1964-05-11 - The Loss of Innocence
Summary: Gorgon tries to save a nascent Inhuman from herself, her people, and his king.
Related: Lady In A Daze
Theme Song: Walk With Me - The Tea Party
gorgon vesper 

Feverish work takes place in the biology department at 100 Washington Square East. Rank on rank of laboratories hum with activity… but not on a Sunday night. Candles don't blaze late into the night here, so to speak. No one's burning the midnight oil except the janitors and desperate students. One researcher flouts the norms. She has been for hours. Hard evidence meets the eye, a door partly ajar to listen to the sound of hissing microtube plate coolers and the glass test tubes rattling in a thermal cycler. Another machine hums noisily. Disinfectants add a chemical stench to the air, a shelf of pipettes blasted by antibacterial solutions in the narrow sink along with a pile of abandoned droppers. The incubator is lit up with ultraviolet light, centrifuge in the next lab murmuring right along.

The one girl in a labcoat and gloves keeps flitting a well-worn path between them both.

There is coffee, a lot of it, confined to the far side of the room. Empty two white mugs are stacked up, rinsed off, waiting for the next pot. It may the second or the thirteenth she's had in the past few hours. Proofs are held up to a lightboard, showing very fuzzy images that make little sense to anyone. They're not even Mandelbrot style, black and white and smudgy from terrible resolution.

The busy worker bee in question has foregone sleep. Instead she is busy plugging together rubber balls and plastic sticks, like a child at play. Except these are anything but child's play. Connections are made and fastened together referring to a diagram, and one complete model stands in a twirling spiral with branches in between for her reference. Another is partially done, about eleven linkages high.


"You look like you've been at this for hours," says a voice from the door. Gorgon Petragon stands there, greatcoat and all, eyeing Vesper critically while she works. He half-mouthshrugs, frowning a bit and then shuffles carefully into the room, trying not to kick things or step on stuff.

"What's changed?' he asks shrewdly. "What happened?"


She is still linking together those spheres. They are perfectly round and sliced open, showing holes where the fine plastic straws or metal tubes might connect. The one she holds currently resembles a miniature black Sputnik, three rays sticking out from angles. Vesper squints at the diagram below her. Up on the ceiling strobe little stars from a rotating metal lamp responsible for keeping the illumination between dim and bright, better than the fluorescent lights buzzing overhead if she turned them on. Putting together another ball is difficult, especially when she stares at the model in progress.

"This makes no sense…" The sound of her voice aloud is a comfort over the machines, and probably thanks to the fact no one else has been around for hours. Except the cleaning staff, leaving her alone. And someone else. It's not the radio. She doesn't have the radio on.

Her head jerks up and she scoots back on her stool, the wheels screeching on linoleum. It's not her screeching though she holds out the model in front of her like a weapon. Moves damn fast, like an Olympic fencer waiting for the electric beep starting a match.

"«What? Who are you, why are you in my lab?»" French questions blitz from her lips, eyes wide and dark. It takes a moment to clue in who this is. Really.


Gorgon frowns again.

"It's me, Vesper," he replies. "Gorgon. We've already met a few times. We're family… of a sort." Then he lifts his chin. "Did you do as I suggested? How are the genetics tests coming along?" He then eyes the 'weapon' in the girl's hand and lets out a sigh.

"If you're planning on using that to try and hurt me… you're hold it it all wrong." A glance at her feet and he adds: "And you're standing wrong too. I can blow you over with a short cough. Put one foot back and keep your weight forward a bit more. Hold the… whatever that is in one hand and use your other for defense in case you need it. Oh, and mind the stuff behind you; you're about to trip over."


She's still on the stool, as a matter of fact, though the statement is enough to bring her standing in a moment. The carefully pieced together section of the model — three sticks, two balls, for anyone counting — is hastily put on the counter. Her labcoat flutters as Vesper puts her shoulders back, the table between the unexpected guest and herself. All the equipment is largely to the periphery of the room; coffee cups and sink and pipettes, workstation, cycler, incubators and reagent storage fridge.

"A golden man says I'm not human. Another man says he's my king," she says in rather brittle English. The French accent shows up heavily. It also suggests her intake of coffee, likely black, has been much too high for anyone. "Y-your family. You are s-s-some kind of p-prince too? He said y-you all were. And mine is guilty of treason for not being… in the city."


"Maximus…" the Inhuman mutters under his breath, and flexes his hands a little. "I swear one day…" It takes a moment or two, but the big fellow gets himself under control and takes a breath. When he next looks at Vesper, he is completely serious.

"I don't know any 'golden man', but he's right — you're not human. You are… like me. Inhuman. The man who claims to be your king… his name is Maximus, and he is my cousin. For a time… he was our king. Our true king is Blackagar Boltagon, Maximus' older brother. We are… part of the Family-Royal…"

At which point in the conversation, Gorgon sighs and undoes his coat. He isn't wearing trousers underneath it — just a loin cloth of sorts — and his legs are… noticeably NOT human at all. They bend the wrong way, are covered in shaggy russet hair…

And they have hooves.


"As I said — I'm Gorgon Petragon. I am Captain of the Royal Guard, protector in chief of the Family-Royal of the Inhumans… which, in a way, makes me your protector too, Vesper. Um… please don't run away or… scream…"


Seriousness meets jittery anxiety, probably no small amount of fear, and an equal amount of anger. All par for the course for someone's life turned upside down.

To her credit, she does not keel over and faint when the man starts undressing. Nope, though the scandal has her hiding further in the corner. "Un satyre?" Because this was not ever part of the explanation at all. Hooves. No horns. Maybe he runs with maenads, which would certainly explain Maximus.

Vesper's doe-dark eyes show far too much white to be safely healthy. Without those sunglasses, their contrast to her milk-white face is all the stronger. Who would even come if she screamed?

Clearly no one threw her through terrigenesis if her reaction is this off put. She reaches back and curls her fingers around the counter for support.

"None of this makes any sense." And yet it must, because the double-helix displayed on the table is not like the model she is building there, ever so slightly and obviously different. The developed images are not great quality but they show the sequence is not the same.


Gorgon pauses, and itches one calf with his other hoof for a moment. "Satyr… that's what some people have called me. I suppose so — but only in appearance." He moves about the room, stretching his legs here and there, and enjoying the chance to do so.

"All Inhumans start out looking like you do," he explains to Vesper — in the hope that this will calm her down. He does not approach her at all. for now. "We are — or were — basically human, until aliens manipulated our DNA. I think Maximus already told you that much. We each have… unique, latent abilities. Before I transformed, I too looked like you, Vesper. Human. Very different. This" and he rises to his full height. "Is who I truly am. Who you truly are… is inside you. Did Maximus as the 'golden man' explain why you get sick so easily?"


"My DNA is broken. Junk additions." She gestures lamely to the table. "You told me look. The golden man isn't one of you. A mutant? He said I did not have an X-gene. Whatever an X-gene is, he makes it sound like Planet X. So I went looking and there would be only one genetic variable repeated over and over for a flaw? Or a variable. There would be a marker. A single one by the way the golden man spoke — he's a medecin, he says, a doctor." The geneticist in Vesper is talking rather than the astronomer, the dreamer, the sick young woman who looks like she can keel over any time.

She hasn't coughed once talking to Gorgon.

"I've run tests. The results are like rubble. This is wrong. This here is wrong." Photographs and spectrographs are sitting on the light table, and then another, red ink and black ink circling some here and there. "It is not convincing. I've been sick since a child. This is evidence of that disease, surely. Even the doctor could not remove it from me. I'm always going to be sick."


"You are not broken," repeats the giant satyr-man. "But you are… not yet what you are meant to be. The transformation into our true selves requires a… catalyst — a substance called Terrigen. If you were exposed to it… you would Change."

He frowns.

"Not everyone is granted the honour," he goes on to explain, watching Vesper closely. "But you…" Gorgon takes a breath. "Before I left Attilan — our city — the Genetics Council, our current ruling body, gave me a list of Inhumans who… should be looked after, protected, and ultimately… be allowed to go through the Mists and Change. You were on the top of that list, Vesper."

Gorgon pauses again and then remarks:

"You're not coughing anymore…"


Vesper nods absently. Doubtful that she is missing anything, but she is tired and on her fourth wind. "Yes, the … Maximus was very clear on that. Also that my parents have much to answer for. Not living there in At-the city." Correcting herself after that stumble is not difficult. "If I am one of you. Your kind. I might not. I have never been well. Diseases can do things to the body. We do not understand what they can do to our genetic code, there may even be diseases that come from bad sequences. Things that replicate and go through life. But I don't know."

Her fingers pass down her face, running from brow to chin. Her breath slips in and out through her mouth once, an expression of raw exhaustion. "Nothing makes sense anymore. Aliens. Not aliens. Hidden city-states. I'm not even me anymore." Her mouth clamps down in a white line and her chin dips. What is she going to tell her distant family? What is she going to see in the mirror? Questions without answers.

"I don't see how you could know or why would it…" Another breath follows. "Nothing more valuable in me than anything out there. I'm not anyone. No great influence. I don't know kings."

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