“PLANET OF THE APES”
Wade T. Bixler had been a career senator for five terms, thirty years “Bix,” as his friends called him, seeped …
… like an oil slick through the inner sanctums of Capitol Hill. Now he was oozing all over the White House itself as the Vice President in an administration headed by President Garth Trelane—an administration that had no problem seeing that less and less got more and more while more and more got less and less. Worse, the President used the world terrorism crisis and other global unrest to issue an executive order which put the nation under martial law. Trelane and Bixler cancelled two elections, claiming that any transition of power during critical times could endanger our national security. The media failed miserably in its obligation to demand accountability, and though there were pockets of protest, the majority of the people were too concerned with their day-to-day struggle for survival to organize any meaningful resistance.
Albert Barrgrave II was sitting across the desk from the Vice President. When Bixler spoke he had the idiosyncratic habit of putting the finger and thumb tips of his hands together and moving them in synch with his speech. “Alright, Albert, what’s all this nonsense I’m hearing about the discovery of a UFO in Alaska?”
“It’s not nonsense, Wade. One of my most reliable people in Anchorage told me that the Carver find on Kodiak Island could yield a goldmine based on the technology we can pull from it through reverse engineering. There are materials that might be stronger than anything we’ve ever seen or imagined and have absolutely no measurable weight. My man swears that the unidentified object might actually be a spacecraft of alien origin. The magnitude of what Zack Carver unearthed is nothing short of world shaking,” Barrgrave declared. “It could usher our military industrial complex into an entirely new paradigm of power and cutting-edge weaponry.”
Bixler rummaged through various folders on his desk and began to thumb through a very thick one. From this file he pulled out some paperwork and an accompanying photo of Dr. Isaac Carver. The picture was not very flattering. It was a mug shot of his last DUI arrest. Bixler flipped the photo across the desk and scanned through the papers.
“This Carver’s a wack job,” the Vice-President said, “No one of his low moral character should exert control over what could turn out to be the most important and most lucrative discovery in history. It’s just not going to happen. Besides,” Bixler went on, brightening, “it’s a matter of national security.”
“Always,” Barrgrave said flatly.
Bixler subsequently ordered his Justice Department stooges to, as swiftly as possible, have Dr. Carver’s contract with the Barrgrave Foundation vacated and also make certain that he was relieved of his post at the university. “We must ratchet up a heavy smear campaign against Carver,” Bixler demanded of the toady Attorney General. “We’ve got to control the press and all media, including the remaining progressives. Our main talking point should be that we can’t afford to allow what is potentially one of the greatest discoveries in history to be under the auspices of a drunken, drug-addicted crackpot and fool like Isaac Carver. That’s the message I want drummed into the public forum by all our media water carriers until it becomes conventional wisdom.”
When the U.S. marshals came to escort Zack from the dig, he tore up the court order and threw the pieces at them—then he was forcibly removed. A string of gut-wrenching jabs to his stomach supplied the initial forcing and then for good measure the officers slammed him to the ground and bound his wrists behind him with plastic restraints. “Bastards like Barrgrave won’t be satisfied until they’ve sold us every last drop of that slimy, liquid monkey they have on our backs,” Zack screamed over the pain as the two marshals dragged him away from his startling find.
Zack Carver was out of a job, out of money, and out of hope. His DUI mug shot was plastered all over television and the print media. Leslee Myles looked at the unfortunate photo and knew that while Dr. I. L. Carver was indeed a drunk, he was neither a crackpot nor a drug addict. And though he frequently acted foolish, everything within her being told her he was no fool. She knew this because she had seen Zack’s genius and dedication to his work. She knew this because of the compassion he had shown her over nine years before in the Negev. She knew this because after all that time she was unable to get him out of her psyche or her soul. These reflections impelled Leslee to book an Alaska Airlines flight for the next day out of Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, one-way, nonstop to Eskimo country.
After picking up the latest hi-tech Tesla at Anchorage International, she drove to the Anchorage address which she had pried out of the University of Alaska Human Resources Department. It was nearly eleven o’clock at night when Leslee rolled through a particularly depressed neighborhood and pulled into one of the many available spaces in an icy, potholed parking lot. When she got out of the car she found herself bathed in the tenacious twilight of a Yukon winter, standing in front of the fleabag Aurora B. Motor Lodge and being pelted by the freezing rain and sleet that was the Alaskan dew. The lifelong Southern California-girl thin-blood that pumped through Leslee’s veins was no match for the bone-chilling cold. “Brr… this place must have been the real-life inspiration for Frostbite Falls,” she spit out through chattering teeth, recalling the cartoon home of Rocky J. Squirrel and Bullwinkle the Moose as she trudged shivering in the damp, sub-zero weather through the courtyard of the seedy-looking motel. With no elevator in sight, she plodded up the stairs to Room 306, took a deep breath and knocked on the door … nothing. Once again … still nada. Finally, after she hammered on it assertively with the side of her fist, it slowly opened to reveal an unshaven, unsteady figure smelling like a booze-saturated strip joint. His personal scent was slightly less unsavory than the general odor of the room itself. Leslee forced a smile.
“Hi, Dr. Carver, I’m Leslee Myles. Remember me?”
Zack just stood there in the doorway like a zombie, totally toasted and looking even more run-down than his shabby, depressed, surroundings.
“If you’re seeking to achieve artifact status on those rags you’re wearing, I think you’re there,” Leslee cracked.
Zack blinked then stared vacantly as if someone popped his escape key. In the inebriated blur of his adult life he hardly remembered anyone. Yet this apparition from nearly a decade ago, now poised before him, sprang out of his memory like a blast of pure oxygen. He was at once struck with the fact that she no longer looked needy and paradoxically—he read in her eyes a reflection and amplification of his own neediness.
Leslee Myles had changed—big time. Now in her late twenties, she looked confident, graceful and delicious.
As opposed to their first meeting, when Leslee struggled to put words together, it was now Zack who stood there dumbstruck. Finally he managed to blurt out, “Rosy?”
Leslee’s smile widened and warmed. “You remembered … encouraging. I’ve got some things to say and I want to say them now. Dr. Carver, I’m reasonably certain that you have no idea how much our Negev experience affected me. My life did a complete one-eighty degree turn thanks to you. When I came home from Israel with my A, I sat my parents down and told them that I’d taken enough from them, both bad and good. I said I was going to earn my own way in life and that I wasn’t going to accept any legacy admittance to law school. I decided to use my fifth year at USC to turn my long parade of C’s and D’s into straight A’s, and to a great extent because of my work with you in the Negev, I was able to earn a master’s degree in archeology. Mom and Dad were tickled pink. Then I stunned everyone in the law firm by getting a 179 on the law boards. That’s out of a possible 180. Dad’s L-SATs were nowhere near that. I was accepted with a scholarship at UC Berkeley Law School. Law schools like high LSAT scores and science majors. I think it has something to do with the scientific method and deductive reasoning. Anyway, after graduation I worked with my father and my brother J J and became the firm’s intellectual property maven. I won a major case before the Supreme Court involving the Cardiac Event Monitor … and if you don’t start thinking about changing your lifestyle in a hurry, you ought to consider getting one,” she added with overt disapproval. “I can get you a good deal.”
Zack’s brow puckered and he hung his head. Leslee continued, “I also prevailed in a class action suit against the recording industry which finally gave the artists the right to legal fee recovery and punitive damages… up to three times in cases where they were forced to sue or audit major corporations to get a legitimate count on their contracted royalty payments. It set a precedent for the entire entertainment business and I wrote a textbook on the subject, Intellectual Propers. They use it in most law schools—even Harvard and Yale.”
Through all her schooling and success in the years that passed since Leslee last saw Zack, and in spite of the constant parade of highly eligible young men that pursued her, the feelings she had for him always seemed to intrude.
“Look,” she said through her still chattering teeth as the numbing wind and rain stepped up a notch or two. “I’d love to continue this conversation, but this rain is like super-cooled BBs … so in the interest of my comfort and safety and in consideration of the fact that I am a California girl, how’s about inviting me in to this palace you’ve got here? I promise … no seduction attempts.” Leslie unbuttoned her parka and mock flashed Zack. “See! I’m fully dressed. Not a sheer curtain in sight.”
Zack dumbly nodded and gestured for her to come in. Leslee looked around and got the full brunt of the disastrous condition of her former mentor’s digs. Gingerly traversing the room, she also caught an even fuller brunt of the stench, and recoiled. “This place was probably borderline toilet to begin with but now you’ve managed to bring it down to complete port-a-john status.” Then the sole of her Ugg boot struck a discarded aluminum beverage container which clinked against another. She looked down. The cans had more friends—lots of them.
“Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t ‘kick the can’ usually played outdoors?” she asked. “I’ve gotta be honest, Dr. Carver … I’ve never been in one of the old sports stadium men’s rooms but now I know what they must have smelled like.” She shuddered and pulled her outerwear tight around her. “But that’s not the worst of it. You look like pure shit. Now, I’m okay with that, but judges don’t like it. I’ve filed a motion to put you back in the archeology business and we have a court appearance in ten days. That means we’ve got a week to get you looking somewhat human again. I suspect that you once did…look human, I mean. Though I wouldn’t know for sure, I have no real reference. I never actually saw you sober, shaved or dressed in normal people clothes. Oh … and by the way, I’m your new lawyer, although I prefer ‘counselor’… we’ll discuss fees later.”
Before Zack could answer, Leslee spotted his shabby coat on the floor and threw her hands up. “Where else?” she picked up the coat, sniffed it and rolled her eyes. “We’ll burn it later.” Then she tossed the unsavory garment to Zack—and handed him his hat. “You know, hiding behind fermented grain isn’t the answer to every problem.”
“It isn’t?” Zack squeezed out in a scratchy mumble. Leslee Rose crossed her arms in front of her chest and patted her left foot impatiently. Her mouth and eyes showed her displeasure. She shook her head, grabbed Zack’s arm, yanked him out of the room and mushed him down the stairs.
Leslee took Zack in hand both literally and figuratively. Within three days she cleaned him up, had his wardrobe taken out and burned—and then took him shopping. She also upgraded their living quarters to a motel that not only had shampoo, conditioner and lotion in the bathroom but also provided mouthwash and even a sewing kit.
A week later at nine o’clock on a Thursday morning, Leslee and Zack went before Judge Sylvia Feit at the U.S. District Court in Anchorage. When the judge noticed Leslee’s signature L. R. Myles on the papers she smiled at Leslee. “Counselor Myles … are you the L R Myles who authored Intellectual Propers? I teach law at the university and use the textbook in my classes.” At once, the pack of high-priced attorneys representing Barrgrave Industries paled as the blood drained from their argument.
“Yes your honor.” Leslee answered.
“Good to have you here, Counselor Myles, and congratulations on the 5-4 Medibotics v. Seymour Supreme Court decision in that CEM case.”
Not surprisingly, the judge agreed with Leslee’s pleading but also held that the writ that she was about to issue would permit Dr. Carver access to the site for an unspecified number of days while the legal wheels lumbered toward a conclusion. “I could delay the process with oceans of motions,” Leslee whispered to Zack, “and the judge knows it.” The U.S. Marshals Office also agreed to drop the attempted assault charges against Zack for throwing the torn shreds of the court order at the officers if Leslee would agree to drop the lawsuit she was going to file for excessive force. Leslee and Zack celebrated their victory that night at dinner.
Back at the motel, as Leslee was about to drift off into dreamland, Zack trundled in from his adjoining room wearing a bathrobe and nothing else. He had drastically reduced his alcoholic consumption was starting to lose the numbness that had invaded his groin area. Though he would have liked to pick up the unfinished business from their Negev adventure, Leslee was humming a different tune. “Not yet,” she whispered. “This is not the time,” she took a deep breath and looked around, “and definitely not the place. Besides, I’m saving myself.”
Zack was perplexed. “Saving yourself? For marriage?” Leslee shook her head and crinkled her nose. “No way, I’m … uhhh … almost thirty for God’s sake. It’s like this …we’re only a week in and we’re gonna wait until you’re really off the sauce and you get to know me again. For now … why don’t you think of me … as the light at the end of your drunk?”