Chapter 17 Wednesday, 0745 hours (7:45 AM)
Brian was alone in the Zoo Center preparing for the 9AM broadcast and pre-broadcast warm up. No longer the CALF elected leader, he never the less had the absolute control over the broadcast. He was cameraman, director and producer all in one. Then, a little after eight, the Calfers streamed into the room like ants returning to a hive. Except for a few on critical duty, the SkySafari spotter, a techie at the listening post, and one or two mobile sniper patrols, it looked like everyone was there. Even though he knew Lori would not be in the group, Brian couldn't help looking for her. He noticed Evan wasn't there either.
Joshua had suggested a pre-broadcast meeting and of late, with CALF without elected leadership, his suggestions had virtually the force of law. He had said having the membership on camera during the broadcast would be a show of solidarity.
Brian was miking the set, running cable, and blocking the action when Joshua made his entrance with Jack and Wolf trotting in behind. Joshua sat at his desk and waved everyone still.Brian continued moving, fastening a lavaliere mike to Joshuas collar and arranging Wolf for best photogenic effect. Joshua began to speak. It was not a good nor memorable speech, but it was impassioned, and it did what it was supposed to. The CALF membership, approving, chanting, and shouting with enthusiasm did not balk when Joshua announced they would sacrifice a hostage. Theyd take the hostage, throw him in the bear den, and let the polar bears decide his fate. Brian heard the chanting. "Let the bears decide his fate," He knew well and he was sure most of the other Calfers also knew that polar bears hunt people, and that fate would undoubtedly be death. The chanting Calfers would be murderers, or at least accomplices to murder.
Brian felt repulsed at the idea, but only slightly. He was caught up in the rush of the chanting and camaraderie and the enthusiasm of the Calfers. He felt as if he belonged. It was good being with the crowd.
Brian turned back to Joshua, who had suddenly stood up. Joshua continued speaking, now explaining how important, significant, and how difficult the act would be. It would require all the dedication that he knew the CALF membership possessed. And it would take exceptional courage. He asked for volunteers for the Bear Detail, as he called it. For a moment, no one volunteered.
Then Jack, sitting to the right of Joshua, stood up.
"Count me in," he said.
Joshua stood up and clapped Jack on the shoulder.
"Good," he said.
After that, others stood up, and volunteered. Then Joshua announced that the act would be broadcast live.
"Thats impossible," shouted one of the techies. "Theres no way we could do a live feed. We have no RF relay and laying cable would degrade the signal."
"No, We could move the transmitter, get power at the bear enclosure and rig a temporary broadcast antenna," said a second techie.
Brian noticed that Joshua made no move to cut off the conversation. He just stood there and smiled.
"Is this how state executions work?" thought Brian. "Strapping down, black masks, pulling switches, mindless ritual."
"Wont work," said the first techie. "With a low antenna our signal would get out about two city blocks, if were lucky."
"Well, we could do a live audio link instead. We have walkie-talkies."
"Naa. That would be about as interesting as a live radio broadcast of a tennis game. Unless you intend to have color commentary, The bear on our left is walking slowly towards our microphone. No. I dont think so."
"All right," said Joshua closing discussion with a wave of his hand. "Well do it on tape instead. Well put it on during the noon broadcast. Now Brian,.."
Brian snapped out of it at the mention of his name. Joshua was announcing that Brian, CALFs best videographer, would do the live camera work.
"Wait," said Brian. "This is a major shoot. I need a second cameraman, and a line assistant."
Volunteers were then found to work under Brian.
"Oh God," thought Brian, "Now Im guilty of it myself, ritual and minutia."
Brian noticed the wall clock. It was time for the broadcast. He had a fleeting thought of Professor Rexford. "Here I am, Professor Rexford," Brian thought, "about to film people, not animals, and I'm involved. Very involved."
Brian peered into the viewfinder and wondered if Rexford would be proud of him. He tried to keep involved while viewing the scene. More difficult for him was listening. Normally when Brian filmed with sound, he only considered the overall effect. Here though he'd try to listen to the words.
"9AM broadcast live in five, four, three, ..." said Brian.
"Good morning," began Joshua.
Brian began to tighten the shot, slowly sending the faces of the Calfers slowly off the periphery of the screen. He paused when only Joshua, the desk, and Wolf were on camera. It made an effective tableau. Then he steadily closed on Joshuas face, and his intense, compelling eyes.
Joshua gave an abbreviated version of the warm up but left out any mention of sacrificing a hostage.
On schedule at 9:15, the police negotiator called. This time Joshua didnt lift the receiver, but instead pushed the speaker button. This time, they would also broadcast the negotiators voice.
"Do you need anything?" asked George.
"Yes," answered Joshua. "We want newspapers, three color television sets, and about 100 fresh croissants."
"Fresh croissants. We have lots of food, but the croissants are beginning to go stale."
"Well, I think I can arrange that," said George.
Joshua went on, "I assume you have no news on our demands?"
"Not yet. These things take time," said George.
"Of course. Oh, one more thing," said Joshua. "We want to see the news anchors of the three TV networks. We want to give them a few video tapes. See that theyre at the Southern Boulevard pedestrian entrance at 11:30. Have the newspapers, TV sets, and croissants ready for us then too."
"What kind of video tapes?"
"Youll see, but its important. You must have the TV anchors here," said Joshua. He looked now, directly to the camera, talking past George.
"I know the Networks are watching this broadcast. Ive got important news for you - too important to relay through the police. I want to hand each of you a video tape. Lives depend on it," said Joshua. He turned his attention back to the phone.
"Will you do this for us, George?" asked Joshua.
"Yes, but how about releasing some of the hostages."
"No," said Joshua.
"Come on. You dont need them all. How about releasing the children then? Look its only a half dozen or so kids. What harm is it?"
Joshua paused an instant, "Well think about it," he said.
"I dont think my supervisor will let me do anything for you unless you show us some kind of good faith gesture."
"Fine. Well release a hostage. After that, well see."
After the broadcast, Joshua stayed at the desk and seemed to be in deep thought. Brian, who was breaking down the shoot was the only other one in the room.
"I thought the kids had escaped the zoo," said Joshua. "but it seems they haven't. I've got to find those kids."
Brian had also assumed the kids had escaped, and was at a loss to understand where they possibly could have been hiding for so long. Maybe he could find out, and then he could hide out there too. During his filming of the 9 AM broadcast, his usual detatchment had kicked in, and he could think as an individual, not as a sheep in a mob. He understood the evil of what Joshua was about to make him do.