Chapter 8 Tuesday, 1000 hours (10 AM)
The sky was clear and the winds calm, perfect conditions for the deployment of the drone. It was little more than a radio controlled toy really. Its eight foot wingspan dwarfed the tiny fuselage that was just large enough to hold the small downward-pointing TV camera.
It floated lazily, high over the zoo, its tiny engine buzzing, invisibly guided by the police from the roof of the high-rise across from the park. There, four officers squinted at the video screen displaying the drones aerial reconnaissance images. They had to squint close since the video monitor was outside on the roof, in the bright light of day. From its height, the zoo looked at peace. Now they would send the drone lower.
In the zoo, the Calfer on the SkySafari saw it first. He radioed a report in to Zoo Center. Joshua was sought out and told. Joshua headed immediately to a particular zoo maintenance cart which was provisioned for such a contingency. En route, Jack caught up and asked to go along. With Jack in the bed of the cart, Joshua drove to a sparse area near the Bronx River, the wide, slow moving tributary which flows through the zoo.
The police on the roof had no time to react to the missile. They instinctively pulled back from the screen at the moment the dark gray form of the rocket filled the field of view of the drones camera. Then the video monitor went dead. An instant later they heard the detonation and turned to look at the fireball spreading out and downward into the zoo.
On the ground, Jack and Joshua observed the display. The missile, made for far bigger game than a little drone, had immolated the aircraft as well as itself. A few flaming fragments fell into the river bringing forth miniature hissing puffs of steam. Joshua was trembling slightly since now in reality, not dream, he had brought down his aircraft, his first.
As they drove back in triumph, Jack started to get angry. The drone obviously was launched from the high-rise roof and they had a radio bug up there. The techies should have been listening in. Why then, hadnt they gotten a warning. Jack screeched the cart to a stop in its usual spot and bolted up to the communications room for an explanation.
"The bugs? What bugs? Oh yeah. Look. We cant do everything. We cant be everywhere," said the techies.
"Well turn them on now," said Jack evenly.
For the next fifteen minutes Jack and the techies listened with satisfaction to curses and recriminations uttered on the distant roof.
"See that this kind of goof-up doesnt happen again," said Jack as he strode out of the communications room.
The head technical Calfer shrugged and flipped on the scan control of the monitor for the listening devices. Now with the receiver polling each of the bugs, they could hear any activity at any zoo entrance, as well as on the apartment buildings roof. For a while all they could hear was the sounds from the apartment building. The only action was there. Soon however, another bug came alive with the sound of police sirens and then slamming car doors. A few minutes thereafter, another bug came on-line and then another and another. It was clear now, that the police were at every zoo entrance. The eavesdroppers looked at one another and understood, some of them for the first time, that they could no longer come and go at will. They were also captives, like the animals, and like the hostages.
Next door to the room where Jack had been harassing the techies, Joshua was activating his Ministry of Information. This was what the membership called the two intense Calfers that Joshua had selected personally. They projected an aura of high-mindedness, youthful sincerity, and truthfulness, and they could speak for hours at a time. Together, they spoke four languages, English, French, Spanish, and Japanese. It was the job of these two to get the word of Operation Zoo out to like minded organizations around the world. They were also to be a conduit to media. When they had nothing else to do, they were to phone in to as many talk radio shows as they could. The Zoo would be paying the phone bill of course.
Joshua walked in as they were setting up their phones, two to a desk, and plugging in their coffee pot. One of them couldn't live without coffee, and as a precaution, brought an electric pot along with him to the Zoo invasion. The phones were scrounged from other offices.
Joshua, a media person himself, liked these Calfers, and understood them well. They had grown up entirely in the modern age. They understood information, and how to manipulate it. Joshua handed them the media folder he had prepared and gave them a pep-talk, which they didn't need. They had been pumping up each other ever since they had set up their room. Happy, now that they had work to do, this Ministry of Propaganda divided up the pages between them and got to their phones. Feet on the desks, phones to their ears, they began to bring the news of Operation Zoo to the world.
And then there was the matter of the wolf. Wherever it came from and whether it was a large wolf cub or, as some suggested, a husky or malamute, its timing couldnt be better.
As the news of the police blockade of the zoo became general knowledge, the Calfers started to get testy and developed other manifestations of siege mentality. Then from out of nowhere, this wolf came pawing at the rear kitchen entrance of the Education Building. Though exceptionally tame and probably a dog, they named him Wolf. Some indeed thought he had escaped from the Mexican Wolf compound or perhaps the zoo hospital, while others, those of the dog school, thought him an opportunistic canine who had come to the occupied zoo to live a free life. He was universally liked, except for Jack. As for Joshua, who could tell?
"What do you have against Wolf," Brian asked.
Jack laughed sarcastically. "Now the damned bunny-huggers have something to hug," he said.
After a while though, even Jack began to like the animal, but he didnt let any of the others know it. When no one was around, Jack would often talk to Wolf and pat him on the head.
Wolf was given the run of the building. The door to the kitchen was left slightly ajar so Wolf could come and go freely and, it was hoped, use trees instead of furniture as fire hydrants. This state of grace was cut short when Evan jogged down to the kitchen for an early start on lunch. He was making for the fridge when he saw the leopard and froze. There, lounging on the food preparation table, was a snow leopard.
Evan was as if riveted to the spot. After a while though, the leopard leapt lightly to the floor, and padded out the open door. Evan, the spell broken, flew to the door, slammed and locked it. He put his back to the door and slid down to a sitting position and stayed, chin resting on his knees, until his breathing returned to normal. He no longer wanted lunch. He thought he had almost been lunch.
From that time on, Wolf could come in and out only when invited.