Marta endures body scanner and pat-down, secures her possessions in a locker, and proceeds to the room where advisors explain how to speak to Monkey. “You must know the intricacies, for Monkey’s offense with visitors is easily roused.” Guidelines come like bullets from a mini-gun.
“Never make eye contact. To do so is to challenge him. This invites death.”
“Always address him as ‘Sir’ or ‘Esteemed’.”
“Never speak his given name. He has forbidden it.”
“Speak clearly. Be concise.”
“Use nurturing tones, as you would with a child.”
“Use simple phrases to allow him clarity of thought.”
“Offer no opinions on current affairs. The Esteemed is apprised of all events not beneath his notice.”
“If he interrupts, cease speaking unless asked a question.”
“If he refuses an audience, even though you have done everything asked, leave quietly and with dignity.”
Marta parrots their instructions back when prompted. They approve. “We see by your application your father died a patriot. Your mother is also deceased.”
“Neither they nor you have a history of radicalism, sedition, or heresy. Commendable. All that remains is the reason for your visit.”
It’s in the paperwork, but Marta notices the cameras. Expects he’s watching. “I worked for a scientist. He was classified a dissident. Observed. Followed. Hounded until he took the coward’s death. After he did, I liberated his notebooks.”
“Intellectual theft is a crime.”
“He was developing weapons for the resistance.” She sees the scientist’s face in death. How oddly peaceful he finally appeared.
“An infallible truth serum. Munitions designed to speed the decomposition of flesh and bone. A ternary liquid called Compound 23, with ten times the explosive power of conventional plastique. A gel to trap enemies in a living death. An aerosol to oxidize in seconds the metal parts of weaponry. I come today to offer this knowledge and more to the Esteemed.”
The trio regards the door. It’s a minute before the electronic lock buzzes. The oldest handler smiles. “The Esteemed favors you with an audience.”
Two soldiers open the doors to Monkey’s sanctum from within, allow the first handler to announce them. Marta enters the oblong office. Her heart skips. Six of Monkey’s key advisors ride chairs around the room. She didn’t plan on an actual audience.
She stands on the rug with Monkey’s Great National Sigil woven into the pile. Steals a glance behind his desk. His back is hunched, his hair unruly, his clothes a memory of a younger, fitter creature. He picks at his left ear, studies what he finds, then her. “Aren’t you a pretty thing. How old are you?”
“How did you get mixed up with a scientist?” His gaze prickles her skin, makes her feel unwashed. He chuckles. “You can come closer. I don’t bite.”
She suspects that’s a lie. “I was told to keep a respectful distance, Esteemed.”
He grunts at her rejection. “I heard your presentation. These inventions sound very powerful. Very dangerous.” He shifts in his chair, scratches himself. “It’s right to bring them to me. I suppose you want money. You’ll have to sweeten the deal for money.”
“Sir, I haven’t come for money.”
Another grunt. His tone sours. “You know, I could just take these things from you. I can take whatever I want.”
“Apologies, Esteemed. I have been unclear. I’m here to give these things to you. All of them.”
What was sour turns sweet again. “She wants to give me all the things.”
“Yes. I’m a patriot, like my father.”
His tongue dances across his lips. “You are a beautiful woman. Isn’t she beautiful?” His advisors chatter affirmations. “We don’t really need all this formality, these bureaucrats. We should discuss this over dinner.”
“Your advisors would benefit if they were also party to this information.”
“No, no. They just confuse things. I can send them away. They do whatever I tell them.”
The skin-prickle becomes a crawl. She feels a weightless sensation in her gut, the last kick before the coaster’s first big drop. “Before they do, Esteemed, there’s one particular item the scientist left behind to which they must be party, lest I forget once the wine begins flowing.”
Monkey’s eyes light up at notions of wine and forgetfulness. “Please continue.”
“The most potent weapon of all: a daughter. Hidden. Placed for adoption as a baby, after her mother died. Taken under his wing as a young student, told the truth when she came of age.” She bites down on and swallows the capsule tucked under her tongue. The catalyst begins whipping the three liquids in her system into a chain-reaction cocktail. “Asked by him in his suicide note to reveal his work.” She breaks the cardinal rule for speaking to Monkey by fixing his bloodshot eyes with her gaze. “What do you think, you monkey son of a bitch? Ready for a demonstration of Compound 23?”
She lunges at the desk. Monkey falls from his chair, scurries backwards across the floor, barking incoherent orders, trying to flee. He can’t run far enough fast enough. Marta thinks of Father. Angry hands restrain her, unable to stop her transformation into sunlight and violence.
What’s thrown farthest by her detonation isn’t the building—rubble for a thousand yards—or what remains of Monkey—small pieces mingled with dust and rubble—but an axiom. It emerges before the tatters of the Esteemed are cold, goes viral with resistance fighters who emerge from shadow to reverse a dead dictator’s rule:
The best way to speak to a monkey is to have the last word.