2020-03-20: The Plot Thickens

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Featuring Fusion, Black Mamba
Rating PG-13
Synopsis Zara is tasked to do an autopsy on the corpse of the gorilla found at the Central Park Zoo incident. She uncovers the truth...!

A Few Days Ago:

Zara's expertise has been called upon today, that and the other scientists in Sentry Tower at least. There was an incident at the Central Park Zoo - one that saw local hero, Granite, having to step in and stop rampaging elephants, rhinos, and other things from doing harm to innocents (or each other). The exact reason for this rampage is still being investigated, though one bit of evidence is now laid out on the table before Zara and the other lab assistants.

On the slab is a very strange looking cadavar, a lowlands gorilla with a very large cranium that has been crushed multiple times. It's up to Zara and her crew of assistants to dissect the gorilla and unravel what happened. Of obvious thoughts is the enlarged head, as though evolution has been set in quick motion - a trait that the villain Dr. Helix might give.

One of the lab assistants, Ralph, has a fairly pale look to his skin as he clears his throat for the sixth time, and timidly glances at the crushed in skull, gets paler, to the point of being green, and clears his throat again.

Erana - for her part, is standing at the back out of the way, "You have all the fun jobs, Zara." She offers as encouragement.

Zara's lab is no cramped, claustrophobic examination room as might be found in the basement of an underfunded police department. Instead, she has a large, airy space fitted out with equipment that would put the most expensive private hospital or laboratory to shame - although currently it HAS been configured to better carry out a very specialised autopsy.

Zara herself looks about as professional as it's possible for a human-snake hybrid to look, complete with a lab coat that doesn't seem at all like an affectation. "I know, right?" She replies to Erana - and it sounds like she might actually mean it. "But if you want to take over..." She offers with a smirk, waggling a scalpel at Erana as if she expects the other woman to volunteer to take over.

"OK then." Zara's tone becomes brisk and professional. "Recording equipment on?" She asks, getting a nod of acknowledgement. "Everyone ready?" She asks, bright green gaze settling on each of her assistants in turn, lingering on the uncomfortable looking Ralph. "Anti-contamination protocols are now in effect." She says, after he doesn't take the easy way out. The air pressure in the lab changes as the room seals. Zara is taking no chances that anything released by what she's about to do will spread to the rest of the tower.

She gives everyone a moment to adjust, then slithers over to the table, and her patient. "Subject is a male lowland gorilla, approximately ten to fifteen years of age. Cause of death appears to be repeated blunt trauma to the head..." She pauses, glances over her shoulder at Ralph, and makes a quick decision. Taking a blood sample from the corpse she passes it to him. "Sequence the DNA for me, please." She asks politely, flicking her eyes toward Erana before returning her attention to the body.

For her part, Erana's quick to answer, "What, and take all the glory away from you? Never." The twist of a smirk is on her lips, though to her credit, she isn't leaving either. Mostly, Erana is there to help should things get dicey and the extra layer of protection that is in effect doesn't work, or something goes bad, or Erana is needed to - well, be Fusion. She's leaning against the closed door, both arms crossed over her chest, one leg crooked over the other, as comfortable as can be. Her gaze is on the gorilla, though, watching and waiting for Zara to begin.

Ralph, to his credit, doesn't take the easy way out, instead, the young intern just clears his throat again, taking a wise step back as other, more professional assistants step forward. As Zara speaks of blunt trauma and begins the autopsy, Ralph lets out a slight 'urp' sound, which stops him from immediately stepping forward to accept the task given to him. With a shake of his head, the intern does step up, however, collect the sample, and moves towards one of the large pieces of equipment, turning his back to the stench, to the autopsy, and more importantly, to the crushed in skull.

Erana does catch Zara's look, and just shrugs. Era's gaze flickers to Ralph, who does appear to be better suited for lab work, than autopsy. The other assistants are much more eager to get in and watch, a dark skinned woman in her mid-twenties inquires, "Zara - would the skull be weaker, due to the enlargment of the cranium?"

Zara is quite happy to have Erana in the room. She doesn't expect to be attacked by a zombie gorilla - but stranger things HAVE happened since she joined Sentry, and having Fusion's powers on hand to protect her lab assistants is a welcome reassurance.

Zara's eyes track the oddly bluish blood sample as Ralph retreats with it, and not only because she's a little concerned that he might drop it. But no, he seems steadier the further away he gets from the corpse on the table - and more importantly, less likely to contaminate the autopsy with vomit. She definitely needs to find him another line of research.

"Good question." Zara rotates smoothly on her tail toward the young woman with the far stronger stomach, an encouraging smile coming easily to her lips. "You might expect as much where a biological weapon has caused uncontrolled mutation, but..." She deftly snags some forceps and teases out a fragment of skull from the matted, crushed scalp of the gorilla. "...this seems to be more directed. There's no loss of skull thickness despite the increase in surface area. If this gorilla had lived I'd bet it would have been ravenous, bone and muscle doesn't get created out of nothing... and look at the neck muscles, they've bulked up to support the added weight. If they hadn't, the blunt force trauma wouldn't have been needed to kill him, his own skull would have broken his neck at the first hard jolt." She narrows her eyes thoughtfully, then turns her smile on the young woman again. "Why don't you remove the top of the skull and tell me what's happened to the brain, while I work on the chest cavity?" The young woman seems keen, and Zara wants to find out if she has the competence to match. With a gesture, she sends a recorder drone to hover at the young woman's shoulder, while she slides sideways, further down the body.

"I'm going to crack the chest cavity now." She says, for the record.

It would be a lie to say that Erana isn't fascinated by what is going on. The strange hue of the blood, alone, would be enough to draw attention, but the entire oddity of the gorilla's head draws Erana's curiousity. She's wise enough to stay away from machines, technology and Erana just don't seem to get along too well, but Erana does shift her weight some, adjusting her position so she can get a better view of what Zara and her assistant are doing.

As for Ralph, the machine he's at sings a song that the intern can't quite understand, thus, he continues to shift from one foot to the other. His gaze flickers from the readouts, to the sample, then to another computer, cross-referencing everything that he's seeing. His gaze flickers towards Zara, only to blanch uncontrollably as the dark-skinned assistant, Hana, eagerly, and carefully, begins to dissect the skull cavity - right within his view. Ralph turns back around, and begins running further tests.

Hana is calm and collected, working with careful skil to begin the skull. She speaks quietly to the drone next to her, so not to disrupt Zara. "Death was caused through repeated blunt force trauma, fracturing the side of the Parietal Bone and Occipital bone.." There's a pause, as Hana's brows furrow together. "Or at least, the gorilla version of those." She doesn't miss a beat, however, and continues. "The skull itself is vastly enlarged for a gorilla, the brain below is enormous, much larger than any lowland gorilla should ever be. It's like a fast forward in evolution.." She pauses, and turns her dark eyes onto Zara. "Have you ever seen anything like this before?"

When you can't see her lower half, Zara looks human enough. But she's really not. She can feel Ralph's eyes on her and her head turns smoothly, unblinking green eyes locking on to him. "How's it coming?" She asks, pleasantly, and the fact her tone's absolutely genuine probably doesn't make it any less unsettling as she swivels back to face the autopsy table.

Conversation has to cease for a period as Zara uses a compact electric saw to make short work of opening the deceased gorilla's rib-cage. Before she delves any deeper she shoots a furtive, sidelong glance at Hana, and is pleased to see her assistant rising to the challenge she's been set. Zara can sense the question coming, and intentionally doesn't get too much further into her own work before it's asked. "Let me see." She says, and leans across at an angle that would be impossible for a human with actual legs. She looks down at the exposed brain for several long seconds. "I have." She says at length. "Which means I know what I'm looking for. Good work. Keep cataloguing the areas of the brain that are showing the most over-development while I confirm."

Returning to her previous position, Zara surveys the gorilla's open chest cavity, before flicking her eyes up to Erana. "Well, what we goit here is what appears to be, anyway, a normal set of internal organs..." She needed the moment of levity, even if no-one else did. What she's seen inside the gorilla's skull has her on edge. The swift and professional examination of the lungs does nothing to put her at ease. "Step back, please." She says in a polite, but very firm tone, and doesn't move until everyone's done exactly that. Taking a scraping from the lung, she drops it into a test tube and adds a few drops of a colourless liquid, watching for a reaction. When nothing comes, she silently lets out a breath she'd been holding. "Inert." She confirms, putting that out there first. "This gorilla breathed in a mutagenic gas which caused the abnormal development you see here." She waves her free hand toward the gorilla's swollen cranium, even as she's taking another scraping and then moving off towards another bank of diagnostic equipment. "But it seems the effects aren't long lasting, which I hope we can all be thankful for." She grins, trying to keep everyone at their ease, since they're locked in with the stuff at present. Her new sample goes into the analyser. "This should only take a couple of minutes, then it's decontamination showers for everyone." The grin, again, possibly with a big of fang this time. She might be kidding.

"I.." Ralph begins. "It's.." He continues, then spills it out. "So, the DNA analysis shows that the genetic encoding triggers, and sequences are, well, they're like what Dr. Helix uses. Right?" The intern turns around, keeping his gaze on Zara entirely and not the cut-up corpse of the lowland gorilla. "But, they're not exactly the same. I analyzed it three different times just to be sure, and then I did this cross-reference here, see? See how this part here is different from that, I think Helix has either taken a lot of shortcuts, and gotten sloppy, or .. " And Ralph just lets it hang, his shoulders rising upwards. While the intern isn't good around autopsies..? He is a very bright and intelligent young man, which is exactly why he's Zara's assistant.

Hana continues to work with the skull and brain, carefully her gloved fingers remove the enlarged brain in its entirety, setting the item on a digital scale, talking as she goes. "The brain weight is equal to that of a human's brain, rather than one-third the size as is a normal Gorilla." She pauses, however, when Zara states to 'step back'.

It's Erana that's stepping forward, a faint glow surrounding her fists, if need be - if anything goes awry - well, that's why Erana /is/ there. Thankfully, however, the gas is inert, and Erana can step back again.

"Mutagenic gas, then it is Helix?" Erana's gaze flickers towards Ralph, then back to Zara. "Or..?"

With the sample of the mutagenic gas going through the analysis process, Zara slithers around to check over Ralph's work - not because she doesn't trust him, but because that's how they all keep from making errors. Even Zara's own work will be double checked later. No exceptions. "Hold that thought." She tells him as his analysis peters out, but she gives him an approving nod. She can definitely find somewhere else for him where his weak stomach won't be such a liability.

As if on cue, her own analysis station chimes, and she undulates back over to it, scrolling quickly through the results, eyes not blinking as they flicker across the raw data, her attention rapt. Another screen is brought into operation, old data scoured from the Sentry archives brought up and overlayed with the fresh results. A frown, a self-check of her own results, adjusting parameters to account for possible sample contamination, or degradation, and finally. "It's definitely 'or'." Zara says, giving the data a final once-over even after she's pronounced her verdict, before turning and leaning against the console, peeling off her gloves and folding her arms. "Either it's someone who found some of Helix's work and isn't //quite// smart enough to understand it... or it's someone smart enough to want us to //think// we're dealing with Helix. Either way, this isn't Helix's work." She glances at the corpse of the unfortunate gorilla. "I doubt whoever it is will be satisfied with just this field test."

Erana would do a complete facepalm about right now - if the idea of contaminated air, her hand, and hitting her face sounds unpleasant. Thus, and instead, Fusion can only wrinkle her nose upwards and make a face of scrunched up epic proportions.

"Fantastic. So let me get this straight. We have, perhaps, a Helix want-a-be, copy-cat, or someone who is wanting us to /think/ it's Helix." Erana pauses only a moment, before continuing, "Corrupting gorillas, a test? An experiment? Wasn't there some reptiles stolen, too?"

Hana has stepped back by this point, placing the brain of the gorilla in a chilled container - to be looked over by experts later. Ralph, at this point, is just happy to keep his gaze moving between Zara and Erana, and NOT looking at the corpse.

Shaking her head, Erana offers a fairly obvious next statement. "So, we'll probably see more of this, then. I'll alert the authorities, meanwhile see if you can figure out any identifying characteristics, or why they'd need reptiles." And with that, Erana turns and heads towards the decontamination chamber. "We should also let Granite know, he is the one that helped with this." And with that, Erana disappears into the chamber to be 'cleansed' from anything that even MIGHT have gotten on her clothing or skin.