2019-03-03: Who Let The Apes Out? Who? Who?
|Synopsis||There's a breakout at the Zoo, but Granite is on the scene. Airman phones in an appearance. (Rated PG-13 for violence concerning animals)|
New York City: Central Park Zoo
The weather is cold, there's still patches of snow on the ground and the wind is brisk as the sun is starting to set lower in the sky, but that still hasn't stopped the Central Park Zoo from being a bustling place today. While the weekend doesn't bring the typical busloads of school children on field trips, it makes up for that lack of traffic with scores and scores of families, all of whom have been enjoying the various animal exhibits on display here - from the polar bears and penguins, to tropical toucans and macaws, to the recently opened monitor lizard and venomous reptile exhibit, which has been drawing record crowds.
This Sunday has been no different, though about an hour before closing time the normal thinning of the crowds takes a rather unexpected and unpleasant turn. The first reports are just confused ones from patrons nearby the elephant exhibits - a strange blue-green gas or smoke that seems to have come from nowhere. Those closest to the smoke and who were unable to get away seemed unaffected save for some minor coughing, but the nearby animals? Quite a different story. The normally placid and well-behaved elephants immediately began trumpeting and stomping the ground in a frenetic fashion, and a trio of the powerful mammals have charged head-first into the closest retaining wall to lace the barrior with severe cracks.
While zoo employees do their best to usher everyone out in a semi-orderly fashion, the elephants continue their enraged antics, and it won't be long before the wall comes down - giving the provoked pachyderms a direct line to the Reptile enclosure and the wealth of venomous animals ensconced within...
As a professional superhero Granite spends lots of time patrolling on his motorcycle throughout the city, taking random routes at random times of day in order to avoid becoming too predictable in his routine. It's also a great way to get to know the city. Today's been slow, he helped someone who suffered a seizure until an ambulance crew could arrive and got a cat out of a tree so far.
While cruising through Central Park, as much to make a public appearance as to watch out for crime he spots something unusual: a crowd of people all hurrying out of the zoo, some of them coughing. He accelerates towards the entrance to the zoo. As he gets close the sound of the elephants reaches his ears and Granite shuts off his bike, dismounting quickly.
"What's going on? Is everybody okay?" he asks the crowd as he strides towards the sounds of the pachyderms, hoping he gets an answer to his first question on the way in but not necessarily counting on it. "Is someone trying to hurt the animals?"
Unfortunately, the first few individuals who pass by Granite aren't that helpful in giving him any useful information. At this point, the crowd fleeing the zoo has escalated to an outright panic. Between the screaming the children, the even louder screaming parents and the few zoo employees who don't seem to have a clue in the world as to how to handle such a situation, the only responses that the superhero gets are initially yelps such as "Run for it!!", "They've gone crazy!!" and the ever-descriptive, "HELP!!!". But, one zoo employee finally stops and does his best to be helpful, panting and gesticulating wildly, "Thank god, Granite!! The elephants just started going nuts! They're destroying the enclosure, and I think the hippos and rhinos have gone crazy too!"
And, to the employee's credit, they indeed have. While the blue-green smoke has all but dissipated at this point, before it did so the strange cloud appears to have enveloped at least the elephants, hippos and rhinos, as well as the gorillas and giraffes, as the majority of the African Mainland animals are all quite agitated and enraged at this point. Physically throwing themselves against the nearest barricades, attempting to climb over enclosures or even mindlessly trying to forge across moats. Currently, the ones with the most success are the elephants, who have battered and rammed their way into a shattered and crumbling wall that has created a rubble-strewn gap in their enclosure which leads to a pedestrian walkway and is just a stone's throw from both the reptile enclosure and the Big Cats theater.
As the first of the elephants charges through the gap, it rears up on his hind legs, trumpeting out in victory, raising its trunk and waving its ears before slamming back down on to the ground to shake the walkway as the front feet impact with the earth. There's still a handful of families who are still on that walkway as well, frozen in fear at the sight of the enraged elephant, barely even able to scream for help. Fortunately, they're easily in view of the zoo entrance - should one look past the fleeing crowd to the sound of the roaring elephant, the shapes of the terrified families may easily be seen just on the other side of the berserk beast.
"I'm on my way," Granite says to the guy that stopped to brief him, beginning to hurry more quickly towards the sound of the enraged animals. As he makes it through the crowd and spots the families in the path of the lead elephant the super powered warrior takes a few more steps and launches into a super jump, aiming to place himself between the elephant and it's prey. He hits the ground in front of the monster, rolling to soften the blow and coming up standing straight.
"Whoa, big guy!" Granite lifts an empty hand towards the massive beast, standing still and trying his best to calm the thing. His other hand balls into a fist and his knees bend, ready to launch himself towards the potential threat. "I don't want to hurt you, but I will knock you the hell out if you don't go back in your exhibit."
With a pair of smaller elephants stomping and shaking their heads behind it, ready to also make their way through the broken gap in the barricade, the lead elephant seems prepared to begin charging forward, regardless of the cowering and frightened families in its path. The massive creature starts to lower its head, trunk curling up under itself, ears flattening against the sides of its head - when suddenly, the form of Granite literally drops in front of the creature from seemingly nowhere.
While the animal can't talk, of course, and its ability to understand the words that Granite is speaking is questionable, the creature does pause at the superhero's sudden arrival, the hesitation that it's giving almost making it seem as if a series of question marks are hovering above its forehead. As it pauses, though, an observant sort might notice that the animal's eyes are glowing a rather unnatural reddish orange in color, which, even to a non-biologist, may seem a little off.
While the lead elephant may be momentarily confused and taken off guard by Granite's arrival and shouted warnings, however, those two other pachyderms behind it neither see the impressive leap-roll-and-landing, nor care much about it. Instead, they're chomping at the proverbial bit to get out of the enclosure and their mindless pursuit of doing so leads one of them to violently bump its head into the lead elephant's backside. The collision causes the lead elephant to rear up again, trunk unfurling to trumpet out in another wild roar as its front legs churn in the air. The elephant's underside is presented as a pretty open target, though when the front half of its body comes back down it looks as if it might have Granite in the crosshairs.
Meanwhile, off to the left and behind the families that Granite is protecting from the elephants, a group of about five gorillas are making a series of grunts and oop-ack noises, beating their chests and so on, but just what else is going on back there is hard to tell. The families themselves huddle closer to each other, parents wrapping their arms around their children as one of the young mothers can't help but gasp out in breathless surprise and hope, "Granite...!"
With little time to waste now that the elephant seems to be agitated again and the families behind him aren't fleeing like sensible folks, Granite's bent knees straighten out and he launches himself towards the lead beast, swinging his balled up fist straight at the animal's head. He's intent on hitting it hard, but not too hard, hoping to knock the critter out without breaking it's skull. Regardless of if he's successful or not he'll speak over his shoulder at the helpless bystanders, "Better try to get out of here now, folks."
Granite plants his feet, ready to deal with the pachyderms. By punching them. His intent to wallop on the members of the endangered species is obvious as he leans forward to brace himself for a brawl.
Though they'd been caught somewhere between gawking at both the elephants and Granite, and standing there frozen like proverbial deer in headlights, the three families there finally snap to attention at Granite's instruction, nodding dumbly but hastily turning to move towards the exit. Little children are tugged by the arm or scooped up over the shoulder, and the bystanders are on their way towards safety.
And it's none too soon either - for as Granite launches himself into the air the lead elephant is already starting his downward, two-footed stomp, intent it seems on pummeling either the superhero or anyone else who gets in his way. He never gets the opportunity, though, as Granite's might fist slams into the side of the elephants skull with a resounding 'WHOMP!!', sending the animal's head lolling to one side as the blow connects and knocks the creature out cold. The force of the blow sends the creature slumping to the side, its entire massive body crashing to the ground as the two angry elephants behind it surge forward with trumpeting trunks to meet the challenge themselves. As Granite swings towards the one on the left, causing it to stagger and reel, the other on the right whips its trunk outwards in an attempt to snare Granite's legs, the elephants seemingly no strangers to working together.
Meanwhile, the grunting and whooping sounds of frantic gorillas can still be heard some distance behind the rumble between Granite and the elephants, the oop, ack and cheech noises growing in both pitch and volume. Something sure has the apes excited back there, but they're remaining somewhere behind the bend in the walkway so, whatever it is, it is still out of view.
Sighing with relief when the other humans depart, the gray clad figure stands ready to continue his battle against the large land mammals.
Of course, that's the moment the elephant on the right grabs both of Granite's legs at one time. Though it sweeps the hero off his feet he's able to force his legs apart against the strength of the trunk and roll forward, pushing himself up into a jumping uppercut aimed at his mighty opponent's face. Should it take the animal out of the fight Granite won't hesitate to spring towards the other one, the staggering creature, with a knee strike.
"Christ, I'm going to get sued by PETA," the hero mutters as he checks to make sure he doesn't need to continue dealing with these particular brutes any longer, the sounds of the agitated apes worrying him now. They're definitely next on his priority list.
Though the elephants are larger than Granite and operating under some kind of influence or mindless rage, they aren't stronger than him and it's really only a matter of time for the superhero to get the upper hand - or uppercut, as the case may be - and with his successive attacks he's able to knock the one unconscious to fall in a heap aside the already dispatched lead elephant, and then hit the remaining pachyderm with a loud *KRAK!* to the beast's knee. The blow causes the elephant to trumpet loudly in pain, tossing it's head back, but it's clearly not going to be able to continue the fight. Instead, it just trumpets angrily, shaking its head up and down, back and forth.
Around the corner, those whoops and grunts of the gorillas continues on, and as Granite dashes away from the elephants to see just what the heck is going on, he'll come upon a rather odd sight. About a half-dozen gorillas are arranged in a loose circle, each of them quite agitated and hopping about - chest pounding, dancing from one foot to the other, throwing their head backs and making all sorts of oop whoop grunt noises. Upon closer inspection, there seems to be something on the ground in the middle of the circle - something about the size of a small body, maybe, though it's hard to see past the frenzied apes. One of the agitated gorillas moves inwards towards the shape, seeming to poke it with one finger before jerking backwards, whooping and hollering again in what could be either pain or surprise. The noise sends another chorus of chittering and exclaiming from the other apes. So focused are the primates on whatever it is they're surrounding, they don't yet seem to notice the pending arrival of Granite.
Once the elephants are dealt with Granite is on his way towards the gorillas, pausing for a moment to see what they're doing. It's hard to make out what happens to be amidst them in the enclosure. It looks too much like a person to risk waiting for a better view.
Granite leaps again, trying to land amidst the apes as close as he safely can to the possible person without accidentally hitting them. As soon as he's down there with the other primates he'll reach for the body, or whatever it is, and try to jump out before the simians can attack. He's hopefully finished with hurting animals for today.
The gorillas are really focused on... well, whatever it is they're circled around. The sounds of their grunts and hollers almost seems to have the cadence of a chant, really, the longer it goes on, a 'oop, oop, ack, hrumpha, ack, oop, ack' kind of deal, though that rhythm is interrupted whenever one of the apes is emboldened enough to step forward to poke at the thing and then dark backwards with another series of high-pitched yelps. The point being, they're so absorbed in this whole scene that they do not in the least see Granite creeping up on them, or preparing to leap right into their midst.
Accordingly, as the superhero lands in the middle of them, the animals are ill prepared to do anything about it and in fact are so surprised that they all back away just a bit at first in surprise. This give Granite ample enough opportunity to reach down and grab the body - for it is indeed a body, with two arms, two legs and a head - and then bound off again with it. Only after he is airborne again are the primates able to react - the majority of them jumping up and down in outrage, fists shaking in the air and shouting out whoops of anger. But among all of those grunts and shouts, is that an actual word that Granite hears? A very deep an glutteral exclamation booming out from one of the apes, "Noooo!!!"
Should he look down at the limp form in his arms while he's leaping away, Granite will see that the body he's carrying in his arm is not a human one, though it's sort of close. It's the prone body of a gorilla, covered in dense black hair and with a typically muscular barrel chest and girder-like forearms. What's not typical about the body, however, is the creature's head, which has lost most of its hair and has a clearly over-sized cranium. One side of that over-developed brain case has been smashed in, however, and instead of being stained with dark red blood, the side of the ape's head is smeared and coated in a sticky, tacky green. Perhaps not surprisingly, the ape doesn't seem to be alive.
In and out. Granite's quick enough to get away from the gorillas before they can attack him, body in hand. "What?" he asks, sounding surprised as he hears one of the animals speak, looking back at it. He doesn't spend much time looking before checking on the body in his hands. "What the hell?" is muttered when he gets a good look at the thing. There's a pause before he says quietly, "Oh no. If this is Dr. Helix..." He shakes his head slowly.
That's when he drops the corpse and jumps into the air, this time aiming to go straight up, trying to get the best view of the zoo that he can to see if any potential threats still lurk about. He certainly isn't about to leave.
The ape's body flops to the ground, prone and lifeless, head rolling to one side and still glistening with tacky green blood, or whatever it is that's smeared all across the side of its over-sized cranium. As Granite leaps upwards, his mighty legs are able to give him a fairly good overview of the zoo in front of him, if a bit brief, the animal enclosures and pedestrian walkways spread outwards just as if one were reading one of the tri-fold maps that they have available at the zoo entrance.
The elephant area still has that big gap in the wall where it's been battered through, though the two unconscious and one immobilized (crippled?) elephant just outside that gap in the barricade have made it impossible for any other elephants to exit. There's another two pachyderms still inside, though they seem to be calming down. Just next is the group of apes, who are still organized into a loose circle and start to hoop and ack and grunt as they see Granite shooting upwards into the air. At least, it looks like they're acking and ooping and grunting, they're hard to hear at this distance, but they're certainly jumping up and down and flailing their arms menacingly at the superhero. Also in that general area are two free-roaming hippopotami who appear very confused, as it appears they're wandering in circles, and three rhinos who are also currently pretty placid but apparently have taken out two information kiosks, a hot-dog cart and the front half of the gift-shop before they stopped their rampage. Debris is littered in their path, though one of the rhinos is currently chewing on a large flower bush while another is relieving itself on what's left of the hot-dog cart. Further afield, the aviary and the reptile house both appear to have been opened to release some of the denizens within, with minor activity seen in front of both enclosures - though at the speed and height to which Granite's jump is taking him, it's difficult to make out specific species or what they're doing.
When he lands Granite lets out a deep sigh. This is going to be a busy day after all and the potential for hurting other animals, something he doesn't want to do, is pretty high. Still, he makes his way towards the reptile house, hoping to contain the hippos and rhinos along the way.
As he nears the hippopotami he slows down, glancing towards their enclosure to see if it could still possibly hold them. Regardless of if it can there's bound to be some sort of cages back behind it for times when the animals aren't on display. So, in an effort to contain the critters Granite will try to sneak up on the hippos, get under them and carry them back to their home one at a time. Of course, he is unaware of the fact that hippos are the most dangerous creatures in Africa.
While hippos may indeed be among the most dangerous land mammals and should always be handled with care, it's Granite's lucky day (and the hippos' lucky day as well, if the state of the elephants is any judge) as they are both pretty tuckered out and tired. Whatever it is that drove them to escape their confinement has seemed to drained the creatures pretty significantly and they're rather sluggish and compliant, able to be hoisted one at a time by Granite without much protest. There's some bent guard-railing there that's easily mended, keeping the animals secure again in their enclosure.
The three rhinos are similarly pacified, just sort of milling about and doing their thing. One of them has some t-shirts wrapped around it's horn from the gift-shop, and all three of them have mashed up hot-dogs and condiments smeared about their toes. Otherwise, though, they're just grazing on azalea bushes and such, and in fact one of the three is starting to settle down for an apparent nap among a table of up-ended plush animals in front of the remains of the gift-shop. In all, they're also easily led or carried back to their enclosure, which can be made secure without too much difficulty as well.
As Granite is going about his work, some of the braver zoo employees are starting to filter back in, a few of them carrying tranq rifles, keeping their distance from the superhero and the animals he's carrying about. Though, there are some shouts of 'Be careful!', 'Be gentle, Bonnie is pregnant!', and from somewhere in the distance, 'What the hell happened to the elephants?? Samson's kneecap is shattered!!'.
Still, the hippos and rhinos are, more or less, easily taken care of, leaving yet a group of apes that were last seen in a half circle and rather agitated (though, that was two hippos and three rhinos ago), as well as an aviary and a reptile house that appeared to be hemorrhaging small birds and reptiles, respectively.
"Alright!" Granite will reply when told to be careful with the pregnant Bonnie, doing his best to handle the animal without jostling it more than necessary. When he hears someone yelling about Samson's kneecap he winces, grateful for the mask that covers his face. Once the larger animals have been put away in their enclosures Granite heads towards the aviary and reptile exhibits. The birds? Well, it's not as if the guy can fly. Not much can be done about them for now. The reptiles on the other hand? They might be venomous and there's no real way for him to on the ones without hoods or rattling tails. Granite doesn't waste much time before going to try to grab a reptile, one in each hand, behind their heads so they don't break their teeth trying to bite him. "How the hell did you guys get out of your terrariums?" he asks a snake as he moves in to pick it up.
The gorillas are on his mind, but the potentially venomous reptiles seem like they're more likely to disappear and end up killing someone before he can catch them. Gorillas are rather large, after all.
By this time, more zoo employees are filtering in, many equipped with nets on poles, heavy-duty gloves, sturdy cloth sacks and other specialized equipment to aid with the capture and collection of the various escapees. Sirens can also be heard in the distance, growing closer to the zoo entrance as it seems that someone had the good sense to call the police or city animal control or both. For Granite's part, he'll find that maneuvering to catch darting lizards and slippery snakes may not be as easy a task as wrestling with elephants, as the first scaly little pest he makes a grab for skitters off underneath a trash bin with a hiss.
"Aw man, careful, that's a Bermuda rock skink, they're like, almost extinct," one rather hipster-looking zoo attendant blurts out. He pulls his floppy safari-style hat off his head, flicking his curly hair back out of his eyes before donning the headwear again to look at Granite. "The controls in the reptile house were overridden somehow..." he answers the question that had been posed to the reptiles then. "Ah, look, we're really glad you were here, Granite, but, I think we got this now. We got the computer system fixed but... We're gonna have bait and trap for some of these guys I think... Especially since it's getting dark soon." The snake that Granite did manage to catch twists and wriggles in his fingers, though is snared sufficiently that it can't crane it's neck to injure itself trying to bite the superhero.
"This is much tougher than I thought it would be," the superhero says as he fails time after time to grab reptiles. After some time spent helplessly trying to grab scaly critters, Granite almost whoops with excitement when he finally gets his hands on one. After handing off the snake to someone with the proper equipment for handling it Granite will nod towards the zoo personnel and say, "Glad I could help, but you what you're doing and I'm not suited for this kind of thing. I'm going to make sure the gorillas are alright if I can."
Then he's off towards the gorillas at a run, hoping they haven't managed to get in trouble.
Giving the superhero a mock salute, the reptile employee shakes his head a little after Granite dashes off, then going about trying to round up the other escaped reptiles with a few other employees. They've got bits of food (well, dead insects of choice variety) and other lures, so it's clear that they know what they're doing.
The gorillas were left some distance away, and Granite will need to sprint past the spot that he had tangled with the elephants on his way there. There's already some vets on the scene there, and the elephant who's apparently named Samson looks to have been tranquilized and there's a trio of animal doctors swarmed around his front knee with really dour expressions on their faces. The other two elephants are still knocked out, though other vets are carefully examining the animals's heads, feeling along the skull and such with care as they look to be checking for any injuries. One of the animal doctors gives Granite a dubious look as the superhero runs past, but says nothing before returning back to the elephant examination.
And then, Granite arrives at the spot where he'd left the apes. There's zoo employees here by now as well, and they've got the apes pretty well corralled and are leading them in a single file line down the walkway to the primate area, which is further along the path. None of the apes seem nearly as agitated as they had before - like the rhinos and hippos, they're pretty calm and tuckered out now - and, despite what Granite may have swore he heard previously, none of the apes seem to be talking either. A few of them grunt here and there as they walk along, maybe pointing curiously at a brightly colored bird that has yet to be captured back to the aviary, but it seems as if none of them possess any sort of capacity for language or any other higher cognitive function. Where the circle had been oriented, there's still a smear of green blood on the walkway pavement, and some distance further away (though perhaps not immediately visible from this angle) the actual body itself has yet to be discovered by any of the zoo staff.
Now that things seem to be in hand Granite can depart. Not that he really wants to, he feels rather terrible about hurting the elephants and wants to find out anything he can before leaving. He'll approach a zookeeper and say, "One of the gorillas was killed. It was partially mutated and I don't know if anyone's gotten a chance to look at it yet." Pointing at where he dumped the corpse he says, "Can you tell me if a primate veterinarian or someone is around so I can show them."
As he waits he pulls a cell phone out from a belt pouch and looks down at it, accessing his contacts and highlighting the private number to the Sentry on-duty line. Taking a deep breath he considers what to do.
There's a few zookeepers who are tending to the line of gorillas, leading the primates back to their home, so it's not too difficult to catch the attention of one of them, though as Granite first starts to approach the closest zookeeper the middle-aged man can be caught grumbling a little to himself before mustering a pleasant smile. "Hey th.." he starts out, before Granite's abrupt declaration causes the man's features to drop in shock.
"Oh my.." he manages, blinking twice. His gaze follows Granite's pointing finger, already starting to walk off in that direction. "I'm one of the gorilla keepers, you can show me," he continues, glancing briefly back to Granite with a pretty concerned expression on his face. "Was it Zuberi? We haven't been able to find him..." The man's features start to turn a little ashen as he realizes that's probably the case, and as he plods on ahead he calls up to the other zoo employees before they get too far away with the remaining gorillas. "Mike, Linda! I'll catch up with you guys back at the enclosure. Granite thinks he may have seen Zuberi..." He does his best to put on a hopeful voice, but he doesn't really pull it off. The worried looks that the others give him betrays that fact to him. "No, really, it's... Just go on, get everyone else settled first." And he waves them on, then glances around and realizes he's not quite sure where he's headed to.
Leading the way to the deceased ape Granite tells the zookeeper, "I'm sorry about your animals. I think I may have really hurt those elephants." As he approaches the gorilla corpse he puts his phone away, having made his decision to call the non-emergency Sentry tip line later, and says, "I'm going to warn you, there's exposed brain matter, it's skull is enlarged and I think it's blood may have turned green."
There's a deep breath, "I wasn't sure what was happening, all I saw were the gorillas surrounding something that looked like a person. I jumped in, grabbed the dead gorilla and jumped out. Don't know what killed him."
At the mention of the hurt elephants, the zookeeper - the embroidery on his jacket indicates his name is Walt - seems like he's about to respond, his eyebrows gathering towards the bridge of his nose and his mouth opening to speak. But he doesn't get the opportunity, as before he says anything the body of the deceased ape comes into view. The corpse is still laying there on the ground where Granite had left it, limbs crooked this way and that, the head with the enlarged cranium turned so that the bashed in side is facing up. The sight almost causes Walt to gag, but he fights the reflex as he surges forward to kneel at the creature's side.
"My god..." he whispers, voice ragged. "Zuberi..." The first thing that Walt does is to gently close the ape's eyes, which are rather unnervingly staring outwards, dead and lifeless, before the zookeeper tentatively starts to examine the enlarged skull and head, trying to focus on the mutation there instead of the death of the animal. He's only partially successful, as emotion clearly is leaking through his attempts at a clinical, dispatched voice. "Whatever... Whatever did this, it doesn't look to have spread much beyond his brain. The rest of his body seems normal, but.. There's at least a.. a 50 increase in brain size and cranium capacity..." He swallows, collecting himself, before glancing back to Granite. "It looks like he suffered multiple blows to the head, maybe from stones or rocks...."
"I'm so sorry for your loss," Granite knows that from a psychological perspective the death of an animal can hit as hard as the loss of any family member. "I wish I'd gotten there sooner, I might have been able to stop it from happening."
"You know anything that could increase the size of his brain like that?" The superhero asks. When told the death likely occurred from multiple blows he shakes his head, "Damn. Poor guy."
For a moment, Walt just kneels there next to the deceased Zuberi as he collects himself. His breathing is a bit deep and it takes him a long pause before he's ready to speak again. When he does, he shakes his head in response to Granite's question, clearly at a loss himself as to what may have caused the strange mutation. "No, this... this isn't like anything I've ever seen before," he finally answers. "The bone structure, the brain itself... The entire head, it's more than just gotten bigger, it's all..." Walt gestures a bit, before letting out a frustrated breath. "Well, it's *changed*... Like, look at the frontal lobes here. They've pushed forward, and the skull itself has reshaped to make room for it. I can't explain it, if I didn't know better I'd say he's few thousand year leap in evolution."
Walt frowns again, moving to stand up. "Well. His head, anyways." The middle-aged man turns to Granite then, letting out another sigh. "We didn't see any rocks or stones or anything nearby where we picked up the rest of the gorillas. If that's where you saw the body, it's likely he was already dead or dying. I don't think getting there any sooner would have saved him. Mike and I... we were back with the chimps and 'rangs when the elephants started going crazy, and then we just... we didn't know what to do. We're just as much to blame as anyone."
"If he was already dead by the time the gorillas got out then there's nothing you could have done, either," Granite says to the man before reaching out to attempt to gently pat him on the shoulder. "The elephants, or even the gorillas themselves, might have gone after you if you'd revealed yourself to them. The animals went crazy." And spoke English, in the case of the gorillas.
Granite's seen a lot of gore. A lot. So he's not really phased by the bashed in skull, this enables him to pay close attention to what Walt points out to him. "You want me to help move Zuberi for you, or you want to wait on a gurney? I don't know what's more dignified for the poor fella." Then he goes for his phone again and says, "Think about it for a moment, I've got to make a call."
The call goes to the secret number Fusion gave him, supposedly a direct line to someone on duty at Sentry. Granite waits patiently after dialing to hear if someone is going to pick up.
Walt nods once, the pat on the shoulder seeming to mollify him just a little - though it's clear that he's harboring quite a bit of guilt for not properly taking care of his animals during a time of crisis. "Just because they went crazy is no excuse for abandoning them..." he answers, his lips drawing together in a line. "And now Zuberi's paid the price." Another quiet sigh and he shakes his head. "No, I'd... I think I'd prefer to have another of the keepers and I take him back to the infirmary on a stretcher. But.. Thanks... I appreciate the offer..." And then Walt takes a step away to make a call on the radio he keeps at his belt, speaking in hushed tones to another staff member while Granite makes his own call.
The number that Granite dials is indeed a very rarely provided direct line to Sentry - or at least, who-ever is on duty at Sentry. Which, from the way the ringing kicks over to softly lilting elevator-style muzak, might not be anybody at the moment. The muted strains of instrumental versions of hits from the late seventies lasts for only a second or two before a recorded voice chirps out, "Thank you for calling Sentry. We're watching out for *you*. Your call is very important to us, and someone will be on the line with you very shortly. Please hold..." And then more mind-numbing seventies muzak drones out for a full twenty to thirty seconds before someone on the other end mercifully picks up.
"Hey, sorry about that wait! This is Sentry, and I'm Airman. Hope you've got this number legitimately - any improper use of this hotline can and will be dealt with appropriately." The voice is good-natured and friendly, despite the actual words that are spoken, and after only a minor beat Airman continues on the other end of the line. "Just kidding. Who's calling and how can we help?" In the background, one might hear the sounds of a television blaring, some type of documentary from the tone of the narration though the precise subject matter is difficult to discern.
"Airman, this Granite," says the one hero to the other sounding quite serious. "I think Dr. Helix is on the loose in the city. Just had an incident at the Central Park Zoo. Crazy elephants, rhinos and hippos. A talking gorilla. Another gorilla with an enlarged super brain. All sorts of critters set loose. The zoo is contained, but I had to give you guys a head's up about Helix."
Granite takes a deep breath, "Anyway, I'm going to see if they'll let me check out the security footage here, see if I can spot him or one of his accomplices, but I figured you guys would want to know that he might be around as quickly as possible."
No sooner do the words 'Dr. Helix' sound out, then a slight clatter is heard on the other end of the line and the background noise stops. "Whoah, dial it back. Dr. Helix?" Airman's fairly casual demeanor and tone of voice before is quickly becoming much more invested and the change in the cadence and tone of his words may easily conjure up the image of someone going from a position with one's legs kicked up to sitting upright and at attention. "Are you sure? I mean - there's tons of reasons that you could have talking gorillas or gorillas with... super brains. Like... Ah.. No, Primate Pirate's in the Hole. Master Menagerie reformed..." Airman sighs. "Ugh. Yeah, it's probably him. And the talking gorilla and the one with the super brain were two different gorillas? Do you have them both there? What's the talking one have to say?" The hero takes another breath, and the sound of some whirring machinery now is heard in the background, accompanied by some digital beeps and bloops. "I can be there in a jiff to pick them up."
"That's what I figured, only guy I could think of who'd pull something like this off," Granite explains. "Two different gorillas. The talking one is back in the enclosure with the other gorillas, I think he might be back to normal. The big brain guy is dead, unfortunately. Someone or something bashed in his skull with a blunt object. The talking one just said 'no' when I took the dead guy from the middle of a circle of gorillas." Granite's frowning beneath his mask, but at least he's got someone else who thinks he might be correct in his guess about who the culprit is.
"Wait, the one with the super brain is dead??" Airman blurts out, "Geez, let me know these things earlier. So.. Okay. One dead gorilla with a super brain. One living gorilla who was speaking but now isn't... And a score or more of other animals who went crazy but then went back to normal.." The Sentry hero lets out another slow breath, and the tell-tale click-clacking of a keyboard is the only sound that comes over the telephone for a moment. "Right. Yeah, get the security footage. I'm betting the majority of the animals were a diversion. Not sure about the gorillas - but Helix has done stuff like this before. Creates a big distraction and then slips in to grab what he wants in all of the confusion. When you're reviewing the tapes, pay attention to what's going on where the crazy animals *aren't*." Airman pauses another beat, and you can hear a light tapping, as if a finger on the handset. "Hey, if the zoo is on board, have the ship the gorilla body to Sentry labs. we've got the equipment to do a deep dive on whatever happened to it. Don't push hard though, if they don't want to release it, we can't force them."
"That's about it, Airman, I'll ask them about you guys getting the dead gorilla and the security footage," says Granite as he starts walking towards the main offices, where he assumes security to be. "I'll see if there's anything on it that looks suspicious wherever the animals aren't going nuts." There's a little break as he hops over some trash where one of the larger animals knocked stuff over. "We should try to keep each other in the loop with regards to this case. I'm pissed off I had to hurt some elephants. I'm halfway inclined to rip out Helix's lungs if I get my hands on him."
"Aw, geez," Airman answers, inhaling a little. "You had to hurt the elephants? Hope they're okay. That's like... Not the best press. Even if it is Helix's fault." Not that the airborne hero is telling Granite anything new, but, he just feels the need to repeat it. "Hope they're gonna be okay. But yeah, I get it. Helix is no pushover though. He's gotten the better of Beacon before, even. Like a bad fungus that just keeps growing back no matter how much bleach you use and how hard you scrub." A pause. "Okay, that analogy sounded better in my head. But... Yeah, you get the idea. We'll get him, we'll toss him in the Hole and make sure that we lose the key." Airman draws in another breath, and then seems to nod as he continues to speak. "Hey, thanks for giving us a ring, Granite. We'll definitely let you know what turns up on the autopsy of the gorilla if the zoo lets us do the research. You do the same for us with the security tapes and don't hesitate to call this line again if you run into anything else weird. Airman out." And with that, the line clicks off and Granite is left to begin the least glamorous but often most important part of a hero's duty - plain old gumshoe detective work and perseverance.