Chapter 16 Wednesday, 0600 hours (6 AM)
Brian, now a private citizen, got up early to seek out Joshua. He knocked politely on Joshuas third floor war room, and was admitted. Though still before dawn, Joshua looked fresh and alert, as if he had already been working for a couple of hours.
"I think Id like to go over and let Evan out," said Brian.
Joshua looked at him for a few moments, until their eyes made contact.
"I think the lessons been learned. Dont you?" he said.
Brian cast his eyes down. "Yes."
Joshua reached in his desk and tossed Brian a ring of keys, which he caught with both hands. Joshua walked over to consult a chart pinned to the wall.
"Tyrone and Kevin will just be getting off their shift. Ill have them meet you out front at say, 6:15. They'll run you out to Evan and bring you both back," he said cheerfully, "We wouldn't want you eaten by anything."
Joshua dismissed Brian and called in a Calfer. The assault attempts earlier that day had given him an idea. During the initial phase of Operation Zoo, they had found the private gas pump in the maintenance area. Joshua had thought it strange at the time, since all the zoo vehicles were electric. He had even tried the pump to see if it worked.
In the same maintenance area, Joshua remembered seeing barrels. He had no idea what they were for. Theyd use them though, both the barrels and the gas pump.
The Calfer knocked and was admitted. Joshua had a special mission for him. He was to organize Operation Wildfire.
Joshua told him he was worried about other attempts to break into the zoo. That couldnt be allowed to happen. What theyd do then, is collect the barrels, fill them with gasoline, and transport them to strategic points in the zoo. Then the members of Operation Wildfire were to run wicks to Zoo Center. If anyone tried to invade, theyd light the wicks.
"But that would take miles of wicks," objected the Calfer.
"No. Not miles, but a lot," Joshua allowed, "I have a large roll of fuse wire in the munitions truck. After your team has set out the gas barrels, Ill get the roll and show you how to string the fuses."
"You know," said the Calfer, "if you mix cow manure in with the gasoline, you get a really good bomb."
"What? Really?" Joshua asked. "I've never heard anything about that."
"Yeah, I grew up on a farm. Me and my friends would do this all the time," said the Calfer.
Joshua was intrigued. "You did this all the time?" he asked.
"Yeah. Well until we made one a little too large and we almost blew down the milk shed," said the Calfer, "My dad just about flayed me alive."
"Were in a zoo," said Joshua, "theres got to be manure everywhere. I should think elephant manure would work, dont you?"
"I guess," answered the Calfer, but the barrels are pretty big. The bombs would do some real heavy damage."
"Fine," said Joshua, "Do it."
Joshua had nothing pressing to do until the 9AM broadcast, so he decided to take a tour of the zoo, this time on foot. The wandering carnivores should be asleep at this hour but the thought that they were out there added a thrill to the walk. In any case, Joshua had his side arm.
He walked softly, keenly alert for signs of carnivores. There was a motion in the distance. Joshua stopped and used his binoculars. It was no carnivore, but a man. He was too old to be a Calfer, and looked too scared to be an interloper. Besides, he looked familiar. It had to be a hostage. Joshua played with the idea of hunting him down and even drew his side-arm. Then he put it back. He didn't have quite enough time. Joshua was amused with himself though. Here he was actually thinking of hunting a human being, and it seemed proper and natural. It was funny how being in the zoo removed his inhibitions and how his civilized behavior - the thin patina of civilization - was dissolving.
Joshua returned to Zoo Center and mentioned the man to a Calfer just going out on patrol.
"Is any hostage missing?" asked Joshua.
"No. Only the father of that kid Jeffrey. They both escaped, but we re-captured the kid."
"Is he the one I had locked up in the leopard cage?" Joshua asked.
Joshua described the man, and the Calfer confirmed it was indeed the boy's father.
"Do you want me to have a search party hunt him down. It's not safe with him out there."
"What?" said Joshua, "I'm sure he's unarmed. He can't do us any harm."
"No," said the Calfer, "I mean it's not safe for him."
"Of course," said Joshua.
"What about a search party?"
Joshua thought about it.
"Is there any way the boy can be broken out of the leopard cage?"
"Not unless someone has a key," said the Calfer, "Why?"
"Hold off on the search party," said Joshua.
Joshua smiled and walked away. He knew he could hunt down the man at any time. He'd surely be spending a lot of time near the leopard enclosure. Joshua played with ideas. There were lots of possibilities, horrible possibilities.