Landon had enough. He had thrown his lot in with Jacobs and the other scientists but they had turned out to be a bunch of wimps. Cowed by a virus that had killed off most of the human race and the rise up of an inferior species…every time he thought about it, it filled him with disgust.
When the virus had first struck a blow to the population of San Francisco, Landon had waited for it to infect him. Everyone around him died. His few zoo keepers stopped coming to work and then he noticed that the houses around him fell silent. Lights were left on indefinitely, cars were left inside garages or the houses themselves looked like they'd been abandoned. Landon wasn't the most sociable of neighbors and had little to do with those around him after he'd lost his wife. She'd been the glue that had kept the family together. Only his son, Dodge had stuck around after it became time to go out on his own.
But he hadn't known about his son's sadistic streak. Yes, he wanted Dodge to be strong enough of a man to keep the apes in line but he hadn't been smart enough to keep his weakness under wraps.
He didn't say this when Dodge visited him in his dreams or during his waking hours as well. He knew enough about his sanity that Dodge had been killed by Caesar and was lying in a grave back in San Francisco which still awaited its marker. Oh, he'd ordered and paid for it but the city had shut itself down forever before it could be delivered and installed.
It'd been so crazy those last few weeks when humanity still had the upper hand and some semblance of control. Stores had filled up at first including pharmacies as one sure fire cure after another was stumped on the radio and television. The internet promised that if you clicked this link, you'd be cured of the new virus.
Nothing worked of course and it killed almost everyone it touched. It maimed and permanently diminished the capacities of other and yet some…like him were not affected at all. Jacobs' scientists explained the principles of genetic variation and natural selection as if he were a five year old but Landon had been out in the wild often enough to see both in action.
He knew that for whatever reason he was simply immune to it. Jacobs perhaps too but some of his scientists fell in the permanently maimed group. Holding onto the semblance of their cognizant abilities just long enough to come up with the latest viral agent…then they could die or go mad for all he cared.
As for himself, he just wanted to live long enough to find the ape who led the revolution, who killed his son so he could return the favor. Better yet to kill one of Caesar's own progeny but he knew it was imperative that he not live long enough to reproduce. Because if he could pass along the viral mutations to his offspring…humanity was as good as subservient to the apes forever…
Jacobs walked up to him.
"I think we'll be within range of a colony of apes to try out the virus," he said, "In a day or so."
Landon nodded grimly. He couldn't wait for that day to come, that moment to arrive to start turning the tables and then the tide against Caesar and his ape army.
"We don't know how it'll disperse over a larger area or the impact of winds shifts and velocities…terrain…"
Landon just waved his hand.
"It'll work. It's got to work," he said, "This might be our last stand. All the cities have fallen, the towns…all that's left of us is bands of survivors."
"This won't bring the dead back."
Landon knew that most of all, it wouldn't restore his son's life.
"It doesn't have to," he said, "If the apes don't grow in intelligence and numbers then humanity will renew itself."
They kept hiking through the forest which today was shrouded by low clouds. It seemed eerie considering how far inland they were on the continent.
The forest itself had grown so quiet, absent even the sounds of birds or small animals.
Burke looked through his binoculars at the ape encampment. He saw the different types of them working industrially but no signs of any humans. He thought he spotted the one who must be Caesar but he wasn't sure. One large ape with a jagged scar on his face did stand out and if not in charge, he seemed to inspire fear in the others. Still he kept looking, for any signs of Caroline. She was pretty close to her due date and he didn't know if she'd given birth yet and if so, in what circumstances. Had she and the baby survived?
He wanted to find out and as Glen and Ruth walked behind him, he wished more of the other humans had stayed behind. There were a couple of the younger men who were willing though inexperienced. The new world hadn't left too many experienced tacticians and warriors behind. They'd died off just like everyone else and others among them, probably killed in quashing the ape rebellion. After all, Caroline had told him how Caesar had directed an attack against an armed cadre of soldiers and the apes had slaughtered them in a matter of minutes.
"I don't see here anywhere."
Ruth looked through the brush with the binoculars.
"Maybe they're keeping her inside," she said, "especially if the baby's been born."
"How do we know they haven't killed it and her?"
Ruth rubbed her forehead.
"If she's tied to Caesar, lived with him growing up then he probably won't let the others do that. She's also a vet and that makes her invaluable to them…they don't have the medical knowledge yet to treat their own illnesses and injuries."
Burke thought she had an excellent point. Caroline with her experience with apes was hardly expendable to them. That alone might be enough to keep her alive…and her baby long enough so that he and the others could go in and rescue them.
"She'll be fine…she's made it this far."
"I'll feel better when she's out of there."
"You really care about her don't you?"
He paused and nodded. It'd been like that since he first met her and she'd joined them using her veterinary medicine skills to treat humans…until she fell so ill herself. She'd had a different virus, a bad bout of the human flu and being rundown and as it turned out pregnant, she'd nearly succumbed to it. The others had wanted to leave her behind because she slowed them down but Burke refused and he bullied them into taking her with them.
But he'd taken care of her mostly by himself and she'd recovered. He'd lost everyone close to him even before the virus took the people who were left. It became imperative that he not lose her too. Even when she'd told him about the pregnancy, it just made him more determined. He didn't know why but he knew his place was with her and her baby.
Suddenly he saw some movement outside and there she was.
Caroline walked outside, her eyes squinting at the sun which she hadn't seen in a few days. Caesar and Alisa ambled beside her. The ape known as Kobas glared at her and Caesar signed back at him. She saw the other apes working, gathering food and water, materials for shelter. Other humans were doing the harder work around her. She rested a hand on her abdomen feeling that if she didn't have her baby soon, she'd burst. Caesar had been fascinated with her pregnancy as she knew he'd been with Alisa's. She'd received plenty of food to eat and a good place to sleep and during her days, she tended to the medical needs of the apes.
After they stopped harvesting the poisonous plants and berries, no more of them got sick. They were so far away from the natural habitat they'd never seen so finding edible foods that wouldn't kill them wasn't greatly aided by instinct. They had to educate themselves in other ways but now had the intelligence to do that.
Will had to drill that into Caesar when he'd been little. He had tried to eat strange things he picked up just like a child might and had a couple close calls. Something he wouldn't be able to do for their child. She didn't know how she'd raise her baby without him, in a world so radically changed. She'd knew she had to find a way for them both to survive.
Caesar ambled over to her and took her hand in his own. She followed him to where a young orangutan had cut its hand on a piece of sharp metal that must have sheared off of something. She started to look at it while Caesar watched.
She nodded back at him.
He sent one of the younger chimpanzees to retrieve them. The cut wasn't bad but had to be cleaned out and maybe stitched. She would have to go inside and do it so she signed at the orangutan to follow her. It looked at Caesar and he nodded so it followed her into the compound.
Caesar stayed behind and looked around and then suddenly he heard Kobas bellow and frantically sign that he'd seen something.