Thursday, August 4, 2016

Ape-Man #5

It seemed like there was nothing those Commies wouldn’t try, except for tackling Ape-Man!  And even that was only true until the --

“Attack of the Red Chimp!”

by Scott Casper, thanks to Stan Lee and Jack Kirby for Tales to Astonish #39

The delivery truck came to a screeching halt at the dock, the driver pulling up perpendicular to the gangplank. Some tough-looking men waited on the barge, expecting the delivery.  A strange, accented voice came over a crackling loudspeaker:

“Hurry and load the cages aboard the ship!”

Other men were already swinging open the back doors of the truck, pulled down a ramp, and tugged on wheeled cages to roll them down onto the street.  The cages were large, and needed to be, since they contained every ape from the ape exhibit at the Bronx Zoo, including Mattie the gibbon, Bobo and Faben the chimpanzees, Plato and Ginger the orangutans, and Johnson the gorilla.

A man working a crane on the dock hoisted the cages, one by one, into the air and onto the deck of the barge. The last crate, holding Johnson, was in the air when a Volkswagen microbus screeched around a corner, some blocks away, but made a beeline straight for the docks at dangerous speeds for city streets.

“Stop that van from reaching the ship!” commanded the voice on the crackly loudspeaker.

Three men answered by producing sub-machine guns. They lined up and opened fire on the approaching microbus, aiming for the windshield and the front tires. The windshield shattered right away, but the driver was hunched down out of sight. The left tire blew out first, and then the right, sending the microbus swerving out of control. The vehicle tipped over and rolled, clattering down the street straight towards the gunmen, who had to scatter out of its way.

When Ape-Man appeared, he was leaping over the top of the still-rolling microbus, over the heads of the gunmen, tucked and rolled right past them, and then jumped up into a sprint for the gangplank. In the minute it had taken to get this far, Johnson’s cage was on deck and the barge was starting to move. Ape-Man easily vaulted the distance to the deck, landing within reach of one of the tough guys guarding the cages and took him down with a ferocious right hook.  Three others held what appeared to be cattle prods, no doubt meant to harm the apes. Ape-Man laid into them and, a minute later, was standing over the last of them still conscious.

“Where’s the Red Chimp?” Ape-Man angrily asked in his face.  The anger was more for show, for inside, Ape-Man was secretly nervous.

Unlike W., The Price, goons from the H.E. corporation, and the smaller crooks Ape-Man had fought so far, the Red Chimp had a history stretching back 10 years. Ape-Man had done some digging at the library and found out that the Red Chimp was once an ordinary chimpanzee, its intelligence enhanced by Russian scientists, and then trained by the KGB to be a spy. The Red Chimp was suspected in assassinations and government coups all over the world, but no one would likely have known anything about him had True Blue not stopped him once in ‘57, when a lot of the details of the Chimp’s past came out.
The loudspeaker crackled again. “If you are looking for me, come to the fore end of the barge, Ape-Man.”

The barge was about 100 feet long, with a wheelhouse cannibalized from a tugboat at the fore end.

Ape-Man looked into each of the cages and saw the ape prisoners looked nervous. “Just stay calm; I’ll get you back home,” Ape-Man said into his headpiece communicator. The apes understood.

Ape-Man moved cautiously from the cages towards the fore of the barge, and not just because he suspected a trap. The barge had been used for transporting garbage in the recent past and a thin layer of it still covered the deck. It also concealed the trap, until metal bars rose up six feet high out of the deck, folded over, and began to spin.

There was an obstacle course of spinning bars, at varying heights, between Ape-Man and his destination. They were spinning fast and it would have been near impossible for anyone else to time jumps just right to land safely between them, but for Ape-Man’s agility and reaction time, it was only mildly challenging. He was even beginning to see a pattern to the rotations -- until he couldn’t. When some of the bars started swinging in the opposite direction, it caught him off-guard and he fell after having his legs painfully swept out from underneath him.    

The bars stopped spinning. Ape-Man recovered and rose to his feet. Now standing on the other side of the now-motionless obstacle course was the Red Chimp. The chimpanzee stood there, legs apart and arms loose at his sides, clad only in a red, sleeveless, button-up military jacket and short pants. He could have easily attacked, but seemed to have been patiently waiting for Ape-Man’s recovery.

“What do you want?” Ape-Man asked.

“‘Vhat any man ‘vants, so will intelligent chimpanzee,” the Red Chimp said. “More specifically, I ‘vanted to lure you out and take the measure of you. See if you are as I am.”

“Wait…” Ape-Man said. He took a cautious step forward as he mulled this over. “Are you saying you kidnapped all the apes from the zoo, lured me here, to see if we could be friends?”

“Nothing so sentimental. I have not made myself into greatest living spy over the last 10 years by being so ‘veak as to need friends. I came to see if you needed ally.”

“I don’t work with Commies.”

The Red Chimp chuckled. “Heh, heh -- treatments that keep my intelligence so high are costly; you think spying for politicians pays bills? Is industrial espionage ‘vhere real money is. I ‘vas ‘ much you know about H.E. and ‘vhat they are really after.”

This took Ape-Man aback. He knew that the H.E. corporation was after his inventions and was not above sending thieves after them, or even an assassin to kill him. Was there more, though, that he should know about…?

After a pregnant pause, Ape-Man said, “My answer’s the same.”

“Is pity. Let me know if you change your mind,” the Red Chimp said, and he pressed a button o a remote control device in his hand.

The spinning bars trap started up again, forcing Ape-Man to concentrate on dodging. It took him over a minute to extricate himself and, by then, the Red Chimp had fled to a small speedboat tied to the far side of the wheelhouse. The Ape-Man could only watch as the master spy got clean away.

Don’t worry, the Red Chimp will be back, and Ape-Man will be waiting for him! But, next time, Ape-Man faces the challenge of the fairer sex. Don’t miss it!

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