• Published 26th Jun 2020
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Mane Allgood and The Strange Ape Known as Sable - SweetBanana

After a group of poachers leave an unknown species of ape for dead. Mane Allgood is asked to lend her expertise in helping the wounded creature recover.

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Chapter 3

As the doors to the isolation airlock closed behind her, Allgood’s ears popped from the sudden change in pressure. This was hardly the most uncomfortable part of getting into the ward, as the sterilization spell began its work. The pegasus mare gritted her teeth as her skin and insides grew unbearably warm. Turning her head to the side, she caught Fluttershy in a similar state of discomfort. Thankfully it was not long lasting, after a few seconds the spell faded away and the doors leading to the isolation ward creaked as they opened inwards, allowing Allgood and Fluttershy to walk inside before the doors shut themselves and re-sealed the ward.

It had been nine days since Allgood had first laid eyes upon Sable, and the female ape had made considerable recovery since then. She was free from restraints with her bones being healed and sealed back into position, though it would be unwise to subject them to a lot of stress. Her bandages had come off, displaying her grisly injuries. An entire section of her scalp was missing from the right-hoof side of her head, fresh scar-tissue stretched over her skull. The macabre tapestry was only broken by a small hole in her head, the remnant of what used to be her ear before it went under the carving knife. On the left hoof side of her head, a small section of shaved fur and scar-tissue stood out. The location where something broke her skull and penetrated into the brain, thankfully it was small and hid easily behind the fur she had remaining.

While her physical injuries were of import to everypony helping her, the ape’s mental well-being was also looked at. For the past week and then some, Fluttershy and Allgood had been gradually adjusting Sable to the presence of ponies. While the first few meetings had been tense, eventually she had relaxed enough to even embrace the two pegasi in a hug. The physical contact, and intense grooming that she subjected the two of them too suggested that she was a highly sociable creature. She was saddened when ponies had to leave, and quickly grew bored when there was no one around. So they endeavored to make sure she had someone to interact with throughout most of the day.

Laying on her belly with her chest and head held high, Sable waved at the entering mares from her round ‘nest-bed’. Her face twisted as a hissing whistle echoed from her throat, the strained vocalization being a greeting from what they could deduce.

“H-iii.” Fluttershy sympathized, slowly striding towards the lounging ape in a leisurely fashion. Clambering atop the bed as the ape straightened up into a sitting position, her legs crossed in front of them to form a loop. Taking the cue, the buttercream pegasus crawled into her lap and leaned herself against Sable’s torso. She was instantly rewarded with nails sinking into her fur and scratching the hide underneath vigorously, Fluttershy sinking into comfort as the ape scratched her troubles away. This was in stark contrast to the first time Sable tried this, with Fluttershy being a nervous wreck when the ape held her close.

“You’re spoiling me with this.” Fluttershy purred, melting into a semisolid mass under the barrage of scritches.

While the prospect of being subjected to Sable’s mind-melting grooming was enticing, Allgood had come here to do business first before she got physical. She had brought along several pieces of equipment that would help her test Sable’s mental facilities while providing some stimulation for her, before she inevitably drifted off to sleep again. The equipment took longer to sterilize than ponies did, so while she waited for Francis to hurry through the doors. She took a look around the ward.

Since Sable had been interred, several changes had been made. The first and most obvious change was the various Everfree flora that now decorated the room, strategically placed to help break up the harsh corners of the room and disturb the monotone hospital white palette. The biometric monitors had been shuttled elsewhere, as with the patient being in a stable condition they were no longer needed. Lastly, her hospital bed was pushed into a corner, with a more natural looking bed having been provided by Fluttershy, complete with several plush and comfortable looking blankets.

With nothing else to do, Allgood strode forward beside Sable’s bed. The mare flattened her ears as a hand was moved over to her head and began to scratch at her scalp. Sable let out a stuttering mess of sounds as she did this, her sounds petering out as her face twisted in pain. Earning a soothing coo from Fluttershy as she gently stroked and patted Sable’s thigh with her hoof.

“She’s still barely making noises, I’m starting to think she might have aphasia, or whatever passes for it among apes.” Allgood mumbled, leaning into Sable’s hand.

“It would seem so. Given how social she is, that’s going to handicap her pretty badly, might not be able to return to the wild ever.” Fluttershy sighed, drawing a blanket over her and the ape’s lap with her mouth. “You’ll always have a home with me though… so long as you keep scratching.” The Element-Bearer quipped, raising her muzzle for some scritches down the underside of it.

“I hope I’m wrong, but I guess I’m expecting too much. Miracle you even survived this long.” Allgood freed her head from Sable’s grasp and nuzzled the ape’s side. “You’ll be happy wherever you end up.”

As Mane offered her comfort and support to the sparsely furred ape, the doors to the ward creaked open and Francis came rolling in with several of Allgood’s apparatuses in tow. The assortment of devices and tests caught the attention of Sable, the spotted ape craning her neck to get a better look. She then greeted Francis, letting out the distinctive hiss-whistle followed by a sharp clicking sound. Given that she only made it towards him, it was likely a unique verbal moniker for Abyssinians.

Sable had a similar vocalization she used when referring to ponies, usually followed by a unique prefix for her and Fluttershy. Mane’s current theory was that she had created sounds to identify species, and then a unique sound before it to determine a specific individual. She was naming things and it was making Allgood burn with curiosity. How many words could she handle at once? Could she potentially use sentences? Could she potentially learn ponish? All of these questions ate at her mind, but she would test them in time. The last thing she wanted to do was overwork and hamper the healing of her subject.

Moving away from Sable, Mane trotted over to her testing apparatuses. She had a wide assortment of them, some specialty items and others things one could find from a toy-shop. Some of it was meant to stay with Sable once Allgood had left for the day, so she’d have something stimulating to mess around with while she was gone.

The first item she would test with was a wooden box set atop wheeled stilts. The box was hollow with various wooden cutouts serving as an obstacle course, with peanuts and dark chocolate treats set on one end of the course. Separating the treats from the outside world was a glass pane secured by four hoofscrews at each corner. Near the bottom of the pane were rounded rectangular cuts to allow for a tool of some sorts to be inserted and guide the food to a hole on the opposite side of the course. Dropping onto a tray upon which several thin sticks also sat.

Allgood slowly wheeled it closer to Sable, motioning to the box with her hoof and then to the sticks. She would first do a test to see how she handled tool use without being shown anything first, and if she did not know how to use it, Mane would then show her. What happened next however, was entirely beyond anyone’s expectations.

While keeping a hand upon Fluttershy’s head, Sable leaned over with a look of passive disinterest on her face. Lightly grunting as she grasped the hoofscrews that held the glass pane in place. Unscrewing them with ease and freeing the thin laminated glass pane from the box. Setting it down gently on the floor so as to avoid making a large amount of noise, before grasping the formerly secured treats.

“Oh! Well ah, t-that’s unexpected!” Mane sputtered incredulously, furiously scribbling down the behavior in a notepad procured from her vest. “Excuse me I need a moment.” She muttered shortly thereafter, retreating away from the incredibly intelligent ape to collect her thoughts. She not only aced the test, she had made a complete mockery of it. What else could she do?

The pegasus mare wheeled away the dismantled test after Sable had finished scooping out all the treats from within, pushing it over towards the cluster of testing objects dejectedly. Pursing her lips in thought, Sable sat beside her equipment and debated what to do next. More tool experiments would be required, but for now Allgood just wanted a general idea of what she was working with. So she’d probe with a variety of tests before she had to leave today.

As Francis and Fluttershy both congratulated Sable on her dismantling of the test, Mane brought up what looked to be a slate tablet encased within a padded coating that only left the front uncovered. The slate was set atop four stilts that were set in a wooden tray, forming the bottom, supportive plate of the structure.

Mane clambered atop the bed after her tablet and sat on her haunches across from Sable. With a small gesture of her head, she motioned for Fluttershy to move out of Sable’s lap and help her with the test.

Begrudgingly, Fluttershy crawled her way out of Sable’s lap. She was so relaxed within the ape’s embrace, that her legs wobbled as she got onto all fours. Lazily plodding over to lay beside the tablet, she gave Allgood a nod of confirmation.

With the pegasus now out of way, Sable had clear access to the slate in front of her. Before she could fiddle with it however, Allgood had to demonstrate a few things with the enchanted stone. Three circular depressions sat on the top of the case, by pressing the central, largest one the enchantment on it hummed to life.

Moving to the side of the tablet, the burgundy mare decided to show Sable just how it worked first. Upon the front was a three by three grid carved into the soft stone. By pressing a hoof to the central piece, a chalk-white X appeared, when she tried to press another square after that, nothing happened. However, when Fluttershy did so, a circle appeared. When three Xs were lined in a row, a treat was deposited from the casing and into the tray. When three circles were lined in a row no treat was deposited in the tray.

With the game now displayed, Allgood pushed the tablet closer to Sable and scooted up beside her. Almost immediately she took an interest in the device, ignoring the treat for now. She raised a single calloused finger and gently depressed the central square. A white X appearing on contact. She pulled her finger away to study it for a brief moment, as if she were expecting to see white on her digit. She then looked towards Mane expectantly, knowing she could not go twice in a single turn.

That was the reaction Allgood was wanting! She had been worried that Sable wouldn’t take any interest in the device. It would be easy to flounce Sable with this game, while a smart animal, she couldn’t come close to a pony in terms of strategizing. So she’d have to let her win some in order to keep her interest in the game.

That was the plan, however, what actually happened was radically different than Allgood was expecting. Sable completely wiped the floor with Mane, even when the pegasus was actually trying to win. The academic was at a loss as to how Sable had beaten her so thoroughly, a hoof to her muzzle in quiet contemplation. This test revealed she, at the least, had a rudimentary grasp of the theory of mind when it came to deducing actions.

Mulling over the implications of this, Mane pivoted her ears and then her head to the sound of quiet chewing. Whereupon she saw Sable chewing away at the deposited treats with a smug grin on her face. At least that’s what Allgood thought her face looked like. She let out a soft snort of disappointment and slowly rolled off the bed, before reaching out for the tablet and grasping it to test her reaction. When Sable didn’t reach for the tablet or react to it leaving, Mane pulled it off the bed and began making her way over towards the pile of testing equipment she had brought in.

As Allgood deposited the slate and began the process of selecting another test, Fluttershy stage whispered after the naturalist. “I think Sable’s getting tired.”

“Right, Ocotillo did that somnia spell on her. Keep her energy down, make sure she sleeps well.” Allgood recanted to herself, giving the element-bearer a small nod as she set the tablet down on the pile and motioned for Francis to come and help move most of the equipment out of Sable’s ward. Though they left some things behind for her amusement: balls, puzzles and other assorted toys. Most of it was old things that Allgood’s foals no longer played with.

Striding through the airlock and being subject to another discomforting sterilization spell, Allgood and Francis emerged on the other side. Hastily pushing her carried equipment to the edge of the hallway, Allgood wasted no time in pulling out a notebook and furiously scribbling down all of her thoughts and observations.

“Beaten by an ape at Tic Tac Paw. Ouch.” Francis surmised.

“Can it Francis, this’ll be great on the paper.” The pegasus muttered under her breath in response, turning away from the cat in order to hide the flushing of her cheeks. Her embarrassment at the situation was lessened by her desire to see just how smart Sable was.

When Fluttershy emerged from the airlock after having soothed Sable to sleep, the buttercream pegasus hurried towards Mane with excitement etched on her muzzle. “I wasn’t expecting her to do that!” She quietly gushed.

“I know, right! I wanna know just how many things she can attribute to another entity. If she’s as smart as I’m hypothesizing, she might be approaching pony-level intelligence.” Allgood proposed, her wings flaring in excitement. She had so many tests she could run, but so little time before her subject needed to rest again.

Mane was looking forward to tomorrow when she could test once again.