Chapter 17: Somewhere Only We Know
I walked across an empty land
I knew the pathway like the back of my hand
I felt the earth beneath my feet
Sat by the river and it made me complete
"Hey, pal, how are you feeling?" Burke asked after settling into a chair next to Zeke's bed. He took the hand Zeke reached out and clasped it firmly.
"What was that phrase you used? 'Did you get the number of that truck?'" he smiled weakly.
"Yeah, that's it. Don't worry, Jed'll have you up and around in no time."
"I hear you've been causing all sorts of trouble without me…"
"Well, you know me, trouble is my middle name." He smirked. "I don't know that Mal will ever forgive me, though, for the rest of the Elders finding out about the skeletons in his closet."
"Jed told me. I can't believe our ancestors erased all trace of the gorillas from our histories. Why would they do that?"
"I think they thought it would be easier for people not to remember. If they remembered, they might try to right the wrong that was done. It's been tried in the past by other groups who wanted to revise history to make themselves coming out smelling better. We have a saying—'those who don't remember history are doomed to repeat it'." He shrugged. "I guess we have pretty lousy memories as a race, because we certainly seem to keep repeating the same hit parade of mistakes over and over again." Pause. "But I think Mal will do what's right now that the cat's out of the bag."
"He is a good man, Pete. And a good leader. I may not always agree with him, and we butt heads more often than not, it seems, but he does care about this city and its residents. And that's not just a child's idolatry of his parent talking."
"No, I believe you. I do think Mal has good intentions." Burke cocked an eyebrow. "But sometimes people can do horrible things in the name of good intentions."
Zeke shifted in the bed and winced as the movement pulled on his wound. "So where are Alan and Galen?" he asked.
"Galen rode out this morning with the group going to the gorilla's village to talk to their big poobahs. Misha thinks Galen is some prophesied leader, and that the elders of his village will pretty much do anything he asks. Galen is hoping to talk them all into trying to reach a peaceful resolution with the Council, so they can all live here. I hope it works out."
"Alan," Burke sighed. "Alan went with the security team to take Urko back to Vegas, to drop him in ape controlled territory. Personally, if I never have to look on that nasty piece of work again, it'll be too soon. Hopefully whatever mojo Jed did on Urko's memory holds, and he doesn't come back out here looking for us. We may finally be rid of him entirely."
Zeke smirked. "I can agree with you on that one." He reached up and rubbed at his bandaged shoulder. "Sounds like you've been busy. And that I missed all the good stuff."
"Well, you just gotta get up and around soon then, because we still got a whole lot going on. Alan still wants to make the trip out to Kirtland, and now that the threat of the gorillas is gone, hopefully Mal will agree. And we still need to teach Galen to play poker. I'm telling ya', you and me, we can take the big monkey for everything he's worth. Which admittedly, isn't much, but we'll have the satisfaction of bragging rights."
"Hey, I only got one question for you, Pete." Chuckling, he tilted his head to one side. "What's surfing?"
Burke was sitting vigil by Zeke's beside while he slept, a reversal of the roles they'd assumed over the past weeks, when Mal arrived to visit. Levi had been in and out several times when Zeke was awake, but Mal had been occupied with Council business all day. He was finally able to break away before heading home for some badly-needed sleep. When the door opened and he saw Burke sitting at Zeke's beside, he scowled and almost turned around to leave. Fists clenched at his sides, he forced himself to take a deep breath and relax his hands. As he stared at Burke, his brow smoothed out and a look of resignation touched his eyes.
"Pete, can we talk? Out here," he indicated the waiting room outside the door, "where we won't wake Zeke?"
Burke considered for a moment then unfolded himself from the chair with a sigh. He waved a hand for Mal to go ahead of him through the door. Once the door was closed, they both spoke at once.
"I'm sorry," Burke murmured.
"I didn't mean to—" Mal stopped when he realized what Burke had said. He raised a hand forestall another apology. "Let me say my peace." His wings fluttered in agitation. "I didn't mean to blame you and your friends for what's happened here. I know you didn't have anything to do with Urko convincing the Rephaim to attack the city. From what we've learned, they probably would have attacked sooner or later even without Urko. And having Galen here probably did mitigate the violence and bloodshed."
He suddenly found an examination of his shoes extraordinarily fascinating. "I… I know Zeke thinks very highly of you as a friend. I hope that friendship will continue, and you and Virdon and Galen will consider staying here. We can use some new perspectives and fresh ideas as we try to heal this rift in our city's history."
"Okay. Can I say something now?" Burke asked with a touch of impatience. Mal nodded. "Look, I'm sorry that I doubted your honor and your good intentions. I think the things that we have in common far outweigh the things we disagree on, Malachi." He smiled. "I like it here. And I know Alan and Galen do. I'd be happy to call this home, and I think in time, they will, too."
When Virdon and Galen returned from their travels, the three friends were finally able to settle into their new quarters. They gathered together that night in Burke's rooms for dinner.
"Zeke should be released from the medical center in the next day or two," he told the others. "He's going to need a bit more time to recover and to help the city get back to normal, but that will also give us time to work on planning the excursion to Kirtland. He's agreed to come with us."
"That's fantastic, Pete." Virdon's eyes sparkled with excitement. "I really think the base could give use some solid leads on finding a working ship. "
Burke smiled encouragingly, even though he didn't share Virdon's optimism. But he would do whatever it took to either return Virdon to their time or get him to accept this time as their new home.
"What about you, Galen? You going to come with us to Kirtland, or are you too busy in your new position?"
When Galen had arrived in the gorilla's village with Misha, Grul had been shocked to learn of Urko's behavior. And at first, he hadn't wanted to consider that perhaps he'd been wrong in pronouncing Urko the Shulmanu. But once Misha explained Galen's appearance and his role in the battle, Grul declared that he needed to meditate so that the prophecy could speak to him more clearly.
"Maybe," Galen had told Grul, "when you are choosing a leader, you should look less at signs and portents from the past and more at the heart and character of the ape in front of you. Urko never had your best interests at heart, only how he could use you to further his interests."
In the end, the gorillas decided that they would listen to the Albans' proposals, and try to find a way to live in harmony. And that Galen, if not a sacred leader, would at least be considered a friend and trusted advisor.
"I think I can probably come along. Misha might even be able to help us pass safely through the desert and the city ruins. His people have traveled that area extensively."
"Do you think Misha's people will be able to integrate back into the society here?" Virdon asked. "There are going to have to be a lot of adjustments, on both sides."
"It will take a while. For now, the Rephaim are going to set up their village outside, around the city. But they will get help and education from the people here. It may take a generation, but eventually, they should be able to come live here again."
"So is this it then, Galen? You aren't going to try to go back to your people anymore?" Burke cocked an eyebrow at him.
"Urko may have forgotten where we are, but he hasn't forgotten about who we are or what we've done. If I go back there, I'll still be a wanted ape. I'll miss my family, but these apes need me here. I think I can be happy here."
"Yeah," interjected Virdon, "Urko's going to have a lot of explaining to do when he gets back to Central City, but hopefully we'll have seen the last of him."
"Oh, I think we have." Galen raised the glass of juice he'd been sipping and tilted it toward the others. "I'd like to propose a toast. To a new tomorrow. For all of us."