Chapter 7 Tuesday, 0700 hours (7:AM)
In the light of day, releasing the cats no longer seemed such a bright idea. Even Jack had to agree with that assessment. Jack, in addition to his sidearm, now took to carrying a rifle everywhere he went, not an AK-47 but a sleek hunting rifle. He discovered he liked carrying it and the loose carnivores provided an excuse. The other Calfers carried guns too now, especially those on zoo patrol. For fear of cats, they had to patrol in pairs and they were short of manpower as it was. One couldnt take a walk from one building to another, let alone from one habitat area to another, without using one of the zoo's little maintenance carts. These carts which looked as if they were manufactured by Lego, had an enclosed metal cab which afforded protection against the cold, and hopefully against all but the most determined carnivore. Moreover, there seemed to be too few of the carts, since many of them were in use patrolling the zoos perimeter paths. Many of the night patrollers had to go on foot, and when they came in at the end of their shifts, they were nervous wrecks.
In the kids dorm room it was another matter. The tone of the pack was set by Kit, their leader, and he was in a good mood. He had slept well. Now with the early cheerful rays of the sun streaming through the window, he felt that it was sort of like a campout after all. He sprang to the window to look out. The zoo was empty, mysterious, and beautiful. It was another unseasonably warm day. Kit put his head out the window and looked to see if there were any liberated carnivores to be seen. Kit was disappointed that there werent. The Pack, having done stuff together for a while, picked up on Kits mood and seemed to be enjoying the situation. Jeffrey, was enjoying himself rather less so, but he liked being drawn into the life of the pack. He was an only child without many friends, and was happy to share the camaraderie.
They were all looking for carnivores out the window when they heard the door being unlocked.
"OK guys, Breakfast," barked some anonymous Calfer.
They were hungry. Without stopping to put on their shoes, they ran out to join the other captives. While the kids looked alert and happy, albeit a little disheveled, the other hostages apparently, were far less adaptable. As they had no bunks to sleep on, they woke grumpy and far more worried by their state of captivity than were the kids.
A few of the captives expressed the opinion that the kids should be sleeping on the floor, leaving the bunks to the adults. Others thought it better, even safer, that the kids be in their own room. The boys were too energetic to notice any of this, especially since the food carts were as well provisioned as they were yesterday, this time with a rich variety of breakfast foods.
Jeffreys father pulled him away from the pack, and they had breakfast. It was a great breakfast, courtesy again of Big Apple On Location. Jeffrey was very hungry and eager to talk about his new friends.
"Derek, the pack is great," said Jeffrey through a mouthful of cheese-filled croissant, "Their leader is the kid we saw at the zoo. Hes my new friend. His names Kit, but everyone calls him Cat." he went on excitedly.
"Yeah, I know," said Derek. "Kit, when he was a baby was nicknamed Kitten. As he grew, that got changed to Cat."
"How did you know that?" asked Jeffrey.
Derek laughed. "His Cubmaster told me. But, Id stick to calling him Cat," he went on. "According to his Cubmaster, Kit has threatened to kill anyone who dares to call him Kitten."
Jeffrey laughed while his father noted that it was good having his kid back with him.
After a while, a Calfer gathered up the pack and sent them back to their room. Then he came over to Jeffrey, glanced over to Derek and made a humanitarian gesture.
"Would you like to stay here with your dad?" asked the Calfer.
Jeffrey looked down, averting his fathers eyes.
"No," he said, "Id rather go back to the scouts."
Derek tried for a smile as the Calfer gently led Jeffrey in to the dorm room, and then locked the door behind.
"Its natural," thought Derek, "for a boy to want to be with other kids." He tried not to be hurt by it, but he was. "Natural enough. Considering the kind of father Ive been, I havent any right to expect otherwise."
Derek turned his attention to the Calfers. In general they were a pretty likable bunch, that is if you could manage to ignore the assault rifles. The Calfers were sociable, had earnestly tried to explain the CALF philosophy to the hostages, and had even made friends with some of their captives. One of the Calfers, Derek noticed, was definitely not sociable. He, Jack was his name, seemed much more disposed to be alone, enjoying the company of his rifle.
Back in the dorm, the scouts were starting to suffer the effects of inactivity. Pleasant as the jail might be, it was still a jail, and they wanted out. They needed physical activity and even Jeffreys nifty pocket TV had lost its appeal. They were bored. With nothing else to do, they started picking on each other. It wasnt maliciousness, just the normal reactions of young males of the human species when held in captivity. Jeffrey, as he was the newest, and not in uniform, was the victim.
"I am not," said Jeffrey in response from some random taunt from Kit.
"You are too."
"Are too, and you stink," said Kit.
"Well, you stink too... Kitten."
The pack, as one, gasped at Jeffreys reckless daring.
"Jeffrey, Youre dead meat," said Kit throwing himself upon his adversary.
To the accompaniment of shouts of encouragement, they wrestled on the floor. The fight was about even. Jeffrey had a slight advantage in height and weight while Kit had the advantage of ferocity. The struggle and concomitant shouts halted however at the explosive sound of a rifle butt hitting their door from the other side.
Jeffrey and Kit froze in mid roll, and each noticed the other was smiling. The wrestling was just the activity they both needed. Jeffrey was beginning to feel as if he were one of the guys.
Somewhat later, when the effects of the wrestling competition had faded, the pack started talking Cub Scout stuff. Jeffrey, again the outsider, could only watch.
Finally, the cubs joined hands in a circle and chanted, "Pack 666, Pack 666. Wild and Free."
"Wild and free? Yeah! Sure!" said Jeffrey. He was feeling mean spirited since he wasnt included, "Youre not exactly free, and I dont think youre particularly wild. With those dumb uniforms, you guys all look the same."
"Thats because were a PACK" said Kit. He looked over to the others, threw back his head and howled. The pack, acting as one, did the same, hardly bothering to react to another bang of a rifle butt on the other side of their door.
"Thats really dumb," said Jeffrey, while at the same time conscious of a deep, growing desire to belong.
Joshua emerged from his war room after a good sleep. He was dressed casually and entirely in white. He liked white. It was the color of the young and he thought it took twenty years off his age. In the hall, he stopped at a mirror. "Yes, I do look young." He pulled in his gut and tucked in the bullet resistant Kevlar vest he had taken to wearing. The vest was thin but still gave Joshua a noticeably bulky look above the waist.
Joshua bounded down the stairs and on out into the sunlight. He crossed over to Zoo Center, directly opposite from the Education Building and across from the Sea Lion Pool. It was a bright morning and he didnt concern himself with thoughts of nocturnal carnivores roaming the grounds.
In Zoo Center, Joshua found that Jeffrey and the cubs were a topic of conversation. Brian and Jack were discussing them in the context of CALF doctrine. The next broadcast wasnt for fifteen minutes, and there was time.
"Theyre kids," said Brian, "and weve made them captives. Thats not right."
"What do you want to do, release them?" asked Jack.
"Sure. Why not. Let the police handle them," said Brian. "Besides," he went on, "Id hate to think of one of them being eaten by a tiger or something. Their Cubmaster is probably out there waiting for them anyway."
Jack thought it a small matter and didnt really care much one way or the other. He had more important things to be concerned about, Operation Zoo security for one thing. Joshua for his part, remained silent.
"Fine. Its OK with me," said Jack. Joshua shrugged noncommittally.
"Good. Lets send them out after lunch, when the snipers change shifts."
It was agreed.
Back in the dorm, Kit and Jeffrey were having a conversation concerning domesticity.
"Jeffrey. You're tame and domesticated. Big cities do that to kids, Ive been told. You should be more like us," explained Kit.
"Wild and Free, Yeah, right," answered Jeffrey sarcastically.
"Yes, wild and free."
"Im every bit as wild as you, Cat."
"No youre not."
"Yes I am. I dont need any stupid uniform to be wild," said Jeffrey, not without a touch of envy.
"I dont either," said Kit. To punctuate his words, he took off his scout shirt. The rest of the pack shouted their agreement, and did the same. Jeffrey, now feeling overly clothed, took his shirt off too. Kit stood for a moment and then wordlessly took off his pants and socks. He stood there in his underwear, looking very white and truly feral. Again, the pack did the same. It was turning into a kind of a dare. Jeffrey stripped down also, and hoped it wouldnt go to the next stage of stark nakedness. It didnt.
"OK, so were all wild," said Kit approvingly, "but were not free. I dont know about you Jeffrey, but were getting out of here." So saying, he sprang lightly to the window sill, and looked back.
"Coming?" he asked.
"Youre crazy, Cat," said Jeffrey, "There are wild animals out there, and besides, youll freeze to death."
"Naa. Its warm as toast outside," answered Kit. "We know what animals are dangerous and what arent. Well hang out with those that arent."
Kit looked contemptuously to the door. "If animals are whats wanted here, well, well be animals." He looked back at Jeffrey. "Youll find us hanging out with the wolves, and if youre not coming with us, at least dont tell the CALF creeps where we are."
"Cat, youre nuts. Im not coming," said Jeffrey.
"Fine," said Kit as he leapt lithely out the window.
The rest of the pack followed without as much a single word being uttered. As Jeffrey stared at the empty window, Kits head came back into view.
"Jeffrey," said Kit pointing, "hand me my canteen please. The dirty blue one over there."
Jeffrey fetched the canteen and Kit vanished leaving Jeffrey, standing among the discarded blue uniforms, feeling utterly alone, and scared.