Title: In Thade We Trust 20 - Complete
Warning: The usual disclaimer, not my property, just playing with the characters. Takes place shortly after the end of Planet of the Apes (2001).
Summary: In the darkest parts of the human mind lies the ability to be needlessly cruel and inhuman, a baser nature that separates us from the animals.
Dedicated to Caleb, who inspired me to continue this story, and who helped me remember why I started it in the first place.
They could try, Calder laughed manically, working the controls, his eyes wide and crazed. The cop cars chased after him, going as close as they dared to the long metal legs that crushed at the ground with each step. Calder laughed and laughed, guiding the machine down the main road. Helicopters flew nearby, shrieking sirens and lights flashing everywhere he looked.
"Let them try!" he shouted over the whirring, clicking sounds of his creation, "Leo…Where have you scampered to, my naughty little human?"
The Thade Memorial stood in the distance. Calder's face lit up. "Ah, yes…"
He flipped a switch and the metal legs began pumping faster, the ground shaking with his every movement. A patrol car darted under his steps, sirens blaring. "Oh dear," Calder chuckled. He released a clutch, the bottom of one leg crushing the car cleanly, as if it were nothing more than a piece of tinfoil.
He stared ahead, focusing on the memorial. Yes, without a doubt, Leo had made his way there. Ari...Calder snarled wordlessly, enraged. That meddling bitch! Interfering with everything he held dear, releasing humans, protesting the facility every step of the way, persuading Naira to see things differently…
As he approached, he hit more buttons, the arms of his machine lifting higher, ready to fire. "Now you'll die alongside him," he whispered, aiming just so at the building.
It was way too quiet in the memorial, Leo thought, listening to his footsteps echoing around him. And there…he stopped in front of the statue, fighting back the surge of anger that flooded him.
Thade loomed over him, his chiselled features arranged in a perpetual smirk, a sneer of victory on his face for all time. Leo's gaze fell to the plaque bearing the words, Lincoln's words, altered.
Leo inhaled sharply, a shriek of rage building under his skin. "How, you fucker?" he choked out, "How?"
The statue stared back at him, every bit as arrogant as the General that had chased him to the very end. Leo bit his lip nearly bloody as he circled the statue, keenly aware that something wasn't right. The markings caught his eyes and he traced one hand over them, his fingers shaking.
"Not over, not behind but under…Jesus fuck! Naira!" he yelled over his shoulder. "Hey Doc…"
The ground trembled, swaying under him. Leo gripped the statue, the trembling growing more violent by the second.
He turned, seeing Naira approaching, absolute panic on his normally calm, blank face.
"Move!" Naira shouted, gesturing to him frantically. "Go!"
Leo let go of the statue, about to ask what the hell was going on when he heard the unmistakable sound of gunfire. A blast rocked the building, sending the pair of them scrambling to the ground. Leo crouched down, his hands over his ears.
"The fuck is goin' on?"
Naira shook his head, wincing each time the building shook. "We're under attack!" He moved to Leo's side and grabbed him, shoving him away from the statue as another blast smashed into the area. Leo grunted, slamming into the nearest pillar, the wind knocked out of him. Naira swayed with the motions and hurried to Leo's side, tugging at him.
"Stop that!" Leo yanked away from his grip, panting for air. "Who's attacking?"
"Calder!" Naira reached for him again. "Damn it, Leo, now's not the time to argue. We need to leave now before he levels the place!"
Leo shook his head. "No! No fucking way! The lines, Naira, they point to under the statue!"
"Leo…Naira?" Ari called, running full speed into the memorial, the ground moving up and down, bits of the ceiling tumbling down over them. She cried out, a chunk smacking into her, cutting her cheek as she ran.
"Ari!" Naira reached for her. "You…You fool! Calder's aiming right for us. Get out now while you still can!"
She clasped a hand to her cheek, blood trickling over her fingers. "Never!" she hissed, tears in her eyes.
Naira pulled her closer, grim panic settling in. "Where's Koza?"
"I don't know. I was…we were arguing and then you ran, Koza went the opposite way."
Another round of gunfire unloaded into the building, the walls and the pillars creaking ominously. Leo stumbled forward, watching as the machine came towards them, firing directly into the front stairs. "Holy shit…"
"Leo, get back!" Ari cried, her voice lost in the booming thunder of gunfire.
The machine stopped in front of the building, the front steps riddled with bullets, both arms raised. They lowered until they were pointing directly at Leo. Dozens of cop cars stood behind the machine, cops on loud speakers, demanding that Calder surrender at once. A speaker clicked on, overriding the noise below.
"Leo," Calder sounded deliriously happy, Leo thought, staring up at the contraption, for he had no other word for it.
"What an interesting test subject you turned out to be. It's a shame it came to this, but you…you are a very dangerous creature. And we must exterminate dangerous creatures when they refuse to be tamed."
Calder moved the right arm, clicking it into place. Leo swallowed, taking a step back. Nowhere to run…He looked from side to side at the officers and guards swarming at the base of the machine, attempting to disarm it, sweat running down his temples. He swallowed again and squared his shoulders, ready then.
"No, Leo!" Naira roared, running at him and dragging him back inside as the bullets flew, pinging the stairs and pillars once more. Several sprayed across the memorial, piercing the statue of Thade.
Ari shrieked, huddled down beside the statue, her hands clasped to her ears. Naira all but threw Leo over to the side with Ari, his body covering the pair of them from the onslaught. Leo's mind raced. He looked up at the markings, reconnecting them mentally. Another bullet whizzed past them, inches above his head.
He blinked, stunned and remembered the moment of realization before the world had exploded. "Naira, it's all under the ground, under the memorial!"
Leo pointed down. "Thade's pod, the info, he put it under!" He moved away from Naira's grasp and smacked his hands off the elaborate tiles. "Under…!"
Ari gasped, understanding. "I knew it!"
"Ari!" Koza yelled, weaving his way to them, dodging the bullets. "We've gotta get out of here, this place is ready to collapse."
"Get down, you idiot!" Naira shouted back at him.
"Ari…" Koza froze, a bullet slamming into him. He opened his mouth, no noise escaping as the blood flowed down his chest. With one hand clasped to his wound, he dropped to the floor, eyes wide.
Ari let out a mournful howl and buried her face in Naira's neck, her shoulders shaking. Leo swore under his breath. He smacked at the ground again, wishing he could smash clean through. A deafening boom echoed through the memorial, followed by a shuddering of the statue above them, the lines of it cracking and splitting.
"Move it!" Leo yanked at Naira and Ari, the chunks of marble showering down on them.
A chunk crashed into Naira, startling a sharp cry of pain from him. Ari scooted along the floor with him in her arms, tears dripping down her cheeks. "Leo…" she whispered helplessly.
Leo grabbed a handful of her shirt, hauling her back as fast as he could while the statue of Thade collapsed. The hail of bullets ended abruptly, Calder's screams filling the air, metal shrieking and clanging together.
The metal device shuddered into view, smashing up the remaining stairs, taking hunks of the roof with it. It took one more step forward, Calder visible at the top of the machine, working at the controls. It jerked and then, almost in slow motion, fell forward.
Leo rolled at the last second, bringing the chimps with him, deafened by the crashing machine. The ground shook violently, the metal limbs crashing into the rest of the statue and the memorial. The glass plate covering Calder shattered, sending him flying past them. He landed in a crumpled heap a few feet away, his screams silenced by the awkward angle of his neck.
Riva raced up the pathway, fighting his way past the guards and officers that covered the grounds, mass chaos erupting as the Menscheaffe destroyed the memorial. Sandar followed behind him, calling Ari's name, his voice drowned out by the frightened cries around them.
"They're inside!" Riva shouted, pointing at the ruined staircase. "Go around the side!"
Sandar stumbled along, gasping in horror. The Menscheaffe crashed into the memorial, an unending moment of noise and shrieking metal. He held Riva's arm, his mouth open as the machine fell forward.
Naira gasped for breath, shaking all over. He sat up a bit and pointed to where the statue had once sat. "Look!"
Leo moved up on rubbery legs, his adrenaline pumping, panting for air. Through the heavy dust and debris in the air, he saw what Naira saw, a crater in the floor, an opening nearly covered by the mass of marble pieces.
He dropped to his knees beside the opening, his chest hitching. Deep within the hole was one of the Oberon pods, a fine layer of dust over it. His eyes watered and he let out a raw shout of triumph. "The pod…he kept the fucking pod!"
Ari pulled herself up, trembling hard. "Oh my…I can't even believe…" she trailed off, wiping sticky blood, dust and tears from her cheeks. She crawled to his side and stared down at the pod, her eyes round and wide. Her mouth fell open. "Leo…"
"Leo, hurry," Naira moved along slowly, a hand clasped to the small of his back where he'd been struck. "We don't have long now. Those soldiers outside…"
Leo hefted several of the marble pieces out of the way, clawing at them with his hands, keenly aware of the lack of time. He threw the chunks to the side, panting fiercely. After a moment, he dropped down into the hole, landing on the compact ground beneath. He groaned, rolling onto his side. "Goddamn you, Thade," he muttered.
"Ari!" Sandar shouted, picking his way through the destroyed memorial. "Ari, for the love of Thade, answer me!"
She turned back, clinging to Naira. "Father…" she whispered.
"Ari!" he stumbled over the floor, nearly tripping over Calder's body. "Oh…"
Riva ran in alongside Sandar. He stooped short at the sight of Calder on the floor. "Calder…" He knelt down, pressing his hand to his neck, looking for a pulse. With a sigh, he closed Calder's unseeing eyes.
"Are you hurt, Ari?" Sandar stepped over Calder, ignoring him. "Naira, are you alright?"
"Father, look!" she pointed to the hole where Leo had gone.
Leo stood, staring at the pod. It looked exactly as it had when he'd last seen it. He laughed and the sound was a bit hysterical. "You son of a bitch!" he cried, kicking at a metal box that lay next to it.
"What the hell…"
"Here," Naira dropped his illumination stick down to Leo. "Hurry now…"
"I can't stall the guards much longer," Sandar fretted. "What…what is that?"
Leo shone the illumination stick on the box, frowning. "This is why you guys shoulda listened to me in the first place," he mumbled. He grabbed the box and pried it open. The lid creaked open and inside, a small disc gleamed in the weak light.
He picked it up gingerly, his breath catching again. "He left me a damned message."
Sandar looked over his shoulder nervously. "Leo…"
Leo opened the door of the pod and sat inside it. He held the stick over the display, clicking and pressing buttons from memory. "It's powered by nuclear fuel…should still play." He slipped the disc inside the reader and sat back anxiously, drenched in sweat.
Ari, Sandar and Riva gasped as an image of Thade flooded the screen, projected and reflected off the pod's glass shield. Naira inhaled sharply, almost unable to comprehend what he was seeing. The image grew sharper, a humming from the pod growing louder.
Ari hung over the ledge of the clearing more, a hand clasped over her mouth. The chimps watched the image of Thade smirk onscreen, his cruel eyes gleaming with such hatred and malice.
"I imagine you're rather upset with me, right now." Thade nodded, smiling more. "You should have killed me when you had the chance, Leo. Leaving me alive in the Oberon, what a silly, stupid human move. "
He waved one long finger at Leo, chuckling. "Such a foolish thing, really…Did you know that the Oberon had all its training programs in place? That the history of Earth, everything I ever needed was all there, thanks to you."
Leo growled at the screen, his teeth clenched. "Bastard…"
"Look around you, Spaceman! See for yourself as to your precious Earth or well…my Earth now. I've created a new world for you, though I doubt you'll enjoy it very much. You nearly destroyed my world, so I've taken yours. It wasn't hard, not really. When I fell from the sky, with a much better landing than what you accomplished, might I add, oh yes, the looks on their faces. Imagine, a chimp that was like no other, during the time of the Civil War, with a weapon out of nightmares? It was easy to re-write your history. History is written by the winners after all, and I always win, in the end."
"So…" Thade leaned back, practically beaming. "Do you get in the pod I left for you? Will you try again and again to find me, to stop me next time? That's the funny thing about space travel and worn holes. Who knows where you'll end up? We could do this forever. But before you do, remember this, Leo. If I took your world once, I could do it again." Thade laughed wildly, the image flickering on the screen. "And I will…"
Leo slammed his thumb to the eject button, listening to the roar of sirens outside, the footsteps coming. He looked up at the chimps, tears in his eyes. "He's right…God, he's right."
He threw the disc to the ground and gave them a faint smile. "Can't stay here, Ari, you know that. If I stay, I'll die. I gotta try, I have to. One of these days I'm bound to get it right."
"Leo…" Ari wept openly, hurting for him. Naira kept his arm around her, blinking rapidly to keep his own tears at bay.
Leo nodded to them. "You guys risked everything for me. I won't forget that, I swear. You're like…you're like family." He laughed bitterly. "How sad is that?"
He looked up at Sandar and Riva. "Hold them off long enough for me?"
Sandar nodded, swallowing hard. "As long as I can…"
Leo sighed. "Ari…Naira…you guys," he trailed off, shaking his head.
Naira gestured to him, understanding everything Leo wasn't saying, everything he couldn't say. "Go, boy. Be safe."
Leo hesitated only a second longer before he sat completely in the pod, starting the engines up. He strapped his safety belts on and closed the side door. The pod shook, lifting up from the ground, the engine roaring. He held tight as the pod emerged from the clearing, knocking more debris back.
He rose higher, hovering over the chimps. Leo bit his lip, a tug of hurt in his chest for leaving the two who had risked their lives to try and save him, who'd cared for him when no one else had.
The pod went higher, rising up from the memorial, high above the grounds, above the helicopters circling, above the hundreds of onlookers below, above the many who'd doubt he ever existed, and into the cloudless night, the stars greeting him as he flew across the sky and disappeared from sight.