Prelude

Dave Ballard

 

 

 

Planet of the Apes: Episode 1. Escape from tomorrow.

Zaius: More than ten years ago another such ship landed... Humans. They said they were from this world but from another time period, long ago.

Galen: You know, Iıve heard stories like that but I thought they were always stories. I never believed that it really happened.

Zaius: Yes, well, thatıs what we wanted everyone to think. There were such humans Galen and they called themselves... What was the word Urko?

Urko: Ass-tro-nauts.

Zaius: Astronauts.

Urko: Yes.

Galen: Astronauts... What were they like?

Zaius: They had greater knowledge and capabilities than our humans and they had feelings of independence and freedom.

Galen: Humans?.. You know, Thatıs fascinating!

Zaius: Itıs not fascinating Galen! Itıs Unlawful!.. They would have encouraged our humans to be equally unlawful.

Urko: But the danger was eliminated... They were killed.


PLANET OF THE APES: PRELUDE – by Dave Ballard
Planet Earth 3073 AD.

A loud rapping on the door rudely interrupted the deeply troubled thoughts of the elderly orangutan. Although he clearly heard it - he wasnıt that old after all - he chose to ignore it for what he considered a suitably respectful amount of time and only then would he acknowledge this intrusion upon his privacy.

"Enter," he called at last. He purposely kept his back to the door and didnıt bother to turn around, for he knew, from the heavy awkward sound of shuffling boots, that two Gorillas had just entered his study and it never hurt to suggest that Gorillas were not worthy of his immediate attention.


"Eh-em" The sound of an embarrassed Guard theatrically clearing his throat, hoping to attract attention. "Zaius, sir... May I present General Urko."

Zaius turned around, careful to hide any first impressions that might flicker across his face. He was curious to see what the new Supreme Military Commander and Chief of police looked like, but heıd be damned if heıd let him know it.


The General was a huge, hulking silverback, one of the biggest Zaius had ever seen. He positively bristled with raw power. Zaius noted how the symbols of office, the studded collar and high helmet, were worn easily as though he were born to them. His sheer physical presence was awesome but Zaius could not allow it to overshadow his own.


"Thank you, Sergeant."


The guard looked ill at ease and turned to his new commander. Without taking his eyes from Zaius, Urko gave a brief wave of his hand and the sergeant retreated back to blissful anonymously. This small but meaningful display of loyalty did not go unnoticed. The new General had only been appointed two days before yet already he commanded the complete devotion of his troops.

"I understand you wished to see me on a matter of some urgency," growled Urko. Contempt and impatience staining his deep, rumbling voice. Zaius nodded and turned his back, a further conscious display of body language designed to show the gorilla that he was not considered a threat.


"Indeed... Incidentally, congratulations on your promotion."


Urko sneered and bared his fangs. "Thatıs very gracious of you, Zaius." He snarled.

"Considering that you, were one of the few to vote against me."


Zaius gave a little dismissive wave of his hand. "Nothing personal, General... I merely felt you are a little... immature for such a position of responsibility."


Urko sneered. "I guarantee I will demonstrate my maturity at the earliest opportunity."


Zaius then gave an ironic little smile and turned to face the gorilla. "I fear that opportunity may have presented itself sooner than you expected."

Urko, quizzically cocked his head to one side as Zaius moved to a desk of carved stone. From it, he picked up a single leaf of parchment that had arrived hours before and handed it over. Zaius noted with smug superiority that the Generalıs heavy brows had knitted together in deep concentration as he began to read the message.


Urko curled his lip and grunted. "What nonsense is this?.... Boats that fall from the sky!" He spat. "Filled with Humans!" The General contemptuously screwed up the parchment and threw it to the floor. "Tell me you didnıt summon me all the way here to waste my time with this," he growled angrilly.

Zaius sighed patiently and considered how best to deal with Urko. Usually when handling gorillas, you either waited or you shouted louder than they did. Reasoning with their kind was always non productive, they did not respond to it, only to threats, bribes and blackmail. If the day ever came when a truly intelligent Gorilla assumed the post of Supreme Military Commander... Something that up until now the political machinations of the orangutans had managed to avoid...Then...


Zaius shuddered. He didnıt like to think about it. It would probably mean the end of the world.

He shook himself from his trailing thoughts... "Tell me Urko... What do you know of our origins?"


"General Urko," the gorilla reminded him.


Zaius waited and locked eyes with the belligerent gorilla, who held his gaze for long moments before looking away.


"What do you know... General?" Repeated Zaius, grateful for the small victory.


The General spat and threw up his arms in disgust. "A history lesson now.!"


Zaius waited.


His protest noted Urko began to recite, word for word his elementary schooling. "I know what every Ape knows.... In the beginning the world was born of fire and from out of those flames the first Apes stepped forth."


Zaius nodded, it was what every child was taught. "But did you ever ask yourself what came before the fires Urko?... Did you ever wonder who.... or what.... lit them?"


Urko was at a loss for words, such thoughts had obviously never entered his head. While the orangutans and maybe some of the chimpanzees in his class might have mused over such questions Urko had probably been oiling his gun.

Zaius came to a decision. In these exceptional circumstances he had no choice but to tell Urko the truth, or a least censored version that the gorilla would be able to comprehend.

 

"Come with me General." He gestured toward a door, beyond which lay the truth. Dangerous artefacts from a distant past. "Now you have assumed the position of, Supreme Military Commandeer..... and all that entails.... there are certain, unfamiliar elements of our history with which I must acquaint you."

*************

Two days out of Ape city and Urkoıs troops were edgy. Their new General had hardly spoken a word since their departure and just sat astride his horse, brooding, lost in deep, private, thought. The effect on their nerves was unsettling to say the least.

 

Urko neither knew nor cared about any of this. Ever since Zaius had given him that memorable guided tour of his own personal museum his mind had been a boiling cauldron of chaos. The things Zaius has said were...were blasphemous!

Urko had heard many strange tales in his time, that the Forbidden Zone was haunted by ghosts, that there was an island across the sea where strange beasts might attack a mounted soldier.


On a dare he had once ventured out to one of the ancient, forbidden Cities and spent a night in a dilapidated building whose top seemed to touch the stars. Once heıd even seen a snake with six legs - but the thing had moved to fast for him to shoot and thus he couldnıt prove it.
But this was the first occasion he could remember where he had ever seen or heard anything that had left him genuinely...frightened.

He grunted and swore to himself, oblivious to the anxious glances this caused from among his troops.


At first he had refused.. refused! to believe what Zaius had told him. Humans were domesticated animals, nothing more. That there once lived a tribe that had possessed machines... machines that could fly!... was nonsense... It had to be.


Yet it was obvious that the old fool Zaius believed it.


Initially he had suspected that he was being set up, that Zaius and some of the other Orangutan council members were preparing to make him a laughing stock... Preparing to ridicule the new General before he could make his mark. But then there had been the artefacts.


Particularly the bomb...

Zaius had known that nothing would impress Urko more than a demonstration of something destructive, something he could appreciate. The orangutan had taken a small "Ball" from a shelf, heıd twisted something, thrown it and the explosive results had sent the new General scurrying for cover.


His hands tightened on the reigns between his fingers and he wished that it was old fools scrawny neck clenched between them. The guard had come running, alarmed at the explosion and had seen his new commanding officer laying on his belly, cowering like a dust covered worm while Zaius stood to one side, unruffled and full of disdain.
His anger evaporated as he considered the bomb.

His army had nothing like that. To the south some Apes had cannon but they were inclined to explode the moment you lit them. His own people had explosive compounds but they were so unstable their use was universally frowned upon. They had gunpowder of course but you would need a full keg to reproduce the destructive power of that tiny little ball.


Urko felt ill, there was something in his stomach that chewed and gnawed and refused to go away.

Weıre there, sir!"


The announcement made him start and he glared at the messenger who visibly cowed.


"What."


"Aymar, sir..... The village....... Weıre there," the gorilla mumbled apologetically

Urko looked ahead and saw a small rural village just like any other scattered among the provinces. Apes shuffled to and fro, going about their day to day business, some stopping to stare at the new arrivals. Humans were engaged in various menial duties and Urko suddenly had to restrain the urge to shoot one of them for no other reason than for the brief sense of relief such an act would bring. He took comfort in the knowledge that he could have shot one of them if he so pleased but that would have shown a lack of discipline and during this critical time of proving himself to the Council and his troops, such things should be avoided.


"Find the Prefect... Tell him Urko is here and would see the prisoners immediately."


The soldier jumped at the command and Urko felt a little better.

*************


John Van Lowen was slowly regaining consciousness while Terry "Max" Maxwell looked on. They were both stretched out on crude bunks on opposite sides of a small cell so he could see confusion, recognition and dismay, played out in turn across the face of his friend. The White of their uniforms, even torn, streaked and smudged with dirt seemed glaringly out of place inside these confines.


"Dammit!" hissed Van Lowen as a headache ripped through his skull and threatened to tip him back into unconsciousness


Concerned, Maxwell moved nearer and rested a hand on his friends shoulder. "Howıs the arm?"


Van Lowen pulled a face... "Still broken... Hurts like hell." He looked around the cell and his gaze fell upon a third huddled form in the corner. "The Colonel?"


Maxwell sighed and shook his head. "Dead... last night, I didnıt see any point in waking you."
Van Lowen closed his eyes and slumped back against the cot. Out of respect, Maxwell let the silence hang out for awhile. Eventually he cleared his throat gaining his friends attention. "Iıve been thinking, John... About where we are."


Van Lowen opened his eyes. "And?"


"I think we went through some kind of... temporal anomally, a displacement.."


"Cut the Star Trek crap, Max... What? You mean a time warp?... A Hasslien curve?"



"Maybe.. I donıt know, but I think weıre back on Earth... The air... The trees... The language... They speak English."


Van Lowen laughed, a hysterical frightened sound. "Yeah..... Even the God damn monkeys!"


Maxwell continued. "The chronometer read three-oh-seven-four.... Something must have happened, a war or something."


"No shit, Terry, you really think so!"


The sarcasm in Van Lowenıs voice was only matched by fear and so Maxwell let it go without a word. He sighed and slumped against the wall of their cell. Wherever, whenever and however they were, they were in deep shit.

He closed his eyes and replayed events in his mind. They had been in space, the proximity alert had begun to sound. He remembered the confusion, the fear. The running through of procedures that none of them ever really thought would be needed. The Colonel activated the automatic homing device..... The ship was shaking..... Everything went white. The next thing he had known was rough powerful hands pulling him. He had opened his eyes.. seen flames... smoke... the chronometer.


Then he had looked up and seen...

An ape!

He had been thrown roughly onto charred grass and swimming in and out of consciousness had watched the ape... A clothed ape, mind you, drag his comrades from the remains of the ship. The Colonel was all busted up... Was that his hair on fire? Had never even regained consciousness and then the ape had come over to him... It had prodded him with itıs boot and then...


And then..... it spoke!

He had blacked out and awoken here in this cell. Van Lowen was here too, arm broken, bruised, battered, but alive. Then there had been the questions...


They had been interrogated by talking apes!


Two gorillas, a chimpanzee and an orangutan for Christ's sake! Maxwell closed his eyes and cradled his head in his arms.

The sound of a key turning in a lock startled him back to full alertness, he rose to his feet and the chimpanzee they had seen before entered, closely followed by the biggest gorilla Maxwell had ever seen. Judging from the helmet and studded collar this new arrival was obviously some kind of V.I.P. Their leader perhaps? Maxwell moved over to Van Lowen and helped him to stand while the gorilla looked them over and bared its teeth, its gaze fell upon the body of the Colonel.


"Get that one on its' feet," it barked.


Maxwell jumped, laughter born of hysteria bubbled up in his throat. He doubted he would ever get used to hearing apes speak. A second gorilla entered the now crowded cell and bent over the Colonel.


"He's dead," said Maxwell. The guard grunted and nodded to his leader in confirmation.

"Then take it outside and get rid of it," barked the leader.


Maxwell and Van Lowen pressed themselves back against the wall as the guard grabbed the dead Colonels boots and dragged the body away. Now, Maxwell decided, was not the time to ask about dignified burial arrangements.

The huge gorilla waited patiently while the body was removed and then turned his attention back to the two men. "Who are you?" it asked.


Maxwell stood straight.... "Lieutenant T. Maxwell,
United States Airforce.... This is John Van Lowen..."


The Gorilla grunted unimpressed. "Where are you from?"


Maxwell swallowed, He had answered all these questions before and he knew how well his answer would be received. "I... Iım not sure..." he began. "I think we may be from your past..... Weıre astronauts.. We were in space when we encountered a..."


The Generals gloved paw caught him across the jaw and he went sprawling. Van Lowen bent down to assist his friend. "Heıs telling the truth dammit!ı


The Gorilla leaned forward and grasped Van Lowen's collar and hauled him to his feet. He pulled the humans face close to his own and looked into his eyes.


"Where are you from?" he growled. "If you lie to me again... you will be shot!"


Van Lowen closed his eyes in resignation and the General shook him violently. "WHERE ARE YOU FROM!" he shouted into Van Lowen's face.


He took a deep breath. "We come from your past.... Weıre astronauts.... We......!"


The gorilla howled with rage and hurled Van Lowen against the wall. His paw dropped to his hip, pulled his pistol from its holster and trained it onto Van Lowen who knelt gasping with pain as he nursed his broken arm.

"General Urko!" The chimpanzee prefect stepped between Urko and Van Lowen his eyes wide with alarm. "General... sir! You cannot kill them."


Urko looked at the chimp as if seeing him for the first time. "Get out of my way," he warned.

"General. Sir... Zaius is on his way... He wishes to see the prisoners for himself!" The chimp was sweating and shaking with fear. Urko glared as he struggled for control, then with a roar of frustration spun on his heel and left the cell.


Maxwell quickly moved over to the groaning Van Lowen, He looked at the chimp who stood there frozen, unable to believe what he had just done.


"Thank you," said Maxwell.


The Chimpanzee twisted round and glared, the revulsion and hatred he felt for humans was plainly visible on his scared face. Without a word he too left the cell and the door was locked once more.

*************

Zaius had arrived and had demanded to see the prisoners immediately. He was now in the cell with the two astronauts and General Urko.


Maxwell felt the first rays of hope as Zaius had begun to question them. The questions were the same but the orangutan seemed more reasonable and did not fly into a rage every time they answered. The General scowled and swore in the background, occasionally laughing in contempt at a particularly outrageous answer.


"What is wrong with your companion?" asked Zaius, noting the unhealthy grey sheen that coloured Van Lowen's face.


"His armıs broken," explained Maxwell. "He needs medical attention."


Zaius turned to Urko angrily. "Why hasnıt this been seen too," he demanded.


Urko was speechless for a moment, then shrugged his massive shoulders. "Whatıs the point? Weıre going to execute them anyway!"


Van Lowen and Maxwell exchanged frightened glances as the apes argued.


"That hasnıt been decided yet General," offered Zaius.


"Iıve decided!" roared Urko, slamming his fist into the wall which disintegrated in an explosion of dust and debris. "We know who and what they are... anything else is meaningless, letıs kill them now and be done!"


"GENERAL!" barked Zaius. "We need to know everything so we can contain this threat should it ever happen again.... There is so much more they can tell us..."


"I donıt want to know what they can tell us," hissed the gorilla "Whatever they can tell us is dangerous! YOU told me that yourself!"


"Ignorance is dangerous, Urko! Can you not see that?"


"Iıll tell you what I see ..." said Urko, his patience gone and his disgust of the whole situation unrestrained. "I see two humans who carry a disease. A disease that can infect every other human for miles around if we allow it... And... I see an old fool who is prepared to let that happen!"

Zaius was speechless with outrage! How dare this upstart gorilla speak to him in such a way! He considered raging back but instead he counted to five and concentrated on his breathing. His calm restored he spoke to Urko in low menacing tones.


"General Urko... We will continue our investigations in the morning... In the meantime.. YOU will see to it that this human receives the attentions of a qualified Vet. If that doesnıt happen, believe me I will have you demoted to helping schoolchildren cross the city roads by the end of tomorrow."


Before Urko could argue further Zaius brushed past him and left the cell.


Maxwell and Van lowen tried to will themselves invisible as the snarling Urko clenched and unclenched his fists in fury.

*************

Urko paced up and down outside the town jail, deep in the throes of a mental argument with himself and weighing the pros and cons of defying the will of Zaius at this crucial stage of his career. Two human children raced by him and stood outside the window to the prisoners cell. They chanted and laughed calling out to the prisoners, or rather the... What was the word?..
ASS-TRO-NAWTS.


If Urko defied Zaius it could make him a hero among the gorilla population. This single act of defiance could be his first step onto greater things.



The chanting of the children began to annoy him and he moved over to shoo them away.
Surely no member of the high council would be seriously troubled to learn of the deaths of two animals, the only way they could ever understand the humans importance would be if Zaius took each and every one of them into his confidence and revealed his secret knowledge... But If he backed down Zaius would have the advantage, it would it set a precedent for every confrontation that would follow.


"You!" he shouted at the children. "Move along! Get away from there!"


The children's eyes grew wide with alarm. "But sir... we just wanted to see the special people before you killed them."


Urko fumed... So the prisoners were regarded as Special ... Already it had begun.


He pulled his pistol from its holster and grinned wickedly. As the children fled screaming he stared at the pistol in his paw, thinking...


SPECIAL!

*************

The chimpanzee vet, Dr Janus, stepped into the cell containing the unique prisoners.


He didnıt understand why they were so important, they looked pretty much like all the others, although he had to admit there was something about them... He couldnıt put his finger on it exactly but they seemed to possess a kind of... nobility, that he had never seen in an animal before. Janus told the guard he was not required and was left alone with the captives.


He looked upon the huddled, sorry looking form of Van Lowen. "I assume you are the reason I have been dragged from my warm bed in the middle of the night?" Janus dropped his case onto the floor and crouched down beside the wounded astronaut.


Maxwell stepped aside allowing the doctor to go about his business. He glanced around the cell and froze... The door was ajar and the guard was nowhere in sight!


Maxwell thought quickly, there was no time to make elaborate plans, this might be their only chance!


He eased himself over to the doctors bag and among the medical supplies saw what he hoped for.... a primitive, but razor sharp, scalpel. In one fluid motion He dipped, scooped up the blade and flung his arm around the doctor's neck.


"Donıt struggle, Doctor, or there'll be an accident."

 

Janus swallowed nervously and held up his arms in surrender.


"John! On your feet. Weıre getting out of here."

*************

From his hiding place Urko listened carefully to the unfolding drama within the jail. As Zaius had suggested he had paid a visit to the town vet. He had advised the doctor of the situation and impressed upon him how grateful Zaius would be if he could deal with the problem immediately. He had also asked, as a personal favour, if the vet could see his way clear to ensure that the door to the cell remained unlocked while he tended to his patient.


Naturally the inquisitive chimp had begun to ask questions, he wanted to clear all this with Zaius but unfortunately the orangutan had been called away on some urgent matter and would not be back until morning. Urko slung a friendly arm around the chimpanzeeıs shoulder and told him not to worry. As an afterthought he went on to tell him of a story he had heard about an truly awful accident that befallen another vet in another town who had fallen out of favour with the local authorities.


After he was sure the chimp would do as he was told and keep quiet about it, he had given the guards - not his own men but theyıd have to do - strict orders stating that if the prisoners should ever try to escape, then they were to be shot.

A shout from inside the jail caused him to look up sharply. There was a shot, more shouting. Urko swallowed nervously.


A chimpanzee, the vet, Urko realised, ran into the yard then away into the night as if pursued by all the demons in the Forbidden Zone. A sudden volley of gunfire tore the night apart the way the ancient grenade had torn a hole through the door of Zaius study...


"MAX!" Someone yelled


Then there was silence.

Someone began to moan. "Oh you bastards.. You bloody bastards." Over and over.
Urko wished they would shut up.


More running, a single shot...! and shut up they did.


Urko took a deep breath and composed himself. It was done.


He stepped from his hiding place, broke into a run and headed for jail, shouting orders and demanding explanations.

*************

"There he goes," said Zaius contemptuously, as he watched Urko break cover and run toward the jailhouse. "That imbecile... Did he really think I would trust him?"


The orangutan released the curtain and let if fall back into place. He hated to admit it but he had underestimated the new Chief of Police. From the moment in the cell, when the gorilla had dared stand up to him and call him an old fool Zaius had known Urko would never be a gorilla to allow himself to be manipulated by the orangutans.


Part of Zaius admired Urko but a greater part was still smarting from the incident in the cell.
However, now Zaius had the measure of his opponent he found him to be as transparent as fine parchment. Zaius had easily gotten to Janus, the chimpanzee veterinarian, first and warned him to expect a visit from Urko. He had calmed the vet's mounting panic and told him exactly what to say and what to do.


The jailbreak had gone ahead almost as Urko had planned, right up until the moment when one of the humans had snatched the scalpel and taken Janus hostage.

Zaius turned around and faced the two astronauts that heıd had brought to this private room. Now dressed in the manner of slaves they were hardly any different. Perhaps a little taller than most but Zaius doubted that anyone would ever notice.


"You understand that I have saved your lives?" he reminded them.


They both nodded, from the moment Janus had warned them of Urkoıs scheme the astronauts had realised their only chance for survival lay with the orangutan leader. They witnessed heavy bags of coin change hands, theyıd shamefully switched clothes with two human corpses. Theyıd shouted out appropriate words at the chimpanzees suggestion and watched in disgust as corrupt gorilla guards riddled the corpses with bullets.

All humans looked alike to most apes, a fact that Zaius was counting on, confident that Urko would only see the clothes, not the men inside them. He wondered if the stupid gorillas had remembered to shoot the corpses in the face for extra added insurance.


It was a pity that the new General seemed destined to be a thorn in his side, usually when Zaius acquainted a gorilla with the "Knowledge" they became as pliable as the dough used by slaves for making bread.


Urko was different, Urko was ambitious... but fortunately he was just a gorilla. The orangutans had a saying, "A dumb chimpanzee is worth a dozen clever gorillas" Urko couldnıt hope to better a wise old orangutan.

Zaius took his seat opposite the two astronauts. Guards, loyal for now (but for how much longer? wondered Zaius) were posted outside and all present knew what would happen in the event of trouble. Zaius had supposedly been called away on some emergency. Urko would not expect to see him until morning, several hours away yet. The orangutan reached for his pen and a brand new sheet of parchment. He looked over his desk and tried to smile reassuringly.


He knew he couldnıt keep the humans a secret forever, he would have to move quickly and learn what he could, while he could. Of course their execution could only be delayed, perhaps for a week, maybe two, but there was no need to bother them with such trivialities.


"Now..." He said, in what he hoped was a kindly voice, the kind he remembered his grandfather having used. "I think we have lots to talk about."


Van Lowen glanced at Maxwell, the two had known each other long enough to not always require an exchange of words.


"Just play along..." that look said "For now."

*************