Darkness.

That was the first feeling that made it's way into his head.  He was aware of the darkness.  That was, in it's own odd way, a good sign.  It meant that he was still alive.

He could here himself breathing.  In and out, in and out.  He sighed to himself, and cracked open his eyes.

Leo opened his eyes to a white ceiling. Sunlight - muted by gauze curtains - made it glow with an ethereal brilliance.

Slowly he flexed his hand.  There were marks in his arm, the blue bruises left by needles.  A lot of them. Beside the bed were stacks of white boxes, monitors, glowing LEDs, medical equipment.  A plastic-looking filament led from them to a translucent plastic bracelet around his wrist.

Dazed, he looked around.

Besides the bed and the medical monitors, the room was bare.  A polished wooden floor with a couple of small heating vents, whitewashed walls, white gauze curtains across a window to the left.  There was a closed door in the far wall and to the right a large mirror.  A camera on servos watched him from a high corner.

*Where the hell am I?*

He sat up, the sheets falling away.  He was wearing some kind of hospital gown. When he tried to stand up he found the wire linking me to the monitor too short.  He pulled the jack out, causing machines to redline, and lurched across to the window.

It was normal glass, not very thick.  There was a wire mesh behind the glass.  Beyond that was a two-story drop to a manicured lawn sloping gently away to a treeline that continued as far as he could see.  Leo flipped the latch on the window, and lifted it up, allowing a small cool breeze to flow into the room.

Suddenly, he spied a movement in the trees.

A man in a wheel chair came into view.  A human.  He stopped, and turned around, calling out to someone.  A jack-Russel suddenly burst forth from the foliage, and bonded after the man in the wheel chair.  The man reached down and patted the dog, as it then jumped into his lap.  The man scratched it behind the ears, and wheeled of out of sight.

Leo let the drapes fall back into place sighed happily, and turned his back.  The camera turned to follow him as he went back to the bed, to sit and put his head in my hands.  Then he looked up at the mirror, seeing himself reflected there.  "Hey?"  He called. "Anyone there?"

"I'm glad to see you up, Capt. Davidson," a female voice replied.  "We were beginning to wonder whether you'd suffered some permanent brain damage."

"Where am I?"  He asked.

"Washington General Hospital," the voice answered.  "Maximum security wing."

"Maximum security?"  Leo asked.

"When we found you outside the Lincoln memorial, you were babbling something about apes, Capt. Davidson.  You weren't responding to anything.  The medics, the Police, so we gave you a sedative, and you passed out."

"Apes?"  Leo replied.  A finger went to his bottom lip in thought.  Was it all a dream?  He did crash down pretty hard.

"Yes, apes," the voice answered.  "We thought it best to put you under some…. Protection, until we could determine the level of your mental stability."  Leo let out a low sob of relief.  It was all a nightmare.  General Thade's temple, the Apes, everything.  It was all behind him.  All in the past.  He was finally home, and safe.  "Are you okay, Captain?"  The voice asked again.

"I couldn't be better," Leo replied, walking back, and sitting down on the edge of the bed.  He ran his fingers through his hair, and scoffed out loud.  "It was all a dam dream."

"Excuse me?"

"Just a dream," Leo said, "That's all."  He looked up back at the mirror, and smiled.

"A… dream?"  The voce replied.  "About apes?"

"It's a long story," Leo answered with a smile.

"I'm not going anywhere too fast," The voice replied, "Care to share it with me?"

"Alright," Leo replied getting back up and walking over to the mirror, "But can I at least see who I'm talking to?"

There was a click, and a second later, the mirror lit up reviling the room behind it.  There where three people there.  A man and a woman in hospital coats, and a man wearing a military uniform.  Leo grinned.

"Are you comfortable?"  The woman asked.

"Yes," Davidson replied, as he pulled up a chair, sat down, and began to explain the whole thing.  It took him close to an hour to go over the adventure he'd had, finishing up with his return to Earth, but he didn't tell them about his nightmare.

"I see," the woman said when he'd finished.  "And how are you feeling now?"

"Hungry," Leo replied.  "Could I have something to eat, rather soon?"

"Of cause, Captain Davidson," the woman answered.  "How would you feel about a banana?"

"I would love one, please!"  Leo said, with a smile.  The woman got up, and left the room.  Seconds later, the door to his room opened, and she walked in, a banana in hand.

"Here you go!"  She said, handing it to him.  Leo snatched it with glee, as he began to peel it away, then started to chow down on the fruit. 

"Thankyou!"  He said between mouthfuls.

"You're a good boy, aren't you," the woman replied, scratching behind his ear.  Leo looked up into the face of a chimpanzee woman, and grinned.

"Okk Okk!"  He chirped happily.

***

Leo cried out in horror, as he leapt forward.  It only took him a second to realise that was a dream.  His arms were frozen in a grab for an invisible object in front of him.  His eyes were wide, and he was breathing in and out at a frantic rate, and he was covered in sweat. 

This time, he could see clearly.

The room he was in wasn't really a room at all.  He was in a starkly-illuminated white cube with padded walls and floor.  The kind of room they'd usually reserve for the special people in white jackets.  There was a sanitary unit in one corner just of to his left, and across the room on the other side were the outlines of what could only be a door.

Slowly, he glanced up towards the ceiling.  Bright lights shone down, glaring off the white padded walls.  There he saw that the roof was nothing more than a huge mirror.  All he could see was a bird's eye view of the room, looking down on the whiteness the toilet and himself.

He swallowed the lump in his throat, and blinked in confusion.  Where was he?  He looked down at himself, wearing a green hospital shirt, and long pants.  No shoes or socks.

For what seemed like hours, he didn't dare move, just glancing around his room with nervous twitching.  Then, a voice bombed down at him.  "Good morning."  The sound of the voice shocked Davidson, and he jerked his head up to look at the glass ceiling.

He just mouthed a few words, with no sound coming before the voice repeated it's self.  "Good morning."  Then asked, "How are you feeling?"

"Where am I?"  Leo finally managed to ask.

"You're safe," the voice replied, "That I can promise you.  Are you feeling any ill effects?"

"What happened?"

"We were hoping you could tell us that," the voice said.  "I must admit, your sudden appearance was somewhat… shocking."

"Shocking?"  Davidson asked, wrinkling his brow.  Suddenly, he backed up into the wall, his eyes wide with fright.  "Are you apes?"  He cried out.  "Please, I have to know!"

There was a moments silence, before the voice answered, "Yes, we are."

"Oh, God," Leo gasped, as he sagged against the wall.  It was real.  It was all real.  The crash, the apes, everything.  "This can't be happening."

"Could we please stick to the topic?"  The voice asked, somewhat irritated.  "Now, how are you feeling?"

"Sick," Davidson groaned, as he clasped his stomach.

"Sick?  How so?"

"Like I want to throw up," Davidson mumbled. 

There was a moments silence, before the voice asked,  "Do you feel like taking in any liquids?"

Whisky.  That was the first thing that went through his mind.  Then again, did they have beer?  Did they know what alcohol was?  Coffee?  Soda Pop?  Davidson went over the list of beverages in his mind, before answering, "Just a glass of water, please."

"It will be brought to you as soon as possible.  Do you feel like some solids?"

Davidson shook his head.  "No," he replied.

"Very well then," The voce answered.  "In the meantime, I suggest that you get some rest.  You received some nasty bruising from that crash."

Davidson frowned, and his hand automatically went to his forehead, and he winced as he touched what felt like bandages.  He looked up at the mirrored ceiling, and blinked.  Nothing more.

Well, if they were apes, like the speaker box claimed to be, then they were a hell of a lot nicer than the last bunch of apes he'd encountered.  He wrinkled his brow in curiosity.  Why?  He's been arrested in front of the Linc --- Thade, Memorial.

Left alone to his own thoughts, Davidson once more began to work his possible theories.  Was this Earth?  Was this the planet he'd just left?  And what hell's name was that cloud?  He drew up his legs, and buried his head into his knees, moaning.

*Christ all mighty, what a freak'n mess.*

He squeezed his eyes shut, and then opened them, just peaking above his knees.  He was still in the bouncy room.  Well, it wasn't leaving fast, and neither was he.  He looked around the room once more, looking for anything to keep his mind occupied.

Nothing.

Damn, what he wouldn't give for a deck of cards.  He voiced a small chuckle, remembering that time back on the ship, when he'd been invited to learn how to play the game of solitaire.  He'd quoted it being, 'The most boring game in creation.'

Well, being solitary now, he'd given his right arm to now how to play that game.  Hell, even a bouncy ball would be nice, so he could follow in the steps of Steve McQueen. 

And idea waved it's self in front of his mind, but he quickly pushed it aside.  He looked around the room again, and licked the moisture from his lips.  The room was still the same it had been 5 seconds ago.

The idea resurfaced, and he grunted in frustration.

Well, it was better than nothing.

He leaned back, and started humming, as the words floated through his head.

Ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall, Ninety-nine bottles of beer.

You take one down, you pass it around --

Ninety-eight bottles of beer on the wall, Ninety-eight bottles of beer on the wall.

You take one down, you pass it around --

Ninety-seven bottles of beer on the wall…

***

For what seemed like an hour past, before the door to the cell clicked.  He was interrupted, as he stoped counting down, and looked at the door.  There was a silence, after the click, then a low 'humming' sound.  The built up quickly, and cut off, as a low pitched whin sounded as the door split apart in three ways, and vanished into the wall.

A green suited figure stepped in through the door.  It was an ape, he could see that clearly.  The hand like feet, and the almost jet black fur, sticking out from the pants, shirt, and collar.  The ape also wore a germ free mask, and carried a metal try with a tall plastic cup, with no lid.  He then took a step forward, and placed the cup on the ground, before leaving, taking the try with him.

Well, brief as it was, it happened, and confirmed at least one thing.  They were apes.  So for the millionth time, where the hell was he?  He eyed the glass, and felt the need to drink.  He got up, legs wobbling a bit as he did so, and walked over to get the cup.  As he drank from it, it felt icy cold, and almost stung his throat on the way down. 

He then walked back and sat down.  Man, that was some great water.  He drank from it again, but didn't receive the same stinging sensation.  He lowered the glass again and gasped for breath.  When was the last time he'd had a proper drink of water?

Too long.

He finished the cup off in no time, and placed it down beside him.  He looked around the room.  Well, now what?

"Did you enjoy that?"  The sudden explosion of loud noise startled Davidson some what, that he nearly jumped.

"Yes," he replied, "Thankyou very much."

"You're welcome," the voice said.  "So, do you feel like talking now?"

"Talking?"  The question surprised him.  "Talk about what?"

"Like, who are you?"  The voice asked.  "Where are you from?  What were you doing?"  The voice fell silent, as if waiting for him to answer.

"I am Captain Leo Davidson of the United States Air Force."  He replied.  "I am the sole surviving crew member of the United States Research Station Oberon."

"Sole survivor?"  The voice asked.  "Was there an accident?"

Leo narrowed his eyes at the bitter memory.  None of this would've happened if he'd just followed orders and stayed were he was.  "You could say something like that."  Davidson grumbled.  There was a hesitation from the box.

"Is something wrong?"  The voice asked.

"Nothing," Davidson replied.  "Just bad memories, that's all."

"What happened to you?"

Jeeze, why wouldn't this guy lay off?  "I lost a lot of good friends, that's all," Davidson replied, slightly agitated. 

"Would you care to shed some light on this… accident?"  Davidson gave the mirror a dirty look.

"Could we talk about something else?"  He cried out.  "I don't particularly like reliving those events."

"Perhaps some other time then," the voice answered.  In his mind, Leo said, *Perhaps, never.*  "This place you come from, This – United States?"

"That's right," Davidson said.

"Where is it?"

"Well, if I could answer that question, I would.  To be honest, I'm not so sure myself, anymore."

"What do you mean by that?"

"I don't understand most of it myself," Leo said, "You see, this planet, the one we're on, it looks identical to my planet."

"Identical?"

"Exactly the same," Davidson replied, "The continents, the size, everything.  It looks exactly like my home.  What's the name of this place?"

"You are on the east coast of the High Continent."

High Continent?  Was that the new name for North America?  "Dose the name, North America, sound familiar?"  Davidson asked.

"No," the voice replied.  "Is that we're your are from?"

"Yes," he answered, "That's my home.  Tell me, what planet is this?"

"This, this is Jhade."  Davidson wrinkled his brow.  "It's a name from an old language.  It means three.  This is the 3rd planet from the sun after all."

Davidson shrugged.  The name for his planet, latterly meant ground.  Why not.

"Why am I being kept here?"  Davidson asked.

"For you own safety," the voice answered.

"Safety?"  Davidson nearly laughed.  "From who?"

"We'll answer that question later.  Now, how exactly did you arrive here?"

"I think the whole city would know that," Davidson answered with a chuckle. 

"I mean, your point of origin?  Where did you take off from?"

"Well," Davidson scratched the back of his head, "I'm not really sure of that ether."

"Well," the voice although it was electronically muffled, sounded rather agitated.  "What are you sure of?"

"Okay," Davidson replied, "Out past Sat --- I mean, the fifth planet from the sun, is some sort of strange cloud.  Now, before you ask, NO, I do not know what that is ether.  I passed through that cloud, and came here."

"Because it looked like, Earth?"

"Yes," Davidson replied.  "I set course for this planet, and --- well, you know the rest."

"This cloud, it's past the fifth planet?"  The voice asked.

"Yes," Davidson replied.  "It should still be there."  He blinked, then in his mind, said, *It'd better be there.*

"That you for your cooperation, Captain," the voice replied after a few short moments of silence, "We will be in touch later on."

"Huh?"  Davidson gaped up at the mirror.  "Wait!"  He cried out, standing up, "I still have some questions to ask you!"  No reply.  "Hey, hello!?"  Still no reply.  "HEY!!  WHAT ABOUT MY QUESTIONS!?!?!"  He waited for what seemed like five minutes, before snarling something obscene, and sitting back down again.

He looked about the room once more, then down at his empty cup.  Looking inside it again, proved that it was still empty.  He sighed and let it drop to the padded floor, before looking up at the mirror once more.

Still nothing.

He rolled his eyes, and leaned his head back against the padded wall, and picked up, where he'd left off.

Seventy-two bottles of beer on the wall, Seventy-two bottles of beer.

You take one down, you pass it around –

Seventy-one bottles of beer on the wall…

***

Despite the loneliness, he'd actually fallen asleep.  It was only when the door whirred open, did he wake once more.  The same nameless, faceless ape brought him another metal tray.  This time, it contained what looked like food.  He put the try down, and backed out once more.

Once the door was closed, Davidson got up and walking over, bent down and inspected the try he'd been brought.  Hmmm, mostly vegetables, and some strips of what only could be -- beef?  He picked one up, and sniffed it.

Well, all the same, it was meat.  He placed it in his mouth and tried some.  Hmmm, not bad.  He quickly polished off the rest of the meal, and sat back down in his favourite place.

So what now?

He was sick and tired of singing the beer bottle song, and was desperate for something to help ease the boredom.  The scenery wasn't much to look at.  There wasn't anything to look at.  Except himself.

Speaking of which, he was going to need a shave soon.  He scratched at the bristly hairs already sprouting through. 

"How was that?"  The voice asked.  "Was it to your liking?"

"Oh, back so soon?"  Leo said with a smile.

There was a moment of silence, before, "Please, no jokes.  We would appreciate cooperation."

"You have my undivided attention," Davidson replied.

"Excellent," the voice said, then "Our satiate probes have found this – cloud of yours, not far out from the fifth planet, from which you came from."  Part of Davidson cried out with joy.  It was still there.   There was still hope.

"I told you so," he said with a grin.

"So you did," the voice answered.  "In the mean time, your craft, would you know how it's made?"

"I'm a pilot, not a mechanic," Davidson said bluntly, "I only fly them, I don't make them."

"Okay," the voice said, "Then would you be able to recognise some parts, things that could be fixed, replaced, repaired?"

Davidson scratched his cheek.  "I think so," he answered honestly, "But I would have to take a look first.  Asses the damage done, check the engines, the power cells, the navigation computer.  I can't remember everything at the moment, but quite a lot of equipment was damaged in the crash."

"That's okay," the voice answered. "We would just be interested in the engine.  We can replace what ever is necessary, but the engine is our mane concern."

Well, what ever their motives, they were right.  The engine was the most important part.  No Engine, no go. 

"I'll do what I can."  Davidson replied.

"Thankyou, Captain," the voice said, that will be all for now."  Then, silence.

They were interested in his Pod Craft?  Davidson began to wonder about their level of technology.  Sure they were hundreds of years ahead of the apes he'd last seen, but how far behind humans were they?  They had computers, cars, helicopters, and space probes.  What else did they have?

Or, what else didn't they have.  Perhaps his Pod Craft was something more advanced than they had?  That seemed most likely.  If then, perhaps he could bargain his way off this planet.

He half smiled, as wheels began turning in his head.  They were nice enough to feed him, and not try and outright kill him.  Maybe, just maybe, if he played his cards right, he could get another shot at that damned cloud.

They did admit that they were capable of reaching space.  Did they send up maned spacecrafts like in the middle half of the 20th century?  If not, maybe he could push them in that direction.  Then again, what would this do to their society?  He wondered if he should be advancing their technology.  What would his interference do to them?  To their way of life?

If technology had been advanced during the Cold War, would World War 3 have erupted?  Who knows?  Then again, Leo didn't give a squat about the apes or their culture.  The only thing he cared about was how he would get home!

Leo frowned for a moment.  Well, he really did care about one ape.  Ari.  The humanist.  The only ape who'd shown him kindness during his visit to her world.  He sighed softly.  If not for her, he wouldn't have made it this far, and in fact, he probably wouldn't have made it at all. 

He was responsible for the creation of the Planet of the Apes, and quite possibly, this world too.  He scoffed at that.  Possibly.  Who knows.  Still, before he kissed this rock good-bye, he would like to know what this planet was.  Why it was so simular to Earth, and where the hell did he go?  From the short glimpse he had of the other planet he'd just left, it sure as hell didn't look anything like Earth.

So what happened?  So many questions, and so few answers.  It seemed that every time he went looking for questions, he found a dump truck load of more even mind boggling questions.

He shrugged his shoulders, in defeat.  Right now, he wasn't coming up with anything.  And he was starting to feel sleepy.  With a yawn, he stretched out, lay down on the floor, curled up, and tried to go to sleep.

***

The sound of the door opening drew him back to consciousness.  He blinked the sleep out of his eyes, and looked over at the door.

There was something new in the doorway.  A single chimpanzee stood there in the green germfree gear, looking directly at him.  What was different was that the ape carried nothing for him, and past her, he could see four big, burley looking gorilla's in army get up, carrying assault rifles.  They held them in a ready position, not quite taking aim at him, but more than capable of shooting in case the need arose.

The figure stared at him for some time, then spoke.  "Good morning, Captain Davidson."  The voice was female.

"Uhh, Good morning?"  Davidson replied.

"Yes, although you can't tell this far underground, it is early morning."  Davidson absentmindedly looked at his wrist, but found no watch.  Man, what he wouldn't give for the time.

"Do you feel like going for a walk?"  She asked.

"A walk?"  He raised an eyebrow.  "Walk to where?"

"Maybe you would like to find out?"  She held out her right paw to him.  Davidson looked at it, looked at her face, to the guards outside, then back to the paw again.  "I promise you," she replied, "I won't bite."

Slowly, he rose to his feet, his knees cracking as he rose.  She looked him in the eyes, hopefully, and he carefully, with slow deliberate movements, reached out, and took her paw in his hand.

Her fingers closed gently around his hand, and she smiled beneath her mask.  Although, Leo thought she smiled.  It was hard to tell what was going on behind that plastic helmet.

She gave a gentle tug on his arm, as she turned towards the door, and Leo, automatically followed her.  As he exited the room, he saw that there were not four gorilla solders.  There were ten.  Five to the right, five to the left.  All of them wearing army germ-free suits.  Their faces were completely covered with bulky black gas masks.  Only their apparent size and bulk confessed to the world, they were gorillas.

A few fingers flexed on their weapons, as he came outside the room.  In front of Davidson, was a very short hallway, which ended in a door that looked very much like the one to his own cell. 

"Come on," the female urged him on.  Five of the gorillas moved ahead of them, while the other five, guarded the rear.  They took the six second walk to the other door, and paused, while a guard opened it with a key card.

The door beeped at him, and a green light shone.  There was a hum, and then a click, and the guard pushed the door open.  The five solders stepped through, and the female then took Davidson through the door.

They stepped out into a much larger open area.  Davidson stopped and looked up, looking in awe at what he was in.  It was a three-level well of technology, with military technicians, scientists, and guards, all moving about, doing their daily functions.  In the centre of the room, was a large square cube, with another room on top of that.  Catwalks from the second level ran across the air above him like a web, leading towards that second room.  That's where the mirror lead too.

Apes, of all kinds, stopped and looked down at him.  There were three kinds he could recognise from their shape.  Chimpanzee scientist, Gorilla solders, Orang tangs who did God knows what, and a few other shapes he couldn't make out.  All of them wore germ-free suits.  It made Davidson feel nervous, and his eyes kept floating around the room, trying to soak in every bit of microscopic detail.

"It's alright," the female said, stroking his hand with her free paw.  "It's alright.  Come on."  She tugged gently on his arm, motioning with her head towards a huge set of metallic sliding double doors, just in front of them.

Slowly, he followed her towards the doors.  All the apes above him on the three levels watched as he walked across the cold metal floor towards the doors.  Another gorilla solider, standing by the door, saluted the head soldier in Davidson's party, then turned about, and stuck his key card into a slot, and punched in a bunch of numbers. 

The door then slid open with a slow rumbling sound, and they walked on through.  This door led to what could only be described as a shuttle rail.  A small cab on a monorail.  Although there were lights all along the ceiling of the tunnels, the tracks led off into the darkness in both directions. 

"Inside," the female indicated with her free paw towards the cab.  His front guard climbed inside, followed by the female and himself, then his rear guard.  The door to the cab closed with a soft hiss, and then, with a quick jolt, it began to move forward.

With the ten solders and the other two guests, it was quit a squeeze in the cab, yet somehow, the solders managed to keep their distance from Davidson, but they never took their eyes of him, or their paws of their weapons.

The ride took about ten minutes.  All the way, the female keep – what he thought was – smiling, and occasionally patting his leg as if to reassure him.  Man, all these Germ Free suits, it made Davidson wonder weather or not he had the Black Plague.

Still, what if…

He wasn't given time to think, when the ride suddenly came to an abrupt end, when bright lights flooded the cab, and their speed decreased dramatically.  When the cab stopped, the solders all got to their feet, and the doors hissed open.  The front guard filled out, and the female stood up, urging him onward.  He stood up, and followed her.

They came to another set of huge double doors, identical to the ones he'd seen before.  The same opening proses took place, and they walked through into a new room.

It was all white, with bright lights shining from the ceiling.  Suddenly, something with a plasticy feel was shoved into his arms.  "Here."  Davidson was confused. 

"What?"  He asked.

"Put this on," the female said, "It's for your own protection."  Davidson unfolded the green plastic thing in his arms, and held it up to the light.  It was a personalised Germ-free suit.  "Put it on."  The female urged.  Davidson shrugged, and did as he was told. 

The moment he finished.  There was a loud buzzing sound and the lights changed.  There was a vacuum that swept the room, and then, it was gone.  The lights changed back to normal, and all the apes climbed out of their suits.

That scared Davidson to the core. 

"What the hells wrong with me?"  He asked in a small voice.

"Nothing's wrong with you," the female said reassuringly, patting his arm.  "We need to take precautions, that's all."  She smiled at him and he saw it clearly this time.  "You're fine."  One more final pat.

The doors on the other side of the room buzzed open, and they all filed out into another room.

This looked more like the junction point for three tunnels.  One in the centre, and two of on the other sides.  They went through the tunnel on the left.  This tunnel led to an elevator, much like the one he'd taken into this place when he first arrived.  The doors closed once everyone was inside, and with a jolt, the elevator started to ascend.

To both Davidson's surprise and amusement, the lift had music.  Soft tunes that tingled in the background.  He nearly chuckled, but instead, raised one side of his mouth.

The elevator suddenly stopped, and with a pleasant 'ding,' the doors opened.

Wherever he was, it wasn't in the entrance he'd come through.  This place reminded Davidson of an aircraft hanger.  Support beams laced the ceiling, with raised platforms here and there.  All sorts of arcane aircraft lay in parts all over the place.  Jets, helicopters, engines, wings, even a car was parked off in the corner.

And the noise.  It sounded like a machine shop.  Buzzaw's buzzing, welding torches, drills, ratchets, hammers, and above it all, the shouting of orders.

The centrepiece of the whole room was a burn half damaged white tadpole looking craft that Davidson knew very well.  Most of the room's occupants were crowded around it.

Due to the noise and the shouting, and despite sticking out in the green suit, hardly anybody saw or even noticed Davidson as he passed, with his entourage, across the room.  Those who did see him, took some time out from their work to gawk at him, before their superiors yelled at them to get back to what they were doing.

Finally, he reached the other side of the hanger, and was ushered through a low tunnel, that had doors on every side.  Hey walked own the tunnel about halfway, before making a right, and through a normal door.  The inside of this room, was almost a dark creamy colour, with a long rectangular wooden table towards the back of the room.

On the opposite side of the table to Davidson, were a number of chimpanzees, all dressed in white lab coats, with a number of folders before them, and pieces of his Pod Craft – ranging from metal casings, to internal circuitry -- scattered from one end of the table to the other.  On ether end of the table, were two gorillas, dressed in Air Force blue.

Just before the table, were two armless chairs.  The female led Davidson towards the chairs, and urged him to sit down.  Once he did, she sat down next to him. 

"Comfortable?"  The chimpanzee in the centre of the table asked.

"Yeah," Davidson replied with a small shrug of his shoulders.  His voice sounded odd through the plastic suit.

"Good," the chimpanzee replied, and reaching into his lab coat, and pulled out a pair of broad rimmed spectacles.  Davidson had to bite his lip in order to stop himself from laughing at the image before him.  He adjusted the glasses, then peered long and hard at Davidson.  "Do you know why you are here?"

"No," Davidson replied.  "To be honest, I haven't gotten a straight answer from anyone from the moment I touched down."

"Yes," the chimp replied, "The past 24 hours have been somewhat, confusing for all of us, but I believe we can finally make some headway."

"Where exactly am I?"  Davidson asked.

"A government facility," the gorilla on the left answered before anyone else could.  "And that's all you need to know."

"Uhh, thankyou Colonel," the chimp replied.  "But before you ask any more questions, there are some questions we would like to ask."

Davidson was about to protest, but didn't.  Maybe if he cooperated with these apes, he might get home much sooner.  Besides, getting home was more important to him than finding out answers.  "Okay," he said.  "Ask away."

"Your space craft."  Chimp began, as he opened up a folder in front of him.  "We can't seem to identify its power source.  Is it Nuclear powered or powered by fossil fuels?" 

"Nether," Davidson replied.  "It's a combination of solar power, and hydrogen burning."

"Hydrogen?"  The chimp asked.  "Solar?"

"Solar power, is power taken from the rays of the sun.  Special solar cells collect the energy and convert it into power for the Pod.  However, that only acts as backup power for the Pod.  The Pod's main and primary source of power, is its Hydrogen cells."

"Can you explain about the Hydrogen cells, please?"

"I'll try my best," Davidson replied.  "But remember, I'm a pilot, not a scientist."

"We understand," the chimp answered.  "Just tell us what you can."

"Our vehicles and aircraft used to be powered by burning a fossil fuel called Petroleum.  However, this proved to be very pollutant.  And answer was found in Hydrogen.  Now, all our vehicles and Aircraft, are fuelled by Hydrogen and Oxygen produced electrolytically from water with energy from the atomic engines of the OBERON."

"The what?"  Another chimp asked.

"That was the name of the space station I came from."

"Where is that now?"

"It's…  Been destroyed."  Davidson said.

"Oh," the chimp said, "please, continue."

"That's all I basically know," Davidson replied with a shrug.  "Science was never my strong point."

"Thankyou Captain Davidson," the chimp said.  He picked up another folder, and opened that up.  He turned to the chimp on his left, and they whispered back and forth to each other for a minute, before the chimp on the left, turned towards Davidson.

"The Pod's engine is something we'd also like to discus," he looked down at the folder the head Chimp handed him, and pulled out a sheet of paper, reading it over carefully.  "It appears to be some sort of advanced anti-gravity drive, that we can not comprehend." 

"The VTOL system."  Davidson replied.

"The what?"

"VTOL," Davidson replied, "Vertical Take Off and Landing.  It works on the principles much of the common magnet, but on a more advanced level.

"Please explain."

"In the late 20th Cen…  About thirty years ago, a group of scientist discovered a new propulsion system for submarines."

"What's a submarine?"  One chimp asked.

"A submersible vessel," Davison replied.  "In simpler terms, it's a boat that travels under water."

"Under water!?!"  They all cried out. 

"I have enough trouble just looking at a lake," one said rather loudly.

"Alright, alright," the Head Chimp said, settling down his colleges.  "Now, what about this propulsion system?"

"They used electrically charged magnets to ionise the molecules in the water around the rear of the vessel.  Because positive and Negative ions repel each other it helped push the sub along.  Later on, as time passed, scientist discovered a way to ionise the Earth Magnetic field that controls gravity.  It helped give much need lift to space crafts, instead of relying on the explosion of a chemical reaction."

"That's how we lunch our rockets," the chimp answered. 

"Yes, but only to exit the planet's atmosphere.  Once out in space, it's pretty much useless.  That's when we rely on the Hydrogen cells, and the solar batteries."

"So, how fast is this, Pod Craft of yours capable of going?"  A different Chimp asked.

"That's unknown," Davidson answered.  "Out in space is the only area it's designed for speed.  Due to there being no friction in space, the Pod keeps accelerating until it is made to slow down by using manoeuvring thrusters.  We mainly used the Pods for close to home exploration, and none of them ever left sight of the OBERON.  My flight from the Fifth planet to your planet took less than two hours because of my increased build up of speed.  The sudden introduction of friction to the Pod is what I believed cause me to crash." 

"Hmmmm," the chimp hummed, as he opened a folder of his own, and started to read.  He then turned to the head chimp and said, "Reports I've received from the technicians state that the landing gear of the craft malfunctioned moments before impact."

"Tell me," Davidson asked, "Is my craft reparable?" 

The head chimp shrugged his shoulders.  "The technology on your craft is unknown to us, but it is not difficult.  Most of the Pod was kept intact, despite the ruff landing."  The chimp to his right handed him a few a pages, and he looked them over, before continuing.  "External damage only includes the outer hull, the landing gear, and the VTOL engine."  He gave a half shrug using his right arm.  "We may have to try and reverse engineer our own VTOL engine in order to fully return it to operating status."

"If that's the case, then I'll be glad to help you in any way that I can," Davidson said.

"You would agree to help us?"  The head chimp asked.

"If it could meaning getting another chance at the strange cloud to get home, then I'll do what ever it takes," Davidson replied.  He then paused.  "Providing it doesn't require me to kill anyone."

The chimps all started talking among each other.  As they talked, Davidson began to wonder wether he was doing the right thing.  Revealing to them his only plan he'd managed to come up with.  Then again, they might have asked him why he would be whiling to help them, and if he didn't answer, or lied, it might make them suspicious of him.

Well, what ever would happen, cooperation would have to be his tool for the moment.  Or at least until a better deal came along.

"We accept your offer, Captain Davidson," the chimp said.  "If you allow us to attempt to unlock the secrets of your craft, we'll help repaired it so you can leave."

Just like that, huh?

"Deal."  Davidson said.

"Excellent," the head chimp beamed, clapping his feet paws together, which drew Davidson's attention.  "We'll start first thing tomorrow.  In the mean time, I suggest you get some rest."

"Ahh, just one question if you don't mind," Davidson said, tugging at the plastic helmet on his head.  "When can I take this off?"

"Just for the time being," the head chimp said, "It'd be best for you, if you keep wearing it outside your facility."  Davidson narrowed his eyes.  Was there something he wasn't being told.

"Okay," he said.  "Is there anything else I should know while we're on the subject?"  There was a slight hesitation.  "Hey," Davidson reminded them, "I'm being truthful with you guys, how about you return the favour."

"All will be explained in time," the gorilla on the far left answered.  "In the mean time, and for your own safety, you will be kept here at this facility."

Davidson opened his mouth to protest, but closed it again, and just nodded.  "Alright," he said, "But just remember, if you want my cooperation, I'm going to need yours."  No one spoke, but just nodded in reply.

"Thank you for your time, Captain Davidson," the head chimp replied.  "Dr. Shiva," he then said, to the female chimp who'd spent the entire time beside Davidson, "You can return him to his room now."

"Thank you Professor Kharim," she answered.  "Come on, Captain, let's go."  She held out her paw to Davidson, who took it, and together, they left the room, closely followed by the personal guard.

***

Davidson, free of this suit, was returned to that white cube Prof. Kharim had promptly titled 'His Room.'  Room?  He'd had barracks with better living conditions that this.  No bed, no bathing facilities, and no privacy. 

That disturbed him somewhat, knowing that his every movement photographed, his every sound recorded.  Now he knew what it was like being a celebrity. 

When he'd been deposited back in his room, he turned around to watch the female chimp leave.  What was her name again?

"Dr. Shiva?"  He called out.  She stopped and turned around in one fluent motion. 

"Yes?"  Her voice somewhat muffled by the suit she now wore.

For a few seconds, Davidson just stood there, blinking.  Okay, now what?  He'd gotten her attention.  Now he didn't know what to say.

"Yes?"  She asked again.  She didn't sound impatient. 

"Uhh," he mumbled, "I've been meaning to ask you.  Who are you?"

"Who am I?"  She seemed a little confused.  "You already know that."

"No," he said, "I know your name, but who are you?  Why are you here?  What is all this?"  His arms swept the small room.

"I'm just a doctor, assigned by the heads of this facility to look after you," she answered.  "As for this place, I'm not at liberty to explain."

"Not you too," Davidson moaned. 

"Now, please," she said, trying to reassure him, "Don't get like that.  There's no need."

 "No need?  No need for what?  Asking questions?"  He turned and pointed at the opposite end of the room, as if pointing to the rest of the world outside.  "What's out there that's so dangerous to me?  What's out there that I can't know about, just yet?"

"Please," Shiva pleaded, holding up both her paws, trying to calm him down, "If you'll just bear with us for a little while longer.  I promise you, all will be explained, but just not right now."

"Why?"  Davidson asked, throwing up his arms in confusion.  "Why can't it be told to me right now?  I'm not going anywhere fast?  I've got all day for you to talk to me," his arms swept over his body, "So here I am."

"I'm so sorry, Captain," she, backing off, "But I can't."  Then she turned around, and the door closed with a hiss.

"Short, but pointless."  Davidson muttered, as he turned about, and sat down.

*What the hell is going on around here?*

Davidson looked up at the mirrored ceiling, as if expecting the voice to answer that question for him.  Nothing happened.  He shrugged and grunted in frustration.  Nothing had been answered for him, while he'd answered all their questions.  That hardly seemed fair.

Then, what had happened to him in the past few days wasn't fair at all.  He'd been responsible for the destruction of the OBERON, and the worst possible future imaginable for his crewmates.

It seemed that life was giving him his punishment in the best way it could.

Still, they did promise to tell him everything.  But then again, when would that be?  Tomorrow?  Next week?  A month?  What if they weren't going to let him go?  What if they really planed to just do away with him once he'd given them what they wanted, or…

Davidson shuddered visibly.  Get a grip, it can't be that bad.  Can it?  Davidson looked up at the mirror once more.  Could it?  Would it?

In the mean time, Davidson would have to plan.  He would make a note of everything.  Every guard, every camera, every code.  Every little detail that could be imagined would have to be noted and memorised.

If he was going to escape.

That would be a challenge in it's self, since he would be monitored 24/7.  But even in the toughest armour, there is always a weak spot.  He'd just have to find it.  He escaped one planet, and if the need ever arose, he would have to escape this one as well.

Let them watch him like a hawk.  Let them fuss over this and that.  They can have their agendas, and he would have his.  He smiled to himself, as he curled up on the floor, and tried to get some sleep until lunch would arrive.

They wouldn't have a camera inside his head.

***

Watching the TV monitor screen, the gathered apes watched as Dr. Shiva sighed as the door leading to Davidson's cell closed behind her.  Professor Kharim drummed his fingers on his chin, as she glanced over her shoulder at the door, then slumped off.

"You know, it may sound crazy," a chimp scientist said, looking at his comrades, "But I do believe she's getting rather close to him."

"A little too close for my liking," one of the uniformed Gorilla's said.

"But her only purpose is to act as a mediator between us and the human."

"And as a camera inside his head," Kharim added, without looking away from the screen. 

"I really don't see the need, myself," the other Gorilla said.  "What's the harm?"

"What's the harm?"  Kharim said, turning to face the ape.  "He's unlike anything we've ever come across before, that's the harm.  Sentience can be very harmful, and we need --- no, we must know how he thinks."  He then picked up the remote, and pressed a button.  The imaged jumped from the one outside the cell door, to one inside.

Davidson lay on the floor, curled up, looking very much asleep.  "Is he really sleeping?"  Another chimp asked.  "It's not that early in the morning, and it's had no interviews since yesterday.  So why would it do that?"

"Maybe it has something with the fact that he has nothing to do," another chimp commented.

"Maybe he's just thinking," another chimp added.

"What about?"

"Probably whether he can trust us or not," Kharim replied.

"Huh?"  The chimp who'd asked the question looked stumped.  "Why?  He just told us himself that he'd help us in any way that he could?"

"That's no guarantee," a gorilla replied. 

"And keeping things from him is going to stretch his trust of us quite possibly to the breaking point," Kharim said.  "That's if it hasn't already."

"With the demands he made of the good doctor," the gorilla said, "I wouldn't be surprised."

"So what are we going to tell him."

"What about?"

"About… you know."  He made circular motions with his right paw.

"Not right at this point in time, that's for sure," a gorilla answered.  "Telling him the truth could jeopardise everything.  It may even turn him against us."

"May?"

"It's a human for crying out loud," the gorilla cried, "like Kharim said earlier, who knows how he thinks."

"So what do we tell him for the moment?"  There was silence all round.

"Nothing," the gorilla replied.  "We tell him nothing."

TO BE CONTINUED…

Wow, it's been nearly a year since I last did anything with this story, and people have always asked, when am, I going to update?  Well, finally I have, and hopefully, it won't take as long as it did to update.  Hope you stay with me until then. 

Lien.