Go to beginning of the book Brian and Evan follow Jack to see that he arrives at the entrance safe.Derek helps arrange the final activity of Operation Zoo.Jack hands over the zoo.Joshua's story has come to an end.Saying: One cannot know the grandeur of an elephant by looking at its tail. - African proverbThe World of Darkness, and a dark lionGo to chapter 30 in the Novel ViewGo to chapter 32 in the Novel View

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 can’t say I’m overly surprised, Frank," answered Evan, "It’s about time."

"You don’t understand," continued Frank. "They’re coming armed to the teeth. I’ve been listening to their preparations. They’re scary. They’re coming first through the Wild Asia entrance. If there’s any resistance whatever, they’ll come through all the entrances shooting anything that moves, man or beast, they said. They’ve 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.

"It’s OK. We’re giving back the zoo. I’d planned to do it at about nine this morning, but seven’s OK," said Brian. "No problem. We’ve about two hours."

"How do you give back a zoo?" asked Evan.

"We’ll ride out to the main entrance, Bronxdale I think, and open the gates," said Brian.

"Let’s do it right now," said Jack. "I don’t like the idea of them planning to invade big time. I’ll come with you."

Derek and Evan decided that they’d wake everyone up, tell them about the surrender, and make sure they didn’t decide to do something stupid, like try to defend the zoo.

"Good Idea," said Brian. "Might be good to round up the weaponry also."

Derek looked troubled.

"Don’t worry," said Jack, "You don’t have to give up your spear."

"No," said Derek. "I’m worried about the people in the other buildings, and the snipers. We’ll have to tell them to give up too. Without the walkie-talkies, I don’t know how to do that."

"We’ll have one last Pony Express run then," said Brian.

"If we have batteries," said Jack.

It turned out they didn’t have the batteries. They couldn’t find any carts with power, not for the Pony Express nor for a ride to the front gate."

"We’ll walk then," said Jack, exasperated by the lack of power.

`"Not me," said Evan. "It’s before dawn. The lions, hyenas and leopards are out hunting now. They’re zoo predators. They’re used to people. They like us. Munch, Munch."

"OK, OK. We need more time," said Brian. "We’ll use the negotiation phone. I’ll tell George we’ll surrender when it gets light. He’s a good guy. He’ll understand."

Evan laughed. "You expect him to be at the phone at five in the morning. Doesn’t 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 didn’t 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 don’t know why, but they closed down this line too," said Jack. "Next plan anyone?" he asked.

"I don’t have a plan," said Derek. "But you know, It’s getting serious. If they invade and the snipers try to defend the place, a lot of people might die," he continued.

"The Joshua plan," said Evan, sort of to himself.

Brian gave him a sideways look, but didn’t say anything. They all looked at each other in troubled silence for a few moments.

"Look. We’ll just have to get everyone up. We’ll all go out together. We’ll make a lot of noise to keep away the lions, and we’ll just walk to the Bronxdale gate," said Derek.

"A mob of noisy people converging on the gate in the dark? That’ll really look great to our police friends out there," said Jack.

"Unless you’ve got a better plan, I think that’s what we’ve got to do," said Derek. "and I think I’d better start waking everybody up."

"Wait," said Jack. "I want to try it a different way," he said.

They all looked at him expectantly.

"I’m going myself, Now. I’ll 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 don’t really care," answered Jack, "I’m 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 don’t 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 you’re 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 kept his eyes looking at the ground and trees. He could almost make out the trees as dark shadows on a not quite as dark sky. He followed the path by feel and memory. Then at the top of a rise, he 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 he 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," he added.

Jack gave the police a short version of the current situation in the zoo, highlighting the bombs and the roaming cats. The police rushed back out again, taking Jack with them. The gate was closed and this time, the police themselves re-chained it. They had decided to wait until the sun was well up, about 10 AM, before reentering. By then they’d not have to worry about the loose carnivores, and in any case by then they’d have some animal handlers with them, with tranquilizer dart guns. Jack also told them about the need to re-establish communications. They needed to do it quickly, before Derek's 'scream and shout' exit plan was enacted. In the general pandemonium, Jack wasn't sure the police appreciated the urgency.

Back at Zoo Center, thirty minutes had passed. Derek went to wake everybody up and gather them together in the first floor public area of Zoo Center. A few other Calfers meanwhile, sprinted the short distance across to The Education Building to wake up the people there, mainly the hostages and their guards. In Zoo Center a few minutes later, Derek was explaining the final Operation Zoo activity, namely walking as a noisy group to the exit. Discussions were going on whether women and children should stay behind in safety, when the lights came on. Derek stopped in mid sentence. There was a hush while people adjusted to the return of electricity. On impulse then, Derek switched on a walkie-talkie. Jamming static was gone. The units were working. Then he heard Jack’s voice from outside the zoo telling them all to stay put until about ten when the zoo would be liberated. Jack signed off and Brian’s voice come on. He had gone through the same chain of reasoning as Derek, and had also tried a walkie-talkie. Brian said he and Evan would sprint back to Zoo Center. That was now command central, and as CALF president, that’s where he, Brian, should be to greet the authorities.

A few minutes later, Brian and Evan were back. A rider of the Pony Express was rounded up and given the task of giving the news on the walkie-talkie over and over, non-stop news, so that any sniper in the field who might just try his walkie-talkie would know what was going on. In particular, snipers were to lay down their guns and wait. Most did not just wait. The action was clearly at Zoo Center. As soon as it became light, a steady trickle of snipers started to arrive at headquarters. There they were decommissioned, and their paraphernalia collected; guns, binoculars, night goggles, most of the walkie-talkies, corded ID badges, and other remembrances of Joshua.

Now there was really nothing left to do but wait, and eat whatever food had not gone bad. The mood became festive and the kids became hyperactive. Kit had managed to extract a promise from Rom that they’d go on another field trip to the zoo over school spring break. Jeff extracted a matching promise from his dad. Jeff, Kit and the pack would meet again.

Derek looked over this group of college students who were once his tormentors, and felt mainly sympathy. Misguided as it was in this case, college kids should have causes. It is good for society. It wasn’t their fault particularly that their self appointed leader was evil or at any rate insane. You couldn’t blame them for their leader any more than you could blame the Germans for Hitler, the Russians for Stalin, the Serbs for Milosovich, the Turks for... God there were a lot of examples. Derek sighed. With good adult leadership, the kids would be OK. As for his own kid, Operation Zoo, as horrible as it had been in parts, had given him and his son the ultimate shared experience. In a way, it had given him his son.

Go to chapter 30 in the Novel ViewGo to start of chapterGo to chapter 32 in the Novel View