Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Ape-Man #0

The Ape-Man — who is he? What is he? The startling answers to these questions could be found, one night, in the laboratory of Dr. Raymond Carter.
On this fateful day, Dr. Carter stood alone in the office, brooding, his long shadow cast over the room as he faced the twilight outside his window. In his hand, he clutched a letter from the administration of the zoo that housed his lab. The zoo wants to see results! Raymond thought. My funding depends on it. The future of my research depends on it! If I am to save both, then I must succeed tonight!

Raymond Carter carelessly tossed the letter towards his desk and exited the room, bound for the test subject cages that lined the corridor outside his private lab. The familiar tread of his shoes on the tile floor signaled a chorus of chattering from the caged animals.

“Plato,” Raymond said, touching the bars of the cage holding his prized orangutan. Plato was suffering from hepatitis. “Johnson,” he said, reaching over to the cage of the strong, healthy, but troublesome gorilla in the next cage over. “Let’s see if my newest adjustments produce any results.”

Circling the cages to the entrance to the lab, Raymond unlocked this inner door, turned on the lights inside, and opened the back gate to Plato’s cage. He coaxed Plato with a banana onto the titled gurney that would be the receiving end of the ray. Plato was conditioned not to resist when being strapped down by being rewarded with food before and after. Johnson was more problematic; instead of being strapped down, Raymond had needed to devise a smaller cage that could hold Johnson in place while the ray was passing through him.

Unbeknownst to Dr. Raymond Carter, a man was at the back door to his lab — a man with sinister intent. He wore a jacket similar to the ones many employees of the zoo wore, similar enough to fool anyone who did not look too closely. He wore a cap on his head. Despite being a Caucasian male in just his 30s, this man had lived hard and his features were hard and deeply lined in his face.

Perfect, no one around, the Burglar thought to himself. The zoo must keep a lot of valuable stuff locked away in this lab. It’s late enough that no one should be inside, but not so late that I’ll arouse too much suspicion if I’m seen loading stuff into my truck by the loading bay. I’ll be outta here before anyone thinks to question me. He allowed himself a smile as he produced the lockpicks he would need to get inside.

Raymond began recording. “Experiment number 114…I have corrected the wavelength of the ray to compensate for the specific ratio of difference in body densities between my test subjects, which I am hoping is the missing component that has kept the ray from working so far. If successful, the ray will copy the physical traits from the first recipient of the ray and map, or overlay, these same traits onto the second recipient of the ray. In this way, a stronger animal might make a weaker animal stronger, a healthier animal make a sickly animal healthier…if I can someday adjust for specific traits, I can eliminate disease by mapping disease resistance, or perhaps even the absence of the disease, onto the second recipient. It is now…5:43 pm and I am activating the ray.”

A switch was thrown and electrodes crackled with fresh power. The ray projector hummed gradually louder. It was a necessarily large instrument, mounted to the floor on a heavy column that also held a large canister of radioactive chemical “soup”. The projector emitted pulsed charged particles in a beam, particles that had altered in the soup of Raymond’s devising. The beam, barely visible to the eye, was weak enough that it only irritated Johnson and made him rattle his cage bars, but the radioactive particles imprinted now with Johnson’s physical traits as passed through him and moved on to their next target, Plato. The particles should cause benign mutations immediately that would mimic Johnson’s physiology.  Only–

Nothing. Raymond checked and triple-checked his figures and the results of the machines monitoring all of Plato’s vital functions. Not even a fluctuation. He would draw blood to test still, plus tissue taken from other parts of the body, but it seemed like the results were exactly the same. The DNA was just too smart for him; it was not fooled into accepting the changes it was being offered.

Raymond was taking a blood sample from Plato when he heard noise from out in the hallway; something was upsetting the other animals. Curious, he walked with the syringe to the door as soon as he was done and opened it for a look. He was startled to see the shadow of a man moving towards him in the corridor, coming from the reception area! Raymond closed the door and listened through it, as he heard the man speak out loud.

“Shut up, you stupid monkeys!” the intruder shouted at the chattering animals. “If I can’t find something of value to grab in here, I’m taking all of you! Maybe there’s a black market for zoo animals…”

Raymond’s mind raced. He didn’t hear the door! Not over the apes in their cages. There was still a chance if he hurried, so he dropped the syringe and fumbled for his keys, then hurriedly put them in the door and locked himself in. Raymond stepped away from the door as he heard the doorknob jiggled from the other side. He held his breath, waiting to see if the intruder would try to break the door down, or shoot his way in, or…

There were footsteps barely audible in the corridor of the intruder walking away. Apparently he had decided to search elsewhere for easier loot, but would be back eventually for the valuable scientific equipment locked here in the lab. Raymond put his keys away and deeply regretted never having a telephone installed in the lab. He’ll be back soon, and I’ve no way to fight back as he takes everything I’ve worked for! The only one strong enough in this room to stop him is Johnson, but he has no intelligence to guide him. If–

That was when a crazy, desperate plan entered Raymond’s panicked brain. There was still time to try the ray one more time, but not on Plato…

In the minutes that followed — the Ape-Man was born! But was he a man made more like an ape, or an ape made more like a man? Follow the astonishing tales of his monthly adventures to find out!

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