Ch. 4 of [A PLANET’S RANSOM]
by Anthony Marr
Note: Chapters 1, 2 & 3 were posted on Aug. 12, 15 & 15 resp.
In spite of her outward cool, her heart had been pumping at 120 beats a minute, and that was before the action even remotely started. Rebecca was doing nothing more nerve racking and strenuous than merely grooming Fire and Brimstone. The horse himself was quivering in excitement, partly due to his own inner expectations and partly in empathy with Rebecca.
She heard footstep approaching from behind, but thinking that it was Travis, she refrained from turning around. Anything she does caused by him would empower him, and she for some reason does not want to empower him in the least.
“Good morning, Rebecca.”
She turned at once. It was not Travis, but Jake Hawthorn.
She straightened up, brushed a strand of blonde hair from her eyes, and forced a smile. “Oh, hi. Good morning, Jake.”
“Listen, uh, just wanna tell you that there are no hard feelings.”
“Oh? I didn’t know that there were any bad feelings at all.”
“Well, let me put it this way. When it comes to winning or losing money, there are always feeling.”
“Then, let’s just say that were feelings involved, mine were good, and still are.”
“I’m glad to hear this, Rebecca, and let me add that they are about to be even better.”
“Wow, I’m not sure I could handle any more excitement.”
“You will have an audience at your rhino hunt today.”
“And why should my feelings improve because of this? In fact, I find this a rude intrusion. I have in mind to hunt Hercules ON MY OWN. I want to be the only living human being within the horizon centered upon Hercules. Even Travis will be dismissed.”
“You known that’s illegal.”
“I will sign a death release if you want, but I will not allow my intimate act of love with Hercules be voyeured upon.”
“There are others besides Travis.”
“Dismiss them too.”
“I’m afraid that will not be possible.”
“And why not?”
“I have already promised it to my new client.”
“I don’t care who it is. That’s not part of our deal. Again, to gawk at me while I consummate my love affair with Hercules is an act of voyeurism. That arrangement is between you and your client. It has nothing to do with me. From me, no means no. So, please cancel it.”
“As I said, Rebecca, that will not be possible. We are talking about the president of the United States.”
“So, you have the most powerful man in the world as your captive audience.”
“And what makes you think that I would be excited by that? Besides, he’s married.”
Jake was all but speechless.
“Would you want to be watched when you have sex with your wife?”
“Come on, Rebecca, you’re getting unduly personal.”
“And you think telling me that I have to perform a sexual act in front of a total stranger, even one with a big – ego, is not personal?”
“Look, uh, just go through with this, please.”
“Sorry. All of a sudden, I’m not feeling well. I’ll postpone the hunt indefinitely – till I feel better.”
“Alright, listen, you go and take down Hercules today, and I will pay you 10% of the president’s fee.”
“Of his black-maned lion.”
“You’ve got to be joking, Jake. 10% of $25,000 is $2,500. What kind of a high class prostitute you take me for?”
“That makes $3,000. I spend that much a day back in New York. And hunting Hercules will be a lifetime experience for me.”
“Jake, let’s stop talking about the lion. Tell you what. Pay me 30% of the president’s fee for a rhino hunt. Now that might trigger my exhibitionist instinct.”
“Are you cr…”
“Uh uh. You are coming to me. I didn’t come to you. Let’s make this point clear.”
“30% of a rhino hunt is $100,000. But, since the president did not ask for a rhino hunt it would be easy for me to deal.”
“Deal.” She extended her hand without hesitation, and Jake shook it like an automaton. “And, by the way, he will.”
As they were conversing, there was a drone hovering over Hercules. It was an RC helicopter equipped alternatively with a zoomable HD video/still camera by day and an infrared video camera by night. An on board transmitter would beam the footage frame-by-frame down to a ground based receiver hooked up to a laptop computer on which screen the image at any one split second would be displayed in real time, while it was being recorded in the computer’s hard drive. On the right of the laptop was the joystick by which the drone was controlled, both in flight characteristics as well as the camera functions. The piloting of the drone is conducted as if the footage on the screen was the view from the cockpit of a real helicopter. Right now, the laptop was on the hood of a jeep located about a horizontal mile from the drone. Gripping the joystick was the right hand of one Dr. Mark Lee, and dead centre on the screen of the laptop was one magnificent male black rhino.
The noon day heat raised such a broad and steady thermal that the drone on low power could just float on it, thus lengthening the duration and range of the flight. His mission was to conduct a grid-by-grid aerial survey of the rhino population and distribution, and, while at it, monitor the poaching activity, plus, if possible, intervene by direct action, that is, by means of the drone. For this purpose, it was also equipped with a ten-pack “fire-cracker” releaser, where the “fire-cracker” is activated upon release with a twenty-second fuse delay.
In order not to disturb the wildlife nor alert the poachers, Mark maintained a minimum hovering altitude of 300 meters at all times where the quiet sky-blue electric drone would be all but invisible and inaudible. This minimum height is observed even when releasing the fire-crackers, where he would aim the camera vertically downward, and release the rocket-shaped projectiles when the target area was at screen centre. So far, he had had several occasions to hone this skill in real life poaching situations, and more than one rhino had been thus saved.
Now the drone was at a 45 degree angle above the rhino, and, with the camera aimed down 45 degrees, Mark executed a horizontal 360 degree sweep with the camera set at wide-angle.
Almost at once, he noticed three ground vehicles approaching the rhino at a charge. At a hundred yards, they came to a halt. A dozen black dots emerged from the vehicles spread out in a fan, which in Mark’s mind constituted a poaching gang.
Just one thing out of the ordinary. There appeared to be a zebra about half way between the rhino and the vehicles, and the zebra appeared to be trotting from the vehicles towards the rhino, with something looking like a baboon sitting on its back.
Mark stabilized the drone, aimed the camera at the zebra, zoomed in, and realized that it in fact was not a zebra carrying a baboon, but a large horse carrying a small human, a woman to be exact, one with what appeared to be a hunting bow in her hand.
While sensing the woman’s malicious intent in his gut, Mark was puzzled. This departed markedly from the general MO of a poaching gang, nor that of an anti-poaching patrol. Nor was he aware of any wildlife biologist backed by a dozen men or more. If anything, it invoked a scene from the movie Troy, where the Greek coalition army sent Achilles out to do one-on-one battle against Hector. But still, it did not make full sense. If this is a trophy hunting party, why would it send out a woman armed only with a bow against a massive rhino full of testosterone and soon adrenaline as well?
The woman maintained a steady trot, bearing an off-direct course for a tangential approach to the rhino. When she reached the point of closest approach on that tangent, she stopped the horse. Mark estimated her distance to the rhino to be 30-40 yards. He maximum-zoomed the telephoto on her, and, due to the slight vibration, he switched over to “Still”, and snapped a dozen still shots of her, at least three of which caught her in profile, two in quarter frontal and one full frontal.
Then, he kicked himself that in his puzzlement, he did not think of repositioning the drone for a fire-cracker release. Were he to do it now, he would momentarily lose sight of the woman. But before he could move the drone, if he wanted to, he saw the woman draw her bow, fire off an arrow, draw the bow again and shot again, and a third. He wide angled the lens, and saw that the rhino had orientated his massive body at the woman and begun a ponderous charge. The woman shot off another arrow. And then, her horse reared and threw her on to the ground. The horse regained his balance, and began to run away, but the woman held him back by the reins which she retained in her hand. The rhino continued his charge and was soon on to them. Quickly, she positioned the horse in between the rhino and herself, and, in Mark’s inner rhetoric, “offered him up as a living shield”.
Before his very eyes, the rhino ran his horn clean through the torso of the horse. While the two animals were lock in the death struggle, the women ran off 30 yards, and shot another half a dozen arrows into the rhino. And when the dust had finally settled, the only one left standing was the woman.
Mark zoomed in to her again and snapped a few more still shots, one of which caught her raising her bow above her head at the observing party in triumph. In some disgust at himself, Mark finished what he had to do. He aimed the telephoto at the observing party, zoomed it to the max, and snapped another dozen still shots. To his amazement, a least two of them showed the face of the President of the United States.
Note: The pic shows Joella Bates’ kill.
Anthony Marr, Founder and President
Heal Our Planet Earth (HOPE)
Global Anti-Hunting Coalition (GAHC)