Go to Cover Brian meets Evan who tells of strange things in the zoo.Rom found his scouts, and Derek finds his son.Rom and Derek look for Jeffrey, and find him locked in the snow leopard cage.Jack believes his sadistic tendencies have a higher purpose. Joshua selects two captives; one to release, and the other to be put in with the bears.Quotation: Tiger with tiger, bear with bear, you'll find; In leagues offensive and defensive joined; But lawless man the anvil dares profane, And forge that steel by which a man is slain. - JuvenalA polar bearGo to chapter 17 in Joshua's ViewGo to chapter 19 in Joshua's View

Chapter 18 Wednesday, 0945 hours (9:45 AM)

Joshua and Jack flanked by six Calfers carrying AK-47s, solemnly entered the hostage room. The hostages cleared a path for them and timidly obeyed when asked to stand in a line against the far wall.

"I have to select two of you," said Joshua, "one of whom will be freed before noon, and the other will be put in with the polar bears."

"What do you mean, put in with the polar bears?" asked a disgruntled hostage.

Joshua looked at him. "The authorities have not acceded to our demands. We have no choice but to allow one of you to be a martyr to our cause."

Joshua had not used the words ‘sacrifice’ or ‘kill’ but the hostages were beginning to understand his meaning. Slowly Joshua walked down the line of hostages, stopping in front of each of them, enjoying the fear, then passing to the next while the one just passed over let out a silent sigh of relief.

Finally Joshua stopped in front of a middle- aged man, cowering against the wall.

"You," said Joshua pointing. The man looked as if his knees would buckle, but he managed to remain standing, shaking visibly and with undisguised fear on his face. Joshua was enjoying the situation greatly. The hostages around the selected man edged quietly sideways, leaving him standing alone.

"You," he said again, "will be released."

The man uttered a sound of relief while the hostages still to be inspected looked on him with looks of envy.

Joshua went to the beginning of the line and began the process again. He stopped this time in front of a woman looking to be in her early thirties. Before he lifted his hand to point, the woman cried out.

"No. Not me. Please, not me," she pleaded.

Joshua stood looking at her.

"You can’t take me. Please, take someone else, not me," she went on as the other hostages again edged sideways leaving her alone and exposed.

Joshua nodded to the two closest Calfers to come and take her. The woman backed away from them, ending up wedged in a corner of the room. A Calfer took her by the arm, but she slid to a curled up, sitting position against the wall, wailing and whining. Another Calfer came over and they attempted to drag her toward the door. Progress was slowed by her kicking, screaming and even biting,

At this point an older man stepped out of the line.

"Leave her alone," he said brusquely.

Joshua turned to him.

"Shut up, unless you want to take her place," he said.

"Let the woman alone. I’ve had enough of this sadistic spectacle," he continued. His voice was firm and calm, but it had a weary quality.

Joshua regarded him coldly. "I guess you’re telling me you want to take her place," he said sarcastically.

"Want is not the word I would have chosen," said the man, "but you have the idea. Let her go."

Joshua was taken aback, not fully comprehending the answer. While he paused to figure out how to respond, he turned his attention to the Calfers who were now attempting to draw the woman to her feet and get her through the door.

"No, Please. I don’t want to die," she said, "Take him instead. He said so."

Joshua shrugged. "Let her go," he said. It would be easier on everyone if the first hostage to be sacrificed did not make too much of a scene. The woman scrambled away to cower at the far end of the room.

Joshua turned back to the older man. "Fine. We’ll take you instead, if that’s what you want, but why are you doing this?" he asked, genuinely interested.

"My name is Andrew Steiner." The man paused and looked from face to face, perhaps waiting to see if anyone recognized his name. No one responded. He shrugged and went on.

"Andrew Steiner," he continued. "I am an animal photographer. As animal rights activists I would have thought you’d have heard of me. Well, even if you don’t know my name, you’ve probably seen my work in newspapers and magazines, and even on public television. I’ve done some motion picture work and video too. If I might say so, I’m considered by many to be the best animal photographer of our time." Mr. Steiner went on to mention his magazine credits by name but was cut off.

"Fine. Fine, but go on," prompted Joshua with impatience.

"I’ve lived my life with animals, and on two occasions almost died on field expeditions. I was younger then. We all were. That wasn’t a particularly clever thing to say was it? In any case I didn’t die. It was as if I’d cheated death. When we’re young we all feel immortal. Now I find I’m mortal, very mortal indeed. You see , I have an incurable disease, terminal in fact. It’s very inconvenient."

Steiner had everyone listening intently. He paused for breath and went on.

"I don’t want to die a slow lingering death in a hospital. It’s just a matter of months, three maybe, maybe less. If I have to die, and unfortunately I do, I’d rather go in the field as I’ve lived, photographing animals."

He pointed to his camera bag on the floor, under a chair. "Those are my tools, my cameras. Only one with me today, my old Nikon." He was wandering now. "It’s loaded with Plus-X, in my opinion the best film for truly artistic work; black and white and extremely fine grain. You have to be careful developing it though."

An impatient wave from Joshua brought him back into focus.

"You’re probably doing me a favor, really," Steiner said. "I won’t cause you any trouble, but in return I ask that you let me photograph the bears. Let me go into the enclosure with my camera. Polar bears are magnificent. Maybe I can take the definitive polar bear sequence. Send the film to my agent. His name’s in my wallet. Send him the film undeveloped. He knows the right processing lab. He won’t let it get mangled in one of those drug store 24 hour film development atrocities. Kill me if you must, but save the film. Oh dear, that sounds melodramatic, doesn’t it?"

Joshua, however else he thought of himself, considered himself as possessing an artistic temperament. It was hard not to respect this man Steiner, no matter how eccentric and rambling he seemed. Joshua agreed to the terms.

"I assume you’re also going to record the event on film," said Steiner.

"We’re going to videotape it," said Joshua.

"Too bad. Film would have been better. But if you have good video equipment... Look, I’d like to talk to the cameraman beforehand, to give him a few pointers. He’s got to get it right the first time, no retakes of course."

"Of course," said Joshua. "But who knows, maybe the bears will just ignore you. Maybe in an hour, you’ll be right back here," he continued undecided whether Steiner was just eccentric, or completely insane.

"Don’t tell me fairy tales Mr. Cave. Polar bears are killers, magnificent killers. They love to hunt, and they’re good at it. You know that in the North, they actually stalk and hunt people."

Andrew Steiner nodded to himself. "No. I’ll not be coming back here," he said.

The Calfers led Mr. Steiner, and the hostage to be released out of the compound. Save for Joshua, they were uncomfortable with their choice for the polar bears. The Calfers, the volunteers, outside of admiring Mr. Steiner, which they did, felt vaguely that something was not quite right and looked on silently.

Joshua, instinctively knowing that this was another dangerous moment, turned back to the woman.

"After we do this little favor for Mr. Steiner, we will send you home. Things have a way of working out don't they?"

Joshua smiled pleasantly. "You're not going to cause us any trouble now, are you?"

The woman shook her head 'No'.

The Calfers laughed.

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