Chimps in Crisis: [A Story]
Posted By: SeverianofUrth
Date: 3 March 2006, 2:30 pm
Chimps in Crisis.
This isn't a comedy. It's a serious story. Monkeys might be cute, but they die just as horribly as do men. Please remember that; death isn't pretty, no matter the victim. A dead puppy is as grotesque as a dead soldier lying split in half on the field of battle. Thanks for reading!
The monkeys all held pistols or shotguns in their simian grips. Mr. Lowley sniffled as the cages were opened and the chimps were led out of captivity for the first time in fifteen years.
"Are you sure?" He wiped away some tears with the back of his hand. "I mean, these are just monkeys
Colonel Ackerson, looking dapper in his uniform, smiled. "Of course, Mr. Lowley. These monkeys have been augmented, right?"
"Aye, sir. They have an IQ of around eighty, with augmented speed and coordination skills allowing
" Mr. Lowley blew his nose on a handkerchief. "Allowing, excuse me, them to operate a firearm."
"That's all I need," Ackerson replied. "I'm sorry for this again, Mr. Lowley. But my cousin—"
"Aye. Colonel Ackerson, of the Office of Naval Intelligence." Colonel Levin Ackerson, of the Leningrad Militia, grimaced. "I do hate the man, but his scheme is brilliant. The monkeys ought to provide a diversion enough to halt the Covenant army for six seconds
enough for us to fire the H-142 at them."
"But they'll die," the elderly zookeeper said. Not protesting, not complaining, just stating the facts. "Oh, God, they'll die."
"May God have mercy on them, then."
"Monkeys don't have souls, sir."
"I meant myself, Mr. Lowley. Myself and all the others who condoned this madness."
The monkeys paddled out of the cages. They inspected the guns in their hands. Then the neural suggesters kicked in, and they were slowly led, from afar by a comsat tech, to the field of battle.
Colonel Ackerson watched with narrowed eyes as the cameras followed the chimpanzees' progress from the zoo to the downtown area, where a huge Covenant cruiser lingered overhead. This is insane, he thought: he remembered Lowley, the zookeeper, with a pang of guilt. These monkeys were all that old man had left. But now we're about to take them away from him.
But this was war and there was nothing else they could do. Nothing. The monkeys would be expended for a useful purpose and then would be abandoned. Besides, it was better then spending human lives, right?
But then one of the chimps, having given some time by the comsat techs to take a break, started combing through the furs of another to pick out the fleas. And in that moment Ackerson felt another dagger twist in his heart—pommel and blade both—and he closed his eyes, prayed.
"Sir?" One of the comsat techs gestured towards the map. "The southern sector?"
"Of course. Send the monkeys up when night comes. The Grunts have little night-vision capabilities
it might extend the life-expectancy of our chimps by two second, if we're lucky."
Then, when the monkeys engaged the enemy, the H-142 would be blasted in. That was the crippling blow: it would be the arrow that pierced Achilles' heel. Ackerson crossed his arms and stared at the map. God help us, he thought.
But God was nothing if not brutal, and so it was that Mr. Lowley followed the monkeys, unseen so far by the hover-cams that followed the monkeys' progress. He knew he shouldn't be doing this, that following would probably mean death; but the old man couldn't help himself. He knew those monkeys, knew them since the Leningrad zoo opened fifteen years ago. He remembered the frozen simians in their crates, how they had to be cryo-thawed, how the first baby chimp had suckled down on the bottle of milk— they didn't understand, not even Ackerson. No one. They were his babies.
Or maybe Mr. Lowley was just crazy.
The monkeys left behind a trail of banana peels, and he followed them piece by yellow piece, like Hansel and Gretel. Remembering that fable, he wondered if the monkeys too knew their fate. They could— they might. You never knew. Elephants were often wiser the men, and the same might be true of chimpanzees, especially augmented ones. Were they crying out for help? Was the trail of banana peels a silent paean to their hopeless destiny? Mr. Lowley wiped away his tears on the back of his hand, and continued walking.
The H-142 would detonate precisely six seconds after the augmented chimps engaged the enemy. The problem was keeping the monkeys alive for six seconds. They needed to be close to the enemy in order for the 142 to be effective, and the chimps were sadly unsuitable for combat. They were too damn small, for one, and too weak—augmented as they were— for another, and too dumb, in another sense. Too small, too weak, too stupid, and not inclined for warfare. Chimps often preyed on infants when they were back inside their natural habitats, but inside the city and the zoo, they had devolved.
Hence the neurotransmitters. The little tiny chips inserted right into the monkeys' brains allowed trained technicians to 'suggest' the chimps into doing whatever needed to be done. Like firing guns, and dying bloody in war— two things once thought to be the sole dominion of men.
A note to the reader: Mr. Lowley was, sadly enough, not a technically inclined man. All he knew was that something was going to happen to his beloved chimps when those six seconds ran out.
The old man found signs that the monkeys had camped out for a brief period next to a crumbling church. Little neat piles of dung stank and dried in a corner, and a concentrated pile of banana peels lay in a small heap. He smiled. He was on track.
"Almost on target now, sir."
Colonel Ackerson nodded, and flipped out a cigarette from within his pocket. He lit it, took a deep dreg—God, he hated the damn things, but they were good for his image— and exhaled. Clouds of white drifted up to the ceiling, only to be sucked in and dissipated by the vent.
"Good," he said. "How're the monkeys?"
"Doing fine, sir. The chemically enhanced bananas are keeping them strong, sir."
"Good," the Colonel said again. "They'll need it."
Mr. Lowley caught sight of his beloved chimpanzees at noon. That was fortunate. The unfortunate part was soon to come, but nonetheless, he laughed and called out to them: "George! Picky! Pinky! Sara! Licy! Sara! Gordon!"
So on and so forth. Even this chronicler doesn't know the full list of names. There were a whole lot of monkeys there, after all.
Usually, the chimps gathered around him whenever he stepped inside their giant habitat-cage, and would tug at his clothes, hold his hands, follow him, whatever— just did what dogs or particularly affectionate or stupid children did. But this time, even when he cycled through their name again, they did not turn. The monkeys ignored him.
The zookeeper almost broke down, almost started weeping. But that wasn't for him to do. Weeping was for losers and people who took care of snakes. So he followed. Mr. Lowley was sure that if he just got up to them, closer, they'll know him— they had to.
The giant Covenant ship loomed in the distance.
At times, Ackerson wondered if he wasn't turning out to be as
as much of a bastard as his dear cousin in the ONI. It's just logical, he told himself. Monkeys are expendable. Men are not.
But the sight of those monkeys slowly peeling bananas with their toes, with the gentle patience of those old or dying, twisted in his heart.
I'm not doing anything bad. Monkeys are monkeys.
Mr. Lowley's teary face came drifting up.
Monkeys don't have souls.
"God forgive me."
"Sir?" The techie asked.
"No, it's nothing." Ackerson noticed then that his cigarette had burned down to his fingers, leaving them slightly ashy and swelling red. "Nothing at all."
Nothing at all.
"The chimps are within range now, sir. Should I commence with the procedure? It's night, and looks like the perimeter defenses are pretty light."
But they'll die. Just monkeys. No souls. But they'll die. "Go on, then. Send the chimpanzees in."
"No! Sara! George! Gordon!" Mr. Lowley watched with horror as the monkeys suddenly took up their weapons and started charging. One of the chimps in the lead started firing, the gunshot echoing bam bam bam loud and clear.
The Grunts all swarmed into action. The turrets started firing. Purple bolts raked the ground. Monkeys fell. Monkeys burned. Monkeys died.
And they kept on running. They charged.
The chimps were far more agile then men, and so avoided the returning plasma fire far more easily then most. But by the time they reached the barricade, over half of them lay dead and charred on the ground. Blood seeped from their wounds—and they were crimson, like men.
Mr. Lowley started crying, little burbling hiccups of weeping that cracked through his old tired ribs.
Then the weapon was activated—by men from afar who could not see the bloody ruins of the beloved chimps. The H-142 began rippling through the dead tissue cells, pinging off cell walls and ricocheting through leaking veins. Then the corpses exploded, or imploded, rather; a peal of gas escaped their bodies first, as if they were breaking wind, then their guts swelled and—
Unknown to Mr. Lowley, H-142 was an airborne virus secreted within the chimpanzee's bodies. It was designed to cause crippling convulsions in the Elite castes, and death for all others; but the genetic engineers just weren't able to tailor the virus enough to be safe for humans. Though it wasn't as instantly lethal for humans, it still caused death—over the course of several days, with rising temperatures and symptoms akin to fever.
The virus was expected to spread through the air before dissipating; the radius, or the area, of contamination was projected at about a kilometer from the site of detonation. Hence, Colonel Ackerson had set the evacuation camps ten kilometers away—the virus could not survive long in the cold air on it's own, and it died off when it could not find a host-body quickly enough.
The exploding monkey-bodies crippled the Covenant armada about to invade New Leningrad. But no one reckoned for Mr. Lowley, now devastated by the brutal death of his beloved monkeys. No one noticed his tears when he staggered back into camp, a day later, clothes torn and filthy. No, not noticed; no one bothered with him. Everyone just assumed that he'd been crying in his little zoo, nothing more, nothing less
The virus spread rapidly. And so Leningrad fell, along with it's little invaders...