Lonan City

Gina Scarbro

 

 

 

 

It had been a long, hot, day and the fugitives were tired. Not their usual kind of ‘being hounded’ tired but a new experience in tiredness for the three of them, just plain too much walking, day after day. Galen’s feet were so sore. A few weeks ago little blisters had started to appear but now, as he stared at the soles of his feet, he could see that they had all joined up and even his blisters had blisters. He wasn’t looking forward to walking another step tomorrow. Pete and Alan’s feet were in a worse state as human feet are a lot less tough than his own and their shoes had shredded leaving them with nothing more than bandages to keep out the sharp rocks. Alan had decided it would be a good idea to try to keep away from any settlements for a while and to change the familiar pattern that Urko expected. It was certainly hard on the three of them just to keep moving and especially with so little food.

Galen was keeping watch as his two friends slept. The nights were much colder here. Leaning back on a large tree trunk he was trying to think of a good reason why there had been no sign of Urko or any of his gorillas for about four weeks. In all their struggles to avoid capture it was most unlike Urko to let his quarry get this far from Central City. They had been zigzagging backwards and forwards for months. This time they had covered so much ground it felt as if they’d eluded him for good. Pete had suggested during the day that maybe Urko had just given up and gone home to his wife. After the humiliation of previous failures Galen was wondering if that, in fact, could be a possibility. Certainly his wife must be a bit lonely as Urko could not possibly get home much. Maybe he’d some family emergency and had to have some time off work. Galen smiled to himself “not much chance of that” he thought and tried to keep his eyes open for a bit longer, even though he should have woken Alan for his turn. He was beginning to feel safer by the day and continued to let his mind wander under the tree.

Pete was sleeping unusually far away from the closeness they liked to maintain during their resting periods. Galen had dismissed any thoughts of commenting on this earlier as he was sure his friend would have some wisecracking reason for breaking their rules. Pete hadn’t been in the best of moods all day and Galen knew when to leave him alone. Galen had tried to ask what he missed most about his old life but Pete just seemed to go into a decline. There was a lot about his astronaut friends past that he didn’t understand and he just couldn’t imagine what it must be like for them to have been living in the 20th century and now find themselves thrust into the future.

Galen's head jolted him awake as he realised he was getting too tired to do the watch any more tonight. He tiptoed over to Alan and shook him awake.

“Everything okay Galen?” the astronaut asked as he opened his eyes.

“Yes, just finding it hard to stay awake, I’ve been thinking we’ve become a bit casual lately, not keeping to our usual safety routine.”

“Well, it’s been a welcome break from tearing around the countryside. You should have woken me earlier, it's getting light.”

Dawn was breaking as the pair attempted to swap shifts. Suddenly they heard a noise in the nearby bushes. Eyes wide, they both stared in disbelief as a large gorilla stood in the shadows pointing a gun in their direction.

“Don't move a muscle either of you.”

Alan shot Galen a glance. Galen had no idea what Alan was trying to say but they both knew that they’d made a grave error of judgement in letting down their guard. After what seemed like an age they realised they were totally surrounded. Then from out of the darkness stepped Urko, well he wore Urko's uniform, but it wasn’t him.

“My name is Scarta, General Scarta. I’ve been instructed by Zaius to arrest you and take you to my Headquarters in Lonan City. I believe you’re the fugitive as-tro-nauts Virdon and Burke and you,” giving a sharp look at Galen, “are the renegade ape Galen, wanted in Central City for the death of one of General Urko's troopers. I’ll not tolerate any nonsense from either of you. I have this arrest well planned. You will both come with me now and in case you’re wondering why your friend hasn’t woken up, it’s because we dealt with him in advance and he will follow us separately just in case you’ve any ideas of escape.” Galen looked at Pete sleeping through all the commotion. What had they done to him?

--------------------------

Riding on horseback on the lonely road to Lonan City, Zaius and Urko were talking about their favourite topic. The two had been travelling for a couple of days together with an entourage of gorillas. Urko was very agitated to be dragged miles away from his mission in life.

“It seems to me Urko that these elusive humans are just too bright for you to handle,” Zaius said with a smirk.

“Just give me more troopers, I don't have enough to find them when their tracks go cold. When I do capture them you come up with some half-baked plan to squeeze information from them. If you’d just let me kill them we wouldn't be having this conversation. How far is this City and why is it so important for me to be there? You know I’ve far more important things to do.”

“You’ll see, I’ve a surprise for you Urko. I’m sure you’ll be most impressed.”

 --------------------------

“Feels like square wheels.” Alan said, wondering how much further it could be to this Lonan City. Both he and Galen had been forced into the back of a medical cart. The gorillas had dragged them right to the back and tied their hands above their heads to the rail that conveniently ran across the top. They were fed up with the battering from the movement of the rickety cart as they headed reluctantly to an unknown destination.

“I never realised how uncomfortable these hospital wagons are, this wouldn’t do sick patients much good would it? I suppose we just have to grin and bear it for Pete’s sake.”

“Let’s hope he’s having a better time, this Scarta obviously has something in mind for him if we try anything, don’t suppose you saw what happened to him.”

“No, he was fast asleep, I didn’t see anything, perhaps we’ll get the chance to check him out later”.

“Do you think they got to him while he was collecting the water?”

“Maybe.” They suddenly came to a halt.

“Sounds like we’ve arrived.”

“I’ll take the chimpanzee, you take the other prisoner inside, I’ll be in shortly,” a voice shouted.

 --------------------------

 Alan couldn’t help his eyes slowly closing, sitting in cells waiting seemed to be a regular occurrence for him since his and Pete’s arrival in this ape infested world.

“Alan,” whispered Galen as loud as he dare to the dosing astronaut in the next cell.

Alan was suddenly awake realising Galen had arrived.

“Where’ve you been Galen?” Alan said slowly getting to his feet. “Where’s Pete?”

“I don’t know. Isn’t he with you?”

“No, I haven’t seen him since we were caught. You okay?”

“Yes, I’m fine, the gorillas were keen to find out why I was travelling with two humans. Sometimes I wish there was just one ape in this world that would agree I’m doing the right thing. I see I’m being treated a little better than most in here,” Galen said looking around at the various inmates with whom he’d the pleasure of sharing his prison and the rather comfortable looking bed, instead of straw, that had been prepared for him. The cages were in a hexagon shape and he had been put in the one opposite the entrance. There were two empty cages to his right and three with human occupants to his left. He was grateful to be in the cell next to Alan. All the cells were quite deep and he could only talk to him if they both stood at the bars.

Suddenly the main doors burst open and two large gorillas supporting a rather sorry looking Burke between them came rushing in, closely followed by General Scarta. Alan tried desperately to see if his friend was all right but Pete’s head hung low and the gorillas blocked his view so there was no chance of assessing his condition.

“Put him in that cell next to the human-loving chimpanzee, tie him to the back wall out of sight. I don’t want him to upset the other guests, no visitors for this one and no food.” Alan and Galen looked frantically at each other and then watched as Scarta came straight towards them. Scarta stopped in front of Galen and looked him in the eye. “I can’t imagine what you see in these humans. You’re a fool Galen, your father will not be impressed when he arrives.”

Galen stared back at him trying to decide whether he should know this gorilla and what exactly he meant by his father being on the way?

“You’re quite a celebrity here, all your fans will be arriving in the next few days ready for your trial – this will be a very special event for Lonan.”

Scarta turned towards Alan. “As for you, your fate is sealed. Zaius wants to witness your end so make yourself at home, it’s going to be a long wait.”

Alan considered asking after Pete but thought better of it. It was obvious that Scarta knew how close the three of them had become and was trying to use it to his advantage by separating them.

With that Scarta turned on his heels, shouted, “COME” to his troopers, who had finished with Burke in the darkness of the cell and suddenly Alan and Galen were left alone. They threw themselves at the bars trying to get a glimpse of Pete.

“Pete,” Alan desperately called out and waited but there was no reply.

“Can you see anything?” Galen asked.

“No, but it can’t be good or why would they deliberately keep him away from us Galen. There is something very odd about all this. How did they get to Pete when one of us was keeping watch all night?”

“Oh Alan, I must have fallen asleep, I really didn’t think I had, this is all my fault.”

“Don’t blame yourself Galen, they had this well planned. I wonder who is behind this? Urko certainly isn’t clever enough to have set this up. This Scarta, have you heard of him before?”

“No, but then I’ve not heard of Lonan either. I always believed that Central City was the only city in this area.”

“It’s a forgone conclusion that you’ll be found guilty at your trial. If ‘Ape Shall Not Kill Ape’ what will they do with you?”

“Lock me up and throw away the key probably,” Galen muttered to himself.

“Got any bright ideas Galen,” Alan said as they tried to think of a way to see Pete.

“Not this time, not yet anyway. We were really foolish to let ourselves get caught.”

“We were tired, it was bound to happen eventually, we couldn’t keep running for ever.”

There were voices from outside.

“Someone’s coming,” Galen said. They watched as a gorilla spoke to the guard and then came over to speak to him.

“You’re to come with me. My name is Zinta, assistant to General Scarta. You’re going to dine with him tonight.”

As Zinta opened the lock, Galen looked at Alan, but he just raised his eyebrows in a manner that Galen couldn’t interpret. He decided to take action.

“I need to see the human in that cage,” he said pointing to Pete’s cell.

“I am afraid that will not be possible, no visitors and no food for that one, strict orders from General Scarta.”

“You can’t leave him like that all night!” Alan shouted.

“I suggest you discuss your request with the General at dinner,” Zinta replied ignoring Alan’s outburst and looking directly at Galen.

“Very well, take me there,” Galen said firmly trying to take control of the situation whilst simultaneously looking into the back of Pete’s cell. He could see nothing and resigned himself to take up the General’s offer.

Now Alan was alone. He slumped down next to the bars of his cage, hoping for any small sign that Pete was still alive. He had tried shouting his name and rattling his bars all to no avail. There was nothing he could do but hope Pete became conscious soon.

--------------------------

Unbeknown to Alan and Galen, Pete had been taken to the centre of Lonan City. He groaned as he felt the cold damp floor against his skin. They had taken all his clothes the day before and left him with some that were no more than rags. He had tried to sleep but the pain in his arm had become unbearable. He thought he must have damaged it as he had been roughly manhandled into this hole. He could hear voices above him and the sun warmed his face as it appeared over the top of his prison. From what he could see he was in a deep, well-like pit with no hope of climbing out. There were two rows of nasty spikes pointing downwards at the top to ensure nobody escaped. He tried to sit up but the beating he had received that morning from the gorillas was taking its toll and he just wanted to sleep. He wondered where Alan and Galen were and whether they would ever be able to locate him. He had no idea where he was. He felt so thirsty and couldn’t remember the last time he’d had some water. He couldn’t really remember much about how he’d got down here. Things were hopeless enough but then he was startled by a loud ape voice…”

“You down there, human, I know you can hear me.” Pete looked up, but could see only a large shape against the sun. “You’ve been selected as this week’s entertainment. Gather round, gather round,” the voice said, obviously no longer addressing him. “A special guest will be arriving in the village very soon. Zaius, High Councillor from Central City will be honouring us with his presence. He will be bringing members of the High Council with him. There will be great feasting and festivities. We want everyone to have a good time after a rather bad year here in Lonan City. For your entertainment we’ve a human in the pit. It’s been a while since anyone has been criminal enough to deserve this. So, bring your most rotten vegetables and make the most of it. Be gentle with him, we want him to last a few days. I am leaving one of my troopers to supervise the proceedings. If anyone is tempted to rescue the human we will have no hesitation in having further pit entertainment. You have been warned.”

Pete could hear a sudden hubbub of people talking excitedly. Scared of what was going to happen next he tried to curl up as close to the wall as he could. The pit had at one time been full of water and was still very damp. Pete could see the watermark where the water level had been and he shivered with cold and exhaustion. The smell of rotting vegetation was disgusting.  Suddenly, a large amount of sludge splattered next to him and flooded the floor. This might be fun for the people of Lonan but he could tell it wasn’t going to be much fun for him.

 --------------------------

 “You wait outside,” Scarta said to his assistant as he brought Galen inside what was a rather lavish room for a Police Chief.

Urko would be impressed with your accommodation Scarta.”

“I find I can’t resist the temptation to discuss my plans with you Galen, for you’ve become notorious for eluding the authorities and have these strange humans in tow. Tell me are they really as-tro-nauts?”

Galen saw no reason to lie to Scarta and told him of the day that Virdon and Burke arrived on their planet.

“I’ve heard of these as-tro-nauts arriving in great numbers over the years. I understand Zaius is quite outraged about them.” Galen thought this was a slight exaggeration but didn’t get a chance to answer before Scarta started to question him about Urko.

Urko hasn’t been too successful in his role of Chief of Police I understand. How come I am able to catch you immediately when he has been chasing you for months?”

Urko has made tracking my friends and me a full time occupation,” Galen replied.

 “How can you call these humans friends? Did you not realise it would come to no good in the end? What did you hope to achieve? You must have had a lot of help.”

“Well it was quite an adventure evading Urko,” said Galen being careful to avoid the subject of ‘help’ and suddenly realising that Scarta found Urko a threat and wanted to hear uncomplimentary things about him.

Urko and I studied together.  He wasn’t the brightest star in the sky, how did he land his Chief role?” Scarta pressed on.

“Well I don’t know, now how would I know that?” said Galen getting exasperated. “I need to know from you that my friend is not dead. What have you done to him?”

“Hmmm,” Scarta replied with a grin. “Well… I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to tell you how he is, in fact, I think we’ll pay him a little visit after dinner. Eat up. I am not usually so generous with my prisoners.” Galen didn’t feel like eating. He looked at the food, moved it around his plate a bit. After two more courses and what seemed like an age, Scarta finally called his guard inside. “Zinta we’re taking a little trip into town, fetch my carriage.”

“Galen couldn’t understand why they would need transport to see Burke as the prison was only next door.”

Scarta seemed to delight in Galen’s confusion and made no attempt to explain.

 Eventually the carriage pulled up in the middle of town and they got out. The guard coming with them with his gun constantly aimed in Galen’s direction. Another armed gorilla stood over what looked like a stone circle but as Galen got closer he realised it hid a hole in the ground.

“Get a torch,” General Scarta shouted to the guard.

Scarta encouraged Galen to look inside and there, to his horror, was Pete huddled against the wall and surrounded by rotting vegetables.

“Doesn’t look too good does he,” he said with pleasure at Galen’s distress. “Still, if he hadn’t been so obstructive maybe he wouldn’t be in this mess.”

Scarta suddenly turned to speak to his guard “how did it go today, busy?”

“Yes, the crowd excelled themselves. Amazing what they find to bring along.”

“Still alive then, that’s good, wouldn’t want to disappoint the public tomorrow.”

Galen tried to call out to Pete but was soon pushed back by the two gorillas.

“Time to go, still got dessert to come, nice to have a little break in the middle of a meal don’t you think?” The guard poked Galen in the back with his gun.

Galen was speechless. What could he do? Nothing. Who was the human that the guards had locked into the neighbouring cell. None of it made any sense.

Hearing Galen’s voice disturbed Pete from his dosing enough to realise that Galen had been nearby. Was he trying to rescue him? He turned over, every bone in his body ached. There was no way to get away from the rotting matter oozing all over the floor. It was a very cold night and he was thirsty but there was nothing to drink, he had gone past being hungry some time ago. He could no longer lift his arm and his head pounded, at least the general public had given him a break this evening. He hadn’t heard any noise from above for some time, perhaps a curfew operated here. Maybe they’d release him later – surely they wouldn’t just leave him to die, how long would that take? There must be somebody out there who cared enough to do something. He had no idea if this was an ape settlement or whether it was a Prefect operated area with many humans. He couldn’t tell if his tormenters were ape or human, if they were apes then he didn’t hold out much hope, if they were humans why should they care about a single human prisoner that had obviously done something very wrong? It reminded him of his gladiator encounter when it didn’t really matter who he was as long as there was a death.

His mind wandered back to yesterday when he, Galen and Alan were settling down for the evening. Everything seemed fine, no sign of Urko. He’d walked down to the river to get some water; he hadn’t even thought to check it was safe to go to the water’s edge, that’s how blasé the three of them had become. Suddenly Urko was there, well someone who resembled him. He must have been hit from behind by something hard, a rifle maybe? He remembered that the gorillas had roughly ripped off his clothes and had given them to a man who wasn’t unlike himself; he was the same height and had dark hair. He’d unsuccessfully tried to fight them off and that’s when he got a good beating. The man had taken off his own clothes and passed them to the gorilla. Then he’d put on Burke’s and walked off… what was that about? He just couldn’t think straight anymore, needed to sleep, he turned back to face the wall and tried to escape his misery.

--------------------------

Galen was taken back for the rest of his dinner. He just had to think of a way to get Pete out of that hole, he had no ideas; Alan was good with rescue plans, how he longed to be taken back to his cell.

“What happens to humans in that pit?” he asked not really wanting to hear the answer.

“They die a slow death,” Scarta said, “The villagers love it.”

“But what pleasure would anyone get from tormenting a trapped creature in this way?”

“Life in Lonan has been rough Galen, shortage of food and flooding, our people need some relief.”

“How long do you leave a prisoner in there?”

“Well, that depends, they don’t usually come out alive. I’ve restricted the punishment your human will receive but that will change tomorrow when I remove the guard. He doesn’t seem to be giving them much of a challenge does he? I’m sure the villagers will come up with something interesting, they usually do. Maybe we should try your other human friend. That would liven things up a bit.” Scarta was enjoying himself. He really liked to see this chimpanzee agonising over these humans.

“Perhaps I’ll just leave him where he is. Must be very worried about his friend in the cell opposite, he’ll be shocked to discover he is just a decoy, a bit of insurance you could say, whilst he’s worrying about him he won’t have time to think of an escape plan, at which, Zaius informs me, these humans are exceptionally good.”

Galen began to realise that Pete hadn’t been Pete when he settled down for the night without speaking and why he had distanced himself from both him and Alan. It seemed that this General had gone to a lot of effort to capture them.

“Why would you do this Scarta? Why does it give you pleasure to see us in this mess?”

“You misunderstand me Galen, I am not interested in your friends welfare, or yours come to that, you’re nobody to me. There is only one reason why I am determined to give these humans grief. One word. Urko. I want him to see just what happens to fugitive humans under my command. No escape. This is the end. I can’t wait to see his face, might even be a promotion in it for me. Always fancied living in Central City.”

--------------------------

Pete was startled awake by something hard ricocheting off the wall just above his head. It was still dark.

“Human,” a voice said.

“He’s probably dead,” another voice joined in.

“No, no-one dies from a load of vegetables, he must be sleeping.”

“Well let’s wake him up.”

“Human can you hear me? We’re going to have more fun tomorrow. Expect more of this.” Another rock bounced across the floor just missing him.” Pete buried his head in his arms as best he could realising someone was throwing rocks into his hellhole. Where had the guard gone? Had he abandoned his post and left him to the whims of any passer by. At least during the day he’d prevented the crowd from going too far. Loneliness overwhelmed him.

An angry voice shouted, “YOU, get away from the pit. You know it’s against the law to harass a prisoner after dark.” This was the first bit of good news Pete had heard in ages. At least he didn’t have to worry until sun up.

--------------------------

Galen had been returned to his cell. He was shocked to find that Alan’s cell door was ajar and Alan was nowhere to be seen. He wouldn’t be able to tell him about Pete and plan their escape after all. He slumped onto his bed and waited. He had to assume that this was just another of Scarta’s little mind games. Eventually he fell asleep.

--------------------------

“Looks like an excellent welcome for us Urko, look at the crowds.” Zaius was impressed and climbed down from his horse.

Urko was stunned. He recognised the gorilla that stood with his hands on his hips. Suddenly he realised that this was his rival from the past. Someone he hoped not to see again. They never did see eye to eye.

Zaius, how kind of you to travel this long distance to our great city. I hope the journey wasn’t too onerous.” He looked at Urko, hardly able to contain his excitement at seeing him again. “Urko, I trust you are well?”

“Very well,” Urko muttered reluctantly. “I just can’t think why Zaius would bother to travel all this way to such a backwater.” The crowd of apes were shocked and not impressed with Urko’s comment and began to mutter between themselves.

“This city is of great importance to me Urko, General Scarta and his men have managed to achieve something that you could not. I trust everything is in order Scarta?”

Scarta immediately confirmed that everything was extremely in order and offered to escort Zaius to the prison block to see for himself.

“Lead the way,” he replied glaring at Urko to ensure his silence.

“The prisoners await your arrival. Though I must say that one of the humans is in a bad way. I am sure this won’t cause you alarm Zaius, you did make it clear that Galen is your main concern.”

Urko quivered with rage realising the reason why Zaius had dragged him so far from Central City. Surely Scarta hadn’t captured HIS fugitives. He had never felt such anger. Zaius had deliberately humiliated him in front of his worst enemy.  He followed reluctantly knowing that he wasn’t going to like what he was going to find at the end of his journey.

Galen was dozing on his bed as Zaius walked in.

“Galen, at long last, I’ve travelled long and hard to see you. Scarta assured me that he would have you in custody by today and… here you are. I do like a Police Chief who fulfils his promises,” he gave Urko a sideways glance. Urko was getting madder by the minute. He lunged forward and grabbed Galen by the throat.

“You lay one more hand on that prisoner Urko and I’ll demote you to some far-flung village in the middle of nowhere.” Urko thought about this, he could kill Galen now and spoil any chance of a trial or he could wait. He stared at Galen with evil eyes, said “later” and stormed out knocking two guards aside as he went.

He rode down to the crowds in the middle of the town. They all seemed to be gathered around something in the middle of the square. “What’s going on here?” he said pushing the excited apes apart and then he saw the pit. He looked inside and saw a human, HIS human curled up under a mass of debris.

“STOP,” he shouted angrily at the crowd.

Climbing on to the wall he shouted “BURKE, ARE YOU DEAD?”

Pete recognised that voice and tried to sit up but he was just too weak and he didn’t feel like answering. He could see a large dark shape moving against the sun. Suddenly the crowded square became agitated as troopers appeared with what looked like another prisoner between them. Urko quickly moved into the background. Zinta led the way and stood on the wall for his latest announcement. “Thought some further entertainment was in order as this current one is a dead loss. Same rules apply.” Alan tried to fight his way free but the troopers held him tightly between them and lifted him onto the wall. The apes cheered with excitement as the troopers pushed him over the edge. “There, that should brighten your day.” Urko was beside himself with anger that his humans had been taken from him. It had been his ambition to take them back to Central City for a public execution and now they were being slowly killed by a bunch of stupid apes in a strange land. Zinta suddenly noticed him standing there with his Police Chief uniform. Not knowing who he was he said, “Sir, I hope this meets with your approval.” Urko nodded and resigned himself to having to let this go on. “Later,” he muttered under his breath.

 

Alan fell backwards and landed on his back on top of a steaming pile of fruit and vegetables. He was unhurt except for his pride and two large scratches on his side from the spikes as he rolled past them on his way down. He couldn’t see anything as it was so dark in this new jail. Slowly he noticed a fellow prisoner who was trying hard to sit up. Then he realised it was Pete.

“Pete,” he said in surprise, his brain working overtime knowing that this couldn’t possibly be Pete. His eyes slowly became accustomed to the darkness. “How did you get here?”

“The same way as you,” Pete replied, his voice sounding tired and full of despair. “Nice of you to drop in.” Alan was reminded of the day they crash-landed on this planet and Pete had first woken up to this strange world. This was the other way around.

“You look awful.”

“So would you if you had spent a night in here. Where’s Galen?”

“I don’t know, he went out to dinner last night and I haven’t seen him since. What’s going on here?”

“Welcome to the local sideshow,” Pete said, trying to be his usual self. Alan noticed Pete’s swollen arm. “Let me see that arm,” he said suddenly noticing the state of the rest of his friend.

“Landed on it when they shoved me in here. There wasn’t all this cushioning at the time. That came later as you’ll no doubt find out when they get going again.”

Alan moved over to the wall for a closer inspection of Pete. He could see that he wasn’t in a very good way, he was cradling his right arm with his left and his face was very pale. He looked absolutely exhausted.

“What happened to your head?”

“I’m not sure OW.”

“Sorry, just trying to fix this arm up, where’s the triangular bandage when we need one eh? What happened to your clothes?”

“They took mine and gave me these, at least I got a pair of shoes out of it. Can’t remember much as I was fighting a platoon of gorillas at the time. So, is this a social visit or are you the rescue party?”

Alan smiled “No rescue today, we’ll have to leave that to Galen. You’re a mess. How about you telling me what happened, perhaps we can work out what this General is planning?”

“The guy in the Urko costume?” Pete asked remembering the gorilla that caught him.

“That’s the one. Can you stand?”

“No chance. Having trouble just at this level, maybe later.”

“Okay, there’s no rush.” Alan sat down against the damp wall. “Great smell you’ve found.”

--------------------------

Zaius was most pleased with his new surroundings and was sitting in Scarta’s dining hall awaiting the arrival of Galen.

“You’ve done well Scarta. I’m impressed.”

“I am pleased to be of service, we’ve a no nonsense policy here in Lonan City.”

“I haven’t had the pleasure of visiting your city before. I hope you will show me the sights tomorrow before the trial.”

“I am looking forward to it Zaius. When will our other guests be arriving?”

“And which guests would that be?”

“The chimpanzee’s father, the witnesses you mentioned in your scroll, the surgeons that helped them. Surely you remember our discussions?”

Zaius waved his hand in a flippant way. “No need to worry about them. The chimp is guilty and the fugitive humans should be disposed of sooner, rather than later. I am pleased with your work Scarta, let’s just get it over with, a quiet trial, that’s all we need, it’s just a formality.”

“What’s your plan Zaius, a public execution?”

“Well, I haven’t given it too much thought. They’ve eluded Urko for so long I never thought this day would come, the sooner they’re gone the better.”

“You’re surely not suggesting we put an ape to death Zaius?”

“Well, I am a very busy ape, I can’t spend too long away from Central City, I can’t risk dragging them all the way back there.”

Scarta began to feel his great achievement sliding away from him. He imagined a superb hanging ceremony so that people would talk about him and his accomplishments. He imagined having an important prisoner in his jail for years to come and promotion to Central City. Suddenly he felt let down. The important guests from Central City were never going to come to Lonan. He’d been deceived. It dawned on him that he was being used. At last he said “Your humans are receiving punishment for their crimes in the traditional Lonan way. They won’t last many hours in the pit. Galen will be here shortly; perhaps he will persuade you that a fair trial is the only way forward. I hope so.” Zaius didn’t answer.

--------------------------

It had been another long day in the pit. Alan had tried to fend off the attacks from above and protect Pete from further injury. Luckily the guard prevented their tormentors from standing up on the wall so they couldn’t take proper aim. Even so, he had sustained a considerable amount of bruising for his trouble. Pete had hardly said a word all day. As it became dusk the visitors subsided and all was quiet again.

Eventually Pete said “You okay Alan? Sorry I’m not much use.”

“Don’t worry about it, you just concentrate on getting better.” Alan said inspecting the walls for any chance of escape. The walls were quite smooth. Although he could see Pete was in no state to climb out, he couldn’t help looking for possibilities. The spikes were just too high. Galen was their only chance but Galen didn’t know where they were.

“How’s that arm?”

“Okay, I feel a bit weird though.”

Alan moved closer and put his hand on Pete’s forehead.

“Think you’re got a fever,” he gave a long sigh knowing there wasn’t anything else he could do for him while they were stuck in this hole. He sat down next to Pete.

“Perhaps we should try and find something for you to eat in amongst this fallout.” He suggested picking up a rather grotty looking apple. Pete turned up his nose.

Suddenly there was a scuffling and a muffled cry from above. The guard tumbled in just missing them both.

“It’s getting a bit crowded in here,” Alan said as he inspected the unconscious gorilla.

“VIRDON,” a voice shouted.

Alan looked at Pete “That’s Urko.”

“Sounds like him,” Pete agreed

“What’s he doing here?”

Pete shrugged not being able to guess. “He was here earlier.”

“What is it Urko, what do you want?”

“Grab this rope, you’re coming out.” A rope slowly wriggled its way down to Alan’s feet.

“I’m not leaving without Burke.”

“Thought he was dead,” Urko replied

“You thought wrong Urko,” Pete shouted as loudly as he possibly could.

“Both of you then – out now.”

“Pete’s not up to it Urko.”

“I haven’t got all night Virdon, you either come now or I’ll leave you to rot.”

Why would Urko want to rescue them, nothing made much sense, he hated not being in control of the situation. Alan decided to help Pete up. He couldn’t stand by himself he was just too light-headed. Alan sat him back down and tied the rope around his waist.

Urko, I can’t send Burke up alone, he won’t be able to negotiate those spikes, have you got another rope?”

“No, leave that to my troopers. Just send him up.”

Alan wasn’t happy about this at all, he didn’t know what was going on up there but he didn’t have any choice. He looked at Pete “You watch your back up there.” Pete nodded.

Why was Urko helping them out, it was all a mystery. “Okay, pull,” he shouted reluctantly.

Two gorillas heaved Pete clear of the spikes, disorientated and overwhelmed by the brighter light and fresher air he was dumped unceremoniously on the ground.

“Tie them and get them away from here as fast as you can.” Urko instructed his Lieutenant.

Alan struggled as three gorillas pulled him up and tied his hands and feet. “Don’t tie Pete, he’s sick, he won’t escape I give you my word.”

“Ah there it is again, the word of a human. How many times do I have to say it Virdon, the word of a human means nothing to me. Just because I appear to be rescuing you, doesn’t mean I suddenly care about you.” Then turning to his Lieutenant “tie that one him extra well, I’ll meet you at camp later. I’m depending on you Zako don’t let me down,” and with that he jumped on to his horse and was gone.

Zako tied Pete’s feet together but really didn’t fancy tying the human’s hands, he could see that his arm didn’t look quite right. He looked out of the corner of his eye and could see Urko galloping away and as he now had the responsibility of this pair of important humans for the next few hours he left Pete’s hands free. He just needed to get them away from Lonan City quickly – that’s all that really mattered right now.

 --------------------------

 Slowly his eyes opened and for the first time in ages he felt warm. There was a fire and he had a blanket. All he could see were gorillas. Where was Alan? “Alan,” he said hesitantly.

“He’s awake,” said one of Urko’s troopers. Zako came over to inspect his prisoner. “Fetch him something to eat,” he commanded, “Don’t want him to die while I’m in charge. Check the other one again, can’t risk them escaping.”

Alan, unable to help Pete, had been frustratingly tied to a tree for a couple of hours.  He had to admit that Zako had been very attentive to his prisoners, giving them plenty of water and food. But Pete, being unconscious, was unable to benefit from any of it. Zako had deliberately separated them and bound them but he had not neglected them. Alan couldn’t help but be impressed by Zako’s efforts. The stress of looking after Urko’s pride and joy was obviously taking its toll.

“Alan” Pete called louder and in a panic.

“I’m here,” Alan called from his tree. “Zako let me go to him he needs some water.”

“Human,” Zako said in an exasperated manner. “I can’t, Urko’s orders were to keep you two apart. I can’t risk you plotting an escape.”

“He’s hardly likely to take off,” Alan tried to reason “his arm is broken, it needs sorting, let me see if I can improve things, please.”

“This wouldn’t be the first time you’ve persuaded me to go against Urko’s orders, I made the wrong decision then and I won’t make that same mistake again.”

Zako I give you my word that we won’t escape whilst we’re in your care.”

“The word of a human.” He looked like he was considering the possibility.

“You don’t want Urko to come back and find him dead.”

Zako thought some more. “Very well human, I’ll hold you to your word.” He turned to his troopers “move this human over to his friend.”

They released Alan’s hands and feet. He could hardly stand to begin with but eventually he managed to move cross the camp to Pete closely followed by two armed gorillas. Alan had a closer look at Pete’s wounds. As well as a possible broken arm he had a nasty cut on the back of his head. He had neglected to notice this in the twilight zone of the pit. “How you doing?” He whispered very quietly whilst gently lifting Pete’s head and giving him some water. Pete was so desperate for a drink. “Not so fast, slow down.” Alan had to pull the canteen of water away several times before Pete calmed down enough to drink slowly. He could feel the dried blood-matted hair at the back of his head. At least the cut appeared to be on the mend. After Pete had almost emptied the canteen he managed to answer Alan’s question.

“Okay.”

“Any chance you could manage a bit of this food?”

Pete screwed up his face.

“Okay, I need to have a proper look at this arm and that’s a nasty cut on your head. I wish we had some medicines, some bandages.”

“Perhaps we could send out for some?” Pete said trying to be cheerful.

Feeling his forehead Alan decided Pete had still got a fever. Zako was approaching and stood over the pair of them.

“Is he going to die?”

“Hopefully not,” Alan replied, cross that Zako would say such a thing in front of Pete. “Do you or your men carry any medicines?”

“No, we call at the doctor when we get sick.”

“Is there a doctor near here?”

“Not that would treat a human… oh very well human, I’ll see if we’ve any of the root powder the doctor sometimes gives us when we’re going on long journeys,” he reluctantly walked away and went to his horse bag.

“It’s like getting blood from a stone.” Alan muttered so nobody could hear.

“Hope it tastes nice,” said Pete shivering under his blanket.

“You’ll be okay,” Alan said reassuringly “just need a bit of rest and time – soon be back on your feet.”

“Hmmm, just can’t imagine that at the moment.”

“Looks hopeful.” Alan observed as he saw Zako pouring some powder into his canteen. Soon Zako approached him with the medicine. “This is all we have.” he said.

“I’m grateful to you Zako,” Alan was relieved to have something to help Pete at last.

Alan could hear galloping horses getting closer. It was Urko and he appeared to have another prisoner under a blanket tied to an accompanying horse. He silently waited to see what would happen.

Zako, I have him, we’re moving on. I want you to take all three of them back to where they were originally found near the village of Chalo NOW. They’ll be looking for them MOVE!”  The troopers started to move their camp. They grabbed Alan and heaved him up onto the back of the horse like a sack of potatoes and started to tie him to the saddle. He hated the thought of travelling a long distance in this undignified position but what about Pete. Alan protested as the troopers dragged Pete from his warm bed. “Pete can’t travel like this Urko.” Urko came over to Alan and lifted his head using a handful of his hair “Virdon, you don’t seem to be getting the message here, for the last time, don’t try my patience.”

Undeterred Virdon tried again “Can’t he travel another way Urko? Chalo’s a long way.”

Urko thrust Alan’s head downwards hard bashing his face against the saddle and stormed off to check Burke was firmly in position.

Alan had already guessed that the new prisoner was Galen. He tried to think why Urko would want to rescue them and take them back towards Central City. In fact, he’d nothing else to do but think. Gradually it dawned on him that maybe Urko and General Scarta had met before. He wondered how Urko had managed to spring Galen and get away without being caught. Obviously the next problem they would have would be when Scarta finally catches up with Urko. Then what?

They hadn’t gone very far before they were forced to stop by one of Urko’s troopers falling from his horse. Pete appeared to be unconscious again and oblivious to what was going on. Alan was grateful for that, he didn’t feel too good himself. Zako untied Pete and covered him back up with his blanket. Urko was very agitated he was obviously worried about some impending doom and wasn’t paying much attention to his prisoners. Alan began to hope that Urko would be his usual brainless self and not notice as the troopers tied both he and Galen to the same tree. Poor Galen had been travelling with the blanket still over his head and was relieved when Zako finally pulled it off. At long last they had the chance to talk or at least whisper.

“What’s going on Galen?”

“I think we are expecting a visit from Scarta anytime.”

“Me too, Urko certainly seems worried.”

“I don’t think they are best of friends do you, a bit of one-upmanship going on. Did anyone see you escape?”

“No – I don’t know how he did it but I was supposed to be going to see Zaius. Urko appeared with two troopers saying he was collecting the prisoner for trial. The guards just let me go with them. The next thing I know I have a bag over my head and we are heading away from Lonan. I could hear the crowds gathering but after a while nothing.”

Scarta had big promotion plans but I think Urko has just altered them.”

“If he finds us I don’t hold out much hope for any more continued stories.”

“Pete’s in no condition to make a break for it.”

“How is he?”

“I don’t know, he had a fever, we gave him some medicine, it’s difficult to know what that did to him.”

“What was it?”

Zako’s root powder for when his men are ill on their travels.”

“Shouldn’t do him any harm.”

“I don’t know if he is asleep or unconscious.”

“I’m asleep.” Pete said suddenly surprising them both.

“Pete – I’m so glad you got out of that pit”.

“You are not the only one Galen.”

“How are you feeling?” Alan asked a concerned look on his face.

“Not so woozy, I’m okay, bit of a headache, oh, and a broken arm.”

It was Galen’s turn to look concerned. “Broken arm?”

“I’ve tried to bind it twice, but some gorillas keep disturbing my handiwork.” Alan whispered extra quietly. “Look, if we get the chance we’re going to have to beat a hasty retreat.”

“It’s okay, you go, I don’t mind staying. I’m good with gorillas.”

Alan smiled; Pete seemed to be on the mend at last. “You’re coming too.”

Suddenly an almighty argument started between Urko and Zako.

“What do you mean you gave it to the human. Are you stupid? I need that medicine for one of my men. What do you think we are, a mobile hospital? We don’t treat humans – whether they live or die is not our concern. Burke again – he is more trouble to me than the other two put together.”

“But he was sick Urko, I didn’t want him to die before you got back.”

“You didn’t want him to die… why not… I want him to die… I have nightmares about him NOT dying. It would be the best thing for everyone. I have to wonder if I should send you all back to Central City. No wonder none of my plans ever work. If I had a few troopers with brains I could rule the planet.” Zako was just grateful that the human hadn’t died whilst he was in charge. He didn’t care what happened to him under Urko’s command.

“I’ve got my hands free,” Galen whispered excitedly. I’ll undo yours.”

“Even if we do get free how do you think we can run off with Pete in this state?”

As Urko and Zako continued their heated debate, all the troopers were standing around watching them instead of their prisoners. This was a chance too good to miss. Slowly Virdon and Galen moved away from the tree and started to drag Pete quietly towards the cover of the nearby bush. It was a very overgrown area and there were bushes all around. No one noticed them sneaking away. In fact, they couldn’t believe their luck as six horses appeared from nowhere with General Scarta in the lead.

Urko, we meet again. I’m taking you back to Lonan City charged with aiding the escape of the world’s most wanted fugitives. You can either come quietly back with us or we’ll tie you to your horse and drag you there, your choice.” Urko was annoyed that these unwanted guests had caught him out – he suddenly noticed that his prisoners were gone. A new plan began to hatch in his mind.

“Where are the fugitives,” demanded Scarta.

“What fugitives,” Urko replied.

“Now Urko – don’t take me for a fool. I know you took the humans from the pit and that chimp from his cell. Admit it.”

“I don’t know what you are talking about Scarta, think the sun has gone to your head. My troopers and I were heading back to town shortly for the evening entertainment – perhaps you would like to accompany us?”

 Alan and Galen tucked themselves and Pete well out of sight. They weren’t usually so fortunate as they’d been this day. They watched the camp move out and Urko and Scarta ride off back to Lonan together. Eventually, relieved to be away from the clutches of gorillas at last – they moved off as best they could, Alan carrying Pete over his shoulder. When they could carry him no further they rested and Alan decided it was time to sort Pete’s arm once and for all. He wasn’t looking forward to the prospect.

“Galen is there anywhere near here we could find shelter, anywhere at all, any long lost cousins?” Alan was well aware that Pete needed some anaesthetic of some kind, any kind. He wracked his brains to think of something he could use to knock him out.

 Galen had been rummaging around looking for two suitable bits of wood to use as splints.

“Really Alan, I can’t think of anyone who lives near here.”

Lets have a look at this arm.”

“Galen look at this, see that lump, what we need to do is stretch the arm so it clicks back in line.”

“Ooh I don’t like the sound of that,” said Galen.

“I don’t like the sound of it either,” Pete said “couldn’t we just leave it as it is?”

“I am pretty sure it’s broken Pete and we can’t just leave it as that may cause complications. I think we’d better stop the blood-flow first.”

“Not with one of our famous tourniquets,” Pete said sarcastically.

“Okay Galen, which end do you want?”

Looking at Pete’s face he said “The one that will make less noise,” imagining how painful this was going to be for Pete.  He moved away into position and grasped Pete’s hand firmly.

“Okay you ready Galen?” Alan said firmly grasping Pete’s arm just above the elbow.

“I’m not,” Pete said just trying to delay the inevitable pain.

“Are you sure we couldn’t just leave it as it is?”

“Look, it’s best to get it over with.”

“Best for you or for me? Okay… okay… do it,”

“Hold that hand tight Galen and pull on the count of three.” “One… two… three.”

They both pulled with all their might in opposite directions.

With a small cry Pete went limp. Galen and Alan looked at each other.

“Well that’s probably a good thing. That looks better, does that look better to you Galen?”

“There’s no bump if that’s what you mean,”

“Hold on to his wrist Galen don’t let it move out of place I have to release the blood-flow,”

“He obviously didn’t think much of our arm stretching exercise,” Galen commented.

“Obviously not, he’s stretching my first aid a bit,” Alan replied as he firmly bound the two pieces of wood in place. “There, it isn’t going to be as good as new but this is the best we can do, we’ll just have to live with it. One day, when we get home, maybe he can get it fixed properly. Right now we need to get him to a safe place where we can all get a good rest and be ready to make good time putting some distance between us and Lonan City.” 

“And a bath, you two could definitely do with a bath.”

 

END