Chapter 29 Wednesday, 2000 hours (8 PM)
Leaning against a tree, Jack watched the cart drive off. After hed been dismissed from Joshuas room he decided, just to be safe, to keep an eye on things. Kit had been in with Joshua for some time now, and Jack was getting nervous. He was about to go back in to investigate when he saw the two of them go out to a zoo cart. Jack followed. He had his rifle with him. Driving as slowly as Joshua was, Jack had no problem following the cart on foot. He assumed they were driving toward the SkySafari. Jack followed the cart but from time-to-time looked up at the tramway's single gondola, moving slowly back and forth over the zoo. Even at night the gondola was usually visible by reflected light from the ground or at other times in its course it could be seen as a black void against the sky. Jack was glancing at it when, quite suddenly, the gondola stopped in its course, and the zoo became yet darker than before. Even though it was at night and the zoo was closed, there were small dim lights everywhere. These were little purple or deep red warning lights on utility poles, or green glowing lamps indicating the location of public phones. There was also the diffuse light coming from cracks and little windows in the habitat buildings. There was stronger light also, emanating from the windows of CALF occupied buildings. These lights were suddenly no more and the zoo was black.
Jack was acutely aware of the electricity being cut off. Now except for the headlights of the cart, he had no points of light as a reference. He had only the path under his feet. And now, Jack didn't know where the cart was going. With the power out, there'd be no reason for Joshua and Kit to go to the SkySafari.
When Joshua's cart stopped, Jack dodged off the path taking advantage of a small copse of trees for cover. When the cart started off again, Jack pushed himself off from the tree. A low growl however, froze him in his tracks. He turned around slowly and came almost eye to eye with a snow leopard lounging on a limb of the same tree. The leopard looked not so much angry, as annoyed that his rest had been disturbed. The leopard growled again while Jack considered his side arm. His rifle was leaning against a tree but he might be able to use his Lugar. He was afraid to move and reach for it though. While the diffuse light from the carts headlights faded to darkness as the cart moved away, Jack and the leopard silently eyed each other. At last, with the darkness becoming near total, at least to Jack, the leopard leapt down from the limb and padded off into the undergrowth.
Jack turned toward where the cart had been and set out in pursuit. No sooner had he started when his foot caught in a root and he fell awkwardly to the ground, badly spraining his ankle. He stifled his cry of pain and sat up. He tried to stand but found he couldnt put any weight on the ankle. He stayed leaning against the tree, all weight on one leg, until the pain subsided enough that he could hobble off after the cart, using his rifle as a crutch.
The crutch was dangerous. With each step, he thumped the stock to the ground and leaned heavily on the end of the barrel. It would have been less dangerous to have the barrel pushed to the ground, but that would have filled it with dirt. Jack had a hazy feeling that he might need the rifle for something other that a crutch. Still, it was unnerving to think that with every thump, the rifle might fire and blow his head off.
It was dark and Jack had only a vague idea which way the cart had gone. He was lost, but he struggled on, hoping he would somehow pick up the trail again.
Jack, limping from his injured ankle, was desperately trying to find Joshua in his cart when he heard a scream. It had to be Kit. Though his eyes were almost useless in the dark, his ears were not. Kits scream provided the navigation beacon he needed. He ignored the searing pain in his ankle and ran through the undergrowth toward the sound. He broke into the open and saw a tableau on a cliff overlooking the polar bear den. Joshua, a ghostly figure in white, was pointing a gun at someone, someone he couldnt make out. Then he saw another other little figure. That would be Kit. Even at that distance, Jack could see that Kit was traumatized with fear. A cloud drifted from in front of the moon, and Jack looked back at the other two. There could be no doubt. It was Derek, Jeffrey's father, in the sights of Joshua's gun.
Jack was torn about what he should do. He was sickened at the thought of all the pain and injury he had inflicted. He was finished with all that. Besides, that was Joshua up there. Jack had to admit that he still believed in him a little, and had some lingering admiration for the man. But Jack couldn't just stand there and do nothing. He had to believe in himself.
Jack shifted his weight back to both feet, ignoring the searing pain in his ankle. Joshua, in white, provided an easy target in the moonlight. Jack raised his rifle, aimed and fired. The rifle did not fire.
"God damn," muttered Jack.
On the cliff, Joshua leveled his gun at Dereks chest, and then the shot rang out. Joshua jolted as if from the recoil from firing his weapon. Joshuas smile though, turned to a look of puzzlement as he did not in fact fire the gun. He himself had been shot. The shell did not penetrate since Joshua was wearing his bulletproof vest. However, the force of the shell knocked him off balance. He tried to regain his footing but could not. Moving in what appeared to be slow motion, Joshua tried to shift his weight backwards, attempting to fall backwards onto the grass. He failed. Struggling for purchase all the while, he slipped off the edge, and pivoted over into the void, thirty feet above the floor of the bear den. He fell screaming but as luck would have it, hit not the concrete floor, but splashed into the deepest part of the polar bear pool.
Jack lowered his side-arm, which had fired the shot. He watched the spectacle while limping up to Derek and Kit.
Joshua surfaced from the fall, and struck out with strong strokes for the concrete shore. He made it to the waters edge. He pulled himself out of the pool and the splashing drew the attention of the bears. Two of the beasts, ghostly in the moonlight, ambled toward him. Joshua, prone on the concrete, got to his feet and ran, keeping the pool between himself and the bears. The bears started to run so Joshua had to run faster. Polar bears though, are skillful hunters. One of them held up while the other chased Joshua around the irregularly shaped pond. Joshua paused for a moment, and was seized in the powerful jaws of the running polar bear. The bears teeth could not penetrate the Kevlar of course, but the mouth could crush. Joshua screamed as the bear bit down. The other bear meanwhile, had also run over, and used its teeth on a part of Joshua not protected by the vest. Joshuas agonized screaming continued until the first bears jaws collapsed Joshuas rib cage. Joshuas spotless whites were becoming stained with growing blotches of dark, damp, red.
"Bears two. Humans nil," said Kit looking down at the ghostly carnage.
Derek noticed Jacks pained limping and lent him his spear as a crutch. Jack had thrown away his rifle in disgust after it had failed to fire.
Derek turned his attention to Kit.
"Come away Cat," said Derek gently, urging the boy away from the precipice. Kit crawled back under the railing, his handcuffs clanking on the metal as he slid under. As the shock of the situation started to subside, Kit began to shiver, and he started to cry softly. Derek scooped him up, hugged him tightly and started back down the hill. He was struck by how light the boy was.
Jack stayed for a moment looking down at the ghastly scene below. Joshua, his personal demon, was dead and Jack felt that the nasty side of his own nature had died with him.
"Enough," said Jack. He felt the weight of the side arm on his belt. He detached the holster and flung it and the weapon it enveloped out into the darkness. It also landed in the bear pool, and with bubbles of air leaving the leather pouch almost as a last breath, it sunk heavily to the bottom. Using the spear as a walking stick, Jack limped down the hill after Derek and Kit.
At the bottom of the hill they found Brian and Evan waiting for them. The two of them had been planning a revolution of their own. They'd do something a lot more significant than just take the shells out of Jack's rifle. They intended to take back the zoo from Joshua. They decided as a start, that they'd honor Adam Steiners memory with a ceremony at his graveside, the bear den in this case. At the bear enclosure, they could think of nothing to say so they simply stood, heads bowed in prayer. Isolated as they were in the low hollow of the polar bear den, and shielded from sound by the brunt of the enclosure they heard Kits screams only as the distant call of some animal. Brian happened to look upward however. He nudged Evan and they both observed the drama unfold on the high service walk. As they were honoring Steiners memory, they saw his tormentor plummet into the pond, and after he crawled out, witnessed the judgment of the bears.
While Derek comforted Kit, Jack walked off with Brian and Evan to apologize and try to make amends. Jack at that point wasnt particularly coherent since he was himself in delicate emotional condition after having fired a gun at a human being and, albeit indirectly, killed him. Jack as a result, needed comforting almost as much as Kit.