Tuesday, September 9, 2014

'Island in the Sky'

Aside from two outstanding scores—Michael Giacchino’s moving epic music for “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” and Alexandre Desplat’s bombastic fury for “Godzilla”, it has been a dismal year for fans of memorable film music. The year’s biggest blockbuster, “Guardians of the Galaxy”, sent moviegoers scurrying to their smart phones as the credits rolled to buy the catchy (and brilliantly utilized) collection of joyful ‘70s pop classics—as opposed to the original score actually playing on the credits—a functional but tepid assembly of weak, undeveloped musical meanderings barely heard during the movie.

It is hard to believe that nearly fifty years ago music was being written for the debut of a CBS television series called “Lost in Space” with a level of astute musical craftsmanship and complexity far beyond anything likely to be seen at a multiplex—or anywhere else—in 2014.

John William’s music for the Irwin Allen television trio of the 1960s (“Lost in Space”, “Land of the Giants”, and “Time Tunnel”) is a stunning body of innovative work that helped lay the groundwork for his legendary career scoring many of the greatest blockbusters and acclaimed dramas of all time. In many ways, Williams used utilized these shows as an experimental canvas in the same way Michael Giacchino used “Lost” to create musical ideas he would come back to and develop further in films such as “Super 8”, “John Carter”, and “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”.

Of the three Allen shows, it is “Lost in Space” where Williams spent the most time honing his magical artistry, and there is perhaps no better example than in “Island of the Sky”, the third episode in the show’s glorious black and white first season.

“Lost in Space” is now famous for its campy style featuring the buffoonery of Dr. Smith. But during the first season—especially the early episodes—this was a serious, dramatic, (and wonderfully melodramatic) adventure show, and John Williams (under the guise of “Johnny Williams”) scored it as such.

The score to “Island in the Sky” can be found in its entirety in the 40th anniversary soundtrack by La-La Land and in a less than complete form on Volume One of the old GNP Cresendo set.

“Island in the Sky” opens with “Strange Planet/John’s Descent”, a powerhouse suspense cue that builds with a pulsating wave of brass, flourishing with both vertical and horizontal movements beyond the grasp of most composers working today. Immediately there is a sense of danger and mystery. The amount of musical depth packed into this short cue is amazing. Many moments feel like they could be out of the darker shadings of a “Star Wars” or “Indiana Jones” movie.

“Helmet It” is downright scary. Among the many treasures to indulge in here are some of William’s best horror music moments foreshadowing later work in “The Fury” and “Dracula”.
“Strangle Hold/Landing” is the showcase piece of the score; an absolute knockout action cue bursting with layered motifs, propulsive brass, escalating rhythms, and a relentless sense of excitement. This 6:27 cue is a precursor of many set pieces featured in future William’s blockbusters. This complex, intricately action music that is always accessible and goes somewhere with a sense of purpose.

“Lil’ Will and The Robot” continue the suspense and dramatic tension with escalating swings of brass in what became the trademark music of this series, and reservoir of motif gesturing used in later works by Williams, especially “Jurassic Park” and “The Lost World”.

“Search for John” is a full-fledged, beautifully crafted dramatic suspense cue with a building sense of mystery and danger. The excitement and shimmering wonder continue as the score soars to its finale in “Monkey’s Doo”, “Operation Rescue”’ and “Personal Chauffeur/Electric Sagebrush/Will Is Threatened”. Every moment in this score has something musically rich for the ear to hang on to. As with his future works. Williams always develops his ideas and knows where he wants to go with them.

Bottom line: “Island in the Sky” is an exciting, propulsive, colorful, avant-garde musical masterwork and a wonderful chance to explore the musical formations of John William’s blockbuster style of scoring.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Top five influences on ‘Caitlin Star and the Guardian of Forever’

Sequels are perilous endeavors loaded with expectations. When I committed to the "Caitlin Star" sequel, my mantra was simple. It had to be better. It had to exciting as all hell. It to work as a stand-alone adventure.

The smashing stand-alone sequel novel to Caitlin Star is more character focused, more epic, and contains much stronger science fiction element than its predecessor. It takes place on a different continent with a much more exotic setting (the Congo Basin in Central Africa).  It is a fast paced, propulsive story moving Caitlin forward on her journey toward her ultimate destiny.

There were many, eclectic influences on the creation of Caitlin Star and the Bull Mongoni saga. Here are the top five that had the most direct effect on the rousing new science fiction action adventure epic, “Caitlin Star and the Guardian of Forever”.

Birds of Prey

The female heroes/vigilantes/anti-heroes and villains of the DC Comics universe have all had an influence on Caitlin Star. The Bull Mongoni attitude of crusading for social justice can be seen in all of the characters and nobody is fiercer about protecting the earth from greedy humans than Poison Ivy. Physically, both in terms of athletic ability and appearance, there is a lot of Black Canary in Caitlin. Lori, Gunner and Caitlin’s hacker genius operations chief was partially inspired by Barbara Gordon when she was the Oracle character.

Anthropology 101

Lots and lots of non-fiction science and reference books, especially "Before the Dawn: Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors" by Nicholas Wade and "The Last Human: A Guide to Twenty-Two Species of Extinct Humans".

To paraphrase what Gunner Star said in my first book over a decade ago, “Did you ever study anthropology? Me? I am fascinated by the stuff. Just can’t get enough. Find out about the past. Find out where you came. And you find yourself.”

When studying all of the various species of great apes that sprung off from the hominid branch, I came upon a mythic species called the Bull Mongoni who thrived throughout Africa and Eurasia until the Homo sapiens left Africa and began to spread across the planet like a destructive virus. The Bull Mongoni mysteriously vanished sometime between 10,000 B.C and the rise of Sumeria. But the hirsute hominids left behind a written and illustrated record of their existence and their philosophy in “The Sacred Scrolls of Tarmok.” These scrolls are the foundation of the Bull Mongoni philosophy espoused by Gunner Star and passed on to his protégé Caitlin.

Movie soundtracks

Music is the most mysterious, motivating, transporting, inspiring, profound, emotional artistic creation there is. I always listen to music when I create and write. I hear the music, and I see the characters and the story unfold before me. There were many tracks spinning on my CD player and in my iPod during the creation of “Caitlin Star and the Guardian of Forever”, especially “The Lost World” by John Williams, “Avatar” and “The Missing” by James Horner, and “John Carter” by “Michael Giacchino.

Land of the Lost

One of the inspirations behind the creators of “Lost” and a whole generation of science fiction writers, (including yours truly), it is astounding how well written this cult 1970’s live action Saturday morning children’s television series was. The first two seasons (1974-1976) featured a who’s who in the elite science fiction writers of the era including Larry Niven, Theodore Sturgeon, Ben Bova, Norman Spinrad, Dorothy "D.C." Fontana, Walter Koenig, and “Land of Lost” co-creator and story editor David Gerrold.


I make no secret about my guilty pleasure love of “Supergirl”. The DC Comics New 52 re-launch of the title features Kara/Supergirl as an emotional, powerful, angst-ridden teenager looking for her place in the world. There is a lot of Supergirl in Caitlin Star. In some ways she is Kara Zor-El in black spandex with a cutlass sword.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ soundtrack review

Michael Giacchino is the soundtrack savior for film music fans who grew up on the classic genre scores from the holy trilogy of John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, James Horner—not to mention a long list of other superb talents such as John Barry, Basil Poledouris, Bruce Broughton, Alan Silvestri, and many others.
Many of those composers are no longer with us. Silvestri recently gave us the outstanding music for the new “Cosmos” series on Fox—but like James Horner—seems to have semi-retired from major film scoring. John Williams (with the occasional rare exception) only does Spielberg films now. Sadly, Broughton has not been given a major scoring assignment since 1998’s “Lost in Space” reboot bombed.
Which leaves us with Hans Zimmer. And understand, I am a Zimmer fan and one of the few soundtrack writers who liked his work for Nolan’s “Batman” films (especially “The Dark Knight Rises”) and his controversial “Man of Steel” opus. But must every single blockbuster or franchise be scored by a Zimmer prodigy, or a Zimmer clone, or a Zimmer rip-off artist third generation removed? After a while it all starts to sound like one big wall of cluttered orchestrations and droning waves of white noise.
Sure there is Alexandre Desplat, and he has delivered a few knockout genre scores including this year’s menacing score for “Godzilla”. But his sensibilities just seem better matched to Oscar bait dramas. When it comes to larger than life, iconic genre cinema, it is Michael Giacchino who is the heir apparent to the classic composers of the ‘70s and ‘80s.
Because of this composing lineage thrust upon him by the fans and by the nature of the assignments he chooses, the expectations for a new Giacchino score—especially with a film like “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”—are sky high.
And make no mistake about it, “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” is a great film, and great films must have music to match their onscreen ambitions and emotions. I am happy to report that Michael Giacchino’s score for “Dawn” meets those expectations. His music not only synergistically matches the onscreen action and drama, it many places it adds another layer of deep emotion to this powerful, moving, unforgettable cinematic experience.

Giacchino’s approach to “Dawn” is similar what Patrick Doyle did for his excellent “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” score. He concentrates on the characters and emotions. “Rise” was “E.T.”—the story of a makeshift nuclear family and their adopted son. A love story between Caesar and Will instead of E.T. and Elliot. “Dawn” is an epic war drama and Giacchino appropriately scores Matt Reeve’s ape opera as if were “The Winds of War” meets “The Godfather” by anchoring his score in a sweeping, emotional main theme, “The Great Ape Processional”. This is the gorgeous, emotion-drenched music that plays over the opening scenes at the ape village and during the bittersweet finale. There is a beautiful, John Barry-esque melancholy feel to this flexible theme, reminiscent of the love theme from “John Carter” (2012).
I have said this before and it is worth repeating here. Michael Giacchino writes the best sad music of any living composer. “Dawn” as a movie is so many things; epic, fascinating, exciting, super cool, visually spectacular, socially relevant, emotionally involving—but above all it is achingly sad. This is, after all, a tragedy, and Giacchino is the perfect composer to bring out these powerful emotions. This is a movie and a score that will make you feel and will stay with you.

But the composer is no slouch when it comes to action music either. There is a long history of outstanding action music in “Planet of the Apes” movies—from Jerry Goldsmith’s avant-garde classic to Leonard Rosenman’s atonal brilliance to Danny Elfman’s brooding strains for Tim Burton’s much-hated remake—to Patrick Doyle’s jaunty theme for Buck in “Rise”. Michael Giacchino does not disappoint in this regard by delivering what can only be described as “The Imperial March” of “Dawn”.

This outstanding action march serves as Koba’s theme and contains a wonderful motif that pays homage to Goldsmith’s “The Hunt” from the 1968 classic. This music is featured in several set pieces beginning with “Close Encounters of the Furred Kind” when Caesar orders Koba to follow the humans after Carver shoots Nash, and again when apes march into San Francisco in an exhilarating show of strength.
Michael Giacchino’s music for “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” is well represented on the soundtrack album and features several lengthy, well-developed cues including the exciting action tracks “Gorilla Warfare” and “How Bonobo Can You Go”. The composer brings us full circle with a moving statement of the main theme in “Primates For Life” before rewarding us with what all soundtrack lovers crave in any album, a grand reprise of all the main themes in “Planet of the End Credits”.
Bottom line: Michael Giacchino has been given his best film to score and had responded by delivering his best work to date. It is a powerful, epic, exciting, moving score that will please fans of the movie, the composer, and anyone who enjoyed his scores for “Super 8” (2011), “John Carter” (2012), and of course “Lost” (2004-2010).

Friday, July 4, 2014

A guide to ‘The Planet of the Apes’

“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” arrives next week on the heels of a fantastic looking trailer and extremely positive early buzz. In preparation to what could end up being the “Empire Strikes Back” of “Planet of the Apes” films, let us take a look back at the previous entries into this storied franchise featuring our great ape brothers and sisters.
There is an entire universe of material to explore in preparation for “Dawn of Planet of the Apes”, including action figures, lunchboxes, a live action television series, an animated show, and an outstanding new “Dawn” prequel novel, “Firestorm” by Greg Keyes. But it all starts with the films.

“Planet of the Apes” (1968)
Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner
Screenplay by Michael Wilson and Rod Serling
Based on the novel “La Planète des singes” by Pierre Boulle
Released during one of the most transformative years in world history, “Planet of the Apes” was one of three science fiction classics released in 1968 (along with “2001” and “Barbarella”) that forever changed cinematic history. Charlton Heston’s powerful presence, Roddy McDowell and Kim Hunter’s great performances, Jerry Goldsmith’s avant-garde score, John Chamber’s revolutionary make up effects—“Planet of the Apes” features one iconic moment after another and has etched its mark into our collective memory and thepop culture fabric as a forever classic.

“Beneath the Planet of Apes” (1970)
Directed by Ted Post
Screenplay by Paul Dehn
Story by Mort Abrahams
Based on characters created by Pierre Boulle
A rehash of the first film combined with a bizarre storyline about a group of mutant telepathic humans who pray to an atomic bomb and featuring a grudging cameo appearance by Charlton Heston, “Beneath” is the weakest film in the entire franchise. But still, there is some great stuff here. An atonal soundtrack by Leonard Rosenman that is even more avant-garde than Jerry Goldsmith’s classic, the hippie protest scenes are priceless, and there is just an overall weirdness that gives this entry an irresistible cult film vibe.

Directed by Don Taylor
Written by Paul Dehn
Based on characters created by Pierre Boulle
Screenwriter Paul Dehn came on board the franchise for “Beneath” and went on to write all of the sequels. He is in many ways, the true auteur of the original classic franchise and beginning with this film (where Cornelius and Zira escape from the atomic explosion at the end of “Conquest” by traveling back in time via astronaut’s ship), he created one of the most fascinating time loops of any franchise. Although this entertaining movie is considered to be the “comedy” of the series, “Young and the Restless” soap opera star Eric Braeden gives a chilling performance as the villain.

“Conquest of the Planet of the Apes” (1972)
Directed by J. Lee Thompson
Written by Paul Dehn
Based on characters created by Pierre Boulle
Dark, haunting, emotionally affecting, and shockingly effective and convincing despite a miniscule budget of only 1.7 million (compared to 5.8 million for the original). Much like “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” (2011), “Conquest” tells the origin story of Caesar. The filmmakers made great use of the then futuristic looking, brand new Century City shopping complex. There is a wonderful, creepy, Orwellian feel to this story. Ricardo Montablan is fantastic as Caesar’s owner/friend and Roddy McDowell gives his greatest “Apes” performance. Jazz fusion saxophonist and arranger Tom Scott composed the minimalistic, atonal score. Acclaimed novelist John Jakes wrote a terrific novelization of Paul Dehn’s screenplay with the original, darker ending.

"Battle for the Planet of the Apes" (1973)
Directed by J. Lee Thompson
Screenplay by John William Corrington and Joyce Hooper Corrington
Story by Paul Dehn
Based on characters created by Pierre Boulle
If “Rise of the Planet of Apes” (2011) is kind of sort of a re-imagining of “Conquest of the Planet of the Apes”, then “Battle” is more or less the antecedent of “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” (2014). “Conquest” was able to overcome the paltry budget through clever location shooting and spot on performances. But “Battle” is—well—a battle—and demanded more of an epic approach not possible with the shoestring budget. Still, the filmmakers did the best with what they had to work with and were helped out immensely by another great Roddy McDowell performance. An entertaining film that works well as a children’s movie. Science fiction author David Gerrold wrote an outstanding novelization of the screenplay.

“Planet of the Apes” (2001)
Directed by Tim Burton
Screenplay by William Broyles, Jr., Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal
Based on characters created by Pierre Boulle
This long-gestating “remake” is despised by many “Apes” fans—and with good reason. The script is nonsensical, the ending inane, and there is something just not cool when a movie whose theme is the immorality of exploiting another species—actually exploits the species in its title! On top of all of this, the movie simply does not feel like a “Planet of the Apes Movie”. That being said, there is much to like about the film. The art direction is gorgeous (it is a Tim Burton movie after all), Helena Bonham Carter is terrific, Danny Elfman’s muscular score is one of his best, and the great Rick Baker once again sets a new standard for physical in-camera makeup/creature effects.

“Rise of the Planet of the Apes” (2011)
Directed by Rupert Wyatt
Written by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver
Premise suggested by “Planet of the Apes” by Pierre Boulle
When “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” premiered on August 5, 2011, it caught everyone off guard who was expecting a cynical attempt to cash in on a dormant franchise with golden brand name recognition. Instead of an exploitive popcorn flick, director Rupert Wyatt and screenwriters Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver delivered an instant, modern classic featuring an unforgettable main character, Caesar, brought to life in a knockout performance by Andy Serkis, with flawless special effects by Weta Digital of “Avatar” and “Lord of the Rings” fame.
Despite the state of the art (and stunning) visuals, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” is a throwback film. It is under two hours long, an extreme rarity in today’s marketplace of bloated, over stuffed movies with multiple false endings. On the contrary, “Rise” is a tight, fast paced beautifully shot and staged film. It is an emotionally rich, character driven story that harkes back to the days of Spielberg’s humanistic approach to science fiction in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (1977) and “E.T.” (1982).
At its heart “Rise” is a love story about family and the relationship Caesar has with his human father Will, grandfather Charles, and mother Caroline—and the tragedy of how he lost them.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Caesar: The Lost Years

DISCLAIMER: What follows is fan fiction based the 2011 20th Century Fox motion picture "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" written Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver and directed by Rupert Wyatt. This is fan fiction, meaning that this is an unauthorized story and is for amusement only. It is is not intended for commercial distribution of any kind and the pages of this blog are not monetized in any manner. "The Planet of the Apes" franchise and the character of Caesar are the Copyright of 20th Century Fox Film corporation.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: James J, Caterino is the author of "Caitlin Star" and many other works. He is a life long "Planet of the Apes" fan and cited "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" at the top of his favorite films of all time list.

The following events take place in between "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" (2011) and "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" (2014).

Caesar: The Lost Years 
by James J. Caterino

Zeke crossed the bridge, stopped, and gazed into the dense vegetation of the majestic forest before him. This was the place he thought—the secret place he had been searching for all his life. He turned and motioned for Samantha and Derek to follow.

“You sure this is it?” Samantha asked.
Zeke nodded yes as he fidgeted with his backpack and tried to focus on his breathing. His pulse was pounding, his mind racing out of control in a blend of hyper nervousness and euphoric glee.  Never in his life—or in his dreams—had he ever wanted to meet someone so bad.

“Now what?” Samantha asked. “Do we knock on the door?”

A loud thumping sound, repeated in a set of patterns echoed from inside the forest as if calling out to each other in a deliberate, percussive language.

“I think we just did,” Derek said. “Translation, mi casa is su casa?”

“Let’s find out,” Zeke said as the three of them secured their gear and ventured into the great forest before them.

It was like crossing the barrier into a new world—a timeless place of majestic wonders. The sheer size of the mammoth tress and the beauty of the place around them left Zeke breathless.
Both he and Samantha were anthropologists and should be immune to such spectacles of nature, but she was as taken by the awe-inspiring surroundings as him—as was the stoic Derek, a former professional wrestler and football player. Derek had befriended them when he left his post at the infamous Blackwater para-military security outfit to become a Park Ranger at a wildlife sanctuary Zeke and Samantha had once run.

This place—here at the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains— it was one of the last Edens left in a decaying world—a new kind of sanctuary for the post viral apocalypse world where urban centers were war zones of decay. Here in the forest—it was the perfect place for a new beginning. If only they had arrived in time Zeke thought.

A sudden rustling of brush and branches echoed out across the crisp morning air. Zeke and Samantha froze in their tracks. Derek jumped back and sprang into a fighting stance. A micro-second later a blur of fur and muscle swirled circled them amid a series of grunts.

Five adult male chimpanzees surrounded them, each one of them armed with a long, sharpened spear. Both Zeke and Samantha had the tips pressed up against their necks, held back with just enough restraint to avoid drawing blood. Derek had managed to create enough space to maneuver as he stayed crouched in fighting stance and mobile. One of the chimpanzee guards took offense at Derek’s posturing, threw down his spear, and lunged toward the former pro wrestler.

Those old, ingrained skills and instinctive reactions paid off as Derek sidestepped his hirsute attacker. The chimpanzee hit the ground tumbling into a wicked upside down roll that would have seriously injured a human. But the ape recovered quickly and a second later he and Derek were locked into a mutual death grip, each one fighting for the upper hand to deliver the lethal chokehold.

Common mythos held that an adult chimp was five times stronger than an average human male. Derek was far from an average human male, but even he would not last long against an opponent this fast and formidable. Samantha looked at Zeke with a panicked sense of desperation. Zeke wanted to act, but if he even flinched to interfere with the fight, the spear pressed up against his neck would be instantly plunged into his carotid artery.

Please not now, Zeke thought. It could not end like this. They were so close.

“Nooooooo!” A deafening yell roared across the forest.

A moment later hulking figure leapt down from one of the trees.

It was a massive, male silverback gorilla. He was charging straight toward them—and he was pissed.

The chimpanzee guards instantly withdrew their spears, stepped away, and bowed down in submissive postures. Derek’s opponent released his grip and did the same.

The silverback ended his charge by tossing aside the two chimpanzees near Zeke and Samantha—literally throwing them into the brush as if they were paper weights. Then he ran on all fours in a shockingly fast circular motion to establish a dominance perimeter around the three humans until the other three chimpanzee guards had joined their tossed comrades in the brush and knelt down into the submissive positions.

Seeming content the situation was now under his control. The silverback stopped and looked over the humans. Samantha caught his attention and she began to sign him.

The silverback’s eyes widened with delight and he began to sign back. It was soon a two way conversation that went on for several minutes, full of varied facial expressions and even laughter. Derek looked over at Zeke as if to say “What the fuck?” and Zeke merely shrugged his shoulders.

The Chimpanzee guards formed a moving protective perimeter around them, moving through the trees as the male silverback lead the three humans through the dense and mysterious forest.

“His name is Clive and he was sent here to take us to Caesar,” Samantha said.

“And?” Zeke asked. “I know it doesn’t take five minutes and all that gesturing to say that.”

“Oh there is more,” Samantha teased.

“Out with it girl,” Derek said.

“Much of it was…well, personal in nature,” Samantha said.

“Huh,” Derek and Zeke said almost in unison.

“So I need to get his permission first,” Samantha said. “Before I can tell you.”

Derek and Zeke exchanged a look.

“Well, hey,” Zeke smiled. “I sure wouldn’t want to piss off the big guy.”

They continued walking until—Clive stopped in his tracks. He raised his fist backwards in a “halt” sign and crouched down on all fours as he sniffed the air.

Zeke, Samantha, and Derek crouched down behind him in single file. Above them, the five chimpanzee guards froze with caution, staying so silent they seemed to blend into the tree branches. Zeke peered around, wondering what it was they were sensing. Could it be happening already? Was he too late to save Caesar?

The sudden bursts of gunfire screamed into the air, cutting like a hot blade across the peaceful serenity of the forest. Clive exploded into a dense patch of brush. Zeke, Samantha and Derek dropped to the ground and took cover under the tall, grassy, forest floor.

The chimpanzee guards above leapt from branch to branch, using the trunks and branches to avoid the endless attack of gunfire tearing into the air all around them. Bullets were spraying everywhere, ricocheting in a non-stop barrage of murderous mayhem. Zeke was frozen with fear and anger—and above all frustration. 

One of the chimpanzee guards cried out in agony as a spray of bullets from the murdering humans struck him in mid-air between branches. He fell to the ground in a violent tumble of screams and blood as the endless onslaught of gunfire continued. The battered body of their hirsute escort hit the ground and rolled until it came to a stop frozen in a morbid pose of terror—only a few meters from where Zeke, Samantha, and Derek were hiding in the tall grass.

A shit-kicker of a human let out a victory yell that sounded like a rodeo call. Several other humans chimed in, congratulating each other on the kill. Fucking redneck militias, Zeke thought. The butchering, gun-toting inbreeds got closer and closer. Zeke counted…four…five…make that six—all of dressed in orange and camouflage as if they were duck hunting.

The good news was these murdering morons were not part of the Foster Freeze military—just some local militia morons bore out of the pre-apocalypse NRA/Tea Party movement. The bad news was they were six men with military style arms—machine guns, lugers, bayonets, even grenades—and were walking straight toward the tall grass where Zeke, Samantha, and Derek were hiding.

The six militia men came closer and closer, back-slapping each other in victorious glee as they approached the fallen, bloodied body of their victim. Closer and closer until—

Clive charged out of the tall grass—a raging fury of primal beast—he jumped into the air and threw his massive refrigerator-size body into the group of militia men before any of them could take aim. The catapulting form of Clive’s hulking body took out three of the men—literally—they were driven straight down into the ground and lay out cold as their weapons fell into the grass.

One of the chimpanzee guards flew down from a tree branch and lunged toward the remaining men. He took out two of them with ease, but the third one ran off to the side. The scurrying coward stopped when he was about twenty meters away and turned. He raised his machine gun, prepared to gun down the chimp guard. Then—from out of nowhere—another kind of blurring hulking figure ran straight at him, knocking the gun fetishist straight up into the air before wrapping him up and driving him into the ground with a perfect form tackle.

It was Derek. The chimp guard he had saved turned and looked at him with shock—and then with respect. It was the same chimp Derek had grappled with earlier.

Two of the dazed derelicts awoke and reached into their belts. One of them pulled out a .45, the other a bayonet. Clive pounced on them, grabbed each of them with one hand, then body slammed them together as the cracking of bone and skull echoed across the forest clearing. In the same instant, Derek’s militia foe pulled out his .45 and took aim at the back of his head—just as a flurry of sharpened spears zipped down from the trees above—each one of them piercing the skull of the four remaining militia men, including Derek’s would-be murdering prick.

Zeke and Samantha ran to check on Derek. Clive went over picked up the body of his fallen comrade and let out a cry of grief. The four chimps from above returned to the ground and joined Derek’s new found ally to pay respect to their murdered friend with a moment of silence.

Samantha walked over and signed to Derek’s chimp ally saying she was sorry for their loss. Zeke and Derek joined her and stood with their heads bowed in silence.

“His name is Rocket,” Samantha said to Derek. “And he thanks you for saving his life. He says you are brave.”

Rocket came toward Derek and made a bowing motion, tipping his head down. He placed his hand on Derek’s shoulder and looked into his eyes. Derek did the same.

“I am sorry for your loss,” Derek said.

Rocket nodded.

“Clive,” Zeke called out to the silverback. “We need to move. It is not safe here and I have critical information I must get to Caesar before it’s too late.”

Samantha went to sign the words to Clyde but he waved her off.

Zeke looked at her for an explanation.

“He said he understands.”

Caesar said goodnight to Cornelia and began his climb down to the secret spot.  He descended down the trunk, made his away across the grassy brush past another dense batch of forest until he came to a hillside. Under the illuminant brilliance of the near full moon in the sky above, he shimmied down the steep drop until he came to large flat rock serving as a platform.

Caesar swung open a makeshift door of tied wood carved from tree branches he had fashioned—a skill he had learned so many years ago when he was living with his father and grandfather. That is why he came here to these special place on nights when the moon was full and robust enough to illuminate the caverns below with shimmering beams of light from the shaft above.
He came here to think about them—Will and Charles and Caroline. He came here to this secret cave on these sacred nights to think about the father who had rescued him from certain death as an infant and the family who had raised him.  He came here to think about those magical years growing up in that wonderful house with endless adventures and learning and trips to Muir Woods.

Most of all, he came here to think about how he had been surrounded by love—and how it was all taken away from him—taken away from him for no reason other than the rabid streak of cruelty that ran throughout the human species. His family was ripped apart. Charles was dead. Caesar had searched for years for Will and Caroline but scouting party after scouting party had brought back nothing—only confirmation of what he already knew. Will had a bounty on his head and was number one on the human’s most wanted list, right there alongside Caesar.

The humans blamed Will for everything—the virus, the apocalypse, the breakdown of human civilization—even though it had been Will who cautioned against any further experiments with ALZ-113 until it could be tested for side effects—but his greedy boss Jacobs ignored him and did it anyway.

Greed Caesar thought. It sickened him. If humans were not busy killing and torturing for pleasure or sport, they were doing it for greed. When Caesar entered the cave, he went over to a makeshift desk of flat rock and sat on the wooden chair he had crafted. He opened the storage trunk, pulled out a pen and some paper and began to write:

Beware of the beast man. For he alone among God’s primates kills for lust, or sport, or greed

Caesar stopped writing and noticed a shaft of moonlight shining down into the trunk. The beam of light focused on a framed picture of him and Charles. It was from when Caesar was a just a baby. A cascade of bittersweet emotion rose up inside Caesar—the pain—the longing for what had been lost forever. The emptiness—it was killing him inside and he had nobody he could talk to about it. No ape could ever understand. They only knew humans as tormenters wielding cattle prods; the monsters who had taken them from their families, locked them in cages, and subjected them to lives of desolation, pain, and heartbreak.

He missed Will and Charles and Caroline—he missed them so bad it physically hurt. He wanted them back so much it ached. He wanted his family and to go back to the old house and learn and play and have picnics at Muir Woods with his family. Caesar cried. He cried long and hard—so hard his body began to shake and tremor.

But he never could go back ever again because it was all taken from him. Caesar’s tears of sadness began to morph into tears of anger. If he ever found out something happened to Will and Caroline—he would track those responsible and he give those humans a lesson on how it feels to have everything you love taken away from you.

“Come, Clive shall teach you to build a nest,” Clive signed to Samantha.

Oh well, she thought, when in Rome. Besides Samantha had experience at nest building, as did Zeke. He had been her sponsor in graduate school. When she received her Doctorate in Anthropology, he invited her to go along on an expedition into the Democratic Republic of Congo. What was supposed to be a six month field study observing Chimpanzees in their natural habitat at Kahuzi-Biéga National Park, turned into a lifelong project. They stayed and explored Goualougo Triangle, a secluded two-hundred sixty square kilometers of pristine wilderness Time Magazine called “the last eden”. Six months ended up turning into six years.

Samantha and Zeke journeyed to Africa and found their passion—and each other. When they returned to the states they dedicated their lives to protecting our great apes brothers and sisters by raising the funds to open a private sanctuary to care for chimpanzees who had been rescued from the exploitive entertainment industry, cruel medical labs, and ignorant and neglectful pet owners who had the asinine and tragic idea a chimpanzee would make a good pet.  

Samantha put the finishing touches of a few handfuls of leaves onto her nest and heard a jovial grunt/hoot from Clive.

He patted his massive chest cavity and let out what only be described as laughter.

“Clive is impressed,” Clive signed. “Samantha make good nest.”

Samantha had trouble making out his next series if signs. Zeke’s theory that only Caesar would have the capacity for full speech because he was born genetically advanced and probably had his larynx in the position required to enunciate the full range vowels. The other apes, including those in the wild, were already formed as normal, primitive apes then artificially enhanced by exposure to the viral drug. It was conceivable the next generation of apes born would all be capable of full speech, but none may ever be as intelligent as Caesar who was beyond super genius by any human measurement of I.Q.

This group of apes appeared to have developed ASL into a more complex syntax, with new gesture combinations and words. Clive signed to her again. I seemed Clive wanted to know where she had learned to make a nest like that.

“Okay Clive,” she signed. “I will tell you.”

“Do you think we are safe stopping here for the night?” Zeke asked Derek.

“Well the apes do,” He said. “And they know these woods better than us. Besides…”

Derek opened a bag and showed Zeke the weapons he had confiscated from the militia men.  There were two .45s strapped to his waist and a machine slung over his shoulder.

“I’ll take the first shift,” Derek said. “And wake you in a few hours to take over.”

Rocket overheard their conversation and shuffled over. He began to sign.

“I’ll see where Samantha is…” Zeke began looking around.

“No need. I got it,” Derek said. “Rocket wants to take first shift with me.”

Rocket puckered his mouth and hooted. Derek offered him a .45 but Rocket waved him off and showed his bag of throwing spears.

“That’s your weapon of choice eh Rocket?” Derek said. “So be it.”

Derek and Rocket set up a patrol perimeter while everyone else in the camp began to settle into nests.

Zeke looked across the camp to the grassy edge where Derek and Rocket motioned to each other before heading off in opposite directions. Seeing the two of them gave him hope—hope that it did not have to all end the way all human history ends—in violence and bloodshed and destruction. 

He wanted that peace. He wanted it so bad. But Zeke was an anthropologist and a student of history. He knew all too well the nature of man—and he knew his dreams of peace and love were just that—dreams. Homo sapiens were evil. They loved to kill. They loved to destroy. And they were on their way here now with nothing in their dark hearts and ignorant minds but a desire to do those very things.

Caesar felt his heart ache over the loss of Roland.

He had sent Clive and his royal guards to bring the three humans to him—not because they were a danger—but simply because Caesar had been curious why these two scientists and their muscular friend were so determined to find and meet with him. He had not anticipated a third party arriving on the scene, and a murderous one at that. Now, he felt guilty and responsible.

Roland is dead because I failed to anticipate all of the variables, Caesar thought.

On top of Roland’s death and these visitors who be arriving today—there was another imminent situation fast approaching—one that could set the course of earth history for thousands of years to come.

Caesar kept an intense focus on the monitors. It would only be matter of time before the so called human peace delegation arrived on behalf of their new leader, Foster Freeze.

Will had taught Caesar so much was growing up and as a young chimpanzee he had access to the best technology. He learned about video cameras, lithium batteries, lab top computers, tablets, and was able to access the internet during the early days of the viral apocalypse before the grid went down and the militias formed and tribal wars began.

Caesar thought about how lucky he was to be raised by Will as opposed to some other human who would treated chimps like a pet and stuck them in a cage when they grew bored or lazy and decided they no longer wanted that pet. The way humans had treated apes, their very brothers and sisters with whom they shared nearly 99% of their DNA, sickened Caesar. And in the case of Chimpanzees, humans shared a common ancestor. They split into two different evolution lines only 4.6 million years ago.

But then again. Humans treated all living creatures with a smug sense of entitlement, an arrogance, and a vicious mean streak—even other humans—especially when they had different color skin or believed in a different version of a book of fables about an invisible man in the sky.

Enter Foster Freeze; he was what the old television broadcasts would call a religious fundamentalist. Such humans believed the book of fables was literally a book of scientific fact. Thus, the earth was only several thousand years old. Thus, there was no such thing as evolution. Thus, apes were like any other creature not human. They were here just here to be dominated—and if that could not be the case— exterminated.

Peace, Caesar thought. Either they think I am stupid, or they think they have such a tactical advantage that I would surrender in an effort to save the lives of my fellow apes. 

He had been astute observer of humans his whole life and experienced their savage and indifferent cruelty first hand.  

His thoughts were interrupted at the sound of Cornelia entering. Her eyes were bright with excitement.

“Clive,” Cornelia spoke is a rough enunciation before signing, “He and the others are here with the humans.”

Her vocalizations were limited but after years of intense practice she had managed to train her vocal cords and tongue to speak a wide ranging vocabulary, even some vowels. But signing was fare more efficient for her.

“Well?” Caesar turned and asked. “What do you think?” He became aware long ago of Cornelia’s tremendous insight when it came to the character of person, be they ape of human.

“I like them,” Cornelia signed. “I trust them. So do Rocket and Clive it seems.”

“Let Kira know they are here too and have her come,” Ceasar said.

“Of course,” Cornelia signed before storming off.

Caesar would never understand her jealousy of Kira—and he did not have time to deal with such mundane issues. Right now was all about what strategy to employ next—how to stay one step ahead of the humans who were so desperate to destroy him and the village of apes he had come to care for—his new family.

He climbed down the platform to the main entrance to Ape Village where the Clive’s scouting party and the humans were waiting.

Caesar leapt onto the ground and moved across the floor. He stopped a few meters away and saw that all eyes were transfixed on him. And not just the eyes from the scouting party and the human visitors. Apes were a curious species even before the viral awakening and nearly every ape in the village was perched on a platform or a tree branch of peering in from behind a tree somewhere, dying to know what was going on.

He could see two of the scouts—Fred and Jumper—were carrying a hollowed-out tree bark with the body of Oliver. Caesar walked over, knelt down, and placed his hand on the murdered chimp’s chest. The entire village joined him in a moment of silence. Then, he instructed Fred and Jumper with signing to take Oliver’s body to Ceremony Hut, where everyone could pay tribute before they buried the body tonight before sunset.

Caesar approached each of the humans one at a time starting with whom Clive had indicated was their leader, Zeke.

“I am sorry for your loss Caesar,” Zeke said. 
Caesar looked Zeke in the eyes and nodded. He had a kind soul. Cornelia was right about him and his companions.

“He died to protect us,” Zeke added. “And to protect the information I have brought you.”

“Please,” Caesar signed. “Tell me.”

Caesar could see that Zeke did not know sign language.

“Speak,” Caesar said.

Zeke stopped for a second and just stared in wonderment as did his two companions. While no doubt they heard apes speak since the viral awakening, it would have been in guttural vocalization of words similar to how primitive Homo sapiens may have spoken at the dawn of human language some 50,000 years ago.

“Well, first and foremost, you need to evacuate this place immediately.”

A choir of grunts, groans and gasps of shock and anxiety rose from the eavesdropping spectators of Ape Village. Caesar waved them off bringing an instant hush to the air as Zeke continued.

“The human militias, and more importantly what is left of the West Coast U.S. military is now under the control a man named Foster Freeze. He has slaughtered countless millions of humans just to get to power and consolidate his fanatic followers. He did this for one purpose—to find and destroy you. He sees himself as some sort of Messiah on a holy mission from God to exterminate all non-human great apes.”

Caesar hushed more anxious murmurs from the crowd.

Just then Kira entered the village square.

“Foster Freeze is just a deluded bible-thumping wackjob,” Kira exclaimed. “He is Glenn Beck in fatigues playing army. Caesar, we should think twice before abandoning all we worked so hard for, and sacrificed so much for—on the words of a human know nothing about.”

Caesar could see the three humans were in utter shock to see another of their kind amid here amid Caesar’s inner circle none-the-less.

“Zeke, Samantha, Derek,” Caesar said as he motioned toward the statuesque, blonde human female standing by his side. “This is Kira.”

Caesar had learned the power of speech was made that much more powerful if he limited his use of it to the times he wanted to make the most dramatic impact. So he looked over at Samantha and began switched to signing.

 “Forgive her abruptness,” He signed as Samantha translated for Zeke and Derek.  “Kira is very protective of Caesar and the home we have built here. And when it comes to other humans, she can be downright paranoid.”

“And with good reason,” Kira added.

“Agreed,” Zeke said. “But you can trust us. Samantha and I have spent our whole life fighting for the protection of great apes, both in the wild in Africa and here in the states at sanctuaries. Derek is our loyal friend with military expertise. We are here to help protect Caesar…to protect all of you. But it is not safe to stay here any longer.”

Kira deferred to Caesar indicating she was satisfied that he at least hear then out.

Caesar began to sign with fluid, precise quickness. Samantha fought to keep up with the speed and complexity of Caesar’s symbols as she interpreted.

“He knows of Foster Freeze and his hateful ways.” Samantha said.  “Freeze gave Caesar a message by sending a human to the edge of the forest with a letter. A message saying he wished to meet for a peace that would end all hostilities. A peace summit he called it.  Of course, Caesar knows this is a deception. The question is, what does Caesar do about it?”

Caesar saw Zeke look over at Derek and motion for him to step forward.

“Well sir, Caesar,” Derek said. “I may have the solution to your question.”

“Tell me,” Caesar signed.

“Caesar,” Zeke spoke up. “Before we get onto that. There is something else. Something I know you are going to want and see first. It is the other reason we came here.”

Zeke pulled out a computer tablet from his backpack. Caesar’s eyes grew wide with wonderment. He motioned for Zeke to come forward and show him.

“I think you may want some privacy first,” Zeke cautioned.

Caesar signed “why” in a way that Zeke understood.

“It is a video that was made for you,” Zeke said. “A video—from Will.”

Caesar gasped. He felt a cascade of deep emotions surging inside him. At last he thought, at last word from my father.

To be continued…