Previous Story: 27. Misplaced Trust
Athena was tired. She had been up patrolling the skies for much of the previous day and was now resting on her favorite perch – a metal strut close to the elephant enclosure. Below, the other animals were gathered, eating from a box of fruit that Walter had found somewhere. The friendly chimpanzee first handed out some apples. Jugger the elephant and Bob the bear began eating immediately but Howl the wolf and Jane the cat didn’t seem too interested. Than again, Jane never seemed that interested in anything. Athena suspected that Howl and Jane would prefer some meat.
Shaking off her tiredness, she flapped clear of the strut and flew to a corner of the zoo were a mass of rats were feeding on the corpses of two dead buffalo. Athena picked her target and swooped down low, plucking a rat off the ground with ease. The rodent didn’t stand a chance in the grip of her special claws and she soon arrived back at the enclosure where she dropped her prey in front of Howl. The rodent died on impact and the wolf hurried over to sniff it.
All yours, said Athena.
Thank you, replied Howl as she flew back towards the rats.
Predictably, Jane was less excited. When Athena dropped the second rat, she pawed it for a while then walked away.
Can I have it? asked Howl, having already devoured the first rat.
Please, said Jane. But thank you, Athena.
Knowing the big elephant wouldn’t mind, Athena landed on Jugger’s back. At first, she’d worried that her claws might hurt her but now she realized just how tough elephant hide was.
Athena, Howl heard some strange noises in the night. He thinks there could be a big group of the things close by. Could you take a look?
Athena really was tired but she appreciated that Jugger always asked nicely and only if she thought it was really important.
The Awakening had been shocking and confusing but also wonderful; and the best part of all was the new friends Athena had made. Of course, it would have been better to have a few bald eagles for company but with the world so different now, it was good to be part of a group.
I’ll take a look.
Thank you. Would you like an apple?
Yuck! No thanks. If I get hungry, I’ll grab a rat.
Athena set off and as usual the first few moments of effort were the hardest. Once into her rhythm, she began to fly in circles to slowly gain height. There wasn’t much wind and the sky was clear. She stopped ascending when she had a good view of the zoo. Her keen eyes picked out all the areas she now knew well, including all the buildings, routes and open spaces. Athena saw a few of the other animals that were still alive but no humans and none of the things.
Somehow, they all knew that the things were to be feared and destroyed so Athena was very concerned when she saw a group of about twenty moving towards the zoo. Something was drawing them there, though she wasn’t sure what.
She was about to swoop down to take a closer look when she heard a gigantic BOOM that deafened her sensitive ears. Turning to the right, she saw a flashing shape coming toward her at an impossible speed.
Fully expecting to die, Athena felt the shape blast past her. Though she hadn’t been struck, the air around her suddenly became a chaotic whirlwind and she was sent spinning away. As she tried to right herself, Athena realized she had encountered one of those terrifying metal craft that the humans used to travel in. They were amazingly noisy and dangerous. Some could be avoided but some – like this one – moved so fast that you didn’t even see them coming.
Athena fell a hundred feet, then another, and still the air around her seemed disturbed. She had to fight to breathe and stretch out her wings. She feared one of her bones might be broken but all felt well as the air finally cleared and she could glide once more. She sucked in some deep breaths and looked around, also relieved that her hearing was coming back. All that was left of the human craft was a white streak across the sky.
As she glided downward, Athena spotted the things and realized how close they were to the zoo entrance. But then another human craft appeared. This was of the type that rolled across the ground. It sped past the things then stopped in front of them. Men wearing green jumped out, each carrying one of the long, metal weapons that Athena also knew to fear. One such weapon had killed her mother when she’d been little more than a chick. Six of the men stood in a line. For a moment all was silent; then Athena heard the weapons.
The things were blown off their feet and blood colored the air. Every last one as quickly cut down. When the noise ended, the weapons smoked and the men in green shouted. They seemed happy. All the things lay still on the ground. Soon the men were back on their craft and moving away.
Athena never enjoyed seeing life lost but she was glad the threat to the zoo had been stopped. And she wondered why the men seemed as determined to stop the things as the animals. Did they hate them too? Why?
Although she hadn’t been in the air very long, there was plenty to tell Jugger. Athena dipped her head towards the ground, tucked in her wings and dived for the zoo.
Next Story: 29. The Daring Escape