A meeting with the Director of Intelligence of the National Security Agency (NSA) couldn’t fully occupy Race Banner’s thoughts at this stage in his life as he drove to the headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland. He was one month away from retirement and in no mood to chit chat with another bureaucrat. After thirty years in obscurity with the NSA, behind the scene involvement in some of his country’s darkest operations, he was ready to live life as a normal citizen. Jokingly called the Nerd Assassin by his friends, Race was the go-to man with the knowledge to infiltrate the world of rogue governments and take out their scientists. Now he was one month away from a new life cultivating medical marihuana on his farm south of Santé Fe, New Mexico. This thought always solicited a smile; his little secret, an act of defiance to counter the thirty years of blind allegiance to his country. It was his time to call the shots now, to have the final say in the direction of his life. His vehicle’s presence was detected one mile from the NSA headquarters after entering the fort. Pole mounted cameras followed his movement into the parking lot and instantly scanned his retinas for identification. Fingerprint scans and voice analyzer allowed him access beyond the receptionist at the front desk. This was level one entry for the basic NSA operative. To gain access to the bowels of the headquarters, to the offices that don’t exist, required the swabbing of his inner cheek for an instantaneous DNA identification that was undeniable.
At this level it was not unusual to meet in a spartan office with only one table and two chairs. It sent a message of getting to the point. What was unusual was the team of 4 lab-coated scientists standing behind the Director, Lt. General Michael Langeford (Ret.) as he sat facing Race. Race had only the vaguest recognition of one scientist, someone he recalled working with on a failed mission to clone Kim Jong-il and replace the North Korean despot after he was kidnapped by Navy Seals. As he sat, Race still believed it unlikely he would get another assignment so close to the end yet that notion faded when Langeford slid a folder towards him with Level 5 Top Secret stamped on its front; the highest security level.
Langford broke the silence. “It is a pleasure and an honor to meet you agent Banner. He dispensed with introducing the scientists. Despite the general's efforts, Race easily detected in his voice a dreading mannerism. This was serious, more than the typical assignment to remove another lab rat in Iran or China. The scientists remained silent as the general continued. “You are familiar with the Zombie Parasite? Race nodded. The Zombie Parasite was a genetically modified variant of Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite with the remarkable ability to alter the brain of infected rats, making them attracted to the urine of cats and in the process inclined to be captured and eaten. When eaten, the parasite finds its way to the gut of the cat where it flourishes and lays eggs which are expelled in the urine to continue the life cycle when new rats detect and lick it up. Race had peripheral knowledge of the project’s success of altering the parasites’ DNA to make it seek out the brain of people who unknowingly ingested it in food. Preliminary results showed that once infected, the human entered a zombie state and immediately imprinted on the first person in its sight. In this state the zombie followed every order from its master without question. There were rumors that Al Qaida prisoners were infected with the parasite and once imprinted, were fitted with a vest of C4 explosives and a detonator and allowed to rejoin their brethren in Pakistan. Success was spotty as detonation of the vests occurred more often than not in public areas but this was explained away as callousness on the part of militants. There was no concrete answer as to why the zombie blindly obeyed its master to the detriment of its own life. Speculation had it the parasite accepted this as a symbiotic relationship where eventually it would encounter a large population and enhance the odds of passing on eggs through its urine.
Scientist no. 1 spoke up. Mr. Banner, we are at the point where there is a need to observe the parasite’s interaction with other infected individuals in a large population, say 20,000 people. Scientist number two explained further. To infect a large population in an aggressor’s country would not allow us to tightly monitor or control the movement of the infected. In short, we could not guarantee that imprinting would occur with a reliable master.
What we need from you, the general interjected, is to recon a town in the United States that is a perfect laboratory for the next level in this experiment. A town where the citizens average IQ is below the national standard. Where people would be oblivious to manipulation or not have the wherewithal to question any change in their pathetic existence.
“Have you found such a town?” Race asked.
Yes replied the general. The town is called Dungpileton, Texas. Noting that Race raised an eyebrow upon hearing this, the general asked “Have you heard of this town?” Race replied that he did and thought to himself, “who hasn’t”?
Dungpileton, Texas. A mid-size town of 20,000 residents on the Texas Gulf Coast, fifty miles southeast of Houston. Founded in 1890 by Thaddeus Angleton, the town took its name from the byproduct of cattle and horse feedlots throughout the county of Brazoia which used the city as its repositories. Periods of boom and bust followed for decades thereafter until the state sent in the Texas Rangers to set fire to the mountainous piles of dung in an attempt to eradicate diarrhea, typhoid, scabies, cholera, and intestinal parasites which ran rampant within the ghettos of the dung workers or dungies. With their livelihood destroyed the dungies regrouped to build the low paying, non-union businesses now prevalent in modern Dungpileton or what passes for modern. The denizens however, never lost their love for dung. It is their city motto - “Fimus est rex rgis. Porro ago rex”! Translated, it means “Dung is king. Long live the king”!
Even by East Texas standards, dungies are crude and backwards thinking dullards. This reputation is a source of pride and exploited as a huge source of revenue by way of tourism. The annual Dung parade and crowning of Miss Dung draw in tens of thousands of paying tourists so it is imperative the city keeps up appearances. The true power behind Dungpileton is a consortium of families that decide who will be mayor and city council members (always men) because family members are the only ones who remember to vote in general elections. Keeping in line with females of the state Republican Party, the women of Dungpileton are born into a Stockholm Syndrome of acquiescence to the patriarchs of the ruling families. The families also decide who will be clergy of the churches and members of the police force with the latter paid with stock in national donut chains. If one looks at Dungpileton as if living in a bubble then it is fair to say there is no corruption. The tightly controlled gambling, prostitution and meth businesses are seen as matter of fact because the citizens believe this is the way it has always been. The arrangement is not without its consequences. With a wink and a nod from the Texas Education Agency, the Dungpileton independent school district produces an assembly line of graduates with a thinking capacity one could posit as functionally retarded. In a state that is number one in health uninsured, Dungies have the highest per capita rates of diabetes, heart disease, obesity and communicable diseases. The mayor, Thad Angleton IV, never forgets to tell any stranger he holds the patent for a padded arm rest on shopping carts to allow Dungie shoppers some measure of comfort as they lean on their carts for support; a walk popularly known as the shopping cart shuffle.