Another clueless, airhead model

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Zombies of Dungpileton

This a fictional web novel
All characters, living or dead, and locations or events in this web novel
are entirely fictitious or merely coincidental  

Chapter 9

What is it you seek my child?

The great oak spoke to the rogue botanist with gentle benevolence.  The natural opulence of their surroundings intensified the bond between them.  The botanist's skin now mimic the roughened bark of the oak, undulating with thousands of minute crevasses.   His vessels became phloem and xylem; transporting water and nutrients throughout his body.  Roots emanated from his skin, finding their way into the ground.  Moss covered him in patches.  The memories of the oak were his; 1000 years of observing the evolution of the forest around him, the change of seasons, the cycle of life and death.  Animals burrowed under him, birds found refuge in his limbs during their migration of a thousand miles.  Top carnivores; the pumas, jaguars, bears which maintained the balance between prey and predator were eradicated over the centuries by man.  And it was man who introduced the foreign invaders; wild hogs (Sus scrofa), the tallow and its Chinese allies - the privet (Ligustrum spp.), McCartney rose (Rosa bracteata) and trifoliate orange (Poncirus trifoliata).  Their hordes have overrun many areas of the forest, forming dense mono-cultures of little value to the wildlife that evolved with the native flora.  The botanist composed himself.

Great Oak, I seek an answer which troubles me greatly.   A female of my species has initiated the ritual of fertility but her actions bring suspicion for she is of great beauty.

The oak, wise in its counsel asked the botanist to explain further.

Why is great beauty such an encumbrance for you?

She is a subspecies which rarely mates with my kind.  They do not occupy my range and her sudden presence troubles me much like the the tallow tree.   I also sense deceptive vocalization; not of this territory.  

Massive limbs reach down to bring the botanist to his feet. 

My child, the answer you seek cannot be sought here.  They lie with the wild hogs.  Go, run through the forest and find your  answer in the clues left by them. 

During this time Race sat watching the botanist.  It had been four hours since he consumed peyote and fell into a fetal position at the base of the oak.  Race's concern was tempered by having bear witness to the botanist’s vision quests several times before.  As long as he twitched now and then there was no need to intervene.  Suddenly the botanist broke protocol.  He sprang up and immediately darted through the sub-canopy.  Race gave chase, cursing as he tripped over dead fall, crashed into dense, thorny dewberry (Rubus trivalis) or slapped in the face by low hanging tree limbs. 

Where the hell is he going?

The botanist fell repeatedly as his skin was tattooed with gashes from the filleting of briar but he was numb to all this.  There was no sensation of pain, only the driving search for the presence of the wild hog.  There was  no sense of order to his meandering.  He only stopped periodically, sniffed the ground or observed the uprooting of plants.  Race chased him for thirty minutes as his curses sent wildlife scattering.  Then abruptly the botanist dived into a large hole of slurry mud created by wallowing hogs.  He wallowed in it then fell silent.  Race was gasping for breath, wincing at the pungent odor of pig urine and hormones but thankful for the respite.  His ringing cell phone signaled an incoming message.  The picture of Debbie sent by the botanist had finally come through.   Race leaned against a fallen tree to gather his breath.  When he opened the file his eyes widened in disbelief but this instantly became the secondary concern for he and the botanist were surrounded by a sounder of massive female wild hogs with their piglets and a dominant male. 

The wild hogs in the refuge bottomlands are descendants of matings between feral domesticated hogs and Eurasian wild boars which were brought into the state for hunting in the 1930’s.  The resulting hybrids proliferated due to their high fecundity and wide ranging diet.  In the absence of top carnivores the hogs now run rampant, uprooting expanses of forest with four-inch tusks in pursuit of nuts, grubs and worms.  Females range in weight from 100 to 150 pounds.  Males can reach 500 to 600 pounds. If her piglets reach maturity a sow over a five year period can be responsible for the birth of over 1000 hogs. The veracious omnivorous diet of wild hogs also includes herpetofuna, small mammals, birds and eggs.  The complex and state officials slaughter thousands of wild hogs annually only to see their numbers recover with a year. 

Race and the botanist stumbled into the hog’s primary den and whereas most times they would retreat, this time they were emboldened by their numbers to make the intruders pay for their trespassing.  In the botanist’s vision quest hours were seconds in the real world.  He crawled in the mud along the perimeter of the hole but in this quest he was walking in through the long corridors of his mind.  Millions of paths with billions of neuron doors with one specific memory, one engram clue to answer his question.  Most doors opened to casual observations that seemed inconsequential and now were compress to make room for the memories that made his life functional.  While he journeyed the real world became direr. 

Race positioned himself between the botanist and the hogs, drawing his Desert Eagle and Marine K-Bar knife from the sheath on his belt.  The sub-dominant females made the first move, slowly encircling the men.  He immediately saw through this tactic, firing a kill shot to the head of the nearest hog.  The .44 magnum round instantly put her down but it sent the other hogs into a charging frenzy.  Seven head shots in rapid succession fell seven more hogs.  The last eight females hesitated in their advance, giving Race time to reload his last clip.

The botanist continued his journey.  One door out of perhaps one hundred billion led to a pertinent molecule of memory which, when piece together with other memories started to form coherent clues.   Two clues began to dominate; the origins of the hogs and a case file he read on a mission which led Race to North Korea in 1999 to extract a defecting nuclear physicist.   He did not know a double agent had notified both North Korea and the Russians of the mission after Race had infiltrated enemy territory. The newly elected president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, was eager to resurrect the glory days of Russian espionage and denying the prize of a North Korean defector would send a clear message to the Western World that Russia was again a force to be reckon with in the world of cloak and dagger.  He coordinated with the Koreans to withhold their troops  because this was an opportunity to test his corps of assassins, the most promising of which was Darya Rachmaninoff.  

Darya Rachmaninoff was born in 1980 in Chechnya, a republic of Russia.  She was an only child.  Her mother, Yana, was an educator, her father Anatoly a factory manager.  Darya immediately stood out for her beauty, intelligence and athleticism.  She soon realized how all three combined granted her access to privileges most children could only dream of in Soviet era Russia.  By age 10 she was in the process of applying for acceptance to Moscow University but her ambitions abruptly came to a halt with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.  Under then president Boris Yeltsin the reforms of Perestroika brought to the forefront the utter inefficiency of most Russian factories.  Yeltsin corrupt associates profited enormously from the dismantling and selling off of archaic factories, leaving millions of workers to fend for themselves with no help from the government.  One such factory was managed by Anatoly.   Anatoly was the primary provider for the family.  Yana’s income brought in enough money for the family to enjoy vacations in the Baltics and access to clothes and food which the common Russian could not afford.  After Anatoly became unemployed he found his skill sets were no longer compatible the new Russian economy.  The family’s savings dissipated within a year and they, like many Russians found themselves waiting in line for hours for the most basic foodstuffs.  Eventually there were not enough funds to pay the rent of their spacious apartment and the family was forced to move in with Yana’s brother, Victor, on a small farm in the country side.  Farm life did not suit Anatoly well.  He found it beneath him to slop hogs and shovel manure.  Eventually he stopped with farm chores altogether and found solace in the consumption of cheap vodka obtained from bath tub brewers in the local town.  It was common for him to be absent from morning to evening then staggering home to pass out on the front lawn.  Yana found part time work in town as a teacher and for a time the meager income quelled the concerns of Victor.  Darya, now 13, recognized the plight of her situation early and realized escape could be found in education.  She continued to excel in her studies and once again was on the verge of applying for college.  Even in the vastness of the Russia, word of a student with Darya's intelligence and physical abilities made its way to the security agencies which replaced the KGB.  One of their directors, Grigory Zhardov took a keen interest in Darya as part of his plan to find recruits to replace the old guard of the KGB.  Grigory was a thin, tall man, deeply religious but hid his faith well during the heyday of the KGB.  Now with the close alliance between the Russian Orthodox Church and Russian government Grigory was free to express his faith.  No one questioned the gold cross he displayed openly around his neck.  Grigory personally traveled throughout Russia to hand pick his agents, sometimes coercing families to give up their children to travel back with him to Moscow but more often families were happy to have one less mouth to feed and have the potential for a child to send back money.  

Anatoly’s pride was in a free fall. The resentment of his daughter successes soon morphed into a deep, festering hatred.  He now stayed home more, plotting for a day when Yana and her brother were gone thus leaving him alone with his daughter after she returned from school.  That time came and by then he was intoxicated.  He felt powerless to change the course of his life but he still had power over his daughter. He staggered to the barn where she fed the livestock.  She knew by now to ignore his stupors around her but this time he stood still, looking at her with an emotionless, controlled rage.  She continued with her chores when the crushing grip of a hand closed around her neck and she was flung to a pile of hay.  Rolling on her back she looked up to see her father pounce on her.  He held both of her arms behind her back with one hand, tore at her clothing and sloppily attempted to kiss her.  Darya freed an arm to raked her nails across Anatoly’s face.  He responded with a punch to her face that nearly caused unconsciousness.  Her senses regained, she saw her father standing above her in the process of removing his trousers.  Darya cried, pleading with her father to stop which only enraged him more.  What followed was a sound which would become all too familiar to Darya; the tweet of gun fire muffled by a silencer.  Four small ragged holes appeared in the front of her fathers’ shirt and subsequently four small spots of blood followed.  The spots grew in diameter, merging as one as Anatoly’s alcohol-addled brain realized his lungs and heart were punctured by bullets.  He then died, collapsing to the side of Darya. Darya looked at her father’s corpse without any emotion.  She gazed upward to see a thin man approach her.  He holstered his Markarov pistol and reached out his hand out to her.  She clasped it, was pulled to her feet and stood without uttering a word.  The thin man smiled and spoke in a calm, determined voice.

Darya Rachmaninoff?

She nodded.

I am Grigory Zhardov, director of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service.  

There was no acknowledgment from Darya. He continued.

Darya, today your past is nonexistent.  There is nothing here for you.  You will come back with me to Moscow to begin a new life in the service of the Mother Country. 

Grigory has seen the look in Darya’s face before on his other recruits.  It was the cold analytical acceptance of a situation without any other options.  She spoke.

Mr. Zhardov, I will gather my possessions and join you within ten minutes. 
That will not be necessary, Grigory replied.  I have clothing in your size in my vehicle.  All your other needs will now be met by the intelligence service.  An associate will stay behind to notify your mother when she returns from work.  

Darya followed the thin man to his state vehicle, gazing momentarily to the house and the window to her room.  Along its sill was a small teddy bear; a gift from her father during better times.  She turned back to the vehicle, entered it and left her childhood behind.
The Botanist opened another neuron door to the North Korea mission file.  Race was positioned in a camouflaged hole in the side of a hill on the North Korean side of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) at the 38th parallel north.  He was here before but looking at it from South Korean side while on deployment as an active duty Marine.  He entered to this side through a tunnel secretly dug by the South Koreans.  Over the last 54 years of Armistice both Korans have engaged in tit for tat gunfire.  Incursions by small patrols would escalate tensions and saber rattling but as yet the specter of a full out war was always curtailed by frenzied diplomatic action.   Above ground the buildup of the 250 km by 4 km DMZ strip is laced with thousands of kilometers of barbed wire and densely sown with over 20 million land mines.  At the agreed time of extraction Race scanned the area with his binoculars, zeroing in on a small man crawling through the brush.  The man stopped to removed from his trouser pocket a small box-shaped item.  It was raised to the sky and immediately Race heard the encrypted beeping of his satellite receiver.  Time to move. 

This scientist was rotund, a consequence of having excessive access to food while most of his fellow emaciated Koreans consumed boiled tree bark and insects to survive.  For most of his life Bae Yaung parlayed his knowledge of nuclear fission into a comfortable position as a ranking scientist in the upper echelons of the North Korean communist party.  It served him well but like all animals, his dominance was constantly challenged.  Younger, hungrier and more intelligent scientists convinced Bae his days of privilege were numbered and once his usefulness was questioned he would be reassigned to the proletariat; subjected to fighting for scrapes of food like a wild dog.  He realized his only option was to escape the country and offer his knowledge to western intelligence services.  He initiated the plan with a note passed secretly to a CIA agent posing as an inspector for the International Atomic Energy Agency.  Inspections by the IAEA at Bae's atomic reactor happened on occasion, based on how far the North Korean Communist Party was willing to trade monitoring for food aid.  Bae’s notes were passed up through several channels until arriving at the desk of General Langford.  His man for the mission to extract Bae was Race whose fluency in 15 languages included Korean.
Bae was frustrated over the reliance of sporadic communicates via the passing of notes while his position in the communist party was crumbling.  Finally, the last note contained instructions where to be extracted.  Bribing North Korean guards to look away was the easiest part of Bae’s escape.  It allowed him to travel to the extraction point near the DMZ.  Bae never heard Race approach until a hand reach around his head to cover his mouth.  

당신이 탈출 돕기 위해 여기입니다.  I am here to help you escape.   

당신이 탈출 돕기 위해 여기입니다. 손을 제거하지만 아무 하지 않는 경우 돌아서.  Turn around when I remove my hand but don't say anything.  

Bae nodded, turning to face Race.  

따라와.  Follow me. 
They had not gone 100 meters when Race heard a small tone from his satellite receiver which indicated an incoming message.  The encrypted message stated the mission was compromised by a double agent and plan B was in effect  – a different route and tunnel.  Plan B also factored in the presence of North Korean troops but where were they?

The answer came with the impact of a 7.62 mm round into Bae’s head.  Blood and brain splattered on Race simultaneously with the crack of the report from Darya’s Dragunov sniper rifle.  Race dropped to the ground, crawling within a slight depression.  It offered no real protection for his head was still exposed.  He was going to die anyway he thought, might as well see who was going to kill him.  He unslung his binoculars to scanned the hills to his front.  Whether or not he was killed, the specially designed binoculars would take a photograph of his killers' face and send it as an encrypted packet to satellites for forwarding to the NSA computers at Ft. Meade.  The him turned out to be a her, a young, tall woman in clothing mimicking the color of the hillside 300 meters away.  She sat there looking in the direction of Race.

What is she waiting for?

Race stood up, exposing himself entirely.  The woman also stood up but then picked up her backpack, slung her rifle and walked away.  She turned towards Race one more time just to emphasize she won.  Her mission was to kill Bae.  Race was the mouse, she the cat who played with him until deciding to kill or not.  She was aware Race would cross her path again and found it erotic to keep her mouse guessing when the next sniper round had his name on it.  Race turned towards the escape tunnel, perplexed that his life was spared.  In the preceding years he would piece together enough information from sources to match the face of the sniper with a name – Darya Rachmaninoff, the premiere assassin for the Russian Federation.

The botanist made the connection between the homeland origin of wild hogs and Darya and was ready to walk out the last door to reality.  As he opened it he found himself sitting in a one meter deep pool of mud.  Race was in front of him firing in succession at charging hogs until sixteen bodies surrounded the men.  Race looked around, chest heaving, shirt soaked with sweat but satisfied they were out of danger.  He looked down at the botanist.

Debbie is Dar…  The botanist cut him off.

I know, Darya Rachmaninoff. 
The snort of a hog interrupted matters.  The male hog, 600 pounds of hybrid fury, surveyed the carnage that was his mates.  The men knew pigs were intelligent but this hog seemed to express human-like grief, grief which turned to rage and revenge.  With a ear-piercing squeal the massive hog charge towards Race.  His gun, empty of rounds, was useless against this behemoth.  He would have to make a stand with his K-Bar.  Steadying himself, Race braced for the impact of the hog.  Had he a solid wall behind him his body would be crushed to jelly.  Instead, the impact of hog and man sent both into the hole on top of the botanist.  He was pinned to the bottom; submerge in the foul, viscous mud as the two combatants fought above him.  The tusks of the hog had limited room to slice open Race but they still inflicted close quarter punctures to his arms.  Race repeatedly drove his knife into the side of the hog’s neck, seeking an artery to cut while his other arm grasped the hogs' throat.  He managed to keep the snapping teeth from his face but it was becoming apparent the weight of the hog was sufficient to drown both men.  Twenty seconds had only passed and Race was fading as he struggled to breath with a mouth full of mud and lungs that were crushing under the hog’s body.  The botanist was at the extension of his quickly gulped breath but unable to raise his head out of the mud.  Race’s valiant struggles were coming to an end.  He cursed this ignominious finale of his life but determined with his last breath to continue plunging his knife into the hog.  With one last exertion he raised his head to see where to stab when a thin projectile entered into the hogs’ skull.  A titanium point on a shaft of wood had pierced fur and bone at close range, ripping effortlessly through brain and partially exiting on the other side of the skull.  The hog was dead.  Race slid out from under the swine, stabilizing himself to drag the gasping botanist to the side of the hole.  Both men hung on the edge, too depleted to look up at the man who saved their lives and now stood above them.  His left hand clasped a long bow.  He smiled and shook his head in a manner that suggested recognition of who he was looking at.  

What the fuck have you done this time?