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Title: The Bitch Is Back
Author: batmouse
Genre: Slash
Pairing: Roxton/Malone (Don’t even think Marguerite would be in this! {*shudder! *} Yyyyuck! That‘s just not normal!)
Rating: Violence, dinosaurs and language?
Notes: It’s been four freakin’ years since I last posted anything to do with the Alien Gods story. A lot has taken place since then. I’m more or less handicapped. I figgered I’d just post this, the last chapter in this series so it can be over. A word of warning, tho’, the end of this story isn’t much passed the rough-outline stage. If I’m lucky, I’ll be coming back to it and fill it out. Hopefully in the near future.
Archive: Archive? Of course! You think I wrote this drivel to keep to myself? I want people to marvel at it through the ages, wondering why anyone sane would write such nonsense! Umm . . . That didn’t come out right.
Email: batmouse@rocketmail.com
Series: Yup. With sugar and spice please! At least on the sticky parts . . .
Notes: Notes? But, Ossifer! I ain’t got no notes!
Web Page URL: Where d’y’getta web page? Do spiders make ‘em?
Disclaimer: If I was makin’ money doin’ this, y’think I’d be writing slash fiction? Okay, maybe I would, but none of this stuff is mine nor am I makin’ bucks at it! Wanna know why? The characters an’ stuff b’long t’Sir A. C. Doyle (f’th’ book) an’ Coote/Hayes (f’th’show).
Warnings: Slash an’ I ain’t talkin’ about two guys bein’ t’gether in a roh-man-tickle way, as th’warnin’! This story has claws! Interstellar God wars . . . sorta. Violence. Words of love. No BETA, whatever that is.

~~~oO0Oo~~~ ALIEN GODS ~~~ EPILOGUE: THE BITCH IS BACK ~~~oO0Oo~~~

It had been a good day. They’d finished their work for the day and the others were due back from their trip the next day. So, with most of the day left, they’d gone swimming at the safe pond. Since the day had been so unbearably hot, the two men hadn’t put their clothing back on, except for their boots and gun belts. Neither wanted to get dressed just yet, since the South American heat would’ve negated the refreshed feeling of their noon time dip, all too quickly. They’d enjoyed their relaxing swim and the other things they’d gotten into. Now, Ned and Lord John were headed back to the tree house. Since the day was still quite warm, they hadn’t donned all their clothing, just bundled them up into makeshift backpacks for the walk home.
“No,” Malone answered Roxton’s question with a puzzled expression, “I’ve never noticed. We just always get to where we’re going.”
“Okay,” Roxton glanced back at his lover, Yep; the man’s watching my bum instead of our surroundings, “For instance, does this look like the trail we took to the swimming hole?”
Malone stopped short and looked around, seemingly aware of where they were for the first time.
“You know,” he looked back at Roxton and his big creamy tanned expanse of chest, “You’re right, this isn’t the way we came.”
“Once,” Roxton glanced back at the younger man, “. . . I made the mistake of asking Challenger about that, and I didn’t know that Summerlee was within earshot . . .”
Malone winced at the thought of such a question being asked of Challenger, let alone having not one, but both scientists trying to answer and explain such a concept. The ensuing debate had been long and loud! And Roxton still hadn’t gotten his answer.
“I’ll never make a mistake like that! Ever again!” Roxton laughed.
“Were you able to understand anything of what they said?” Malone asked.
“Let’s see,” Roxton paused, “There was some comments about shifting planes of realities, some other stuff concerning nexus points, some shouting about dimensional portals and rifts in reality . . . Then something about massive tears in the fabric of reality . . .”
“I’ve got a headache just listening to you talk about it!” Malone groused, though he was smiling, “I’d never have survived if I was there to hear it all first hand!”
“Who said I stayed?” Roxton laughed, “After the first few moments, they forgot all about me and I was able to escape! But, for all their scientific talk, all I know is that the Plateau changes”
“How so?”
“Well,” Roxton sighed, “Say you head off one day and you come across a city of Lizard men. Then the next day, for whatever silly reason, you go the very same path, but you find a city of dwarves instead of great scaly creatures in armor and you learn that the Lizard men live off to the west or somewhere.”
“So, you think nothing’s ever in the same place twice?”
“Not all the time,” Malone noticed that Roxton started walking slower and his voice got quieter, “The tree house is always in the same place, the Zanga village mostly stays put and the windmill . . . but, haven’t you noticed that we rarely take the same path to the swimming hole?”
“Nope, at least until you mentioned it.” Malone answered just as softly.
“Odd, isn’t it?”
“Uh-huh.” Malone answer was barely audible as he froze at Roxton’s signal for no movement and silence.
Malone watched in silence as Roxton crept forward until he came to the ridge of the hill they were about to cross. At the ridge, he slowly rose up and peeked at what lay on the other side. He quickly ducked, trying to avoid being seen by whatever was over there.
“Damn.” He breathed as he crept back to Malone’s side.
“What is it?”
“Saber-toothed cats. Big ones.” Roxton glanced back at the hill crest, “We’d best circle around and hope we can sneak by.”
“What’re they doing around these parts?” Malone asked, not really expecting an answer, “I thought their range was farther south!”
“Remember what I said about the plateau moving around stuff?” Roxton whispered as he led the way back down the trail they’d just came up, “Well, I think this is more of that plateau-moving-around-thing.”
~~~oO0Oo~~~
“That must be some kind of record!” The sound of laughter in his voice, Malone commented as they neared the edge of the clearing where they kept the windmill that supplied electrical power for the tree house. Malone was tossing his bundle of clothing in the air and catching it, “First we almost run afoul those Saber-toothed cats, then that big t-rex. Hey, Roxton, between the saber-tooth cats and the raptors which do you think would win? If they had a fight?”
“Just between you, me and the sabor-tooths,” Roxton laughed, “I ‘don’t want to be around to find out!”
“What more can we run into?” Malone grinned, tucking his bundle of clothes under his arm as if it were a ball.
“Don’t say that, Malone,” Roxton exaggerated a shudder, “You never know what or who’s listening and might show you what more can happen!”
They were on the look out for trouble as they walk along, because you must always be alert on the plateau. One moment of not paying attention can mean death or worse.
Walking down another path, wary of running into any wild game that might be hunting instead of veggie eaters, Roxton stopped short when he saw movement ahead. Both men quickly ducked and hid . . . almost melting into the jungle.
“Oh, shit!” Roxton and Malone stereo-ed when they saw what . . . who was in the windmill clearing ahead of them.
Unbelievably, it was Bug-ugly and the last of her team of Jaffa warriors. They didn’t even question how she . . . it came to be alive again, though they did momentarily wonder about her supposed godhood. It was too bad that in getting resurrected it didn’t improve her looks any. Li’liath was still as ugly as sin.
“It looks like their headed for the tree house!” Malone whispered, “What’ll we do?”
“I’m not sure,” Roxton answered, “But, give me a little time to think of something . . . and Malone, if you think of something, please feel free to share.”
“Okay . . .” Malone pondered, but the matter was taken out of their hands, when one of the Jaffa gave a sudden cry and pointed them out to the resurrected goddess. The Jaffa had spotted the humans peeking at them from behind the trees.
“Bring them to me!” Bug-ugly stabbed her hand at them as if lightning would spring from her finger tips. The Jaffa, except for three, peeled off like a pack of hunting dogs headed for the pair of humans.
“C’mon!” Malone dropped everything he was carrying, except for his guns, and took off running at a diagonal from the path they’d just traveled, clapping Roxton’s shoulder as he took off. Roxton did a double take then dropped his stuff and charged after Malone, bitching and moaning as they vanished into the trees.
“If you’ve got a better idea, Roxton,” Malone shouted over his shoulder, “Don’t keep it to yourself and let’s hear it!”
“I don’t even know what you’ve got planned!” Roxton shouted.
“Those saber-toothed cats!” Malone snapped his fingers.
“What about them?” Roxton glanced at his lover, “Yup! They’re chasing us!”
“We get the sabor-tooths to eat these doggy-guys!” Malone’s face was lit with excitement.
“Are you sure?” Roxton glanced at Malone again, “How?”
“We’ve just gotta lead them to where those big cats are,” he points off to the South, “then let those kitties have a doggy meal!”
“What if they don’t all follow us?”
“Take a look behind us!” Ned shouted.
“Run faster!” with a hand holding his hat onto his head, Roxton refused to look back at their pursuers and poured on the speed.
~~~oO0Oo~~~
Images/Ideas of the dog-Jaffa running. How they looked & how they ran. Were they noisy? Were they quiet? What did they do as they ran?

~~~oO0Oo~~~
“How much further?” Roxton shouted. Like Malone, he could feel himself getting tired, “Those dogs are starting to get a little too close!”
“Not too far!” Malone called back, “In fact, just ahead!”
“How do we . . . ?”
“Keep running!” Malone reached over the same time Roxton did, each grabbing the other as they drew near where the Saber-toothed cats’ were lounging around. Both ran as hard as they could, as they entered the clearing.
Here, play with ideas of how Roxton and Malone ran through the relaxing cats and how the cats reacted to their sudden appearance and disappearance
“Ohhhhhh, Ssshhhhhhit!” Their sudden appearance and barreled through their midst, startled the pride of saber-toothed cats. The big cats peered around, stood up, looking back and forth, where the two humans had come from and where they’d gone. Nothing and no one had ever run through their . . . Well, just never! It just wasn’t done! They’d just decided to give chase, when another group of bipeds ran into their chosen resting place.
They were not happy about it. The pride had been taken unawares by the men’s sudden appearance and disappearance, but when the pack of dog-things ran amongst them, they were ready.
~~~oO0Oo~~~
“Whadda we gonna do, Roxton?” Malone asked, staring at the false goddess and it’s Jaffa warrior.
“I’ve got an idea, Malone.” Roxton grinned at his blonde companion, “I’m taking a page from your book.”
“Oh?” Malone glanced at his raven-haired lover, “What kind of page?”
“You remember that pack of raptors we spotted?”
“No. Just no.” wide eyed Malone caught onto Roxton’s idea.
“Don’t worry, Malone<” Roxton said still staring at the Alien-goddess, “I can do this by myself.”
“Aww maaan!” Malone whispered in frustration. Roxton grinned. He knew Malone all too well.
The two men snuck off to find the raptors.
Luckily the raptors aren’t that far away from where they want them to go.
~~~oO0Oo~~~
They lead the raptors on a quick but merry chase . . . right toward the false goddess and the Jaffa!
~~~oO0Oo~~~
“Behold, Goddess!” one of the Jaffa pointed when he noticed the pair of Tau’ri running straight at them, down the animal trail. Odd, they were shouting something as they ran and their arms flopped about in an odd uncoordinated manner, “The Tau’ri return!”
“Our brothers return,” Another spoke up, “Herding them back to us!”
“Something is wrong, “Li’liath stared hard, “Something is not right! I cannot see the other guards!”
Just as the two men entered the clearing, they peeled off, angling back in the surrounding trees.
“JAFFA! AFTER THEM!” Li’liath screamed in rage! Not one taunted her like . . . What were those!?! They seemed to have be pursuing the humans and . . . “JAFFA! TO ME!”
The three Jaffa skidded to a halt, finally noticing the bi-pedal reptiles charging out of the jungle. Instantly, they knew them to be predators. The Goddess! Should they ! ? ! the Goddess screamed for their return to protect her.
Hell with that! The trio shared a momentary glance, each knew the decision they’d made as a last act of defiance. As one, they charged the raptors, then threw themselves to the ground so the raptors mostly passed over them. They knew they wouldn’t escape the beasts, but at least they knew the goddess would know what they thought of her as she was torn apart.
L’liath’s screams were grand to hear, as the Jaffa fought to survive and if they didn’t survive, at least they’d out live the ugly god-thing .The battle is short, violent and sweet with Roxton and Malone watching from a safe vantage point.
They stayed where they are through out the battle and only once they’re sure that the Jaffa and the so-called goddess are complete raptor food did they continue on home, happy that the goddess and her minions were no match for the plateau’s wild life.
The plateau hopefully safe, the two men head back to the tree house, neither thought to stop and make sure that their worries were over . . .
~~~oO0Oo~~~
The raptors finished their grisly meal then moved off to find other things to interest themselves. What did the raptors look like? Who was the leader and who wasn’t? Just before they entered the dark of the rain forest, the big female, though not the largest in the pack, paused from her grisly task and looked in the direction she was sure that the humans had gone . . . and her eyes glowed with an evil golden-yellow light, before she turned and vanished into the jungle . . .

RECOLLECTIONS

Title: Recollections
Author: batmouse
Fandom: The Lost World
Genre: Slash
Pairing: R/M (Roxton/Malone)
Series/Sequels: No thanks, got some.
Rating: FRAO . . . sorta? Kinda?
Summary: Lord John Roxton, after Ned Malone left the tree house to “find himself” . . .
Notes: Didn’t use any.
Warnings: Don’t walk there, the floor’s wet! Oh, sorry. A full grown man missing the hell out of his heart’s desire . . . another man. If this type of material’s offensive to you, then you shouldn’t be here in the first place! So leave, now! Naww, Just keep reading this blog until you read all about the slash and have become used to it and gay-reality no longer bothers you.
Disclaimer: Ain’t got me no claims, dagnabit! ‘Cept maybe the story line, ‘cause the book b’longs t’Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and th’show’s done by Coote/Hayes. URL: Ain’t got none’a that neither!

~~~oO0Oo~~~
RECOLLECTIONS
by batmouse
~~~oO0Oo~~~

My first impulse was to grab a backpack, my guns and hell off after him. But, listening to the others talk about him, how he’d grown up . . . then to read and listen to his penned farewell . . . I did my best to curb that first impulse I’d had. But, Lord, it was difficult . . .
I did my best to remember that he was a grown man. No longer the brash young man I met that night in the pub, before this all began . . . He looked so . . . young and beautiful, so . . . so . . . alone. Lost.
And that’s what drew me in . . .
For all his book learning and knowledge, he was still an innocent young man. Wide eyed . . . beautiful . . . the kind of lover any man would be proud to call beloved . . . To him, the world was still a wonderful place . . .
How little I’d known about him . . .
But, then we’d just met . . . or had been about to . . . to hopefully do what many men in the pub were hoping to do with him. And, he chose me, to allow me to sit with him at his small lonely table . . .
I recall a past conversation about his times during the Great War. Of seeing the war from high above, from a hot air balloon . . . and now, I wish I could take back my own brash words and the boastful tone I took . . . when I told him that until he’d been in battle, seeing friends and comrades falling, dying . . . he’d never truly know or understand what real war was like . . .
Then, to my horror, that he’d known war. Seen it in all its bloody reality . . . but, still he wasn’t able to understand it. He’d lost no friends. No companions or comrades. But, strangers. Strangers who mocked him and laughed at him . . . then died for him. Men he’d barely met. Had never known before. How could they let themselves be killed so he could live? How could they die for someone they didn’t know? A total stranger. A callow youth . . . and they’d shown him what war was like. The horror of its reality. The mindless violence . . . the willful killing . . . the willful dying . . .
And, he couldn’t understand any of it . . . Even as he willfully killed other men himself. With weapons, with his bare hands . . .
Oh, Ned Malone knew war . . .
I recall, as we drank and spoke of the Great War, the others left us alone. Drifted away, busied themselves elsewhere, with other things, so we could talk in private, of things only we would know. Things only we could . . .
It was much like that first night we met, back in London. . .
~~~oO0Oo~~~
“May I join you?” I mildly startled him. His bright blue eyes flashed a momentary annoyance as he came to himself and looked up at me. The minor displeasure quickly vanished and was replaced by kindness and welcome. I still don’t know if the welcome was for me or the bottle I was carrying. But, no matter, I had the envy of the gathered men to please me. I was seated where they wanted to be. “Roxton, at your service. John Roxton.” Once comfortable, I extended my hand.
“Malone.” He took my hand in friendship and I was impressed with the way he looked when he smiled, “Edward Malone, though I prefer to be called Ned.”
“Ned, it is then.” I smiled and after a moment, came to realize that I still held his hand in greeting, though now, I think that I held it in something more.
We sat and visited. Shared our lives the way strangers did. He was a reporter, who’d grown up on the streets of New York. Raised by free-thinking parents who taught him to love the written word, but wanted him to become a priest . . . thus his escape to the streets. And I, an adventurer, of noble birth and lineage, haunted by the ghost of a painful accident and not feeling worthy of my title and name . . .
We drifted into the foggy night and walked nowhere, yet everywhere as we spoke of nothing and everything. I recall the thrill of anticipation in my chest and gut that I was going to bed this young American. Knew that we were going to share intimacies . . . That I would feel his flesh on my flesh, have his lips touch mine . . . that I would . . . Big Ben tolled the hour and realization of time came.
My hotel was just around the corner and I invited him up for a nightcap. To my delight, he accepted. A gentle drizzle had begun and the bourbon would take off the chill . . .
~~~oO0Oo~~~
“Can we walk?” He asked me. I don’t think he wanted the others to hear what we had to say. I smiled and with a simple gesture, we were off. It was and still is so natural to gather our weapons when we go out, that neither of us seemed to notice that we did so before we entered the elevator.
Once on the ground, we headed off in no particular direction. We just wanted to walk. We spoke of things that only men scarred by battle can know. Memories. Nightmares. Knowledge of me gone forever. Faces frozen in time. We held hands. Our shoulders touched and softly brushed against each other. It was as if we didn’t need to speak. We were together. We had each other. Safe with one another and that was all we needed.
Soon, in silence, we found ourselves on the cliffs over the small grotto where the safe pool was, where we’d bathe or swim or . . .
~~~oO0Oo~~~
The soft rumble of the muffled thunder echoed thru the drizzle outside and the bourbon was as warming as the fireplace we sat beside. He’d point out a photograph and I’d tell him a story of it. Pictures of me in Africa, other pictures of me, this time in India or of several of me back at Roxton Manor . . .
Finally, I asked him about his sadness . . . the cloud of loneliness that seemed to follow him.
He had planned to get married, but had a slight problem. He wasn’t sure if he really wanted to. He was sure that he loved the girl. Reasonably sure. But, not definitely sure and the odd thing was she didn’t see him as a heroic type of man and truth be told, he didn’t see himself as that kind of man. And that was she wanted a heroic man. A man she could look up to and adore, to live in his reflected glory.
Sounded like a silly girl to me, with a silly girl’s dreams.
I wanted to tell him that he didn’t need that kind of a woman. From what he’d told me of her, I knew that if they married, there would only be grief borne of such a union . . . then, he shocked me by his admission . . .
He wasn’t sure, but he thought that maybe he wanted to be with a heroic man. Or just a man, period.
“I . . . Mr. Malone . . . Edward . . .” I set down my glass to stand before the chair he sat in, “. . . Ned . . .”
“Oh God . . .” he covered his face, “You probably hate me now . . . I don’t know why I said that. I’ve never told anyone that . . . I think I’d better leave . . .”
“No . . .” I took his glass and set it beside mine. He looked up at me. Not a little fear and uncertainty in his crystal-cut blue eyes, “I . . . had planned on seducing you tonight . . .”
“S . . . seduce me . . . ?” A hard swallow, “But, why . . . ? I’m just . . .”
“Beautiful. A man to treasure.” I caressed his cheek, “But, now, I don’t think I should . . .”
“No . . .” Nervous, he stood up with a little fear in his blue eyes, his breath, like the bourbon, warmed me. I could feel the heat of him, he was so close to me, “I . . . I want to . . . I need you to . . .”
His unsure hands slid under my coat and up my chest, almost afraid that I would make him stop . . . Then, I reached for him . . . Pulled him closer, enfolding him in my arms . . .
We shared a kiss . . .

~~~oO0Oo~~~
The soft cries of the night birds . . . the chirp of insects here and there . . . to this background music, his hands undressed me with the tenderness and care that only an experienced lover could.
He lifted the braces from my shoulders and dropped them to my sides. He kissed me gently as he tugged my shirt from my trousers and pulled the shirt off of my body. His hands caressed my chest, while his lips traced the line of my collarbone. With experienced fingers, he undid the buttons of my trousers . . .
His warm lips grazed mine. He kissed and tasted my flesh as he uncovered my body. He slowly loved me as never before. It was almost as if he were worshipping my body with his every touch . . .
Soon, I was naked before him as he loved me . . . then we were laying upon the banks of the safe pool. I don’t remember when or how he had removed his clothing, but we lay there, naked. Loving. Touching. Sharing.
I was his to command. He owned me body and soul . . . yet, he only wanted to make love to me. To gave me pleasure. I wanted him to touch me. To love me . . . and he did . . . with a gentleness that made me come alive. He gave me such love that I knew I’d remember it for the rest of my life . . . it filled me with such desire and emotion, that I wanted to die of it . . . Then, then . . . it came upon me. Silently. Suddenly. Like a hunting beast in the night, stalking its prey . . .
I gasped. Shocked. Engulfed as my essence filled his loving mouth . . .
~~~oO0Oo~~~
I gently took him by the hand and led him into my bedchamber, this handsome young man questioning himself and his sexuality . . .
I remember the uncertainty with which he submitted to my touch. He seemed almost . . . afraid. But, he wasn’t. His trembling was merely anticipation. His eyes told me that he wanted this. He wanted to feel another man on his skin. He wanted to know a man’s love. He just didn’t know what to do . . .
I slid my hands under his coat, my fingers dusting against his vest as I slid my hands under the lapels of his coat, my hands traveling over his shoulders as I removed his outer garment. I walked him slowly backwards, directing him towards my bedchambers. His eyes never left mine as we walked.
Once in my bedchamber, I draped his coat over an armchair beside the door. As we shared small kisses, then deeper ones . . . his hands gently holding my forearms as I undressed him. I unbuttoned his vest, undid his necktie then his shirt. The vest joined the jacket and I unhitched his braces and they fell to the floor.
He lifted his head, tilting back to expose his neck to my kisses.
He didn’t seem to be aware of what was going on. We could’ve been in the middle of Piccadilly Square, at noon, for all he cared.
I tugged his shirt from his trousers, sneaking my hands under the cloth to caress the soft skin beneath. He softly moaned as my hands glided along his sides and lifted his undershirt and pulled it over his blonde head. Casting aside his undergarment, I tasted the salts of his flesh . . . of his chest and his small pink nipples. He shuddered and sighed and remembered why I often turned to the touch of other men . . . but, he was different from the others. He was new to this . . . a virgin if you will . . . my young willing American . . .
I still recall that first taste of his submission to my touch . . . his soft mewling sounds . . . his breathy gasps as I carried him to the heights of what a man could do for anoth – –

“John?” Damn and blast! Marguerite . . . No, somehow, I know that she only wants to comfort me. Why, I don’t know. I also know that she can’t know what Neddy-boy means to me.
Her eyes aren’t the blue of Ned’s eyes. And though her kisses are sweet . . . they aren’t the filled with the delicious heated taste of Malone’s shared moments . . . I know I’ve played at becoming her lover . . . a husband and wife . . . but, she is too much her own woman. I never really had a future with her, though we both play at the I-think-I-could-love-you-game . . . I can, but I won’t consummate whatever relationship we have, even though my title demands a son to carry on my family line . . . I mean, I will have a son, just not here, on the Plateau. It would be too dangerous for a pregnant woman. Pregnant, the journey back to England and civilization could kill her. We must never . . . at least until London . . .
But, she’s not Ned . . .
She could never replace Ned . . . it would feel too much a betrayal . . .
I turn back to the night. I close my eyes and easily recall the scent of his flesh after the loving . . . or, fresh from a swim . . . The touch of his skin on mine . . .
Marguerite rested her head on my shoulder, trying to comfort me, though she didn’t know why I needed comforting.
I exhaled softly as a lonely tear carved a wound down my cheek and across my heart . . .

~~~FINIS . . . ?~~~

Andrew

Nasty commerial!

KINGDOM OF THE APES

Just a bit of fun with the apes!

Title: KINGDOM OF THE APES
Author: batmouse
Genre: post-slash?
Pairing: R/M (No, not her! Lord John Roxton / Edward Malone!)
Rating: FRAO.
Summary: Malone gets into some hairy trouble . . . and makes friends while doing it. (No, not THAT, pervert!) Cross-over with Planet of the Apes, or at least, my version of it.
Archive: Yeah, sure. Why not? Somebody’s gotta.
Email: batmouse@rocketmail.com
Series: kinda sorta . . . Ned, the barbarian.
Notes: Who? Me? No, ma’am, I’m not passing notes! Honest!
Web Page URL: Not those initials again!
Disclaimer: Wish I was, but the only ‘claimer I got is the story an’ plot. An’ I don’t even got one on the characters t‘call my own!
Warnings: Attempted non-con. Attempted bestiality (?). Violence. Running, screaming and carrying on. Don’t like violence, go away!

~~~oO0Oo~~~
KINGDOM OF THR APES
by batmouse
~~~oO0Oo~~~

The water felt good as he swam through the pond’s shallow depths. He’d been stopping at the small body of water called Big Rock Pond off and on for a few weeks. He’d named it that because on one side of the pond was a great big rock; while on the opposite shore was another rock, though not as big. It was secluded and for some reason (he didn’t know or care to think about) the local prehistoric beasts, reptile and mammal avoided the fresh water pond. Nothing stopped there, except him. And that was the way he liked it.

After what happened with that old guy, that young guy and those mammoth-sized ugly underground worm-things they’d been hunting, he needed some quiet time. And those horned snake things that came out of their four pronged beaky mouths.

Ugh! Really ugly! And the skinny old guy . . . Goober (?) Gumper (?) Whatever . . . and that obsession he had with big and powerful guns! And that young guy and his obsession with going fast. They deserved each other and whatever weird future they came from . . . and those things they called Graboids . . . or maybe not.

But, at the moment, he really needed to wash off all that dirt he got himself covered in. He was getting tired of cave-ins. At least, the falling rocks killed that big eyeless worm!

Stupid dimensional portals.

The water was clear, crisp and felt good flowing along his naked body. He usually did a couple of laps, swimming from one end to the other. First, to the big rock then to the littler one and back again. Lately, he’d taken to swimming under water. And this day was like any other. Quiet and peaceful. He swam a couple laps then decided to do the same under water. It wasn’t really a challenge to do so, as the distance wasn’t that far, but it was something different to try. He neared the farther shore and re-surfaced with a toss of his head that sent a spray of water arcing through the air.

His blonde hair was water darkened and the cold water streamed down his body, glittering in the sunlight, making his skin shine. He stood in the waist deep water, raking his fingers through his hair to get keep his hair out of his eyes. God, it was a beautiful day! He was about to swim back toward the big rock, under water, and was taking a deep breath of air . . . when . . .

CHAOS! Snapping branches, running feet and fearful screams!

Ape-men, a whole tribe of them, were racing passed him! All about him! They all but ignored him in their mad rush passed him. They appeared to be mad with terror. Fleeing something. They swung overhead on vines, shrieking. Others were leaping from tree to tree, howling in terror! They were stampeding through and around the pond!

What was after them?!? A t-rex? A pack of raptors? Not wanting to get caught and eaten by whatever could send such a large tribe of ape-men into such a wild screaming mad flight, Malone was about to turn and stampede along with them, when there came a distinct echo of a rifle shot! Which was followed by the startled grunt of an ape-man getting hit.

He paused momentarily . . . and that was his undoing.

A lasso snaked out of the forest and looped around his neck. Before he could react, the rope suddenly tightened and jerked him off of his feet and he went under the water, the rope dragging him all the way. Back to the surface. Out of the water and up the muddy shore. Struggling and busy fighting to breathe, Malone had just loosened the noose enough to take a breath, when he looked up in time to see a blurry shape and the butt end of a rifle descending on him, then a painful all-consuming darkness . . .

~~~oO0Oo~~~

Reality came back to him slowly . . . his head ached. Nor was the world too clear . . . in fact, it felt upside down. If only his head would stop pounding and swaying . . . everything was so . . . so . . . fuzzy. Blurry even . . .

A few moments later, he came to realize that he was dangling and that queasy rocking motion was because he was draped over a big broad shoulder. . . he was being carried . . . like a sack of potatoes. There was a rough hand at the small of his back, holding him in place . . . and . . . and another was on his naked backside! Caressing him . . . almost fondling his behind! Some big pervert was playing with his butt while he was unconscious!!

Doubling his fists, he slammed his molester’s lower back. With a grunt, his captor went to his knees. As his captor fell, Malone rolled to the side and came up running. He ran as fast as he could, intent on escape . . . But there was a sudden abrupt stop.

He hadn’t realized that the rope was still around his neck. The sudden snap of tautness, a quick sensation of choking and Malone fell right back into unconsciousness . . .

~~~oO0Oo~~~

Malone stood on a mountaintop. Naked to the world. Any and all could see that he longed for and desired another man.

But, not just any man. Oh no, it had to be one man in particular. The handsome green-eyed British Lord, John Roxton, with his thick wavy black hair. His deep sun bronzed flesh. He remembered how John’s skin tasted after a day of working in the sun. The strength in his hands as they held him. Molded his own flesh to his will. The depth of his kisses and how he could get lost in those eyes that saw only him . . .

And there he stood, upon a distant hill. Wearing his magnificent skin. Glittering with a trace of sweat in the sun. His head tilted back, enjoying the sun’s rays.

At last, John Roxton opened his eyes to look at him. And, there was such warmth, love and tenderness there that Malone felt as if he would die from the need of the man . . .

Then, the look in his eyes changed. Engulfed by sadness and loss. Malone felt his heart die a little.

John extended a hand out to him. Reaching for him. Beckoning him to take his hand. Reaching for him. Wanting him . . .

Malone also extended his hand. The distance between them seemed to shrink and they drew nearer to one another . . .

Then, Roxton was jerked to a stop. Pulled away from Malone’s touch . . .

Marguerite.

She was holding Roxton. Keeping him back.

The bitch had him in her arms!

She was kissing him!

Damn her! That look in her eye told him that she had Roxton where she wanted him.

He was just a toy to her. He meant nothing more to her than another bauble on a charm bracelet.

She wanted John Roxton just because someone else wanted and loved Roxton first.

Even as Roxton turned to accept a kiss from the raven haired woman, Malone could see the desire in the man’s eyes, and it wasn’t for the woman that held him.

Roxton wanted him.

But, he was nowhere around. It was no wonder Roxton turned to her. Malone wasn’t there to accept and give the love Roxton wanted and needed, so he was making do with whatever he could . . .

~~~oO0Oo~~~

He awoke, huddled in a dimly lit place.

What happened?

Where was . . . ?

Oh, God. I’m somebody’s prisoner.

Again.

Dammit.

I’m getting tired of this.

Why couldn’t it have been Roxton who was kidnapped, stripped naked and held prisoner?

Why was it always . . .

“. . . if they just kill the freak?” a deep gruff voice came through the fog.

“They might.” Another voice, this one with a strange accent. Almost a lisp. “But, we cannot let that happen.”

“And why not?” amused exasperation.

“Need I go into detail?” amused right back, “or, they might turn him over to Qaz.”

“Oh, Lawgiver, that old pervert?” the lisped-voice groaned, “That old sex-monger would sell the freak’s shiny butt to any and every ‘Rilla, O’Rang and Chimm that gets off breeding with the lower life forms! And that, after what we have learned?”

“That was a strange happenstance.” Pause, “Look, he awakens!”

There was a loud bang as footsteps entered.

“What is this I hear about a hairless half-ling?” an ancient sounding voice, full of authority, boomed.

“Lawgiver’s bread.” The gruff voice whispered.

“Aye, Lord Qaz,” the lispy voice spoke, “caught on the last hunt.”

“Well, let me have a look.” The old voice drew nearer, “I swear, though, if you are wasting my time with another shaved albino half-ling, I’ll . . . Lawgiver’s Loins!”

At that startled cry, Malone sat up and took a look at his captors, to see what kind of men . . .

SHOCK!

They . . .

They . . . were . . . APES!

Walking, talking . . . APES!

And there were five of them!

A huge black haired giant that stood nearly six and a half feet tall. It looked like a gorilla. Beside him still a smaller one. White skinned, but with equally black hair. The rest were all red haired. Though not hair covered, like real apes, but they did have an over-abundance of body and facial hair. Just a bit more that a very hairy man would have.

But, their faces . . . they were the faces of apes! Gorilla, chimpanzee and orangutan.

Behind the lead orangutan, which had flaps of skin on his old and wrinkle-lined face and thick graying reddish hair, were two much younger orangutans. These too had face flaps, didn’t appear to be nowhere near as old as the lead orangutan that leaned on a thick wooden staff.

To Malone these orangutans looked bookish. If an ape could look bookish. The gorilla was a muscular warrior-type and the chimpanzee was somewhere between a warrior and a bookish-type. He could go either way.

To Malone’s surprise, the gorilla caught his attention and held a finger to his muzzle as if to signal him to keep quiet. Malone’s eyebrows rose when the gorilla winked.

Stunned beyond words, Malone’s mouth hung open in shock.

“Ugh! What an ugly, ugly creature!” The old monkey’s muzzle wrinkled more, in distaste, “What could have given birth to such a monstrosity!?”

“Yes, it is ugly . . .” The chimp sighed sadly, but smiled at Malone and winked at him, all without the orangutans seeing his actions, “We were planning on re-releasing it back into the wild. I think catching it was a mistake!”

“Perhaps that is for the best . . .” The orangutan paused as if in thought, “Wait. Let me check on something first . . . then, I will be back.”

With that the old ape led the others out, leaving Malone with the big gorilla and the chimp.

The chimp waited until they where alone, watching the orangutans leave, then turned and took a step closer to Malone.

“It is a good thing that you kept silent . . . whatever you are.” The chimp said softly, “If anyone finds out that you can talk, it would probably be the dissection table for you!”

“Di . . . ssec . . .” Malone swallowed and winced, his hand going to his throat, to find his neck was wrapped in bandages, which in turn were held in place by a wide leather collar attached to a chain.

“Sorry about that.” The big gorilla apologized, “You have a bad rope burn around your neck from when you were lassoed.”

“I put a salve on the burn to help the healing process along and the bandages to protect against rubbing from the collar.” The chimp added.

“Why am I . . . where am I?” Malone spoke, his voice a gravelly whisper, “And why are you surprised that I can talk?”

“Not only that,” the chimp added, “but that you are obviously intelligent!”

“Never mind him,” the ape graveled, “Tharrn thinks that only Chimm’s have brains.”

“We do, Hannu,” the chimp lisped with an air of superiority, “next to ‘Rillas like you!”

“Then, why are you with me?” The big gorilla smiled deviously.

“See?” The chimp turned to Malone gesturing to the gorilla as if he alone were evidence, “He does not even know that I am in love with the big lug! That is why I am with you, Hannu! And, do not forget it!”

The gorilla smiled at Malone, telling him that he was indulging the chimp.

“You were caught in a half-ling hunt.” The chimp, Tharrn, went back to Malone’s question, answering in a manner that Malone was supposed to completely understand, which he didn’t.

“ ‘Half . . . ling hunt’ ?” Malone asked, clearly not understanding and Thaarn rolled his eyes.

Those are half-lings.” He turned and pointed at a group of ape-men sitting huddled in a nearby cage.

Ape-men . . . ?”

“Ape . . . Men?”

“Yes,” Malone began, “back where I’m from, that’s what we call . . .” he pointed, “. . . those.”

“Why?” Thaarn was curious.

“Scientists say that men,” Malone explained, “(That’s what I am. A man.), evolved from apes. When we found those creatures on the plateau, we realized that they were ape-men. You know, almost man, but mostly ape.”

“You watch your sacrilegious mouth!” Hannu growled.

“Hannu! Be calm!” The chimp placed a hand on the gorilla’s wide chest, “He is not civilized! Or, at least, not as we know civilized.” Thaarn turned back to Malone in full professor-mode, “Let me explain. In our society, in our history, the sciences (in the before-days) had gone wild. Anything and everything in the pursuit of knowledge. Science was the god of that long ago age. As history states it, they cracked the genetic code . . . After that, the experimentation got out of hand. That was how the half-lings came into being . . .

“Outrage upon outrage came, until it led to a massive war . . . in which much of the world was destroyed. The Lawgiver arose in those troubled times and pulled society back together. Such genetic experiments were banned, but the damage had been done. The half-lings already existed. Half-lings were not terribly intelligent, though useful as slave labor. Some were smart enough to escape and have been a blight on the kingdom ever since . . .

“And certain flesh-peddlers, Qaz for one,” this was said with distaste, “use them in his perverted sex-palaces. He says that they are there just to serve, but all know that they serve sexually. Still I know not how he found out about you . . .” Thaarn paused to give the gorilla a look, “Perhaps, Traag. That coin-greedy Chimm would put his own mother on the sex-block if he thought that doing so would line his pockets with just one more coin!”

“We, Thaarn and I, do not really care for this job or the apes it puts us in contact with,” Hannu gestured at the chamber around them, “but it pays our bills and keeps us fed.”

“We thought you just another victim of Traag’s coin-scheming,” Thaarn explained, “at least, we did until we heard you speaking of your beloved while unconscious. Another male? No matter.” Thaarn shrugged, “Roxton sounds like a fine warrior’s name. And we Ennicts are best when we stick together, anyway!”

“Legends speak of a long ago warrior-king who near conquered the world,” Hannu spoke, “at the head of a great army. One made up of lovers that would die before dishonoring themselves before their beloved . . .”

“And we realized,” Thaarn took over, “that if you came from such a world. You might have a lover as devoted to you, who would rise an army against the kingdom . . . just to get you back . . . And war is one thing that the kingdom does not need.”

“Especially, if your Roxton brought an army of lovers.” Hannu added.

“By the way,” Thaarn tilted his head and asked, “How did you come to be captured in a half-ling hunt?”

“Well, I was swimming at a place that I call Big Rock Pond,” Malone explained, unsure of why he was, “I was swimming from one end to the other, under water, and when I re-surfaced, there was a herd ape-men . . .” he noticed how Hannu bristled, so he amended, “. . . half-lings were stampeding by and . . .”

“This big rock pond,” the chimp cut in, “does it have a large worn boulder . . . Um, twice my height and on the opposite shore another boulder the size of two huddled half-lings?”

“Well, yeah . . .”

“By the Broken Laws!” Both apes swore.

“We must get you back there!” Thaarn spoke urgently, “As soon as possible!”

“Why?” Confused.

“That would explain his appearance!” Hannu told Thaarn, excitedly, “It is just this side of the Forbidden Zone!”

“Here, let me get that chain off of you.” The chimp approached Malone, “It is held in place by a simple clasp.”

“Oh?” Malone reached back, there was a click and he held the chain out to the chimp.

“Those clasps can hold half-lings!” Thaarn was stunned by Malone’s dexterity, gently taking the chain.

“If you’ll notice,” Malone smiled, “I’m not a half-ling!”

“Come,” Hannu motioned for them to hurry, “we must get you out of here . . .”

“Wait . . .” Malone used his hands to cover himself, “I can’t go out there like this! I’m naked!”

“Believe me, youngling,” Hannu smiled at him, as if at a child, “you are noticeable enough for being hairless. If you wore clothing, everyone would really notice you then.”

“Damn, I hate this.” Malone muttered to himself, “Always knocked out and naked . . .”

~~~oO0Oo~~~

“I have spoken to several of my clientele and . . .” Qaz re-entered the animal holding area, looking every bit an old pervert. He carried a worn leash and was followed by a chimp in soldier’s garb. He stopped short, “What . . . ? Where are you going with my property!?!”

“This . . . animal, is not your property, Lord Qaz.” Thaarn bristled. His sire had always told him that a good defense was a good offense, “No deal has been struck.”

“Of course we had a deal!” The O’Rang thundered, banging his staff on the stone floor, “I told you that I would be returning!”

“And you have.” Hannu stepped forward and glared threateningly down at the O’Rang, who took a cautious step back, “Deal struck. Deal done. Nothing further was dealt.”

“It was inferred . . .” the O’Rang shut his yap and stepped back, when the ‘Rilla took another more menacing step closer. He bumped into the tall soldier chimp behind him. He stammered, blinking cowardily, “. . . n – never mind . . .”

“Then, let us go, Thaarn.” Hannu didn’t take his eyes off of the O’Rang as Thaarn led Malone around the small group and out the chamber door into the street.

Out on the street, Thaarn and Malone were joined by Hannu, then the trio headed off, going in a different direction than the one they needed to go, In hopes that if they were to be headed off, their pursuers would be heading the wrong direction.

“Hold it!” Malone’s bicep was grabbed as he was brutally pulled from the chimp and gorilla, “That beast belongs to the Kingdom until it is paid for! It you have a claim to it, I want to see the sales receipt!”

“Get your stinkin’ paws off me, you damned dirty ape!” Malone snarled, yanking his arm free from the big chimp‘s grip.

Shocked that the hairless beast could speak, let alone utter a coherent sentence, the soldier chimp wasn’t prepared, when Malone suddenly elbowed him in the muzzle. The chimp let out a small girl-y yelp before grabbing his face and staggering to the ground, moaning.

“By the Broken Laws, wha – ?” The old O’Rang didn’t see or feel the fist that punched him square in the face. All he knew was bright stars on black and incredible pain as he sank ground ward.

“Ow! Ow! OW! OW!” Malone ran, rubbing his elbow with his hurting fist, “I thought an ape-face was soft! That chimp’s face was like hitting a brick wall!”

A female Chimm screamed at the sight of violence. Her mate grabbed her and held her close, those actions were copied by all the other late night couples strolling along the streets, when they’d heard Malone’s savage shout.

“He can talk! He can talk! HE CAN TALK! HE CAN TALK!” The cry went up.

“The beast is fleeing!” an graying chimpanzee shouted.

“After the beast!” another, this one a female, called.

There was another shriek.

“Are you tree-slammed!?” Someone shouted back, “It just attacked a city-guard and that fat old fool! It might be rabid!”

“Don’t let it escape!”

Rabid!?!” A cry of exclamation.

“I am not going after it!” said in a ‘what-are-you-crazy’ tone.

“It could be dangerous!” agreeing.

“It might bite somebody!” a warning.

“Two solid coppers to the one who catches the animal!” Old Qaz gathered his scrambled senses enough to hear the commotion and call out. That animal was valuable to him.

“CALL OUT THE GUARD!” Someone yelled.

“TWO COPPERS!?!” Another someone shouted.

“Call out the guard!” An indignant old male.

“Forbidden Zone take the guard!” a couple of male O’Rangs looked at each other, “Two solid coppers will buy a lot of drink!”

A scream!

“A hairless half-ling!“ An appalled someone pointed out Malone as he ran passed.

“Ugh! It is UGLY!” Another someone.

“Out of the way, you uglier-than-thou-bitch!” Malone barreled through a group of shoppers.

Another scream.

“It went that way!” Urgently.

More screams.

“Somebody shaved it!” Horrified.

GET THE BEAST!” Angry.

“Cruelty to animals!” the cry of the young and rebellious.

“Out of the way, you fools!” Pursuers.

“Cruelty to animals!” shouts helping the poor beast’s escape.

~~~oO0Oo~~~

A dirty dark alley way.

“Watch it!” a snarl at some cook who’d opened a back door and tossed out dirty dish water, splashing Malone. The surprised apron-ed chimp yelped and slammed the door, locking it from the inside.

Now he was wet and stank of washed dishes!

Shouts and yells could be heard.

Running feet.

Directions of where to look. Directions of where to go.

Riders on horse back. Hooves on the stone avenues.

Damn, they were really after him. Malone knew that the chimp, Thaarn had been telling the truth. If he was caught, he’d end up on the dissection table so the ape scientists could find out why he could talk. Something told him that they wouldn’t bother to ask him about it, either.

His feet hurt from running on the uneven pavement. He was cold and wet, smelling foul with used dish water. What else could go wrong?

Up ahead the light from an opened door spilled out into the alley and he could hear the sound of a female voice . . .

When am I gonna learn to keep my mouth shut!? To himself.

“Come back to bed, Cornelius. You do not have to leave so soon.”

“Zira, I have to go. You have patients in the morning and I have an expedition to plan.”

“Patients. They are just animals! And I am a veterinarian, not a real doctor! Besides, it is not like those artifacts will get tired of waiting and go someplace else!”

“Okay, Zira, I stand overwhelmed by your logic.”

The door closed and the alley was again in darkness.

Malone moved off, along a wall. He passed another recessed doorway and was suddenly pulled into the darkness!

“Gotcha!” a huge hand covered his mouth, while the other held him securely and he couldn’t escape. Then, he heard a familiar voice, “Quit your struggling, Mah-Lone, least the city-guard hears you and catches us both, then we will really be in it up to our muzzles!”

~~~oO0Oo~~~

After proper introductions were made, Malone sat in the darkness of a small cave, before a tiny fire that did little more than cast a small yellowed light. He’d spent the afternoon telling the pair about his . . . life on the plateau, the tree house, his friends . . . But, most of all, his relationship with the British Lord, John Roxton. And how it ended . . . Sort of.

Across the fire from him sat Hannu and Thaarn. Both of whom had told him of their loving relationship. The difficulties they’d had to stay together. Though not because they were males who loved one another, but because they were not of the same species. Many didn’t like the fact that a Chimm could love a ‘Rilla or that a ‘Rilla could feel anything for a Chimm. ‘Rillas were warriors, Chimms were workers and O’Rangs were supposed to be scholars. At least, they said that no strange half blood children could be born of the two apes’ union, so what was the harm. Still, there was that bigotry.

And they talked about their escape from Ape City (as Malone called it). The trio had run hard and long to escape the city and the city-guards. Most of that time, Malone had clung to Hannu’s broad back. At least, it was less humiliating than how they started out. Hannu had carried him on his hip as if he’d been a child. But, escape they had.

Now, both apes were resting and shirtless, revealing well-muscled torsos. Each covered by a matt of thick hair. They still wore their pants and wide belts, but nothing else. They looked content, lounging there, almost wrapped in one another’s arms. Hannu was leaning against the far wall, with an arm carelessly thrown over Thaarn’s shoulders, who was contentedly snuggled against the big gorilla.

Malone though still naked, had Thaarn’s jacket thrown over his shoulders. Hannu’s had been far too big for the slender human, but at least it gave him some small sense of protection. He even felt that sense of protection with the two apes he was sharing the huge hollow tree cave with. They were fast becoming friends.

“. . . was sure you were just mimicking words,” Thaarn spoke, “but Hannu convinced me to listen closer. And fool that I am I did. Needless to say, I was shocked to hear you speaking clear words.”

“Proof, I said,” Hannu grinned (still a scary thing to see, thought Malone), “that you were intelligent.”

“And, I would be Law-Broken if Hannu wasn’t right!” Thaarn said.

“You are Law-Broken.” Hannu said with an amused whisper and a gentle squeeze of chimp.

“And it is your entire fault, you big lug.” With a tender smile, Thaarn playfully pushed the big gorilla’s side.

“I’m sorry.” Malone hung his head, “I think I’ve cost you your home and freedom.”

“Pah!” Hannu made an annoyed gesture, “What is freedom, but having nothing left to lose.”

“Home, for us,” Thaarn spoke, “is a two-flight climb up in an over-crowded slum-borough. We were only able to live together, because it was such an old place and the borough-owner is a coin-grubber who only cares about his coin.”

“And, he charges us extra.” Hannu spat, “Thankfully, he dares not get too greedy. I have a reputation of being a berserker.”

“Still,” Malone said softly, “it was a home.”

“True,” Hannu looked around the small cave, “but this place looks nicer. With a few touches, I think it would make a fine home.”

“And there’s running water right outside the door.” Thaarn smiled.

“See?” Hannu grinned, “You’ve cost us nothing! Because of you, we have found a better place to live!”

“And it will cost us nothing!“ Thaarn was pleased. Disbelieving, Malone smiled and shook his head.

~~~oO0Oo~~~

“What really shocks me,” Malone said as the trio walked along at dusk, the following day. They were making a circular trek around the city, Thaarn in the led, then Malone and Hannu bringing up the rear. They were heading for what Malone had guessed was the way to big rock pond, “is that you guys are intelligent. I mean, how . . . ?”

“Well, it is sacrilege to speak of . . .” Hannu spoke, as if whispering, “but legends say that life here, began out there,” he pointed toward the first stars twinkling in the darkening heavens, “among the stars . . . That we descended from one of the twelve colonies . . .”

“Quit teasing, Hannu!” Thaarn tossed a leaf at the gorilla, “Do not believe him, Mah-lone! Hannu is a dreamer! He is always spinning tales to entertain! Though, I did enjoy the one about the youngling farmer/pilot and the freebooter and how with an alien primitive and a mouthy maiden, saved a vast star empire from an evil O’Rang name Paladine. And through it all the farmer and the freebooter finally found love with one another.”

“Thaarn’s sister, Leeyah, wished the freebooter had fallen for the mouthy maiden.” Hannu laughed, “She was not pleased to learn that the maiden got paired off with the primitive!”

“A storyteller, huh?” Malone smiled, “My father always said that story-telling was the oldest profession in the world. Be proud of that, Hannu. Maybe one day you’ll be famous for your stories!”

“Spoken as a teller of tales, yourself, Mah-Lone!” Thaarn laughed over his shoulder, teasingly.

“Sort of,” Malone confirmed, “Though I just report on what happens in the world.”

“Report?”

“Yeah . . .” Malone thought on how to explain about something that the ape-people obviously didn’t have, “. . . it’s like . . . going to a leader’s meeting. You sit and listen, write down what was said, done and agreed upon . . . or , if someone stole something valuable that didn’t belong to him . . . or if there was a fight, who fought , who won and why they fought.”

“Gossip, you mean.”

“Not really.” Malone thought some more, “But, it would be the truth about an event. And it wouldn’t have to be all about bad things. You could announce a birth, a death, someone getting recognized for doing something good or nice . . . You know the news.”

“News.” Hannu said thoughtfully. He was about to question Malone longer on the subject, but . . .

“HALT WHERE YOU ARE!” A shout broke the jungle air, startling the three companions. A shot broke the peace. Malone saw that a chimp had a flintlock rifle and was clumsily struggling to reload it.

“Run, Mah-Lone!” Thaarn grabbed Malone by the arm and propelled him in front and gave him a shove to get him going, “Run for the pond! Dive by the smaller stone and do not re-surface until you are by the larger! It is your only escape!”

“What about you and Hannu . . . ?”

“Just go, Mah-Lone!” Thaarn growled.

“Do not worry over us!” Hannu called, “Just do as you are told!”

And Malone ran. Behind him, he could hear the sounds of a battle beginning. Trees and branches breaking, terrible fighting, flesh hitting flesh, apes shouting and screaming battle cries, then . . . He skidded to a sudden stop and looked back the way he‘d come, when sound of a gunshot shattered the jungle harmony. It echoed through the jungle like a frightened animal. Then, came another shot and an echo, then again the silence.

Malone stopped short. His heart skipped a beat. His friends. He wanted to run back and help Thaarn and Hannu, but something told him that to do so would be futile and could quite possibly get himself killed . . . but, they were still his friends . . . God, he hated the world sometimes!

He hardened himself, turned and ran as fast as he could.

His friends.

Heart pounding in his throat, he turned and ran some more. Whoever killed his friends was going to come after him now. He had to get back to the pond. His weapons were still there. He had a rifle. What had long ago been called a repeater-rifle (after their invention), not a flint lock like these apes used. He’d be able to take them down before they could reload.

Oh, how they would pay for killing his friends!

Behind him came the sound of rustling trees. Movement through them at high speed. Above and on the ground. He dived off the trail, into the undergrowth and lay still. He forced himself to be quiet, even though his lungs burned for air. He couldn’t be heard or seen or he’d be caught and taken back to the ape city for study and possible dissection.

The sounds grew closer and louder. His pursuers didn’t seem to care if their approach was heard. Then, they were all around and above him, moving fast. In an instant they were passed him, going into the distance.

He hung his head sadly. His pursuers had moved in a group. That meant that Thaarn and Hannu weren’t . . .

Malone lay there. Silent. He felt bad about their deaths, even though he’d just met them the day before. In spite of how they looked to him, there were good . . . People. Friends.

He silently mourned their deaths.

Rested, he got up and pushed on. He didn’t understand it, but he felt that he had to do as Thaarn had instructed him to do. Even though it seemed hopeless. Besides, his clothes and weapons were back at the pond. He wasn’t too worried about them being found. He learned the hard way, a trick that Roxton had played on him soon after the expedition had begun, so now, if there was no one to watch his back; he hid his weapons so he wouldn’t get shot in the back. And if his luck held out, none of the apes would find them either.

It took him longer than he liked, but he moved silently through the jungle. He didn’t want to be found out before he could get to his guns. But, he finally made it back to the pond . . . And he cursed silently.

The apes were there. Three O’Rangs and a bound Chimm captive . . . Thaarn! Who was naked and tied spread eagle to stakes and the damned O’Rangs were taking turns on their helpless victim!

Those damned perverted . . .

~~~oO0Oo~~~

Hannu awoke, sore and angry. He’d been shot. And he’d been left there, bound and gagged. Fools that they were, his captors, that they’d only tied his upper hands! In moments he was free. He checked his wound. The bullet had gone clean through his arm, not hitting any bone, but only tearing the meat. He was wounded and it hurt like hell, but that was all . . .

Where was . . .

THAARN!

Hannu bellowed with rage!

Those damned and doomed . . .

~~~oO0Oo~~~

The O’Rang was heavy and strong. Its grip was like iron. His feet-were on Malone’s calves, weighing him down and holding his legs splayed out. Another of the O’Rang’s hands held Malone’s wrists, pinned over his head, while the last hand was on Malone’s lower back, effectively stopping any struggles to get away.

“No.” Malone wished he could free himself somehow, but the rough hands and their elongated fingers held him tight.

“No.” The O’Rang laughed at his feeble struggles, enjoying the human’s helplessness.

NO!” He felt a long fleshy appendage touching his buttocks. He clenched his eyes shut. The thing wasn’t trying to enter him, but was being rubbed across his skin . . . Oh, God, no. The fleshy length was stroking back and forth through his cleft. He tried to hold himself still. Wriggling seemed to make the ugly ape happier.

“NO!” That horrible something stopped and he could feel the tip of it beginning to press into his rectum! It was trying to enter him! No matter how trapped he was Malone started to struggle and the ape laughed . . .

UGH!” The heavy weight, strength and touch of the pervert O’Rang vanished with that grunt and the sound of flesh hitting flesh and a break of bone. Then Malone heard the sound of a body hitting a tree. He looked up in time to see the O’Rang fall into a heap at the base of a tree and lay still.

Other sounds of violence turned him in time to see another O’Rang trying to sit up, dazed, while Thaarn was unmercifully beating yet another O’Rang senseless. Hannu held another by the hair of its head and was using his face for a punching bag. War-cries and screams of pain filled the air as violence shook the forest.

Where’d the two chimps and the other O’Rang come from?

“Broken Laws take you, Mah-Lone!” Hannu now had a chimp by the neck while punching the other, “Why did you not do as you were told!?!”

“They were raping Thaarn!” Malone picked up the wooden branch he’d used earlier and cracked the dazed O’Rang on the head with it, “I couldn’t leave him like that!”

“My thanks, Mah-Lone,” Thaarn let go of the O’Rang and leapt onto another.

“DO AS YOU WERE TOLD!” Hannu tossed aside the chimp like it was a spent toy, “Leave these fools to us!”

“GO, MAH-LONE!” Thaarn shouted, then was slugged by the O’Rang he had pinned. Thaarn looked insulted and a little bit peeved that his conversation was interrupted “Hit me will you!?!”

The O’Rang looked suddenly frightened and started screaming for mercy, as Thaarn began to punch the simian’s face.

Seeing that, Malone knew that he’d best do as he was told or the chimp would get pissed at him. He dropped the branch and ran for the pond and dived in. His body cleaved the water with the quick grace, beauty and drive of the desperate. This time the water was cold on his skin and he swam hard for the opposite shore, unsure why he was doing what his two ape friends had ordered him to do. He could feel every nerve on his body as if he’d been awakened with a rush of blood. He swam as swiftly and as urgently as he could.

His weapons were on the other shore. If he could reach them quick enough, he nor Thaarn and Hannu would have to worry about those other damned apes!

He re-surfaced with a gasp and turned to look back at the opposite shore before rushing off to get his . . .

What th . . . ?

There was nothing and no one on the other shore, except the peaceful clearing that had always been there!

No fighting. No violence. No sign of anyone having been there at all!

Surely, the fight couldn’t have ended so quickly, with the victors dragging off the losers to some . . .

Panic!

What if it was Hannu and Thaarn who’d lost! He couldn’t just leave them to some grisly fate . . .

He clambered out of the pond and headed for his clothes and weapons. In less time than it takes to tell, he was dressed and armed.

Those apes had old-fashioned flintlock rifles and his weapons were more technologically advanced.

Prepared and rifle in hand, he started back for the ape city, as fast as he could go. Those ape-people moved faster than he did, so he had to hurry. He was going to save his friends, even if it meant taking on the whole damn simian nation!

~~~oO0Oo~~~

Malone stood staring, an hour and a half later. He’d found the city, but it wasn’t the same as he remembered it. It was still majestic, but it was in ruins. Ancient ruins, over-grown with jungle. Most of the stonework was cracked and broken with creepers and vines growing through.

What the hell happened? He made his way through the streets and alleys he remembered, This place looks like it’s been through a war! And didn’t win!

He called out his friends’ names, knowing somehow that he wouldn’t be answered.

Silence reigned after the echoes died, save for the pause of animal life at his call. No one lived in the crumbling city for ages. The city had died long long before.

He moved on, searching for some small sign that . . .

“Oh, my God.” He whispered as he stopped short. He recognized where he was . . .

Malone couldn’t believe it. Ape City, the city ruled by apes . . . the Kingdom, as they’d called it . . . the ruins . . . had been the ancient city that Challenger had found! The one with the orb that had knocked him out and nearly killed him. He remembered that dream that Challenger later told them about . . . of him having absolute power . . . and after he’d awakened, Challenger had returned to the city and destroyed . . . Yup. There it was. A burnt out altar, though covered in new plant growth . . .

From where he stood, it wasn’t that far back to the tree house and . . .

With a grin of incredible joy on his face, Malone began running. He couldn’t wait until he got back to the tree house . . . to see Roxton again. To hold him. Be enveloped in his arms. To breathe in the man’s heady scent . . .

Of course, there was Veronica and Challenger to see as well . . . and . . . and . . . Marguerite . . .

Malone staggered to a stop. He stood there, his shoulders slumped in defeat.

Marguerite . . .

Damn her . . .

Damn her to hell . . .

And damn him for that . . . promise . . .

Wearily, he turned back the way he’d come . . .

. . . Wishing that he was still in Ape City. Not having escaped.

Or somewhere else . . .

Anywhere . . .

Maybe, even in some galaxy long ago and far away . . .

He looked up into the darkening skies and saw what could only be a falling star . . . with a strange long tail . . . and, it was . . . slowing down . . . and . . . arcing toward the plateau . . .

The end . . . ?