All characters, living or dead, and locations or events in this web novel are entirely fictitious or merely coincidental.
General Langford looked down into the pit, helpless with the barrels of two AR-15s nudged against his back. Beside him, the thin man smiled as the battle progressed below.
Race had the advantage of martial arts skill and free will over his approaching assailants, each wielding a machete and axe in their hands. He thought speed would be on his side also until unbelievably, the Samoan was quickly upon him. He barely evaded the machete slicing down towards his skull. Race hoped the brute would slow down if he could evade him for a few more minutes. But there were two of them now upon him. He backpedaled, contorting, ducking to avoid a buzz saw of flaying weapons until his back was against the wall. When he crouched to avoid another arcing death blow by the farm boy, the axe instead glanced off the concrete wall and sank deep into the thigh of the Samoan. No howls of pain emanated but it was sufficient to hobble him, exposing his other leg to a thrusting kick from Race. It buckled inward, shattered bones cutting into arteries and forcing the Samoan to the floor. Race quickly snatched the machete from his hand, moving to the table to put it between him and the farm boy. This zombie was slowing down but remained deliberate and had an arm length that could reach across the table. His blows were parried with flying sparks but with a force that sent Race staggering backwards. Again he was assailed with both axe and machete, blocking one, side-stepping the other but never getting the leverage to retaliate with a kick or close enough to use his machete. The relentless assault threw him off balance and on the floor. The farm boy charged Race, axe raised for a disemboweling blow. Race sprang up to meet him in half swing, thrusting his machete deep into the man’s upper torso and out his back. The farm boys’ momentum still sent both men forward until the lummox lost his footing and fell to the ground. Race fell to his side, rolling into a crouch but the farm boy was now lifeless, a stream of blood flowing from his body towards the Samoan, now crawling towards Race with his hacked leg leaving a trail of blood across the floor. Approaching him, Race picked up the axe and with a grunt swung it down with all his strength into the zombie’s skull. It cracked open followed by a jerk of the body, then death. Panting, Race looked upwards at the thin man. “Bravo Mr. Banner” was his first words to Race. He ordered the scientist on the stairwell to release the stairs to the floor. Race calmly joined the group at top level, dispelling thoughts of strangling the thin man when he saw the guards having him at a disadvantage.
The thin man spoke. Mr. Banner, your reputation has indeed preceded you. Please, have a seat. Race and Langford sat adjacent to each other, facing the thin man with his guards behind him. The scientists had left the room. Mr. Banner, you must understand there was a need to judge your capabilities and loyalty to our operation. You have exceeded my expectations and now I will inform you where we intend to go from here. The thin man retrieved from his briefcase a folder of papers which he slid across the table to Race.
Race, if I may call you Race? Race didn’t say a word. Race, in that folder are your mission orders. I’ll briefly touch on the background. Our parasite variant is ready for dispersal in Dungpileton. Your mission will be to facilitate it throughout the population and monitor the results. Of course, due to the imprinting of the zombies on such a massive scale it will be necessary for you to work with other operatives to ensure they are present when infection takes hold. Therefore, it is incumbent upon you to infect the citizens in a manner where they will imprint only in small groups. Those two men you dispatched imprinted on me within two hours however, our labs have a prototype variant that will infect an individual within ten minutes. You are to arrive in Dungpileton in two days to meet our operatives and devise a way to infect the population in a steady, controlled manner. Any questions? Race stared back at the thin man. He was successful in gaining some measure of trust with him but in this business trust was a weakness. It made you let your guard down and more often than it resulted in permanent termination. He could count on one hand the people he trusted with his life and that, more than anything had kept him alive. His only reply was “no questions” and with that the thin man said good day and left the room followed by his guards.Race looked at Langeford. Both were aware they were still being monitored. In situations such as this they used benign, coded sentences which indicated where to securely meet. Well sir, I have my orders and only two days to prepare. I wanted to take in a hike at Big Bend National park but that will have to wait.
Good luck, the general replied.
Big Bend National Park. Texas
There were five sites throughout the United States which Race and Langeford agreed upon to rendezvous without fear of surveillance. One was Mt. Emory, the tallest peak in Big Bend National Park. The day following Area 51, Race drove a rented vehicle from El Paso to the park. Hiking seven miles into the Chisos Mountains, he waited for Langford to arrive two hours later at the top of Emory Peak, 7825 feet above sea level. Still winded, the general sat down among the boulders, pinon pines (Pinus edulis) and mountain mahogany (Cercocarpos montanus). You know Race, I’m no longer a spring chicken so can’t you find an easier place to meet? Race replied with a smile. Sir, with technology the way it is now this may be the only place left but in thirty minutes the geosynchronous orbit of our satellites will be able to zero in on our location. With that the men quickly coordinated their plans.
Race, I’m afraid there is only one person you can trust when you are working in Dungpileton. The thin man’s operatives are aware of the rogue botanist but only as a thorn in the side of their intentions to convert the nearby wildlife refuges into oil drilling facilities. He and his biological coworkers have thus far kept the drillers confined to isolated sites but only after intense persistence and with the help of friends at the upper echelons of the Fish and Wildlife Service. However, one by one those friends have retired or met an untimely demise. The Family has its tentacles in every level of the government. It’s up to you to ensure this operation doesn’t come to fruition. At this point we are taking one step forward for every two steps back. We need this victory and will work from there to take out the Family’s influence in other agencies but it starts now. The two men shook hands, departing on separate paths to their respective vehicles at a parking lot near the trail head.
Texas State Capital. Austin
Governor Rich Parry looked out his window several stories above the bustling activity of Congress Avenue. It wasn’t the matters of governance on his mind, rather it was a certain young man he noticed working for the state speaker of the house. His informants revealed the man was gay and with this was a golden opportunity to blackmail him into doing whatever sexual indulgences the governor fancied. The nightmare that was the republican campaign for president was not without its consequences. The facade of his political invincibility was laid bare for the country to witness and ridicule. It was embarrassing but something that will past with the next big news cycle. He mused, "I'm still a king in Texas so that smug, rich Mormon bastard can have his presidential campaign. The country will be done with him after his defeat in November. After that he can go back to his dressage horses and car elevators and offshore bank accounts. No use getting worked up over it, I'm back to doing what I love best - exploiting the office of the governor for profit and debauchery".
Parry's ascension to the highest office in the state relied on two factors: his rugged good looks and the sheepish Texas electorate. Like his predecessor, Rich lacked an innate intelligence but knew when to defer to advisers for political gain. The republicans in this state were no different than elsewhere - conditioned from birth to crave a patriarch, someone to reassure them their race was chosen by God to lead humanity. It was almost too easy to get this far. Throw in a platitude here and there about Mexicans storming over the border to have their anchor babies and vehemently profess his love for God and the witless voters will send him to Austin every time. "Like shooting fish in a barrel". The presidency of Barack Obama was a godsend to him, a wellspring of Caucasian paranoia he would exploit time and again. The democrats were his bitch, impotent and spineless, unable to galvanize the Hispanic dominated population to vote for them and unable to finance credible opponents against GOP candidates statewide or in the U.S. Congress. Oil and gas production was up throughout the state thanks to fraking and unimpeded by a toothless Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Yes there was still going to be a deficit in the billions next year but another bailout from Washington will cancel it out and the state media will be too scared to report this. It would be a trivial matter to convince the majority of voters that he and his cronies in the statehouse had once again made Texas an economic powerhouse despite ranking with the highest high school dropout rate, the the worst health care availability and still, the most polluted state in the nation. The billion dollar Enterprise Fund to corporations was an endless quid pro quo pipeline of money to his campaign coffers. Yes, life was good he thought until the daydreaming was interrupted by a buzz from his desk intercom. It was his secretary, reminding him he had a fund raising engagement with his wife this evening. Dammit, he growled to himself. His willingness to have a wife for political gain struck a raw nerve in him and festered more with every year they stayed married. Only his periodic tryst with young men made his situation with her bearable. He resigned himself to the evening’s events when the secretary again buzzed him. Governor, there are also two gentlemen here who would like to speak with you and insist they don’t need an appointment. A look of dread fell upon the governor’s face for only certain individuals would be so brazen as to visit without prior authorization. They were representatives from the Family. “Send them in” the governor glumly replied, his facial features quickly changing to a faux inviting expression.
Two men entered his office, one portly in stature and the other a very large body guard. The portly man wore a black three piece suit with a gold crucifix around a barely discernible neck. He sat down without invitation and began speaking. Rich, my boy, how are you? He said this in a manner that didn’t expect a reply and the governor complied. Rich, I’m here today because of distressing news that oil production on wildlife refuges in this state is far behind forecaster output. The governor protested meekly. But sir, those are federal lands. Oil companies have no jurisdiction to increase oil production other than to take advantage of the mineral rights. It was true. The refuges in Texas had imminent domain above ground but they didn’t hold the mineral rights below the surface and that included oil and gas extraction. However, drilling production was slowed due to regulations dictating where to drill depending on the damage to critical wildlife habitat. The Family believed that oil was a God given right to extract and no production-impeding regulation was going to usurp the word of God. The portly man grew incensed at the Governor’s excuse. His rotund head took on a hue of red as his once jovial manner was replaced with a sinister demeanor.
Listen hear, Rich. There is no difference between Federal and State lands as far as God is concerned. The Family fully intends to profit from this oil boom to fund our mission to make this country once again bow to the word of the Lord. To assist you, we’ve sent our two best assassins to take care of the two biggest troublemakers at the Victoria and San Bertram wildlife refuges outside Dungpileton. Once the biologist and botanist are removed, your people will have free reign to put oil wells anywhere on those refuges. From there, oil and gas production will snowball on wildlife refuges across the state. That is all I need on this Rich.
"Yes sir, thank you sir"
The governor was grateful he didn’t incurred a more serious wrath from the Family. The assassins will do the job for him and he would be back on track to fulfilling his agenda with that young man. He assumed their business was finished and walked to the door to show the two men out but the portly man had one more matter to attend to. Are you forgetting something Rich? The governor, with his back to the men, grimaced then turned around. He walked over, knelt in front of the man and unzipped the fly of his trousers.