Chapter 16 Wednesday, 0600 hours (6 AM)
When Rom awoke, he saw Derek on his knees, looking out the tent entrance.
"Anything interesting out there?"
Derek started, and twisted around. "Ah, so you're awake," he said, "You're a deep sleeper, you know."
"Did I sleep through something?"
"First, around three or four AM, there was machine gun fire," said Derek, "and then an hour later, there was a regular light and sound show of artillery. I thought it was the police coming to liberate the zoo."
"Apparently not. I don't know what it was."
"Weird," said Rom. "How about turning on your pocket TV and see if the early news has anything to say about it."
"I forgot all about the TV." Derek took the little set from his jacket pocket.
Derek scanned the dial and found a round-the-clock local news channel. There was a report of an attempt to re-take the zoo. The attack had been called off due to the heavy weapons fire from the zoo, and the desire that the occupation end without loss of life. The news program ran a video clip from the previous day.
As Rom and Derek hunched over the tiny TV, they saw Joshua Cave's face looking directly out, saying that if his demands weren't met, then he might have to hurt a hostage.
"I don't like the sound of that," said Rom. "Do you think he means it?"
They had a breakfast of oatmeal and cocoa and then repacked everything back into the knapsack. Rom hefted the pack and tied it high in a tree, out of reach of nosey wolves. Then they set off. Derek still carried Jeffrey’s jacket, as well as his spear.
"I'm worried," said Derek. "I can't imagine what they've done with Jeffrey."
Although he tried not to show it, Rom worried as well. The longer his scouts were on the loose, the more chance the two guys who'd seen them change would have to identify them.
"It's possible they've got him in the Education Building somewhere," said Rom. "Maybe with my scouts. Maybe they've been recaptured too."
"Possibly, but I think I would have heard them. I was a captive there until just last night."
Rom had tried to put Chaba's talk of dissolving the Ithaca pack out of his mind, but now, suddenly, a wave of despair flowed over him. He stopped and leaned against a tree. "This is hopeless," he said, "completely hopeless."
Derek patted him on the shoulder. "We'll find them. Jeffrey and your scouts have probably been put in together, so when we find one, we find them all."
Rom forced the dark thoughts away, and concentrated on the search. "I still think they might be in the Education Building or Zoo Center. but it'll be hard to search those places. I think we should try looking in all the other indoor habitats."
"What's the matter?"
"It's sort of like the kid who lost his wallet in the middle of the school yard at night, and looked for it way off under a street light because the light was better there."
Rom bristled. "But do you have a better plan?"
They explored the Monkey House first, then The World of Reptiles, and were just on their way to The World of Darkness when they encountered a mauled nyala carcass.
"The cats have been busy," said Derek.
Just them Rom heard a zoo cart coming down the path.
"Get down," said Rom, pulling Derek into the high brush..
"That was close," said Derek.
"You have to learn to move quietly," said Rom, not for the first time.
The cart passed by.
"You know," said Derek, "That cart might have come from the World of Darkness building. Maybe CALF is using that building too. If so, our kids might be there."
"Okay. Worth a try."
They approached the World of Darkness carefully, for if it were a CALF hangout, there'd be lots of comings and goings. The building though, was dead. They circled it a couple of times, then tried the doors. Everything was locked and there were no windows.
"So much for that idea," said Derek. "What now?"
"I don't know. Try Jungle World, I guess. After that, there's only the Mouse House and the Gorilla Pavilion.