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       Congo, p.4

           Michael Crichton
 
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Chapter 2

  DAY 2:

  SAN FRANCISCO

  June 14, 1979

  1. Project Amy

  IT IS UNFAIR TO SUGGEST, AS SOME PRIMATOLOGISTS later did, that Peter Elliot had to "get out of town" in June, 1979. His motives, and the planning behind the decision to go to the Congo, are a matter of record. Professor Elliot and his staff had decided on an African trip at least two days before Ross called him.

  But it is certainly true that Peter Elliot was under attack:

  from outside groups, the press, academic colleagues, and even members of his own department at Berkeley. Toward the end, Elliot was accused of being a "Nazi criminal" engaged in the "torture of dumb animals. " It is no exaggeration to say that Elliot had found himself, in the spring of 1979, fighting for his professional life.

  Yet his research had begun quietly, almost accidentally. Peter Elliot was a twenty-three-year-old graduate student in the Department of Anthropology at Berkeley when he first read about a year-old gorilla with amoebic dysentery who had been brought from the Minneapolis zoo to the San Francisco School of Veterinary Medicine for treatment. That was in 1973, in the exciting early days of primate language research.

  The idea that primates might be taught language was very old. In 1661, Samuel Pepys saw a chimpanzee in London and wrote in his diary that it was "so much like a man in most things that. . . I do believe that it already understands much English, and I am of the mind it might be taught to speak or make signs. " Another seventeenth-century writer went further, saying, "Apes and Baboons. . . can speak but will not for fear they should be imployed, and set to work. "

  Yet for the next three hundred years attempts to teach apes to talk were notably unsuccessful. They culminated in an ambitious effort by a Florida couple, Keith and Kathy Hayes, who for six years in the early 1950s raised a chimpanzee named Vicki as if she were a human infant. During that time, Vicki learned four words - "mama," "papa," "cup," and "up. " But her pronunciation was labored and her progress slow. Her difficulties seemed to support the growing conviction among scientists that man was the only animal capable of language. Typical was the pronouncement of George Gaylord Simpson: "Language is. . . the most diagnostic single trait of man: all normal men have language; no other now living organisms do. "

  This seemed so self-evident that for the next fifteen years nobody bothered to try teaching language to an ape. Then in 1966, a Reno, Nevada, couple named Beatrice and Allen Gardner reviewed movies of Vicki speaking. It seemed to them that Vicki was not so much incapable of language as incapable of speech. They noticed that while her lip movements were awkward, her hand gestures were fluid and expressive. The obvious conclusion was to try sign language.

  In June, 1966, the Gardners began teaching American Sign Language (Ameslan), the standardized language of the deaf, to an infant chimpanzee named Washoe. Washoe's progress with ASL was rapid; by 1971, she had a vocabulary of 160 signs, which she used in conversation. She also made up new word combinations for things she had never seen before: when shown watermelon for the first time, she signed it "water fruit. "

  The Gardners' work was highly controversial; it turned out that many scientists had an investment in the idea that apes were incapable of language. (As one researcher said, "My God, think of all those eminent names attached to all those scholarly papers for all those decades - and everyone agreeing that only man had language. What a mess. ")

  Washoe's skills provoked a variety of other experiments in teaching language. A chimpanzee named Lucy was taught to communicate through a computer; another, Sarah, was

  taught to use plastic markers on a board. Other apes were studied as well. An orangutan named Alfred began instruction in 1971; a lowland gorilla named Koko in 1972; and in 1973 Peter Elliot began with a mountain gorilla, Amy.

  At his first visit to the hospital to meet Amy, he found a pathetic little creature, heavily sedated, with restraining straps on her frail black arms and legs. He stroked her head and said gently, "Hello, Amy, I'm Peter. "

  Amy promptly bit his hand, drawing blood.

  From this inauspicious beginning emerged a singularly successful research program. In 1973, the basic teaching technique, called molding, was well understood. The animal was shown an object and the researcher simultaneously molded the animal's hand into the correct sign, until the association was firmly made. Subsequent testing confirmed that the animal understood the meaning of the sign.

  But if the basic methodology was accepted, the application was highly competitive. Researchers competed over the rate of sign acquisition, or vocabulary. (Among human beings, vocabulary was considered the best measure of intelligence. ) The rate of sign acquisition could be taken as a measure of either the scientist's skill or the animal's intelligence.

  It was by now clearly recognized that different apes had different personalities. As one researcher commented, "Pongid studies are perhaps the only field in which academic gossip centers on the students and not the teachers. " In the increasingly competitive and disputatious world of primate research, it was said that Lucy was a drunk, that Koko was an ill-mannered brat, that Lana's head was turned by her celebrity ("she only works when there is an interviewer present"), and that Nim was so stupid he should have been named Dim.

  At first glance, it may seem odd that Peter Elliot should have come under attack, for this handsome, rather shy man - the son of a Manin County librarian - had avoided controversy during his years of work with Amy. Elliot's publications were modest and temperate; his progress with Amy

  was well documented; he showed no interest in publicity, and was not among those researchers who took their apes on the Carson or the Griffin show.

  But Elliot's diffident manner concealed not only a quick intelligence, but a fierce ambition as well. If he avoided controversy, it was only because he didn't have time for it - he had been working nights and weekends for years, and driving his staff and Amy just as hard. He was very good at the business of science, getting grants; at all the animal behaviorist conferences, where others showed up in jeans and plaid lumberjack shirts, Elliot arrived in a three-piece suit. Elliot intended to be the foremost ape researcher, and he intended Amy to be the foremost ape.

  Elliot's success in obtaining grants was such that in 1975, Project Amy had an annual budget of $160,000 and a staff of eight, including a child psychologist and a computer programmer. A staff member of the Bergren Institute later said that Elliot's appeal lay in the fact that he was "a good investment; for example, Project Amy got fifty percent more computer time for our money because he went on line with his time-sharing terminal at night and on weekends, when the time was cheaper. He was very cost-effective. And dedicated, of course: Elliot obviously cared about nothing in life except his work with Amy. That made him a boring conversationalist but a very good bet, from our standpoint. It's hard to decide who's truly brilliant; it's easier to see who's driven, which in the long run may be more important. We anticipated great things from Elliot. "

  Peter Elliot's difficulties began on the morning of February 2, 1979. Amy lived in a mobile home on the Berkeley campus; she spent nights there alone, and usually provided an effusive greeting the next day. However, on that morning the Project Amy staff found her in an uncharacteristic sullen mood; she was irritable and bleary-eyed, behaving as if she had been wronged in some fashion.

  Elliot felt that something had upset her during the night. When asked, she kept making signs for "sleep box," a new

  word pairing he did not understand. That in itself was not unusual; Amy made up new word pairings all the time, and they were often hard to decipher. Just a few days before, she had bewildered them by talking about "crocodile milk. " Eventually they realized that Amy's milk had gone sour, and that since she disliked crocodiles (which she had only seen in picture books), she somehow decided that sour milk was "crocodile milk. "

  Now she was talking about "sleep box. " At first they thought she might be referring to her ne
stlike bed. It turned out she was using "box" in her usual sense, to refer to the television set.

  Everything in her trailer, including the television, was controlled on a twenty-four-hour cycle by the computer. They ran a check to see if the television had been turned on during the night, disturbing her sleep. Since Amy liked to watch television, it was conceivable that she had managed to turn it on herself. But Amy looked scornful as they examined the actual television in the trailer. She clearly meant something else.

  Finally they determined that by "sleep box" she meant "sleep pictures. " When asked about these sleep pictures, Amy signed that they were "bad pictures" and "old pictures," and that they "make Amy cry. "

  She was dreaming.

  The fact that Amy was the first primate to report dreams caused tremendous excitement among Elliot's staff. But the excitement was short-lived. Although Amy continued to dream on succeeding nights, she refused to discuss her dreams; in fact, she seemed to blame the researchers for this new and confusing intrusion into her mental life. Worse, her waking behavior deteriorated alarmingly.

  Her word acquisition rate fell from 2. 7 words a week to 0. 8 words a week, her spontaneous word formation rate from 1. 9 to 0. 3. Monitored attention span was halved. Mood swings increased; erratic and unmotivated behavior became commonplace; temper tantrums occurred daily. Amy was four and a half feet tall, and weighed 130 pounds. She was an immensely strong animal. The staff began to wonder if they could control her.

  Her refusal to talk about her dreams frustrated them. They tried a variety of investigative approaches; they showed her pictures from books and magazines; they ran the ceiling-mounted video monitors around the clock, in case she signed something significant while alone (like young children, Amy often "talked to herself"); they even administered a battery of neurological tests, including an EEG.

  Finally they hit on finger painting.

  This was immediately successful. Amy was enthusiastic about finger painting, and after they mixed cayenne pepper with the pigments, she stopped licking her fingers. She drew images swiftly and repetitively, and she seemed to become somewhat more relaxed, more her old self.

  David Bergman, the child psychologist, noted that "what Amy actually draws is a cluster of apparently related images:

  inverted crescent shapes, or semicircles, which are always associated with an area of vertical green streaks. Amy says the green streaks represent 'forest,' and she calls the semi-circles 'bad houses' or 'old houses. ' In addition she often draws black circles, which she calls 'holes. '

  Bergman cautioned against the obvious conclusion that she was drawing old buildings in the jungle. "Watching her make drawings one after another, again and again, convinces me of the obsessive and private nature of the imagery. Amy is troubled by these pictures, and she is trying to get them out, to banish them to paper. "

  In fact, the nature of the imagery remained mysterious to the Project Amy staff. By late April, 1979, they had concluded that her dreams could be explained in four ways. In order of seriousness, they were:

  1. The dreams are an attempt to rationalize events in her daily life. This was the usual explanation of (human) dreams, but the staff doubted that it applied in Amy's case.

  2. The dreams are a transitional adolescent manifestation.

  At seven years of age, Amy was a gorilla teenager, and for nearly a year she had shown many typical teenage traits, including rages and sulks, fussiness about her appearance, a new interest in the opposite sex.

  3. The dreams are a species-specific phenomenon. It was possible that all gorillas had disturbing dreams, and that in the wild the resultant stresses were handled in some fashion by the behavior of the group. Although gorillas had been studied in the wild for the past twenty years, there was no evidence for this.

  4. The dreams are the first sign of incipient dementia. This was the most feared possibility. To train an ape effectively, one had to begin with an infant; as the years progressed, researchers waited to see if their animal would grow up to be bright or stupid, recalcitrant or pliable, healthy or sickly. The health of apes was a constant worry; many programs collapsed after years of effort and expense when the apes died of physical or mental illness. Timothy, an Atlanta chimp, became psychotic in 1976 and committed suicide by copro?phagia, choking to death on his own feces. Maurice, a Chicago orang, became intensely neurotic, developing phobias that halted work in 1977. For better or worse, the very intelligence that made apes worthwhile subjects for study also made them as unstable as human beings.

  But the Project Amy staff was unable to make further progress. In May, 1979, they made what turned out to be a momentous decision: they decided to publish Amy's drawings, and submitted her images to the Journal of Behavioral Sciences.

  2. Breakthrough

  "DREAM BEHAVIOR IN A MOUNTAIN GORILLA" WAS

  never published. The paper was routinely forwarded to three scientists on the editorial board for review, and one copy somehow (it is still unclear just how) fell into the hands of the Primate Preservation Agency, a New York group formed in 1975 to prevent the "unwarranted and illegitimate exploitation of intelligent primates in unnecessary laboratory research. " *

  On June 3, the PPA began picketing the Zoology Department at Berkeley, and calling for the "release" of Amy. Most of the demonstrators were women, and several young children were present; videotapes of an eight-year-old boy holding a placard with Amy's photograph and shouting "Free Amy! Free Amy!" appeared on local television news.

  In a tactical error, the Project Amy staff elected to ignore the protests except for a brief press release stating that the PPA was "misinformed. " The release went out under the Berkeley Information Office letterhead.

  On June 5, the PPA released comments on Professor Elliot's work from other primatologists around the country. (Many later denied the comments or claimed they were misquoted. ) Dr. Wayne Turman, of the University of Oklahoma at Norman, was quoted as saying that Elliot's work was "fanciful and unethical. " Dr. Felicity Hammond, of the Yerkes Primate Research Center in Atlanta, said that "neither Elliot nor his research is of the first rank. " Dr. Richard Aronson at the University of Chicago called the research "clearly fascist in nature. "

  None of these scientists had read Elliot's paper before commenting; but the damage, particularly from Aronson, was incalculable. On June 8, Eleanor Vries, the spokesperson for the PPA, referred to the "criminal research of Dr. Elliot and his Nazi staff"; she claimed Elliot's research caused Amy to have nightmares, and that Amy was being subjected to torture, drugs, and electroshock treatments.

  Belatedly, on June 10, the Project Amy staff prepared a lengthy press release, explaining their position in detail and

  *The Following account of Elliot's persecution draws heavily on J. A. Peebles, "Infringement of Academic Freedom by Press Innuendo and Hearsay: The Experience of Dr. Peter Elliot," in the Journal of Academic Law and Psychiatry 52. no. 12 (1979): 19 - 38.

  referring to the unpublished paper. But the University Information Office was now "too busy" to issue the release.

  On June 11, the Berkeley faculty scheduled a meeting to consider "issues of ethical conduct" within the university. Eleanor Vries announced that the PPA had hired the noted San Francisco attorney Melvin Bell "to free Amy from sub?jugation. " Bell's office was not available for comment.

  On the same day, the Project Amy staff had a sudden, unexpected breakthrough in their understanding of Amy's dreams.

  Through all the publicity and commotion, the group had continued to work daily with Amy, and her continued distress - and flaring temper tantrums - was a constant reminder that they had not solved the initial problem. They persisted in their search for clues, although when the break finally came, it happened almost by accident.

  Sarah Johnson, a research assistant, was checking prehistoric archaeological sites in the Congo, on the unlikely chance that Amy might have seen such a site ("old buildings in the jungl
e") in her infancy, before she was brought to the Minneapolis zoo. Johnson quickly discovered the pertinent facts about the Congo: the region had not been explored by Western observers until a hundred years ago; in recent times, hostile tribes and civil war had made scientific inquiry hazardous; and finally, the moist jungle environment did not lend itself to artifact preservation.

  This meant remarkably little was known about Congolese prehistory, and Johnson completed her research in a few hours. But she was reluctant to return so quickly from her assignment, so she stayed on, looking at other books in the anthropology library - ethnographies, histories, early accounts. The earliest visitors to the interior of the Congo were Arab slave traders and Portuguese merchants, and several had written accounts of their travels. Because Johnson could read neither Arabic nor Portuguese, she just looked at the plates.

  And then she saw a picture that, she said, "sent a chill up my spine. "

  It was a Portuguese engraving originally dated 1642 and reprinted in an 1842 volume. The ink was yellowing on frayed brittle paper, but clearly visible was a ruined city in the jungle, overgrown with creeper vines and giant ferns. The doors and windows were constructed with semicircular arches, exactly as Amy had drawn them.

  "It was," Elliot said later, "the kind of opportunity that comes to a researcher once in his lifetime - if he's lucky. Of course we knew nothing about the picture; the caption was written in flowing script and included a word that looked like 'Zinj,' and the date 1642. We immediately hired translators skilled in archaic Arabic and seventeenth-century Portuguese, but that wasn't the point. The point was we had a chance to verify a major theoretical question. Amy's pictures seemed to be a clear case of specific genetic memory. "

  Genetic memory was first proposed by Marais in 1911, and it has been vigorously debated ever since. In its simplest form, the theory proposed that the mechanism of genetic inheritance, which governed the transmission of all physical traits, was not limited to physical traits alone. Behavior was clearly genetically determined in lower animals, which were born with complex behavior that did not have to be learned. But higher animals had more flexible behavior, dependent on learning and memory. The question was whether higher animals, particularly apes and men, had any part of their psychic apparatus fixed from birth by their genes.

  Now, Elliot felt, with Amy they had evidence for such a memory. Amy had been taken from Africa when she was only seven months old. Unless she had seen this ruined city in her infancy, her dreams represented a specific genetic memory which could be verified by a trip to Africa. By the evening of June 11, the Project Amy staff was agreed. If they could arrange it - and pay for it - they would take Amy back to Africa.

  On June 12, the team waited for the translators to complete work on the source material. Checked translations were expected to be ready within two days. But a trip to Africa for Amy and two staff members would cost at least thirty thousand dollars, a substantial fraction of their total annual operating budget. And transporting a gorilla halfway around the world involved a bewildering tangle of customs regulations and bureaucratic red tape.

  Clearly, they needed expert help, but they were not sure where to turn. And then, on June 13, a Dr. Karen Ross from one of their granting institutions, the Earth Resources Wildlife Fund, called from Houston to say that she was leading an expedition into the Congo in two days' time. And although she showed no interest in taking Peter Elliot or Amy with her, she conveyed - at least over the telephone - a confident familiarity with the way expeditions were assembled and managed in far-off places around the world.

  When she asked if she could come to San Francisco to meet with Dr. Elliot, Dr. Elliot replied that he would be delighted to meet with her, at her convenience.

  3. Legal Issues.

  PETER ELLIOT REMEMBERED JUNE 14, 1979, AS A day of sudden reverses. He began at 8 A. M. in the San Francisco law firm of Sutherland, Morton & O'Connell, because of the threatened custody suit from the PPA - a suit which became all the more important now that he was planning to take Amy out of the country.

  He met with John Morton in the firm's wood-paneled library overlooking Grant Street. Morton took notes on a yellow legal pad. "I think you're all right," Morton began, "but let me get a few facts. Amy is a gorilla?"

  "Yes, a female mountain gorilla. "

  "Age?"

  "She's seven now. "

  "So she's still a child?"

  Elliot explained that gorillas matured in six to eight years, so that Amy was late adolescent, the equivalent of a sixteen-year-old human female.

  Morton scratched notes on a pad. "Could we say she's still a minor?"

  "Do we want to say that?"

  "I think so. "

  "Yes, she's still a minor," Elliot said.

  "Where did she come from? I mean originally. "

  "A woman tourist named Swenson found her in Africa, in a village called Bagimindi. Amy's mother had been killed by the natives for food. Mrs. Swenson bought her as an infant. "

  "So she was not bred in captivity," Morton said, writing on his pad.

  "No. Mrs. Swenson brought her back to the States and donated her to the Minneapolis zoo. "

  "She relinquished her interest in Amy?"

  "I assume so," Elliot said. "We've been trying to reach Mrs. Swenson to ask about Amy's early life, but she's out of the country. Apparently she travels constantly; she's in Borneo. Anyway, when Amy was sent to San Francisco, I called the Minneapolis zoo to ask if I could keep her for study. The zoo said yes, for three years. "

  "Did you pay any money?"

  ''No.

  "Was there a written contract?"

  "No, I just called the zoo director. "

  Morton nodded. "Oral agreement. . . " he said, writing. "And when the three years were up?"

  "That was the spring of 1976. 1 asked the zoo for an extension of six years, and they gave it to me. "

  "Again orally?"

  "Yes. I called on the phone. "

  "No correspondence?"

  "No. They didn't seem very interested when I called. To tell you the truth, I think they had forgotten about Amy. The zoo has four gorillas, anyway. "

  Morton frowned. "Isn't a gorilla a pretty expensive animal? I mean, if you wanted to buy one for a pet or for the circus. "

  "Gorillas are on the endangered list; you can't buy them as pets. But yes, they'd be pretty expensive. "

  "How expensive?"

  "Well, there's no established market value, but it would be twenty or thirty thousand dollars. "

  "And all during these years, you have been teaching her language?"

  "Yes," Peter said. "American Sign Language. She has a vocabulary of six hundred and twenty words now. "

  "Is that a lot?"

  "More than any known primate. "

  Morton nodded, making notes. "You work with her every day in ongoing research?"

  "Yes. "

  "Good," Morton said. "That's been very important in the animal custody cases so far. "

  For more than a hundred years, there had been organized movements in Western countries to stop animal experimentation. They were led by the anti-vivisectionists, the RSPCA, the ASPCA. Originally these organizations were a kind of lunatic fringe of animal lovers, intent on stopping all animal research.

  Over the years, scientists had evolved a standard defense acceptable to the courts. Researchers claimed that their experiments had the goal of bettering the health and welfare of mankind, a higher priority than animal welfare. They pointed out that no one objected to animals being used as beasts of burden or for agricultural work - a life of drudgery to which animals had been subjected for thousands of years. Using animals in scientific experiments simply extended the idea that animals were the servants of human enterprises.

  In addition, animals were literally brutes. They had no self-awareness, no recognition of their existence in nature. This meant, in the words of philosopher George H. M
ead, that "animals have no rights. We are at liberty to cut off their lives; there is no wrong committed when an animal's life is taken away. He has not lost anything

  Many people were troubled by these views, but attempts to establish guidelines quickly ran into logical problems. The most obvious concerned the perceptions of animals further down the phylogenetic scale. Few researchers operated on dogs, cats, and other mammals without anesthesia, but what about annelid worms, crayfish, leeches, and squid? Ignoring these creatures was a form of "taxonomic discrimination. " Yet if these animals deserved consideration, shouldn't it also be illegal to throw a live lobster into a pot of boiling water?

  The question of what constituted cruelty to animals was confused by the animal societies themselves. In some countries, they fought the extermination of rats; and in 1968 there was the bizarre Australian pharmaceutical case. * In the face of these ironies, the courts hesitated to interfere with animal experimentation. As a practical matter, researchers were free to do as they wished. The volume of animal research was extraordinary: during the 1970s, sixty-four million animals were killed in experiments in the United States each year.

  But attitudes had slowly changed. Language studies with dolphins and apes made it clear that these animals were not only intelligent but self-aware; they recognized themselves in mirrors and photographs. In 1974, scientists themselves formed the International Primate Protection League to monitor research involving monkeys and apes. In March, 1978, the Indian government banned the export of rhesus monkeys to research laboratories around the world. And there were court cases which concluded that in some instances animals did, indeed, have rights.

  The old view was analogous to slavery: the animal was the property of its owner, who could do whatever he wished. But now ownership became secondary. In February, 1977,

  *A new pharmaceutical factory was built in Western Australia. In this factory all the pills came out on a conveyor bell; a person had to watch the belt, and press buttons to sort the pills into separate bins by size and color. A Skinnenan animal behaviorist pointed out that it would be simple to teach pigeons to watch the pills and peck colored keys to do the sorting process. Incredulous factory managers agreed to a test; the pigeons indeed performed reliably, and were duly placed on the assembly line. Then the RSPCA stepped in and put a stop to it on the grounds that it represented cruelty to animals; the job was turned over to a human operator. for whom it did not, apparently, represent cruelty.

  there was a case involving a dolphin named Mary, released by a lab technician into the open ocean. The University of Hawaii prosecuted the technician, charging loss-of a valuable research animal. Two trials resulted in hung juries; the case was dropped.

  In November, 1978, there was a custody case involving a chimpanzee named Arthur, who was fluent in sign language. His owner, Johns Hopkins University, decided to sell him and close the program. His trainer, William Levine, went to court and obtained custody on the grounds that Arthur knew language and thus was no longer a chimpanzee.

  "One of the pertinent facts," Morton said, "was that when Arthur was confronted by other chimpanzees, he referred to them as 'black things. ' And when Arthur was twice asked to sort photographs of people and photographs of chimps, he sorted them correctly except that both times he put his own picture in the stack with the people. He obviously did not consider himself a chimpanzee, and the court ruled that he should remain with his trainer, since any separation would cause him severe psychic distress. "

  "Amy cries when I leave her," Elliot said.

  "When you conduct experiments, do you obtain her permission?"

  "Always. " Elliot smiled. Morton obviously had no sense of day-to-day life with Amy. It was essential to obtain her permission for any course of action, even a ride in a car. She was a powerful animal, and she could be willful and stubborn.

  "Do you keep a record of her acquiescence?"

  "Videotapes. "

  "Does she understand the experiments you propose?" He shrugged. "She says she does. "

  "You follow a system of rewards and punishments?" "All animal behaviorists do. "

  Morton frowned. "What forms do her punishments take?"

  "Well, when she's a bad girl I make her stand in the corner facing the wall. Or else I send her to bed early without her peanut-butter-and-jelly snack. "

  "What about torture and shock treatments?"

  "Ridiculous. "

  "You never physically punish the animal?"

  "She's a pretty damn big animal. Usually I worry that she'll get mad and punish me. "

  Morton smiled and stood. "You're going to be all right," he said. "Any court will rule that Amy is your ward and that you must decide any ultimate disposition in her case. " He hesitated. "I know this sounds strange, but could you put Amy on the stand?"

  "I guess so," Elliot said. "Do you think it will come to that?"

  "Not in this case," Morton said, "but sooner or later it will. You watch: within ten years, there will be a custody case involving a language-using primate, and the ape will be in the witness-box. "

  Elliot shook his hand, and said as he was leaving, "By the way, would I have any problem taking her out of the country?"

  "If there is a custody case, you could have trouble taking her across state lines," Morton said. "Are you planning to take her out of the country?"

  "Yes. "

  "Then my advice is to do it fast, and don't tell anyone," Morton said.

  Elliot entered his office on the third floor of the Zoology Department building shortly after nine. His secretary, Carolyn, said: "A Dr. Ross called from that Wildlife Fund in Houston; she's on her way to San Francisco. A Mr. Mori?kawa called three times, says it's important. The Project Amy staff meeting is set for ten o'clock. And Windy is in your office. "

  "Really?"

  James Weldon was a senior professor in the Department, a weak, blustery man. "Windy" Weldon was usually portrayed in departmental cartoons as holding a wet finger in the air: he was a master at knowing which way the wind was blowing. For the past several days, he had avoided Peter Elliot and his staff.

  Elliot went into his office.

  "Well, Peter my boy," Weldon said, reaching out to give his version of a hearty handshake. "You're in early. "

  Elliot was instantly wary. "I thought I'd beat the crowds," he said. The picketers did not show up until ten o'clock, sometimes later, depending on when they had arranged to meet the TV news crews. That was how it worked these days:

  protest by appointment.

  "They're not coming anymore. " Weldon smiled.

  He handed Elliot the late city edition of the Chronicle, a front-page story circled in black pen. Eleanor Vries had resigned her position as regional director of the PPA, pleading overwork and personal pressures; a statement from the PPA in New York indicated that they had seriously misconstrued the nature and content of Elliot's research.

  "Meaning what?" Elliot asked.

  "Belli's office reviewed your paper and Vries's public statements about torture, and decided that the PPA was exposed to a major libel suit," Weldon said. "The New York office is terrified. They'll be making overtures to you later today. Personally, I hope you'll be understanding. "

  Elliot dropped into his chair. "What about the faculty meeting next week?"

  "Oh, that's essential," Weldon said. "There's no question that the faculty will want to discuss unethical conduct - on the part of the media, and issue a strong statement in your support. I'm drawing up a statement now, to come from my office. "

  The irony of this was not lost on Elliot. "You sure you want to go out on a limb?" he asked,

  "I'm behind you one thousand percent, I hope you know that," Weldon said. Weldon was restless, pacing around the office, staring at the walls, which were covered with Amy's finger paintings. Windy had something further on his mind. "She's still making these same pictures?" he asked, finally.

  "Yes," Elliot sai
d.

  "And you still have no idea what they mean?"

  Elliot paused; at best it was premature to tell Weldon what they thought the pictures meant. "No idea," he said.

  "Are you sure?" Weldon asked, frowning. "I think somebody knows what they mean. "

  "Why is that?"

  "Something very strange has happened," Weldon said. "Someone has offered to buy Amy. "

  "To buy her? What are you talking about, to buy her?"

  "A lawyer in Los Angeles called my office yesterday and offered to buy her for a hundred and fifty thousand dollars. "

  "It must be some rich do-gooder," Elliot said, "trying to save Amy from torture. "

  "I don't think so," Weldon said. "For one thing, the otter came from Japan. Someone named Morikawa - he's in electronics in Tokyo. I found that out when the lawyer called back this morning, to increase his offer to two hundred and fifty thousand dollars. "

  "Two hundred and fifty thousand dollars?" Elliot said. "For Amy?" Of course it was out of the question. He would never sell her. But why would anyone offer so much money?

  Weldon had an answer. "This kind of money, a quarter of a million dollars, can only be coming from private enterprise. Industry. Clearly, Morikawa has read about your work and found a use for speaking primates in an industrial context. " Windy stared at the ceiling, a sure sign he was about to wax eloquent. "I think a new field might be opening up here, the training of primates for industrial applications in the real world. "

  Peter Elliot swore. He was not teaching Amy language in order to put a hard hat on her head and a lunch pail in her hand, and he said so.

  "You're not thinking it through," Weldon said. "What if we are on the verge of a new field of applied behavior for the great apes? Think what it means. Not only funding to the Department, and an opportunity for applied research. Most important, there would be a reason to keep these animals alive. You know that the great apes are becoming extinct.

  The chimps in Africa are greatly reduced in number. The orangs of Borneo are losing their natural habitat to the timber cutters and will be extinct in ten years. The gorilla is down to three thousand in the central African forests. These animals will all disappear in our lifetime - unless there is a reason to keep them alive, as a species. You may provide that reason, Peter my boy. Think about it. "

  Elliot did think about it, and he discussed it at the Project Amy staff meeting at ten o'clock. They considered possible industrial applications for apes, and possible advantages to employers, such as the lack of unions and fringe benefits. In the late twentieth century, these were major considerations. (In 1978, for each new automobile that rolled off the Detroit assembly lines, the cost of worker health benefits exceeded the cost of all the steel used to build the car. )

  But they concluded that a vision of "industrialized apes"

  was wildly fanciful. An ape like Amy was not a cheap and stupid version of a human worker. Quite the opposite: Amy was a highly intelligent and complex creature out of her element in the modern industrial world. She demanded a great deal of supervision; she was whimsical and unreliable; and her health was always at risk. It simply didn't make sense to use her in industry. If Morikawa had visions of apes wielding soldering irons on a microelectronic assembly line, building TVs and hi-fl sets, he was sorely misinformed.

  The only note of caution came from Bergman, the child psychologist. "A quarter of a million is a lot of money," he said, "and Mr. Morikawa is probably no fool. He must have learned about Amy through her drawings, which imply she is neurotic and difficult. If he's interested in her, I'd bet it's because of her drawings. But I can't imagine why those drawings should be worth a quarter of a million dollars. "

  Neither could anyone else, and the discussion turned to the drawings themselves, and the newly translated texts. Sarah Johnson, in charge of research, started out with the flat comment "I have bad news about the Congo. "*

  For most of recorded history, she explained, nothing was

  *Johnson's principal reference was the definitive work by A. J. Parkinson. The Congo Delta in Myth and History (London; Peters. 1904).

  known about the Congo. The ancient Egyptians on the upper Nile knew only that their river originated far to the south, in a region they called the Land of Trees. This was a mysterious place with forests so dense they were as dark as night in the middle of the day. Strange creatures inhabited this perpetual gloom, including little men with tails, and animals half black and half white.

  For nearly four thousand years afterward, nothing more substantial was learned about the interior of Africa. The Arabs came to East Africa in the seventh century A. D. , in search of gold, ivory, spices, and slaves. But the Arabs were merchant seamen and did not venture inland. They called the interior Zinj - the Land of the Blacks - a region of fable and fantasy. There were stories of vast forests and tiny men with tails; stories of mountains that spewed fire and turned the sky black; stories of native villages overwhelmed by monkeys, which would have congress with the women; stories of great giants with hairy bodies and flat noses; stories of creatures half leopard, half man; stories of native markets where the fattened carcasses of men were butchered and sold as a delicacy.

  Such stories were sufficiently forbidding to keep the Arabs on the coast, despite other stories equally alluring: mountains of shimmering gold, riverbeds gleaming with diamonds, animals that spoke the language of men, great jungle civilizations of unimaginable splendor. In particular, one story was repeated again and again in early accounts: the story of the Lost City of Zinj.

  According to legend, a city known to the Hebrews of So?lomonic times had been a source of inconceivable wealth in diamonds. The caravan route to the city had been jealously guarded, passed from father to son, as a sacred trust for generation after generation. But the diamond mines were exhausted and the city itself now lay in crumbling ruins, somewhere in the dark heart of Africa. The arduous caravan routes were long since swallowed up by jungle, and the last trader who remembered the way had carried his secret with him to the grave many hundreds of years before.

  This mysterious and alluring place the Arabs called the Lost City of Zinj. * Yet despite its enduring fame, Johnson could find few detailed descriptions of the city. In 1187 Ibn Baratu, an Arab in Mombasa, recorded that "the natives of the region tell. . . of a lost city far inland, called Zinj. There the inhabitants, who are black, once lived in wealth and luxury, and even the slaves decorated themselves with jewels and especially blue diamonds, for a great store of diamonds is there. "

  In 1292, a Persian named Mohammed Zaid stated that "a large [the size] diamond of a man's clenched fist . . was exhibited on the streets of Zanzibar, and all said it had come from the interior, where the ruins of a city called Zinj may be found, and it is here that such diamonds may be found in profusion, scattered upon the ground and also in rivers

  In 1334, another Arab, Ibn Mohammed, stated that "our number made arrangements to seek out the city of Zinj, but quitted our quest upon learning that the city was long since abandoned, and much ruined. It is said that the aspect of the city is wondrous strange, for doors and windows are built in the curve of a half-moon, and the residences are now overtaken by a violent race of hairy men who speak in whispers no known language

  Then the Portuguese, those indefatigable explorers, arrived. By 1544, they were venturing inland from the west coast up the mighty Congo River, but they soon encountered all the obstacles that would prevent exploration of central Africa for hundreds of years to come. The Congo was not navigable beyond the first set of rapids, two hundred miles inland (at what was once Leopoldville, and is now Kin?shasa). The natives were hostile and cannibalistic. And the hot steaming jungle was the source of disease - malaria, sleeping sickness, bilharzia, blackwater fever - which decimated foreign intruders.

  The Portuguese never managed to penetrate the central

  *The fabled city of Zinj formed the basis for H. Rider Haggard's popul
ar novel King Solomon's Mines, first published in 1885. Haggard, a gifted linguist, had served on the staff of the Governor of Natal in 1875. and he presumably heard of Zinj from the neighboring Zulus at that time.

  Congo. Neither did the English, under Captain Brenner, in 1644; his entire party was lost. The Congo would remain for two hundred years as a blank spot on the civilized maps of the world.

  But the early explorers repeated the legends of the interior, including the story of Zinj. A Portuguese artist, Juan Diego de Valdez, drew a widely acclaimed picture of the Lost City of Zinj in 1642. "But," Sarah Johnson said, "he also drew pictures of men with tails, and monkeys having carnal knowledge of native women. "

  Somebody groaned.

  "Apparently Valdez was crippled," she continued. "He lived all his life in the town of Settibal, drinking with sailors and drawing pictures based on his conversations. "

  Africa was not thoroughly explored until the mid - nineteenth century, by Burton and Speke, Baker and Living-stone, and especially Stanley. No trace of the Lost City of Zinj was found by any of them. Nor had any trace of the apocryphal city been found in the hundred years since.

  The gloom that descended over the Project Amy staff meeting was profound. "I told you it was bad news," Sarah Johnson said.

  "You mean," Peter Elliot said, "that this picture is based on a description, and we don't know whether the city actually exists or not. "

  "I'm afraid so," Sarah Johnson said. "There is no proof that the city in the picture exists at all. It's just a story. "

  4. Resolution

  PETER ELLIOT'S UNQUESTIONED RELIANCE ON twentieth-century hard data - facts, figures, graphs - left him unprepared for the possibility that the 1642 engraving, in all its detail, was merely the fanciful speculation of an uninhibited artist. The news came as a shock.

  Their plans to take Amy to the Congo suddenly appeared childishly na?ve; the resemblance of her sketchy, schematic drawings to the 1642 Valdez engraving was obviously coincidental. How could they ever have imagined that a Lost City of Zinj was anything but the stuff of ancient fable? In the seventeenth-century world of widening horizons and new wonders, the idea of such a city would have seemed perfectly reasonable, even compelling. But in the computerized twentieth century, the Lost City of Zinj was as unlikely as Cam?elot or Xanadu. They had been fools ever to take it seriously. "The lost city doesn't exist," he said.

  "Oh, it exists, all right," she said. "There's no doubt about that. "

  Elliot glanced up quickly, and then he saw that Sarah Johnson had not answered him. A tall gangly girl in her early twenties stood at the back of the room. She might have been considered beautiful except for her cold, aloof demeanor. This girl was dressed in a severe, businesslike suit, and she carried a briefcase, which she now set on the table, popping the latches.

  "I'm Dr. Ross," she announced, "from the Wildlife Fund, and I'd like your opinion of these pictures. "

  She passed around a series of photographs, which were viewed by the staff with an assortment of whistles and sighs. At the head of the table, Elliot waited impatiently until the photographs came down to him.

  They were grainy black-and-white images with horizontal scanning line streaks, photographed off a video screen. But the image was unmistakable: a ruined city in the jungle, with curious inverted crescent-shaped doors and windows.

  5. Amy

  "BY SATELLITE?" ELLIOT REPEATED, HEARING THE tension in his voice.

  "That's right, the pictures were transmitted by satellite from Africa two days ago. "

  "Then you know the location of this ruin?"

  "Of course. "

  "And your expedition leaves in a matter of hours?"

  "Six hours and twenty-three minutes, to be exact," Ross said, glancing at her digital watch,

  Elliot adjourned the meeting, and talked privately with Ross for more than an hour. Elliot later claimed that Ross had "deceived" him about the purpose of the expedition and the hazards they would face. But Elliot was eager to go, and probably not inclined to be too fussy about the reasons behind Ross's coming expedition, or the dangers involved. As a skilled grantsman, he had long ago grown comfortable with situations where other peoples' money and his own motivations did not exactly coincide. This was the cynical side of academic life: how much pure research had been funded because it might cure cancer? A researcher promised anything to get his money.

  Apparently it never occurred to Elliot that Ross might be using him as coldly as he was using her. From the start Ross was never entirely truthful; she had been instructed by Travis to explain the ERTS Congo mission "with a little data dropout. " Data dropout was second nature to her; everyone at ERTS had learned to say no more than was necessary. Elliot treated her as if she were an ordinary funding agency, and that was a serious mistake.

  In the final analysis, Ross and Elliot misjudged each other, for each presented a deceptive appearance, and in the same way. Elliot appeared so shy and retiring that one Berkeley faculty member had commented, "It's no wonder he's devoted his life to apes; he can't work up the nerve to talk to people. " But Elliot had been a tough middle linebacker in college, and his diffident academic demeanor concealed a head-crunching ambitious drive.

  Similarly, Karen Ross, despite her youthful cheerleader beauty and soft, seductive Texas accent, possessed great intelligence and a deep inner toughness. (She had matured early, and a high-school teacher had once appraised her as "the very flower of virile Texas womanhood. ") Ross felt responsible for the previous ERTS expedition, and she was determined to rectify past errors. It was at least possible that Elliot and Amy could help her when she got onsite; that was reason enough to take them with her. Beyond that, Ross was concerned about the consortium, which was obviously seeking Elliot, since Morikawa was calling. If she took Elliot and Amy with her, she removed a possible advantage to the consortium - again, reason enough to take them with her. Finally, she needed a cover in case her expedition was stopped at one of the borders - and a primatologist and an ape provided a perfect cover.

  But in the end Karen Ross wanted only the Congo diamonds - and she was prepared to say anything, do anything, sacrifice anything to get them.

  In photographs taken at San Francisco airport, Elliot and Ross appeared as two smiling, youthful academics, embarking on a lark of an expedition to Africa. But in fact, their motivations were different, and grimly held. Elliot was reluctant to tell her how theoretical and academic his goals were - and Ross was reluctant to admit how pragmatic were hers.

  In any case, by midday on June 14, Karen Ross found herself riding with Peter Elliot in his battered Fiat sedan along Hallowell Road, going past the University athletic field. She had some misgivings: they were going to meet Amy.

  Elliot unlocked the door with its red sign DO NOT DISTURB ANIMAL EXPERIMENTATION IN PROGRESS. Behind the door, Amy was grunting and scratching impatiently. Elliot paused.

  "When you meet her," he said, "remember that she is a gorilla and not a human being. Gorillas have their own etiquette. Don't speak loudly or make any sudden movements until she gets used to you. If you smile, don't show your teeth, because bared teeth are a threat. And keep your eyes downcast, because direct stares from strangers are considered hostile. Don't stand too close to me or touch me, be-cause she's very jealous. If you talk to her, don't lie. Even though she uses sign language, she understands most human speech, and we usually just talk to her. She can tell when you're lying and she doesn't like it. "

  "She doesn't like it?"

  "She dismisses you, won't talk to you, and gets bitchy. "

  "Anything else?"

  "No, it should be okay. " He smiled reassuringly. "We have this traditional greeting, even though she's getting a little big for it. " He opened the door, braced himself, and said, "Good morning, Amy. "

  A huge black shape came leaping out through the open door into his arms. Elliot staggered back under the impact. Ross was astonished by the
size of the animal. She had been imagining something smaller and cuter. Amy was as large as an adult human female.

  Amy kissed Elliot on the cheek with her large lips, her black head seeming enormous alongside his. Her breath steamed his glasses. Ross smelled a sweetish odor, and watched as he gently unwrapped her long arms from around his shoulders. "Amy happy this morning?" he asked.

  Amy's fingers moved quickly near her cheek, as if she were brushing away flies.

  "Yes, I was late today," Elliot said.

  She moved her fingers again, and Ross realized that Amy was signing. The speed was surprising; she had expected something much slower and more deliberate. She noticed that Amy's eyes never left Elliot's face. She was extraordinarily attentive, focusing on him with total animal watchfulness. She seethed to absorb everything, his posture, his expression, his tone of voice, as well as his words.

  "I had to work," Elliot said. She sighed again quickly, like human gestures of dismissal. "Yes, that's right, people work. " He led Amy back into the trailer, and motioned for Karen Ross to follow. Inside the trailer, he said, "Amy, this is Dr. Ross. Say hello to Dr. Ross. "

  Amy looked at Karen Ross suspiciously.

  "Hello, Amy," Karen Ross said, smiling at the floor. She felt a little foolish behaving this way, but Amy was large enough to frighten her.

  Amy stared at Karen Ross for a moment, then walked away, across the trailer to her easel. She had been finger-painting, and now resumed this activity, ignoring them.

  "What's that mean?" Ross said. She distinctly felt she was being snubbed.

  "We'll see," Elliot said.

  After a few moments, Amy ambled back, walking on her knuckles. She went directly to Karen Ross, sniffed her crotch, and examined her minutely. She seemed particularly interested in Ross's leather purse, which had a shiny brass clasp. Ross said later that "it was just like any cocktail party in Houston. I was being checked out by another woman. I had the feeling that any minute she was going to ask-me where I bought my clothes. "

  That was not the outcome, however. Amy reached up and deliberately streaked globs of green finger paint on Ross's skirt.

  "I don't think this is going too well," Karen Ross said.

  Elliot had watched the progress of this first meeting with more apprehension than he was willing to admit. Introducing new humans to Amy was often difficult, particularly if They were women.

  Over the years, Elliot had come to recognize many distinctly "feminine" traits in Amy. She could be coy, she responded to flattery, she was preoccupied with her appearance, loved makeup, and was very fussy about the color of the sweaters she wore in the winter. She preferred men to women, and she was openly jealous of Elliot's girl friends. He rarely brought them around to meet her, but sometimes in the morning she would sniff him for perfume, and she always commented if he had not changed his clothing overnight.

  This situation might have been amusing if not for the fact that Amy made occasional unprovoked attacks on strange women. And an attack by Amy was never amusing.

  Amy returned to the easel and signed, No like woman no like Amy no like go away away.

  "Come on, Amy, be a good gorilla," Peter said.

  "What did she say?" Ross asked, going to the sink to wash the finger paint from her dress. Peter noticed that she did not squeal and shriek as many visitors did when they received an unfriendly greeting from Amy.

  "She said she likes your dress," he said.

  Amy shot him a look, as she always did whenever Elliot mistranslated her. Amy not lie. Peter not lie.

  "Be nice, Amy," he said. "Karen is a nice human per-son. "

  Amy grunted, and returned to her work, painting rapidly.

  "What happens now?" Karen Ross said.

  "Give her time. " He smiled reassuringly. "She needs time to adjust. "

  He did not bother to explain that it was much worse with chimpanzees. Chimps threw feces at strangers, and even at workers they knew well; they sometimes attacked to establish dominance. Chimpanzees had a strong need to determine who was in charge. Fortunately, gorillas were much less formal in their dominance hierarchies, and less violent.

  At that moment, Amy ripped the paper from the easel and shredded it noisily, flinging the pieces around the room.

  "Is this part of the adjustment?" Karen Ross asked. She seemed more amused than frightened.

  "Amy, cut it out," Peter said, allowing his tone to convey irritation. "Amy. .

  Amy sat in the middle of the floor, surrounded by the paper. She tore it angrily and signed, This woman. This woman. It was classic displacement behavior. Whenever gorillas did not feel comfortable with direct aggression, they did something symbolic. In symbolic terms, she was now tearing Karen Ross apart.

  And she was getting worked up, beginning what the Project Amy staff called "sequencing. " Just as human beings first became red-faced, and then tensed their bodies, and then shouted and threw things before they finally resorted to direct physical aggression, so gorillas passed through a stereotyped behavioral sequence on the way to physical aggression. Tearing up paper, or grass, would be followed by lateral crablike movements and grunts. Then she would slap the ground, making as much noise as possible.

  And then Amy would charge, if he didn't interrupt the sequence.

  "Amy," he said sternly. "Karen button woman. "

  Amy stopped shredding. In her world, "button" was the acknowledged term for a person of high status.

  Amy was extremely sensitive to individual moods and behavior, and she had no difficulty observing the staff and deciding who was superior to whom. But among strangers, Amy as a gorilla was utterly impervious to formal human status cues; the principal indicators - clothing, bearing, and speech - had no meaning to her.

  As a young animal, she had inexplicably attacked policemen. After several biting episodes and threatened lawsuits,

  they finally learned that Amy found police uniforms with their shiny buttons clown like and ridiculous; she assumed that anyone so foolishly dressed must be of inferior status and safe to attack. After they had taught her the concept of "button," she treated anyone in uniform with deference.

  Amy now stared at "button" Ross with new respect. Surrounded by the torn paper, she seemed suddenly embarrassed, as if she had made a social error. Without being told, she went and stood in the corner, facing the wall.

  "What's that about?" Ross said.

  "She knows she's been bad. "

  "You make her stand in the corner, like a child? She didn't mean any harm. " Before Elliot could warn against it, she went over to Amy. Amy stared steadfastly at the corner.

  Ross unshouldered her purse and set it on the floor within Amy's reach. Nothing happened for a moment. Then Amy took the purse, looked at Karen, then looked at Peter.

  Peter said, "She'll wreck whatever's inside. "

  "That's all right. "

  Amy immediately opened the brass clasp, and dumped the contents on the floor. She began sifting through, signing, Lipstick lipstick, Amy like Amy want lipstick want.

  "She wants lipstick. "

  Ross bent over and found it for her. Amy removed the cap and smeared a red circle on Karen's face. She then smiled and grunted happily, and crossed the room to her mirror, which was mounted on the floor. She applied lipstick.

  "I think we're doing better," Karen Ross said.

  Across the room, Amy squatted by the mirror, happily making a mess of her face. She grinned at her smart image, then applied lipstick to her teeth. It seemed a good time to ask her the question. "Amy want take trip?" Peter said.

  Amy loved trips, and regarded them as special treats. After an especially good day, Elliot often took her for a ride to a nearby drive-in, where she would have an orange drink, sucking it through the straw and enjoying the commotion she caused among the other people there. Lipstick and an offer of a trip was almost too much pleasure for one morning. She signed, Car trip?
/>
  "No, not in the car. A long trip. Many days. "

  Leave house?

  "Yes, leave house. Many days. "

  This made her suspicious. The only times she had left the house for many days had been during hospitalizations for pneumonia and urinary-tract infections; they had not been pleasant trips. She signed, Where go trip?

  "To the jungle, Amy. "

  There was a long pause. At first he thought she had not understood, but she knew the word for jungle, and she should be able to put it all together. Amy signed thoughtfully to herself, repetitively as she always did when she was mulling things over: Jungle trip trip jungle go trip jungle go. She set aside her lipstick. She stared at the bits of paper on the floor, and then she began to pick them up and put them in the wastebasket.

  "What does that mean?" Karen Ross asked.

  "That means Amy wants to take a trip," Peter Elliot said.

  6. Departure

  THE HINGED NOSE OF THE BOEING 747 CARGO JET lay open like a jaw, exposing the cavernous, brightly lit interior. The plane had been flown up from Houston to San Francisco that afternoon; it was now nine o'clock at night, and puzzled workers were loading on the large aluminum travel cage, boxes of vitamin pills, a portable potty, and cartons of toys. One workman pulled out a Mickey Mouse drinking cup and stared at it, shaking his head.

  Outside on the concrete, Elliot stood with Amy, who covered her ears against the whine of the jet engines. She signed to Peter, Birds noisy.

  "We fly bird, Amy," he said.

  Amy had never flown before, and had never seen an airplane at close hand. We go car, she decided, looking at the plane.

  "We can't go by car. We fly. " Fly where fly? Amy signed.

  "Fly jungle. "

  This seemed to perplex her, but he did not want to explain further. Like all gorillas, Amy had an aversion to water, refusing to cross even small streams. He knew she would be distressed to hear that they would be flying over large bodies of water. Changing the subject, he suggested they board the plane and look around. As they climbed the sloping ramp up the nose, Amy signed, Where button woman?

  He had not seen Ross. for the last five hours, and was surprised to discover that she was already on board, talking on a telephone mounted on a wall of the cargo hold, one hand cupped over her free ear to block the noise. Elliot overheard her say, "Well, Irving seems to think it's enough.

  Yes, we have four nine-oh-seven units and we are prepared to match and absorb. Two micro HUDs, that's all. . . Yes, why not?" She finished the call, turned to Elliot and Amy.

  "Everything okay?" he asked.

  "Fine. I'll show you around. " She led him deeper into the cargo hold, with Amy at his side. Elliot glanced back and saw the chauffeur coming up the ramp with a series of numbered metal boxes marked INTEC, INC. followed by serial numbers.

  "This," Karen Ross said, "is the main cargo hold. " It was filled with four-wheel-drive trucks, Land Cruisers, amphibious vehicles, inflatable boats, and racks of clothing, equipment, food - all tagged with computer codes, all loaded in modules. Ross explained that ERTS could outfit expeditions to any geographical and climatic condition in a matter of hours. She kept emphasizing the speed possible with computer assembly.

  "Why the rush?" Elliot asked.

  "It's business," Karen Ross said. "Four years ago, there were no companies like ERTS. Now there are nine around the world, and what they all sell is competitive advantage, meaning speed. Back in the sixties, a company - say, an oil company - might spend months or years investigating a possible site. But that's no longer competitive; business decisions are made in weeks or days. The pace of everything has speeded up. We're already looking to the nineteen-eighties, where we'll provide answers in hours. Right now the average ERTS contract runs a little under three weeks, or five hundred hours. But by 1990 there will be 'close of business' data - an executive can call us in the morning for information anywhere in the world, and have a complete report transmitted by computer to his desk before close of business that evening, say ten to twelve hours. "

  As they continued the tour, Elliot noticed that although the trucks and vehicles caught the eye first, much of the aircraft storage space was given over to aluminum modules marked "C3I. "

  "That's right," Ross said. "Command-Control Communications and Intelligence. They're micronic components, the most expensive budget item we carry. When we started outfitting expeditions, twelve percent of the cost went to electronics. Now it's up to thirty-one percent, and climbing every year. It's field communications, remote sensing, defense, and soon. "

  She led them to the rear of the plane, where there was a modular living area, nicely furnished, with a large computer console, and bunks for sleeping.

  Amy signed, Nice house.

  ''Yes, it is nice. ''

  They were introduced to Jensen, a young bearded geologist, and to Irving, who announced that he was the "triple B. " The two men were running some kind of probability study on the computer but they paused to shake hands with Amy, who regarded them gravely, and then turned her attention to the screen. Amy was captivated by the colorful screen images and bright LEDs, and kept trying to punch the keys herself. She signed, Amy play box.

  "Not now, Amy," Elliot said, and swatted her hands away.

  Jensen asked, "Is she always this way?"

  "I'm afraid so," Elliot- said. "She likes computers. She's worked around them ever since she was very young, and she thinks of them as her private property. " And then he added, "What's a triple E?"

  "Expedition electronic expert," Irving said cheerfully. He was a short man with an impish quick smile. "Doing the best I can. We picked up some stuff from Intec, that's about all. God knows what the Japanese and the Germans will throw at us. "

  "Oh, damn, there she goes," Jensen said, laughing as Amy pushed the keyboard.

  Elliot said, "Amy, no!"

  "It's just a game. Probably not interesting to apes," Jensen said. And he added, "She can't hurt anything. "

  Amy signed, Amy good gorilla, and pushed the keys on the computer again. She appeared relaxed, and Elliot was grateful for the distraction the computer provided. He was always amused by the sight of Amy's heavy dark form before a computer console. She would touch her lower lip thoughtfully before pushing the keys, in what seemed a parody of human behavior.

  Ross, practical as always, brought them back to mundane matters. "Will Amy sleep on one of the bunks?"

  Elliot shook his head. "No. Gorillas expect to make a fresh bed each night. Give her some blankets, and she'll twist them into a nest on the floor and sleep there. "

  Ross nodded. "What about her vitamins and medications? Will she swallow pills?"

  "Ordinarily you have to bribe her, or hide the pills in a piece of banana. She tends to gulp banana, without chewing it

  "Without chewing. " Ross nodded as if that were important. "We have a standard issue," she said. "I'll see that she gets them. "

  "She takes the same vitamins that people do, except that she'll need lots of ascorbic acid. "

  "We issue three thousand units a day. That's enough? Good. And she'll tolerate anti-malarials? We have to start them right away. "

  "Generally speaking," Elliot said, "she has the same reaction to medication as people. "

  Ross nodded. "Will the cabin pressurization bother her? It's set at five thousand feet. "

  Elliot shook his head. "She's a mountain gorilla, and they live at five thousand to nine thousand feet, so she's actually altitude-adapted. But she's acclimated to a moist climate and she dehydrates quickly; we'll have to keep forcing fluids on her. "

  "Can she use the head?"

  "The seat's probably too high for her," Elliot said, "but I brought her potty. "

  "She'll use her potty?"

  "Sure. "

  "I have a new collar for her; will she wear it?"

  "If you give it to her as a gift. "

  As they
reviewed other details of Amy's requirements, Elliot realized that something had happened during the last few hours, almost without his knowing it: Amy's unpredictable, dream-driven neurotic behavior had fallen away. It was as if the earlier behavior was irrelevant; now that she was going on a trip, she was no longer moody and introspective, her interests were outgoing; she was once again a youthful female gorilla. He found himself wondering whether her dreams, her depression - finger paintings, everything - were a result of her confined laboratory environment for so many years. At first the laboratory had been agreeable, like a crib for young children. But perhaps in later years it pinched. Perhaps, he thought, Amy just needed a little excitement.

  Excitement was in the air: as he talked with Ross, Elliot felt something remarkable was about to happen. This expedition with Amy was the first example of an event primate researchers had predicted for years - the Pearl thesis.

  Frederick Pearl was a theoretical animal behaviorist. At a meeting of the American Ethnological Society in New York in 1972, he had said, "Now that primates have learned sign language, it is only a matter of time until someone takes an animal into the field to assist the study of wild animals of the same species. We can imagine language-skilled primates acting as interpreters or perhaps even as ambassadors for mankind, in contact with wild creatures. "

  Pearl's thesis attracted considerable attention, and funding from the U. S. Air Force, which had supported linguistic research since the l960s. According to one story, the Air Force had a secret project called CONTOUR, involving possible contact with alien life forms. The official military position was that UFOs were of natural origin - but the military was covering its bets. Should alien contact occur, linguistic fundamentals were obviously critically important. And taking primates into the field was seen as an example of contact with "alien intelligence"; hence the Air Force funding.

  Pearl predicted that fieldwork would be undertaken before 1976, but in fact no one had yet done it. The reason was that on closer examination, no one could figure out quite what the advantages were - most language-using primates were as baffled by wild primates as human beings were. Some, like the chimpanzee Arthur, denied any association with their own kind, referring to them as "black things. " (Amy, who had been taken to the zoo to view other gorillas, recognized them but was haughty, calling them "stupid gorillas" once she found that when she signed to them, they did not reply. )

  Such observations led another researcher, John Bates, to say in 1977 that "we are producing an educated animal elite which demonstrates the same snobbish aloofness that a Ph. D. shows toward a truck driver. . . . It is highly unlikely that the generation of language-using primates will be skillful ambassadors in the field. They are simply too disdainful. "

  But the truth was that no one really knew what would happen when a primate was taken into the field. Because no one had done it: Amy would be the first.

  At eleven o'clock, the ERTS cargo plane taxied down the runway at San Francisco International, lifted ponderously into the air, and headed east through the darkness toward

  Africa.

 
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