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Planet of the Alphans

Authors: Jemarcu
Categories: Adventure
Episodes: Set after The Dorcons
Crossovers: Planet of the Apes
Show Year: Y3
Rating: PG-13
Date: 2013
A space warp puts the moon back into Earth orbit, in the 40th century! A routine survey party lands to make first contact with what looks like a village of primitive humans. But things do not go as planned.
Average Rating: No reviews.

Based on "Space 1999" created by Gerry Anderson
And the movie "Planet of the Apes"
Screenplay by Rod Serling and Michael Wilson
Original novel written by Pierre Boulle
Plot elements added from "Eclipse of the Sun" by Michael D. O'Brien
Inspired in part by Eric Paddon's Planet of the Apes/ Galactica crossover story

This is for entertainment purposes only, no copyright infringement is intended.


Astronaut George Taylor stood staring at the sight before him, not wanting to believe what his eyes were telling him. There, on the sandy beach where the land met the ocean, stood the remains of the statue of liberty, once a proud symbol of freedom and safe haven for his countrymen, now reduced to a corroded hulk.

"Oh my God. I'm back. I'm home..all the time it was.." he stammered to himself, his mute paramour Nova looking on in confusion. " They finally, really, did it! You maniacs! You blew it up! Ahhhh, God damn you.. God Damn you all to hell!" he cried out, condemning the long gone leaders of a civilization that had, apparently, self-destructed and left in its wake a world dominated by intelligent apes, with humans reduced to the level of mute animals.

As the leader of Earth's first inter-stellar space expedition, the U.S.S. Icarus, Taylor along with his three crewmembers had crash-landed on what they assumed to be a distant, planet in another solar system. The expedition's only female astronaut, Stewart, had been discovered to have died during hibernation shortly before their spaceship had sunk in an inland salt lake. Taylor and his remaining crewmates, Dodge and Landon, had set off on foot over the barren, moonless landscape in search of life. After a journey of several days, they encountered a lush jungle region inhabited by a civilization of intelligent apes that treated the primitive humans as a lower animal, worthy only of experimentation and extermination. Taylor was the only survivor of that encounter, thanks to the compassion of two maverick chimpanzee scientists, Zira and Cornelius. Now, standing before the wreckage of his own civilization, the awful truth revealed as the sea washed over him, all he could do was pound the wet sand in despair.

At length, he got back on his horse, utterly drained of any emotion, and resumed his trek along the shoreline.

"Well, what comes next?" he said to himself. He turned to his companion, Nova. Surprisingly, she smiled at him. 'Well, maybe all is not lost." he said, smiling back as he continued his journey into the unknown.

Hours passed. The sun started to sink closer to the western horizon, behind the trees and rocky cliffs of the coastline. The wind and sound of the crashing surf acted as an almost hypnotic balm on his nerves. He realized that his months of captivity in Ape City and the degrading treatment he had been subjected to, had to have taken its toll on him. Now, having regained his freedom and luxuriating in the sensations of the coastline, he was able to think clearly. Yes, he thought to himself. For better or worse, I'm home. I have to find a way to start over, for myself and maybe for all mankind.

As the sky turned more purple than pink, Taylor decided to start looking for a place to camp for the night. Presently, he came to a slight grade in the land that led to a wide valley where he could see for miles and miles. There were forested areas more resembling the eastern woodlands he would have expected to see in the area around New York City, rather than sub tropical jungles, punctuated by meadows and clearings. He shook his head in amazement. This is as good a place as any to start over, or at least to spend the night. As he turned the reigns to head down into the valley, he became conscious of the sound of a wind, as though through a tunnel, coming from the opposite direction. Strange, he thought to himself. The air away from the coastline is calm. In the distance he saw what looked like the opening to a cave. As he turned his mount to investigate it, Nova grabbed his arm and was gesturing excitedly in the other direction.

"It's all right, Nova. Its all right." he said reassuringly to her. But the panic in her eyes grew with every step the horse took towards the cave. He was about to dismount and walk over there alone, when something made him stop. That cave. He remembered the ape's fears about the so-called Forbidden Zone, which he supposed he was technically still in the middle of. During the time in his cell, he had over-heard some gorillas talking about strange sights and sounds, and how two gorilla patrols sent secretly to investigate had never returned. He looked again at Nova, and saw the raw fear in her eyes. His disregard of the instincts of the primitive humans had landed him in trouble once. Not again, he thought to himself. He turned his horse towards the lush valley in front of him, and never looked back.

It was full dusk now, and he was finding the crackling of the campfire to be just as relaxing as the sounds of the ocean. Nova was already asleep next to him, curled up into a fetal position. He himself was rejoicing in the feeling of a full belly. The provisions the apes had given him were simple. Assorted fruits and vegetables, and water in what looked to be leather skins. Carrots and potatoes roasted over an open fire had never tasted so good. Perhaps tomorrow, he thought to himself, I might try my luck at hunting.

He prepared his bedroll, fed his campfire a few more thick branches to guard against the night chill, and finally lay down next to Nova. As he looked up at the night sky, he recounted carefully what he knew. This was unquestionably Earth, he was somewhere in the area of New York City, and based on the last reading from his ship's clock, and what ape archeologist Cornelius had told him, it was the late 40th century. Upon discovering the wreckage of the statue of liberty, he had assumed that a nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet bloc had brought about the downfall of human civilization, but now he was beginning to wonder if that was true. Would he ever know what really happened? Probably not, he thought to himself. As exhaustion finally overcame him and he started to doze off, (but not before checking to make sure his stolen carbine was next to him, with the safety off), he pondered the great mystery that his crewmate Dodge, the brilliant scientist now a stuffed exhibit in the ape museum of natural history, had typically been the first to notice shortly after they had landed. At that time, they were still assuming that they were on a planet in some distant solar system. As mysteries went, it was a huge one, and whether it tied into the larger mystery of what happened to mankind, Taylor had no way of knowing. But as he fell asleep, the question nonetheless rattled around in his head, until he finally had to speak it out loud to the cosmos. "What the hell happened to the moon?"


Chapter 1

Commander John Koenig of Moonbase Alpha picked himself up off of the floor and quickly looked around Command Center. The damage was not too bad, and injuries seemed minor. "Tony, get a damage report" he ordered. He then went to Maya's station. As science officer and refugee from a planet whose science was far in advance of Earth's, she would likely have a sensible answer.

"Don't tell me that was some meteor strike." he quipped, while he massaged his sore neck.

"No Commander", replied Maya as she worked her console. "I'll have to correlate these readings with Computer, but offhand I'd say we went through another wormhole."

"Are you sure about that, Maya?" inquired Tony Verdeschi, coming over from his station. "That was quite a ride, but it was nothing like the last spacewarp we went through when we found the Menom ship".

"Would you like to run the readings yourself? It shouldn't take you more than, oh, six months to interpret the data." replied Maya with her usual impish good humor.

"No thanks, honey. I'm just a security guy. I leave all the heavy thinking to you aliens." Tony laced this reply with his most ingratiating smile. Although he liked to affect the air of a working class knuckle-dragger, he was actually quite intelligent, earning his PhD in Aerospace Engineering at age twenty-five. He liked to joke that he once thought of himself as well-educated before he met Maya. He knew, false modesty aside, that he was quite intelligent. But when you were up against a woman from a civilization five hundred years ahead of your own, you were fighting out of your weight.

"Sandra, link up with stellar cartography." ordered Koenig. "See if you can get a position fix."

"Yes, Commander" replied Sandra. With only the star charts they had available at the time of Breakaway, that would have been a hopeless task. With the information gleaned from the recently encountered derelict Menom ship, along with what they had acquired from the Voyager probe databanks, they might just get a fix. Sandra went to work.

Koenig then called up Medical Center. "Helena, what's the casualty count?"

"So far, cuts and bruises mainly." replied Dr. Russell. "Jim Haines has a broken arm. That's it. We were lucky this time."

"Tony, damage report?" inquired Koenig.

"A blown compartment in Technical, but it was unoccupied. It's sealed off, should be repaired within the hour. Two force field towers are damaged, long range scanners are off-line. Main power is stable. Repair crews are on it."

"Good. Give long range scanners top priority."


"Sandra. Anything from stellar cartography yet?"

"No position report as yet, Commander. However.. I can tell you that this system has nine planets, one sun, and a large asteroid belt. Some of the inner planets may be capable of supporting life, but we're too far away as yet for that kind of detail."

"Nine planets?" Koenig said thoughtfully, then exchanged a sober glance with Tony. He had to be thinking the same thing. But the odds..!

He spoke into his commlock. "Victor, you better get up here."

"On my way, John" In his office, Professor Victor Bergman sprang up out of his chair, grabbed his cane and walked a surprisingly quick pace to Command Center. Very soon, he mused to himself, I won't even need the cane. His recovery had been coming along rather well, all things considered. Shortly before the Moon had encountered the planet Psychon, they had transversed a space warp. Victor Bergman had been out on the lunar surface with astronaut Bill Frasier overseeing improvements to the force field that carried his name when the Moon had entered the warp. With no warning, the Eagle he had been traveling in crashed when it encountered severe gravimetric distortions. Were it not for Frasier's expert handling of the Eagle, they both would have perished. As it was, Bergman was severely injured and comatose. If not for Dr. Russell's skill as a surgeon, and the Elendorf brain complex, his comatose state might have been permanent. Even so, it had taken him many months and many treatments to finally regain consciousness, and many more months of grueling physical therapy before he could return to duty. As he walked into the Command Center with just a trace of a limp, he thought to himself how grateful he was that this ordeal was finally (almost), behind him. Bergman had never liked lying about. He had been shifting for himself since he was fifteen, and on Alpha, everyone had to pull his own weight.

"What have we got , John?" he inquired as he strolled into Command Center.

"Take a look at this." replied Koenig, as he handed Bergman a computer printout of the telemetry. After a moment, he asked in a quiet voice "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"

"Hmmm?" he replied, then after catching Koenig's look, Quietly, he said "John, there must be hundreds, maybe thousands of solar systems, that have a superficial resemblance to ours. We can't make any judgments until we get a position report."

"Ok." he said. Then pausing to gather himself he added. "Ok, we'll hold judgment in abeyance until we have more data. Victor, work with Maya on correlating our current position with our star charts. With all the new data we have, we should be able to have some idea where we are."

"Right" replied Bergman, but thinking to him that the universe is a very big place.

"Alibe, can you tell me what our position is relative to that sun?" asked Koenig.

A few minutes of data entry and wrangling with her console, and the black-Canadian Operations Officer had an answer. "It's just a rough, but I'd say we're about twenty AU's distant, and about five degrees south of its elliptical plane. Our speed is off the scale, but I'd estimate twenty-percent of light and decelerating fast."

Koenig whistled. "That wormhole, or whatever it was, must have shot us out like a bullet." The accidental explosion that had hurled the moon out of earth orbit had blown them out of the solar system, and off the elliptical plane. Since then, they had been through three space warps. The most recent one had left them in possession of a derelict alien spaceship and a treasure trove of technology, only some of which they were able to comprehend so far. The Alphans had used that technology to upgrade their own systems. Koenig now planned on putting some of the fruits of that labor to good use. He moved to his console and keyed the visual communicator. Alpha's chief Eagle pilot, Alan Carter, appeared on the screen. "Alan, what's the status of the Swifts?"

"Santa Maria is just finishing final tests, John. Mayflower should be ready in about a week."

"All right, Alan. I want Santa Maria on thirty minute standby for a long range survey mission."

"Right." replied Alan.

The Swifts were advanced spacecrafts, completed not long before breakaway. Although there were none stationed on the moon at the time of the accidental explosion of nuclear waste that hurled the moon into the depths of outer space, Alpha had later encountered the planet where an expedition of three Swifts had landed. Due to a malfunction in an advanced prototype robot named "Brian", the crews of all three ships had been killed when they opened their hatches to the poisonous atmosphere of the planet, believing the false information that the psychotic robot was feeding the ships sensors. After deactivating the robot, Koenig had ordered the Swifts to be salvaged. One Swift was deemed beyond repair, and was thus designated for use as spare parts. The remaining 2 were repaired, upgraded with technology from the derelict Menom spaceship, and re-christened. They now possessed weapons, shielding, advanced navigation technology, and were capable of seventy-eight percent of light-speed. Koenig was glad to have them, and was grateful for the skill of his technical staff. Improvising and jerry-rigging were valued skills when you were marooned in space, Koenig reflected to himself.

Chapter 2

"Hypothesis confirmed", Alpha's X-5 computer droned in its monotone female voice. "Third planet from the star we are approaching is Earth. 99.83% probability."

Koenig looked around the table at his senior staff, trying to access their reaction before speaking. "Comments?"

"How about 'oh brother, this is where I came in'?" replied Tony sardonically with a theatrical eye roll heavenward..

Koenig scowled at him. "Victor, any chance that this is a repeat of what happened the previous time we encountered a space warp?"

"I'm going to defer to Maya on this," answered Victor. "Her knowledge of these types of space phenomenon far exceeds mine."

"Victor, I appreciate the vote of confidence" replied Maya. " However, there are no true experts on random space warps, or wormholes as they are sometimes called. In fact, until I had a chance to review the data on your own encounters, and then experience one for myself" she smiled at this remembrance, as did others. Maya had been ill and delirious at the time of Alpha's last encounter with a space warp." space warps were only studied as a theoretical occurrence on my home planet. As you know, Psychon never developed faster than light space flight capability, so there is still a lot we do not understand about random space warps, but after reviewing the sensor logs from your encounter with the parallel universe Alphans, I think we can safely rule out that this is a repeat of that scenario. Agreed?" Maya turned to Victor to secure his assent

"Agreed." replied Bergman. "The readings taken during this last traverse correspond very closely to the readings taken from the time we encountered the Menom ship, and also the space warp we traversed shortly after Breakaway. Which means that we are looking at a massive spatial displacement only? So far as we can tell, there is no dimensional shift."

Everyone at the table visibly relaxed. The encounter with a parallel universe containing counterparts to Alphans had been emotionally draining for everyone, particularly Helena and Alan. It had also cost them the life of Regina Kesslan, a young and promising member of Alpha's technical department. No one was anxious for a repeat of that.

Alpha's chief medical officer, Dr. Helena Russell, spoke for the first time." So what this all boils down to, unless I miss my guess, is that we've come home. Again."

"So it would seem" mused Koenig.

"We know where we are, but do we know when we are?" inquired Tony. Everyone looked to Sandra, who as chief of the Service Section, had the latest report from stellar cartography.

Sandra took a deep breath. "According to star readings, the year is 3984 A.D."

This revelation was greeted with shocked silence. No one spoke for a full minute.

"Our last communication with Earth was in their twenty-second century. Technology had come a long way, but the physical environment of Earth was a mess." said Alan finally.

Koenig sat and digested all of this for a minute, then got to his feet. "Speculating is pointless. We're here now. Victor, how long before we achieve orbit?"

"At our current rate of deceleration, our trajectory should put us in a slightly elliptical orbit around Earth in about six hours." replied Bergman.

"Six hours." repeated Koenig to himself. "Alan, ready a survey Eagle. As soon as we're in orbit, we'll go down and assess the surface. No need to use the Swifts for an Earth shuttle, but keep Santa Maria on stand-by alert. We may want to make a survey of the outer planets later."

"Right" responded Alan.

Six hours later, with the Moon safely tucked into an elliptical orbit almost identical to the one it possessed prior to breakaway, Koenig stood on the debarkation platform with the survey team, which consisted of science officer Maya, geologist Dave Reilly, botanist Shermeen Williams, veteran pilot Bill Frasier, Dr. Ed Spencer and security man Lincoln Blaine. The mission was commanded by Alpha's security chief, Tony Verdeschi.

"Our long range scanners are still off -line, but stellar cartography has been able to determine that Earth's biosphere is intact, fully capable of supporting life. But that's all we know. Your mission is to survey the earth from low orbit, gather all the information you can about the surface conditions, then report in." ordered Koenig.

"Still no response to our messages?" asked Tony

"None." answered Koenig. "We've been transmitting on all frequencies. No sign of any radio or electronic signals of any kind so far." Bill Frasier came out of the Eagle.

"Tony, all the supplies and equipment are on board, we're ready." said Frasier.

"Right. Let's get this show on the road." with a nod to Koenig, Tony entered the Eagle and closed the hatch. Koenig headed to his quarters with Helena walking next to him. She too had come to the launch platform to see the survey crew off. All of Alpha was naturally anxious about this mission. Could their years of wandering finally be coming to an end? Only time would tell. There was nothing to do now but watch and wait.

Back in his quarters, Koenig was just in the process of taking off his boots to get ready for bed when Alibe signaled from Command Center.

"Commander, we're picking up what sounds like a carrier wave from a spaceship."

"On my way" responded Koenig, with weary resignation.

"That's the best you can do?" inquired Koenig.

"I'm afraid so, sir. Long range scanners are still off -line." said Alibe. She was standing at the communications suite with Victor, trying to gather more information on the mysterious signal that started just after the survey Eagle had launched.

"All we can get at the moment is approximate distance and bearing. Seems to be a ship or a satellite of some sort." said Bergman. "It's under power and on a direct course for Earth."

"Now how can that be, Victor? We've picked up no signs of any communications or modern technology from Earth. Could this be an alien ship?"

Bergman shrugged half apologetically. "There's just no way to know, John. Without long range scanners, we're blind."

"Damn!" swore Koenig. They had invested a lot of time on upgrading many of their systems with the advanced alien technology they had salvaged. Long range scanning was one of them. An unfortunate side effect of this was that when the system was damaged, it took longer to repair.

"Alan, I want you take Santa Maria up and intercept that spacecraft, or whatever it is. We need to find out what it is and if it might represent a danger to us or the survey mission. Lift off immediately."

"Right" responded the Australian pilot.

"Also, before you leave, have a Starbright probe launched to survey the outer planets. Long range scanners are down, and I don't want to wait for Mayflower."

"Expecting any trouble, John?" asked Carter. "This is our home system, after all."

"It was our home system, two-thousand years ago Alan. Who knows what's been going on since then?"

Starbrights were unmanned probes about the size of a weather satellite, but with an upgraded drive system that would allow it to cover huge distances in a short amount of time. As Carter got up from his station and left Command Center, Koenig made contact with the survey Eagle to apprise them of the new development.

"Yes Commander, we picked up the signal too. Victor, I read it as a carrier wave or location beacon for a spaceship." said Maya.

"Concur" responded Bergman. "But without long range scanners, we have no way to know what or whose."

"We're sending Alan up in Santa Maria to investigate. It'll take him at least six hours to intercept." said Koenig.

"John, you said this object is on a direct course for Earth. That means it will reach Earth orbit while we are in the middle of our survey. Do want us to continue with the mission?" inquired Tony.

Koenig had already made this decision. "Yes, continue with your mission. Alan will intercept the object well before it reaches Earth orbit. That will give us plenty of time to review our options if it turns out to be hostile. Koenig out." Koenig walked back to his console and logged off. "Alibe, I'm going to get some shut-eye. Call me if there are any new developments."

"Yes, sir."

Koenig walked out of Command Center and headed towards his quarters once again. It was a longer walk than had been the case from the old Main Mission. More than once, he missed Alpha's original command nexus, and his spacious private office attached to it. But even more, he missed the people who had died in the freak meteor storm that hit the base right after it had traversed a wormhole. Ouma, Kano, Paul, Tanya and two others were killed when Main Mission had sustained a direct hit. Koenig thanked the God he still believed in that Victor Bergman had survived. that calamity. Logically, he should not have survived. Given his location on the lunar surface, Victor was more exposed than the people in Main Mission had been. But trying to make sense out of such things was a fool's game, Koenig knew. The memories hurt too much anyway, In the months since the disaster he had tried as much as possible to put it out of mind and concentrate on the task of staying alive in hostile space and finding a permanent home. He keyed the door to his quarters with his commlock, and he walked immediately through the living area to the bedroom.

"Well Mrs. Koenig, I hope I didn't wake you!" he told the shock of blonde hair that now peeked out from under the covers.

Dr. Helena Russell-Koenig, Chief Medical Officer of Alpha sat up and smirked at her husband. "No, just drowsing. Anything new?"

Koenig sat on the edge of the bed, buried his head in hands and recounted to Helena the signal they had detected which seemed to be a spaceship. "We're sending Alan out in one of the Swifts to investigate". Koenig kicked off his shoes, removed his jacket and finally lay down next to Helena. The calamity that had wiped out much of his senior staff had also reinforced in him the notion that time was precious, not to be wasted, and shortly afterwards he had proposed marriage to Helena. She had accepted without hesitation.

"John, what does all this mean? Earth.. It seems like something has guided us back home. When you think about the odds of us even surviving Breakaway, let alone everything that's happened since... it's just too much to think about sometimes." There was just the slightest edge of desperation in her voice. For the most part, she preferred to avoid discussing the metaphysical.

Koenig smiled ruefully as he laid down, listening to his bones stretch and crack and feeling every one of his fifty-one years. "I think we all feel that way from time to time. But the main thing is Helena, we're alive, and we're home. Whatever we find down there, it can't be anymore shocking than the things we've already encountered. Whatever it is, we'll manage"

Helena, cheered by that thought, relaxed and laid down next to her husband for a much needed rest. "You're right." She closed her eyes and was fast asleep in five minutes.

Chapter 3

Tony Verdeschi stretched and yawned in the co-pilot seat of Eagle One and turned to his pilot. "Take over, Bill."

"Right, Tony." Tony un-strapped himself from the pilot seat and went back into the service module. Maya was already reviewing data from the ships sensors.

"Well, what's the story Maya?" inquired Tony, pouring himself a cup of ersatz coffee from a nearby thermos.

"We've made three orbits so far. Preliminary scans definitely show human and animal life down there, but no signs of technology or industry of any kind. The climate zones have changed somewhat from what I understand was normal for Earth at the time the moon broke away"

"How so?"

"Well, in general the climate is a little hotter. Wetter in some areas and arid or semi-arid in others. The former temperate zones have shifted on average five degrees towards the pole in your northern hemisphere."

"Are there any concentrations of human life that might indicate some kind of organized community?" asked Tony.

"That's the odd part. Come look at this survey program I ran." Tony sat down next to Maya so the rest of the team could see the view screen.

"Here, in the northeastern part of what you used to call the United States. There seems to be a concentration of settlements that would indicate some primitive level of civilization, but almost no human life is indicated. All the human life is scattered in the forests and plains surrounding the settlements." she pointed out those areas to Tony on the computer generated graphic. The high altitude pictures definitely showed a small system of irregular roads, a grid pattern of small structures, and smoke from what might be primitive foundries or blacksmith sheds.

"Maybe they abandoned the settlement for some reason." suggested Dave Reilly.

"No way to know for sure without going down for a look." said Shermeen Williams impatiently, speaking for the first time. As the youngest member of the landing party, barely twenty-two years old, Shermeen was headstrong and brash. She had been sixteen when, while visiting Alpha as part of a special intern program for honors students from Cornell University, she and five other students had been caught on the Moon when it had blasted out of orbit. What had been a traumatic and heart-rending experience for the adult residents of Alpha had been devastating for her. A member of a big, extended family, she was now forever cut off from her loved ones. That, combined with her natural shyness had sent her into a depression from which she had almost not recovered. She had briefly contemplated suicide, but as a devout Catholic, she immediately dismissed this. Remembering her faith's injunctions against sloth and despair, she finally pulled herself out of her melancholy by main force, and a renewed daily prayer habit. She threw herself into her work with a passion. After a near deadly encounter with an alien from an anti-matter realm who, while in her vulnerable state, had tried to seduce her, she became more confident, poised and assertive. She eagerly volunteered to cross-train as a pilot, and passed all the qualifying exams with high marks, impressing the initially doubtful Alan Carter, (who was determined that no one would ever fly one of his precious Eagles or Swifts who was not fully qualified!). She was now the department head of Hydroponics and routinely sat in on command conferences. Commander Koenig considered her a bulwark. There was no question of her being chosen for this important and potentially dangerous mission.

"How about we check in first with Alpha before we rush in?" Tony suggested with a smile. Tony moved over the communications seat and within a few minutes had filled Alpha in on what they had found out.

"All right." said Koenig. "Permission to land granted. Suggest you start in that area in the northeastern United States that shows a settlement."

"Should we put her down right in the village square then? I prefer a direct approach." asked Tony.

"Negative." responded Koenig. "There are too many unknowns at this point.

"If human life on Earth has regressed to a stone age level, there's no telling how they might react to a spaceship dropping in unannounced." added Victor from his own station in Command Center.

"There seems to be a large area of desert bordering the inhabited zone we scanned. I recommend we land right where the desert meets the jungle. That puts us within a few miles of the settlement. Easy walking distance" suggested Maya.

"Understood and approved. And Tony," added Koenig before signing off. "Be careful. Even though it is Earth, after almost two-thousand years, we have no way of knowing what kind of dangers could be down there. Don't take any unnecessary risks. Observe and report in before you make contact"

"Understood" replied Tony. "All right folks, prepare for landing." Tony went back to the cockpit to assist Frasier. Although Frasier was a far better pilot than Tony, fully capable of landing the Eagle unassisted, regulations required the two man rule for lift off and landing.

"Bill, lets put her down about here" Tony indicating on the plot map the area Maya had said shown signs of human life but was several miles from what appeared to be a settlement. Frasier worked his controls to program what should have been a routine landing, as all of Earth's topographic data had long ago been pre programmed into the Eagle's flight computer. However, as Frasier began the landing sequence, something went wrong.

"What the hell...? This can't be right!" said Frasier.

"What's wrong?" asked Tony.

"I asked the nav computer to give me landing coordinates, but the topography of the region is all wrong! According to the scanners, Long Island sound has moved about twenty miles west and is now an inland lake! And the region is not only a desert, but with huge mountainous formations! None of the pre-programmed data from earth is worth a damn!"

"Switch to manual fast!" ordered Tony, as he sat down in the pilot seat to assist. But Frasier needed no help.

"Already on it." Frasier quickly threw some switches and took control of the Eagle. He pulled back carefully on the yolk, fired the retro-rockets and expertly brought the Eagle out of its computer guided glide path into a holding pattern about ten thousand feet over the inland lake.

"Okay, we're all right now. Whew, that was close folks." said Frasier.

"What's the problem?" asked Maya, coming up from the service section.

"Take a look." suggested Tony, referring to the close up scan of the surface.

Maya quickly assessed the scans that Frasier had made of the surface. "Hmmm. It looks like Earth has undergone some serious alterations of topography in addition to climate"

"Yeah, no kidding." quipped Frasier.

"Look at that!" said Tony. "What could cause New York to change into New Mexico in such a short amount of time?"

"There's no way to know until we get down there. Maybe when we finish our survey of this area, we could look for the ruins of cities. There might be records that would tell us what happened"

"Maybe. First, let's concentrate on our original mission" replied Tony.

The spot they picked to land was a bleak treeless plain on the edge of a large desolate area, just outside the lush jungle they had detected. According to the map, it was somewhere in the area of Tarrytown, New York. The team was assembled with their equipment, including the security guard Blaine who armed himself with the laser rifle mounted on the weapons rack. Maya was loading the information from the Eagle's scanners into her hand-held computer and scanner, dubbed a "minicomp" by Alpha's technical section. The device was her design, and she was proud of it. Her former home planet Psychon had been several centuries ahead of Earth technology in many areas, and Maya herself was a natural born polymath. Maya knew that the Alphans often benefited from her many talents. She in turn was happy to have a place to call home and to have been welcomed into the tight knit community of Alpha.

"Frasier, you mind the store. We'll check in every thirty minutes. All right people." ordered Tony. The door opened and they all stepped out into the bright sunlight of earth. After walking about a mile through a rocky desert-like area, the terrain shifted abruptly to a lush jungle. Shermeen commented that the flora while native to earth, was not at all of what would be expected of this region. "This flora is more typical of Georgia or Mississippi than the Hudson River valley. Look at those eucalyptus trees."

Alpha's resident geologist, Dave Reilly, agreed. "If I didn't know better I'd swear this was East Texas."

"You've been there?" asked Ed Spencer.

"I lived and worked in Texas for twelve years before I signed onto Alpha." said Reilly, with a smirk and a slight tip of his cowboy hat. "Started out with Exxon then moved on to 3M."

"Got bored with it?" asked Spencer with a smile.

"You might say so. Finding oil and molybdenum pays good, but after a while it's hardly a challenge. I got an offer to go look for natural gas in Antarctica and an offer for Moonbase Alpha. Since I never could stand the cold, here I am." he said with a sardonic grin.

They continued walking through the lush forest, occasionally broken by meadows and clearings, but there was no sign of human activity anywhere.

"Dave, how would you account for the radical changes in the landforms?" asked Maya.

Dave walked a few paces as he considered. "There are a few possibilities. Now, some of the area we over flew looked like the aftermath of a massive meteor strike."

"But that wouldn't account for Long island sound shifting west." protested Tony.

"No, but we also have to consider that the moon being ripped out of orbit might have caused long term tectonic shifts, tsunamis and so on. Over time, that could account for some of the changes we've seen. Of course, I'm no earthquake expert but it seems reasonable"

"Well, the last signal we got from earth after Breakaway mentioned that very thing." said Spencer.

"Sir, look at this!" The security guard, Lincoln Blaine, was walking point about a hundred yards ahead, called from the top of a hill. They all hurried to catch up to him. They reached the top of a hill covered by a grove of trees. There before them lay a wide green valley filled with rows of irrigated crops of different types, and well-maintained orchards of what looked like fruit-bearing trees. They immediately recognized the familiar sight of the plants closest to them, green stalks about seven feet high, with long, wide leaves in nearly perfect rows that stretched off into the distance..

"Corn!" exclaimed Shermeen.

"It sure is." agreed Tony, smiling. They all stumbled down the hill to the field. Shermeen ran up to a stalk and eagerly plucked an ear. She sniffed it, peeled back a husk, and took a small bite, savoring the sweet, starchy taste and the wet sound of kernels bursting in her mouth, overwhelming her senses. She lost herself briefly in the childhood memory of the fresh sweet corn from her mother's garden. Then, self-consciously, she added "Sorry. It's been so long that's all. Definitely corn! Common field variety though, probably raised for fodder"

"Well, if the people here are advanced enough for agriculture, that's something. But then where are the growers?" asked Tony, looking around the valley.

"Tony, look over there." Maya pointed to the other edge of the field where it ended in a forest, about three hundred yards away. Tony climbed back up the hill for a better view and lifted his field glasses to his eyes. He was amazed to see a few dozen people emerging from the bush. They all had dark brown hair and bronzed skin and appeared to be dressed in animal skins or some other type of simple garment. At first Tony thought they must be workers come to tend the crops. But then a strange thing happened: they started picking corn at random, with the younger men climbing the trees, picking fruit and throwing it down to their less nimble comrades. Farm workers? Then he noticed their posture, the blank stares on their faces, apparently devoid of any rationality, moving aimlessly. And no baskets or nets to gather the crops? Tony's smile faded. These people weren't harvesting. They were foraging.

"Maya, come take a look at this" He handed her the field glasses. She too saw men and women of different ages mixed with children, men with long beards and unkempt hair, dirty, with blank expressions, walking down rows of corn, picking ears and eating. Children foraged for what appeared to be windfall apples in the orchards. She then double checked the readings on her mini-comp.

"Those people definitely read as human, but by the look of them they're primitives. Maybe not even stone age. They seem to be carrying no tools of any kind"

Tony was considering whether or not to call Frasier and update him on what they had discovered when he began to hear a loud rumble in the distance.

"Tony, I'm picking up life forms in that direction" Maya pointed to the north to a clearing just beyond the edge of the cornfield.

"Sounds like hoof beats. Lots of them." said Shermeen. "Look, the primitive humans are scattering, heading this way!"

"Maya, can you confirm that from this distance?" asked Tony

"No. My mini-comp is not programmed with information about most Earth species yet. But it definitely reads as non-human animal life of some sort."

"Look!" Blaine pointed to the area beyond the cornfield. Emerging from the forest were horses, with riders, organized neatly into what looked like a skirmish line.

"Must be field hands to drive off the scavengers." commented Reilly, raising his electronic field glasses to his eyes for a closer look.

"Maya, your new gadget must be malfunctioning." said Tony

"I just ran a full diagnostic before we left Alpha. It is clearly detecting the people over there as human, and it reads all of us in the landing party as human! But whatever is on those horses is not human." insisted Maya

"Well, then how..?"
"God-Almighty-damn!" exclaimed Dave in a horrified voice.

" Eh? What is it?" asked Tony

"Look at them!" said Dave.

Tony looked through his field glasses at the riders on the horses. They were large creatures, dressed in dark leather-like clothes, and their features.. in the farthest reaches of his imagination, Tony would not have believed it, but there could be no doubt about what he was seeing. The riders of the horses were apes. Gorillas by the look of them! "Sancta Maria! Apes!" cried Tony with horror. "Those are apes riding those horses!"

Chapter 4

"That's impossible!" said Ed Spencer.

"Take a look! If I didn't see it for myself I wouldn't believe it." said Tony, handing the physician his field glasses. Ed looked and saw a ridiculously impossible gorilla dressed in what looked like an embellished butchers apron, expertly handling the reins on his horse. He burst out laughing, remembering the simians at the zoo in his home town of Omaha. In the next moment, three dozen of the mounted gorillas stopped in unison, raised what appeared to be carbine-length weapons to their shoulders, and took aim at the primitive humans. The laughter died in his throat.

Puffs of blue smoke emerged from the muzzles of the carbines, followed moments later by the multiple "cracks" as the sound of the firearms discharging reached them.

Ed Spencer turned his field glasses to the group of human foragers. The volley from the ape cavalry had worked a fearsome slaughter. Men, women and even children were cut down. Some were bleeding from horrific wounds, trying to run. Ed saw a little ash blonde girl not more than seven years old running from the apes as her head exploded in a red mist, shot through by an ape bullet, She dropped to the ground, dead. The apes fired a second volley, cutting down even more humans. They then began to advance on horseback, trampling the wounded and picking off survivors one by one. Cold rage filled Ed Spencer.

"Tony, are we going to stand by and do nothing? Those are human beings getting slaughtered down there!" said Reilly, viewing the carnage though his own field glasses.

"Dave's right, Tony! We have to do something to help those people!" said Shermeen.

"Now hold on! Our orders are to observe and report in before making first contact!" said Tony.

"Tony, I don't think the Commander would want us to sit idly by while human beings, our own kind, get murdered!" said Spencer.

"If the Commander knew this was a planet of the apes, he wouldn't have sent us down in the first place! He would have sent a response team!" countered Tony.

Dave Reilly had finally had enough. Without warning, the Irish born geologist yanked his laser out of its holster, ran up to a higher point on the hill to a small copse of oak trees, and took aim at the gorilla cavalry.

"Reilly, what the hell are you doing?" yelled Tony. "Disarm!"

Dave Reilly turned to look at Tony. "You may be willing to stand for this Tony, but I'll be damned if I will!"

Tony hesitated, again hearing the sound from rifles fired by the apes, wincing. "All right! Blaine, you're with me. The rest of you stay here and under cover."

Tony led Blaine to Reilly's location on the hill. It was more exposed than he would have preferred, but they had to get a little closer if their weapons were to have the desired effect.

"Okay, set your lasers for maximum stun. Let's see how these apes handle it. Aim for the lead riders" They all took aim,

"Fire!" shouted Tony.

Three beams of yellow light lanced out and struck three of the gorilla cavalry. Two arched back in their saddles, as if they had been hit by a rock. One fell to the ground, stunned but still conscious.

"Damn!" swore Tony. "I was afraid of that. Stun setting is no good at this distance. Now they see us!" The gorilla riders all stopped and were now pointing in the direction of the strange lights that had hit them.

"Tony?" Dave Reilley asked anxiously.

"Set for kill." ordered Tony through gritted teeth. He did not like the way this was going.

"Fire!" Blue streaks leapt from the diodes of their lasers. This time, three gorillas fell from their saddles. The remaining gorillas turned their attention from the primitive humans and were now galloping straight towards Tony's position. The three fired again and again, rarely missing. A third of the gorillas had been felled when the remainder lost their nerve and turned to retreat. Horses belonging to the dismounted apes wandered aimlessly in the field.

"How do you like that, you hairy scum!" cried Dave Reilly.

"Cease fire!" ordered Tony.

"Well, that took some of the starch out of them." said Blaine.

"Come on, lets rejoin the team." said Tony, watching uneasily as the apes retreated and regrouped. He noticed that the apes did not turn and run in a complete panic, as he would have expected a primitive animal to do when encountering a superior, and unknown, technology. Rather, they had retreated in good order and appeared to be regrouping for another attack, like a trained army.

They climbed back down the hill to where Shermeen, Maya and Dr. Spencer were waiting.

"Tony, we better check in with Frasier." suggested Maya.

"Right" Tony called up Frasier on his commlock and told him they would be returning to the Eagle immediately.

"What happened? Did you make contact with anyone?" asked Frasier.

"I'll explain it all when we get back, Bill. You won't believe it." said Tony before breaking contact.

"All right people, lets.."

"Tony, I'm picking up more animal life readings coming from the southwest!" said Maya, pointing. "About two hundred yards distance, closing fast!"

"Must be reinforcements. Come on, lets move!" ordered Tony.

They all began to sprint back in the direction of the Eagle, weapons drawn. They had gone about fifty paces when a solid phalanx of gorilla infantry appeared in their path barely a hundred yards away leaving them, Tony observed with horror, trapped between the advancing infantry and the now regrouping ape cavalry.

"Maya, you take the team and head for that forest! If we reach some cover, we might be able to hold them off long enough to make it back to the Eagle. Blaine and I will cover you. Move!" ordered Tony.

Tony grabbed Blaine and they both headed towards the ape cavalry. Tony figured that there were fewer cavalry, and they had a least a chance of escaping them. Against the massed wall of ape infantry with rifles and nets, they had no chance at all. Tony and Blaine unleashed a final volley of laser fire at the skirmish line and turned to run. Just then the apes fired a volley from their carbines. Blaine caught a bullet between the shoulder blades and dropped to the ground face down. The black security man did not move. Tony saw the bullet exit through his chest, and knew instinctively he was dead. He ran straight at the ape cavalry, trying to draw their attention away from Maya and the rest, firing wildly as he ran. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Maya and the rest reach the cover of the trees.

As he turned to make his own escape, a bullet caught him in his left shoulder. The impact spun him around and he fell down in the tall grass. He dropped hard and felt his laser go flying from his hand. In the next moment, he heard one of the apes yell "That human there, in the strange clothing. Capture him!" Lord have mercy!, he thought to himself. They speak!? Tony got to his feet and began to run, the pain in his arm just beginning. He had made it perhaps a hundred feet when he was scooped up in a net dragged by two of the ape cavalry. He suddenly found himself wrapped up in a tight ball, bumping and slamming against the ground, with waves of searing pain shooting up his wounded arm. He tried to reach for his commlock, but as he did so the net slammed him hard against the ground, and he felt something come loose somewhere in his shoulder. Pain exploded through him as the blackness swallowed him..

Chapter 5

In the edge of the woods, Maya had lost sight of Tony as the ape cavalry retreated. She saw the infantry advancing in the same direction, away from their location. So Tony's plan of diversion had worked, at least in part.

"I saw Blaine go down. I think he's dead" said Dave Reilly, panting hard after the sprint they had made.

"Oh my God. This can't be happening! Talking apes who ride horses?" said Shermeen.

"We've seen it with our own eyes." said Ed Spencer.

"We've got to do something to help Tony." said Reilly. "If those apes are used to humans being mute and defenseless, there's no telling what they might do to him."

Maya thought briefly of calling Alpha to consult with Commander Koenig, then decided against it. Tony needed help right now, and she did not want to risk having the commander order her back to the Eagle. She recalled a dinner time conversation she once had with Helena about the times when she, in her capacity as CMO , had decided to act unilaterally rather than conferring with Commander Koenig. When Maya had expressed shock at this, Helena had simply replied with a sly smirk, "Sometimes, its better to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission". Just so, Maya thought to herself. When she spoke, it was with her command voice, and brooked no dissent. "Dave, you and the others get back to the Eagle. Brief the Commander on what we've seen. I'm going after Tony."

"Maya, you shouldn't risk yourself alone! You saw how bloodthirsty those gorillas are." objected Reilly. "It's my fault that Tony got captured, I should be the one to go after him."

"We'll talk about blame later, Dave." Maya said with a cold edge to her voice. "For now, unless we get a Response Team down here, the only hope Tony has of rescue is for someone to sneak into the ape settlement. Who among us has the best chance of doing that?" Maya asked reasonably.

"I suppose you're right." he allowed.

"The ape patrol seems to be retreating, trying to round up more of the primitive humans." observed Ed Spencer, looking through Tony's field glasses.

"Ok. Use your commlocks to find your way back to the Eagle. Stay under cover of the forest as much as you can. These gorillas seem to prefer the veldt." suggested Maya. "Report to the Commander. Tell him I am going to wait until dark, which should be" she glanced down quickly at her commlock fastened to her hip, which was set to local time, "in about two hours, then I'm going to sneak into the ape village and free Tony."

"All right. Good luck." said Reilly, then they all started hiking back to the Eagle.

Maya watched them go with some trepidation, then steeled herself. She had been in worse situations, she reflected to herself. She tried to put aside her feelings about Tony. She had to stay objective if she was going to be of any help to him. She looked around and presently found a shelter in a hollowed out tree in a relatively safe area and waited, wondering to herself what could have happened on Earth to bring about such an upside down social order. She also tried very hard not to think about what she would do if Tony were already dead.

Chapter 6

Alan Carter eased back the controls of the Santa Maria, and carefully completed the process of bringing her into a parallel flight path to the object on his scanner. He paused briefly to marvel at how smoothly the upgraded controls executed the maneuver. There was no question that the Swifts, the cutting edge of spacecraft design in 1999, and since vastly improved with technology salvaged from alien spacecraft, was far superior to the Eagles that made up the bulk of Alpha's fleet. The Swift was to the Eagle as an F-14 was to an F6F Hellcat. He'd never flown a Hellcat, although he'd logged several hundred hours on the F-14 during his stint with the RAAF. The Eagle would always have a special place in his heart. It was the first ship he ever flew into space, and that's something you don't forget. Kind of like the '68 Buick LaSabre his Dad had owned, the car he had learned to drive with, had driven to his first job, and taken his first girlfriend out on a date with. Every car he had owned after that was always compared to that old LaSabre. Same with the Eagle! Alan thought to himself, if Alpha ever built an FTL battleship, he would still compare that to an Eagle. Oh well, enough of that, he thought, rousing himself towards the job at hand.

"Range?" asked Carter.

"One thousand yards." responded co-pilot Cheyenne Deuel. "We've matched her course and speed perfectly."

"Fine. Let's have a look at her." ordered Carter.

Deuel toggled a switch on her panel, and the object appeared on the viewer.

"Magnify." ordered Carter. Deuel adjusted the controls, and the object was now clearly visible on their forward view screen. Unquestionably a spacecraft. It was white, longer than an Eagle but smaller than a Swift, shaped sort of like a finely tapered oblong triangle. Its main engines were fully inboard.

"Alan, you can call me crazy, but I think that might be an Earth ship." opined Deuel.

"Yeah mate, I think you're right. The design puts me to mind of an old Apollo craft, but more advanced. Any markings?"

"Not that I can see. Let's swing around to the other side." suggested Deuel.

"All right." Carter took the controls and programmed the Swift to fall a thousand yards behind the other ship, then slowly brought it even again on its port side.

"Well I'll be damned." said Carter, rather ironically lapsing into some American slang. He saw clearly the stars and stripes logo. "Can you get a close up of the name, or registry?" he asked Deuel.

"I think so." Deuel adjusted the controls once again. "There it is! Just under the port cockpit window. U.S.S. Icarus II. "

"Icarus? Never heard of it." said Carter.

"Maybe it was launched after Breakaway." said Deuel.

"I doubt it. The design somehow looks older. What do the sensors say? Any life readings." asked Carter.

Deuel turned her co pilot's seat to the panel on the starboard side of the cockpit and took her readings. "Sensors are definitely picking up three heartbeats, but very slow. Only four beats per minute."

"Four beats per minute? Suspended animation of some kind?" asked Carter.

"Search me." said Deuel with a mischievous smirk.

"Is that an offer for a first date?" rejoined Carter with a smile. "Any weapons?"


Carter thought that over for a minute. "All right, I'm going to raise Alpha." Carter toggled his communication relay. " Santa Maria calling Moonbase Alpha, do you copy? Over."

On the Swifts small view screen, John Koenig's image formed almost immediately.

"Alpha here, go ahead Santa Maria." said Koenig.

"John, we've made contact with the object. It's definitely an Earth spaceship. No weapons, no apparent threat to us. I'm transmitting my telemetry now." Carter nodded to Deuel, who threw a switch on her own communication board.

Within one minute, Koenig and Bergman were reviewing all the visual and sensor log data in Alpha's command center.

"Victor, what do you make of that? An American spaceship, apparently a sleeper ship of some kind. But how could Earth have launched it? Tony and Maya confirmed that there is no technology or advanced civilization of any kind down there." asked Koenig.

"The Icarus Project." said Bergman, with soft wonder. "They actually built the thing?"

"The what?" asked Koenig.

"You ever hear of Dr. Otto Hasslein?" asked Victor.

"I remember reading about his theories in undergrad school. Something about time dilation as I recall."

"Yes. He was one of von Braun's students. Absolutely brilliant man, if somewhat erratic. Worked on the Mercury and Gemini programs for a while, and also did some early design work on the Eagles. Anyway, he designed a drive for interstellar travel for a ship traveling at near light speed. It was a leap far beyond what anyone else was doing at the time, or since."

"How so? Designs for near light speed systems were nothing new, and neither was the concept of a sleeper ship." protested Koenig.

"Yes, yes of course that's true, but Hasslein put a new wrinkle in it. A crew traveling at near light speed for five years would find itself centuries in the future in Earth time, making any mission essentially one way. Hasslein supposedly found a way around that problem, a way that would allow the ship to reverse time travel to its original time and destination!"

"That sounds like fantasy. How did he achieve it?" asked Koenig.

"Well, no one really knows for sure. I had heard some whispers that he pitched the idea to NASA in the mid-seventies, and they dead-filed it. I certainly never heard that they actually built a working model, much less launched a mission! Whoever was in charge of this kept it dark and quiet."

"Victor, that ship is carrying American markings. The LSRO never had any project like this. If it did, we sure would have known about it." Bergman grinned crookedly at this, agreeing. " So, a ship of an unknown design, launched in secret by the American government some time in the 1970's? And now it's returning home." asked Koenig.

"Its certainly seems that way. As to its mission or destination....?" Bergman trailed off with a shrug.

Koenig then called up Carter on Santa Maria and filled him on the probable origins of the Icarus. "That's all we have for now, Alan. We're going to query Computer for more information about this 'Icarus' program. Can you determine its exact destination based on its current flight path?" asked Koenig.

"As near as we can figure, it's following an ion trail that leads to the region of the northeast United States. That's they best we can do with Swift's computer." said Alan.

"An ion trail? What, were they following another ship?" said Koenig incredulously.

"It's possible. Alan did say the name of the ship was Icarus II. That would seem to suggest an Icarus I somewhere." offered Victor.

"Sandra, run Alan's telemetry through Main Computer. See if you can get a posit." ordered Koenig.

"Yes Commander." said Sandra, as she entered the appropriate commands into her console and waited for the information. Once again, the upgrades to main computer made by Maya turned what would have been an hour long query into a few seconds." If the Icarus II follows its current heading, it will land in about six hours and forty-three minutes from now, somewhere in the vicinity of New Rochelle, New York."

"That's pretty close to the landing party's position." said Koenig.

"Yes, but its also right in the middle of Long Island Sound." replied Sandra, putting the map on the Command Centers main viewer, with blinking dots denoting the Eagle landing site and the anticipated landing area of the Icarus II.

"Yasko, raise Eagle One." said Koenig.

"They're calling in just now, Commander!" said Yasko.

"Good. On screen." ordered Koenig.

The crestfallen face of Dave Reilly filled the large main screen in Command Center.

"Dave? Where's Maya and Tony?" asked Koenig immediately.

"They're not with us, Commander." During the next ten minutes, Koenig and the staff in Command Center listened with stunned disbelief about what the landing party had found: the radical changes in climate and topography; humans living in a state of pre-Neolithic degradation; the presence of intelligent apes who apparently regarded humans as unwelcome vermin; their brief altercation with the mounted ape patrol resulting in Blaine's death and Tony's capture, and finally Maya's plan to rescue Tony.

"Dammit! I ordered him not to make contact until he reported in!" exclaimed Koenig.

"Commander, there were helpless people being butchered. We couldn't just stand by and do nothing!" countered Reilly.

Yes, you could have, thought Koenig to himself, because those were damn well your orders! But there was no point in remonstrating with Reilly about it now.

"Commander, I think we should go back and help Maya. Now that we know what we're up against...."

"Negative." said Koenig, cutting Dave off. "You couldn't reach Maya in time to help her. If any one person can rescue Tony, she's the one. Don't take any action yet, but keep your trace on Maya's commlock locator beacon." Although a commlock had an effective range of about three miles for communication, its locator beacon could be picked up at a range of over a hundred miles.

"But sir..!" exclaimed Reilly.

"That's an order, Reilly!"

"Yes, sir." said Reilly, through gritted teeth.

"John, we've got another problem here." said Victor from the science station. "According to the telemetry from the survey Eagle, there have been major changes to the topography of the area of what was the northeastern United States, as well as climatic changes."

"He's right, Commander." This was Frasier cutting in from the survey Eagle. "If I had followed the pre-programmed information for landing, we probably would have ended up on the bottom of Long Island Sound, which is now an inland lake by the way. That's assuming we didn't crash into the mountains and rock formations that are present."

"Then Icarus would be programmed with that exact same data." said Koenig.

"Exactly." said Victor. "So that ship, and whoever is on it, has got to be diverted before it reaches Earth's atmosphere."

"Alan, are you copying all this?" asked Koenig.

"Affirmative." responded Alan.

This was one of those command decisions that Koenig never looked forward to. Santa Maria, with her advanced propulsion system, could be on Earth inside of two hours to reinforce the landing party and help retrieve Tony and Maya. An Eagle expedition would take a minimum of six hours. But how much support could Carter and Deuel lend, unless they used the Swift to launch an air attack against this ape settlement? Was he prepared to declare war against these intelligent apes (the very idea of intelligent simians sounded preposterous to him), even to save Maya and Tony? And by doing so, could he possibly be endangering their lives even more? And what about the Icarus II? Could he stand by and let it be destroyed, with all aboard? Typically, Koenig made his decisions quickly.

"Alan, maintain your position relative to the Icarus. Try to make contact with them. We'll try to gather more information about her from Computer." ordered Koenig. He then moved to his console and called up the flight section on his visual communicator.

"Flight, this is Chief Engineer Garforth."

"Pete, I want you to put Combat Eagles Two, Four, and Six on a thirty minute alert. Full weapons load out." ordered Koenig.

"Right away, Commander." said Garforth. Koenig's next call was to the Security Section, and the one he was most anxious about.

Tony Verdeschi's assistant, Wayne Thayer, answered almost immediately.

"Wayne, ths is Commander Koenig." he hesitated a moment before going on.

"Yes Commander?"

"Response Team is on alert. We lift off in Eagles Two, Four and Six in thirty minutes. Notify McAndrew. I'll fill him in on the details during the flight."

Thayer showed only the slightest hint of surprise. He simply responded "Yes sir, they'll be ready."

For a full minute there was not a word spoken in Command Center. The Response Team concept was a source of controversy on Alpha since its inception. The LSRO (Lunar Science and Research Organization) was not a military organization, and thus Moonbase Alpha was never designed for combat. Quite the opposite, it had been a multinational effort at the peaceable exploration of space, so its military capabilities had been minimal. Since the moon's abrupt departure from Earth orbit into the vast reaches of outer space however, several encounters with hostile alien species had only served to underscore how utterly vulnerable Alpha was to attack. Koenig had decided, with the support of his senior staff, to commence a long term build up of defensive capabilities. This buildup had included, among other things, a complement of ground based laser batteries, combat-enhanced Eagles and Swifts, and a trained team of combat/ security specialists with newly designed weapons and equipment that could be activated at a moments notice to deal with a threat to Alpha's safety.

It had been clear from Moonbase Alpha's first encounters with aliens that the security department's normal procedures, training, and equipment, (designed for maintaining law and order among three hundred scientists, pilots and other specialists) were woefully inadequate at providing protection against the unknown hostile forces of outer space. This had resulted in tragic deaths that, it was felt by many, could have been avoided had Alpha's security measures been enhanced. Nonetheless, the Moonbase Alpha military buildup (and Koenig, never one to mince words, had described it using those exact words) had been strongly opposed by many Alphans. It would divert scarce personnel and resources from other important projects, they had said. Shouldn't Alpha's limited capabilities be focused on finding a new home and improving quality of life, rather than a military buildup which would only serve to portray Alpha as a potential threat, thus inviting the very attack we were trying to defend against? On the other side were Alphans, mainly pilots and security men, who had lost close friends to encounters with hostiles. They argued strenuously for the military buildup, reasoning that the prudent defense precautions that Koenig was proposing were long overdue, and what good was improved output from hydroponics if the base was blasted to rubble some night without warning? Koenig had weighed these arguments in his mind, and asked his second in command, the late Paul Morrow, to head a committee to draft a workable defense plan. The issue had polarized Alphans like never before. Long dormant political and ideological divides from Earth resurfaced with a vengeance. There were many heated arguments, and even a few fistfights. Some were particularly afraid that the proposed "response team" would constitute a de facto standing army, and might be used in an undemocratic fashion by Koenig, (although most Alphans dismissed this concern as hysterical babbling). A few pilots and security men, whose ranks had been hit particularly hard, had gone so far as to suggest that they might refuse to go on high risk missions unless they had some greater means of protection. This kind of talk was quickly and summarily squelched by chief of security Tony Verdeschi and chief Eagle pilot Alan Carter, both of whose loyalty to Koenig was absolute. They told the men involved in no uncertain terms that there was plenty of room in Alpha's brig if they wanted time to think about what they were saying. But privately, they both agreed with their men, and communicated these sentiments to Koenig.

In the end, it was the encounter with the Dorcons that finally swayed Koenig. Getting attacked from space by an advanced warship was bad enough. That a mere handful of Dorcon soldiers were able to invade the base, kidnap Maya, and easily overpower Alpha's security force was appalling. At length, the Response Team was formed, but not as a standing unit. Rather, personnel were selected for military training and called into action when needed, much like the Minute Men from colonial America, or a volunteer fire department. Koenig portrayed this decision as a concession to the pacifists, but in reality, Alpha's personnel were stretched so thin, that they could scarcely afford to have eighteen men sitting around polishing plasma rifles all day. The team would be called into action only when needed. Now it was needed.

Chapter 7

It was dusk in Ape City, capital of the nation known by its inhabitants as the Ape Commonwealth. For the second night in a row, Dr. Zaius, chief scientist and also Defender of the Faith, was sitting in the office of the President of the Ape Commonwealth. His presence here the previous night had been the result of an emergency meeting called by President Honorius in response to the sudden appearance of a new phenomenon in the night sky, a bright round object never seen before in ape history. Mandemus, another orangutan and the president's chief advisor, and Urko, a gorilla and chief of the army and police, had been present along with Dr. Zaius.

"It's difficult to say if it poses any danger, Mr. President." Mandemus had said. "We've all seen shooting stars, some of which actually land in the form of small rocks from time to time. And of course the comets with tails that appear every so often, and then depart. But this is something totally new. It neither grows closer nor moves away. All it seems to do is rise and fall slowly. But I do like the light it provides! Much easier getting around at night without a torch!"

"Indeed." agreed Honorius.

"It is easier for the night watch to patrol in this light. But will this light burn out after a while, like our torches do?" asked Urko.

"No, I don't think so General Urko. You see, unless I am much mistaken the light on that disk is reflected from the sun." responded Mandemus.

"Hmph" grunted Urko, who like most gorillas had not much use for learning beyond horsemanship and marksmanship. "Well, if that will be all Mr. President, I think I'll retire for the night. I'll be accompanying one of our long range patrols first thing in the morning. I'll want to be there to see the results of the hunt." Honorious gave his assent with a nod.

"I believe I will retire as well Mr. President, with your kind permission." said Mandemus.

At that meeting, Zaius had not been called upon to contribute much, as astronomy was not his field of specialty. Tonight however, Zaius found himself on the hot seat.

"Mr. President?" acknowledged Zaius. Also present at the meeting was Urko, Mandemus, and strangely enough, Dr. Galen, a chimpanzee and thus not a member of the military or ruling class.

"Dr. Zaius, I'll come straight to the point." began President Honorius. "Five years ago, ape civilization faced a potentially grave crisis with the sudden appearance of the intelligent human known as Taylor. At that time, you assured the general populace that Taylor was a freak, the result of unethical brain experimentation conducted by a member of your staff. Taylor was allowed to go free into the Forbidden Zone under the condition that he never again set foot in Ape City. My predecessor in this office agreed to this subterfuge for the common good, and all here were sworn to secrecy. For five years, all has been quiet. But now we may be faced with a crisis even graver. General Urko?" he prompted the gorilla leader.

"Early this morning, we sent a long range patrol to our most distant agricultural settlement, to conduct reconnaissance and also see if we could capture any humans." said Urko "It was purely routine. As you all know, there has been these past two years a sharp and unexplainable decline in the human population bordering our agricultural regions. What our patrol encountered is undeniable proof of a human civilization living in the Forbidden Zone, and that an attack on us is imminent."

"General Urko, for the purpose of this meeting, please restrict yourself to reporting on the facts, and save the analysis for later." ordered Honorius wearily.

"Very well, Mr. President." said Urko. "Our gorilla patrol encountered at least three humans wearing strange clothes, and possessing weapons unlike any known by ape kind. They fired not bullets, but blue lightening which knocked twelve of my cavalry dead from their saddles."

"You yourself witnessed this?" asked Zaius incredulously.

"I swear by the Lawgiver!" said Urko. "Dr. Galen was working in the hospital, and examined the bodies himself. I asked that he sit in on this meeting to give his appraisal of what killed my soldiers."

Dr. Galen spoke for the first time, with some hesitation as he was a chimpanzee and thus, unaccustomed to sitting so close to the center of power. "Mr. President, I had time to examine to bodies of three of the dead gorillas before being called to this meeting. I confess I have no idea what killed them, other than to say it was not a bullet, blunt trauma, poison or any other means we are familiar with. There seem to be some minor burn marks on their chests, but certainly nothing that would cause death. Based on what the surviving gorillas told me, and my examinations, they just seemed to drop dead. What happened was medically impossible."

"There is more, Dr. Zaius. Urko's gorilla patrol managed to capture one of these humans." said Honorius. At Zaius' amazed look, he added, "Unconscious, but alive."

"Will he regain consciousness" Zaius asked Dr. Galen.

"I don't know. I have not been allowed to examine him yet. He is being held in the security compound." said Galen, with an ugly sidelong look at Urko.

"Mr. President, it is imperative that this human be given medical treatment at once, so that he can be properly interrogated. The information he has could mean the survival of Ape civilization." urged Zaius. "As minister of science and chief defender of the faith, I must insist that you release him into my custody."

"You are right, Dr. Zaius, except that if there are to be any interrogations, the military should be the one to conduct it." countered Urko.

"General, your methods are crude and unnecessarily brutal! " said Zaius.

"So now you're become a human lover." sneered Urko.

"The human is no use to us dead, Urko!" shot back Zaius.

"Enough!" ordered Honorius. "General, you will release the human to Dr. Zaius. When he is healthy enough to be questioned, naturally I will want the military present."

"Yes, Mr. President." conceded Urko reluctantly.

"One more thing. I want news of this human and these so-called lightening guns kept quiet. The last thing we need is a panic. General Urko, I expect your soldiers to remember their duty."

"Mr. President, you can always count on the loyalty of the army." said Urko with a thrust of his chest before departing.

After he left, Dr. Zaius turned to Honorius. "Let him say what he will, Mr. President, but news of this is bound to spread among the population. And with twelve dead gorillas, the call for a war of revenge cannot be far off"

"All the more reason to get a handle on things quickly. Gorillas are always calling for all out war against the humans living beyond the Forbidden Zone. If news of armed, intelligent humans slaughtering gorillas gets out, Urko may be able to persuade enough chimpanzees and orangutans to join with the gorillas to invoke Article 18 of ape prophecy and vote for a state of emergency in the assembly. Or worse, a vote of no confidence. From then on, it would be gorilla rule. Ape City will become a permanent armed camp. Our entire social order would be turned upside down."

"Surely you exaggerate, Mr. President. For that to happen, chimpanzees would have to find common cause with gorillas!" Zaius had to suppress an urge to laugh.

"Ordinarily, that would be as likely as water flowing uphill, I agree." said Honorius. "But an existential danger to ape civilization in the form of an advanced human tribe living beyond the Forbidden Zone, might be just the thing to frighten enough apes into doing something rash, especially if Urko puts himself forth as the only hope for ape survival."

Zaius pondered this for a moment, and did not like any of the conclusions that sprang into his mind. "I'll take charge of the human immediately, Mr. President." he then rose to leave "Dr. Galen, please accompany me. I'll want you to work on this human personally."

Galen and Zaius walked out of the president's office quickly. They passed through several ante-chambers and offices, all of which were empty at this late hour. Even the president's chief of staff, Petronius, had gone home. They walked out through the main gate of the presidential compound. An honor guard of two gorillas presented arms as Dr. Zaius passed by. Only when they were well beyond the presidential compound and walking down a side street did Galen dare to speak.

"Dr. Zaius, I'm going to need some help with this human. A veterinarian would be preferable"

"I think I know just the ape you need. You go see that the human is transferred to the clinic, away from the gorillas. I'll see that your help meets you there." ordered Zaius.

"Yes, sir."

Chapter 8

Tony Verdeschi lay on his bed in the cramped second floor room he shared with his brother Guido. He was in the apartment owned by his family, the San Lorenzo quarter, Napoli. It was summer, and the room was blazing hot as the late afternoon sun shown through the open window. He felt the sweat beading on his forehead, and as he caught a whiff of the wonderful smells coming up from his mother's kitchen, he smiled with anticipation and memory.

"Ah, madre in cucina. Cosa stai cucinando adesso?"

Then his brother Guido was standing over him, laughing . "Nulla per te, faccia brute. Guardate i vostri vestiti, quello che un animale! Mamma sta per ucciderti!

Tony was about to give his brother an anatomically impossible suggestion, when he noticed Guido was a chimpanzee.. A funny was that..chimps..apes.....apes!

He woke up with a start and was immediately aware of a dull throb in his shoulder, and a relentless jackhammer in his head. He looked around and found himself in a primitive dispensary of some sort. He tried to feel his wounded shoulder, but found himself bound tightly to the table he was laying on. He also noticed his clothes were missing, replaced by some repulsive smelling burlap garment that itched like crazy. There was an i.v. needle in his arm, connected by a rubber tube to a bottle of clear liquid.

"Dr. Zira, your patient is awake." Tony was startled to hear these words coming from a chimpanzee suddenly standing next to him.

"Thank you, Lucius." responded another Chimpanzee in a female voice, standing over him. Next to her was a third male chimpanzee.

"You.. you speak English." said Tony with some amazement.

"English?" Zira looked to the one named Lucius, who merely shrugged.

"Why are you holding me here. Where is my uniform?" demanded Tony. For some reason, Tony found himself angrier over losing his uniform than being kidnapped and shot.

"Keep your voice down, please." ordered the female. "You're among friends." she said with a smile and a tone that was meant to be reassuring. Tony was not reassured.

"Yeah, I'll bet. I've seen how friendly your kind is to humans." Tony seethed with anger now, remembering the primitive humans being cut down, and seeing his own man Blaine, killed.

"Please. I want to help you if I can, but you must remain quiet."

"What is this place?" persisted Tony. "What the hell's going on ?"

"You're in the main veterinary infirmary in Ape City. My name is Dr. Zira, and this is my nephew Lucius and my husband Dr. Cornelius."

Veterinary? Doctor? husband? Tony tried to keep his mind from reeling.

"You've been unconscious for several hours, You had a nasty bump on your head, maybe a minor concussion. A bullet grazed you and you dislocated your shoulder, but Dr. Galen and I took care of all that. How do you feel?" asked Zira.

"Could I please have some water?" asked Tony.

"Of course. Lucius, untie him" ordered Zira.

Lucius immediately loosened the leather restraints, and Tony sat up slowly.

"I'm sorry about your clothes, but we had to get rid of them before we moved you from the gorilla holding cell to the infirmary. The fewer apes who know about you, the better." said Lucius.

"Gorillas" said Tony "Yes, that's how I ended up here. I ran into some of them when they were out for a day in the country."

The chimpanzee named Cornelius handed Tony a ceramic cup. The water was cool and delicious. He gulped it, slaking his powerful thirst. The jackhammer in his head eased somewhat. "Thanks" he said, handing back the cup. He must have been dehydrated, he thought to himself.

"What is your name?" asked Zira.

"Tony Verdeschi is my name."

"You have two names. Just like Taylor" commented Cornelius.

"Yes, of course I do. Who is Taylor?" said Tony.

"He is the only other human we ever knew who could speak. He was from beyond the Forbidden Zone, like yourself." said Zira.

"I don't know what you're talking about. I never heard of Taylor or the Forbidden Zone." said Tony irritably . "I and all of my friends are from Moonbase Alpha."

"Where is moonbasealpha?" asked Zira, saying it as one word.

"Moonbase Alpha is a station on the moon. The big ball of light you might have noticed in your night sky recently."

"That's just not possible." said Cornelius dismissively.

Before Tony could answer, the door to the infirmary opened and in came Dr. Zaius and General Urko.

"Dr. Zira, why is this human not fettered?" asked Dr. Zaius immediately.

"Dr. Zaius, as you can see he is not violent, and is in fact fully capable of speech, just as Taylor was." said Zira, with a pointed look towards General Urko. By custom, gorillas were expected to avoid areas of chimpanzee dominance, just as chimpanzees were well advised to steer clear of military barracks.

"Taylor was capable of speech, but he was far from non-violent. I have yet to see the human who fits that description! Bring this one to my office, so we can get this over with". ordered Zaius. Presently, Tony was ushered down several hallways in the complex until they finally reached a private office in an annex. Zaius and Urko sat down behind a large desk, while Tony was seated opposite them, with Zira and Cornelius standing nearby. Tony took a moment to appraise his surroundings. As far as he could see, this ape culture was a curious mixture of stone age dwellings and some iron age tools, with some Greek revival architecture mixed in for good measure. Yet they had sufficiently advanced medical technology to recognize and treat a concussion and give him an intravenous solution. Had they inherited what technology they had from humans, or developed it themselves? Were these apes even native to earth? Tony doubted he would be able to get these answers from his erstwhile interrogators.

"What are you called." asked Zaius harshly.

Tony knew this was not the time or place to vent his anger about what had occurred. He knew he was powerless, unarmed, and cut off from any hope of immediate rescue. Sure, Alpha would be looking for him, but how long would it take to find him? And if Koenig decided to send a response team, who knew how these apes would react? He opted for the diplomatic approach.

"As I've already told your physician, my name is Tony Verdeschi. Verdeschi is my family name, so please call me Tony for the purposes of this interview." Tony came across as utterly cultivated and in complete control of himself, as if he were the one directing the interview rather than being tied like a hog. "Dr. Zira, I do want to thank you for seeing to my wounds." he said graciously, causing Zira to blush, he noted with satisfaction.

Urko and Zaius were both momentarily taken aback at Tony's precise, polite inflections. An Oxford education came in handy in the strangest places, Tony mused to himself.

"Tony, you and your friends killed a dozen gorillas earlier today. Under ape law, we are perfectly within our rights to have to you summarily executed." said Zaius. Urko nodded vigorously at this. Indeed, he had to restrain himself from carrying out the sentence then and there.

"Without a trial? Surely a civilized society would not condemn a man without a fair hearing." responded Tony coolly.

"You answered your own question, human! As a man, you have no rights under ape law." thundered Urko. "You butcher apes in the performance of their duty, yet you dare to imply we are uncivilized?"

"General Urko, please. " said Zaius. "The general is quite correct. You would do well to consider your position and give us the information we need."

"What is it you want to know?" asked Tony.

"I want you to tell us all about the human tribe that lives beyond the Forbidden Zone. How many of you are there? How large is your army? And why did you choose to come here?" demanded Zaius.

"I am from Moonbase Alpha, which is a .. 'colony' of humans on the moon. The moon is that bright ball of light that recently appeared in your night sky. I don't know anything about tribes or a Forbidden Zone"

"Human, do not try my patience with lies! Your friend Taylor sat in that very same chair not five years ago, and told a similar outlandish story." scoffed Zaius.

"Dr. Zaius, this is a waste of time. Obviously, the spies from their tribe are all trained to give a similar cover story." said Urko

"I'm afraid I don't know any Taylor. As for my story being untrue, can you deny that my presence here coincides with the sudden re appearance of the moon in your sky?" said Tony reasonably.

"What do you mean, 'reappearance?'" asked Cornelius.

"He means nothing by it, Dr. Cornelius! Do not encourage him in his deceit!" said Zaius with a sudden vehemence.

Tony could see that the orangutan started when he said the word 're-appeared'. Could he possibly have knowledge of the moon before Breakaway that the other apes did not? Tony decided to press his advantage. He addressed Zaius directly and formally.

"Dr. Zaius, we landed in this area merely to conduct a survey. We had no idea that a society of intelligent apes existed at all. When we came upon your party of gorilla's and saw them massacring a group of humans, we reacted as any human would, in defense of our own kind."

"And do you typically conduct peaceful 'surveys' armed with deadly weapons?" sneered Urko.

"Its standard procedure when going into unknown situations." Tony's patience was beginning to fray. He considered telling them about their attempt to stop their slaughter of humans using only a stun setting, but dismissed it. He knew they would not believe him. He decided to try a slightly different approach.

"My people will be looking for me. Under the circumstances, they will probably consider your holding me as an unfriendly act. One of my men, Lincoln Blaine was killed by your gorillas. Now, our commander may be willing to overlook that as an accident. But if you wish to avoid any further bloodshed, I'd advise you to release me immediately and let me contact my people." His tone was still polite, but with an edge of warning. If Maya and the others made it back to the Eagle, Koenig was probably already on his way down here with a response team. Under no circumstance did he want to be locked in an ape prison when and if they attacked this "ape city".

"Human, you are in no position to issue threats!" said Urko, coming out of his seat.

"General Urko, you saw what those lightening guns did to your ape cavalry. If this man is telling the truth.." said Zira.

"Nonsense! Their lightening guns are impressive, but we were able to drive them off." said Urko.

"You said there were only three humans on foot with these weapons, Urko. You managed to kill one of them for a loss of twelve mounted soldiers. Those figures don't add up to a military victory!" pointed out Cornelius.

Tony looked over to Cornelius and found himself admiring the chimpanzees in this group. He wondered if all the chimpanzees in this ape society were like them. They seemed the most amenable to reason, and not possessing any hatred of humans. Urko the gorilla general scared him. He looked as if he could reach out and break Tony in half with little effort. Zaius the orangutan came off to him as a cranky, close minded schoolmaster. For some reason, he vaguely reminded Tony of Moe Howard of the Three Stooges.

"If I were you, I'd listen to Dr. Cornelius. The hand held weapons we used against your gorillas are far from the only weapons we have at our disposal. We could swoop down on this city and reduce it to smoldering rubble in a matter of minutes." said Tony.

"Dr. Zaius, I see little point to continuing this interview. Clearly, he is not going to give us any information of value. Hand him over to me. I will see that he is executed, and the body hung up at the edge of the Forbidden Zone as a warning to others of his kind. Then we can begin to plan the military campaign to wipe out his tribe." said Urko.

"Dr. Zaius, if I may?" interjected Cornelius. Zaius waved his assent.

"Tony, you said your people come from this moon. How is it you and other humans came to live there?" asked Cornelius.

Tony drew a deep breath. He knew this would not be easy. For the next fifteen minutes, he carefully explained to his ape captors the story of the Earth he knew, an Earth where humans dominated the globe and the great apes were merely animals on the endangered species list. He spoke of its civilization, the heights of its technology, and how the nations of the world had pooled their resources to build Moonbase Alpha to be an outpost of learning, as well as a solution to the nagging problem of atomic waste. He told of the accident that had hurled the moon into the depths of outer space, and the Alphans struggle for survival over the past six years. (Explaining how six years had passed for them, while two thousand had passed on Earth taxed his rhetorical skills.) He was careful to lay extra emphasis on the points that most impressed Cornelius and the other chimpanzees. He knew that this was a gamble, because from what little he had seen so far, the real power in this ape hierarchy lay with the orangutans. But he didn't think Cornelius and Zira would have been invited to this meeting if they did not have some kind of influence. His instincts were telling him that if he had any chance at all of persuading these apes to act reasonably, it lay with the chimpanzees.

As he spoke, he gauged the reactions of his captors as best he could. In the gorilla general, he saw nothing but scorn and hostility. The chimpanzees listened with a mixture of awe and disbelief. Dr. Zaius was a different matter. Tony's experiences in the past six years had taught him to recognize fear hiding behind a mask of calm rectitude, and in Dr. Zaius, he saw that fear increase with every word he spoke.

"And now you and your people mean to settle here on Earth?" asked Zira.

"Yes. This is, after all, our home." said Tony, with some testiness.

"Dr. Zaius, even in his outrageous lies, he reveals the truth." said Urko. "A human tribe, whose existence we have long feared, living beyond the Forbidden Zone has obviously decided to launch a war of aggression against us, and these humans are an advance party. The sooner we kill this stinking human and attack those who sent him , the better"

Tony's temper finally got the better him. "You bloody baboon! Kill me and you'll likely sign your own death warrant! " he yelled at Urko.

Urko jumped to his feet with a roar, thumping his chest, murder in his eyes. He would not suffer a human to speak to him thus!

"General Urko, control yourself!" ordered Zaius, placing himself between Urko and Tony. "Zira, Lucius: take this human back to the holding area in the infirmary at once!" Lucius and Zira quickly ushered Tony out.

"General Urko, I remind you of the president's order remanding custody of that human to me. As minister of science, I strictly enjoin you or any gorilla from entering Dr, Zira's lab until further notice"

"I will obey your injunction Dr. Zaius, but I will be posting guards around the lab to make sure the human does not escape. And I remind you, Dr. Zaius, of Article 18 of ape prophecy. I intend to call a meeting of the general assembly for an open vote, as is my right!" Urko then turned on his heels and stormed out, slamming the door behind him, shaking it on its frame.

Dr. Zaius went back to his desk, sat down heavily and turned to Cornelius. "Now I want to hear what you have to say. "

Cornelius measured his words carefully before speaking. As a loyal ape, he naturally wanted to do everything he could in the best interest of ape society. But he also remembered Dr. Zaius' broken promises about his own archeological research into the true history of Man, and his later trial on a charge of "scientific heresy." Even though Zaius had had his and Zira's sentences commuted, Cornelius still did not trust the orangutan.

"When I first heard Taylor's story about traveling through space, I thought he was insane. Now, five years later, we have another intelligent human with a similar story, and weapons which we cannot understand. And the appearance of this 'moon'. I cannot help but wonder if you know more about this than you've revealed."

"I told you five years ago Cornelius; I have always known about Man. And nothing, not Taylor, not this Tony, have altered my opinion at all!" said Zaius.

"Then what the human Tony said about the moon is true." Cornelius phrased this as a statement, and an accusation.

Zaius got up, went over to the door to his office and locked it, then pulled a chair up close to Cornelius. "What I am about to reveal to you, you must promise never to divulge, without my prior consent." admonished Zaius in a hushed voice.

"You have my oath on it, Dr. Zaius." said Cornelius.

"The Secret Scrolls, known only to the Chief Defenders of the Faith, speak of the moon, a great light in the night sky, which was put there by the Creator from the beginning of time." said Zaius with great solemnity. "Ancient man used it to keep time, to light their way at night. The moon caused the great waters to rise and fall, kept the Earth in balance. Then Man, at the height of his achievements, in his folly drove the moon away from the earth, out into the distant heavens. It was this event that finally caused God to turn his back on Man. From this point on, Man then suffered one cataclysm after another, caught in a divine downward spiral, until finally, the ape was raised up to take his rightful place as master of this planet."

Cornelius sat for a moment to consider this incredible revelation before speaking. "And now, through some inexplicable chain of events, this moon is back. But the secret scrolls of the Lawgiver say nothing about a settlement of humans on the moon, do they?"

Zaius shook his head.

"And ape prophecy is silent about its return. Then how could this human know about what is in the Secret Scrolls unless his story was true? And how does Taylor fit into all this"

"That, I confess, I have no answer for. But do you see the danger we are confronted with?"

"I'm not sure I do, Dr. Zaius." said Cornelius.

"You surprise me. Cornelius. I would have thought it would be obvious to an ape of your intelligence. Whether he comes from the Forbidden Zone or the moon makes little difference. The return of intelligent man is a disaster for Ape Civilization! If news of it becomes widespread, Urko will invoke Article 18 of Ape prophecy before the general assembly. He will start a war which will result, at best, in gorilla domination for a thousand years, or at worst the defeat of apes at the hands of these humans!"

"Dr. Zaius, I think you have too little faith in ape wisdom. And if I may say so without incurring another charge of heresy, this was also true of your predecessors and perhaps the Lawgiver himself."

At Zaius shocked reaction, Cornelius held up his hand. "I admit, there may have been some justification for the Lawgiver's injunctions of secrecy in the first generation of intelligent apes. I tend to have my doubts, but it is at least a point about which apes of good will can disagree. But this shroud of ignorance you have maintained over all of ape society for twelve hundred years has only helped to create the very situation which you now dread. Two choices, both of them bad!"

"What's done is done, Cornelius, I could not change it even if I wanted to. What I need now is a course of action that will preserve Ape civilization." pleaded Zaius.

"Dr. Zaius, why not recommend to the president that we release the human, with a message offering peace and friendship to his leaders? A show of good will on our part might avert any hostile reaction from them. That would at least buy us some time to prepare the public to learn the truth about humans."

"Impossible. He is too valuable as a hostage in case the humans decide to mount an attack." said Zaius.

"His presence here, under arrest and threat of execution at the hands of the gorillas, is almost certain to bring about an attack." retorted Cornelius.

Zaius scowled at his chimpamzee collegue. He hated being in this position, of having no viable course of action. He knew he would have to make a report to the president soon, and he also knew that the president could not postpone a calling of the general assembly indefinitely. If Urko invoked Article 18, and it looked like it might pass, Honorius would get behind it just to avoid being discredited and possibly maintain some semblance or orangutan dominance. He would expect all members of the orangutan caucus to do the same. Zaius felt like he was driving a team of horses pulling a heavy load, going full tilt down a steep grade. Pull back on the reigns, and the team might crash. But not pulling back would almost certainly be just as bad.

Chapter 9

Maya crouched behind a large elm tree on the edge of Ape City. It was full night. Time to make a move, she thought to herself.. She considered the various Earth species she was familiar with, and made her decision. She stood up and transformed into a great horned owl. As a native, nocturnal species, its presence would not be noticed by the apes. She would be nearly invisible, silent, highly mobile and possessed of outstanding night vision and hearing. Presently, she stretched forth her wings and flew up to about a hundred feet, then glided silently over the center of Ape City, taking time to do as careful a reconnoiter as she could. She noted the large, imposing building which seemed to be a center of government. There was no one around except a pair of gorilla guards, dressed in outlandish ceremonial uniforms. Next, she over flew what appeared to be a large military compound, occupied by gorillas. Nearby was a large cage full of primitive humans, asleep. She glided down and perched on a nearby tree branch. Although her eyes could not move in their sockets, her head could turn a full 270 degrees. A quick survey of the compound revealed that Tony was not among these humans. In her owl form, she did not have to worry about being overcome by emotion. She retained her memory and intellect, but with a heightened sense of perception, and a single-minded clarity. She must find Tony, and soon. She could only retain this form for an hour.

In the main veterinary infirmary, Tony Verdeschi sat in a locked cell, mercifully unshackled, amidst a pile of straw. Zira had insisted on this, in case Dr. Zaius were to drop in. Tony, unable to convince his otherwise sympathetic captors to release him, was instead trying to learn more about this odd society. Chimpanzees were , it seemed, naturally curious and voluble. The more he learned, the more he had to hide his amazement.

"So you chimpanzees are sort of a middle class then, with the orangutans running the government and the gorilla's in the police and military?" asked Tony.

"That's somewhat of an oversimplification, but essentially correct." replied Zira. "There are always exceptions, of course. Chimpanzee's serve in the lower house of our legislature, and a few serve the army as scouts. We're natural explorers and capable of operating independently, whereas gorilla's tend to prefer to operate as a group. And a few chimpanzees do go into local government, especially in the smaller outlying settlements. But the real power at the top has always been orangutans. By custom, the presidency and most of the high offices of the commonwealth have been held by orangutans"

"And there are a few orangutans and gorillas who take up farming, trading, machining, even the fine arts, but its rare." added Lucius.

"You know, in my time a society like this, where one class did most of the work but had no say in how the government was run, was considered unjust and doomed to failure." opined Tony.

"But it's always been that way with apes, since the time of the Lawgiver!" protested Zira. "Chimpanzees simply lack the desire to run other ape's affairs. We're happy just to be left alone to pursue our own interests. And if gorillas did not have the army as an outlet for their aggressiveness, they would be a chronically unstable and discontent lot." Lucius nodded his head in agreement at this. Tony thought that over for a few minutes before measuring his next question, which was really the heart of the matter.

"Zira, why do your kind fear and hate humans so much? From what I have seen, humans around here have regressed to such a primitive level, they couldn't possibly be any threat to your civilization." inquired Tony.

"It's not that simple, Tony. Humans scavenge our croplands and sometimes attack our outlying settlements in search of food, putting a strain on our resources. The gorillas naturally want to kill them all, but to do that would require them to get permission from the government to venture past the Forbidden Zone and mobilize our entire society for total war." explained Zira. "And those are things the orangutans and chimpanzees are reluctant to do."

"But you said only the orangutans serve in government?" protested Tony.

"Yes, but in any question about changing our Basic Law, which goes back almost to the time of the Lawgiver, an All-Ape convention has to settle the issue." explained Lucius. "In a constitutional convention, each class caucuses and gets one vote. Which is patently unfair, since we chimpanzees outnumber orangutans and gorillas almost two to one?"

"With the recent drop in human incursions, the problem may solve itself Lucius." Zira said agreeably.

"How's that?" asked Tony.

"In the past three years, there has been a steady decline in the number of human incursions. It's still a problem, but our crop yields have been getting better. No one knows why. Of course, most thinking apes see lower food prices as a good thing, but for some reason, the orangutan leadership seems worried." said Zira.

"Taylor" said Lucius significantly.

"You've mentioned this man before. Who was he?" asked Tony eagerly.

For the next ten minutes, Zira and Lucius took turns explaining about George Taylor, from his capture, their shock at finding a human who could speak and reason, his fantastic story about coming from another planet, and his eventual escape into the Forbidden Zone. Tony listened with awe, and without interrupting.

"And you think that Dr. Zaius thinks that this Taylor has something to do with the drop in the human incursions?" he asked Lucius.

"Who knows what he really thinks? But I am certain of one thing: he is not telling us everything he knows." said Lucius.

Tony was beginning to get some idea of the political tensions in this ape society. He wondered if any of this would be useful to the Commander. Speaking of which...

"Zira, you know my people will be coming to rescue me, and soon. I don't want anyone else, ape or human, to get hurt. If you want to prevent that, you have to let me go." insisted Tony.

"Tony, I've already told you it's out of the question!" said Zira "We gave our word to Dr. Zaius that we would hold you here. You're safe for the time being"

"For the time being! And what happens when Urko and his gorillas break in here and decide to turn me into a human scarecrow in the desert?" said Tony.

"That's not going to happen" insisted Zira primly. "Urko and his gorillas have standing orders not to enter the infirmary."

"And besides, where would you go? The gorillas may not be able to come in here, but they have guards at the entrance to the building. You wouldn't get ten feet before being captured." said Lucius.

"No, not without some help." said Tony. "And from what I've seen of your society so far, you chimpanzees are about the only hope you apes have."

"What do you mean?" asked Zira.

"Dr. Zira, believe me when I tell you that very soon, things are going to change on this planet, and change drastically. My people are going to settle here on Earth. Whether we settle in this area or somewhere else is irrelevant. We are all citizens of Earth by birth, and whatever else happens, we are not going to allow apes to continue to slaughter and enslave human beings. That's a promise."

"Tony, the gorillas will never accept peace at the point of a gun held by humans." said Zira.

"Zira, they won't have any choice. I've had a good chance to assess the military capability of your society. In a war against Moonbase Alpha, apes wouldn't have a chance."

"A pity you will not be around to see that, human!" Tony, Zira and Lucius all turned to the sound of General Urko's voice. He was walking down the hall of the infirmary flanked by two armed gorillas.

"General Urko, how dare you enter this clinic! You know full well that this area is off limits to all gorillas!" demanded Zira.

"Dr. Zira, this is a matter of state security. For the safety of the Ape Commonwealth, I order you to turn custody of that human over to me. We will see to it that he is properly interrogated, and then disposed of in a manner that will warn all others of his kind to avoid Ape City forever." said Urko.

"This is treason, General Urko!" said Zira.

"Twelve gorillas are dead, Dr. Zira! It is not treason to protect Apekind from destruction. The General Assembly will judge my actions. That should be good enough for you. Now move aside." ordered Urko.

Zira did not move an inch. She had interposed herself between Urko's gorillas and Tony's cage. Urko nodded to his soldiers. They took hold of Zira and pulled her out of the way, none too gently. Lucius, seeing his aunt so roughly handled, attempted to intervene. One of Urko's soldiers, a full head and neck taller than Lucius, grabbed the young chimpanzee by the front of his tunic with one hand, yanked him off his feet and clubbed him several times across the face with his gloved fist before throwing him to the ground. Lucius lay there in a heap, bleeding from his mouth and nose.

"Lucius!" cried Zira, running to him.

"A chimpanzee of such spirit!" said Urko. "He should be in the army." Urko's two soldiers brayed laughter at that. "Take him" ordered Urko, pointing to Tony's cage.

Tony assessed the odds, and once again found himself short of options. He had no desire to be taken captive by gorillas, knowing full well what his likely fate would be. But at the moment, he saw no way around it. He decided to bide his time and tamely allowed himself to be bound and escorted out. "Very good human." said one of the soldiers, noting Tony's docile manner. "You're smarter than you look." He shoved Tony towards the exit.

Maya estimated she had about fifteen minutes of duration left in the form of an owl before she had to change back. She had just watched three armed gorillas enter into what looked vaguely like a hospital complex. Tony was not among the other humans captured earlier today. If he were still alive, they might have brought him to a hospital for treatment. She was just about to consider the best way to sneak into the buidling, when a side door opened suddenly, and out walked the three gorillas she had seen enter earlier.. leading Tony on a leash!

Once they had left the confines of the clinic and were out into the dark street, Urko turned to Tony and grabbed him by the throat with his large gloved paw, lifting him up slightly but careful not to snap his neck.

"Human, I am going to take great delight in breaking you!" His two soldiers grunted their approval. As they turned to leave, a large owl suddenly landed on the ground not six feet away from Urko. It stared directly at him, unmoving.

"What..." Urko never completed his sentence. For perhaps a split second, Urko thought he saw what looked like a dark whirl of turbulence above the owl. Tony knew right away what was coming next, and he dropped to the ground and rolled clear as fast as he could. When he looked up again, the owl was gone. In its place was a nightmare from hell: a huge, armor-plated, insect- reptilian creature with a grotesquely elongated head, asymmetrical bony protrusions on its back, and a long barbed tail. It opened a mouth filled with two sets of vicious looking teeth dripping with slime, and let loose with a primal, gurgling hiss. Urko and his gorillas reared back, gibbering in terror.

Maya's creature, despite its bulk, was agile and lightening fast. She lunged forward and grabbed one of Urko's soldiers in each massive hand and slammed their heads together so hard that Tony thought surely they must be dead. They both collapsed to the ground like rag dolls. Urko recovered quickly and reached for his service pistol. Before it even cleared its holster, Maya's creature pivoted and gave Urko a vicious backhander that sent him careening through the air to slam against the wall of the infirmary. He too fell to the ground with a thud, unconscious. It was all over in six seconds.

Tony was able to get to a sitting position even with his hands tied behind him. Maya crouched down next to him and embraced him warmly. "Tony! Are you all right?"

"I am now." he said with a smile. Maya began to untie his hands and remove his collar. "What species was that you transformed into, anyway?" asked Tony.

"Nothing you ever want to meet in person, believe me." Maya said gravely.

Zira and Lucius, hearing the commotion, came out of the door of the infirmary. Lucius was holding a white towel to his nose and mouth, stained with blood. Maya saw them approach and began to turn towards them.

"No, Maya! They're friends. They tried to protect me." said Tony. Maya relaxed. Zira then saw Urko and his soldiers laid out on the ground. "What happened here? Did you use one of your lightening guns on them?" asked Zira.

"Ah, no not exactly." said Tony. "Maya, this is Dr, Zira and her nephew Lucius." The three nodded to each other, somewhat awkwardly. Tony noticed Zira and Lucius staring at Maya's face, noticing the markings on the sides of her face. "Zira, this Maya of the planet Psychon, science officer of Moonbase Alpha."

"Science officer." repeated Zira somewhat dazedly.

"Yes. Can you help us get out of Ape City?" asked Tony urgently.

"First, lets get these gorillas out of the street." suggested Zira, coming out of her shock. Working quickly, the four of them managed to get Urko and his gorillas into the clinic before any alarm was raised. Zira checked the life signs on the gorillas. Amazingly they were all alive, but out cold. Tony was relieved that Maya had not had to kill them. He did not want to complicate things any more than they already were. Once the gorillas were secured, Zira went into her office to retrieve a map. She unfolded it on a nearby desk.

"This is Ape City, and this area over here is where you were captured." she pointed out to Tony and Maya.

"O.K. " Tony examined the map. It legend and symbols were unknown to him, but in the outline of the landforms he could see traces of what had been the northeast United States, in the area of Long Island, Queens, the Bronx and parts of New Jersey. But the borders had been radically altered, "That would put Eagle 1 right about here." he pointed to an area roughly northeast of Ape City, on a border between a green belt and a desert.

"Eagle one?" asked Zira.

"Our spaceship." answered Maya. "I ordered Reilly and the others back to the Eagle to report in. I haven't had any contact with them since." she said to Tony.

"Well, the thing to do is to get back to that spot. Even if the survey party had to leave, that's where a rescue Eagle will likely land." said Tony.

"There is no way you'll get there by going straight east. Mounted gorilla patrols are heaviest in that area. Once word of your escape gets out, they'll be sending reinforcements as well." interjected Lucius, still nursing his wound.

"If we can't travel along the hypotenuse of a triangle, we'll have to try its legs" Tony traced with his finger almost due north, then east.

"Yes, that might work. That's a frontier area, still heavily forested, but its populated by primitive humans. Ape settlements are few and far between. Once you get out of Ape City, if you come towards the Forbidden Zone from the north, you just might make it." said Zira.

"But how will they get out of Ape City?" asked Lucius. "Two humans, traveling unescorted? One of them wearing clothes?" he added, indicating Maya's uniform.

"I think we can overcome that problem. Can you give us food and water to last the journey?" asked Tony.

"Yes. Quickly, Lucius. Go to the refectory down the hall, bring back anything you can find." Lucius hurried out of the room. In a few minutes, he came back with a satchel filled with three water bottles, and assorted fruits and vegetables.

"Great." said Tony, examining the contents.

"I still don't know how you plan to get out of here." asked Zira.

Tony turned to Maya. Maya looked over at the unconscious form of Urko and concentrated for a few seconds before transforming into an exact image of General Urko. Zira and Lucius, witnessing the transformation, both reared back in shock.

"Don't be afraid." said Tony. "This is a characteristic of her species. The ability to rearrange her molecules into any life form."

"Then its true, what you said." admitted Zira. "You really are from the moon. And your friend is from another planet."

"Yes." replied Tony, as he scavenged the clinic for some better clothes.

"Then..what will become of Ape City? What will your people do?" asked Zira anxiously.

Tony walked over to Zira. "Zira, please believe me when I say that all we want to do is settle back on Earth and live in peace. Most of us are scientists and other specialists, not warriors. We only fight when we have no choice."

This seemed to reassure Zira. "What are you going to tell your friends when Urko wakes up?" asked Tony.

"We'll think of something, I'm sure." said Zira ruefully.

"Tony, we need to get going." interjected Maya, in Urko's rumbling voice.

"Right. Zira, Lucius: thank you. For everything." Tony stood still while Maya re attached the collar and leash to Tony's neck and led him out the door into the darkness.

Chapter 10

John Koenig sat at the monitoring station in Combat Eagle 2, reviewing for the third time all the data and flight telemetry from the survey party's encounter on Earth with the ape civilization. He still shook his head in disbelief. After all the strange phenomena and exotic alien civilizations he had encountered, the last thing he would have expected, upon returning to Earth, was to find in populated by intelligent simians. The immediate problem was rescuing Tony and Maya. That would be difficult enough. What would come next, he had no clear idea yet. He had dispatched another Eagle to do a detailed sub orbital survey of Earth's surface. If there were more pockets of civilization, ape or human, he hoped they could be located. The present state of things on Earth would have a huge bearing on how Operation Exodus would play out.

The original Operation Exodus had been a contingency designed for an emergency evacuation while the moon was still in Earth orbit. Breakaway had rendered that plan obsolete, and since then Koenig had asked his department heads to draft over a dozen different versions of the plan to cover various scenarios. These were updated from time to time to reflect changes such as the number of available Eagles, improvements in technologies, and new information about the universe gleaned during their travels. Koenig had reviewed several of the new plans via conference call with Bergman and a few other specialists during the flight, None of them seemed to apply very well to the current situation.

And then, there was the problem of the Icarus II. Alan Carter in Santa Maria had tried every possible way to communicate with the ship, to no avail. The crew was still in sleep mode, and the ship locked on a course that would take it to a water landing, ending in the bottom of what used to be Long Island Sound. Before he had departed with the rescue mission, Koenig had stopped by Jim Haines quarters to assign him the task of finding some way to remotely engage the automatic systems of the Icarus to either change its flight path, or bring the crew out of sleep mode. Koenig had barely finished his explanation before Haines had leapt out of his seat and was out the door headed for his lab, adjusting the sling for his broken arm as he walked. The man was a glutton for work, Koenig thought to himself. If any man on Alpha had a chance of diverting the Icarus II, the former assistant to the late Ernst Queller would be the one.

Koenig turned his attention back to the mission at hand. He looked over to Terry McAndrew, leader of the Response Team. A sandy-haired, rugged looking man of about fifty, he was re-assembling a nasty looking weapon. "Terry, everything ready?" asked Koenig.

"Yes, sir. Weapons and equipment all check out. The team has been briefed on what to expect. What little we know, anyway." said McAndrew pointedly, in his not quite British accent.

"Do you think your team will have any problems handling these apes, if the shooting starts?" asked Koenig.

"Its hard to say, Commander. Based on what we know from the survey party's encounter with them, I wouldn't think so. We'll have the ACP, and our armor and personal shields should protect us. The only thing I worry about is we don't know what the numbers are of this ape society. Properly disciplined troops in great numbers can sometimes negate even a huge technological advantage" warned McAndrew.

"Well, lets hope it doesn't come to that. I'm hoping these apes can be reasoned with. If not..." said Koenig, trailing off. He looked at the monitor showing the two countdowns he was following. One was the ETA to Earth. The other showed the Icarus II's ETA .

In the rear of Eagle 2, Terry McAndrew went back to reviewing his dispositions for the third time, and reflected on the mission ahead. His team consisted of twelve trained men, divided into two groups of six soldiers each. Soldiers. Now that was an odd word to be associated with Moonbase Alpha. But Koenig, never one to sugar coat reality with ridiculous euphemisms, had insisted on that designation. (McAndrew was grateful for that. Perhaps it was his Scottish ancestry that made him repulsed by such cynical twisting of the English language.) Soldiers they were, and he thought they were pretty well-equipped, all things considered, if a little short on manpower. But for McAndrew, that was nothing unusual. Thinking on this mission, he could not help but laugh ruefully to himself, that he had come full circle.

Terry McAndrew had been born and raised in Southern Rhodesia, the son of Scots immigrants. His father had been a veteran of World War II, and the post-war depression in Britain had left Angus McAndrew with a wife and daughter, but without a job or good prospects of one. He had immigrated to Rhodesia in 1948 with the promise of cheap land, a wonderful climate, and relatively harmonious relations between the British settlers and the natives. Terry and his older sister Moira grew up doing chores alongside the black men his father had hired to work the farm, growing tobacco and maize, with some small-scale livestock for the family. At 18, Terry, like all other whites, had to enlist in the army reserves, but he was able to began his academic career at the university in Salisbury, majoring in Engineering. Then in his second year, he had been called to regular duty in the army. With the fall of neighboring Mozambique to communist rebels in 1975, the security situation for Rhodesia, precarious in the best of times, suddenly became a disaster. Terry had gotten high marks as a soldier. He wasn't the smartest man to ever wear a uniform, but he was brave, resourceful, and had never once pushed the panic button. In 1977, he had been recruited into the Selous Scouts by Colonel Reid-Daly himself. The Selous Scouts were the elite of the Rhodesian army, literally the best of the best, the masters at counter-terrorism and mayhem. Outnumbered by the Marxist insurgents 20 to 1, they nevertheless fought their enemies head on. He remembered the dour face of Ian Smith on the telly, declaring a national emergency, the security patrols in the bush, the seemingly endless flow of terrorists over the border, the ever-increasing areas of "no-go" zones. On one daring raid across the border into Mozambique, his unit had traveled over 50 miles behind enemy lines and totally surprised a major terrorist encampment, killing perhaps a thousand terrorists and wounding another two thousand, for the loss of only one man killed and three wounded! Despite such one sided victories, the small, well trained professional army could not hold out against the overwhelming numbers arrayed against it, to say nothing of the force of world opinion, which had left them bereft of allies and all but cut off from trade.

In the waning days of Rhodesia, as the country prepared for elections which the Marxists were sure to win, McAndrew and a few hundred others in the forces, whose records and dossiers were well known to the opposition, were quietly advised by General Walls that their names were on a list, and to get out while the getting was good. McAndrew took the advice. In April of 1980, when the flag of his country was lowered for the last time and the new nation of Zimbabwe came into being, McAndrew found himself living in Los Angeles, courtesy of a student visa granted through the influence of a wealthy American sympathetic to his country's cause. He spent months in a depression about his status as a man without a country, cut off from his family. He lived in a small rented room. His needs were few, and his existence aimless. In the summer of 1980, there were construction jobs and a stint as a security guard at an office building. It all went by in a blur.

A small estate, left to him by his grandmother, enabled him to finish his degree in engineering at UCLA, where he met his future wife Kristen. He eventually went to work for McDonnell-Douglas, one of the main contractors for the Eagle project. He quickly gained a reputation as a top trouble-shooter, helping to keep the assembly line for the new spaceship on time and under budget. He rose through the corporate ranks to become the chief quality control manager for the Eagle Division. A trip to the moon in late August 1999 to oversee the completion of a new Eagle assembly and repair facility on Moonbase Alpha was only supposed to last for three weeks. He remembered kissing his wife and daughter goodbye, and looking forward to a vacation in Hawaii for Christmas. The last time he saw them in person, they were standing on the driveway of their home in Long Beach, waving goodbye as he rode off in the cab for LAX. He quickly turned his thoughts away from that memory. It was far too painful.

After Breakaway, McAndrew had been put in charge of the maintenance and repair of the Eagle fleet, a task which he threw himself into with a single-minded intensity. Like just about everyone else on the base, work was about the only diversion to help him forget the pain of being forever cut off from his loved ones. But for the Eagles, the survivors of Moonbase Alpha would have been stranded, and lacking the ability to forage passing planets for supplies and raw materials, they could not have survived for long. After life support and food production, his was arguably the most important job on the base. He had quarreled frequently with Koenig about what he considered to be Koenig's reckless use of the precious Eagles. It took over a year to manufacture a replacement Eagle in their makeshift foundry, under the best of conditions, he had argued. What was the point of looking for a new home if they expended men and material so recklessly? Koenig's volcanic temper flared at him on more than one occasion, but McAndrew always stood his ground. After all he had been through, a foul-tempered astronaut didn't faze him much. Koenig, in turn, had admired McAndrew for that. He was one of the few men on the base who did not shrink back from Koenig's temper. So, when Koenig decided to form the Response Team, McAndrew was the natural choice to recruit, train, and lead the team. Koenig had, somehow, gotten hold of McAndrew's service record. He knew about McAndrew's membership in the Selous Scouts, its reputation for ruthlessness, the questionable tactics and accusations of war crimes. None of that mattered, Koenig had said to allay McAndrew's concerns. "Suffice it to say, you are not the only one here on Alpha who has a past." Koenig had refused to elaborate. So, almost thirty years after McAndrew had last held a weapon in his hands, he once again found himself in charge of a small group of fighting men. He was amazed at how quickly the old skills came back to him. His training regimen was brutal. His men, mostly scientists and technicians who had the misfortune to have some military or security experience in their background, did not love him. Everyone was startled to see the blunt but competent plant manager transformed into the builder and manager of an efficient killing machine. (And of course, rumors about his military history leaked out. That was to be expected. Keeping secrets of any kind on the closed community of alpha had become all but impossible.) Even David Mankiewitz, veteran of the Israeli army and respected member of the security team, chafed under McAndrew's regimen. But he, like the other team members, respected and obeyed him. That was all that mattered.

From fighting the "terrs" in the bush, to a normal suburban life in America, to the moon and outer space, and now back to Earth in the 40th century, heading a rescue mission against,,apes? McAndrew could hardly make himself believe it. Life certainly was full of surprises.

Jim Haines huddled with his team over the work table in his lab that held what little information they had on the Icarus project. For the past half hour they had brainstormed at a furious rate on ideas to divert the sleeper ship, to no avail. Haines had to shout to make himself heard over the three cornered argument now taking place.

"Look, we can forget about anything involving transmitting computer codes. We don't even have the specs of this bastard, and even if we did, five hours is just not enough time to build a transmitter and write the code. We need a simple workable plan, and we need it soon" Acting Commander Bergman would be expecting a report in about 15 minutes.

"What about the ship's proximity alarm? A sleeper ship designed for interstellar travel has to have one." insisted Burt Richardson.

"That was the first thing we thought of." responded Haines. "Carter and Deuel flew their Swift within a hundred yards on both sides. No effect."

"Maybe the external sensor that triggers the alarm was damaged." suggested Richardson.

"What about a tether? Any way we can do a space walk and attach a tether?" said George Crato.

"They're holding that one as a last resort. This ship doesn't really have any clear place to attach a tether. That, and doing it while the ship is in flight is dangerous." said Haines.

"If it's a sleeper ship, than it has to have an alarm for an unplanned course change." said Alibe, thinking to herself mostly.

"Sure, it probably does. But how can we execute a course change without using a tether?" asked Richardson. There was silence for about a minute. Alibe broke it with a burst of inspiration. "A gravity well!"

"What?" asked Haines.

"We can use the Swift and its anti-gravity screens to create a gravity well! Here, let me show you." Alibe absently swept all of the Icarus plans off the drafting desk onto the floor, (much to Jim Haines' chagrin) and sketched out her idea on a pad of paper, explaining as she wrote. "This will throw the ship off course just enough to trigger an alarm and, hopefully, wake up the crew from cryo-sleep, or whatever system they are using." When she was done, Haines whistled through his teeth. "It's a hell of a risk, Alibe. One wrong move and the Icarus goes into a tailspin and maybe takes out both ships."

"I don't think so, Jim. The mass of that ship can't be all that great compared to the Swift. " said Alibe. "Besides, Alan is flying the Santa Maria. If anyone can pull this off, he's the one."

The rest of the team all nodded their heads at that. Their options and time were severely limited. Haines called up Command Center. "Professor Bergman, this is Jim Haines. We've got a workable plan." I think.

"On my way." replied Bergman.

Chapter 11

Tony and Maya walked on through the forest. They observed the sunrise long enough to get their bearings, then found a safe spot in a hollow of trees to bed down. They had decided to travel by night and rest by day. Maya had been able to hold the form of General Urko long enough to commandeer a horse from an outlying post. The horse had barely gotten out of sight of the two gorilla soldiers when Maya could hold out no longer, and reverted to her true form. By then, the sky in the east was beginning to turn pink, and both of them were exhausted. Tony from his ordeal and Maya from doing so many transformations in so short a period of time. They were both so tired, they did not feel like eating before sleeping, but Tony knew they had to, or they would not be able to continue.

"I'm afraid I lost my commlock and stun gun in that last transformation" said Maya mournfully, as she gnawed on an orange starchy vegetable. "What is this tuber called again?"

"It's a sweet potato." replied Tony.

"Its delicious." said Maya, taking another bite, her appetite whetted.

"How did you lose your commlock?" asked Tony.

"Sometimes when I change too quickly, or if I am really tired or stressed, I can't take into account all the excess mass of complex metals, and it just falls away after I transform. As tired as I am, I'm lucky I didn't lose all my clothes!" she took a swig from a water canteen.

"Yeah well, that would have been embarrassing. Not that I would have minded." replied Tony with a smirk. He then turned the conversation to their present situation. "I noticed that almost all of the apes we saw in these outlying settlements are chimpanzees."

"Yes, I saw that too when I was in my owl form. In general, chimpanzees are more numerous than the other classes." said Maya, with a huge yawn.

"That lines up with what Zira and Lucius told me. From what little I gathered, the gorillas are the army and police, the orangutans the leaders and administrators, and the chimpanzees are a sort of middle class. But how this crazy society got started, and how widespread it is on Earth, I have not a clue." said Tony. Maya responded with a nod and another yawn.

"Another day of walking and we should be able to get back to the rendezvous point. I'm pretty sure we're past the gorilla patrols, at least for now, don't you think?" When he got no response, he looked over to Maya and found her fast asleep, curled up into a ball. He forced himself to stand up and took a last look around. Yup, this place is as secure as we can get, he thought. He lay down next to Maya, covered them both in leaves and was asleep almost immediately.

They both awoke rudely several hours later, to be greeted by several humans armed with spears, pointing at them. They looked barely in their teens. Tony carefully put his hands up, and saw Maya already had.

"Please. We mean you no harm. Can you understand us?" he said slowly, not expecting an answer.

"Up. This way!" ordered one of them, pointing with his spear.

Tony and Maya got up and started walking, in the same general direction that they had been following anyway, Tony noted with satisfaction, with a glance at the sunrise. After about an hour's journey, they came to a small shelter behind a hill with a grove of trees. There was a primitive campsite and fire. Several men hunched around it. At the arrival of Tony and his party, one of them got up from the campfire and approached them. He was tall and lean with ash blond hair and a weather-beaten expression, wearing rough but neat looking homespun clothes. When the man caught sight of Maya and her uniform, his eyes went wide.

"My God! You're not human, but.." he stammered for an explanation.

"Do I have the honor or addressing Colonel George Taylor?" asked Tony.

"Yes. How do you know me?" said Taylor.

"We ran into some friends of yours. Zira and Cornelius. And Lucius." said Tony.

"Well, that answers one question. But then the other question is, who are you and where do you come from?"

"I am Tony Verdeschi, chief of security on Moonbase Alpha. This is our science officer, Maya. Maya is from the planet Psychon." said Tony.

"Moonbase?" Taylor's expression was absolutely pole axed. "Well, Mr. Verdeschi, Miss Maya, I'd like to invite you to a rustic breakfast, during which I think we need to have a long talk." said Taylor.

Over a breakfast of fresh ears of maize, strips of dried meat, assorted fruits and, amazingly, hot coffee, one Psychon and the two earthmen of the 20th century exchanged information. Taylor introduced his companions to them, who merely nodded and grunted. Tony savored the taste of the fresh food as he listened to Taylor's story of the expedition of the U.S.S. Icarus, the fates of his three crewmates, his encounters with the Ape civilization, and his awful realization that he was back on Earth.

"If Nova hadn't been with me, I don't know what I would have done. But she was, and somehow I found the strength to go on. I followed the coastline until I came to another fertile area, mixed with occasional forests. That's when I encountered these people." he said, indicating his companions. "They were primitives too, but they lived far enough from the apes that I could establish myself among them without drawing much notice. So, for the past five years I have been painstakingly trying to reintroduce them to civilization."

"How has that gone?" asked Maya, taking a sip of her coffee.

"It was slow going at first, let me tell you. Once I made a breakthrough in language, things moved quickly. I was able to steal a lot of the supplies and equipment I needed from selective raids on the apes outer settlements. I also have managed to scavenge relics from the past here and there. This camping equipment, for instance. I found it in a cave, what looks to be the remains of a sporting goods store. Almost perfectly preserved, a lot of it." he indicated the metal coffee pot and blue porcelain coffee cups. "Mostly what we needed though was seed grain to start the cycle of agriculture again. We've got some fruit trees going and some strawberry beds, things like that. Fire was a big obstacle. They were frightened of it at first, but as you see now its not a problem."

"I have to ask, where did you find the coffee beans? Up until now, I never thought of the Hudson river valley as a great coffee producing region." said Tony with a lighthearted air.

Taylor laughed at that. "Yeah, little old earth has seen some big climate changes all right. I found the coffee plants growing wild in a valley not far from here," he indicated with a thumb pointed east. "We don't bother cultivating them yet. Our village is not too far from here. Its small but growing. More and more humans from the forest join us every day, and next year we hope to have a bumper crop from our fields. And since the apes are vegetarians , the hunting is good."

"Well, Zira mentioned that the scavenging raids had been decreasing. Now we know why." commented Maya. "Its amazing you've managed to survive, much less prosper. But it seems the bumper crops you have given the apes have made some of them suspicious. Dr. Zaius for one."

"I'm glad you mentioned that. I've taken great pains to conceal our presence from the apes. I never realized that a decrease in human scavenging might make them suspicious about humans beyond the Forbidden Zone!" said Taylor. "I suppose, it was bound to happen sooner or later. Humanity is finally starting to pull itself out of a 2000 year nightmare. That's a hard thing to conceal for very long. But I will say, the appearance of you people will probably speed things up considerably. Which brings me to the big question of the day..?"

"Yeah. Well..." Tony spent the next twenty minutes explaining to Taylor about Moonbase Alpha, its mission in brief, the accident that hurled it out of orbit, and a brief summary of their experiences for the past six and half years, and how they came to be back in Earth orbit. Taylor's look was one of awe and disbelief. " None of us can really come up with a rational, scientific explanation for what we've been through." summed up Tony, "but we cannot deny we are here, and most of us feel very strongly there is a purpose guiding us in all this."

Taylor thought this over for a minute before speaking, remembering. "Dodge noticed right away there was no moon in the sky. Now we know why." said Taylor with amazement. He had heard they were drawing up plans for a permanent moon base when he had left Earth. It sounds like they really got cracking in building it. But how was the accident that blew the moon out of orbit related to the downfall of humanity and the rise of the apes? Taylor had assumed that humanity had destroyed itself in a nuclear war, but now, listening to Tony's story, he had to admit that this might not be the case at all.

"So, Mr. Verdeschi, what are your plans? Now that the moon is back home, are you going to wipe out the apes and reclaim the Earth for humanity?" asked Taylor somewhat acidly.

"Well, that will be up to our commander of course. But I cannot imagine he won't make at least some attempt to come to an understanding with these apes." said Tony. "The chimpanzee's we met, Zira and Cornelius and Lucius seemed reasonable enough. If their sort were running things, I'm almost certain we would achieve a peaceable solution."

"But they're not." pointed out Taylor. "You're going to have to deal with Dr. Zaius and his sort, and a more cynical, reactionary ape you will not find, even among orangutans. If not for Cornelius and Zira, the misanthrope in me would be tempted to tell your commander to level the place. I can tell you most of the men in my 'tribe' would love to see that, especially these younger ones." he indicated his three companions, who had observed the conversation in silence.

Tony peered at Taylor over the rim of his cup, and exchanged a sober glance with Maya. "Colonel Taylor, can you help us get back to our rendezvous point?" asked Maya.

Taylor stood up. "Yes, I think so. And I'd like to have a parlay with your Commander. It seems things are about to change a lot here on Earth, and I'd like to make sure they change for the better. Lets go." He shouldered his stolen carbine and a bag of supplies. He then spoke to his companions."Will, Jim, you two head back to the village. Joe, you come with me and these others."

Chapter 12

"Remember, if we encounter any hostiles, do not open fire until I give the order." John Koenig gave this last order to his men before they loaded into the APC. The APC was actually a beefed up laser vehicle that had originally been designed for perimeter security on the surface of the moon. With a specially modified Eagle to carry it to and from a planet, a more powerful engine, lightweight composite armor plating and other improvements made it almost the equal of a Bradley Fighting Vehicle, if a little lighter and quieter. Along with Koenig and the Response Team were the remaining members of the original survey team, all packed into the APC. One member rode up top manning the laser turret.

As the APC moved over the land, Koenig looked over to the response team. They were now all dressed in full battle gear, which included their own lightweight composite armor and personal electronic shields that had never been battle tested. They carried the new assault weapon, which was a laser guided blaster with the firepower of an infantry squad, mounted with a modified heavy rocket gun under the barrel. Each man carried in his field pack a hand held, standard issue laser as a backup weapon, combat knife, med kit, water, and rations. All were trained in hand to hand combat, and extended survival skills. These were not security men. They were trained killers, and backed up by the APC and a combat Eagle for air support, they were a formidable force indeed. Koenig both regretted the necessity of using them, and was grateful that they were there. A normal Alpha security team would have been hard pressed to deal with this kind of situation. Once they had passed the area where the original survey team had first encountered the gorilla patrol, the APC stopped long enough for McAndrew's team to disembark and walk on either side and slightly ahead of the vehicle.

"Commander, we're about fifteen miles past where we first encountered the mounted gorillas." announced Dave Reilly.

Koenig nodded and moved to the console with the video feed from the APC's forward cameras. They had passed some farm fields and small settlements, but so far there was no sign of any armed apes or large settlements. But Terry McAndrew had told him he was certain they were being watched. He adjusted the magnification and saw the wide valley with orchards and fields of corn.

"Eagle 2 to APC." came from the intercom. Eagle 2 was orbiting their position at an altitude of about five hundred feet, providing close air support and also searching for Tony and Maya. No signal from either of their commlocks had been detected.

"Eagle 2, this is APC, go ahead." responded McAndrew..

"Commander, you're about five hundred yards from the outskirts of the city we scanned earlier." reported Doug Mullins.

"Copy that, Eagle 2. Any sign of Tony or Maya?" responded McAndrew.

"Negative." came the reply.

"Roger, Eagle 2. Stand by." said McAndrew. He then looked over to Koenig. "we'll do a lot better in a rescue mission if we have the element of surprise." he added.

"Lets hold our position here, then. I don't want to engage these apes until we've located Tony and Maya, unless we have no choice." ordered Koenig.

McAndrew turned to the driver and made a throat-slashing gesture. The APC immediately came to a stop. Koenig stayed glued to the forward scanners while McAndrew called up Jason Letendre, who was manning the laser turret.

"Jason, can you see anything?" asked McAndrew.

"No, not yet..wait a minute. Yeah, I see them now! About a dozen mounted gorillas, and one that looks like a chimpanzee wearing a sash. Might be an officer. They're all armed with what look like cavalry carbines, advancing towards our position. I could take them all out with a few quick bursts, Terry. No sweat" said Letendre with barely concealed glee.

"Stand by, Jason." McAndrew turned to Koenig. "Its your call, Commander." he said.

Koenig thought for a moment. "McAndrew, I want you to take your team and flank that patrol on both sides. I'm going to show ourselves in the APC. If they decide to open fire, we'll have them boxed in on three sides."

"Yes, sir. Alright Mankiewitz, take first squad, advance around to the right, stay concealed. I'll take second squad the other way. The Commander is going to try to parley with this group, and we're going to back him up." ordered McAndrew.

"Yes, sir." replied the Israeli second in command. Within five minutes, both squads had quietly taken up positions in the trees surrounding the small valley the ape patrol was slowly advancing into.

Captain Marcus pulled back on the reigns of his horse, looked up at the hot sun briefly, and took a swig from his canteen. As a chimpanzee in the ape army, his was an unusual position. Even with the recent abolition of the quota system, which had restricted by law the occupations which were open to apes, very few chimpanzees had as yet volunteered for military service, an occupation restricted to gorillas almost since the time of the Lawgiver. There were only four other chimpanzee officers that he knew of, and they were all in supply and logistics, but Marcus had no taste for desk duty. He had always preferred the outdoors, ever since he was a youngling. As a youth he would sometimes disappear for days at a time into the forests on the outer edge of the ape commonwealth. He braved the dangers of humans and other wild animals, and even crossed briefly into the Forbidden Zone. When he came of age and chose to join the Ape military academy, his parents had not been surprised. He passed all the same rigorous physical tests as the gorillas in his class, excelling at marksmanship, equestrian, and especially tracking. He had endured the teasing from gorillas. He had passed his most important first test as a plebe, when a particularly stupid (even for a gorilla) cadet named Fritz had thought it would be funny to trip the chimp cadet in the dining hall, tray and all. Marcus, in superb shape and well versed in wrestling, had overpowered that gorilla with a hammerlock and made him scream like a female in front of his friends. Fortunately, no instructors had been present. After that day, gorilla plebes started moving aside when Marcus walked down the hall. Marcus had graduated third in his class, and excelled at the difficult task of tracking humans for the gorilla patrol to round up. As a chimpanzee, he was not prone to violence unless provoked, and he had no special dislike of humans. Even though his current job did not require him to commit any acts of wanton violence, his part in the massacre and enslavement of humans often troubled him deeply. Sadism and cruelty was repulsive to him, and unworthy, he thought, of Ape society. The chimpanzee caucus had recently become much more assertive in its lobbying the Ape assembly to allow exploration and colonization of new lands, but thus far had been outvoted by the other two caucuses. Marcus' hope was that this policy would someday be reversed and he could take part in the colonization of new lands. Like many chimpanzees, his heart longed for new vistas and new challenges. But that would have to wait for another day, Marcus thought to himself. President Honorius had personally given him this command. General Urko was reported to be on a medical rest leave, but there were rumors about that as well. Rumors of two humans somehow overpowering Urko and two of his soldiers. During his highly classified mission briefing, given by Dr. Zaius and President Honorius, Marcus had been told how another gorilla patrol had been surprised and nearly wiped out during an encounter with armed intelligent humans wielding weapons that fired lightening instead of bullets. The very idea of intelligent humans was preposterous to him, but as he was chosen for this special job, he would follow orders and exercise caution. Whatever had happened here was bad, that was for sure. Twelve dead gorillas was no small matter, and President Honorius had ordered the area quarantined to all other apes except for this patrol. His orders were to reconnoiter for anything unusual and report back, and above all, do not provoke a confrontation. With a squad of gorillas aching for revenge, that could be a tall order. So Marcus had laid down the law with his soldiers before setting off.

"Any one of you ugly baboons who thinks he can take me, go right ahead. Clubs, knives, rifles, or bare hands: take your pick. Only make damn sure you pick out your hospital bed first, because I guarantee you'll be spending a lot of time in it." He had told them this very diffidently upon taking command. They had all adopted a respectful attitude after that. "Good. Nothing wrong with your hearing. So hear this. You apes will follow my orders to the letter. Keep your rifles slung until I tell you otherwise. President Honorius himself has ordered this mission, and I'm not going to screw it up, and neither are any of you, or by the Lawgiver, I'll see you transferred to a labor battalion permanently!"

Now, as his patrol approached a small valley on the outskirts of Ape City, Marcus signaled with his hand to halt. All the gorillas immediately came to a stop.

"Is there a problem, sir?" asked Brutacus, his first sergeant.

Marcus did not respond immediately. Instead, he scanned the surrounding hills and woods. "I think the humans we are looking for are hiding in these surrounding hills, waiting for us."

Brutacus took out his field glasses and scanned the area. "I don't see a thing, sir."

"They're there." said Marcus.

"How can you tell, sir?"

"I trust my instincts, Sergeant." responded Marcus. Brutacus inwardly rolled his eyes at that, but said nothing.

McAndrew picked up his own field glasses and was watching the apes closely from his concealed position. He saw the chimpanzee, and was now convinced he was the one leading the patrol. Clearly, he knew what he was doing. He had come to the edge of the valley and had stopped, because he sensed a trap. Could a chimp smell his men at this distance, McAndrew thought? He knew nothing about apes, but a quick check confirmed he was downwind of the ape patrol.

"Commander Koenig, this is McAndrew. The ape patrol has stopped on the edge of the field. I can't be sure, but I think their leader has his hackles up. He may be sending scouts into the woods any minute."

"Roger that, McAndrew. We're advancing now, Remember, hold your fire until I say different." ordered Koenig. In the next moment, McAndrew saw the APC break into the clear and advance slowly towards the ape position. It pulled to within about four hundred yards of the apes and then stopped.

In the APC, Koenig turned to Reilly. "Come with me. And keep that thing holstered, clear?" asked Koenig, pointing to Reilly's laser gun.

"Yes sir." said Reilly, not meeting Koenig's eyes.

"Sir, look there!" called out Brutacus, pointing. Marcus looked through his field glasses again at the object emerging from the trees about two hundred yards in front of him.

"I see it sergeant, but I have trouble believing it. That wheeled carriage is moving under its own power!" said Marcus with soft wonder.

"And heading straight for us!" said Brutacus. 'Sir, what are your orders?"

"We are not to fire first. Those are the president's orders!" said Marcus. "Make sure you have a round chambered, but keep your rifles slung!" Marcus looked each gorilla in the eyes to make sure they understood. Seeing no defiance or hesitancy, he turned to Sergeant Brutacus.

"Sergeant, have your the patrol spread out on both sides of us. You take four gorillas to the right, Corporal Stone to the left. The rest stay here with me. If they start firing, respond with one volley, and then head for home as fast as you can!"

They all nodded their assent and moved out, leaving Marcus and three gorillas in the middle. Marcus saw that the vehicle had now stopped just a hundred yards short of his position. It was just sitting there. The gun mounted on the top of the vehicle was unlike any Marcus had ever seen, but he did not doubt it could easily kill him at this range. He advanced slowly towards the vehicle, his three gorillas following. Suddenly, a door on the vehicle opened and two humans, wearing strange clothes, emerged. They walked slowly towards Marcus. Marcus motioned for his soldiers to stay where they were as he dismounted and walked towards them. The older looking human then spoke directly to Marcus.

"I am Commander John Koenig of Moonbase Alpha."

"I am Captain Marcus, of the Ape Commonwealth. Why have you come here?" asked Marcus hesitantly. He was totally unsure of his ground.

"We are looking for two friends of ours, one of whom was captured by gorillas two days ago." Koenig said this carefully, wondering how much this chimpanzee knew.

Marcus weighed his response. Should he be totally truthful, not knowing the intentions of these humans? The twelve dead gorillas were never far from his mind.

"One of your friends, a male, was held for a time, but escaped last night. We don't know where he is, nor did we see a second human like him." answered Marcus. But then he realized this human had not been perfectly candid. "But that isn't what I meant. Why are all of you here?"

"Captain, I think that is a conversation I'd best have with your leadership. Will you will take us to them under a flag of truce?" asked Koenig.

Marcus once again had to think. This was more than he had bargained for on this patrol. "Seargent Brutacus!" he called. Brutacus and his soldiers rode over to Marcus. "Sergeant, I want you to ride back to Ape City Command. Send word that I am coming in with a party of humans, under flag of truce. Understood?" said Marcus.

"Yes, sir." said Brutacus, and saluted. " Before Koenig could respond, his commlock beeped. He plucked it from his belt. "Koenig here." he answered. On the tiny screen of the commlock, he saw the face of Tony Verdeschi.

"Tony! Is Maya there with you?" asked Koenig.

"Yes, we're both fine John. We're at Eagle 2, along with some new friends." said Tony.

Tony then gave Koenig an abbreviated summary of what he had been through, his encounter with Colonel Taylor, and Taylor's covert mission to restore human civilization.

"Tony, what was the name of the ship he came here on?" asked Koenig.

"The U.S.S. Icarus." said Tony

Koenig thought that over for a moment. "Tony, no time to explain. I want you, Maya and Colonel Taylor to get here right away. Fly Eagle 2 to the clearing just east of my position. I'm about to meet with the representatives of the Ape government. I'd like you all to be there."

"On our way" said Tony.

Koenig then called up McAndrew. "McAndrew, this is Koenig." he called.

"McAndrew here." came his voice from the commlock.

"Stand down, and come join us. Have squad 2 hold its position." ordered Koenig.

Marcus was astonished to here a voice coming from the small box the human held. Presently, he saw a group of about six humans walking down from the woods, wearing strange clothes and carrying weapons that resembled rifles. McAndrew and his team approached the APC. Ape and human soldiers eyes each other warily, rifles slung but still alert. McAndrew sized up the opposition, and decided that these gorilla soldiers were not to be taken lightly.

Chapter 13

In Eagle 2, everyone was strapping in for the short flight. Upon reaching Eagle 2 after his walk through the forests and plains, the landing site, Tony had discarded the burlap rags he had been wearing and secured a fresh uniform from the back of the Eagle. Now, he took the co-pilots seat as Frasier adjusted his controls for a short, in atmosphere hop.

In the passenger section, Taylor had gotten over his initial shock and happiness at encountering these humans from, ostensibly, his own time. Now, her was worried about the future of what he had been trying to build so carefully for the past five years. Maya could see the concern on Taylor's face.

"Colonel Taylor, you're worried about going back to Ape City, aren't you?" asked Maya.

"A little, yes. Remember, I was a prisoner there for a couple of months. I've seen first hand how violent these apes can be towards humans, Cornelius and Zira notwithstanding."

"I think I can guarantee you will not end up in a cage this time, Colonel." said Maya.

"Thanks. And please, call me Taylor. Everyone else around here does." he said with a crooked smile. "No, its not my personal safety I'm worried about, Maya. I've worked very hard over the past five years to help the primitive humans in this area reclaim their birthright. Our little tribe is small but growing, and I have a wife and two sons as well. I have something to live for now, and I don't want to see it destroyed. I just hope your commander knows what he's doing."

"Commander Koenig has led Moonbase Alpha for over six years now, and he's seen us through some very desperate situations. We all trust him implicitly, and I think you should too." said Maya, not without sympathy. Then she added, "He risked his life to save mine when my planet exploded."

"How's that?" asked Taylor.

Maya explained to Taylor how her planet had become uninhabitable over a period of several years, how her father's failed attempt to restore Psychon using a living computer had snapped his sanity, and how Koenig had rescued Maya just before the planet had exploded.

As Taylor was pondering what Maya had told him, he felt the Eagle begin to descend, and shortly thereafter he felt a gentle thump as they landed. Tony came back from the cockpit into the service module.

"Well, we're here. We landed in a field just outside Ape City. Everyone ready?" he asked.

"No, but lets get on with it all the same." said Taylor resignedly. Tony watched Taylor shoulder his stolen carbine and walk out of the Eagle. As Taylor left, Tony wondered at the wisdom of bringing Taylor into contact with the apes, but Commander Koenig had ordered it.

Captain Marcus was standing with his gorilla soldiers, trying to get a better look at the human soldier's weapons when he heard a strange sound, like a great wind but different, and getting louder. Suddenly, a saw what looked like a large, pointed cabin with jack leg struts, flying through the air towards them! He could not help staring slack-jawed as the strange flying craft circled around once, and then hovered in the air briefly before landing, churning up a lot of dust and dirt in the process. Koenig observed with satisfaction the reaction of the apes at the landing of the Eagle. He walked up behind Lieutenant Marcus, and casually tapped him on the shoulder to get his attention.

"That's one of our spaceships. Its called an 'Eagle,' said Koenig nonchalantly.

Tony introduced Koenig and Taylor. As Taylor shook hands with Koenig, some of his fears about him were allayed. His bearing was erect and manly, his handshake strong, and his eyes firm and intelligent. He could see why the Alphans were, as Maya had said, unswervingly loyal to him.

"Colonel Taylor, it's a pleasure to meet you, even if the circumstances are a bit unusual." said Koenig

"Commander Koenig, you have a talent for understatement. I think the circumstances are downright surreal." replied Taylor with a sardonic grin.

"At some point Colonel, we need to sit down and debrief each other thoroughly. There is a lot we still don't know about your mission, but right now we have a situation with the apes we need to resolve."

"Before we proceed, I need to make one thing as clear as I can" Taylor began. "Right now, I am responsible for a tribe of about a thousand people who are just beginning to climb up out of a two millennia nightmare. Your presence here has made the likelihood that the apes will discover our presence almost a certainty. If they decide to wipe us out, there is not much we could do to stop them. I want to know what to know right now what you plan to do to prevent that from happening."

Taylor's tone was not hostile, but his manner was unequivocal. Koenig's response was immediate. "Colonel Taylor, whatever else happens here today, I can tell you this: the days of human beings getting enslaved and slaughtered on this planet are over. That's a promise."

"That's what I wanted to hear." said Taylor. Koenig then turned to Marcus.

"Captain Marcus, since none of us have horses, may I suggest that your soldiers escort us in our vehicle to the edge of...your city?" asked Koenig.

"Yes, yes, I think that would be.. fine." Marcus, still recovering from the site of the human flying ship, ordered one of his gorillas to dismount and ride aboard the APC, while Koenig carefully took to the saddle. He had not ridden a horse in over twenty years, but he discovered that his hands and legs still remembered how. As he rode, he keyed his commlock and gave Victor Bergman a brief update on their situation. As the Eagle was only a few miles away, he was able to use it as a bridge to talk directly to Alpha.

As they rode through the outskirts of Ape City into its central area, Taylor was suddenly overcome with a rush of emotions. The sights, sounds and smells of Ape City evoked strong memories of his period of captivity there, and none of them pleasant. In his own time, he thought to himself, the shrinks might have said he was having a panic attack. As he came to the main crossroads of Ape City and more apes became present, he caught sight of a large vehicle and a cluster of apes and humans, most of them armed, standing about, staring at each other.

A few minutes of riding took them into what looked like a village square with a mixture of stone age type dwellings, unpaved roads, store fronts selling fresh produce and various homespun wares, and more modern looking public buildings. Curiously, there were almost no apes around. As they rounded one corner, they passed a large caged area which, to Koenig's horror, was filled with the bodies of dead humans stacked like cordwood. One of them, he noticed, was the security man, Lincoln Blair, dead and stripped naked. Koenig pulled back on the reigns of his horse so hard that the animal almost reared up. He dismounted and walked over to the cage.

"Our government center is a few blocks further." advised Marcus.

"I think we prefer to wait right here." replied Koenig, with barely suppressed rage.

Marcus saw the that Koenig was angry, and then he noticed the stack of dead human bodies. "Very well. Sergeant, ride ahead and inform President Honorius." The gorilla rode off down the paved road towards the city center. Marcus thought of trying to explain the dead humans to Koenig, but thought better of it. Best to let the politicians sort this out, he thought to himself. So ape and human both waited in silence.

Chapter 14

In darkened interior of the U.S.S. Icarus II, a small panel on the command console suddenly came to life. The ship's computer, detecting a change in course, initiated its pre-programmed sequence perfectly. Within minutes, the three sealed capsules, each containing a human figure, began to pulse with life. The wake up program had begun. The temperature of the capsules was increased slowly, the lighting in the cabin increased to normal, and hypodermic syringes connected to automatic controls began to pump a drug cocktail into the veins of each of the astronauts. This preparation designed to bring their autonomic functions back to normal. It also contained a strong stimulant to enable the astronauts to function almost immediately.

Commander Henry "Hank" Maddox, United States Navy, opened his eyes and was immediately conscious of a pounding headache. The gentle noise of the glass seal of his capsule sliding open sounded more like a jackhammer pounding into New Hampshire granite. Next to him, his second in command, Major John Brent , U.S.A.F. was already swinging out of his sleep capsule. "Ohhhhh, mercy. What do they put in that wake-up juice anyway, Wild Turkey?" said Brent.

"Wild Turkey would be an improvement." replied Maddox, massaging his neck, and silently cursing the nerds in the cryolab who had never quite figured out how to adjust the wake- up protocol to keep it from producing the effects of a killer hangover. "Franklin, are you awake up there?" he called out to their pilot, Captain Judy Franklin. "Franklin?" He stood up and turned to towards Franklin's capsule.

"Skipper, could you please stop that screaming?" said Franklin groggily, brushing a shock of auburn hair away from her face as she sat up. Brent and Maddox smiled at each other. As Maddox went to help Franklin down from her upper berth, he couldn't help but notice Brent's raised eyebrow. Such chivalric gestures were very much frowned upon by NASA training standards. Officially, everyone on a mixed-gender mission was supposed to be absolutely equal. Unofficially, Maddox knew that was crap. In any case, the training his father had given him on how to act around the opposite sex had more hold over him than the facilitators at NASA ever would.

"Are we there yet?" asked Franklin, as her feet hit the deck..

"That's what I'm hoping you can tell me. See if you can get a position report. I'll run a systems check on the ship. Brent, check the scanners and radio, see if you can pick anything up." ordered Maddox, getting down to business. Both crewmen acknowledged their commander and moved forward into the command section. Brent sat down at his console and immediately noted the yellow alert light showing the ship was off its pre programmed course. "Something pulled us off course. That's why the computer woke us up." said Brent. As Judy Franklin logged on to her console, she looked through the cockpit window and saw a cloudy blue planet dead ahead. As she looked through the clouds, and noticed some of the landforms, she got a sinking feeling in her stomach.

"The proximity alarm sensor failed. Other than that, the ship is functioning perfectly." said Maddox. "What could have pulled us off course beyond the ability of the ship to compensate for?"

"Commander Maddox." Franklin said in a voice tinged with awe.

Before he could answer, Brent looked up from his own station. "Skipper, we're being hailed!"

"What! By who?" asked Maddox.

"Locator beam says a ship. Close aboard!" said Brent. He pushed a button on his console. "Its coming through now."

"U.S.S. Icarus II, this is the Earth ship Santa Maria. Do you copy?" Alan Carter's Australian accented voice came through the speaker loud and clear. The three American astronauts looked at each other in disbelief.

"Earth ship? How can that possibly be? No other ship was even close to being launched that could catch up to us!" said Maddox.

"And he called us by name, too." noted Maddox.

"That's what I was trying to tell you." interjected Franklin. "The planet we're approaching. I think its Earth!"

Maddox had no answer for that. He listened as the hail was repeated. "Skipper, shouldn't we respond?" asked Brent. Maddox hesitated before answering. His mission training had not covered this contingency. But as a naval officer, he was adept at improvising. "Under the circumstances, we don't have much choice." He nodded to Brent, who toggled a switch on his console and picked up a microphone attached to a wire, and handed it to Maddox. "Santa Maria, this Commander Hank Maddox of the U.S.S. Icarus II. We read you loud and clear. Please state your intentions. "

"Commander Maddox, this is Captain Alan Carter of Moonbase Alpha. We contacted you because you are currently on course for a crash landing on Earth. Do you copy?"

Maddox turned to Brent, who responded with a dumbfounded shrug and mouthed the words 'what the hell? Maddox covered his microphone and turned to Judy Franklin. "Check it out." he ordered. "Captain Carter, please stand by."

It took Judy Franklin a couple of minutes to verify through star readings what their eyes and the voice on the radio was telling them. "Skipper, he's right. That's our sun, and that's Earth. I don't know exactly how, but we've come home."

Maddox sat down at his console heavily, and said nothing. "What about this crash landing he mentioned?" Brent asked at length.

"We're still picking up the ion trail from Colonel Taylor's mission. Unless our instruments are way off, it looks like Icarus must have somehow ended up on an elliptical course that took it right back to Earth. Somewhere in the northeastern United States. And that's not all skipper." said Franklin, pausing.

"What else?" asked Maddox.

"Look at the mission clock." said Franklin. They all moved over to the auxiliary station that gave them two sets of dates and time. The first was the ship time, which told them they had been in suspended animation for six months. The second indicator was Earth time. It read June 19th, 3984. They all stared at it for a full minute, as the implications of it sunk in.

Maddox finally broke the silence. "All right people, we'll have plenty of time to discuss this later. Dr. Hasslein's plan for putting us on the exact same flight path as the Icarus has worked perfectly. For now, lets see where we stand with our visitors." he picked up the microphone again and toggled 'transmit.'

"Captain Carter, this is Commander Maddox speaking again. We acknowledge your message. We are on a mission from Earth's distant past. A previous ship of this type on a deep space probe apparently crashed on Earth fairly recently. Our sensors indicate its ion trail leads to the area of the northeastern United States. We are here to conduct a rescue operation. Do you wish to assist us?" inquired Maddox.

"Commander Maddox, we are from Moonbase Alpha. Some of our people have already made contact with the Icarus probe that you are here to rescue. I strongly recommend you accompany us to Alpha. There, you will be able to communicate directly with our landing party and with Colonel Taylor." responded Carter.

They all started at hearing Taylor's name mentioned. Maddox's mind was racing, trying to make sense of all this. "Captain Carter, my orders are to locate any survivors of the Icarus and return with them to our own time. Now that you've verified that at least one member of the Icarus crew is alive, my duty is to proceed directly to Earth and retrieve him."

"Its difficult to explain, Commander Maddox. In the last five years, Colonel Taylor has become embroiled in a ..a political situation you might say. Its very delicate. Right now, he and our commander are involved in some negotiations that are critical to Earth's future. Your sudden presence down there might upset things. We deliberately knocked you off course because on your present heading, you would have suffered a crash landing. The topography of Earth has undergone some radical changes. I'm afraid that's all I can tell you right now." said Carter.

"Captain Carter, what organization do you represent?" asked Maddox.

"Moonbase Alpha is under the authority of the Lunar Science and Research Organization." said Carter simply.

"Acknowledged, Santa Maria. Please stand by." said Maddox. He turned to his crewmates. "Well, what do you make of that?" he asked.

"Skipper, I don't like it." said Brent immediately. "These people appear out of nowhere, pull us off course, and then feed us some half-ass story about Colonel Taylor becoming involved in local politics. Its crazy!"

Maddox regarded Brent thoughtfully for a moment, then turned to Franklin. "Judy?" he asked.

"One thing is for sure; we are not designed for a water landing, nor are we rough surface capable. If what he says is true, and after two thousand years it's a strong possibility, we could be buying ourselves a plot if we try to land on Taylor's coordinates." said Franklin.

"For all we know, that's exactly what happened to Icarus." said Maddox.

"Skipper, once we land on this moon base, there is no guarantee we'll be allowed to lift off again." said Brent ominously.

Maddox thought that one over, not liking any of the possibilities he was presented with. "I think if these guys were hostile, they could have blown us out of space while we were asleep. In any case, if they represent the present day Earth government, that means we are going to need their help to complete our mission." He picked up the microphone again. "Captain Carter, this is Commander Maddox. Please transmit your coordinates, we'll follow you in."

"Will do, Commander Maddox. Transmitting now." said Carter. The three of them then moved to their respective stations to prepare for landing.

President Honorius paced back and forth in his office, waiting for some word. When the first reports of humans in a horseless vehicle reached his office, he had quickly assembled his cabinet. Present were Dr. Zaius, Mandemus, his top advisor, Petronius, his chief of staff, Cornelius and Zira. Also present was the gorilla Octavius, acting commander of the army and police. General Urko was in the hospital, unconscious, with a severe concussion and a broken arm

"Mr. President, we've sent riders out to all the outlying posts with orders for all units to return to Ape City, but it will take several hours for them to get here." said Octavius.

"Meanwhile, we are defenseless against these humans." grumbled Honorius. "With all the money and resources we invest in the army, and what do we have to show for it? All we have available to defend us is a single squad of reserves and the civil guard!" He directed this last accusation at Octavius with a wave of his index finger.

"Sir, that's hardly fair. The army has never been dispersed to fight a war in downtown Ape City. Our best units have always been stationed on the frontiers." protested Octavius.

"Besides, if even half of what has been reported about these humans is true, I doubt the entire armed forces of the Ape Commonwealth would be of much help." said Cornelius.

"That's defeatist talk, Cornelius!" said Zaius.

"No, it's the truth!" snapped Zira. "I had ample opportunity to talk with these humans, and I have no reason to doubt the veracity of their story."

Before anyone could respond, a gorilla sergeant came running in to the president's office. 'Sir!" he said breathlessly. "Sergeant Brutacus reporting. The humans and their horseless vehicle are at the main crossroads on the eastern outskirts!"

"What??" said Honorius. "Are they advancing into the city, then?"

"No sir. They are waiting, and request your presence. Captain Marcus escorted them there under a flag of truce." replied Brutacus.

"A flag of truce, you say?" said Honorius. Brutacus merely nodded. Honorius narrowed his eyes, lost in thought.

"Mandemus?" asked Honorius.

"Mr. President, I think your only course is to meet this human and see what he has to say." said Mandemus.

"Dr. Zaius?" asked Honorius.

"Mr. President, I would advise caution. If they wipe out the government, Ape City will be defenseless." said Zaius.

"Surely, if they wanted to attack they would not have come here with an offer of truce." retorted Zira.

"You forget the teachings of the Lawgiver, Dr. Zira. Man's cunning and treachery, even against his own kind, is what made a wasteland of the Forbidden Zone." said Zaius. "Mr. President, I suggest we wait until the gorilla reinforcements arrive. Then we can meet these humans on equal terms, and drive them out of Ape City if necessary."

"You're assuming we have the capability to do that." interjected Petronius.

"Colonel Octavius?" inquired Honorius.

"Mr. President, if you order us to attack these humans, we will. With our combined arms we might be able to drive them out of Ape City. They are, after all, few in number. Its what might come later that worries me. If they respond by sending a hundred humans with lightening guns, and ten of those horseless vehicles against us..." he trailed off. Cornelius was immediately impressed with the new gorilla commander. Clearly, he looked farther ahead than the end of his nose, which for a gorilla was impressive indeed.

Honorius got up from his desk. "Cornelius and Zira, you come with me. The rest of you wait here. Dr. Zaius, if this is a trap, it will be up to you to organize a counter-attack against these humans."

"Yes, Mr. President." said Zaius as Honorius and the two chimpanzees went out. The three of them mounted horses being held by one of the gorilla honor guards at the entrance to the presidential residence, and rode away at a cantor. In a few minutes they came to the eastern crossroads. As Honorius dismounted, he was astonished at the site of the APC and the humans standing near it. Several of them were clearly soldiers. They were well armed and their bearing reminded him of gorillas. But two of the humans were dressed in less military type clothing, wearing cream colored trousers and blue jackets. One of these, curiously, wore an odd looking wide-brimmed hat. Was that a badge of leadership amoung these humans? But the other human stepped forward.

"I am told you are the leader of this community." said Koenig simply.

"Yes, I am Honorius, president of the Ape Commonwealth. This is Dr. Cornelius and Dr. Zira, two of our most esteemed scientists. They met the two members of your tribe whom I believe you came here in search of ." Honorius said delicately, carefully omitting any mention of the fact that Tony Verdeschi was held as a captive.

"I am John Koenig, commander of Moonbase Alpha." responded Koenig shortly. "That man over there is one of us. I'd like to take him back with us for decent burial." Koenig pointed to the caged area with the stacked bodies of humans.

Honorius turned to two of the gorilla soldiers and pointed. They brought out Blaine's broken body and handed it over to two of McAndrews men, who put him in a waiting body bag. The members of the response team glowered at the gorillas as they took Blaine's body into the APC.

"Mr. President, I would like to know why your gorillas killed my man, and why you felt the need to slaughter these other humans." asked Koenig cooly.

"Commander, perhaps it would be better to discuss these matters indoors. My office is just a few blocks away." suggested Honorius, with a nervous glance around. The longer these humans remained outdoors, the greater the chance that a soldier or civil guard would open fire.

"We're not going anywhere until I have a satisfactory explanation for this outrage!" said Koenig, pointing towards the pile of stacked human corpses.

Seeing that Honorius was momentarily taken aback at the human's anger, Cornelius decided to step in. "Commander Koenig, you must understand by now that the humans here are mute and primitive. The gorilla patrol your people encountered were doing their duty in protecting our croplands. They claim your people fired first"

"You lost one man, Commander Koenig., and I regret that. But your people killed twelve gorillas!" retorted Honorius. Koenig considered this for a moment. "All right. President Honorius., lead the way." Koenig turned to McAndrew. "You're in charge here. Hold your position until I return."

"Yes, Commander." responded McAndrew reluctantly. He did not like the idea of letting Koenig go unescorted, but knew that Koeng would brook no argument. Koenig followed President Honorius several blocks through the center of Ape City. Koenig had a chance to observe the curious mixture of architechture and technology that apparently spanned several eons. He noted the expressions of the apes in the street, ranging from shock, outrage, to curiosity at this odd group of humans.

Taking his seat in the president's office, Koenig exercised patience and waited for Honorius to begin. The president's office was spacious, even crowded with so many people and apes. Sitting next to Koenig was Tony, Maya, Taylor, and Lieutenant Marcus. Dr. Zaius, Petronius, Mandemus, Cornelius, and Zira stood by Honorius behind his desk, while Octavius and Reilly stood on opposite sides of the room.

"Commander Koenig, I must begin by warning you that the presence of armed humans in the middle of Ape City, is a provocation to our population, especially the gorillas who make up our army and police." said Honorius.

"Mr. President, it is not our intention to provoke a confrontation. We came here in peace, only to settle on the world of our birth." said Koenig.

"Yes, Dr. Zaius has relayed to me the story that your man Tony here told him. That you humans have a colony on this.. moon that now shines in our night sky. I have to say I find the whole thing hard to credit" said Honorius. "We have long suspected the existence of a human tribe living beyond the Forbidden Zone. Its certainly a more plausible explanation than the story you are telling me now. The only thing that remains unknown are your intentions"

"Mr. President, their intentions are clear enough: they wish to subjugate all of Apekind under a human heel. Why else would they come here brandishing weapons?" said Zaius.

"We only opened fire after we saw human beings getting slaughtered!" protested Tony.

"Tony." Koenig admonished. "Mr. President, we of Moonbase Alpha know nothing about this Forbidden Zone of yours. We have been away from Earth for almost two thousand of your years. Colonel Taylor here was part of a separate expedition from Earth's distant past. Before our arrival here several days ago, we knew nothing of him or his own encounter with your society."

Honorius considered this for a full minute before answering. "Commander Koenig, your explanation about the encounter between your exploratory party and our gorilla patrol seems reasonable enough to me, even if the rest of what you say is preposterous. But I am responsible for the safety and well being of the whole Ape Commonwealth. If I am to write off the death of twelve gorillas at the hands of humans, I will need to offer more than just your word. Do you understand what I am telling you?" asked Honorius.

"President Honorius, I believe I do understand. What if I were able to prove to you that everything Tony told your people is the absolute truth?" asked Koenig. "Would you then be willing to discuss a peaceful settlement with us?"

"What proof could you offer?" asked Honorius.

Koenig casually pulled out his commlock."Koenig to Eagle One."

"Eagle One, Frasier here." Again, all the apes were shocked to hear the voice of a man coming from the commlock.

"Frasier, I want you to make a flight over the center of my position, right over the middle of Ape City. Make it low, and give us several passes so everyone can get a real good look at you." ordered Koenig.

"On my way, Commander." said Frasier. Koenig showed his commlock to the president. "This device allows me to talk to my people over great distances. Its called a commlock." he replaced the device on his belt. "Mr. President?" With a polite gesture, Koenig invited Honorius to lead the way out of his office.

Honorius proceeded out of his office, through the ante- chambers, followed by a retinue of human and ape advisors. They walked through the main gate of the presidential compound.

"Right about here should be just fine." suggested Koenig. They all stopped and waited. In the next instant, Koenig heard the sound of the Eagle's engines laboring as it flew low. He then caught sight of it as it passed over the center of the city, just as he had ordered. Frasier took his time and came in low enough that the exhaust from the retros were creating a small dust storm in Ape City. The reaction of the apes upon seeing the flying machine was exactly as he had hoped. Even the two gorillas of the honor guard could not help but stare at the spectacle of a flying vehicle, covering their faces from the wind as they gaped. The faces of the chimpanzee scientists, Cornelius and Zira, as best as he could read them, projected awe. The gorilla colonel showed fear and also resignation. The orangutan called Zaius bowed his head and seemed angry and afraid. Honorius, to his credit, revealed very little of his feelings. Koenig thought to himself that the traits for politicians in this ape society were not all that different than the Earth of the 20th century. He was reminded of his own dealings with inscrutable Earth-bound politicos, before Breakaway had put an end to such worries.

Frasier's eagle made two more leisurely passes over Ape City before returning to his original landing site. Koenig thought to himself that it was an impressive sight. He rarely got to see an Eagle flying in the atmosphere, and almost never at tree top level. Koenig then turned to President Honorius with an expectant expression.

"Commander Koening, in light of this..demonstration, I think we will be able to come to an agreement on the points you mentioned." said Honorius.

"I had a gut feeling he would." observed Tony, sotto voce to Maya. She shushed him with a severe look.

Taylor, who had observed these proceedings silently, allowed himself to relax a little. Maybe this really would be the dawn of a new era for humanity. He walked over to Zira and Cornelius. "With all this drama, I never even had the chance to say hello." he said lightly.

"Taylor, its so good to see you again!" said Zira with genuine warmth. Cornelius extended his right hand to Taylor in the human fashion, Taylor shook it, and felt himself smiling. The kindness and understanding extended to him by these two chimpanzees was a happy memory that stood out all the more strongly in his mind, since it sat amidst a lot of the terror, grief, and despondency that was the hallmark of his stay in Ape City.

"I have to admit, I never thought I would see you or any ape again, except from the inside of a cage that is." said Taylor.

"The arrival of these so-called Alphans is certainly going to change things." commented Cornelius.

"For the better, I hope." said Taylor cautiously.

"Taylor, do you have reason to doubt these people?" asked Zira anxiously.

"No reason in particular. I guess... I'm sure they mean well Zira, but these people are from my own time, and I can't help but wonder if they aren't also carrying with them the same kind of prejudices and flaws that eventually destroyed human civilization."

"Flaws like extreme pessimism?" asked Cornelius sardonically.

Taylor looked sharply at Cornelius. An angry retort came to his lips, but he let it pass. Then he burst out laughing at the absurdity at it all.

"Please tell us what you find so amusing, Taylor." asked Cornelius.

"Life..or fate I guess. I volunteered for the deep space mission because I was a confirmed misanthrope. I thought life in my own time was meaningless. I also thought the last five years had burned that conceit out of me, but I guess enough of the old Taylor is still alive that makes me suspicious."

"Look at it this way, Taylor. Who would you rather deal with? Alphans or gorillas?" asked Zira impishly.

"Well, you've got me there Zira." said Taylor, smiling. Yes, he thought to himself at last. I'm being stupid. The future is never certain, but at least now he and his family and his adapted tribe would have a fair chance. The threat of being wiped out by an ape war of aggression was one big worry he could likely lay aside.

Chapter 15

"Icarus II, this is Alpha control. You are cleared for landing on launch pad two." said the voice of the Alphan traffic controller.

"Roger that, Alpha control. Proceeding to launch pad two, per your instructions." replied Franklin, as she finished turning control of her ship's helm over to Alpha's remote navigation computer.

In the cabin of the Icarus II, Maddox and Brent looked with awe as the Alpha moon base came into view. Judy Franklin, the pilot, was busy watching the monitors. Franklin was pleased to see that the Icarus' on board computer inter-phased perfectly with Alpha's flight control system. Although Alpha's computer was doing all the work, Franklin never took her eyes off the monitors, and kept her hand close to the manual override control. If something went wrong, she could take control of the ship in under two seconds. But it turned out not to be necessary. After a conservative flight over the periphery of Alpha, Icarus II was guided to a flawless touchdown on launch pad two. A few moments later, they heard a "thump" as the docking cowl attached itself to the airlock.

"Airlock secure, skipper." announced Brent.

"Well, shall we go meet the folks?" suggested Maddox.

"I'm all for that. I'm anxious to have a look at this moon base!" said Franklin with genuine enthusiasm as she rose from her seat. Brent eyed her with mild annoyance. He knew Franklin would be more than happy to spend the rest of her life tooling around on a moon base and learning to fly all kinds of new ships, but he had not signed up for a one way mission. Maddox and Franklin had been part of the original Icarus' back up crew. When Taylor and his crew had disappeared, Maddox, Franklin, and a third man, Trenton, had been automatically bumped up to launch status for the rescue mission. Two weeks before the scheduled launch date, Trenton had been tragically killed by a drunk driver and Brent, much to his shock, had been bumped to launch status. Brent had never really believed in the Icarus program. He thought that America would be far better off exploring their own solar system and building bases on the moon and Mars before it went off on ill-advised larks across the galaxy using untested theories. (and, to his chagrin, that had happened anyway without him). But he also knew that to decline would have meant the end of his chances to ever go into space again, and possibly the end of his Air Force career. Dr. Hasslein had assured them that a return to their own time was 93% assured, so Brent had bid his wife and kids goodbye and taken a calculated risk. So far, everything was "5 by 5". Their ship was intact, and at least one member of the Icarus crew was still alive. The only unknown was how the people on this moon base would react to their presence.

The airlock door opened and they were immediately greeted by a balding man in his mid fifties with a cane. Behind him was a younger man in a red jacket.

"Commander Maddox?" asked the older man in a cultivated accent.

"I am Commander Maddox."

"Victor Bergman, acting commander of Moonbase Alpha." he said as he shook hands with Maddox.

"Professor Bergman! I took your course on Exobiology at M.I.T." said Maddox, his face smiling as the memories of that time resurfaced."

Victor almost expressed surprise that Maddox would have remembered an elective course from so long ago, but then he reminded himself that these people had left Earth in 1983, and spent only a few months in space.

After introductions, Maddox and his crew were taken directly to Bergman's office. He offered them each a glass of brandy from his private supply, which they sipped from as Victor spent the next fifteen minutes explaining to the three American astronauts what he knew of the current situation on Earth.

"My God. The entire planet dominated by intelligent apes, with humans reduced to the level of animals?" said Brent at length.

"We don't know if that applies for the whole planet." said Victor hastily. " The northeastern United States is the only region we have surveyed in detail so far. There may be other enclaves of intelligent humans. One thing we are fairly certain of is that there is no advanced, industrial civilization down there."

"Do you know what caused this?" asked Maddox, still shaken by what he had just learned.

"No we don't. As I said, our last contact with Earth was in 1999." said Bergman, taking a sip of his brandy. "As I understand it, your mission is to rescue any survivors of the first Icarus expedition."

"Yes, that's correct. And you're telling me Colonel Taylor is the only one?"

Bergman nodded.

"Then I must speak with him as soon as possible." said Maddox decisively, putting his empty snifter down on Bergman's desk.

"That can be arranged easily enough. Come with me." answered Bergman.

John Koenig finished filling up President Honorius' cup and replaced the still percolating pot on the camp stove, then took his seat.

"And what do you call this beverage again?" asked Honorius, sniffing his cup with interest.

"Coffee." answered Taylor, sitting next to Koenig on a very comfortable divan in the president's study. "In our society it was widely consumed with breakfast or after an evening meal, although it goes good at any time of day." Honorius carefully took a sip. Koenig did the same with his eyes closed, briefly savoring the taste of real coffee once again.

"This is..interesting." said Honorius, taking another sip. As a prelude to the negotiations, President Honorius had taken Koenig on a tour of Ape City, partly as a show of goodwill and also partly to help the apes of his society get used to seeing cooperation with intelligent humans. In return, Koenig had borrowed some camping equipment from Frasier's eagle, and a small bag of ground coffee from Colonel Taylor's haversack to introduce the apes to a relatively innocuous human cultural touchstone from the 20th century.

"Mr. President, how long do you think it will take for your legislature to vote on any agreement we reach?" asked Koenig. He was both amused and concerned that these apes actually had a republican form of government, with a bicameral legislature very similar to what he had been used to as an American citizen. His experience at dealing with Earth side politicians had not always left with a favorable opinion of the democratic process.

"Its hard to say. Our lower house is based on population and thus, is dominated by chimpanzees. They will likely vote fairly quickly to approve. The upper house is dominated by orangutans, and has fewer limits on debate." said Honorius. Seeing the concern on the human's face, Honorius quickly added, "However, my sources in the upper house say that the chances of ratification are better than average. Even if they vote it down, I will still use my authority of president to abide by the terms of the cease fire that you and I have already agreed to."

"I'm glad to hear that. In fact, once your legislature takes its vote, I would like to invite you and a delegation of apes to be my guests on Moonbase Alpha." said Koenig.

"I would be delighted to accept, as would I am sure the key members of my cabinet." answered Honorius immediately. "I am given to understand that such considerations are not a problem for your community." said Honorius pointedly.

Koenig reached for the pot of coffee to pour himself a refill before he answered. "Yes, that's true. Moonbase Alpha was never designed to be a permanent community, and in our struggle for survival, all considerations of democratic governance were cast aside. Although I have always tried to act with the consensus of my crew, its just not always possible. Now that we are looking at end to our journey, I expect this to change fairly quickly."

"Having to go before the voters does indeed change one's perspective on leadership." replied Honorius. Koenig smiled at that, remembering that most of his experience with politicians had been with the appointed variety. Then his commlock beeped. "Please excuse me" he said to Honorius, and walked over to the far end of Honorius' study.

"Yes, Victor?" he said to Professor Bergman's image on his commlock.

"John, the Icarus II has landed, and its crew is here with me in Command Center."

In Moonbase Alpha's subsurface Command Center, Maddox and his crew watched the large main screen as the face of John Koenig was replaced by that of Colonel George Taylor. Bearded, weather-beaten, and a little older, but definitely George Taylor.

"Taylor!" exclaimed Maddox.

"Hank Maddox? By God, it is you. I must be dreaming. And who is that with you? The screen on this thing is so small I'm having trouble seeing them." answered Taylor.

"John Brent and Judy Franklin are here with me." answered Maddox.

"Its great to see you, but what the hell are you all doing here?" he asked with genuine curiosity. He had never expected to see anyone from his own time again.

"We're here to rescue you." answered Maddox in a deadpan tone.

"Rescue? But Hank, you have to know that's just not possible."

"We think it is, Taylor. Dr. Hasslein worked out the procedure before we left, and made the modifications to our drive. I don't claim to understand all the details of it. Essentially it's a reverse application of what shot us into the future, and we're almost certain it will get us home." said Maddox.

"How certain?" asked Bergman.

"The computer simulation gave us a 90% chance of success." responded Franklin.

"Colonel Taylor, I think this is something we should all discuss together on Alpha. Would you be willing to accompany us back as soon as we've concluded negotiations with the apes?" asked Koenig.

"Yes, I'd like that. But first I'd like transport to my village. I'd like to explain some of this to my people as best I can before I go anywhere" said Taylor.

Things progressed very quickly. The removal of General Urko from the picture had simplified things greatly. His political influence, combined with that of other hard liners like Dr. Zaius might have been enough to derail any peace initiative with the Alphans, and perhaps plunge the Ape Commonwealth into a civil war. But Colonel Octavius, new to his position, lacking both the political clout and the rabid hatred of mankind that Urko had, offered only token objections. Without a guarantee of support from the gorillas, no orangutan would stick his neck out, and the chimpanzees were more than willing to meet with the Alphans on equal terms.

The human delegation consisted of Tony Verdeschi, Dr. Russell, Commander Koenig, Taylor and Terry McAndrew. They were able to hammer out a treaty with President Honorius and his cabinet in a matter of days.

The hunting and indiscriminate killing of humans would stop; apes could still protect their crops and property, but must employ non lethal methods unless their lives were directly threatened; all humans now held in Ape City as prisoners would be released; Moonbase Alpha would lend material aid (mainly through trade) to both the new human colony living beyond the Forbidden Zone, and to the Ape Commonwealth, in an effort to boost food production for both. This was already well on the way to happening, as Taylor's tribe had already made great strides in agriculture, but Alpha's aid would very soon make it possible for Taylor's tribe to take responsibility for all humans living in and around the Ape Commonwealth. Each side promised not to attack the other. The Alphans promised to protect Taylor's tribe from Ape aggression, and also promised not to give any advanced weapons to them. The gorilla contingent had insisted on this. Taylor was more than happy with this arrangement. What neither Alphans or apes knew was that Taylor was already building a defense force of armed humans. In a few years, they would be able to defend against an ape incursion, should it occur, without Alphan help.

Once the negotiations were complete and the treaty submitted to the ape legislature for consideration, Koenig ordered Dr. Russell and one of her nurses to visit the ape hospital to see if anything could be done to help General Urko. The two gorilla soldiers that Maya had overpowered both recovered and had been released, with an improbable story about what had attacked them. But Urko remained in a coma. Tony Verdeschi had expressed reservations about doing anything to alleviate this.

"John, once that ape gets back on his paws, I guarantee he will do everything he can to undermine the peace treaty." warned Tony. "He's a hardliner, if ever there was one."

"I'm willing to take that chance, Tony. A gesture of good will towards the apes in general, and the gorillas in particular, will pay dividends down the road I think." said Koenig.

So, in the early morning of the day of the scheduled signing ceremony of the ape/human treaty, the patients of the main hospital in Ape City were greeted to a spectacle unlike any they could have imagined. A female human doctor and her nurse, carrying boxes of medicine and strange-looking equipment, accompanied by Dr. Galen, visited the bedside of Urko, where Urko's wife Aggripina was holding vigil.

"Dr. Galen, what's the meaning of this?" asked Aggripina, glaring at the humans.

"Agrippina, these humans have medical science far in advance of our own, They may be able to help your husband. Certainly, there is nothing more we can do for him." said Galen.

"Please, let us help." asked Helena gently. Agrippina looked back with suspicion, but slowly lowered her head and nodded silently.

Helena and her team went to work. She was accompanied by Dr. Jennifer Lancaster, DVM. Jen had been a veterinarian in her previous life, assigned to Alpha as part of a feasibility study to build a stockyard on Alpha as a way to supply fresh meat more cheaply. After Breakaway, with no animal patients to tend to, she had been retrained as a nurse and a paramedic to serve Alpha's human denizens. Now, she was gratified to be using her skills as a vet once more. Although her previous experience with simians was limited to the chimpanzees at the zoo where she had interned, she was confident she could muddle her way through. She examined Urko thoroughly, questioned Dr. Galen about him at length, asking about the treatment he had received, what the normal vital signs for a male gorilla looked like, and Urko's medical history. She and Dr. Russell then conducted several tests with their portable instruments.

"Severe head trauma, but no signs of subdural hematoma or cranial swelling. The concussion put him into a deep coma. " Lancaster announced at length. "I suggest a few hours on the Ellendorf complex."

Helena nodded and began to set up the portable version of the Ellendorf brain complex.

"Dr. Lancaster, what exactly does this..device do?" asked Galen, watching as Helena attached the headset to Urko's skull.

"Human and simian brains both put out waves, invisible signals that help it run. What this device does is detect those waves and send them back to the brain in a corrected, healthy state. One of my colleagues once described it as a brain massage." said Lancaster. That was a crude explanation, but Jen thought it would do.

"How do you know it will work on an ape?" asked Galen.

"Well, I don't know for sure it will, but this device was tested on chimpanzees before it was cleared for human use. And we did use it successfully on our science officer Maya, who is not even from this planet. At the very least, it will do him no harm." answered Lancaster with a reassuring smile. Helena finished fitting the device to Urko's head, then switched it on.

"Now we wait." announced Helena.

Chapter 16

"I hope my people will be all right down there." commented Taylor, as he watched the moon grow larger on the view screen in Eagle Two's passenger module.

"We're in constant contact with them, Colonel Taylor, and we're only three hours flight time away from Earth." said Helena.

"Yes I know. If it took as long as the Apollo ships took, I never would have agreed to come." replied Taylor.

"I don't blame you a bit for your caution, Colonel Taylor. But if there is any trouble down there, God forbid, we've got your back, and you can take that to the bank." interjected McAndrew.

"Besides, if Commander Koenig thought there was even a chance of trouble, he would not have left any of our people down there while pulling out the Response Team." added Helena. McAndrew nodded in agreement at this. Taylor also nodded and left it at that. Dr. Lancaster and a nurse had volunteered to stay in Ape City and offer what help they could to Dr. Galen on cases that were beyond the help of ape medicine. Shermeen Williams, Dave Reilly, and Bill Frasier had accompanied Dr. Spencer to Taylor's new human village to offer similar assistance, and also continue their survey of the area.

The senior staff meeting convened at 08:00 hours, with everyone now fed and rested. Present were Koenig, Bergman, Tony Verdeschi, Helena, Alan Carter, Colonel Taylor, Sandra Benes and Commander Maddox. Shermeen Williams and Dave Reilly joined via video conference from Earth.

"I've invited Colonel Taylor to this meeting because from now on, whatever decisions we make will impact him and the community of which he is a part of." began Koenig. "Commander Maddox, the same also is true of you and your crew."

"I appreciate that, Commander Koenig." said Maddox politely.

"You've all read the reports of the survey party, myself and Captain McAndrew regarding our encounter with the apes, and Colonel Taylor's people. Any comments?"

"John, our people are naturally anxious to settle on Earth right away, but I'm not sure if settling anywhere near this ape community is a good idea." offered Helena. "Colonel Taylor, that's nothing against you and the great things you've accomplished in the past five years, but I wonder if our two communities are compatible?"

"No offense taken, Dr. Koenig." said Taylor. "If I might suggest, I think Commander Koenig's model of our new community maintaining close contact with Alphans, but primarily with a separate existence and development is a good one."

"But does Alpha have the resources to start a new life somewhere else on Earth, while safeguarding Colonel Taylor's community?" asked Tony Verdeschi.

"Mister Verdeschi, we're not asking you for a Marshall Plan or a welfare state. All we want is a little temporary security from being wiped out by the apes." said Taylor.

"Having a combat Eagle on stand-by, along with a response team, and maintaining communication.. I don't see that as a great burden." offered Alan Carter.

No one objected to that. "O.K. Next question: Operation Exodus. Its pretty clear that we need to use the contingency for keeping Alpha minimally operational with a rotating skeleton crew. The only question is, where do we settle on Earth? Victor?"

"Long range scanners were back up as of last night, and we've also launched a couple of survey satellites to get a more complete picture of Earth." said Bergman, as he spread out some photos on the conference table. "As you can see here, most of the southern hemisphere is in an ice age, with the exception of parts of northern Australia and Borneo. Most of Africa is now desert, with a few jungle enclaves around the equator and coastlines."

"What about Europe?" asked Helena.

"Devoid of human or ape life, so far as we can tell, but fully capable of supporting life. About half of Ireland and a third of Britain are now submerged. Weather conditions there do not look the best. In terms of a permanent settlement, we've identified five different areas that would be ideal to start a settlement. The main standards we are using include geological stability, room for growth, and a suitable climate for agriculture as well as the presence of sufficient animal life for food and domestication. Whatever affected man, has not affected the animal life very much. All of the native species that were extant in 1999 are still around. Cattle, pigs, horses, chickens, even canines and felines. Domesticating them again will be a tall order, of course"

"I think having more than one settlement is a good idea, but not scattered all over the globe, at least not yet." said Maya.

"I agree." said Bergman. "The idea is to have us spread out enough that we can keep in contact and engage in trade and mutual support, but not so close that a sudden calamity would wipe us all out."

"One thing I think we are overlooking. Just how many other communities of intelligent apes are down there?" asked Helena.

"Once we found out about this so-called Ape Commonwealth, we recalibrated our sensors to scan for simian life as well as human life around the globe. We've surveyed every continent, and so far we have found no other concentrations of ape life anywhere on the globe. Certainly no signs of any large scale settlements." said Victor. "Human life is widely scattered."

"So, do you think all the other humans on Earth are now mute and primitive, like the ones we found near Ape City?" asked Tony.

"Tony, there is no way to know without a direct survey. One thing we are sure of is that there is no technology. At least none that is registering on our scans." answered Victor.

"So the presence of intelligent apes and mute humans in one area is likely an anomaly." said Maya.

"Yes, but caused by what? And what happened to bring Earth down to this level? Was it a series of natural calamities, a self-inflicted wound, or a totally external force? These are questions that, quite frankly, still trouble me. That, and the long term implications of sharing Earth with a community of intelligent apes is not a contingency we even remotely prepared for." said Koenig.

"I understand your concern, Commander, at least in part. When I first came to the realization that I was back on Earth, I jumped to the conclusion that humanity had destroyed itself in a war. Now, after five years to think about it and with the information you've gathered, I see that was a rash judgment on my part." said Taylor.

There was some further back and forth of ancillary matters, during which Koenig remained silent. When the discussion finally wound down, there was silence for a couple of minutes. This was the moment of decision.

"Victor, which one is the most promising?" asked Koenig.

"I would say here, this area in the interior of British Columbia. The Fraser River valley. It has everything we need. Abundant farmland, forests, freshwater rivers and lakes, and easy access to the Pacific ocean. The climate is a mild continental, with two distinct growing seasons."

Koenig stood up. "Victor, issue the order for Phase One of Operation Exodus." he then addressed the video monitor. "Shermeen, I want you to wrap up your survey of Taylor's community, and take the Eagle over to the Fraser valley. Professor Bergman will give the precise coordinates. Start with an aerial search, then report in"

"Yes, Commander." replied Shermeen, before logging off.

As the meeting broke up, Maddox walked up to Koenig. "Commander Koenig, I'd like to prepare my ship and crew for a return to my own time as soon as possible." Maddox said without preamble.

"Yes, I know. Please sit down." Koenig moved from the conference table to his own desk, and offered Maddox a seat opposite him. Colonel Taylor, who knew what was coming, also stayed behind. Koenig knew it would not be pleasant, but he was determined not to sugarcoat it or drag it out. When it came to delivering bad news, Koenig's philosophy had always been to give it to people straight, and pick up the pieces later.

"We can't send you back." Koenig told Maddox, looking him straight in the eye.

"Can't? I'm not following you." said Maddox, more perplexed than angry.

"You left the Earth in 1982. We left in 1999. You know what our future looks like. If anyone else were to find that out, and they would, our whole existence, every man, woman and child on Moonbase Alpha could be erased from existence." said Koenig.

Maddox sat stunned and unmoving for a moment, then his anger flared up. "Koenig, you have no authority or right to keep us prisoner here, based on some half-baked theory about time paradoxes. Our commission is from the United States government, not this LSRO that your Eagle pilot was telling me about."

"As may be, Commander Maddox. Its also true that the whole Icarus program, even its funding, was veiled in secrecy. I can't discount the possibility that its whole purpose was to gain knowledge of the future."

"That's not true!" protested Maddox.

"Hank, are you sure about that? How much contact did you have with Hasslein before you left?" asked Taylor.

"Not a whole hell of a lot, George. He was holed up in his lab, day and night, trying to figure out what went wrong with your mission and how to get you back. Well, the first half of his plan has worked perfectly. Now, I understand you not wanting to go back. You've built a life here, and that's your choice. No one is saying any different. But by God, we're entitled to the same choice!" said Maddox.

"Even if that means wiping out three hundred people?" countered Taylor.

Maddox had no immediate answer to that. Instead, he turned back to Koenig. "Major Brent has a wife and two children. I suppose that makes no difference."

"It makes a great deal of difference. Unfortunately, I cannot let it sway me." answered Koenig, not unkindly. "If you'd like, I'll explain it to your crew."

"No, that's my job." said Maddox. He abruptly stood up and marched out of Koenig's office. Koenig and Taylor both sat in the poisoned silence that followed for a few minutes.

"Commander, I don't envy you having to deliver news like that." said Taylor at length.

"I wish there were a way to send them back. The last thing we want or need on Alpha is unwilling guests.. prisoners, essentially." said Koenig

"They're good people, the best NASA had to offer. Hank is a realist, and a good guy. He'll bitch and moan for a while, but once he sees that you're doing what's best for everyone, he'll be a great asset to your community." suggested Taylor.

"And the rest?" asked Koenig

"I don't know Judy Franklin that well, so I can't say. Brent? Well, like Hank said, he's a devoted family man. Its not going to be easy for him. I'm sure you know all about that, since you all left families behind forever when the moon broke away."

"Yes, we've all had to come to terms with that. It hasn't been easy, not by a long shot. Unlike most of my crew, I had no strong family ties on Earth, and its been hard enough for me. To lose a wife and children, I can't imagine it." Koenig had surprised himself, talking about such sensitive personal things. He hadn't even intended to go this far. Even with Helena, he was reluctant to delve into that kind of subject. But with Taylor, he found he wanted to discuss it, if only because he was an outsider and not connected to the intimate community that Alpha had become.

"Commander, now that things are settled, I'd like transport back to Earth as soon as possible." requested Taylor.

"Yes, of course." said Koenig, standing up and offering his hand. "Colonel, its been a pleasure meeting you. If you need anything, just call. We're just an eagle flight away."

"Thanks Commander, that's a comfort. As long as the apes behave themselves though, I think we'll be o.k."

Chapter 17

"Victor, why the secrecy? And I thought Maya was on duty tonight?" asked Koenig, throwing on his bathrobe and searching for his slippers in the half light.

"Because I don't want anyone to know yet, especially Maya." said Bergman.

When he heard the dread in Victor's voice, he cast aside any irritations at being awoken at three in the morning. Getting phase one of Operation Exodus going, combined with all the recent eagle travel had left him exhausted, and he was not as young as he used to be.

"Yasko had the duty, and she called me right away to confirm it. Maya was listed as on call for science alerts." said Victor as they walked towards his office.

"Not to Command Center?" Koenig asked.


Victor went quickly to his work station in his laboratory/ office, and punched a few buttons." Our starbright probe is just beyond the orbit of Pluto. This picture is about an hour old."

As the image formed on the screen, Koenig felt his blood run cold. Now he knew why Victor had acted as he did, but part of him wondered why bother? Would it matter in the end.

"No question about it, John. It's a Dorcon probe."

"There it is again!" said Shermeen Williams.

"I did hear something. The wind is coming from the north now." said Dave Reilly.

Shermeen and Dave were about an hour into their survey of the Fraser River valley. The flora and fauna were exactly what they had expected. The weather conditions, which normally varied between mild continental and a marine climate typical for the Pacific northwest, were at the moment beautiful: partly cloudy with a soft breeze, dry at sixty-eight degrees Fahrenheit. So much different than the sub-tropical and semi-arid conditions they had found on the opposite coast of North America. The rivers were teeming with fish, and wild game of all types was plentiful. Most importantly, repeated scans showed no signs of simian life. Of that much, they were morally certain. Shermeen tried to imagine a better place for the Alphans to settle. She couldn't quite bring it off.

They were only about two hundred yards from the survey eagle, about ready to report in, when she first heard it, right on the edge of her perceptions. A sound no animal could make, but one that she had not heard in so long that it didn't quite register on her. She thought at first it must be disembarkation readjustment. Then she heard it again! The sound was unmistaken. Bells! Now Dave heard it too.

"Its coming from that direction." Shermeen pointed north to a rocky outcropping that t rose to form a small escarpment, mostly covered with trees and vegetation around the base. Dave Reilly spoke quickly into his commlock.

"Fraser, we're going to check out some sounds coming from the north of us, about..two hundred or so yards away. I'll leave my commlock open." said Reilly.

"Acknowledged. Be careful, you two." warned Fraser, not anxious to have a repeat of last time.

They both walked towards the outcropping, which was both bigger and farther away than they had first thought. As they got to the base of it, they heard the sound now very clearly. Presently, they came to a path threw the escarpment.

"Bill, there seems to be a path through to the other side. It gets narrower and the cliff walls higher. We're going to follow it as long as we can to see if we can find the source of that sound." Reilly spoke into his commlock. They continued walking for another fifteen minutes, the cliff walls indeed getting higher and passage almost too narrow for two people. The bell sounds were clear now, along with the sound of water. They came to a brook about twenty feet wide and a foot or so deep. Reilly turned to Shermeen.

"No sense turning back now." he commented. She nodded agreement.

"Bill you still reading us?" asked Reilly.

"Loud and clear, Dave." responded Fraser.

"We've come to a small stream, doesn't look too deep. We're going to cross it. I think I see more daylight further on, we may be coming to a clearing." Reilly took a few steps into the stream, and was quickly up to his knees in ice cold water. He sucked in air involuntarily

"God almighty, that's cold!" he exclaimed. Shermeen smiled at him.

"Dave, I never figured for you for being against an occasional bath." she quipped at him.

"Very funny. I don't think my heart will stop just yet."

Before Shermeen could respond, they abruptly came to a clearing in the trees. She again heard the sound of bells, and now saw the source of the sound. Sheep, grazing peaceably in a meadow. Now she saw as well as heard the small bells attached to their collars. As she looked further, she was amazed to see what looked like a small village from Vermont or the eastern townships of Quebec, but more rustic. There were rough hewn wooden building, log cabins, fields.. and what looked like one building with a bell tower and a church steeple.

"Dave, look!"

"I see it. Whoever they are, they're not apes that's for sure."

She tore her eyes away from the village long enough to take a quick reading of her minicomp, which had now been programmed with additional information about Earth species.

"No simian readings at all, but there are human readings bearing 045 relative. There!" she pointed northeast. Coming around a copse of trees were three people: a man, a woman and a girl of about ten years with pigtails. The man was big and tall, wearing what looked like farmers faded blue overalls and a homemade straw hat. As Shermeen and Dave came into view, the three stopped and looked in awe at them. Then the man smiled and waved. Dave and Shermeen walked up to them, both uncertain. When the two parties were about ten feet apart, the man walked up to Dave and Shermeen while the woman and the girl hung back, more cautious but showing no fear at all.

"Welcome to Sursum Corda. My name is Joseph. Joseph DuChiens." the man said in a baritone voice, extending his right hand. be continued.

Copyright (c) 2013. Reprinted with permission.
Space:1999 is (c) 1976 by Carlton International Media.
All stories are the property of their respective authors.

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