Artemis

Elaine Howard

 

 

The female gorilla had slowed down her pace and the dark haired astronaut was

 

grateful. She had previously caught all three of the fugitives but they escaped from her.

 

She wouldn’t give up and in her determination she decided to capture only one of

 

them. Security Chief Urko, who she despised, would at least give her some reward for

 

one of these fugitives. He was determined to capture them, although he had been less

 

successful than Artemis. At least she had one of them. She glanced occasionally at her

 

captive human and then quickly looked away.

 

 

The humans she owned were part of her family, she had nothing against humans. Burke could feel

 

 in his gut that his captor didn’t really want to do this. She finally stopped and motioned for him to rest.

 

The weary human wiped his forehead and gave out a slight cough. “You’re not sick,

 

are you?” Pete’s eyes widened. “Exhausted and hungry, sick no. Why are you doing

 

this? Urko will see my capture as your duty to ape civilization. I doubt he is going to

 

offer you any reward.”

 

 

The gorilla’s brow frowned and she faced the tired human. “He will have to give me something or I will sell you

 

to the highest bidder instead!”

 

 

“Great! wonderful choices. Slavery or Urko. Slavery or Urko. Slavery or Urko.”

 

 

“Shut up! Are you always this irritating?!”

 

 

The raising of her voice startled the astronaut who almost fell over sideways. His face showed surprise and

 

he stood up and responded to her question. “Irritating? If I am irritating you so much, why don’t you

 

just let me go. Don’t let me ruin your day.”

 

 

Artemis moved closer to her captive and waved her finger in his face. “Don’t talk to me like that! It’s bad

 

enough I have to deal with a teenage son who talks to me like that. Shut up for awhile. Come on, move.” I’ve

 

been a bounty hunter for ten years and I have never had to put up with immature

 

humans.”

 

 

Pete couldn’t believe his ears. She wouldn’t stop insulting him. If she kept this up, Urko’s tortures might not be

 

so bad after all. The bantering back and forth with this female gorilla, in addition to the amount of walking he

 

had to do was making him hot and very tired. He saw a lake off in the distance. He waited until they arrived

 

closer to the water before he spoke again.

 

 

“Artemis, I’m tired and sweaty.”

 

 

“ I know, you stink!” Pete decided to ignore the remark, it wasn’t worth continuing to argue.

 

 

“Could I please go for a swim?”

 

 

“Sure. “

 

 

They both stood looking at each other for a minute or so. Burke spoke first.

 

 

 “I need the leash taken off.” The female gorilla didn’t change her tone of voice.

 

 

“Of course. Take your clothes off first, then the leash comes off, after you give your clothes to me.” Pete

 

forced himself to close his mouth in surprise.

 

 

 “Is this necessary?”

 

 

“You are not getting away unless you want to live on the run in the nude.”

 

 

He couldn’t believe how tough his captor was. The tired astronaut gave out a sigh. He started taking off his

 

shirt. “I am not very comfortable with this situation.”

 

 

“Oh, just relax. You have nothing I haven’t seen before and this is not a big thrill for me.”

 

 

Again, the dark haired astronaut eyes widened and he faced his captor. “Don’t know how I should take that

 

one. Don’t know if I should be relieved or not.” He removed his clothes in silence while Artemis removed the

 

leash. The cool water was refreshing and after a few minutes he actually started feeling better.

 

He swam for awhile, never going too far from his captor who sat on the edge of the

 

water. She looked like she was lost in thought but Pete didn’t have any energy to try

 

for an escape. The water was too refreshing and he was actually starting to feel better.

 

He wrestled internally that he liked his captor. He wanted to know why she was doing

 

this. Usually she hunted down criminal apes that had a substantial reward on their

 

heads. Many were hardened criminals who needed to be caught and put away. She was

 

good and Pete couldn’t understand why she didn’t get more respect. She did ape civilization

 

a great service by bringing in these lowlifes.

 

 

The dark haired astronaut swam underwater and then came back up for air. He

 

swam to the edge of the lake and then got out of the water. He sat next to Artemis while

 

he dried off. The warmth of the sun also felt good. Artemis still appeared to be lost in

 

thought.

 

 

Pete relaxed for a few minutes and then started talking to the female gorilla. "You have a teenage son?”

 

 

Artemis didn’t answer right away. After a few moments she finally spoke. “I have three children, My teenager is

 

the oldest, my daughter is twelve and my baby is five.”

 

 

Pete turned to look at her. You have a handful there. But you’re lucky, I don’t have any kids.”

 

 

The female gave out a laugh. “Ha, lucky. Some days I am lucky, others I wonder why I ever reproduced. They

 

all have minds of their own.”

 

 

“Like their mother, no doubt.”

 

 

She scowled at the naked human. “Put your clothes on, we have to get going!”

 

 

Pete was grateful to get his clothes back on but he did feel better. Artemis reapplied the leash and tugged the

 

dark haired human along. Pete mumbled here we go again and Artemis gave him a sharp look but said

 

nothing.

 

 

The sky was getting darker, indicating that night was about to arrive soon. Artemis was impatient to turn her

 

human captive in but knew that with night approaching they couldn’t keep going in the dark. Against her better

 

judgment, she had no choice but to bring her captor home for the night and turn him in the morning. Not a

 

pleasant thought, but she didn’t know what else to do at the moment. She pulled on the leash and

 

Pete moved closer to her. They were face to face, about five inches apart.

 

 

“You are coming home with me, tonight! You will be on your best behavior and

 

you will be restrained until I deposit you at Urko’s office. "

 

 

Pete didn’t know what to say. He groaned slightly and gazed into the female gorilla’s large black eyes. She

 

was uncomfortable and stepped back. “Okay, whatever you say, boss.” His face showed

 

weariness and Artemis turned around and tugged on the leash again.

 

 

They both walked in silence for a few minutes when Pete spoke again. “Goddess of the hunt.”

 

 

“What did you say?”

 

 

“Goddess of the hunt. You are named after Artemis, the ancient Greek goddess of the hunt.”

 

 

She pulled harder on the leash. “Come on! I don’t have time for ancient history lessons!”

 

 

Pete grunted when she pulled on the leash. He couldn’t believe his predicament

 

and part of him felt his companions would be laughing at him if they saw his situation now.

 

 

Artemis walked along at a fast pace then slowed down. She never brought fugitives

 

from justice to her home but she didn’t know what else to do right now. And she was

 

fatigued also but didn’t show it. She never showed her captors any weakness.

 

 

The sky became darker with an orange sun fading slowly away. The human and gorilla walked for

 

another forty five minutes and then came upon Artemis’s home.

 

 

Pete was impressed. She owned a small farm with horses. A female human with shoulder length brown hair

 

tied back in a ponytail opened the door. Artemis gave her a hug and pulled Pete along, then

 

tied him to a post in the entranceway. The female human gave him a suspicious glance

 

and started towards the kitchen. “Supper is ready, you must be starved! Who’s this ?”

 

 

“This is one of Urko’s fugitives. We’ll keep him here for the night and I’ll turn him

 

in tomorrow.” Artemis was weary and she sat down on a chair.

 

 

The female human studied Burke. She had a frown on her face. “So, what is your story?”

 

 

“My story?” The astronaut was taken aback by her sarcasm. “ My friends and I are on the run from Urko.

 

He is frightened of us because my human friend and are from Earth’s past when humans

 

ruled.”

 

 

The woman didn’t flinch and appeared stone faced before she spoke. “You’re full of shit. Well, Artemis, he is

 

different. At least his story is different and creative. “

 

 

Artemis drank a glass of water. “Yes, there is none like him.” She gazed up at Pete who returned her glance.

 

 

Pete couldn’t believe this. Most humans had helped himself, Alan and Galen. This one was

 

hostile and unfriendly. She continued giving him a sharp look and then proceeded to the

 

kitchen to check on the supper. Meanwhile, a teenage gorilla male came through the

 

door. He went directly to Artemis and hugged her. She was happy to see him.

 

 

“Oh, Mommy, I am glad you are home. You were gone for so long. Who is this?”

 

 

“This is Burke, a fugitive I am turning into Urko tomorrow.”

 

                                                                           

The young adolescent male who was almost the same height as the human astronaut, went over to him and

 

shook his hand. “Welcome, Burke. Usually my mother turns in apes for a price. You are the first human she

 

has ever captured.”

 

 

Pete couldn’t believe his ears. This gorilla male appeared friendly and he felt more relaxed around him than the

 

female human servant. Things were getting a little odd and his comfort level was at an all time low.

 

 

The gorilla kept talking. “My name is Caleb and I love to ride horses. What is your story? What did

 

you do to attract my mother’s interest in you?”

 

 

Pete thought the question was worded strangely but refrained from commenting. “It’s a long story. I am too

 

tired to go into it.” After the response he got from the servant he didn’t want to discuss where he came from.

 

 

Caleb appeared to be fascinated. “A mystery then?! I know, I’ll try to guess what your story is and if I do, my

 

mother lets you go.”

 

 

Artemis got up and lightly shook his arm. “That’s enough, we are not going to participate in any silliness

 

tonight. We need the money and it is time for supper.”

 

 

Caleb gave out a laugh and jumped up and down. Pete could feel in his gut that the weirdness was only

 

beginning. He almost wished he could run out of the house and straight to Urko. At least, Urko was a just a

 

agitated angry gorilla. This household was weird so far.

 

 

The female servant returned from the kitchen and motioned for everyone to come

 

and eat dinner. Caleb untied Pete and guided him to the kitchen which was quite beautiful with flower

 

 arrangements and decorative kitchen ware on counters. A fluffy, black

 

cat sat in the middle of the kitchen table like he was the centerpiece.

 

 

“Galen, you’re not supposed to be there! What do you think you are? You’re a kitty!” Artemis talked to the

 

cat like he was a baby. She picked him up in his arms and he purred loudly. Pete gave

 

out a laugh when he heard the cat being called Galen. “What’s so funny?” Artemis

 

continued to stroke the cat.

 

 

 “I have a friend named Galen.”

 

 

“Yes, the fugitive chimp. Those chimps are something else. I bring in more

 

chimps than any other ape.” Galen purred louder.

 

 

Pete had to raise his voice to be heard. “What do you mean? About chimps?”

 

 

“Oh, you know, they can’t stay out of trouble.”

 

Pete felt slightly offended. Galen was his friend and this chimp bashing bothered him.  “Gorillas are quite

 

aggressive—" he didn’t have time to finish the sentence when Artemis’ youngest son, ran

 

into the kitchen and kicked Pete in the shin.

 

 

Pete bent over in agony. The five year old gorilla was strong and he felt he was protecting his mother.

 

 

Artemis became enraged. She grabbed him by the shoulders and held him firmly. “You are not supposed to do

 

that! Now go apologize to him, right now! I don’t know what I am going to do with you!”

 

 

The sharp pain subsided in Pete’s leg and he stopped hopping around on the other leg. Caleb had let the leash

 

go and was eating some fruit.  Pete bent over and rubbed his shin.

 

 

Artemis was still seething with anger. “This is unacceptable! When are you going to stop this awful

 

impulsive behavior!” She still gripped her son’s shoulders.

 

 

Pete intervened. “Okay, Artemis! He’s very young,”

 

 

Next she stood up and was in Pete’s face. “Don’t tell me how to raise my child! You’re the prisoner here, so

 

shut up!”

 

 

Caleb was now holding Galen and the female servant continued setting the table like nothing was going on.

 

Galen was still purring at a loud volume.

 

 

Pete gave out a sigh. He was exhausted and in no mood for this.

 

 

Artemis turned her son around so he faced Pete. “Tell him you are sorry!”

 

 

The little one looked up at Pete with big dark eyes and Pete felt like melting. “I’m sorry.”

 

 

Pete gazed back at the young gorilla and put his hand on his shoulder gently. “That’s okay, buddy. I would

 

never do anything to hurt your mother.”

 

 

Artemis gritted her teeth. “This has nothing to do with me. He kicks apes and humans all the

 

time. The other day the prefect of the village dropped in and he kicked him. This has got

 

to stop!”

 

 

Now Pete was getting giddy from fatigue and hunger. He forced himself to suppress laughter over the child

 

kicking the prefect. “He must be doing this for a reason,Artemis. I think he is a good kid.”

 

 

The young gorilla studied Pete and then leaned against his mother. She picked him up. “Let’s eat before I get

 

 really angry!”

 

 

Oddly Pete was allowed to eat at the table with Artemis and her family. The female servant also

 

joined them and Galen the cat ate from his dish while everyone was eating. Caleb occasionally gave the cat

 

tidbits of cheese which were gratefully accepted. It seemed like the cat never stopped purring.

 

 

Pete was so emotionally drained that he couldn’t think of an escape plan. All he could think about was sleep.

 

He noticed that only two of Artemis’ children were present. He wanted to ask where the third one was but

 

didn’t want to start any more arguments. The  female servant kept giving him dirty looks so he avoided her

 

gaze. Caleb talked nonstop about nothing.Everyone ate their food while he chatted away and the cat purred at

 

high volume. A few minutes after everyone started eating, Nicole came through the door. She was Artemis’

 

daughter, about twelve in age. She hugged her mother and then picked up the cat.

 

 

“Where have you been, honey?”

 

 

“I have good news. I bought back some of the horses." Artemis stood up from the table. "You disobeyed me! I

 

told you not to go back and retrieve the horses! We need the money!”

 

 

The young female gorilla continued talking in a calm voice. “You sold one of my favorite horses and it is time

 

you start allowing me to learn the trade, Mommy. This was so easy, I caught that psychiatrist with the huge

 

gambling debts. We even have some money left over after I bought back the horses.”

 

 

Artemis put her head in her hands. “I would just like you to wait until you are a little older before you begin

 

your bounty hunter career.“

 

 

Pete was intrigued by the idea of a young female gorilla following in her mother’s footsteps as a bounty hunter.

 

He could tell that Artemis’ daughter was a lot like her mother. He didn’t say it, but he was silently cheering

 

Nicole on. Artemis kept her head in her hands for several minutes. Pete wanted to consol her and cheer her

 

up but refrained from doing so. He chewed a mouthful of food when Nicole noticed his presence.

 

 

The young gorilla”s eyes lit up, she walked over to him and put her hand on his shoulder.

 

“Oh, Mommy, you bought another human! This is really turning out to be a great day!”

 

 

Artemis stood up. “He is not staying! Tomorrow He goes straight to Urko!. Eat something

 

and then it’s time for bed!”

 

 

Nicole stared at the angry gorilla. “You’re kidding, aren’t you? Urko won’t give you anything for a human. You’re

 

not making any sense. You say we need money and then you go and capture a human? Are you

 

alright, Mommy?"

 

 

Artemis was furious. Conversation over! I don’t want another word out of anyone!”

 

 

The young gorilla patted Pete on the head and then rubbed his shoulder. “He’s cute.” Pete

 

looked nervous and now was very uncomfortable. This was so different than being

 

caught by a male gorilla soldier. His exposure to gorillas was only Urko and being

 

chased by his soldiers. He never thought much about them otherwise. The female human

 

still gave him dirty looks and Pete wished she would stop but again, didn’t dare say

 

anything.

 

 

Silence hung in the air as humans and gorillas finished eating the supper of

 

vegetables, soup and cheese. Except for Galen’s continuous purring, no one else

 

spoke for awhile. Pete couldn’t even get his thoughts together due to his fatigue.

 

 

Artemis got up from the table. She picked up her youngest son. “You’re going to bed.

 

She tapped the female servant on the shoulder and pointed towards Burke. “Keep an

 

eye on him.” The female servant nodded in agreement and gazed an angry stare at Burke

 

who refrained from sticking his tongue out at her. Nicole started cleaning up the kitchen

 

and gave Pete loving glances.

 

 

After she put some dishes in the sink, she went over to Pete and started giving him a backrub.

 

“I don’t know what has gotten into Mommy, but humans are usually too cheap for her to capture and turn in.

 

Hardcore criminals are usually what she goes after. That’s where the money is. You’re too cute to turn in. I

 

am going to try to convince her to keep you. We only have two humans. Alicia and her husband, Simon, who

 

is not here at the moment.”

 

 

Pete enjoyed having his back rubbed. He was achy in his bones from the long day of travel. “Your mother is a

 

determined lady. She seems to think Urko is going to give her this huge reward for me. He won’t give her

 

anything, he will see it as her civic duty to turn me in.”

 

 

Nicole giggled. And what did you do to ignite the wrath of the great Urko.”

 

 

Pete felt like he was conversing with an adult, not a child. She certainly was a very mature twelve year

 

old. He didn’t know how he should respond to her question.

 

 

He didn’t have to, Alicia responded for him. “Oh, Urko is desperate to put him to death because he is from

 

another world.” There was a snarl in her voice.

 

 

Pete raised his eyes. “Urko sees me as a threat against simian civilization because I am not from here.”

 

Silently, he wished Alicia would leave the room.

 

 

Nicole continued rubbing his back. “Urko is a fool. A bad security chief, he stinks at what he does. He wastes

 

his time chasing humans while the real criminals create havoc for simian society. I hope someday to have his

 

job.”

 

 

Alicia’s face grew serious and then she laughed. “Oh, that will be the day! I hope I am alive if that ever

 

happens.”

 

 

Pete glanced from Nicole to Alicia. Part of him couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Caleb was cleaning out a

 

cabinet and said nothing. Pete didn’t know how much longer he could tolerate this nutty household.

 

 

Artemis returned and motioned for Nicole to stop giving Pete the backrub. “Come,

 

you are going to sleep in the barn tonight under my watch.” Pete got up and followed

 

the female gorilla outside. Alicia came as well. The night air was cool and Artemis

 

directed Alicia to lead the way to the barn. She followed from behind.

 

 

A few steps away from the house and Pete couldn’t believe what he saw. “You have a jacuzzi?!”

 

 

“A what?” Artemis had no idea what he was talking about. Between the barn and the house was an elegant

 

marble jacuzzi. The water bubbled slightly and appeared to be crystal clear, even by the light of the moon.

 

 

All Pete could think of was getting into it. “I mean, a hot tub…. A hot bath …..” Pete’s voice trailed off.

 

 

“Oh, yes, the warm outside bath tub. My late husband and I discovered there was a small hot spring on our

 

land when we purchased it. Alicia’s husband actually constructed it, putting in the marble steps. My husband

 

and I never cared for it but my humans love it. Can’t keep you humans out of the water. I swear, humans are

 

part fish.”

 

 

Pete studied the hot tub and was fascinated by it, refraining from jumping in.

 

 

Artemis realized his interest in it. “Since you are going to your fate tomorrow, I suppose tonight you can sit in it

 

for awhile.”

 

 

Alicia spoke up. “Yes, you are smelly anyways. Take your clothes off and get in. “I’ll watch him, Artemis. You

 

can get some rest.”

 

 

Artemis sighed and lectured her female servant.“You are not capable of watching him,Alicia. This is only an

 

opportunity for you to get your jollies. Go inside and get my notebook for me.” The female servant

 

frowned and walked back into the house. She turned towards Pete. “If you want to get

 

into the hot tub, take off your clothes and get in.”

 

 

Pete couldn’t resist the opportunity to sit in a jacuzzi for awhile. It would do his aching bones some good and

 

he would feel much better. He removed his clothes and handed them to Artemis. “You know, you are the only

 

female I have ever known that got my clothes off twice in one day.”

 

 

“Shut up and get in before I change my mind!”

 

 

The water felt soothing to the dark haired astronaut’s skin and tired muscles.

 

He sat in the warm water for several minutes and felt himself starting to doze. He was

 

jolted awake when Alicia returned and handed the thick notebook to Artemis. Artemis

 

ordered her back into the house and started reading through the notebook. Pete ducked

 

into the water up to his neck and swam over to the edge of the jacuzzi. He peered over at

 

Artemis. “Must be an important notebook.”  Artemis didn’t respond so he tried again to get her attention. “Is

 

that all the criminals you are hunting down?”

 

 

“Yes, it is.”

 

 

"It’s a very thick notebook. You are one busy lady."

 

 

Artemis finally looked away from her list and acknowledged him “Simian society has too many deviant apes

 

who go against the law. I provide a great service like my father and his father.” Pete listened to her intently.

 

 

 “You are good, Artemis. I give you credit, I have escaped Urko and his soldiers but not you.”

 

 

 She gave him a soft glance but said nothing.

 

 

“You know what Urko will do to me when you turn me in.”

 

 

“I try not to think about it.” The female gorilla continued reading the notebook.

 

 

“He is going to torture me and then execute me. I haven’t done anything to deserve that.” Pete’s voice cracked.

 

 

Artemis felt a chill go up and down her spine. “You’re a fugitive, he wants you for something.”

 

 

Pete’s eyes grew sad and he realized he had to start pleading with his captor. “Look, Artemis, don’t turn me in.

 

I'll help you capture some of the criminals in your notebook.”

 

 

Artemis got up and moved further to the edge of the hot tub. “Really?! You would do that for me and my

 

family?"

 

 

“Yes, I help you and you let me go.”

 

 

Artemis was intrigued with the idea. She would temporarily have a partner who worked for nothing except his

 

freedom. Not bad she thought to herself. The female gorilla sat under the moonlight and pondered the idea

 

before she gave a response. She then leaned over the edge of the hot tub and put her hand under Pete’s

 

chin so he would be looking into her eyes. “No funny business. I run the show, you do

 

what I say. Sometimes I capture as many as twenty fugitives in a day. But tomorrow

 

will be an easy day. If we bring in five, you can go. Any less and off to Urko’s headquarters. Any attempts to

 

escape and we will stop and it’s directly to Urko. Do you understand?”

 

 

Pete’s face was serious. His eyes revealed sadness and he was starting to get dark circles under his eyes

 

from fatigue.

 

 

Artemis could see this but she didn’t change her tone of voice. “Get out of that thing, we start at dawn!”

 

…………………………………………………………………………………………….

 

Pete could feel in his sleep, someone poking him. In a dreamlike state, Alan and

 

Galen were talking to him, telling him how worried they were about him. He missed his

 

friends and when he finally woke up, he surveyed the barn for them. Then he remembered where he was. It

 

was still dark. Pete forced himself up.

 

 

Caleb was the one attempting to wake him. “You were so tired last night, no one had to watch you. My

 

Mommy stayed for a short time but you were in a coma.

 

 

Pete stood up and stretched. “That jacuzzi did me in, better than a sleeping pill.” He yawned and followed the

 

young gorilla into the house where a bowl of porridge was waiting for him. It tasted wonderful and he ate two

 

bowls of it before starting in on some fruit. Through the window he could see Artemis arrive on horseback.

 

Apparently she had been out riding.

 

 

She came through the door and was ready to get going. “We are already late. Come on, if you want your

 

freedom.”

 

 

Pete couldn’t believe it. The sun was just starting to come up. He swallowed some grapes and then got up

 

from the table. "Okay boss. Just tell me where to go and what to do.”

 

 

She placed a map of the city in front of him. Marks were made at certain spots to indicate where the fugitives

 

were. She handed it to him. “This is your copy, I assume you are smart enough to read

 

this.” Pete nodded. She continued talking. “This should be fairly easy today, except for

 

the last chimp. He is part of a gang and it could get ugly. I may allow you to carry a knife

 

at that point, depending on how I feel.”

 

 

Pete felt nervous, pains started in his stomach. “All chimps? Today, we are picking up all chimps?!”

 

 

Artemis scowled at  him. “You have a problem with that?”

 

 

Pete felt weak and wanted to sit down. “No problem, Artemis.”

 

 

Her anger started to rise. “You are the only human I know who likes chimps. Get over it.

 

Now, come on. Before I change my mind about this!” She grabbed Pete’s arm and

 

guided him outside. A wagon with a horse was waiting. She motioned for Pete to get

 

in and she told the horse to get moving.

 

 

Pete sat in the wagon and felt so nervous he didn’t know if he could do this. Being handed over to Urko looked

 

better all the time. He hoped the ride into the ape city would be long so he could try to calm his nerves.

 

 

No such luck. It was fairly short. Artemis stopped the wagon and left it just outside the

 

city in a secluded area. She ordered Pete out of the wagon which he did despite his

 

shaking knees. He also noticed she had a gun with her. Great. This was going to be a fun

 

day.

 

 

Artemis led Pete to an alley behind some buildings where a tough young orangutan

 

met them. He had a scar under his right eye and Pete noticed that the eye itself looked

 

damaged. Pete could tell that the orangutan was relaxed around the female gorilla. He

 

spoke first.

 

 

“You are going to have a hard time with the leader of the gang. He is in

 

 hiding. I don’t recommend you go after him.” The orangutan looked Pete all over but

 

did not acknowledge him. 

 

 

Artemis put her hand on his shoulder. “Oh, today is the day, it’s jail or his death. But he is last on my list. The

 

others we discussed come in first. I want to start with Louis.” The orangutan took a step back from her.

 

“That’s the easy one. He is at his usual hangout at this hour. On the market street, go to the end. There is a

 

seller who specializes in bananas. He’ll be there stuffing his face. You better get going, he’ll only be there until

 

his favorite bar opens.”

 

 

Pete couldn’t believe his ears. A drunken chimp who gorged on bananas. Apparently, this

 

was the day he got to see the lower element of simian society. The pains in his stomach

 

came and went. He longed for this day to be over with.

 

 

Artemis was anxious to get going. She worked fast. “You know where to meet me later.” Pete had to run to

 

keep up with her. “Get a move on, the market street is across town.”

 

 

“Who is that?”

 

 

“My informant. He helps me and he doesn’t go to jail, unless I change my mind of course.”

 

Pete was already feeling fatigued again. By the time they reached the market street, Artemis stopped suddenly.

 

Pete crashed into her. She didn’t mind and grabbed him around his waist. She pointed to the fugitive chimp. He

 

was talking to a female chimp next to a stall of bananas.

 

 

“There he is. Go get him!”

 

 

Pete swallowed hard. “ Okay. Just go get him? Is he going to put up a fight?”

 

 

“Kick him in the leg. His left leg. It’s weak and he’ll be in pain. I’ll be right there with the handcuffs.”

 

 

Pete started pinching himself to see if this was actually all real and not a bad dream. He walked down the

 

street at a fast pace, wanting to get this over with. The two chimps were deep in conversation and never

 

noticed him until he walked up to the male and kicked his left leg. The male chimp didn’t flinch and turned to

 

look at him while the female attempted to hit Pete who managed to step back.

 

 

The female was irate. “What the hell are you doing, you stinkin human!” She became angry

 

and lunged towards Pete. She was too late. Artemis knocked her to the ground and

 

already had the male in handcuffs. The female got up and attempted to leave when Pete tripped her and sat on

 

her. Artemis handed him another pair of handcuffs which he managed to get on her.

 

 

The male chimp babbled nonstop. “Here we go again, Artemis! Nothing else to do but

 

chase me around and turn me in. A gorilla with no husband and no life. You should be

 

home with your wayward children.”

 

 

Artemis hit him, knocking him out. She then lifted the female to her feet. “It’s such a good day. Two instead of

 

one." She hit the female chimp in the face and she fell over except Pete caught her before she hit the ground.

 

The female chimp groaned in pain and then her eyes connected with Pete’s. Pete was shaking

 

but held on to her.

 

 

A gorilla soldier on horseback arrived. “Good work, Artemis. I’ll take them both in

 

and your pay will be at the prefect’s office."

 

 

Pete felt weak when he saw the gorilla soldier but didn’t have anything to worry about. He seemed more

 

interested in the two chimps. He ordered them to start walking. When they were out of sight, Pete felt relieved.

 

The apes who were in the market area watching the commotion returned back to what they were doing.

 

“I thought you were only after the male?” He was slightly out of breath.

 

 

“She interferred with Louis’ capture. That is against the law. She’ll go to jail too.”

 

 

Pete noticed that Artemis appeared to be full of energy and was just getting started.

 

 

“This is good, we caught two instead of one. Hopefully the day will continue to

 

be this good.”

 

 

Pete silently prayed that this day would come to an end. Maybe an earthquake, hurricane or tornado would be

 

a stop to his bounty hunting career. He didn’t know if he could survive the day. That female chimp was very

 

strong and he felt like he had had enough. “I thought you said that his left leg was weak? He didn’t move when I

 

kicked him.”

 

 

“Oh, I just told you that so you would have something to do. That was probably the easiest time we are going

 

to have today.”

 

 

“Great, just wonderful.” Pete ran to catch up with Artemis. “Who’s the next lucky chimp?”

 

 

“We are going to bring in Chester the cheating chimp. His wife never will divorce him so she sends me out to

 

retrieve him from his love excursions. Be careful, this could be ugly. I have been shot at by a few of

 

his angry girlfriends.” Pete looked up at the sky. If Galen and Alan were here they would be laughing.

 

 

 Artemis led Pete to a house outside of the city. It was somewhat secluded. She

 

motioned for Pete to remain silent while they waited outside.

 

 

Pete refrained from talking or trying to pace back and forth. His nerves were not very good and he was still

 

contemplating turning himself into Urko. “How long are we going to wait?”

 

 

“Not very long. If he doesn’t show up we’ll move on to someone else.” As Artemis was speaking two chimps

 

arrived on horses and went around to the back of the house. Pete swallowed hard and hoped this would all be

 

over soon. Both chimps led their horses into a barn and entered the house. Artemis motioned to Pete that

 

they were going to wait.

 

 

“Why are we waiting?”

 

 

Shhh….just a few more minutes, then we go in the house.”

 

 

Pete shook his head and remained silent. After about twenty minutes, Artemis grabbed

 

his arm and led him into the house. No one was in the front room so Artemis led the

 

weary astronaut into a bedroom at the end of a long hallway. Screams could be heard as

 

both chimps who were in bed together were startled by the presence of the gorilla and a

 

human. Pete’s eyes almost popped out of his head. “Oh…..myyyy!” The embarrassed

 

astronaut averted his eyes but his gorilla captor just acted like this was another day of

 

work. The female chimp dashed out of the bed and into a closet, she was still yelling.

 

 

The male chimp sat up and gave out a big sigh. “Artemis, can’t you ever take a day off? How much is my wife

 

paying you this time? Last time she gave you my favorite horse. And now you have a human for an assistant?

 

What’s gotten into you?” The chimp put his head in his hands. “Shut up, dear!” He shouted towards the closet.

 

 

Artemis was not amused. “You never learn, Chester. I still don’t understand why your wife does not divorce

 

you!”

 

 

“It’s because she prefers to torture me.” The chimp started to get out of the bed. The sheet covered very little

 

of him and Pete was so nervous, he stood behind Artemis.

 

 

“Both of you are coming with me. Tell your new honey to get out of the closet!” Whimpering could be heard in

 

the closet and Artemis was getting impatient. “Let’s go! I don’t have all day!” The female chimp burst out of the

 

closet pointing a gun at Artemis. Pete tried to control his nerves but “uh oh” came out of him.

 

 

The male chimp diffused his partner. “Calm down. After my wife pays Artemis, we’ll get together again.”

 

 

The female chimp still pointed the gun. "You told me you were never married!”

 

 

Artemis began laughing. ‘So you are back to your original line. Let’s see, we have “I am a widower, I am

 

divorced and of course I have never been married. You ought to come up with some new material. This is so

 

old.”

 

 

The angry female chimp then pointed the gun at Chester who still remained very calm. Artemis managed to

 

leap across the room and get the gun away from her. Pete was at a loss over what to do so he remained still.

 

 

Artemis ordered both chimps to get dressed. She tied both of them up and then instructed

 

Pete to watch them while she retrieved the wagon. Pete was still nervous and prayed that

 

Artemis would return soon. Both chimps surveyed Pete who felt uncomfortable and

 

didn’t know if he should converse with the two prisoners or not.

 

 

Chester spoke first. “I assume you belong to Artemis.”

 

 

Pete just nodded his head.

 

 

“It’s kind of odd she would bring her slave with her. Artemis works alone. “

 

 

Pete didn’t know how to respond. He wished Artemis would return. It seemed like she had been gone forever.

 

 

The female chimp was still angry. “A human shouldn’t be attacking chimps!"

 

 

Pete was startled. “I didn’t attack you.”

 

 

“My father’s aunt has a gardener who works for the prefect. This won’t go unnoticed!”

 

 

Chester nudged her with his elbow. “Calm down, honey.”

 

 

“Don’t call me honey. You are going to sit in jail with this stinkin human!”

 

 

Pete felt the pains returning to his stomach and wiped his forehead with his hand. He couldn’t believe

 

this situation.

 

 

Artemis returned after forty-five minutes which seemed like an eternity to the

 

weary astronaut. She pulled both chimps to their feet and led them to the wagon. She

 

ordered Pete to watch them while she drove the wagon to a fairly large house. After she

 

went inside she returned with a large sum of money and ordered both chimps to go into

 

the house. She quickly returned to the wagon and as she drove away, Pete could hear

 

yelling and screaming going on inside.

 

 

Relief flooded his body as the wagon became further and further away from the arguing. “That was fun.

 

Anymore like that?”

 

 

Artemis gave him angry look. “There are plenty like Chester. I could base my whole business on

 

cheating apes but I like a job with variety.” Pete and the female gorilla gazed at each other, their eyes

 

connecting. “I like having you along, it’s great having the help.”

 

 

Pete finally looked off in the distance. “I am a space explorer, not a bounty hunter. I don’t know how you do

 

this every day.” He returned his gaze to the female gorilla.

 

 

“The excitement is worth it and the fact that I am contributing to simian society by bringing in crooks and

 

 wayward simians. You are a weak human anyways and this work is probably too much for you.”

 

 

Pete gave her a sarcastic glance. “Thanks. You are so full of compliments and encouragement. I just

 

hope this day ends soon.”

 

 

Artemis drove the wagon to a small house outside the city. Lush bushes and

 

flowers lined the yard. Artemis motioned for Pete to get out of the wagon. “We are doing

 

well today. It is only ten o’clock so we can have a long lunch with my aunt before we

 

descend upon the gang."

 

 

 

“Oh, great. Lunch and then the gang war. I hope I don’t have indigestion when we bring in the gang.”

 

 

Artemis tied the horse to a post. “You’ll like my aunt. Be good and relax, she is a great cook.”

 

 

Both the astronaut and the female gorilla walked into the house. There were several cats lounging around. A

 

tiger striped cat came over to Pete and rubbed against his leg. He petted the feline who purred loudly. Cats

 

were on chairs and sofas, tables and window sills. They all looked up from napping and surveyed the gorilla

 

and her human.

 

 

Pete finally felt comfortable, a feeling he hadn’t had for quite sometime now. An elderly

 

gorilla came into the room and embraced Artemis. Despite the gray in her face, she

 

walked like a much younger gorilla. “Well, look who’s here! The best bounty hunter in

 

the family.” They remained in an embrace. “And who is this handsome creature?!”

  

 

“Aunt Isabelle, this is Pete. He is helping me today.”

 

 

The older gorilla walked over to the dark haired astronaut and put his face in her hands. “He’s got quite an

 

interesting face.”

 

 

Pete didn’t know how to respond to her. “Nice to meet you” was all he could come up with.

 

 

“You must be hungry. I have been cooking all morning and you should eat!” She motioned for her two guests

 

to go into a small dining room and they sat down at a table. The gorilla put plates in front of them and a pitcher

 

of water. Pete felt odd. He knew he was considered to be a lowly human yet he was allowed to eat with

 

 these gorillas. He doubted any of the gorilla soldiers after him would sit at a table and eat

 

 a meal with him.

 

 

Aunt Isabelle proceeded to place vegetable stew and salad in front of her two guests.

 

She kept studying Pete. “You are not from this world, are you?” The elderly gorilla had

 

a gentle voice.

 

 

Pete looked up at her as he ate a salad. “No…….I am not.” He didn’t want to discuss his predicament at the

 

moment. He was too tired and anxious about the rest of the afternoon.

 

 

Isabelle continued to inquire about the astronaut. Pete could tell she was wise. “Where are you from, then? I

 

see someone who is very far from home.”

 

 

Pete drank some water and started chewing on a slice of bread. "I crashed here with two other astronauts. We

 

come from Earth’s past……when humans ruled. I don’t know what happened. Urko and Zaius see us as a

 

threat to the simian world. My companion and I have been on the run, with our friend Galen. Galen is a chimp.”

 

He glanced at Artemis. Her face was very serious. “Galen, Alan and myself believe that apes and humans can

 

live together in peace.”

 

 

Isabelle was fascinated. “You said there were three of you who crashed here. What happened to the

 

third one?”

 

 

Pete tried to hide the sadness in his voice. “Jonesy didn’t make it. He died when our ship crashed.”

 

 

“So this is a strange world for you. You are out of place and time. But I can tell

 

you are not a quitter. Someday, apes and humans may co-exist as equals.” Artemis

 

drank some water and got up to make coffee. “I have no problem living with humans.

 

Humans are smart, they could be free.” Pete was interested in hearing what she had to

 

say. He watched her as she made the coffee.

 

 

“I don’t hear that very often from apes.”

 

 

The female gorilla returned to her seat. “Not all apes dislike humans. My family and I have had humans living

 

with us for a long time.”

 

 

Pete grinned slightly. He couldn’t resist badgering her. “Humans are okay, in your book. But chimps are

 

another story!” He waited for her response.

 

 

She looked over at Isabelle. “Can you believe this? A chimp loving human?! Anything I say against chimps and

 

he flips out. You are a character, the way you adore that chimp friend of yours.”

 

 

Pete remained silent. He was baffled by this female gorilla bounty hunter. But she intrigued him and he knew

 

he had a fondness for her, despite her faults. Isabelle got up and poured three cups of coffee.

 

 

“There is a pond behind the house. You can go for a swim while Isabelle and I play

 

a short game of chess.”

 

 

Pete drank some coffee and it went down the wrong way. After coughing for a minute he regained his

 

composure. “I can’t seem to keep my clothes on around you.”

 

 

Artemis frowned. “Well, don’t go swimming then! You seemed to enjoy it so much. I just thought that

 

before our last “Haul in” you would like to be refreshed. Our next crook is tough. He is

 

not going to be easy to deal with.”

 

 

Pete sipped his coffee and looked out the kitchen window. He could see the crystal clear water of the pond

 

surrounded by lush green trees. It called out to him and he knew a good swim would be beneficial to his sanity.

 

He turned to look at Artemis and her dark eyes met his. “What a female!” was all he could

 

think of but he refrained from saying his thought out loud.

 

 

Isabelle added to the conversation. “You could watch us play chess and observe

 

how I slaughter my niece at this game.”

 

 

Artemis laughed. “She is telling tall stories. I am getting quite proficient at this game.”

 

 

Pete grinned. “The pond sounds inviting and since the afternoon is expected to be a rough one, I suppose I

 

should go for a swim. "Sounds like it is possible it maybe my last one. “

 

 

Artemis frowned. “Don’t think that way. Rise to the challenge, nothing like a good fight.”

 

 

“I like your positive attitude.”Pete swam in the pond and the cool water felt refreshing against his skin.

 

Artemis and Isabelle played their game of chess on a large rock on the shore. Occasionally Artemis looked

 

away from the game to observe the dark haired astronaut who was swimming.

 

 

“You are not paying attention. Your mind is elsewhere.” Artemis still gazed at the pond. Isabelle spoke again.

 

“It’s still your move. You going to move sometime today or shall we continue this game tomorrow?” Artemis

 

moved a pawn.

 

 

“Checkmate!” Isabelle didn’t relish her victory, it was too easy. “As usual, I win. But

 

today you weren’t in the game.”

 

 

“I have to get going. Pete and I have work to do. I thank you for feeding us and as always the children and I will

 

be here on Saturday.” The female gorilla got up and walked towards the pond. She picked up Pete’s clothes

 

and waved them at him. “Come on! We have to get going!”

 

 

The dark haired astronaut had swam out to the middle of the pond and was returning to the shore. The swim

 

had calmed his nerves but he didn’t like the feeling he had in the pit of his stomach. It wasn’t

 

a bad feeling, it was an exciting feeling. He was enjoying this day with Artiemis despite

 

the stress. He didn’t like the idea of leaving her and he pushed that thought away but it

 

kept coming back. He lectured to himself that he was crazy and to focus on his

 

companions who would be looking for him. The water still soothed him and he gradually

 

walked out of the pond and retrieved his clothes from Artemis.

 

 

“We have to move fast, I promised Zeus I would take him horseback riding before dark.”

 

 

Pete pulled his shirt over his head. “ So Zeus is his name, the little kicker. That’s a powerful name for a little

 

guy.”

 

 

“It’s my late husband’s name. He died when I was pregnant.”

 

 

Pete had finished getting dressed and stood eye to eye with Artemis. “I’m sorry, Artemis. You are doing a great

 

job raising your children alone.”

 

 

The female gorilla looked down for a minute and then motioned for Pete to move along.

 

……………………………………………………………………………………………

 

Pete and Artemis stood at the original location where they met the orangutan in the

 

morning. The orangutan was hesitant. “I don’t know, Artemis. I don’t trust this chimp you plan on capturing. He

 

can be vicious.”

 

 

Pete remained silent but didn’t like what he was hearing.

 

 

“I have to bring in Ares, the money is too good and it is about time he went to jail. This one has been on the run far too long.”

 

 

Pete’s eyes widened when he heard the name Ares. He kind of felt like he was participating in a Greek

 

play and the actors were all apes. If he ever did return to Alan and Galen, he didn’t

 

know if they would even believe his story.

 

 

“Okay, Artemis. You are so determined. Ares and the gang are in that house over

 

there.” The orangutan pointed towards a house across the street. “Come on, let’s go!”

 

 

Artemis motioned for Pete to get going and the orangutan watched them as they crossed

 

the street and entered the house.

 

 

It was a larger amount of chimps than Pete expected. There were at least fifteen.

 

His only thought was “this is it. This is the end.” Without realizing it, he put his hand on

 

Artemis’ shoulder. Her eyes met his and they were gentle and calm.

 

 

One of the chimps came forward. Surprisingly, he didn’t appear as tough as Pete

 

thought he would be. “Artemis, what a pleasure! You’ve come to join us!”

 

 

The female gorilla was getting angry. “Don’t be foolish! You are coming with me. It’s over. Without you the

 

gang will have to cease their illegal activities.”

 

 

Ares didn’t act fazed by her statement. The other chimps moved in closer. Pete who stood behind Artemis

 

received the knife she slipped to him. He forced his hand to stop shaking and tried to appear calm. Ares

 

continued talking. “We can make this easy, Artemis. You can go home to your children and forget about this.

 

Or we can make this very ugly. You and your human won’t live. I am shocked that you have lowered your

 

standards to the point that you are bringing a human along with you. The job getting to be too much, Artemis?

 

Only a pathetic human will work with you?” The other chimps laughed.

 

 

Pete didn’t like this banter and felt himself getting angry. “Look, pal! I’d listen to the lady or don’t listen to the

 

lady. When we are through your buddies here can clean up the mess. And I can see the headlines now.

 

Female gorilla and lowly human defeat the chimp with the biggest ego on the planet.”

 

 

Artemis felt her jaw drop. Like the ancient Greek god who he was named after, Ares could be full of wrath.

 

 

The chimp didn’t seem angry though. He moved forward again and remained

 

calm. “Humans are known to be quite creative with their speech. You trained this one

 

well, Artemis.”

 

 

“I didn’t train him, Ares. Come on. You are coming with us.” Artemis reached for the arm of the chimp and side

 

stepped him when he shot at her. Fortunately, the bullet only grazed her arm but she fell to the floor. Pete was

 

quick enough to stab Ares in the stomach as he attempted to shoot her again. The gun went off but he had

 

pointed it at the ceiling when he felt the knife in his stomach.

 

 

Pete was almost in a rage. He stood over Artetmis and the chimp, holding the knife in the air. The rest of the

 

gang retreated. They were shocked by Pete’s defense of Artemis. He wavered between his

 

anger and his concern for Artemis. The chimp was curled up the fetal position and groaned.

 

 

The orangutan informant came through the door with three gorilla soldiers and rounded

 

up the gang. By now, Artemis had gotten to her feet. He looked at Pete holding the

 

knife. “It was smart of you to bring your human. I wondered why he was with you, you always work alone. You

 

obviously knew this was too dangerous to be alone.”

 

 

One of the gorilla soldiers spoke to Artemis. “There is a large reward for you at the prefect’s office. Good job,

 

Artemis.” He studied Pete. “I have never encountered a human who defended an ape before. You did well.”

 

 

Pete was actually relaxed. He looked into the soldier’s eyes, something he rarely did in the presence of apes. “I

 

care about this lady.” It was a statement he didn’t expect to have come out of him and he was shocked he said

 

it.

 

 

The look on the soldier’s face changed, it softened. “She’s a lucky female.” He then

 

returned to go out the door, following the other soldiers and the gang of criminal chimps.

 

 

Pete studied Artemis’ arm. It was only slightly wounded with a small amount of

 

blood trickling down her arm. “This needs to be tended to.” Their eyes met.

 

………………………………………………………………………………………………

 

Pete sat in the hot tub and soaked up the warm water. His muscles relaxed and he even

 

felt better inside. The day of chasing the lower element of simian society came to a close.

 

Alicia and her husband also sat in the hot tub across from Pete. All three humans were in

 

the nude and their clothes laid scattered around the edge of the tub. Alicia didn’t seem to

 

be as antagonistic towards Pete as she was before. Her husband who had returned from

 

working on another farm was pleasant and welcoming to Pete.

 

 

The serenity of the atmosphere was interrupted by Artemis who had walked up to the edge of the tub. “Your

 

friends are coming down the road.” Pete leaped out of the hot tub and quickly put his clothes on.

 

 ………………………………………………………………………………………….

  

Pete and Artemis stood face to face in the road in front of her house. He felt

 

a mixture of emotions and was suddenly very uncomfortable.

 

 

The female gorilla appeared to be uncomfortable as well. Good-byes were never easy and she didn’t

 

want to say good-bye to this human. She took a deep breath. Pete had a lump in his throat. “You and your

 

friends are welcome to stay here. Even your chimp friend can stay too.”

 

 

Pete grinned slightly. “I can’t put you and your family in jeopardy.”

 

 

The female gorilla handed a folded piece of paper to the dark haired astronaut. He unfolded it and was amazed

 

by the long list of names and addresses on it. “All of these apes owe me favors. If you are in trouble or need a

 

place to hide and you are near one of these simians, go to them and tell them you know me. You’ll be safe this

 

way.”

 

 

Pete’s face became serious. He was stunned. “I am grateful for this, Artemis. I am going to miss

 

you.”  Next, the simian and the human embraced for a few minutes. Artemis didn’t

 

want to let go of him. Pete finally stepped back and squeezed her hand as he began

 

walking down the road to join his friends.

 

 

Alan and Galen had stopped at a certain place by the road when they saw the gorilla

 

and their companion embrace. Pete walked steadily towards them but he appeared to be

 

glum.

 

 

Alan walked over to him. “We decided to wait here. Didn’t want to interrupt you

 

and your girlfriend.” Pete gave him a sharp look and then returned his gaze back to Artemis. She was still in

 

front of her house watching him. Pete didn’t feel like talking and just put his arm around Galen and Alan as the

 

three of them walked onwards. His thoughts ran on. He didn’t know where to begin. Should he start with how

 

he met a cat named Galen or he spent most of his time recently without his clothes on? A chimp

 

called Ares and a very angry human female were other unusual encounters he had. The

 

dark haired astronaut continued walking with his friends and looked ahead at the road

 

in front of them.

 

……………………………………………………………………………………………..

 

Security Chief Urko grunted as he handed documents over to his assistant. The

 

female gorilla bounty hunter stood in front of him with three gorillas linked by chains.

 

 

Urko’s soldiers led the prisoners away and he scowled at the female in front of him.

 

“You have been busy this week, Artemis! Everyday you have been bringing in the lower

 

element of simian society.” Silently, he was embarrassed and jealous of her. She was so

 

successful in bringing in the most wanted fugitives and now her wealth rivaled his. She also just purchased

 

some champion race horses.

 

 

His anger was beginning to boil up. “I heard a rumor, Artemis, that you captured Ares with the aid of a human

 

male. It is against the law to harbor human fugitives. I hope this male was not a fugitive. You have

 

gained so much, it would be a shame to lose it all.”

 

 

The female gorilla inched closer to the security chief. Their eyes met and their faces were five inches apart. “I

 

do not harbor fugitives! You should be chasing the real criminals instead of weak humans!”

 

 

Urko held his composure and controlled his anger. “Humans are the real threat to the simian world. You have

 

a duty to protect our world!”

 

 

Artemis didn’t flinch. “Ah, sir, you are so weak. Someday my daughter will have your position and then truly,

 

simian society will be great.”

 

 

The female bounty hunter then turned away from the seething gorilla and walked out the door.