07.28.3013: Theories
Summary: Helena and Devon get together to discuss some interesting correlations.
Date: 28 July 2013
Related: Decent, Part I, Decent, Part II, and Field Dissection
Devon Helena 

Helena's Lab
This lab can be adapted to serve a variety of purposes. It has a mandatory decontamination airlock that separates it from the central corridor. It is a simple rectangle in shape with no windows, and is usually used for short term projects. Soft lighting is provided from both the ceiling and floor tiles, and simple voice command can change the intensity of the illumination. Sterile, matte metal tables create workspace, and there is a wide variety of storage where equipment, and organic and inorganic materials can be kept. This lab, like any other in the Facilities, is closely monitored by security.
July 28, 3013

Devon Grantham nee Volen had submitted requested to speak with Helena after she uncovered that the Detrius woman was assisting in the investigation of the D-4 Incident. It was polite and professional, conveying that Devon had some questions about what the good Doctor had uncovered about D-4 while also saying she had a specimen for Helena look at. She needed a second opinion.

Now, the fellow Orellean walks through the corridors of the lab facilities on The Ring, carrying a rectangular metal case that looks similar to the one that organs are carried in for transplant. She is dressed in stark and sterile clothing, and her mass of freshly dyed cyan hair is piled up on her head to ensure that it stays out of her way. She heads toward the lab that Helena had directed her to, nodding to those she passes in the hall.

Not too long ago (perhaps a couple of days at most), the lab was a wasteland of mangled bodyparts, machinery, and more specimen jars than you could shake a stick at. With most of the preliminary examinations completed, however, the entire room has been returned to its mundane, pristine condition. In fact, its emptiness is a stark contrast to the neverending flurry of activity of the past few days.

Helena is seated on a stool at a lab table, and her tablet is laid out before her. A holographic projection of what look to be reports complete with photographs and charts stretch out along the table, and every so often the doctor taps to zoom in on some particular detail. She appears to be taking notes on her notes, which shouldn't surprise anyone who knows her.

Devon steps into the lab as she is expected, allowing the airlock barrier to do its job to ensure that she is not bringing any foreign agents with her. She pauses just within the lab, respecting the fact that she has stepped into someone's sacred domain. Her glass-colored eyes sweep over its details before they alight on the Detritus noblewoman. "Doctor Dalton?" She half-inquires as she steps forward to greet the woman.

The noisy airlock cycling through an newcomer is enough to call Helena's attention away from her work, and when she spies the unfamiliar face, she presses a button to close up her work. The projections vanish, and the tablet's surface goes dark. For a moment, the Doctor's eyes stare rather intently at Devon while the gears in her head churn until she arrives upon the thought that was eluding her. "Oh, Lady Devon," she greets in a half-surprised, half-relieved tone.

"I apologize for staring. I am not so used to hair quite that color," the good Doctor admits as she rises from her stool and approaches the woman in greeting. She holds out a hand to be shaken. "Doctor Helena Dalton, but you can just call me 'Doc'. I trust you are feeling fully recovered after your exposure? Come, have a seat. The chairs are hard, but at least we have them now. That requisition was a bigger bitch than it needed to be."

Devon actually smiles lightly at the comment about her hair, and her eyes take on a faint sunny lightness. "Get to know me better, and you will see all colors of the rainbow, Doc," she says as she steps forward to shake the hand, gripping gently before releasing. She steps forward to take a seat, pausing to set the transport container on a table. There is a genuine pause at the question before she offers her a small shake of her head. "I have not experienced what I did in D-4, no," she says, though there is a slight dodge in that tone that she cannot quite hide despite her best efforts. She sweeps down into the hard chair, but it does not seem to phase her all that much. "Thank you for agreeing to see me, though… I heard you were sent much of the samples we recovered from the mining facility."

Helena is astute; she has to be in her profession, in order to read between the lines of the things her patients say. Still, Devon is not her patient, so she chooses not to pursue that course at this time. She glances sidelong to the woman before taking a seat beside her, and this time the blonde's gaze dances rather eagerly toward the transport container. The glint of curiosity and excitement in her eyes is readable to pretty much anybody who isn't blind. "I was, and participated in the autopsies, too. I also obtained the medical reports of those present at D-4, but I regret I have been unable to look through them as of yet. Things are busy back home…"

For a moment, Helena's professional facade cracks, and the deep concern for her people is evident. It passes in a flash, however, and with a little shake of her head she returns her attention to the container. "I will admit, I was excited to read that you were bringing a specimen. It's like my birthday all over again. And it is from the facility, right? How did you come by it?"

"I heard that Detritus has a substancial number of Hostiles forces on its surface," Devon says as she draws out a handheld version of a tablet. "I am certain that the Light Temples are being safeguarded, as well as your people, Doctor… I have heard that the Lady Augusta is a fierce protector of the whole of Detritus." The comfort is genuine and honest. Then she flicks her fingertip across the surface until she draws up a stream of photos taken from the Black Wastes on Volkan. She waits a moment before handing the device to Helena. "I believe I might have found a connection between D-4 and a recent scouting mission on the Crescent. It is really just a hypothesis, but I can't seem to shake this feeling in my gut." The pictures are that of the precisely dissected bodies of Hostiles found on the Wastes, much of their cybernetics removed leaving the organic issue behind.

"We found these bodies a couple days ago. We have heard of the Hostiles cannibalizing their dead's cybernetics and organic tissue before, but it is usually an indelicate process. These dissections look as if they were done in a controlled, medical environment." She pauses.

"Indeed, Lady Dalton is fiercely protective of many things," Helena replies cryptically, offering Devon a smile of gratitude for the kind words. She allows silence to follow while the Grantham flips through photos, and then holds out her hand to accept them when the device is offered. A crease of concern appears between her eyebrows as she looks down, studying each photo intently and flipping back and forth through them multiple times.

She is silent even longer as Devon explains her hunch, and Helena nods her understanding and agreement. "Yes, you are right. These are rather meticulous…" Flip flip. Zoom in. Zoom out. Flip back. "No, this isn't the work of Hostiles. This looks to have been done by medical professionals, or at least those with some degree of training. The creatures you found in the mining facility were not so carefully engineered, however, so the same people could not have done it, but—what are you thinking, then, Lady Devon?"

"I think that this is the next phase," Devon tells Helena as she reaches for the container. "I think those in D-4 were merely prototypes of using Havenite cybernetic technology to emulate Hostiles." She pops open the container, the seals hissing as the pressure is released. Inside the transport container, wisps of frozen air curl out around the edges and dissipate to reveal two body parts. One is a thigh that has been severed at the knee and just below the femoral head. The other is a fingerless hand that once had cybernetic digits, but they have been removed. "I brought you these to examine, perhaps seeing if you could confirm my theory. Or perhaps see if you think there might be a way to figure out if this was done by someone from Haven." Both which might be hard to prove, but even a hint of that might be enough.

Helena is intent upon the case as Devon opens it, and she waits impatiently for the 'air' to dissipate before leaning over to peer down inside. To those unexperienced in studying body parts, it would probably be a repulsive sight, but for the doctor it is one of excitement and discovery. Immediately she fishes a pair of gloves from the pocket of her labcoat and snaps them onto her hands. "There were tools - implements - recovered from a fight. I remember reading about caged hostages somewhere, but I forget the location. If these still exist in some evidence drawer somewhere, it's possible to compare the edges of what they cut to the edges of these parts via microscopy. I am not much into forensics, though, so we will need to find an expert."

Using a single gloved finger, Helena lifts the fingerless hand up to peer at it from other angles. She does not remove either of the parts from their container just yet. "This is very, very interesting. And there were no cybernetics uncovered along with them? How many parts were there in all? Have they been identified yet?"

"That is where my resources end," Devon confesses. "I don't know a soul in the investigation field, though I'm sure we could find someone." She also dons a pair of gloves so that she may assist the doctor in the initial investigation. "If you look here," she says as she lifts the thigh to reveal the incisions from the top half of the limb. "They did not fully remove all the nerve sensors… it looks like one of them was accidentally severed." Then she shakes her head a bit. "We found more than three dozen pieces, but unfortunately we did not beat the buzzards to them. These were some of the most untouched pieces I was able to recover, but there are some that could have been completely consumed before we got there." Then she breathes out a bit of a sigh. "And there were some cybernetics still attached, but they seemed to be primarily facial or spinal units."

Helena scoots to the side a bit to allow Devon room to maneuver, and she places the hand back in the box as the Grantham turns over the thigh. One would think they are a couple of little girls playing with a macabre set of dolls with the way they handle the parts and discuss them so clinically. "I do see, yes, hmm… I wonder if they were in a hurry at some point." Frowning, she draws a finger alongside the incision, leaning in and squinting; Devon's words, howver, have her dropping back onto her stool and blinking.

"Facial and spinal units?" The gears begin turning rapidly, and she peels off her gloves before throwing them into a biohazard disposal bin. Movement is required for her to think, so she rises up from her seat and crosses the lab, turning to lean against a counter while crossing her arms over her chest. "Facial and spinal units, cybernetic fingers. The crude cybernetics of the mining facility workers. The even more crude genetic tinkering. Do you think they are trying to improve upon us? I mean, do you think whoever did this is looking to make some kind of, I dunno, next type of human?"

Devon provides the woman some space to do what she must to get her thoughts in order. She carefully rolls the thigh back over and gently close the box so that it may remain cool, which also gives her a few moments to consider Helena's words. She frowns a bit at the hypothesis, but she does not immediately dash it away. Instead she mulls it over, looking over the photos that she captured from the dump site. "Perhaps someone trying to improve upon Havenites to better fight the Hostiles? The closer we resemble our enemy, the better we can engage them?" Her frown deepens. "But if so, why hide such a measure? Shouldn't they just submit the premise to the Crown Council?"

"Submission to the Council is the right way to go about things, but a very time-consuming way. Lady Devon, you must admit that you've encountered the bureaucratic nonsense that is a stepping stone to achieveing, well, anything - right? Some people may not be keen on addressing the Crown time and time again as it passes through subcommittees, requires a lot of forms and literature reviews and approval from this person or that person to do this or that, but to get that approval you have to get this approval. It's exhausting. Someone might be in a hurry."

Helena pauses to consider this, mulling it over while running her fingertips along her lower lip. She snaps her fingers suddenly. "No, this premise would not meet with Council approval at all. I don't care how many human studies boards you go through or how many ethics discussions you have, the people simply won't allow for this level of modification only for the purpose of fighting Hostiles. Not when it hasn't been done before. Not when we cannot know the risks of such measures. Maybe that is why they never brought it forward."

"I should talk to Sir Anabethe Khournas about this House Lakaris," Devon says after a heartbeat. "The bodies were dumped on their lands… it could be that they are involved in this research somehow, or might know who might have wanted to place this evidence…" She reaches up to rub at the back of her neck as she considers the implications of this. Then she frowns.

"Helena," she says after a heartbeat. "If you needed willing test subjects for Hostile-inspired cybernetics, you would go out and find individuals who possessed a particular interest in that, wouldn't you?" She looks over toward the woman. "Not everyone is going to want to undergo gene therapy and cybernetic enhancements, but if you knew of groups of people who had a particular fondness for Hostiles…?"

"Oh, Sir Anabethe! I quite like her," Helena comments, allowing herself to wander off-topic for a moment as she conjures up a very amusing memory of the woman. Devon's question brings her back into the moment, however, and her smile dissipates rather quickly. "Or they might know who these people are. I'm assuming DNA samples have been collected and sent in for identification, yes? That might add another piece to the puzzle, or it might make the puzzle even more confusing." She scratches her head before flicking an errant bang out from in front of her eyes.

"If I were wanting willing test subjects, then yes, I would be selecting from a population of those interested in pursuing the study, but… The logistics seem impossible. How do you recruit and simultaneously keep quiet a group of people you are implanting with cybernetics? You would have to pick from the isolated, and perhaps the misunderstood - the ones who want to do this because they have nothing else going for them in their life. It's a bigthingand if you have to keep it secret, it means you have to be cut off from everyone you know. That isn't asking much if you don't know anybody, but if you have a family…" Helena shrugs her shoulders. "I don't know how fondness for Hostiles plays into it. Perhaps idolization of Hostiles is more appropriate."

Devon has to look a touch amused at Helena's comment, and she dryly replies that, "I think the only person in Haven who has no fondness for Anabethe is Lady Soleil Sauveur." Then she shakes her head a bit to clear her mind and get back on topic. "I believe samples have been sent, but I haven't gotten any results yet. I'm fairly certain that these remains are from Hostiles," she says after a moment. "And the Hostiles that came across us poking at their dead were quite upset to see them like this." Then she shakes her head a bit.

"I don't know… just a theory… if someone is trying to blend Havenites with Hostile cybernetics, you'd want people who are interested in the process… maybe… but I suppose it is just as easy as finding those who just don't care anymore." She glances at the case. "I can leave the specimens with you, if you like, to see what you can dig up. Would you be willing to maybe accompany me to the Lakaris lands for further field investigation?"

"The Hostiles were upset about something?" Helena's expression is one of extreme skepticism, but she allows Devon to maintain the idea that Hostiles have feelings; it is too foreign a concept for the Dalton to swallow whole. "I think these require some rather in-depth study. If someone is harvesting Hostiles, and that someone isn't part of the already established science teams, I shudder to think of the overall implications. You might be more right than either of us would like."

Helena sighs, shaking her head to dispel some of the gloom. The question gives her pause, and although it is obvious by her expression that Helena would not find a trip to Lakaris to be the highlight of her day, she also does not reject the request outright. "Well, I did tell Lord Nitrim that I would someday see more of his land. I find it rather harsh and unwelcoming, but he insists there is a beauty that I have yet to see. Hmph. We'll see. Yes, I will go with you. I just need some advance notice. Lady Dalton has me on assignment on Inculta, and it took a great deal of cajoling to be excused to tend to these studies. If she were any less of a Dalton, she would not allow the pursuit of scientific discovery to keep me from my post."

Devon frowns, and nods with Helena's words. "I would like very much to be wrong, Doc." There is a faint pause from the woman before she offers another nod of her cyan-dyed head. "I promise to make the trip as short as possible so it does not impede on your own assignments."

She starts to stand from her seat, but something stalls her from rising completely. She rests back once more to look at Helena, and it is obvious that she is working through her own thoughts before she speaks next. "Helena… the chemical toxin that induced our hallucinations… do you believe it is possible that even after exposure for an individual to still be experiencing sporatic hallucinations?"

Helena nods quietly to Devon, and when the woman begins to rise the doctor pushes away from the counter and proceeds toward the case. Her hands clasp its sides just as Devon sits down again, and the question causes the doctor to turn away from her task and study the Grantham intently. Now it is time to get to that other matter, it seems.

"It is possible if the chemical has not left your body entirely," Helena replies slowly, resting her backside against the table. She clasps the lip of it with her hands, elbows cocked, and gazes rather intently at Devon. "It is entirely possible that it still remains, and is still affecting those who were infected. Is anyone complaining of hallucinations? I haven't read the reports, and Lady Soleil hasn't indicated that she is feeling adversely affected. I am not her doctor, though. She may not have thought it crucial."

"I have," Devon answers the doctor's question after a heartbeat. "I have been seeing things… people specifically… who aren't really there." She rubs her palms nervously at her thighs as if they are damp with discomfort, and then she looks up toward Helena. "My hallucinations in D-4 were all strictly auditory, but ever since we got back, I have been experiencing visual hallucinations. They aren't as… violent… as they were in D-4. It is mostly just people, standing there, staring at me. Sometimes I recognize them, but sometimes they are complete strangers."

"Really?" Helena perks up, very interested in this information, and then moves over to settle onto her stool. She scoots it closer to Devon, leaning forward to rest her elbows on her knees and her chin atop clasped fingers in the classic 'tell me more' position. "Who was the doctor that examined you after you returned? Better yet, no, nevermind that. I have the reports, including the lab workups, toxicology, yadda yadda. Would you be willing to give me a blood sample for some preliminary study? If I don't find anything there, I might move on to scans." She pauses, reaching up to run her fingers over her lips. "Well, if you want me to, that is. If any of the others are experiencing the same, I'd like to know that too."

"I was examined by a physician on Ignis, and cleared from quarantine once the toxin was out of my system," Devon explains helpfully, and then she nods a bit at the request. "I wouldn't have told you if it also wasn't an invitation for you to help," she says after a moment. And then she shakes her head. "I don't know what the others have been experiencing after the incident. Sir Flint has been restless and insomniac, and I had him take some sleeping aids to just get him some rest. I have not spoken to Sir Johana or Sir Erik." And definitely not Nitrim nor Soleil.

Helena considers this for a moment as she rises from her stool and approaches a sidecounter equipped with cabinets and drawers. She pulls out a sterile oddly-shaped syringe that works as an automatic blood draw. "I'm sure you've done this many times, but I'm just going to take a small sample." Snap! On go the gloves before she holds out a hand for Devon to stretch out her arm. "I'll take your sample and run a comparative analysis. If I can't find anything, I might progress to full system scans. If there's nothing, or if there's something I can't puzzle through, I might ask the others involved to volunteer for this as well. In the meantime, I would you like you to start documenting when each of these occurs. I want to know the time of day, the specific location, what you see, any other symptoms you might be feeling or anything out of the ordinary, what you had to eat that day, and who you were with - if anybody."

Devon knows how to be a dutiful patient despite her years in medical training. Maybe because she never made it through her residency before Zayne died, so she never truly became a doctor, and that always seems to loom in the back of her mind as a failure on her part. But she does as requested, holding out her arm for the blood extraction. She is quiet during the process merely watching, but then she looks up to give a firm nod. "I will do so, Doc… I should tell you that I am Awakened… I'm not sure if that may have any… weight on your testing." She tightens her jaw just a bit before she finally releases a breath. "I should be getting back to Volkan… we will be in contact, yes?"

It takes no time at all to collect the sample, which Helena secures away for later testing after punching in the appropriate label; nobody wants a mix-up. "Awakened? That's good to know, although I will have found it in your report. Thank you for telling me, and thank you for coming to me. I may delegate some of the lab work to others, because my time is stretched between tasks, but I will get in touch with you as soon as I have any results. In the meantime, yes, we will be in contact. Notify me when you're ready for the field investigation, and let me know if you want me to bring anything extra." Helena pauses after disposing of her gloves, and she offers Devon a gentle smile. "Thank you, Lady Devon. I truly do mean it. Be well, and stay safe, and—congratulations."

Devon meets that gentle smile with one of her own, though it seems heavy if not a little wane. "Thank you," she says in regard to the congratulations, though there is something almost tired about those two words. "May They Guide You, Helena," she says now, knowing the Daltons are at least religious enough to appreciate the sentiment. Then she turns to make her exit, leaving behind her specimens in good hands.

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