Chapter 30 Wednesday, 2200 hours (10 PM)
They gathered around the cart, the five of them, at which point Kit suggested that it would be rather nice if someone could get his handcuffs off.
Jack took Kit in front of the cart where the headlights provided good illumination. "Does anyone have a credit card that they could part with?" Jack examined the handcuffs. "And a scissors would be convenient."
Derek provided the credit card, while Brian provided the little scissors on his pocket knife. Jack cut the credit card into a tool and working with the skill of a jeweler, sprung Kit from the cuffs.
"I’m not even going to think about asking you where you learned to do that," said Derek.
"Don’t," said Jack.
They decided it would be best to first drive Derek and Kit back to the leopards. Derek would mind the kids while Jack, Brian, and Evan went back to take back control of CALF.
A growl, not all that distant, ended the discussion. The five squeezed into the little electric vehicle.
"I think I've had enough of this zoo trip," said Kit.
Derek laughed. "Me too. But we'll be safe in the leopard enclosure."
"Yeah," said Brian. "We'll send a truck back for you guys as soon as we can." He started up the cart. "And in the meantime, you've got lots to talk about with the other kids."
When they got to the snow leopard habitat, they found Rom already there. He explained that after he had escaped through the window of the Education Building he'd set out to find his cub pack. He figured it most likely that they’d be put in with Jeffrey, and was pleased to discover that it was indeed the case. His scouts had their uniforms back, obviating the need for bunny slippers. One of his scouts, had caught him up on the news and he was just about to go out looking for Kit, when the cart arrive
Derek hopped from the vehicle and lifted Kit down. Kit ran into the cage to tell the other kids of his experience, while Derek waved the vehicle off.
A half hour later, Brian's friend, Evan came back with a truck to take them to Zoo Center.
The next few hours were spent in reestablishing Brian’s authority and ‘standing down’ from Operation Zoo. It wasn't hard. Most everyone had had more than enough of the zoo take-over.
Derek observed Brian and the other Calfers transforming back to normal college kids. Earlier, he'd thought of the Calfers in Zoo Center as a dangerous menace. They were programmed, mindless, but definitely dangerous. Now though, the CALF membership, isolated by Joshua’s death, looked like nothing more than disorganized teenagers: blue jeans, sneakers, some filled with swagger and bravado, but less so than before. They were a tabla rasa, an empty slate. Followers, they were looking for a cause, any cause, and a leader, unfortunately any leader. Derek found it hard to hate these kids. They’ll be all right. With good adult guidance, they’ll be fine.
It was late, Derek was tired, and Jeff was almost too exhausted to walk. No one felt up to the trip across to the Education Building, so Derek, with Jack and Evan’s help, built an impromptu dorm on the top floor-- next to Joshua’s office as it turned out.
Derek collected the kids including Rom who was now so wiped out that his behavior was indistinguishable from his scouts. Rom and the kids were asleep in an instant. Before Kit drifted off, he looked over at Jeff who was bedded down next to him.
"Jeffrey, I think you’re pretty wild after all."
"Thanks Cat," answered Jeff sleepily, "but my name’s Jeff now. Good night."
Derek smile, rolled over, and drifted off to sleep.