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Old 08-10-2011, 08:09 AM   #21
Blondie
 
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CHAPTER 5

The subterfuge was, in a word, hilarious.

Mike watched from a safe distance through his recently purloined field glasses, witnessing a pantomime in which two chimps brazenly approached the camp of four researchers from the National Geographic Society and began performing various antics. One chimp climbed aboard the shoulders of his companion and then the tottering, living totem wobbled around stiffly, the upper chimp offering his hand to shake and pretending to doff an invisible hat.

The researchers were shocked and instantly engaged. They fell over themselves to grab their cameras from their cases, to dangle microphones by the chimps, to jot hurried notes into their books. Mike grinned, knowing what was coming next.

In an homage to a classic episode of Star Trek, the chimps hopped apart and then dragged from the bushes a piece of limestone into which Mike had laboriously carved the words: NO KILL I. The chimps stood on either side of the limestone and slowly, clearly signed over and over again, "Life precious, life precious."

Despite the distance Mike distinctly heard one of the researchers cry out, "Oh my God!"

Mike turned from the field glasses to give Climber a curt nod. "Take your team in."

While the National Geographic researchers were entirely hypnotized by the chimps' apparent plea for interspecies clemency, Climber and his team slunk through the grass with clods of weeds strapped to their heads. Climber slipped inside the equipment tent. A moment later he reappeared and began handing out items one by one to be ferried back by his teammates: four air-rifles and eight boxes of tranquilizer darts.

Climber whistled like a Zuma songbird, then scooted quietly after the team. At this signal the performing chimps seemed to suddenly become bored with the researchers; they simply dropped their hands, turned around, and scampered off into the bush. The researchers looked at each other in surprise and disappointment, then fell to examining the limestone.

The chimps regrouped with Mike by the stream. "Good work," smiled Mike. "Let's have lunch."

Chimpanzees are always enthusiastic about lunch. They pant-hooted in delight and made a headlong dash for the hilltop.

"That was awesome," said Mike to Climber. "Keep it up, and I'll promote you to man."

Climber saluted and then scrambled off after the others.

Mike took a moment to lolligag by the scarecrows. Upon close inspection they wouldn't fool a one-eyed man with cataracts, but from a reasonable distance they were sufficient to give a roving band of rival apes pause. The scarecrows were made of stolen sandbags stuffed with leaves, dressed in fluorescent yellow safety vests; each stood at guard with a long stick in place of a gun. They were connected to the beaters' rope network, and thus could be caused from a remote distance to shimmy and quiver in an aggressive if faintly epileptic fashion.

With Mike's focus diverted to the dinosaurs, they had been forced to resort to semi-automatic defenses such as these to keep the territory clear. There wasn't enough attention to go around.

The days were busy.

Mike hiked up the hill. Preparations were well under way for tonight's daring sortie. For weeks Mike and his troglodyte kin had been waging an unrelenting campaign against the clear-cutting and construction efforts, and as of last night their opponents had upped the ante by dispatching round the clock patrols of security guards armed with guns and machetes, dour-faced skinny black men who smoked Chinese cigarettes and muttered to each other in a guttural, choppy-sounding language Mike couldn't fathom in the least.

He had reasoned that attacking the machines themselves would be a poor strategy. If the men could not work, they would have nothing to do all day but beat the bushes in search of the vandals. Instead, Mike had directed the campaign toward the supplies: by constantly interfering with the flow of food, drink and tobacco, the workers became disgruntled at their employer's failure to contain the situation and their insistence that work continue uninterrupted. So the men worked, and as the days went by they hated their employers more than the unseen saboteurs.
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Old 12-03-2011, 01:26 AM   #22
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Mike had seen the fat airplanes come in. He knew the men had recently been resupplied. Thus, it was his plan to disrupt their sense of hope at its zenith, to foul the water and steal the food and burn the cigarettes just when the men were about to feel bolstered and relieved. He was optimistic this sudden reversal in fortune would persuade them to rebel against their employers, to initiate a work stoppage.

The only trick would be to incapacitate the armed guards before they could act. Hence, the tranquilizer rifles.

Mike checked on the chimps, overseeing their work. They no longer jingled as they moved, for Mike had long ago figured out how to break their collars. Their identification tags now hung over their hammocks. He took a few moments to roll around in the dirt with the juveniles, then made sure poor Glutton was comfortable, lying in a hammock with a splint on his fractured leg. "Looks like it's healing up nicely," said Mike.

"Itchy," signed Glutton gloomily. "Hungry."

"You're always hungry."

"Itchy," the chimp repeated sullenly.

Mike found a twig and carefully fed it into the dressing, then scratched at Glutton's leg. "Better?"

Glutton closed his eyes and sighed with contentment. "Love M," he gestured vaguely, yawning.

"I love you too, Glutton."

The afternoon aged. The sun began to sink. The voice of the forest slowly changed from daytime sounds to twilight sounds. The suppertime flowers exuded their stink as the dinosaurs' growls quieted one by one. The men laughed and swore and smoked as they parked their vehicles and ambled back toward their camp in the river valley. The new security guards passed them in the dirt-clod fields, but they did not exchange greetings. The two kinds of men were as alien to one another as chimpanzees and monkeys.

The sky was still pink, but the land was in shadow. Mike gave a nod to his troupe. "Let's move."

A tall, lanky security guard with a shaved head leaned on his rifle as he smoked, watching birds flock over the trees. Every few moments he spat in the dirt and shifted his pose. Mike hunkered low in the grass in order to silhouette the man against the sky for a clear shot, then squeezed the trigger: the air rifle barked. The guard grunted, slapped at his thigh, found the dart, then whimpered quietly and folded into an unruly pile.

"Wow," whispered Mike. "That was fast. This stuff must be dosed for rhinos or something."
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