The mocking program by Alan Dean Foster

The bonobo’s enormous grin reappeared. “Ciudad is best. Not many human visitors. You talk Sorong.”

“Sorry,” Cardenas replied. “I don’t mean to bore you.”

“No, no!” Joe slapped his chest in amusement. “Sorong head of Ciudad. Very bright guy, you see. Genius, some human research folk say. Nice fella, too—even if no bonobo.”

It was disconcerting to see a guarded gate in the midst of so much magnificent, undisturbed jungle, but Cardenas supposed it could not be avoided. He remarked on the absence of fencing.

“Reserva,” Joe explained as the truck began to slow. “Animals need freedom to move around.”

Cardenas nodded. “The local Ticos don’t kill them if they wander outside the Reserva boundaries?”

Joe shook his head. “Tourists come to see wildlife. No wildlife, no tourists. No tourists, no money. People know. Even humans understand.”

As they approached the gate, the Inspector remembered his history. “They didn’t always. Tell me, Joe: are you happy that some human scientists manipulated”—he almost said “monkeyed with”— “the intelligence of your ancestors?”

The bonobo shrugged. “Sure. As means for communication, speaking words beats screaming and throwing your excrement every time. Joe can still ouk-ouk with the best of them, but language better. Feel sorry for the little guys, though.” With a jerk of a thumb, he indicated the baboons in back. “They just no get it.” He tapped his throat with the back of his free hand. “Anyway, no room in here to lower their larynxes. Larynx stays up, no possible to have real speech. Just like in human babies in first three months.”

Cardenas was not sure what to expect as they neared the Simiano compound. An absurdist vision of crenellated battlements manned by armored chimpanzees clutching crossbows and slings harked back to novels of fantasy he had read as a boy. The reality was far simpler and more prosaic. They passed a succession of signs warning travelers that they were approaching a restricted area that could not be entered without prior authorization, then an automatic gate that recognized the truck and rose to let them through, before finally crossing a narrow, well-maintained bridge. The modest river it crossed was no moat, but effectively served the same purpose.

The headquarters compound was no different from what the two visitors might have expected to find in a comparable human zone: small prefab buildings designed to withstand the elements scattered about a trio of slightly larger, more solid, two-story structures. Several were evidently dedicated to ongoing scientific research, though whether these studies focused on the rainforest or the residents of the Ciudad the Inspector did not know. Primates of various species swung above the compound on a network of synthetic fiber ropes. Beneath these aerial pathways, larger apes ambled about.

“Have our own laws and regulations here.” Disdaining the door, the bonobo vaulted effortlessly over the side of the truck. Baboons spilled from the rear bed, while Hyaki disembarked more slowly. The rough ride had been hard on his still-healing skin. “Take care of ourselves.”

They drew curious stares as they walked toward the main building. Cardenas indicated the nearest research facility. “Who works in there?”

Their host drew his upper lip back to expose teeth in a huge smile. “You mean, humans or us? Mostly humans. No ape got university degree—yet. Have enough trouble trying to get CAF allow us to vote.” He spread gray-black arms wide. “You tell me, man. What am I—citizen, or exhibit? Is this town, or zoo?”

“I’m just a guest,” Cardenas replied tactfully. “I don’t have enough knowledge to even begin to discuss the subject.”

Joe executed a perfect backflip, out of which he jabbed a long finger in the Inspector’s direction. “Someday humans got to take a stand.” He started up the steps. A wide covered porch ran around the building. There were no chairs on the plastic flooring, only lounges, hanging baskets, and a couple of swings made from old truck tires.

There was no receptionist. With its rooms largely devoid of furniture, glassless windows, and open doorways, the entire structure had the air of a jungle hostel. Reaching the rear of the building, they found that they had passed through the entire structure. A second covered porch in back overlooked a steep slope, allowing a view into the rainforest canopy.

“Leave you here now.” The bonobo gave them each a hearty slap on the back that jolted Cardenas slightly forward and made even Hyaki wince. “Joe got work to do. You talk to director a while. Get your answers.” He winked broadly. “Maybe Joe see you later.”

“Wait a minute,” Hyaki began—but the chimp had already turned and scrambled off on all fours back into the building. “That’s just fine,” the sergeant muttered. “What now? Where’s this ‘director’?”

A gray mountain that Cardenas had assumed to be a decorative stone sculpture uncoiled from the far end of the porch and started toward them on all fours.

Both men held their ground. Maybe it was the two hundred kilos of muscle that made him hesitate, or the knowledge that those long silvery arms could pull off his legs as easily as he would remove drumsticks from a Christmas turkey, or the jaws that could crush bone like popcorn, but Cardenas felt that flight was not an option.

The huge silverback gorilla halted less than a meter away. Then it sat down before them, crossed both legs, placed massive hands against one another palm to palm, and inclined its head forward in a terse nod of acknowledgment.

“Welcome to Ciudad Simiano, gentlemen.” One hand gestured at a nearby couch, the only article of human furniture in sight. “Please, sit down. I am Sorong, the Director of the simian compound.” The other hand extended in the Inspector’s direction. Instinctively, Cardenas reached out, and felt his fingers completely enveloped. The grip was firm but controlled, and he withdrew his digits intact.

Sensing their unease, the Director dug into a satchel slung at his side and removed the largest pair of spectacles Cardenas had ever seen. Balancing them on his blunt nostrils and tucking the gripping arms against the sides of his head, the great ape smiled reassuringly.

“One of Joe’s askari uakaris informed me via comm of your coming. I understand that you had some trouble with a vehicle? No one walks into the Reserva. He also told me that you are police from Namerica. Doubtless the pair that San Jose informed us several days ago we were to expect. How can we help you?”

The eyeglasses gave the enormous primate the appearance of a squat, furry, and very nude professor of literature. It was a sight to make one smile. Neither federale did so, fearing such a reaction might be taken the wrong way.

But for the first time since the encounter with the Sensemaya on the road, Cardenas felt he could relax.


“we’ve come in search of two namericans, a mother and daughter, who we have reason to believe may have fled into La Amistad. We know they arrived in San Jose not long ago. We were told by the authorities that the Ciudad Simiano administers and monitors all entry to the Reserva. It would be a great help to us if you could check your records, to see if anyone matching descriptions we will provide has entered at any time in the past several weeks, and if so, where they might be located now.”

“I see.” The gorilla nodded. “You used the word ‘fled.’ That is a very strong word, Mr. Cardenas.”

“It may not be strong enough. We believe the mother and daughter have come this way seeking refuge from those who intend them harm. If you could just check your entry records, we may be able to single them out even without available visuals. They may be periodically changing their appearance as well as their names.”

Leaning forward slightly, the Director rested his prominent chin on one fist. “These bad individuals you speak of: you really think they might try to follow these females all the way into the CAF?”

Hyaki nodded vigorously. “Sooner or later, they’ll track them down. Even to a place as remote as Amistad. The NFP doesn’t know all the details yet, but there seems to be something of considerable importance at stake. Whatever is involved is big enough that people are willing to die to control whatever it is. My partner and I, representing and on behalf of the NFP, would dearly like to know its nature. We’d also like to help these women survive. We have a highly evolved witness protection program that could be of great benefit to them.”

Sorong sat back and placed an enormous hand on each knee. “If they have tried to enter here, Amistad is a big place. Lots of room to hide, plenty of trails into the mountains. If they have acquired assistance from someone in Progresso or another of the human communities, they could be impossible to track.”

“These days, no one is impossible to track,” Cardenas responded tersely. “The people who are after them are sophisticated, and they have resources. They’re not your average street loco. My partner and I have had the opportunity to become personally acquainted with their capabilities. This woman, Surtsey Mockerkin, and her daughter Katla, will be found. It may take those hunting them some time, but when money is no object, results are invariably forthcoming. I’ve looked at and smelled too many spizzed bodies to think this state of affairs will turn out any differently—unless we can take them into protective custody first.”

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Categories: Alan Dean Foster