Chapter 13 Tuesday 2100 hours (9 PM)
Rom, keeping low, and making sure he was out of sight of the SkySafari, ran lightly through the zoo. He'd decided to first search the grounds, and then methodically check out the buildings. It would probably take all night. He had to be carefully as the grounds by now, probably teemed with hungry carnivores and armed Calfers.
A sharp sound broke the silence and Rom froze. An animal crashed through the undergrowth. For an instant, Rom thought a hungry cat was attacking him, but relaxed as he saw an antelope bounding away.
Why on earth did they let the antelopes loose?
Rom continued on into the zoo, more cautiously this time. He'd hardly started when he saw someone off in the distance. The man, crouching and running, carried a spear. Rom recognized the man as Derek, Jeffrey's father. It was a good start. If only finding his scouts and Jeffrey would be this easy.
Rom jogged softly up behind. "Hello," he said cheerfully.
Derek shot bolt upright and had there been a ceiling above him, he would have had to peel himself off it. "What the hell," he said spinning around.
"Hi!" said Rom.
"Hi?" said Derek, looking at Rom's scout uniform. "I could have been a CALF sniper. I might have shot you."
"No," said Rom, "You werenít carrying a weapon.
Derek, even in the darkness, looked a little hurt.
"I mean other than that neat spear."
Derek smiled. "Thanks," he said. "Wait. What are you doing here? Didn't they send you out of the zoo?"
"Yes, but I snuck back in. I'm going to find my scouts and get them out of here."
"And I'm looking for my son. Perhaps we should join forces." Derek looked Rom up and down. " Join forces. What am I saying. Two of us. A spear and scout knife. You do have a scout knife, I assume?"
"Sure. Of course," said Rom, oblivious to sarcasm. "Let's get out of sight--those trees over there.
"He pointed to a copse of trees set next to the duck pond. The two of them jogged for cover.
"And," said Rom as he ran, "if any wandering cats should drop by, we could climb the trees."
"The Calfers might still be a problem," whispered Derek as they reached the copse, "but I think we're safe from the carnivores. I broke the antelopes out of their enclosure. I think they make better cat food than we do."
Rom looked at the man, a businessman by the look of him: expensive suit, shoes, trendy light jacket. And he looked funny with that silly spear, but Rom felt a growing admiration. The guy was certainly resourceful.
Rom sat cross-legged on the ground while Derek leaned against a tree.
"When are they going to rescue us?" asked Derek, "the police, I mean."
"I don't know. Nobody's told me anything," said Rom.
"What about the newspapers? What do they say?"
"I haven't read them, or watched Television either. I've been working on how to get in and then back out. What has been going on, anyway? And by the way, I thought you were in with the hostages."
"After Jeffrey was beaten by the scum, we escaped, but Jeffrey was caught."
"Beaten? They beat a human child?"
"An odd way to put it," said Derek, "but yes. I've got to find him and get the hell out of here. Before I do though, I'd like to kill that Jack, the guy that beat my son."
Rom rolled to his feet. "You don't know where my Cub Scouts are, do you?"
"I havenít a clue," answered Derek. "My son gave me the unlikely story that they were hanging out with the wolves."
"Impossible. Theyíre not there," said Rom. "Iíve just come from the wolf habitat. Thatís where Iíve set up camp."
"With the wolves?"
"Yeah," Rom answered.
"Wolves?" asked Derek again.
"Sure. Thereís a low area at the rear of their habitat that canít be seen from the path, or even from the SkySafari tramway. Come on. Letís go back there and plan. I can offer you food and hot cocoa. You can stay in my tent tonight. Donít worry. The wolves wonít bother us."
Rom set off with Derek following.
"and I can offer you an evening of quality television," said Derek.
"I have Jeffrey's pocket TV set."
"Neat," whispered Rom, "but try to move a little more quietly."
Rom floated through the underbrush, silently like a ghost. "Actually," he said waiting for Derek to catch up. "Actually, I havenít set up my tent yet. If I had, the wolves would have ripped it to shreds by now."
"Wouldnít they also rip us to shreds if we were inside it?" said Derek breathing heavily.
"No. Wolves have good noses. Theyíd just sniff around to satisfy their curiosity. Then theyíd go away and leave us alone."
Rom started moving again, this time at the walk out of sympathy for Derek. The man did not seem in the best of physical condition.
"Did you say hot cocoa?" said Derek.
"Sure." Rom saw that Derek looked worried. "Not to worry. The flame of my little alcohol stove is almost invisible."
"Boy, I could use some hot cocoa," said Derek juggling his spear. "Coffee would be better, but cocoa's fine."
"Have you talked much with the other hostages?" asked Rom.
"What? No. They're a pretty unpleasant group."
"You haven't talked about me or my scouts, or where we're from?"
"No. Not even where I'm from." Derek wrinkled his brow. "Why?.
"No reason," said Rom, "Just curious."