Chapter 31 Thursday, 0430 hours (4:30 AM)
Derek was awakened by a commotion. A techie was in frantic conversation with Brian and Evan. He had been idly monitoring the police channel.
"The police are going to invade the zoo at seven this morning," said the techie.
"I canít say Iím overly surprised," answered Evan, "Itís about time."
"You donít understand." The techie all but jumped up and down. "Theyíre coming armed to the teeth. Iíve been listening to their preparations. Theyíre scary. Theyíre coming first through the Wild Asia entrance. If thereís any resistance whatever, theyíll come through all the entrances shooting anything that moves, man or beast, they said." He took a quick gasp for breath. "Theyíve got the national guard. My god. Think what would happen if they hit one of the bomb barrels."
Listening, Derek rolled to his feet.
"What bomb barrels?" asked Brian.
"Joshua had high-explosive bombs made and set around the zoo."
"I wonder what other little details Joshua neglected to tell me."
"This is serious, Brian. I know what those bombs can do."
Brian tried to calm him down. "Itís OK. Weíre giving back the zoo. Iíd planned to do it at about nine this morning, but sevenís OK," said Brian. "No problem. Weíve about two hours."
"How do you give back a zoo?" asked Evan.
"Weíll ride out to the main entrance, Bronxdale I think, and open the gates."
"Letís do it right now," said Jack. "I donít like the idea of them planning to invade, big time. Iíll come with you."
Derek and Evan decided that theyíd wake everyone up, tell them about the surrender, and make sure they didnít decide to do something stupid, like trying to defend the zoo.
"Good Idea," said Brian. "Might be good to round up the weaponry also."
Derek sighed. Won't this ever end?
"Donít worry," said Jack, looking over at him. "You donít have to give up your spear."
"No," said Derek. "Iím worried about the people in the other buildings, and the snipers. Weíll have to tell them to give up too. Without the walkie-talkies, I donít know how to do that."
"Weíll have one last Pony Express run then," said Brian.
"If we have batteries," said Jack.
It turned out they didnít have the batteries. They couldnít find any carts with power, not for the Pony Express nor for a ride to the front gate."
"Weíll walk then," said Jack, exasperation clear in his voice.
"Not me," said Evan. "Itís before dawn. The lions and hyenas are out hunting now. Theyíre zoo predators. Theyíre used to people. They like us. Munch, Munch."
"Okay, okay. We need more time," said Brian. "Weíll use the negotiation phone. Iíll tell George weíll surrender when it gets light. Heís a good guy. Heíll understand."
Evan laughed. "You expect him to be at the phone at five in the morning. Doesnít he have a life?"
Derek, worried that without strong leadership, things could get dangerous, agreed with Jack that whatever they did, they should do now. He asked Brian to lead them to the phone, and get it over with. Someone would, no doubt, hear the phone ring and answer it.
They went over to the Broadcast room which was in the same building. Brian picked up the phone and waited. He said Ďhelloí into it, clicking the receiver hook a few times, and even shaking it.
Jack took it from him, clicked the hook a couple of times and listened. "The phone is dead. I donít know why, but they closed down this line too." Jack slammed down the receiver. "Damn. Next plan anyone?"
"I donít have a plan," said Derek. "But you know, Itís getting serious. If they invade and the snipers try to defend the place, a lot of people might die."
They looked at each other in troubled silence for a few moments.
"Look. Weíll just have to get everyone up," said Derek. "Weíll leave someone here with the kids. Then the rest of us will go out together. Weíll make a lot of noise to keep away the lions, and weíll just walk to the Bronxdale gate."
"A mob of noisy people converging on the gate in the dark?" said Jack. "Thatíll really look great to our police friends out there."
Derek didn't know what was the right thing to do, but they had to do something. "Unless youíve got a better plan, I think thatís what weíve got to do." Derek spoke with a firm, and he hoped, decisive voice, "and I think Iíd better start waking everybody up."
"Wait," said Jack. "I want to try it a different way."
Derek looked at him, expectantly.
"Iím going myself, Now," said Jack. "Iíll take the gate key, and let them in."
"The zoo carts are completely dead," said Evan.
"Are you trying to get yourself killed?" asked Brian. "What are you trying to prove? There are a lot of hungry animals out there."
"I donít really care. Iím going."
"I don't really think that's such a hot idea," said Derek.
There was much discussion but Jack was adamant. Derek stopped arguing. Short of tying Jack down, there was no way to stop him. Maybe he did have something to prove. More likely, thought Derek, he was trying to make a deal with fate, like a powerless child trying to keep something bad from happening by not walking on any sidewalk cracks.
"All right," said Brian, "I'll get you a weapon. A hand gun might be better, don't you think?"
"I'm not going armed," said Jack, firmly. He didn't wait for any more discussion, but headed down toward the front door.
"At least take my spear," said Derek as Jack started down the stairs.
Jack looked back and laughed. "No. Keep your spear. But donít wait more than a half hour. Then, wake up everybody and fall back to your plan."
"Try not to limp," shouted Evan. "If you limp, the cats will know youíre vulnerable. Oh, and get the police to stop jamming our walkie-talkies."
Jack, only slightly favoring his right leg, walked to the front door, and opened it a few inches. He took a quick look out into the dark, walked briskly forward, and closed the door behind him.
A minute or so after Jack had set off, Brian said, "I'm following him, and I'm taking a gun."
"I'm coming too," said Evan. "Take a walkie-talkie."
Derek waited a long thirty minutes. "Okay. I hope Jack makes it, but we can't wait anymore."
He went to wake everybody up and gathered them together in the first floor public area of Zoo Central. A few other Calfers meanwhile, sprinted the short distance across to The Education Building to wake up the people there, mainly the hostages and their guards.
"The last activity of Operation Zoo," Derek explained, "will be a calm walk to the exit. Calm but noisy. It's the best we've come up with to keep the loose cats away."
They were discussing whether women and children should stay behind in safety, when the lights came on. Derek stopped in mid sentence. There was a hush while people got readjusted to living under artificial lights.
On impulse then, Derek asked for a walkie-talkie and switched it on. Jamming static was gone. The units were working. Then he heard Jackís voice telling them to stay put until about ten when the zoo would be liberated with safety for all.
Jack signed off and they heard Brianís voice come on. He'd seen Jack go though to the outside, and had wondered if he and Evan should also go through the exit. Then they to had heard Jack's voice on their walkie-talkie, and decided their duties lay with the Calfers in the zoo.
Brian said he and Evan would sprint back to Zoo Center. That was now command central, and as CALF president, thatís where he should be to greet the authorities.
A few minutes later, Brian and Evan were back. A rider of the Pony Express was rounded up and given the task of giving the news on the walkie-talkie over and over, non-stop news, so that any sniper in the field who might just try his walkie-talkie would know what was going on. In particular, snipers were to lay down their guns and wait. Most did not just wait. The action was clearly at Zoo Center. As soon as it became light and the big cats were presumed inactive, a steady trickle of Calfers began arriving at headquarters. There they were decommissioned, and their paraphernalia collected; guns, binoculars, night goggles, most of the walkie-talkies, corded ID badges, and other remembrances of Joshua.
There was really nothing left to do but wait, and eat whatever food had not gone bad. The mood became festive and the kids grew hyperactive. Kit had managed to extract a promise from Rom that theyíd go on another field trip to the zoo over school spring break. Jeff extracted a matching promise from his dad. Jeff, Kit and the Pack would meet again.
Derek, in an introspective mood, looked over this group of college students who were once his tormentors; he felt mainly sympathy. Misguided as it was in this case, college kids should have causes. It's good for society. It wasnít their fault particularly that their self appointed leader was evil or at any rate insane. You couldnít blame them for their leader any more than you could blame the Germans for Hitler, the Russians for Stalin, the Serbs for Milosovich, the Turks for... God there were a lot of examples. Derek sighed. With good adult leadership, the kids would be okay. As for his own kid, Operation Zoo, as horrible as it had been in parts, had given him and his son the ultimate shared experience. In fact, in some sense, it had given him his son