Chapter 31 Thursday, 0430 hours (4:30 AM)
At a little after four in the morning, a techie ran out to find Brian. He woke Brian up, and Brian ran to wake up Evan and then Jack. It was the commotion that woke up Derek. The techie, a nocturnal type, had been monitoring the bug in the police command post on the roof of the high rise apartment building overlooking the zoo. His receiver was battery powered, and he was listening to it sleepily in the dark while thinking about perhaps going to bed. What he heard however jolted him awake.
"The police are going to invade the zoo at seven this morning," said the techie.
The three of them, four including the techie, had gathered in the hall so as not to wake anyone else.
"I cant say Im overly surprised, Frank," answered Evan, "Its about time."
"You dont understand," continued Frank. "Theyre coming armed to the teeth. Ive been listening to their preparations. Theyre scary. Theyre coming first through the Wild Asia entrance. If theres any resistance whatever, theyll come through all the entrances shooting anything that moves, man or beast, they said. Theyve got the national guard. My god. Think what would happen if they hit one of the bomb barrels," he continued, stopping now to catch his breath.
"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."
"Brian. This is serious. I know what those bombs can do," said Frank.
Brian tried to calm him down.
"Its OK. Were giving back the zoo. Id planned to do it at about nine this morning, but sevens OK," said Brian. "No problem. Weve about two hours."
"How do you give back a zoo?" asked Evan.
"Well ride out to the main entrance, Bronxdale I think, and open the gates," said Brian.
"Lets do it right now," said Jack. "I dont like the idea of them planning to invade big time. Ill come with you."
Derek and Evan decided that theyd wake everyone up, tell them about the surrender, and make sure they didnt 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 looked troubled.
"Dont worry," said Jack, "You dont have to give up your spear."
"No," said Derek. "Im worried about the people in the other buildings, and the snipers. Well have to tell them to give up too. Without the walkie-talkies, I dont know how to do that."
"Well have one last Pony Express run then," said Brian.
"If we have batteries," said Jack.
It turned out they didnt have the batteries. They couldnt find any carts with power, not for the Pony Express nor for a ride to the front gate."
"Well walk then," said Jack, exasperated by the lack of power.
"Not me," said Evan. "Its before dawn. The lions, hyenas and leopards are out hunting now. Theyre zoo predators. Theyre used to people. They like us. Munch, Munch."
"OK, OK. We need more time," said Brian. "Well use the negotiation phone. Ill tell George well surrender when it gets light. Hes a good guy. Hell understand."
Evan laughed. "You expect him to be at the phone at five in the morning. Doesnt he have a life?"
Derek was beginning to get jumpy and 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 answer the phone.
They went round to the Broadcast room which was in the same building. Brian didnt sit at the desk, but just picked up the phone and waited. He tried saying hello 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 dont know why, but they closed down this line too," said Jack. "Next plan anyone?" he asked.
"I dont have a plan," said Derek. "But you know, Its getting serious. If they invade and the snipers try to defend the place, a lot of people might die," he continued.
They looked at each other in troubled silence for a few moments.
"Look. Well just have to get everyone up. Well all go out together. Well make a lot of noise to keep away the lions, and well just walk to the Bronxdale gate," said Derek.
"A mob of noisy people converging on the gate in the dark? Thatll really look great to our police friends out there," said Jack.
"Unless youve got a better plan, I think thats what weve got to do," said Derek. "and I think Id better start waking everybody up."
"Wait," said Jack. "I want to try it a different way," he said.
They looked at him expectantly.
"Im going myself, Now. Ill take the gate key, and let them in," said Jack
He would walk in the lion infested zoo to the exit and the authorities.
"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 dont really care," answered Jack, "Im going."
There was a lot of argument but Jack was adamant. Short of trying to tie him down, there was no way to stop him. Maybe he did have something to prove. More likely, it 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.
"OK, OK," 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 descended the stairs.
Jack looked back.
"No. Keep your spear," he laughed, "but dont 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 youre vulnerable."
The door closed behind him and Jack walked alone into the darkness.
It was still dark on the ground. There was no illumination from the sky except for stars. Even the moon had set. The sky was not black anymore, but exhibited the barest tint of pre-dawn iridescent blue. Jack could almost make out the trees as dark shadows on a not quite as dark sky. He followed the path by feel and memory.
As he walked, he had time to think, and found that the possibility of wandering carnivores seemed to sharpen his thoughts. His belief in Joshua was of course over, and so was his belief in God. Jack talked to himself as he walked. "What's the sense of doing good just to avoid being sent to hell. It's far more noble to do good because it is right." Jack smiled in the darkness. "It's not for everyone of course. But for me, in order to be a good person, I have to give up my faith. It's God or goodness. So be it." Jack frowned. "That's not the way it's supposed to be. I've got to think this through again." Jack thought some more and then shrugged his shoulders. "The hell with it," he said. "I'll worry about it later; years and years later." For now though, Jack decided he'd just try to enjoy what was left of his youth.
At the top of a rise, Jack saw lights in the distance. It was the zoo entrance. He walked steadily towards the lights, no longer following the path, but going directly in a straight line. He did not falter, neither from the rough terrain nor from fright of animals, some of which were making none too friendly sounds from indeterminable but close distances. For reasons of pride and form rather than utility, he did not limp.
As Jack drew closer to the entrance, he was able to make out figures. They were generally armed and some were pointing weapons at him. Now, in the lights, with the threat more from people in front of him than from animals in the dark behind, he walked up to the chained gate and unlocked it.
"Gentleman," said Jack, "The zoo is now open."
He threw open the massive gate.
"But be careful of the lions."