Chapter 14 Tuesday, 2300 hours (11 PM)
Brian gaveled the midnight meeting to order with his fist. He was sitting between Jack and Joshua in the front of the Zoo Center conference room. It was a pretty good turnout considering how late it was, but it was indeed late and Brian wasnt going to waste time with opening pleasantries.
"OK guys, Lets get started," he said. Brian gave them a few moments to quiet down. There was nervousness in the air since most of them had heard at least rumors of what had happened to Evan.
"Were here in uh, open session to decide what to do next," Brian started. "In particular, What do we do about the hostages. The floor is open for comments."
At first, no one spoke. They were there to listen and then discuss, but first they wanted to be talked to.
"What do you think, Brian," asked someone from the floor.
"I think," Brian glanced sideways at Joshua. "I think.. I dont know what I think."
Joshua raised his hand politely, and then stood up without being recognized.
"Id like to say a few words," Joshua said, "First, let me congratulate you..."
Joshua spent the first minute or so telling them how great they were.
"We have come so far, accomplished so much. The whole world is watching us, and there is one thing I know, and that is, We cannot surrender. We will not surrender. We are close to winning. The authorities will have to agree to our demands. Close All the Zoos."
Joshua looked around to gauge his effect, and went on. "I know you also feel this sense of history and you are willing to do what has to be done for the greater good. Weve got to be tough. We have taken hostages. It sounds wrong to take hostages, but its not. Hostage taking is the only thing small countries can do in the face of aggression from large ones. In order to get the zoos closed and the animals freed, we might have to hurt a hostage. We might even have to see one of them sacrificed."
"But theyre just innocent civilians," a Calfer piped up.
"Theres no such thing as a civilian. Have they been protesting with us? No. Look, If you close your eyes to others doing evil, are you not evil too?" answered Joshua.
"Nobody wants to talk about people being sacrificed, but were in a war," Joshua continued. "and Bombs kill civilians, thousands of them. Here, were talking about the possibility, only the remote possibility of one hostage dying. Not all that much to ask in view of the countless torture of countless animals."
"But, well all go to jail," said another Calfer.
"Maybe," said Joshua. "Maybe for a month or two, but can you really imaging the police sending 50 college kids to prison. No. Itll be a slap on the wrist at most."
Brian wondered if he had really heard it right. By 'sacrifice', did Joshua mean they'd have to kill someone. Joshua looked from face to face, and then locked eyes with Brian for an instant.
"No, Youre pretty safe," Joshua continued, "but Brian and Jack, they are the leaders. Theyre going to be in deep trouble. The authorities will blame them. I dont want to see that, and Im sure you dont either. Im afraid the only thing to do is dissolve the CALF offices. If CALF were run by a committee, made up of all of us here, then thered be no officers to blame. Brian and Jack would be as safe as you are."
Joshua sat down.
Jack stood to propose a motion of dissolution, which was seconded, discussed and duly passed. Then, now stripped of his office, he proposed the motion to have CALF run by committee. It was also passed.
Brian for his part, felt he had just lost a chess game to a vastly superior player without even being aware he was engaged in the game.
Jack stood again.
"Look, Ive got to get back to my post," he said. "but before I do, let me be clear. If at the 9 AM broadcast, the negotiator has not met our demands, we are prepared to sacrifice a hostage. Well chose one of them, and put him in with an animal, a bear. If the bear decides to maul the hostage, well so be it. If the bear leaves him alone, then well let him go. The bear will decide."
Before Jack left the meeting, he explained, "Of course, the killings will be on camera."
Brian was horrified at the thought, but then, it would make for very dramatic videography.
The debate went on for a couple more hours, but it was just debate. At the end, worn out and thinking that they could continue discussions in the morning, they started to trickle out of the meeting. Eventually by default, the plan to sacrifice a hostage to a bear was sustained since there were not enough people remaining to object to it.
Among the Calfers who did not trickle out, was a tight group sitting far in the back. This was the Columbia University contingent. Roger, their leader, got up to speak.
"When I walked in here, I knew this was a done deal, and no amount of discussion or argument would change it."
Roger looked around the hall and then focused on Joshua, looking him directly in the eye.
"We wont be a part of this. In the morning, we are leaving the zoo."
Roger motioned for his group to leave the hall with him. As they got to their feet, Joshua also stood up.
"Just a moment," said Joshua evenly.
The Columbians paused to hear what the man had to say.
"No need to wait," said Joshua, "Leave now!"
"No thank you," said Roger, "It's almost four in the morning and I have no desire to go out now and perhaps become cat food."
"You don't understand," answered Joshua, "That was not a suggestion. You will leave now."
Brian thought he should do something, but now he was no longer the CALF president. What could he do? He could say something of course, but ... Then he noticed that almost hidden by the tall men around her, Lori had stood also. She didn't go to Columbia University, and Brian wondered if Joshua would exempt her and force her to stay. Maybe Joshua didn't know. Brian discarded that thought. Joshua knew everything. Brian himself was torn. He wanted her to stay here with them, especially as Roger was leaving, but on the other hand, she'd be much safer out of the zoo. Then again, it would be dangerous for her to go through the zoo at night with the wild carnivores. However, she'd be surrounded by the guys, and she'd probably be safe. Then Brian had the dark thought that to keep him in line, Joshua might single her out for special treatment, like Evan's.
While Brian was analyzing the situation, Joshua turned to one of the armed Calfers at the back of the room. They were the Marshals at Arms who functioned in the nature of a personal bodyguard for Joshua.
"Gentlemen, escort these pampered Ivy Leaguers to the front door, please."
Brian joined them to the door, and watched as they went into the darkness. He tried to make contact with Lori, but she avoided his eyes. The door swung closed behind the Columbia contingent. None of the Calfers spoke. There was silence. Then, a few minutes later they heard singing from the other side of the door. It was the Columbia University fight song, 'Roar Lion Roar'. The singing was loud, but then faded away as the Columbia group marched on to the exit. Brian wished he were with them.
Brian knew there was nothing to say. He took his leave and told Joshua he was going up to see if the communications techies needed anything.
The techies monitoring the bugs were in the communications room, hunched over their radio receiver and were wearing old style, bulky headphones. They were by now, thoroughly sick of 'Roar Lion Roar'.
One of the two techies looked over to Brian. "They're nuts, totally nuts," he said.
"Maybe. But as nuts as we are?" asked the other techie.
"You know," said Brian, "my girl is with them."
"She doesn't go to Columbia," said the first technician, "and she doesn't know the words to Roar Lion Roar."
"She does now," said the other.