past. His mother had been one of the last humans able to speak, but he could not; at least not while she was alive. It was later that his ability to speak was awakened.
In one corner of his room was a rifle, taken from gorillas who had camped at night. He had a bandoleer of ammunition as well. For years he had searched for others like himself, but found only one. He'd traveled through a tunnel, deep under the Forbidden City when he'd found another human, a female, only she wasn't really human.
There had been a slight tremor of the earth and debris had come tumbling down. He'd hidden under a platform set along parallel tracks of metal as bits of rock rained down, one hitting his shoulder and bruising him. What had happened to the woman was worst. She had been pinned from the waist down, her legs crushed. It would be only a matter of time before she died.
He would never have found her if he hadn't heard her utter, "I reveal my inmost self unto my god."
Her voice, even wracked with pain, had been pleasant. He'd crept up then froze. He then 'heard' her voice in his head.
[I may be trapped but I am not helpless.]
He slid forward letting her into his mind, not that he could have stopped her. She was a powerful telepath and could read his thoughts easily.
[A human who can still reason? I didn't think there were any left outside the people.]
He knelt near her, amazed that she had two faces. One with a light green headband and a ponytail of brown hair lay on the floor. The other, pink and blue and white looked up at him, no fear in her dark hazel eyes. He pushed at his own face, but it wouldn't come off.
[Don't try that. You're not like me.]
He moved his mouth and made sounds, but he couldn't talk. His mother had been unable to teach him, since even though she could talk, she had been killed just as he was starting to learn. With no one to speak to, he had never learned. He would never know how long his family had lived in the shelter, but it had to have been years.
The woman stared at him. "I am Isabelle," she said, her voice cracking from disuse. Her people were beyond speech, using it only to praise their god in religious rituals. "Let me touch you."
Trustingly, he leaned forward. When she touched him, he felt an electric shock. He froze for a moment as her mind swelled through his. His eyes, an odd purple, went wide and he stared, drool falling from his mouth. Finally, exhausted, she fell back.
"Thank you." The sounds of his own voice shocked him. "What has happened?"
[I gave you a gift. Do not use it among the apes.]
His face darkened. "The apes. They kill my people."
[They would kill mine as well. We hide from them. Our god protects us.]
"Could I see your god?"
Her face saddened, Isabelle shook her head. [No. My people would see you as a danger. They are coming. You must go. I will tell them nothing.] Isabelle removed a small vial from her sleeve.
[I will give you a name, human. Odysseus I name you, for you have a great journey to take. Go now!]
Propelled by the urgency of her thought, he fled, bearing his name and the ability she had released from his mind, with him.
Down the tunnel, his keen hearing heard the furtive footsteps of her fellows. Hiding under a platform, he watched as they lifted the vial from her hand. They made a sign of an inverted cross; then one poured a liquid on her. He could hear her flesh sizzle from where he was. He wondered why they didn't sense him, but he didn't know she had hidden his brainwaves from them, keeping him safe. Waiting until they left, he crept back up the tunnel to see what had happened. All that was left of the woman who had released his ability to speak was a dark stain on the earth.
Leaving the realm of his memory, Odysseus lifted a gourd of water and stared at the rifle. Apes did not fear his people.
Perhaps he could change that.
An outpost near the Forbidden Zone.
The two gorilla soldiers sat in a small tent playing dice. For years, since Ape City had been taken unawares by a mutant attack, small warning outposts had been placed on guard. In recent years, these outposts had been lessened, as the political leaders of the city saw no need for the expense of keeping them. There were five left now. Three faced the desert and two on either side of the valley that led into Ape City. Those two were to be decommissioned soon. These two privates were hoping they'd all be discontinued soon. One was waiting for a transfer to the cavalry (an ape with a horse was sure to attract females!), the other was waiting to retire and enter the hunting business. He had an idea for journeys into human territory, to hunt them down where they lived.
These dreams were not going to become reality.
Odysseus crept up on the small tent in the early hours of evening when he still had enough light to see. Holding his rifle tight, he stayed upwind, aware of how keen the ape's senses were compared to his. Slowly he got closer and closer to the tent, whose flap was open on this hot night. Moving sideways, he could see the two gorillas, tunics off, hairy upper bodies matted from the humid air.
Raising the rifle, Odysseus moved forward.
The die rattled in the cup made from a human skull when a shadow moved across the tent. Thinking their relief was early the gorillas looked up and froze. A wild looking human with red hair, holding a rifle stood before them!
The one gorilla laughed as he put down the cup. "Those jokers from regiment. Giving a rifle to a human!" He started to rise when the human spoke.
"It isn't a joke."
Before the two gorillas could move, the rifle barked twice. The standing gorilla spilled backwards, a bullet in his heart. The other, sitting was hit in the throat. Blood shot out of the wound to splatter on the walls of the tent as he fell over, feet kicking up small clouds of dust.
Putting the rifle down, Odysseus moved into the tent. Seeing a large blade used for cutting branches down, he moved over the corpses of the gorillas and raised it up…
"Hey! Hey you lazy morons!' The two-ape relief patrol hated hiking up here. But mounts were left a few miles down below, with an advance cavalry unit. The walk, especially lugging supplies, was a nuisance. Both apes would rather be back in barracks, gambling, sleeping or eating. Instead it was their time to make the politicians happy and keep an eye out for an attack that would never come. The mutants had been beaten once and would remain so. Who was stupid enough to challenge the superiority of the apes? The humans were too dumb and many apes thought the mutants just a story to keep the budget of the military up.
As soon as they made the final turn to the tent they got their answer. Both gorillas stopped, mouths dropped open and eyes went wide. There before them, like sentries, were the heads of the two soldiers they'd come to relieve. Flies buzzed in and out of their open mouths, clustered on the rude wounds on their necks. Dropping their supply packs, they unlimbered their rifles and crept forward. The tent was a bloody mess, the supplies ravaged, one rifle remained, its bolt gone. All the ammo, about two hundred rounds (less if the soldiers had been amusing themselves shooting at birds) a case of explosives, and most of the food was gone.
The two soldiers looked at each other. There on the camp table, was a word written in blood - Odysseus.
It was the beginning of the rainy season in the area that Ape City ruled over. Dark clouds rolled in over the city and its surrounding areas while forks of lightning ripped down from the skies, illuminating everything in an odd blue-white light.
Counselor Agrippa, one of the younger Orangutans, stood with his back to the council chambers, watching the skies. They were as dark as the news that had come down from the gorilla outposts near the Forbidden Zone. Agrippa was one of those who wanted the outposts closed down and now he had enough to pass the legislation in council. Warnings would be posted instead. In reality, who cared if some mad ape or human beast decided to go into the Forbidden Zone? All that waited there was death.
Counselor Dominus, head of the gorilla faction and de facto General of the Army made a gentle ahem-ing noise deep in his throat. Not as tall as his aide Flavius, he was broader across the shoulders and had a larger head. A bold streak of silver hair swept from his forehead back to disappear beneath his purple tunic. "What do you think, Agrippa?"
The third member of the ruling council, Dr. Herodutus, was a Chimpanzee. Youngest of the trio, he was usually at odds with them. He wanted more funding for experiments on humans and for expeditions into the Forbidden Zone. Herodutus felt that the secrets buried in the city could be beneficial to ape civilization. Unfortunately, the orangutans still remembered the days of man's rule too well and constantly formed an alliance with the gorillas to forbid such things.
Herodutus was looking over the reports. Both gorillas had been confined to their barracks and told to speak of this to no one. Dominus had thought about sending them on a long patrol, perhaps one to the north from which they might not return. But his eyes fell on the statue of the recently departed Lawgiver, who had placed all their laws and myths to record. The noblest of those laws was "Ape Shall Not Kill Ape." Even a power hungry ape such as Dominus, who desired gorilla rule over the whole of Ape City, would not violate it.
"I think it should be obvious," said Herodutus. "We have a mad ape on our hands. It has happened before you know."
Agrippa turned to look at his younger colleague. As usual, the chimp had spoken without tact, but with the truth. There had been a mad gorilla, nearly twenty years previous, who had gone feral. No one knew how or why, but he had attacked other apes. Not killed them, but mauled and injured them. He was apprehended and chased, finally being killed by falling off a cliff near the Forbidden Zone and shattering his back. The skull of the mad ape was on display in the science museum.
Agrippa lifted his pipe from the desk, stuffed it with smoke leaf and lit it with a match. As the fragrant smoke filled the room, Dominus' eyes narrowed. Unlike the effeminate Orangutans, he did not partake of smoking, thinking it a vile habit. Herodutus narrowed his eyes but said nothing. He was desperate to get more funding for the sciences so as to enter the Forbidden Zone. Dominus smiled in his mind. That was never going to happen. The Forbidden Zone would remain inviolate forever.
"What you say is true, Dr. Herodutus," said Agrippa, sitting down. "But such events as the gorilla were aberrations, not natural to us. If you recall, when his brain was examined, part of it was found to be damaged." Agrippa pointed with his pipe, ornately carved with lush woodland images. "And even with a damaged brain, he killed no apes."
Herodutus raised his hands in supplication. "True, but perhaps this killer has the same injury or disease?"
"We don't know that it was a disease," growled Dominus. "We don't even know if it's a gorilla."
Herodutus rose, lifting an apple from the bowl always kept filled for the councilors. "I didn't say it was. But weapons are strictly controlled and the gorillas were killed by rifles."
Dominus lifted a paper from his desk. "Here is an inventory of all rifles. The only one missing is the one that was taken from the gorillas. One hundred and ninety rounds of ammunition are also gone."
Agrippa's eyes widened. "That many? This is bad. What are you going to do about this, Dominus?"
The gorilla councilor rose. "I plan on instituting a curfew. No apes on the city streets after dark. We'll announce it as a rabid human on the loose. I'll have the outposts manned with four ape patrols as well as alert the city police."
Herodutus snorted. "What if this maniac should go up onto a building and start shooting at civilians?"
Agrippa and Dominus exchanged looks. They hadn't thought of this. Now it was Herodutus turn to grin inwardly. "Were there any marks, any trails to be found?"
Dominus shook his great head. "No but there were signs that marks had been wiped away."
Agrippa put his pipe down angrily. "Then why do you put the city under restrictions? What if our mad killer is in the woods outside the city?"
Dominus rose. "I will send patrols into the woods north of the city. Perhaps this mad killer is hiding among the humans."
Agrippa nodded. "Good. But what will our soldiers do if this mad-ape fires on them? Will they shoot back?"
Dominus rubbed a large hand across his prominent chin. "They will shoot to wound. If this mad-ape can stand trial, then we must put him before his peers."
"And if he cannot?" Asked Agrippa.
Dominus small flinty eyes glimmered. "Then we will use him for comparative brain surgery. Dr. Herodutus' surgeons can open his skull alongside that of a human one. See if there is any difference."
Herodutus lifted an orange from the bowl, began tossing it from hand to hand. "There is one other thing that should be done. We should send someone to the hall of records, specifically the lists of births."
Agrippa and Dominus were tiring of their younger colleague's ideas. "And why," asked Agrippa. "Should we do that?"
Herodutus stopped toying with the orange. "Because I don't recall any ape ever with the name Odysseus." As he tore the skin off the fruit and bit into it, Herodutus was happy to see that his unspoken suggestions had frozen his comrades.
Odysseus crept along a ridge looking down at the furthest of the ape outposts. Now there were four gorillas on duty. Two were diligently patrolling near their tent, the other two sleeping within. As usual they'd left their horses further down, away from where the lush land the apes ruled turned into the desert of the Forbidden Zone.
Odysseus was disappointed at the ape's reaction to what he had done. He had expected them to come boiling out of their city looking for him. Instead they'd only heightened their patrols and tightened their security. Odysseus found it amusing that in one of his old books; a warrior such as himself would be called a guerrilla. He knew his enemies; the enemies of his blood were Gorillas, Chimpanzees and Orangutans. He wondered if there were anymore humans like himself, humans who existed in more than just a state of primality.
He had searched out a tribe a few days past. They had been foraging in an area not frequented by the gorillas, at least not yet. The apes were always expanding their farms, looking for new ways to increase production.
The humans had frozen when Odysseus had entered the small grove of trees. He could not have looked more different from them. Hair neatly trimmed and tied back, beard clean and trimmed, a bandoleer of bullets hanging across his chest, rifle hung on one shoulder. They had taken one look at him and fled in silence. Odysseus thought about following, but if he cornered some of them, they would turn and fight and he would be forced to kill them. One of the things he had taken from the gorillas he had killed was their scrolls of law. Odysseus had been reading them and saw truth in these laws, but they applied only to apes. If humans had once ruled, surely they had laws like this? Could it be that ape society was just a mockery of what had once been human society?
Odysseus decided that it was time to let the apes know he still existed. The apes had placed this tent in a bad position. An outcrop of boulders was balanced near it. With the setting sun at his back, he placed a stout branch in a crack near one boulder and began to press down. With a low crackle of sound, smaller rocks began to give way and one of the larger boulders began to push out…
Arminius hated this duty. He would rather have been cleaning the honey pits back at the barracks, rather smell the defecation of his mates than be on guard duty. Especially out here near the Forbidden Zone. All apes feared and hated this dismal desert, which glowed oddly at night and from which strange sounds could be heard. Arminius shouldered his rifle and was starting toward the tent when he heard the rumble of the rocks rolling downhill! With a start he tried to run, but was smashed across the legs with several small boulders, then hit across the head. With a low moan of pain he was knocked unconscious. His last thought was of hearing a rifle shot…
Odysseus shouldered his rifle. One gorilla lay sprawled across the path he had taken, a neat hole in its forehead. Eyes wide open, the human hunter wondered if his image was the last thing the ape had seen? Moving toward the tent, Odysseus could see the limbs, broken and crushed, of the other two gorillas. He had ruined the ammunition stored within the tent, but he didn't mind. It was time to leave a message.
Odysseus was pawing through the wreckage for something to write on when he heard the moan. Rising quickly, he pulled his rifle from his shoulder and stared about. The moan came from an offshoot of the avalanche he had caused. Moving cautiously, rifle up, he slid into the jungle alongside the trail. Listening carefully he heard, "Oh Lawgiver, help me." It was a young voice, in pain. Odysseus moved forward through thick bushes to find an injured gorilla soldier. The ape's legs were broken, as was one arm. Part of his scalp was sheered away and was bleeding. The gorilla thrashed his good arm weakly calling on the Lawgiver again.
"There is no Lawgiver here," said Odysseus.
Arminius looked up through pain wracked eyes. He blinked, then spurted out "A human? A human who can speak?"
Odysseus smiled cruelly as he moved around the gorilla. Putting his rifle on his shoulder, he reaching into the pouch of deerskin he carried at his side and removed a powder. Staying away from the gorilla's good arm, he sprinkled the powder on the wound. Made from several plants and herbs, it would staunch the wound and promote healing. Using a stick, Odysseus pressed the skin back into place.
"Have you a name, ape? I have a name."
The Gorilla started to laugh. "I must be dead. Humans can't speak!"
Odysseus prodded his foes broken arm with a toe, eliciting a yell of pain. "Can the dead feel pain, ape? I am Odysseus. Who are you?"
Arminius was feeling faint from pain and loss of blood. "I am Arminius. How can you speak?"
Odysseus stepped back a bit. "I have the gift of speech because my kind once ruled this world as well as your kind. One day we shall rule it again."
That caused the gorilla to laugh. "Humans once ruled? Humans are dumb brutes! We'll exterminate you all one day!" The gorilla howled in pain as Odysseus prodded his wound again. "Don't ever say that again, ape. We were your masters and we will be again." Odysseus head turned and he listened. Horses were coming. Horses meant more apes.
Kneeling by the Gorillas head, Odysseus hissed, "Tell your masters they will have no rest from Odysseus. If they want peace, they must stop hunting the humans. They must leave us be. If they do not, your people and city will have no peace from me."
With that, Odysseus was gone, fading away into the jungle like a bad dream.
As fate would have it, Herodutus was the only councilor present when the Gorilla courier arrived with the report. Listening intently, with the proper aspect of grimness, Herodutus took the report and dismissed the courier. Sitting at his desk, he read the report several times. A human murdered five Gorillas? Herodutus sat back, wondering how he could turn this to his advantage. The very thought of a human who could speak terrified the Orangutans who had hidden most of the knowledge that man once ran the planet deep in secret archives. Such knowledge would send the gorillas into a frenzy of killing such as had not been seen in centuries. It would also terrify the general population of Ape City, most of who only saw humans as harmless oddities in the zoo.
Herodutus thought about this until he heard one of his fellow councilors entering their mutual office. All he could see was the evil trying to use this information would cause. The Gorillas would clamp down on the city and possibly wipe out the local human population, robbing the chimp scientists who depended on him of their only active research specimens. With an internal sigh, Herodutus held the report in one hand as Dominus and Agrippa entered. With them was Agrippa's wife, Ulanda. For an orangutan, Ulanda was a handsome ape. Herodutus nodded at the trio and gave an open-mouthed smile at them all. That it was only for Ulanda with whom he'd had a passionate affair two years back, only they knew.
Agrippa was happy as he entered. If nothing else thought Herodutus, this will take his happiness away.
"Greetings, Dr. Herodutus," rumbled Dominus. Agrippa echoed the greeting.
Herodutus rose and came around his desk, careful to brush against Ulanda as he did so. She leaned back, pressing her rear against his thigh. Herodutus could feel the stirrings of lust but shut them off. That had been before the power hungry female had married Agrippa. He was not so anxious to couple with her again that he would tempt the law. Male apes that practiced adultery were routinely gelded. Besides there was a cute chimp intern he planned on making a move on soon.
Agrippa sat at his own desk, the three desks; all triangular faced one another so that council meetings could be held easier. No one desk was dominant, no apes chair higher than another's.
Herodutus held out the report. "There's been another attack."
Dominus froze, his gimlet eyes glistening under his brows. For a moment Herodutus thought the gorilla was looking at Ulanda, but the idea passed. "What's happened this time?" The Gorilla demanded as Agrippa pulled the report from Herodutus hand. Scanning it quickly, the Orangutan administrator sat back, naked fear on his orange furred face.
Ulanda peered at her husband. "What's wrong, Agrippa?"
Agrippa shook his head. "Go home Ulanda. This is only for the council to hear and discuss. Go now." Seeing that his tone brooked no resistance, the female shuffled out, pausing only to peer at Herodutus for a brief moment.
Dominus crossed his arms on his great chest. His black and purple uniform, recently cleaned, glistened in the afternoon light. "Well? Don't keep it to yourself, Agrippa!"
The Orangutan sat back, heart beating fiercely in his chest. "The worst has come to pass. It is worse than we could ever imagine!"
Dominus could smell the fear on his colleague. "What? Has an Ape killed ape?"
Agrippa shook his head, a tear trickling down his face. This enraged Dominus who reached out and shook the aged ape. "What is it, Agrippa?"
Herodutus answered for him. "It's Odysseus."
Dominus spun about, Agrippa almost forgotten. "What about him?"
"He's a human."
Dominus felt his heart freeze.
The large one-eyed gorilla rolled onto his back, the smaller female nearly unconscious from his coupling with her. He was well known to be rough with females, not mean or cruel, but rough. Still, he paid well for their favors so many were willing to lay with him. Flavius had several bastard children who he didn't acknowledge, but he did make sure they were well taken care of. He knew that should something happen to him, his seed would continue.
The female Chimp who ran the establishment he was in, a brothel called "Hunt's End", which was located on the edge of Ape City, was calling him. With a growl he rose, tossed a blanket over the female and stalked out of the room.
"What is it, Esrel? I wasn't quite done!"
Esrel was an ugly old chimp that could, it was said, count one's coin by how they jingled in a purse. But she had the best females and would turn her eye to inter-species cohabitation. Flavius had been with nearly all of the females, but preferred gorillas, his own kind, the best. They usually recuperated the quickest from his attentions.
"Well, what is it?" He growled, wondering why she was bothering him at such an hour.
Esrel bobbed her head several times in supplication. "There are two riders here. They bring an order from Dominus. You are to go to the council chambers at once!"
Flavius grinned, his bright white fangs (he kept his teeth in excellent condition and had several times used them on humans) shining as he did. "I'm a private hunter. Dominus gives me no orders."
Before Resell could say a word, a tall Gorilla Lieutenant with a pistol on his belt barged in. Glaring at Flavius, he said, "He gives you orders if you expect your hunting license to be renewed. Let's go."
Flavius thought about poking one of the arrogant soldier’s eyes out, just to teach him a lesson, but the second gorilla, a hard bitten sergeant carrying one of the new machine guns, was glaring at him as if he wanted to use it.
"Let me get dressed."
Flavius couldn't believe it. "A talking human? That used guns, our guns? And killed Gorillas? I don't believe it!"
Dominus sat at his desk, hands clasped together. "I didn't want to believe it either, but we have an eye witness. A gorilla wounded in the attack was spoken to by the human and let live."
Flavius licked his lips. "So what do you want from me?"
Agrippa held up a piece of paper. "Here is authorization to hunt down and kill this animal. Bring it to us, alive preferably, dead if necessary. We must discover if there are more of them!"
Flavius took the paper and scanned it. It gave him the authority to do whatever he wished, use whomever he wanted as long as he brought in or killed this Odysseus. Flavius could feel the need for the hunt flow over him.
"I'll use my own crew. We'll bring back this animal or his skin."
Odysseus stared down the tunnel where he'd found the injured woman. The hole that she had come through was sealed with rubble. Holding his rifle, he glanced around, then stopped and listened. All he could hear was the dripping of stale water off stalactites. He looked down at himself. From the waist down he was clad in Gorilla trousers and boots.
The pants had fit well, the boots he'd had to stuff with leaves to make them fit comfortably. He'd seen in one of his books that men wore clothing, not rags. He'd taken the clothes from another outpost, creeping in through the back of the tent while the apes were changing the guard. He hadn't wanted to kill anyone then; still curious as to what their reaction would be to an intelligent man. He hoped his curiosity wouldn’t get him killed.
This was one of the reasons he'd returned to the tunnel. For all their strangeness, the people who lived underground were human. He had more in common with them than he did the beasts of the jungle, which wore human guise but had forgotten their traditions.
Slinging his rifle, Odysseus climbed up onto a platform and started searching. Surely air had to come into the city? There had to be a way to get in. He moved along the walls, which were covered in mildewed squares, all the same size and shape. Some of them were white, others black, some grey. Suddenly he stopped. Backing to the edge of the platform he saw that the squares made words! Squinting in the dim light - he didn't want to light one of the torches he carried. He saw that it said Jay Street-Borough Hall.
Sounding out the strange words, he wondered what the world had been like before the apes. Did men not kill each other? Did men rule wisely or kindly? He wished he would know.
Leaving the sign, he moved further down the platform to where the tunnel was blocked. Closing his eyes and holding his breath, he listened and felt. There was a flow of air past him! He opened his eyes and looked up. There, in the ceiling was a round hole that disappeared into darkness. Looking around, he saw a rectangular metal box. It had chambers of some sort within it. On the top of the box was a single word: CANDY.
Ignoring a word he could put no meaning to, he shoved at the box. With a creaking noise it fell over. Odysseus froze at the echo of the crash. Waiting, ready to flee, he caught his breath and climbed on the box. Reaching up, he felt a cool piece of metal. Muscles cracking, he pulled himself up, hand over hand, until his feet rested on one of the rungs.
Taking a moment to make sure his pack and rifle would fit with him, he continued his climb. After he climbed five hands (twenty-five) rungs of the ladder, he was stopped by solid rock. Angrily he pushed with one hand at the rock but it was solid. No opening above him. Then he started reaching around the area he was in. Behind him was another opening! Reaching back with a hand, he felt a rung above this opening. Carefully turning, he lifted himself in this opening, which was tall enough to stand in! Far down this tunnel, which were so old those who had built the underground city had forgotten it; he could see a small disc of light.
Without fear, Odysseus moved off toward it.
Charon was thirty years old and had not taken a mate. She was engrossed with her study of archaeology and since the average life span of the people was over one hundred, she saw little reason to rush. Now, with her sister Isabelle, killed in an accident, two years past, she had thrown herself into her work, forgetting the wish of the Elders that she marry.
Few of the people came to this section of what had once been New York. Most of them congregated in what was once Manhattan, where most of the food was grown (edible fungus, mutated from radiation, just like the People). That was why she came here, to Brooklyn. There was much to be discovered.
She was excavating in an area that had been known as Grand Army Plaza, named she had discovered, after an army from the United States Civil War. She often wondered how the war that had driven them underground had started. Some put the cause as the apes, some as fate. Charon was not sure. She felt that it might have been a combination of things. Her ancestors, she had discovered, were far from the pacifists her people were today. They had visited all kinds of horror upon one another, many different kinds of death. The apes thought they were so superior; they were nothing more than a dark reflection of humanity.
Without warning a rough hand clamped across her mouth. She could smell the sweat of her unknown assailant through the dust mask she wore. Charon froze, digging trowel in one hand, light grey jumpsuit spattered with dirt. It wasn't an ape's hand, but it was rough from exposure to the elements.
"Do not scream. I will not hurt you."
Charon relaxed slightly. Odysseus removed his hand and stepped back, rifle still slung.
Charon looked at him, eyes puzzled. He looked like a wild human, but there was a glimmer of dark intelligence in his eyes. He was dressed in odd clothing and had a weapon with him. There were no weapons among the people. They had foresworn them many years past. All they had was their faith and their god.
The human looked at her, body tensed, waiting for her to run. "I am Odysseus. Who are you?"
Unlike many of her people, Charon liked to speak. She was uncomfortable at times with her people's ability to read minds. She wanted some private thoughts once in a while! "I am Charon. How did you get here?"
Odysseus relaxed slightly. "Through a tunnel that I found. It was a long trip. What is this place?"
Charon felt excitement at the man's curiosity. His thirst for knowledge was amazing. On impulse, she decided to reach out and touch his mind. Smiling at him, she reached out and felt… nothing. But that was impossible! Only the highest Espers among the people could hide their thoughts. Only Mendez could do it for a sustained time.
"Why are you looking at me that way?" Odysseus was removing his pack, reaching in for a gourd of water. Leaning his head back, he drank then held it out.
"No thank you," Charon replied. "I have my own." As she spoke, she removed the mask. Odysseus eyes filled with pleasure. "Isabelle! I thought you long dead!"
Charon's eyes narrowed. "I am not Isabelle. I am her sister, Charon! How do you know my sister?" She thought about sending out a thought bolt, but that would alert any others nearby and she wanted solitude.
Odysseus sat down, leaning against his pack, which he had set against what was left of a pillar before the library. "I was exploring some tunnels two summers ago. She had been injured in a fall. She made me leave before others of your kind came. She said I would be a danger to them."
Charon sat down, a sad feeling flowing over her. Isabelle had been one of the strongest telepaths ever born. She had used her powers to heal others; so much strength was in her mind. Her loss had been a great one. She must have done something to this normal before she had died. Charon didn't wonder why. With Isabelle, the unexpected was always to be expected. Even wise Mendez, 23rd in his line, didn't know what to make of her. Now she was gone.
"What happened to her?"
Odysseus eyes clouded over. "There was a movement of the earth, rocks fell from above. I hid under a shelf. When the movement stopped, I crawled out and heard her say something. Her legs had been crushed by rock. She looked in my mind and awoke my ability to speak."
Charon smiled through her sadness. "That sounds like Isabelle. What did you hear her say?"
"I reveal my inmost self unto my god."
Charon's eyes widened. Those words were never spoken around outsiders, so Isabelle must have been in terrible pain. "Did you see her without…" Charons voice faded as she placed one hand on her face.
Odysseus nodded. "I did. I thought it odd that she had two faces. Do you all have two faces?"
Charon nodded. "We only take these off when we pray."
Odysseus looked around. "Who do you pray to?" Even as he said the words, he looked around again. "Someone is coming."
Charon shot to her feet. "You have to hide. If it's one of my people, you could be in great danger!" Odysseus grabbed his pack, pulled it around his shoulders and moved to hide under what had been an automobile. As he moved out of sight, Charon brushed herself off and waited.
Odysseus was thinking about slipping away when he heard Charon scream. Rolling out from under his hideout, he removed his rifle from his shoulder. There, back to him, holding Charon was a gorilla! Not a soldier either, but a hunter. Odysseus saw that his dark purple tunic was bisected by green stripes. Silently the human moved forward rifle raised.
Quilas hadn't been able to sleep. Leaving Flavius camp, he moved downhill where he caught a strange spoor. Following the scent he discovered the door in the side of the hill and followed it. Rummaging through Odysseus belongings, the gorilla had been amazed when he found the books and stored ammunition stolen from the outposts. He thought about going back to Flavius, but his curiosity edged him on. He followed the spoor into the tunnels.
Now he had a human female in odd clothing before him! She smelled different from the other humans, more civilized. Regardless, perhaps she knew who Odysseus was. Quilas cursed his lost power of speech! He could have interrogated her and brought the body back as proof. Now he had to knock her out and bring her back with him!
Odysseus brought the rifle butt down on the gorilla's head in a vicious arc, stunning him. As he fell forward, Charon fell back, rolled and crawled backward, horrified by what was in the ape's mind. They were filthy creatures! Minds full of hate and destruction!
Odysseus moved around to where the stunned gorilla could see him. "I remember you," said the human rebel. "You're the one who cut the bodies of my kind open like they were meat."
Quilas eyes opened so wide it seemed they would burst. Charon could feel his thoughts of horror and fear. Odysseus was the ape's greatest fear. Quilas shook his head trying to clear it. Surely he would be quick enough to take the human down?
Before Quilas could make a move, the rifle in Odysseus hands barked. Quilas was thrown back, the bullet bursting out of his back, his blood splattering Charons dig. Eyes wide, Quilas mouth moved, blood flowing out of it. Odysseus fired again, destroying the ape hunter's heart. Quilas feet kicked once, twice then stopped.
Charons eyes were wide, her hands held up to her mouth. Without warning she vomited, thick, vile ooze, then coughed. Odysseus looked at her as she scrabbled for her water. Washing out her mouth, she said, "That was horrible! Horrible!"
Odysseus looked puzzled. "I saved your life. He would have killed you or worse, brought you to the apes."
"I know that!" Charon shouted. "I read his mind. But the way you killed him… Now more of them will come. You've doomed us!"
Sadness crept through Odysseus heart. He had come here to find friends, allies that didn't exist in the world above. Now he felt lonelier than ever. He knew he was the only one of his kind. He also knew what he had to do.
"No. None will follow. Go to your people. Tell them this area must be closed forever. I will take care of this." He pointed at Quilas corpse with the rifle. Charon stood there staring at the blood pooling around the gorilla's corpse.
"GO!" Odysseus roared, raising his rifle.
Charon fled, leaving her tools and her dig. She never wanted to see this area, another ape or Odysseus again.
Flavius stood outside his tent, sleeveless tunic revealing his hairy, muscular arms. He was angry at Quilas disappearance. None of his trackers, not even he, was as good as Quilas. Where in the Lawgivers name did the blasted mute go?
Suddenly an object, traveling in a high arc, came whistling down out of the sky. It landed on Flavius camp table, bounced once and landed near Flavius feet.
It was Quilas head. From the look on his battered face, it was apparent that he had died in great fear. Flavius felt a small dark bird of fear peck at his heart. Quilas feared nothing. At least not until he disappeared. Kneeling Flavius lifted his friend's head. The six other apes in the party stood there, mouths agape. The youngest was starting to open his mouth to speak when the back of his head exploded in blood and bone. Almost instantly, the apes heard the sound of the shot. As they all ducked for cover, a voice cried out, "This is the domain of Odysseus! No apes can come here. This is a Forbidden Zone for apes!"
Hearing their own designation used was nearly too much for most of the apes, too much for one. Half rising to his feet, he shouted, "I see…" and then gagged on blood as a bullet tore through his throat. Falling back into the foliage, the other apes lay hidden listening to him gurgle out the end of his life.
Flavius started crawling away. Let the animal scream and shout his threats. Soon, he'll be dead. Lying near the camp table, not far from Quilas head was Flavius rifle and ammunition belt. He would use the others for bait if it meant he could end this threat to ape superiority.
Taking his rifle, Flavius disappeared into the underbrush.
Odysseus stood in his tree branch, rifle ready. There had been one full hand and two fingers worth of apes in the two tents now two fingers were down. One hand left. They couldn't reach their water without revealing themselves and he would be waiting.
As the sun moved across the sky toward noon, the apes started to get thirsty and hungry. One gorilla threw a small rock through the underbrush then got up to run for the nearby creek whose bubbling was driving him mad. If he thought the rock would fool the human, he was wrong. He had taken two paces before a bullet smashed between his shoulder blades, knocking him lifeless to the ground.
That's three fingers down Odysseus thought. He thought about leaving the tree but it was a perfect spot. Besides, he wanted to get the silverback gorilla, the one who had killed the female he fancied.
Flavius, hidden in underbrush, rifle balanced on a limb, had seen where this shot had come from. Looking through his good eye, he squinted and fired.
The shot glanced along Odysseus side, nearly knocking him from the tree. As blood began to flow, he lurched, grabbed the branch and bent. This saved his life as a second shot tore through the area where his head was. Grimacing with pain, Odysseus half slipped; half fell from the tree. Pausing only to squeeze the ends of his painful wound shut, he limped off toward his hideout.
Flavius waited, then rose and tore off toward the tree. When he had to leave the cover of the jungle growth, he shouted out to the remaining hunters. "Harli! Show yourself!"
"No, Flavius! Not me!"
Flavius fired a round in their direction. "Do it or I'll stake you out on an ant hill!" A cowed Harli rose and waved his arms. No shot rang out. Could the human be dead? Flavius ran for the tree he'd seen the shot come from. The heat of the day was beating down on him, the humidity forcing him to slow, but Flavius found the tree. On one branch and at its base were bloodstains. Flavius lifted a handful of bloody leaves, sniffed them and licked them. "Harli! I hit him! Bring the others!"
Odysseus could hear his pursuers. Smiling grimly through his pain, he hoped that they enjoyed the small surprises he'd left for them. As long as Flavius didn't run into any of them. The blood was flowing stronger now and Odysseus was feeling weak. Taking a long drink of water then leaving the gourd, he continued on.
Harli led the hunters with Flavius at the rear. They could smell the blood, fresh and coppery. The trail led toward the Forbidden Zone. Leave it to a human to hide there! None of them had any fear of the old demons that were there. They were being well paid by the council to hunt this human down!
Harli turned a corner border by a fallen tree and some rocks. Leaping the tree he came down on a vine. There was a snapping noise and a tree limb shot across the clearing, a tree limb from which carved spikes projected. Thoughts of the reward were going through Harli's head when the trap killed him.
Flavius sneered at Harli's corpse. "Amateur. To fall for this?" Flavius started to give orders to the remaining apes, but they had fled. Cursing their cowardice, he moved on, following the spoor.
Odysseus wound had ripped further, more and more blood flowing from his side. Staggering into his hideout, he stumbled to his bed and collapsed. A candle burned near it, the remnants of his books, destroyed by Quilas, nearby. Closing his eyes, Odysseus bent all his thought to a single word.
In the city, outside of what had been Saint Patrick's Cathedral, Charon looked up. She'd heard the faint whisper in her mind of her name. Ducking into a small alcove, she shut her eyes. [Odysseus?]
Smiling through his pain, Odysseus thought, "No one will follow me, Charon. No one."
Flavius had found the door. Raising his rifle he smashed the door in and entered the small room. The smell of blood was overpowering. There, on a makeshift bed, lay the human, eyes glittering in the candlelight. Flavius put the rifle up. He was going to skin the human alive. Laying his rifle on a stone outcrop, he pulled out his knife and advanced.
Charon felt tears swell in her eyes, as Odysseus thought, "There is no place in this world for me. So I leave it."
Odysseus smiled up at Flavius and shoved the candle off the stone it sat on. Flavius good eye followed it as it fell. The candle landed in a small pile of gunpowder, laboriously taken from bullets by Odysseus the day before. With a bright spark the powder ignited then the explosives, hidden under the bedding, blew up, obliterating the small shelter.
Charon shook with pain. She had been with Odysseus when he died, taking Flavius and any threat of discovery with him. He had been right there was no place for him in this world. But there would always be a place for him in her heart.
Two days later, guided by smoke that still rose from the explosion, led by the two ape hunters who claimed Flavius had sent them back, gorillas discovered the destroyed shelter. From the remnants of the books (quickly burned by the accompanying Orangutan advisor) and the body parts, the ruling council closed the case. The skull of the human, still with some skin and hair on it, was sent to the chimps to be examined. The rest of the area was purged by fire.
Once again, the denizens of Ape City could sleep peacefully.
Until a summer day in 3976.
[FREAK is a POTA Fan Fiction by Robert Morganbesser]