"Say that again?" I'd said to Dabbiti as he brachiated around in sheer excitement. His jaws weren't quite suited to human speech yet, though he was the closest we'd come.
"New t'anizitorz! 'At do not dah!"
"New transistors? Are you sure?" Dabbiti may not have human mouth- parts, but he was on par with most of our Cro-magnon techs. "Where'd you hear this? Gemma?"
He cackled in affirmation.
"Wonderful. Does she have any proof, or is this just another one of those wild rumours?" Another tube--the heptode, by the sound of it-- popped on the machine behind me, reminding me why, even if it was totally unsubstantiated, I'd have to go check it out. If someone had finally found a way to make transistors out of something that the semiconductor plagues couldn't touch, we had to get our hands on it.
Dabbiti answered my question by pulling a small chip out of his bodypouch. He swung over to where the heptode had blown, fiddled with it for a few minutes, and sure enough, in a few minutes we had the machine back up. I went to fetch another heptode--this was too valuable to put into use just yet, when we could spend our time analyzing it instead.
Still, getting hard information right now would beat figuring out how it worked in a year, or maybe two.
So here I was in Kaliningrad. My colonorectal implants cause me no end of what the doc had called "discomfort". I figured it was only a matter of time before someone wondered why I was walking so funny. At least I'd passed the scans in Krakow, which was the nearest I could get through normal channels anyway. Now here I was, on my own in enemy territory--again. (Who was the enemy? Both sides. I couldn't care less who won, if we got our chips.)
Just our luck, Gemma's source was a factory employing 100% chimp labour. I wouldn't exactly blend, but then Dabbiti couldn't have gotten out of Krakow without getting hit by a press gang. The humans were just cannon fodder, but without chimps the whole infrastructure would collapse, it seems. Gemma's friends were trying to organize a union, and supporting the rebels because any change in the status quo might turn out to their benefit, especially if they had something to offer, like new transistor technology.
The chimp factory was underground, of course, to keep it from getting hit by Nationalist bombs. The human entrances were guarded, and the guards quite trigger-happy at this point in the conflict, so I had to get in the way Gemma had gotten out.
I found the crawlspace, and wriggled along it. This part wasn't so bad, since I wasn't claustrophobic or anything. Most chimps were, so it was amazing that anyone had gotten out, but desperation would drive people further than they knew. As I was about to demonstrate.
At the end of the crawlspace, the shaft turned nearly vertical, and the smell that had been tickling my nose suddenly hit me like, as Meryn would say, "ape-scent gloriola". Which is, of course, what it was.
From here I'd have to be a chimp.
I pulled on my gloves and stretched my arms and legs as much as I could without propelling myself into empty space. Then I took a deep breath, got into as decent a crouch as I could manage, and propelled myself into empty space.
The rod smacked my hands, which tightened convulsively around it. Bad move, I had to stop doing that. If I didn't keep my forward momentum I didn't have a hope in hell of getting to the next rod. Instead, I'd just be the "mystery pancake" at the mess hall the next day. So I flung myself forward again, and grabbed another rod.
Dabbiti swears that, to the chimps, these are almost as convenient as ladders. I made a note to shove him into a closet when I got back.
Five billion years later, just as my arms were going to fall off, I missed the next rod because there wasn't one, and tumbled maybe five feet to the ground, barely managing to pull my limbs in and roll forward.
I got up as soon as I convince myself that my cramps weren't terminal, and wondered if I'd ever be able to get these gloves off without laser surgery. No surprise, I had company.
Half a dozen chimps, and probably more I couldn't see. I took it for granted that I could get killed in at least five ways before I could make one false move.
"You'll have to excuse me not raising my arms," I said, "but I seem to have dislocated both my shoulders."
No response. Well, chimps don't always appreciate our sense of humour. Especially when they're trying to kill you.
Well, here was hoping that Dabbiti, Gemma and the doc knew what they were doing when they put that stuff in my bowels. I inhaled deeply-- imagining the tightening of trigger fingers above my head--and let loose with a tremendous SBD fart.
As the smell spread, bodies relaxed, triggers loosened, and the chimp equivalent of smiles started to spread.
The message, in chimp smelltalk, was some kind of personal message from Gemma, and an offer from our people for the transistor technique. Apparently it was well-received, because I left there with another message--this one, thank god, not shoved up my butt, but just implanted in microdot in a hollow tooth.
God, I hate delivering messages for chimps.
[ Scott Dorsey
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The Den of Ubiquity/ Aaron V. Humphrey / email@example.com