Chapter 6 Monday, 1600 hours (4 PM)
By 1700 hours (5 PM), CALF had complete control of the zoo, the animals, the vehicles, the hostages, first aid stations, zoo administration buildings, everything. The snipers were at their posts; some patrolling the zoo perimeter by foot while others were riding about in the little enclosed electric zoo maintenance carts. There was a sniper with infra-red night goggles and a rifle at the ready taking continuous back and forth rides in the Aerial Tramway. Other snipers were wandering the zoo paths, stopping at direction signs to rotate them to point in random directions. Brian had seen a British world war II movie where they had done that. The techies had set up an antenna on the top of Zoo Central and the rogue transmitter was sending test patterns on UHF channel 58. The remote activated bugs had been tested by having the patrolling snipers talk nonsense near the zoo entrances. Joshua had lovingly unpacked his high-tech weaponry, and all was well. To top it off, they had loads of food in the rented film trucks, not to mention what was in the freezers of the various zoo cafeterias. All was going very well indeed.
Brian was very satisfied with himself, but Jack was in an unexpectedly foul mood.
Joshua had gone off plan. When the hostages-to-be first filed into the Education Building, they should have been told that they were invited to be in the film. They were to be paid 200 dollars a person to be in a scene of the zoo at nightfall. This diversion would have taken about 45 minutes and given time for the zoo personnel to leave the park. The would-be film extras would then be told of their hostage status, quietly and one on one. But instead, Joshua announced their captivity right off.
"Joshua really screwed up back in the Education Building. Whats the use of having a plan if people dont follow it?" said Jack.
"What? You mean the film extras plan?" asked Brian, "Im sure Joshua had his reasons. Everything came OK though, didnt it? No Problem." Brian was a little in awe of Joshua and reluctant to believe he could make a mistake.
"Yeah, maybe," answered Jack, "But weve got a problem now, Brian. We dont have enough people to keep control of the zoo, especially since we have to keep six or seven people watching the hostages. I have an idea, though."
"I dont think well have trouble with our guests," said Brian, "Well have to explain ourselves to them, of course, win their support."
Jack rolled his eyes. "We dont have time," he said steadily.
"OK. Whats your plan then?"
"I want to release the big cats, Lions, tigers, leopards, even hyenas." said Jack, "That will make the hostages think twice before trying to escape."
"Come on. Youre kidding. Right?" Brian asked.
"No. I think its a pretty neat idea. Besides, itll be fun."
"Fun for you maybe? People could be killed."
"I dont think so. Not if theyre careful."
"Careful!?" squeaked Brian. He paused, got himself under control, and tried not to be confrontational, especially not to jack. "Im not sure thats a particularly good idea," he said.
"Look," said Jack angrily, "Were the Captive Animal Liberation Front. Damn it. Lets liberate something."
"Good," said Jack. "Im going to go down and tell the hostages. Yeah, this'll be fun."
"What about our snipers? Theyre outside patrolling day and night." said Brian, finally coming up with a concrete argument.
"Itll keep them alert," laughed Jack, "Theyre in pairs and theyve got guns. Theyll be fine. Besides, I dont think zoo animals have any idea how to attack anything," he went on, "as long as we keep feeding them, that is."
Brian, who had difficulty believing that one of his beloved animals would actually attack a human being, allowed himself to be won over.
"OK, Fine. Release the cats. Yeah, it might be fun," he said, thinking that the 'New' Brian might actually believe it to be fun.
"All right, Lets go down and join Der Fuhrer," said Jack.
When Brian and Jack arrived, Joshua had already explained their situation to the hostages. They would be well treated, and well fed, but any attempts to escape or interfere with CALF would be dealt with harshly. He kept his pleasant smile throughout the explanation.
"Ah, Here are some other officers in CALF," said Joshua.
Brian was irked a little by that, since Joshua had never been elected to any post in CALF. While he thought about it, Jack stepped up and Jack gleefully announced news of the tigers and other large felines that would be patrolling outside the Education Building to discourage escape.
"Theyll be released in an hour," said Jack.
"Neat!" said Kit.
Kits high-pitched approval drew Brians attention. Until now, he wasnt aware there were kids among the hostages. It troubled him that children were here at risk and with roving carnivores there would be danger, especially for defenseless kids. Brian looked around the hall. There was a group uniformed kids, cub scouts probably, and another kid with them who wasn't in uniform, seven in all. He flagged Jack that hed like to speak.
Brian walked a few steps forward toward the guests.
"Look," he said. "I didnt know there were any kids here. Kids are OK. Theyre innocents, like the animals."
Brian was troubled. He looked directly to the little knot of blue. "Guys. Were not going to hurt you. Youre scouts arent you?" It was rhetorical. "Itll be like a camp out. Youll have your own room, with bunks. Well send in food. Youll be under our direct protection."
The scouts stared back at the speaker. Brian tried to put them at ease.
"Look guys. Were for the animals. You like animals, dont you?"
"Leave us alone," said one of the kids, their leader obviously. "We dont want our own room. We want to stay here."
"The dorm room will be better for you," said Brian who, from the earlier reconnaissance, knew that there was a sleep-over room with its own bath room right off where they were now. He turned to Jack.
"Jack, take them in to the dorm now please, while I talk some to the adults."
Jack tore away the kids, rushed them into the dorm room, and locked the door behind them.
Brian tried to explain the CALF philosophy to the hostages, and went on to say they were guests, even honored guests, in the fight for animal rights. They would be treated well, but theyd just have to make the best of it for a while. He looked around the room, searching for approval and found none. He turned and left with Jack to free the cats. Joshua stayed behind to chose a hostage to send out with a list of CALF's demands.
A few minutes later, Evan also left off guarding the hostages and intercepted Brian and Jack at the front door.
"What's wrong?" asked Brian.
"Nothing. I'm not nuts about taking hostages. I had to get out. It's sickening watching Joshua prancing around like a Roman Caesar," said Evan, "and now he's forcing that Cubmaster into taking our demands out to the police.".
"But who'll watch after the kids?" asked Brian.
"I guess Joshua has his reasons," said Brian.
"Well, since you're here," said Jack, "you might as well come with me to free the cats."
"No. I think I'll just turn in," said Evan.
"I said I want you to come with me," said Jack, "and take your rifle."
"Whatever," said Evan.
Brian, Jack, and Evan left the Education building together. It was completely dark by now and they made their way by flashlights. The only other light, dim and point-like, was from the distant windows of a single high rise apartment building a long way off on Southern Boulevard. Unnatural also was the silence. Here in the center of the zoo, the noise of the city could not penetrate. The occasional call of a nocturnal animal sound stood out stark and frightening. At the sea lion pool, they separated; Brian made for Zoo Center for his first TV broadcast while Evan and Jack, each carrying rifles, headed for the snow leopard habitat.
Brian, a film major, felt uncomfortable on the other side of the camera. He sat nervously behind a too-large desk waiting for the stroke of eight. The cameraman finally gave him the sign, and he was on the air for the first of his planned three-times-a-day broadcasts on UHF TV. It was the first time he had been on the air in his entire life. He rustled his prop awkwardly , a sheath of papers made up of CALFs demands and assorted propaganda flyers. He had not thought to make himself a script. He looked directly into the camera since he knew from his NYU course work that he should. He told who he was and why he was there. His papers turned out to be more of a hindrance than help as he was constantly trying to find things in them, and stumbling over the reading. Still, he managed to get the main message out, namely, the take over would not end until the City of New York agreed to close all its zoos, and send the animals to the freedom of their home environments. It didn't matter that most of those animals were born in zoos, and were already in their home environments. Brian also talked about the released hostage, Mr. Haldane, who had seen their weaponry and knew their resolve. He also had a letter from CALF to the authorities with details, including how CALF could be contacted.
Brian signaled to his cameraman to end the transmission. He got up from the desk quite pleased with himself. He had survived the ordeal intact. It was his best performance to date, in fact his only performance.