Chapter 30 Wednesday, 2200 hours (10 PM)
They gathered around the cart, the five of them, at which point Kit suggested that it would be rather nice if someone could get his handcuffs off. Jack laughed at the comment. The events on the cliff were of such gravity that now, with the situation abruptly resolved and the tension relieved, any statement not overtly serious, was treated as something funny.
Jack took Kit in front of the cart where the headlights provided good illumination.
"Does anyone have a credit card that they could part with?" asked Jack, "and a scissors would be convenient."
Derek provided the credit card, while Brian provided the little scissors on his pocket knife. Jack cut the credit card into a tool and working with the skill of a jeweler, sprung Kit from the cuffs.
"Im not even going to think about asking you where you learned to do that," said Derek.
"Dont," said Jack.
They decided it would be best to first drive Derek and Kit back to the leopards to mind the kids while Jack, Brian, and Evan went back to take back control of CALF. Theyd come back with a truck as soon as they could. A distant growl confirmed that it was definitely not safe to walk. The five squeezed into the little electric vehicle.
"This family definitely needs a larger car," said Evan.
When they got to the snow leopard habitat, they found Rom already there. He explained that after he had escaped through the window of the Education Building he had set out to find his cub pack. He figured it most likely that theyd be put in with Jeffrey, and was pleased to discover that it was indeed the case. His scouts had their uniforms back, obviating the need for bunny slippers. One of his scouts, had caught him up on the news and he was just about to go out looking for Kit, when the cart arrived.
Jack, Brian and Evan drove the cart back to Zoo Central and discovered that aside from there not being any electricity, things hadnt changed much. The Pony Express was still riding, the techies who were largely battery powered anyway continued monitoring what they could still monitor, and Operation Zoo went on.
Theyd give explanations later. Right now, they needed a truck to ferry back Derek, Rom and the cubs. There were no trucks, at least none with ignition keys. They had to settle on taking two carts, and they were not easy to come by. There were lots of carts of course, but the Calfers were a little cavalier about plugging them in for recharging. They kept some on charge of course, but just enough for their immediate needs. Joshua had often complained about that, saying "Were only one charge away from being pedestrians." Now, with the electricity out, there would be no recharging and over the next couple of hours or so, the carts would start to die. The current run of the Pony Express in fact, would be its last. The Calfers in the field, and hanging out in the remote buildings would be isolated, at least until morning when it would be safe to roam the zoo on foot. At night, the zoo belonged to the predators. So it was a great concession being granted use of two of the precious vehicles. It was rank that allowed them to be commandeered, not Brians, but Jacks. Jack was generally considered Joshuas right hand man, and unconfirmed reports of Joshuas demise did not seem to diminish Jacks authority.
While Brian and Jack went back out in the carts, Evan stayed behind and explored. Ever since his bat incident, he had been obsessive about having a working flashlight, and as a result he himself possessed two of the very few remaining sources of light. The role of the solitary explorer fit well with his personality. He wandered at random through the various rooms of Zoo Central and then came upon Joshuas private office. He opened the door and went in. Rather than the neat functional facility he had expected, it was unkempt, with platters of luncheon meats and cookies scattered about. There was even some food on the floor. Evan took a cursory walk around the room, and noticed a calf skinned pocket organizer on a side table. It was very smart and had tiny brass fittings on the corners. It obviously belonged to Joshua. Evan flipped through it and was fascinated by the careful, fine writing. He read a paragraph or two and then sat down to read the whole thing.
He put his feet up on the table, rested the flashlight on his stomach and began. It was a strange document. As Evan read under the minimal light of the flashlight, he realized it was an evil document - a testament to evil. He read with some emotion when he got to Joshuas description of his bat torture. It was planned. Everything Joshua had done was premeditated. Then he reached the description of Joshuas final grand gesture, his plan. It was sickening. Evan shivered thinking just how close Kit had come to a hideous death. Evan finished reading and feeling deep revulsion, placed the diary back on the table.
Evan glowered at the diary. As long as it existed, some part of Joshua seemed still alive. But did he, Evan, have the right to destroy it. Or for that matter, did he indeed have the duty TO destroy it. He could not decide. Finally pragmatism won out. Evan decided the diary was, above all, evidence and that evidence would exonerate lots of people. He left the diary where it was, got up and closed the door behind him.
When Evan got back to the first floor, Brian, Jack and the others were just coming in. Brian also had a working flashlight.
"Evan, What happened?" said Brian looking at Evans face. "It looks like youve seen a ghost."
The next couple of hours were spent in reestablishing Brians authority and standing down from Operation Zoo. Not that he needed to, but Brian first went back to the broadcast room to see if maybe Joshua had left the petition document there, and maybe had left it intact. Brian found it, crumpled on the floor where it was thrown just hours ago. He smoothed it out. With it, and only with it, he felt entitled to act as the President of CALF once more. He realized he had no choice but to retake the presidency. It was his duty and obligation, even if it would expose himself more than most to the tender mercies of the legal system. He had no doubt he would be going to jail, and deserving it.
Brian had not much difficulty in standing down the forces. Most everyone except a few ultra hard liners had had more than enough of Operation Zoo. Without Joshua around to cajole, threaten and use mob psychology, the Calfers could think for themselves. For the most part they were ashamed.
But organization started to break down. Joshua, fiend that he was, non the less was a good organizer. His two tools of charisma and fear kept things running, if not beneficially, at least well. Now things were falling apart. That wouldn't be a problem if the zoo were safe, but it wasn't. There were still the homeless carnivores, and there was still the danger from Operation Wildfire. Brian would be glad to see the dawn. Then they could at least defuse the bombs before handing the zoo back.
The next problem, that of informing the Calfers in the field was one they'd put off until daylight. Those Calfers knew not of the passing of the reign of Joshua and they had last been instructed to defend their positions at all costs. They would take some convincing. That was a problem for the morning though, a time of sleeping carnivores.
Incredibly enough, it was several hours before anyone thought about freeing the hostages. Evan and Brian took a cart for the short distance to the Education Building. They kept the lights off and drove slowly to save power. A half hour later they were back. The hostages were glad that Joshua was gone of course, but they thought it would be better and safer to stay were they were until morning. Rom was not surprised.
Derek was following all this with changed perceptions. Before he had looked on the Calfers in Zoo Central as a dangerous threat. They were programmed, mindless, but definitely dangerous. Now though, the CALF membership, isolated now by Joshuas death, looked like nothing more than disorganized teenagers; blue jeans, sneakers; some filled with swagger and bravado, but less so than before. They were a tabla rasa, an empty slate. Followers; they were looking for a cause, any cause, and a leader, unfortunately any leader. Derek found it hard to hate these kids. "Theyll be all right.", he thought, "with good adult guidance, theyll be fine."
It was late, Derek was tired and he observed Jeff to be at the point of severe exhaustion. He didnt feel up to the trip across to the Education Building so he, with Jack and Evans help, built an impromptu dorm on the top floor, next to Joshuas office as it turned out. Derek collected the kids including Rom who was now so wiped out that his behavior was indistinguishable from his scouts. They were all exhausted. Rom and the kids were asleep in an instant. Before Kit drifted off, he looked at Jeff who was bedded down next to him.
"Jeffrey, I think youre pretty wild after all," said Kit.
"Thanks Cat," answered Jeff sleepily, "but my names Jeff now. Good night."
Jack and Derek fell asleep soon after. Evan however, thought it his duty to rejoin Brian and help him with his presidential duties.
He found Brian on the way to talk to the techies in the communication room. Evan walked along with him.
"I really wonder," said Brian, "what Joshua was planning to do with Kit."
"Brian, you dont want to know," said Evan. "You really dont want to know."
"You know? Tell me," said Brian.
"Come on Evan, Tell me."
"No!" answered Evan. He would not talk about it. Not now. Not ever.
"Do you know why he had a hangmans noose with him, then?" Brian persisted.
"Let it alone, Brian."