Chapter 3

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Urko didn't know whether to laugh or growl when he saw Zaius' newest acquisition hover at his desk, but he was in too high mood to let the old fool's taste in women exasperate him today. So he just closed the door a bit more forcefully than necessary.

„What is it with you and young, nubile Chimps?"

Zaius looked up from the scroll the girl was holding under his nose and gave him a crooked smile. „Do come in, Urko." The Chimp hastily rolled up her scroll and retreated into the shadow of one of the council eldest's beloved potted ferns.

Urko accepted the flint and steel that Zaius offered him and lowered himself into a seat. He didn't bother to hide his satisfied smile as he stuffed his pipe. „You heard the news."

„Burke has been captured." Zaius leaned back and took a long draw on his pipe.

„Yes." Urko lit his pipe and took a long draw himself. He smiled at the Orangutan through the smoke. „Just as I promised you."

Zaius didn't look impressed. „One out of four. The others are still at large."

Urko grinned and stretched his legs. „Worried about your book? They'll come to me, no worries - they'll try to free their friend." He chuckled. „Fools."

„Their loyalty is amazing," Zaius said mildly, and Urko frowned. The old man was alluding to his latest report about the incident in the ruined human city - where the humans had tricked his lieutenant into letting them run free in exchange for saving him... though Urko was under no illusions that they'd have been interested in his fate if the other human hadn't been trapped underground with him.

He should've killed Virdon then, while he had the chance.

„Well," Zaius said briskly, „his capture couldn't have come at a better time. We have an experiment-"

„Experiment?" He should've known that the Orangutan would needlessly complicate things. „We don't need no 'experiments'. We'll simply flay that creature in the main place to get our message across. No more alien humans, no more problems." No more dangerous ideas. But there was no need to let Zaius know what he knew by now. Let them think that the dumb Gorilla was just hating the human's guts.

Zaius' eyes were cold. „They've been on the run for more than a month now. Clearly they had help. Don't you think it's important to know who helped them? Who they talked to?"

Urko grunted noncommittally.

„I can almost guarantee you I'll get those answers."

Urko turned slowly to stare at the fern that had dared to speak up. „Who's that?" he growled.

The Chimp shriveled under his glare.

Zaius waved the girl to come closer. „This is Vanda. One of our brightest young scientists-"

Urko snorted. „May I remind you of the clusterfuck that your last 'bright young scientist' produced? Maybe you should give up on them young Chimp wimmin'..."

The girl straightened, clearly annoyed. „I assure you I don't suffer from Zana's... sentimental afflictions. I have no special love for humans." She smiled cheekily. „I'm more a horse girl myself."

„Fascinating," Urko muttered.

„You shouldn't be so dismissive of young Vanda," Zaius said dryly. „She's one of your people - she works for the Cesarian Intelligence Agency. Her topic of research is interrogation techniques. Surely you've read her latest papers."

He hadn't. He was a soldier, and although he was technically also the head of the armed forces' intelligence, he preferred to ignore the secret police. Their work was political, as far as Urko was concerned, and as such, was Zaius' domain. He glared at Zaius, who smiled thinly in response.

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