danagryphon: (PotA)
[personal profile] danagryphon
Title: The Lies That They Gave You, Chapter 3
Author: Gryph ([livejournal.com profile] gryphon2k)
Artist: Tarlan ([livejournal.com profile] tarlanx)
Fandom: Planet of the Apes (TV)
Characters/Pairings: Pete Burke/OFC, Alan Virdon, Galen, Sally Virdon, Chris Virdon
Rating/Category: Rated R, Het slash
Genre: action, homecoming
Word Count: 3,129 (11,338 total)
Warnings: off-screen torture
Summary: When the astronauts and Galen find a way to return to Earth of the past, things don't go quite the way they had hoped. And things are not quite what they seem.
Notes: Written for [livejournal.com profile] smallfandombang. Many thanks to [livejournal.com profile] kassidy62 as always for being my beta-reader, cheerleader, and fellow PotA nut. I was also thrilled that [livejournal.com profile] tarlanx chose to do some beautiful art for my story.

Link to art master post: AO3

Chapter 1 ~ Chapter 2

Chapter 3
The merit of all things lies in their difficulty.

Burke eased his car along the curb outside Virdon’s house, the place that he and Sally rented until they decided to return to Houston. Chris Virdon had brought his wife and children from Texas to Virginia as well after that initial meeting, so they could spend time with his father.

He had already driven up and down the street a couple of times, to make sure he had not been followed and that no one was watching the house. He knew it was a risk to come here, but he wasn’t sure who else he could talk to. Hopefully the news of what had happened at the base hadn't reached Virdon yet.

After parking a couple houses away on the other side of the street, Burke exited the car and leaned back against it for a few minutes to get his nerves under control. Something was rotten in Langley. He looked up and down the street one last time before letting his long legs carry him quickly to Virdon’s walk and up to the front door. He rang the doorbell, then hooked the aviator sunglasses off his face before taking another look around behind him.

Sally opened the door, a smile lighting her face as soon as she saw him. “Pete! Come on in.”

Burke hoped that the welcome was a good sign. He quickly stepped over the threshold, tucking his sunglasses in his shirt pocket. “Thanks, Sal. Is Alan around?”

“Yeah, he’s in the office, reading Wikipedia.” She waved him down the hallway toward the back of the house.

He found Virdon leaning intently toward a laptop computer. He knocked on the door frame to get his attention. “Busy, Alan?” he asked when Virdon looked up.

“Hey, Pete!” The desk chair squeaked as he leaned back. He pointed toward an upholstered chair. “Not really. Just catching up on a few things.”

Burke settled on the edge of the seat, his hands folded between his knees. “Have, uh, have you been to see Galen lately?”

Virdon's mouth quirked, and he shook his head. “Not for a week or so, why?”

“I was just over at Langley. I tried to see him and was told that he was refusing any visitors.” He wasn’t sure how much more he should say about what he'd seen. Surrounded by the normalcy of Virdon's den, he began to wonder if he'd really seen what he thought he'd seen. It all sounded so far-fetched now. Like something out of a spy novel.

“Maybe he's just tired out from all his public appearances.”

“No, something is wrong, Alan.” That much, he was sure of. “He hasn't had any appearances in the last week. And that's not all. I think... I think I'm under surveillance. Everwhere I go, it seems like there are people watching me, following me.”

“Of course there are people watching you, Pete. It's called being famous.” He cocked an eyebrow. “I would have thought you'd like that.”

“I'm not talking about fans, Alan. I'm talking about people who are sticking to the shadows. People who duck into doorways or suddenly take off whenever I turn to look at them. People from the government.”

“Why would anyone do that, Pete?”

“I don't know, Alan, but we did just return from the future with a talking ape with knowledge of the destruction of mankind.” His tone turned bitter. “Why would anyone want to keep an eye on us?”

Something suddenly started chirping. Virdon held up a hand and pulled a cell phone out of his shirt pocket. He looked at the screen, a frown crossing his face for a quick moment before being banished. “Hang on, it's Chris. Be right back.”

He left the office, closing the door behind him. Burke glanced at the computer screen, then leaned over more closely when the title of the article caught his eye. Missing Astronauts Return Home. An article about their landing back on earth. He scanned the first few paragraphs, confusion creasing his brow. A few moments later, Virdon returned.

“Sorry 'bout that. Trying to plan an outing with the grandkids. I've got grandkids, Pete, can you believe it?” He leaned against the door frame. “Anyway, you do realize how paranoid all this sounds, don't you?”

“Paranoid? Your own daughter is a spook for some government agency that she can't even name, and you think I'm being paranoid?”

Virdon's expression darkened at the mention of Allison. “So why don't you ask her about it?”

Burke frowned. “Because I don't trust her. I want to, but I just don’t right now. Not about this.” He stood. “But you are going to have to trust me, Alan. I'm not being paranoid. And I'm worried about Galen.”

Virdon turned to look down the hallway toward the front door, and a chill began crawling up Burke's back. He pushed himself out of the chair. “What's going on?” he asked, growing angry.

“Look, Pete,” Virdon said, putting out his hands in a placating gesture but blocking the door so Burke couldn’t bolt, “I think you've got a problem. You need help.”

“What did you do, Alan?”

Before Virdon could answer, he stepped out of the doorway, which was suddenly filled by two men wearing nondescript black suits. Each pointed a taser at Burke.

“Major, we are here to take you into custody.”

Burke looked between the two agents at Virdon. “Thanks, pal. Thanks a bunch.”

“I'm sorry, Pete, they told me what you did. I didn't know what else to do.”

One of the agents holstered his gun and produced a set of handcuffs. He sidled up beside Burke, careful not to get between his target and his partner's weapon, and pushed him around to cuff his hands together.

“Is that necessary?” Virdon demanded.

“Yes, Colonel, it is. Thank you for your cooperation. We'll take it from here.”

“Where are you taking him?”

The nameless agents pushed Burke out of the office, past Virdon. “Back to Langley. He'll be questioned and evaluated. We want to help him, Colonel. That's all. But right now, he's a danger.”

Virdon followed them to the living room. As Burke was marched out the door, he tossed a final question to Virdon over his shoulder. “How did we get home, Alan? Do you remember how we got home?”

Sally rushed to her husband's side, and buried her face in his shoulder.

“What's going on, Alan?”

“I'm not sure, Sally. Pete's talking crazy, and he hurt some people back at the base.” His shoulders slumped in defeat. “I don't understand. I just don't understand.”
******

Burke struggled to lift his head off the padded floor and focus on the door to the cell when the knob rattled. Whatever they'd used to sedate him was still in his system. He tried to push himself up off his side, but with his arms entangled by the straitjacket, he couldn't get the leverage to sit up.

Allison's face swam into view. Her mouth moved, but the sounds were disjointed, nonsensical. She grabbed his chin, her touch soft despite the two days growth of beard that scratched beneath it. “Pete. Pete!”

He blinked slowly. That was his name. She was calling his name.

“Allison,” he slurred.

She grabbed him by the shoulders of the jacket and hauled him upright, propping him against the padded wall.

“Pete,” she said again, crouching down so she was on his level. He seemed to respond better to tactile stimulation, so she kept a hand cupping his neck.

“S'not right, Allison. Nothing here is right.” He'd had a lot of time to think about it, about all the little things that he couldn't quite put a finger on, like trying to make out the details of a picture just slightly out of focus. He didn't understand how Alan couldn't see that this place was horribly screwed up.

But he could guess. Virdon's family was here. Maybe not the family he had left, but they were here, alive, and that was more than he'd had to hold onto for the last two years. Facing that this family—this world—wasn't right was more than Virdon could handle. He could forgive his friend's betrayal.

“Galen... they did something to Galen.” He leaned back and closed his eyes. The room was starting to spin. Something was happening with Galen. He couldn't quite pin down what was wrong, but he did know that something terrible was happening.

“Pete, Galen is fine. Alan says you came to their house, talking crazy about being watched. And that was after you assaulted a marine at the base. What the hell happened to you?”

He opened his eyes and looked deeply into Allison's green ones. “I'm not crazy.”

Aallison stroked his cheek, her expression a riot of different emotions. She scanned his face, then leaned forward and pressed her lips to his. When she pulled back, she looked furtively toward the door. “Oh, Pete. I am going to get myself into so much trouble over you. But I can't do this anymore. I... I really do love you, you idiot.” Having made a decision, she moved to his side, reaching behind him for the buckles that held his arms restrained. “And you aren't crazy. I'm going to get you out of here, and then we are going to have a long, long talk about what's really going on. I'm not sure how far I can go with this, but I'll do what I can.”

Burke tried to comprehend while she finished undoing the straps. Once the back was loose, she pulled the jacket off him, freeing his arms. Then she took a microinjector out of her pocket and pressed it to his wrist. “This will counteract the sedative.”

The stimulant hit him almost immediately, clearing his head. He shook it to chase away the last of the cobwebs. Allison pulled open his eyelids and looked at the state of his pupils, felt at his wrist to check his pulse. When she was satisfied that he had responded to the counteragent, she stood and helped pull him to his feet.

“We are going to have to hurry. Once my superiors realize what I've done, this place is going to be flooded with hostiles. We've got a narrow window. Are you ready to move?”

Burke scrubbed a hand over his face to bring himself fully alert. “I don't know what the hell is going on, but yeah, I'm ready to get out of here.” He grabbed her wrist. “Hey. Can I really trust you?”

“Yeah. I'm so, so sorry, Pete, for getting you into this in the first place. I will explain more, but we have to go. Now.” She pulled from his grasp then reached behind her back to retrieve her gun. She pressed her palm against the biometric lock and the door opened with a click. After peering through a narrow opening, she yanked the door wider and stepped into the hallway, her gun sweeping back and forth. When she saw no one in sight, she motioned for Burke to follow her.

They hurried through a maze of dimly lit corridors, but encountered no resistance. The final turn brought them in sight of an elevator. Allison started toward it. Burke grabbed her shoulder, about to ask if they should find some stairs instead.

With a ding, the elevator door slid open. The barrel of a gun appeared in the crack as soon as it was wide enough. When the agent inside spotted them through the gap, he opened fire. Allison was already returning the volley. She pulled the trigger rapidly, striding forward as she did so, seemingly fearless of the bullets flying around her. The agent flew backward as three bullets slammed into his chest, his gun clattering to the floor as he crumpled. The door closed on the agent’s limp foot and rebounded open again.

Allison nervously jerked her gun back and forth, looking for more targets. “Let’s go, Pete,” she said. When she got no answer, she turned around.

Burke lay sprawled on the floor, a crimson stain spreading out from the center of his chest. A puddle of blood grew beneath him. His eyes were open, fixed on the ceiling.

Allison’s gun dropped to her side. “Damn it!”
******

Burke woke, coughing and sputtering, still reeling from the bullet that pierced his chest and buried itself in his heart. He gasped as new sensations—those surrounding his real body and not the construct that had been created in his mind—flooded through him. The chair that supported him in a reclined position was padded, and something heavy covered his head. He reached up with shaking hands to feel the spherical helmet. He pulled on it, felt an answering tug on the skin of his scalp, then tossed it to the ground. Taking a few more deep breaths, he pushed himself up on his elbows to look around. A wave of bone-weary exhaustion washed over him.

A movement to his right drew his attention. The figure stirring turned toward him. “Pete? Are you okay?”

The voice was Allison’s. But the twisted body occupying the chair was barely recognizable as human.

“Allison?” He pushed himself out of his chair, noticed Virdon and Galen still in chairs like his, their heads still covered by helmets, as he stumbled toward her. The clear emerald eyes were the only thing that remained the same. In place of her flowing blonde hair, a white hood covered her head, part of the jumpsuit she wore. Her face drooped on one side, and one hand was curled up into a claw. Both legs bent at impossible angles, her hips raised off the bed on one side. Burke leaned over her when she struggled to raise herself, searching her face for the woman he had known inside the program.

The side of her mouth that didn’t droop quirked upward. “Not exactly what you were expecting, I know.”

“What... what happened?” he asked softly, his voice confused.

“My people have lived in the radioactive wastes for too long. We are all afflicted. And vulnerable to an attack by the apes. We needed to find out more about them. So they used our virtual reality program to trick you.”

Burke’s lips pressed into a thin line, but his voice remained melancholy. “You could have just asked.”

She shook her head. “Years of isolation have made us distrustful.”  She winced as she pushed herself up again. “Please, we have little time. You have to get Alan and Galen out of the program and then escape the complex. My people will not be... kind if they reacquire you.”

He trotted over to the other chairs. “How?”

“Just remove their helmets. They will be disoriented at first,” she warned.

Burke pulled the helmet off Virdon, then quickly turned to do the same to Galen. Virdon's reaction was much as his had beena gasp, a startled jerk.

“What the hell!” he exclaimed as he sat up, looking around in confusion.

But Burke was busy focused on Galen, whose reaction was more extreme. Galen's eyes popped open and he screamed, a blood-curdling shriek full of pain and anguish. The sound cut off abruptly, leaving the chimp panting, his entire body trembling.

Burke seized Galen's shoulders, hoping to ground him, convinced that his worst fears for what was happening to Galen were correct. “It's okay, Galen! It wasn't real! You're safe now!”

Galen clutched at Burke's shirt, his eyes shifting back and forth as he tried to understand where he was. “Not real?”

Looking over at Virdon, Burke repeated. “It wasn't real. It was an illusion created by a computer to look real. This,” he squeezed Galen's shoulders, “this is real. I'm sorry, Alan; it wasn't real.”

Virdon pushed himself out of the chair, catching himself as his knees almost folded. “My family—”

“A simulation, Alan,” a quiet voice said from across the room.

Virdon's head snapped up and swiveled in that direction, the blood draining from his face. He stumbled toward her. “Allison?”

Her questing fingers finally found the controls on the arm of the chair. At the push of a button and the whir of a motor, the chair raised her head until her face was level with Virdon’s. “I’m sorry,” she repeated. “I was sent in to get information from you. I wasn’t supposed to come to care for all of you.” Her eyes flicked off Virdon and over to Burke. “I wasn’t supposed to fall in love.”

“So we’ve been here for months?” Virdon asked, rubbing the hint of roughness on his cheeks and chin.

“No, time is different inside the program. What seemed like months inside was only a couple of days in real time.” She glanced toward the door, her eyes glazing over for a moment before she spoke again. “Please, I wish I could explain more, but they are coming. You have to leave. You have to go now!”

Burke left a rapidly steadying Galen to return to her side. “Come with us. You can’t stay here.” When she shook her head curtly, he pressed her, his voice growing urgent. “What will your people do to you when they find out you’ve helped us escape?”

“I’ll slow you down. I can’t... I can’t move on my own.”

Burke slipped one arm under her legs, the other behind her shoulders. “I can carry you.” His gaze was an open question.

“I—“ She considered for a moment, her brow creasing, but not with pain or discomfort. “All right.” She hooked her arms around his neck as best she could. He gently lifted her off the couch; she weighed even less than he imagined she would.

Virdon put his hand on her arm. “My family—,” he began again. “Was... was any of it true? Sally, Chris... do you know what happened to them? Did I really have a daughter I never knew about?”

Allison’s voice dropped into a husky whisper. “I don’t know, Alan. We pulled the memories from your head, and the computer extrapolated from there. I don’t have any real information about your family.” A tear trickled down one cheek. “I’m so sorry.”

Virdon’s face crumbled, and he stumbled backward to be caught by Galen, in an eerie replay of leaning on Chris as he learned of his daughter. But that had happened inside the simulation. It wasn’t real.

It wasn’t real.
******

Allison led them through the corridors of the complex, showing them the fastest way back to the cave that they had stumbled into, the cave that had haunted Burke’s dreams. At times she would lose focus, drift briefly into a fugue state, then warn the fugitives of the movements of the soldiers who would recapture them.

They entered the room where they had been overcome by the light and noise, where they had first come into contact with Allison’s people.

“I remember this place,” Virdon said, his voice full of wonder and confusion.

“I do as well,” Galen added. “There was a loud noise, it hurt my head.”

They moved through the bright, sterile space quickly, not wanting to get caught in the same trap again. Through a thick metal hatch, they left the complex and found themselves in a dirt-floored cave. Virdon pushed the door closed and turned the hand wheel to lock the bulkhead behind them. He strained at the rusty mechanism, but couldn’t get it to move. Galen joined him; their joint effort forced the wheel to turn with a metallic squeal. When he turned back to look at the cave, Burke knelt over Allison’s body resting on the floor, propped up by his arms.

“Allison, what’s the matter,” Burke asked urgently. Her chest heaved with the effort of breathing, her face pallid, her lips turning blue.

“The machine,” she gasped, “was keeping... me alive.”

Burke’s face drained of blood. “What!”

“It’s... okay... Pete. Never would... have made it... without me.” She took one last gasp, then her head lolled to one side.

Galen and Virdon knelt on her other side. Virdon reached out to stroke her cheek.

Galen spoke in a quiet voice. “She sacrificed herself for us?”

“Yeah,” Burke croaked, his voice wrecked. “Yeah, she did.” He looked up at Virdon, whose eyes were as watery as his own. “She may not have been your real daughter, Alan, but in the end, I think she loved you like one. Loved us both."

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