We have brought it off. I am once again traveling through space aboard the cosmic craft, rushing like a comet in the direction of the solar system at an ever-increasing speed.
I am not alone. With me are Nova and SMus, the fruit of our interplanetary passion, who can say "papa," "mama" and many other words. Also on board are a couple of chickens and rabbits, and various seeds that the scientists put in the satellite to study the effects of radiation on organisms of very diverse kinds. All this will not be wasted.
Cornelius' plan was carried out to the letter. Our substitution for the selected trio was made without difficulty. The woman took Nova's place in the institute; the child will be handed over to Zaius. The latter will demonstrate that he cannot talk and is nothing but an animal. Then perhaps I will no longer be considered dangerous, and the man who has taken my place, who will also not talk, will be spared his life. It is unlikely that they will ever suspect the substitution. The orangutans, as I've said before, make no distinction between one man and another. Zaius will triumph. Cornelius will have a few worries perhaps, but all this will soon be forgotten. . . . What do I mean! It is forgotten already, for aeons have elapsed out there during the few months I have been shooting through space. As for me, my memories are rapidly receding, like the material body of the super-giant Betelgeuse, as the space-time increases between us: the monster has changed in size to a small balloon, then an orange. It is now no more than a minute bright spot in the galaxy. So is it with my Sororian thoughts.
It would be unreasonable of me to fret. I have succeeded in saving the beings who are dear to me. Whom do I miss over there? Zira? Yes, Zira. But the emotions that came to life between us had no name on Earth or in any other region of the cosmos. The separation was essential. She must have recovered her peace of mind, bringing up her baby chimpanzees after marrying Cornelius. Professor Antelle? To hell with the professor! I could no longer do anything for him, and he has apparently found a satisfactory solution to the problem of existence. Only I shudder occasionally when I think that had I been placed in the same environment as he was, and without Zira's presence, I, too, might have fallen equally low.
The boarding of our craft took place without a hitch. I was able to draw closer and closer to it by guiding the satellite, and to enter the compartment, which had been left wide open for the eventual return of our launch. Then the robots went into action and closed all the exits. We were on board. The equipment was intact and the electronic brain started carrying out all the operations for our departure. On the planet Soror our accomplices pretended that the satellite had been destroyed in flight after failing to be placed in orbit.
We have been traveling for more than a year and a half of our own time. We have reached almost the speed of light, crossed an immense space in a very short time, and have already embarked on the deceleration period that is to last another year. In our little universe I never get tired of admiring my new family.
Nova is bearing the voyage extremely well. She is becoming more and more rational. Her motherhood has transformed her. She spends hours doting on her son, who is proving to be a better teacher for her than I was. She articulates almost correctly the words he utters. She does not yet talk to me, but we have drawn up a code of gestures enabling us to understand each other. I feel as though I had lived with her always. As for Sirius, he is truly the pearl of the cosmos. He is a year and a half old. He walks, despite the heavy gravity, and babbles without stopping. I cannot wait to show him to the men on Earth.
What intense emotion I felt this morning when I noticed the sun beginning to assume perceptible dimension! It appears to us now like a billiard ball and is tinged with yellow. I point it out to Nova and Sirius. I explain the nature of this heavenly body, which is new to them, and they understand. Today Sirius talks fluently and Nova almost as well. She has been learning at the same time as he. Miracle of motherhood, miracle that I Ovulated! I was unable to raise all the men on Soror from their animal state, but my success in Nova's case is complete.
The sun is growing bigger every moment. I try to distinguish the planets through the telescope. I can find my bearings easily. I can see Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, and ... the Earth, yes, here is the Earth!
Tears come into my eyes. Only someone who has lived more than a year on the planet of the apes could appreciate my emotion. ... I know that after seven hundred years I shall find neither parents nor friends, but I can hardly wait to see proper men again.
Glued to the portholes, we watch Earth approaching.
I no longer need the telescope to distinguish the continents. We are in orbit. We are revolving around my old planet. I can see Australia, America, and then . . . yes, here is France. We all three embrace, sobbing.
We embark in the vessel's second launch. All the calculations have been made with a view to landing in my native country: not far from Paris, I hope.
We have entered the atmosphere. The retrorockets come into action. Nova looks at me and smiles. She has learned how to smile and also how to weep. My son stretches his arms out and opens his eyes in wonder. Below us is Paris. The Eiffel Tower is still there.
I have taken over the controls and am navigating very accurately. A miracle of technique! After seven hundred years' absence I manage to land at Orly—it has not changed very much—at the end of the airfield fairly far from the airport buildings. They must have noticed me, so all I need do is wait There seems to be no air traffic; could the airport be out of use? No, there goes a machine. It resembles in every respect the aircraft of my day and age!
A vehicle moves off from the buildings, heading in our direction. I switch off my rockets, a prey to an increasingly feverish excitement What a story I shall have to tell my fellow humans! Perhaps they won't believe me at first, but I have proof. I have Nova, I have my son.
The vehicle approaches. It is a truck and a fairly old-fashioned model: four wheels and a combustion engine. I automatically register these details. I should have thought such vehicles had been relegated to museums long ago.
I also expected a somewhat more official reception. There are very few people here to greet me. Only two men, as far as I can see. But how stupid I am—of course they cannot know. But when they do know . . .!
Yes, there are two of them. I cannot see them distinctly because of the setting sun reflected on the windshield, an extremely dirty windshield. Just the driver and one passenger. The latter wears a uniform. He is an officer; I can see the glitter of his badges of rank. The commander of the airport, probably. The others will follow.
The truck stops fifty yards from us. I pick my son up in my arms and leave the launch. Nova follows us after a moment's hesitation. She looks frightened but she will soon get over it.
The driver gets out of the vehicle. He has his back turned to me. He is half concealed by the long grass growing in the space between us. He opens the door for the passenger
to alight I was not mistaken, he is an officer; a senior officer, as I now see from his badges of rank. He jumps down. He takes a few steps toward us, emerges from the grass, and at last appears in full view. Nova utters a scream, snatches my son from me, and rushes back with him to the launch, while I remain rooted to the spot, unable to move a muscle or utter a sound. He is a gorilla.