Thursday, October 17, 2013

Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator: Meet the Zombie Extermination Research and Development Center

Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator looks at the zombie apocalypse in a different way--as fodder for a reality TV show, Zombie Death Extreme. It was such fun to build this world gone mad, but not in a World War Z way.  Instead, we have a limited number of undead, but unlimited number of bizarre reactions to the undead, from conspiracy theories concerning their origins to new occupations, like zombie exterminators, to exploitative television shows.  Among all of them, are the scientists who seek a cure, the origin, and in the meantime, better ways to kill them.

Enter the Zombie Extermination Research and Development Center, also known as ZERD.  A minor player in the Neeta Lyffe novels, ZERD looks for the best ways to re-kill the shambling undead.  It's a thankless job, and an unpopular one at that.  So, when they had a chance to get a little bit of an image-bump by hosting an episode of Zombie Death Extreme, they jumped at the chance.  Of course, nothing touched by Hollywood Prime Time really reveals its true image.  Ah, but you'll see...

The Zombie Extermination Research and Development Center looked like any off-campus lab building: large, square, with pastel brick and tinted windows, positioned off the highway and surrounded by a large xeriscaped campus with the mountains in the background.  Not until one approached the entrance did the building's purpose make itself known and then only by a small, nondescript logo of the initials ZERD.
The Zombie Death Extreme viewers saw, however, an imposing military complex of cement blocks and steel, surrounded by six-foot fences topped with concertina wire and lined with surveillance cameras. 
This suited the employees of ZERD just fine.
Inside, Neeta, her plebes, two cameramen, and a somewhat green but determined staff writer followed their tour guide through another set of double doors.  The rubber waders they wore over their clean room suits squeaked on the tile floor.  Roscoe somehow managed to walk without squelching.  They passed rows of people working at computers and microscopes, their backs to the tour group.  With their white jumpers and caps, they looked ominous and official.  They didn't need to wear clean suits in this area, but no one wanted to go to get thrown out of the PTA or Rotary club because they'd been identified on Zombie Death Extreme.  East Palm Desert, after all, prided itself on its standards, and zombie work did not meet those standards.
Dr.  Corriander Spice, who insisted everyone call him Dr.  Hansen for the show, waited until they had all gathered around the large plate-glass windows, currently darkened.  They couldn't avoid filming him, but the producer had agreed to use a computer-generated avatar in his place.  As such, he was conducting the tour wearing a green-screen leotard with motion sensors dotting its surface.  He tried very hard to ignore the giggles of his workmates and to keep his stomach sucked in.  At least the director had agreed to replace him with a likeness of Duane Jones.  He'd always harbored a secret longing to be just like the hero of Night of the Living Dead.
"So, to recap: We've seen the vivisection room--feeling better now, Gary?--and we've learned that removing appendages and even evisceration will not do more than slow your zombie down."
"Gawd, yes!  The way that legless one kept crawling on, groaning, 'Flesh wound!  Flesh wound!' was just too creepy." Roscoe interjected.
Gary placed a hand over his mouth and his cheeks puffed.  LaCenta rolled her eyes at him.
Spice wanted to ask him if he needed another bag, but the director had already chided him several times about talking to anyone but Neeta, the plebes, and the camera.  He couldn't help it; the kid looked so pitiful!  He decided to distract him instead.
"'Creep' is just the word!" Spice laughed, and Neeta chortled, but the rest looked blank.  "Sorry.  Exterminator humor.  You'll learn it.  So the lesson there is, sever the upper spinal column, or..."
He held up his hands like a conductor.
The group chanted, "When the head comes away from the neck, then it's over."
He clapped his hands together.  "Exactly!  And, in fact, federal law now requires that all dead have their spines surgically severed before burial.  Now, I know Neeta loves her chainsaw, but really, flamethrowers are the most effective destructive tool in your kit.  Embalming fluid is highly flammable, especially where older corpses in advanced stages of decay are concerned."
Neeta growled, "Which is all well and good until you singe some lawyer's precious back porch."
"Just so," Spice said.  "There are too many places where napalm and fuel-injected inferno just don't fit."
"No truer words," Roscoe crooned.  LaCenta slugged him.
"Not to mention the fact that a flamethrower in every home really isn't the best of ideas.  So, we at ZERD are exploring safer means not only of extermination but of protection.  We have been doing some very exciting work with antihistamine foam."
Gordon snorted.  "Allergy meds for zombies?  You've got to be kidding me."
Spice grinned at him.  "Watch." He pressed a button on the wall.
The windows cleared to show a large room empty except for various mechanical arms suspended from the high ceiling, bearing a variety of spray nozzles and hoses.  On one end, a small tray holding a pound of ground beef slid out of the wall.  On the other, a door opened, and a female zombie clad in the ragged remains of a filthy calico dress staggered into the room.  She hesitated, her head jerking about as she took in her surroundings, then she staggered for the meat.
About halfway across the room, a sprayer whirred into action, coating a line of foam between her and the meat.  She jerked to a stop, wavering, her groans growing into panther-like screams.
"You trained it," Gordon scoffed.
"You can't train a zombie," Spice countered.  "The part of the mind that processes cause and effect is atrophied.  There's not even enough left for a Pavlovian effect."
As the zombie paced the line, screeching with frustration, Spice continued.  "We aren't ready to deploy this tool yet, unfortunately.  The concentration of antihistamine is way beyond FDA tolerance levels.  Unless the exterminator is wearing a full haz-mat suit, including gas mask, she or he will experience dry nose and mouth, irritability, and, of course, drowsiness, which is a bad thing when dealing with the undead--and of course, no one exposed should drive or operate heavy machinery for four hours afterward."
The zombie had started to calm and poke at the foam with her toe.
"Unfortunately, as you can see, the effect does wear off as the foam disintegrates.  It's not ready as a long-term preventative until we find an agent that releases the chemical slowly.  However..." He pressed another button.
The mechanical arm whirled toward the zombie and hosed it down with pinkish foam.  The zombie's hunger screams rose into panic and it flailed at the stream.  It staggered back, clawing off its own face, until it collapsed on the ground, jerked once, and stilled.
"It's going to stay down?" Gordon asked skeptically.
Spice looked away from the prone corpse to answer, but saw Gary's pale face.  "You okay, there, Gary?"
Gary's eyes rolled into the back of his head and he collapsed.
"Cut!" Dave snarled as everyone gathered around the unconscious writer.

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