Thelonius the chimp-man, quite bored of Professor Limefellow’s investigations of the ruins, scampered up the tether connecting the zeppelin to the central pylon. He had waited long enough to investigate this strange machine that hovered overhead like a dark storm cloud: it appeared as large as a hill, and yet it floated in the air as easily as a sprig of wood floated on a pond.
How could this be? He wondered. The chimpanzees of the surface world must be wise indeed to create such a vehicle for their human servants.
Thelonius slipped in through the anchor hatch and soon found his way into the cabins. The insides, he discovered, were ringed with tight passages and narrow doorways, the intersections of which were marked with the bent-cross insignia that he recognized as the symbol of the Na-Tzee tribe. Seeing it reminded him to be cautious, for Limefellow had warned that they were a brutal tribe.
It took Thelonius little time to work out the mechanism for operating the door latches, and he peeked into several rooms to inspect the soldiers’ living quarters. He found little of interest. The decorations were limited to little more than pictures of a thin, arrogant-looking human with a square mustache that sat on his upper lip like a small box. After marveling at the lifelike quality of the artwork—what ape-man could paint with such precision?—Thelonius realized that this must be the Na-Tzee leader. Picking up one of the flat glass picture cases, he wondered why they would enshrine a human being in this way rather than the ape-men who must certainly be in charge of their society. (Human beings govern themselves? Preposterous.) With closer inspection, Thelonius decided that he could see a certain chimpanzee-esque quality in this leader’s features. Possibly, he was some kind of vile half-breed. Thelonius set the picture down with a shudder of disgust.
Suddenly, a piercing shriek sounded over the ambient wind against the zeppelin’s hull. Thelonius un-slung his blunderbuss and crept out into the hall. Another shriek and a series of very angry words uttered in a female voice drew him forward through the tight hallways. The chimp-man moved cautiously and quietly, but he found he needn’t: only a skeleton crew remained aboard, evidently assuming that their elevation would protect them from all boarders. Foolish humans and their two-dimensional thinking.
Thelonius quickly tracked the sound through the hallways to the opposite end of the ship, where the Spartan bedrooms were replaced with Spartan storage closets. Two gray-suited men were attempting to push a human female into one of these closets. The female resisted furiously. In the struggle, one of them knocked her cap from her head and a cascade of golden hair rained down around her shoulders.
“Unhand that female!” Thelonius shouted boldly, raising his rifle to his shoulder. He considered giving them a warning shot to scare them off, but it would take too long to reload. Better a quiet threat than a loud bluff, he decided.
The two soldiers were startled at his voice. They turned to him in amazement, the female all but forgotten. Then there was a flash of steel, and each had a knife in hand.