The ivy adorning the Science labs at Brookstone had come back to life, thanks to a flood of rain. Adding to the greenery were a column of camouflaged Army trucks parked out front, with soldiers in green uniforms manning all the entrances. There was a fresh smell in the air, making it feel like spring again, with the promise of good things to come.
On the walkway, Evo passed a corporal carrying buckets–one in each hand. He saluted the soldier as they passed.
Receiving him at the doorstop was that pesky newspaper reporter–this time with a smile on his face. “What a story! Scientist redeems himself; kills monster he created!”
“After dealing with his own inner monsters,” Evo added.
“Great angle! Scientist defeats slime, inside and out. All the manifestations and connotations of slime converged!”
“You don’t know the half of it,” Evo assured him. The summer had transformed Dr. Lucio, and it showed.
“I’d love the scoop.”
“It’s yours, after Prime Slime is destroyed. You have enough to write about, so please excuse me.” Evo made his way inside.
In his absence, the entire Brookstone faculty had focused on Evo’s invention. The labs had been overhauled to mass-produce MIFF. Several batches were being made simultaneously, without a hint of odor. Dr. Lucio’s lab was teeming with scientists, but Ayden Fry and Katey Cairn were squarely in command.
Evo donned a gown, mask, gloves and shoe covers, and joined his students in the greenhouse.
“Hey, Chief!” they chimed in unison.
“You guys have made progress, I see.”
Ayden answered: “Yes, by purifying it further, we removed the odor and doubled the potency.” MIFF was no longer Evo’s baby.
“Check out our latest trial on these pepper plants,” Katey said. “They were infected with Prime Slime, then sprayed with MIFF ten minutes later. Even tiny amounts of MIFF kept them intact.”
“Amazing! I don’t smell a thing!” Evo said.
“It’s going to the front lines as quickly as we can make it,” Katey instructed. “Every scientist at Brookstone is committed to this.” Evo turned to acknowledge some of his colleagues.
Much had transpired while Evo was away. They perfected the technology, assembled a team of scientists to mass produce it, and engaged the military to distribute it. The weight was no longer on his shoulders. In fact, he was completely unnecessary. Nevertheless, he had never felt so well regarded and fulfilled.
“When does Plan B take effect?” Evo asked.
“Crop dusters start aerial spraying tonight,” Katey replied.”
“It will take a large fleet to put a dent in this thing.”
“Ready to go,” Ayden assured. “Orders came from the top.”
“Wow, that guy isn’t so stupid after all,” Evo remarked. “We’ll just have to save the country for him.”
“And your reputation,” Katey added.
“You warned repeatedly of the dangers,” Ayden noted.
“I’m OK with it,” Evo replied, as he reflected on this amazing journey. “Stuff happens in spite of ourselves. Still, I should have been watching you guys more closely.”
“We caused the mess and we’re gonna fix it!” Katey assured him. “Your anti-biofilm compound is now our only hope.”
“You mean our anti-biofilm compound,” Evo insisted.
“We’ll beat this thing!” Ayden blurted. “We’ve already made a ton of MIFF. I must say, we’re getting pretty good at it.”
Evo pondered his great fortune. He discovered something incredible, and was blessed with a great supporting cast. Success was much sweeter with Katey, Ayden, Nan and Philmore in his life. His students were like his children; extensions of himself; the true fruits of his labor. In turn, they bore more fruit. Likewise, Nan and Philmore represented the kind of mature relationships that had been so elusive for so long. Evo was in good company.
Aligned in spirit, the three scientists convened to Evo’s office to catch the latest news. Fortissimo’s weapons proved useless against Prime Slime. The blight swarmed up river valleys and streams. Farm after farm fell to ruin. Prime Slime creeped southeast toward the Florida citrus crop, and northwest toward Iowa corn. Southern cotton was also in great peril.
There were reports of rampant chaos in stores across the Southeast and Midwest. Inventories of food were precariously low in certain regions. Available food was overpriced, unripe and tasteless. The meat resembled rotting road kill and, in some cases, it really was. People fought tooth-and-nail for scraps, and dug through trash for food. Millions of Americans were starving.
As usual, the poor were hit hardest. They flooded hospitals, health clinics, food pantries and churches across the eastern US, looking for food and medicine. Petty crime rose precipitously, as desperate people took desperate measures. Merchants abandoned their stores, turning main streets into ghost towns.
Fortunately, good citizens everywhere stepped up to help the needy. Money, clothing and food were donated in record numbers. Volunteers aided the elderly and handicapped. Animal lovers raided the factory farms, unshackling cattle, freeing cooped up chickens, rescuing pigs from pens and horses from stables. Access to grass was paramount. They were free to roam again, and live normal lives in the wild. Truckloads of pet food were donated to the cause, but much of it was diverted for human consumption.
Being low on the food chain, many farm animals were slaughtered to provide food for people. All the laws restricting hunting and fishing went out the window as the free-for-all ensued. It was every man for himself.
Fortunately, organic farms were unaffected. The organic movement had been growing steadily for years, so there was some farm produce and meat available. The federal government purchased much of it and rationed it in affected areas. It wasn’t substantial, but it helped a bit. And, it was super healthy.
All food was once organic, but had since become a luxury for the privileged. “Organic” came to symbolize the disparity between rich and poor. Holistic health was out of reach for those who needed it most. Fortunately, with government intervention and charitable donations, organic food was reaching further. For many, it was their first taste of the stuff.
Yet, under the circumstances, anything would do. It didn’t matter where the food came from. When you’re starving, everything counts. Eventually, the Feds were importing meat and veggies from all over the world. Farmers worldwide were donating foods of all kinds to charities. It was all good.
They were making do, but the country could not handle much more destruction. Nearly half the crop east of the Mississippi was lost, and slime was spreading in every which way.
With little to show for their efforts, the pressure was on the Feds to rethink their strategy. They could no longer justify using weapons that did not work. So, Plan B was quickly adopted, which placed the focus squarely on Brookstone.
To make sure they were on the same page, General Fortissimo scheduled a videoconference with Brookstone scientists.
“We’re gonna give your concoction a whirl, Doc,” the general said with a gravelly, but warm voice.
“At your service, sir!” Evo replied.
“Do we have everything we need?”
“I believe so, sir. Let me defer to my students.”
Ayden eagerly complied: “Hundreds of pounds of MIFF have gone out to outposts in affected areas, and we’re making more.”
“Excellent! Instructions have been relayed to all personnel. Aerial spraying begins at nine PM sharp. Aircraft with light-sensitive equipment will direct crop dusters towards the edges.”
“It should be plainly visible to the naked eye, sir.”
“Refrain from spraying into the light,” Katey added. “Just coat the outside perimeter, roughly 20 yards deep.”
“Explain to me again, why not go for the bull’s eye?”
“It’ll take much more MIFF to kill it than to contain it. Eventually it will burn out, sir.” Ayden had seen it first hand.
“Plus, the ground is already highly contaminated,” Katey instructed. “MIFF won’t add to the toxicity if used properly.”
“And the rivers?” the General asked.
“Just spray MIFF along the banks,” Ayden said. “We’ll see how that goes.”
“Just keep attacking at night until it goes dark,” Evo stressed.
“That’s it?” asked the General.
“There’s bound to be numerous cracks in the MIFF containment wall,” Ayden warned.
“Prime Slime is highly contagious. The rain, wind and waterways will promote its spread,” Katey added.
“Just keep it contained,” Ayden insisted. “When you need more MIFF, we’ll have it there for you.”
“This better work, or we’re in deep doo doo.”
That evening, Operation MIFF began. The aerial fleet was extensive. Some planes flew under the Air Force banner; squadrons of Army helicopters participated; even small, private planes entered the fray. They sprayed by night, encircling all areas of infestation. At higher elevations, helicopters with light-sensitive cameras surveyed for changes in light patterns. The digital data were relayed to a centralized computer system. Crop dusters used the computer maps to monitor progress and direct aerial spraying.
Much of the eastern US was lit up like a Christmas tree. Yet, with each successive application, the spread of Prime Slime was curtailed. It continued to fester and occasionally escaped, only to be restrained once more. Helicopter surveillance continued long after the scourge abated.
Prime Slime eventually died in the fields, but not before razing every living thing to the ground. The land was henceforth unusable that growing season. Ironically, the affected farmland became especially fertile the following year. Like after a forest fire or volcano, more carbon and minerals were available for new growth. Prime Slime had expired, but life sprang eternal.
Philmore Potts likened these phenomena to a compost pile, where microbes break down organic matter for recycling. However, what compost took months to do, Prime Slime did in just a few hours or days. It would take years for the land to be certifiably organic again, due to all the toxicity from their synthetic chemicals, but they were on the right track.
Operation MIFF saved the remaining crop and restored order. Hunger and panic abated as more relief shipments arrived. Europe was especially helpful. Third world countries, which had received so much aid from the US, were now coming to our aid. Our generosity was paying dividends.
As for Evo and his students, their efforts did not go unnoticed. Despite creating the monster, they were regarded as heroes. Evo had been elevated to superhuman status. He was a regular on talk shows and magazine covers, and signed autographs in the streets.
Everything led up to this moment. The paradigm had shifted, and Evo was primed to stand up for what was right. With the new platform, he took the opportunity to educate the masses. He called on citizens not to support products or institutions that compromised quality and put people at risk. He decried the death of the corporate model that placed profit above health.
“Contact your representatives!” Evo implored. “Tell them you are not prey for the corporations!
“Attune yourself to healthy living!
“Buy local, grass fed, free range, organic and biodynamic!
“Help us return the country to health and sustainability!”
Nan and Philmore were also part of the entourage, and were asked to speak on their areas of expertise. Philmore had become the leading authority on organic farming, and Nan on sound nutrition. Evo would defer to them whenever possible.
Philmore petitioned farmers to trash synthetic fertilizer, and to apply compost instead. He recommended rock dust, biochar, compost tea and earthworms to enrich the soil.
Nan pointed to the lack of nutrients in modern food, and its link to modern diseases. She sang the praises of healthy, wholesome vegetables, grass-fed meat over cheap factory-farm food, and high-quality supplements over expensive drugs that did not address the real problem and merely hid the symptoms.
Together, they drew the connection between healthy soil and healthy people. Evo bowed to these experts, and relied on them increasingly. Again, it was no longer his baby. Evo was happy to share his booming power and status with four amazing people. That set him free to take a higher stand.
His lab was enshrined as well, and visited by tourists, journalists, dignitaries and the like, including all kinds of opportunists. A Hollywood executive came inquiring about a blockbuster movie.
Prime Slime was the ultimate opportunist. It did not cause the problem, but totally exploited it. The real problem was lack of quality in farming, stemming from human greed and ignorance. It was all the lazy cost cutting and cheapening of goods and services inherent in corporate practices that led to this mess.
Evo had become quite fearless. He accused corrupt politicians and corporations of exploiting the masses for power and profit. Yet he also chastised citizens and consumers, who followed along like sheep. It was up to the masses to stop big business from cutting corners and removing quality from things–especially from food. It was time for some accountability.
The Feds were forced to take Dr. Lucio seriously and make him official. He was appointed Public Advocate and Senior Consultant for the USDA. He was also asked to address Congress on the future of health care and agriculture. Of course, Evo insisted that Mr. Philmore Potts and Dr. Nan Churrel speak at the event, which would be televised worldwide. Together, they would help restore quality and integrity to America.