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 . . . ?

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