Day 042: Reaper Science
Summary: Morgan, Britt and Benning discuss the Reaper studies and the ethics involved.
Date: 7/10/16
Related: Gone A Reaping
Morgan Britt Benning 

Outside the Gates

There are two sets of gates at the front of the Skaikru encampment, both overseen by the giant arch of Alpha Station's ring. The inner gates are a collection of metal plates making a solid portal that can be swung open to clear the road in and out of the camp. Ten meters further out is a wire gate, connected to an electrified fence. The gate too carries current, except when it has to be opened or closed. Above this exterior gate hangs a metal plate, letters punched out of it to spell 'Camp Jaha.'

Outside the wire fence, a rolling meadow and several stands of young alder lead down to a small stream and then the shores of Lake Arkadia — or Lake Audo to the Trikru. A small range of mountains rises to the west, in the depths of thick forest.

IC date of RP

Britt has not set foot inside Camp Jaha since the unfortunate incident with the pissed-off father of Not-Beatrice. So when she had the inclination to speak to Morgan, she asked one of the gate guards to relay a message. And so through some form of whisper-down-the-lane, Morgan would have gotten word that the old red-haired Grounder was asking for him at the gate. She waits patiently outside, a contemplative frown on her face.

Eventually, Morgan does get the message and briefly considers whether he want to bother or not. Still, that she actually asked for him says something. What, he's not sure. But something. The gate opens enough for him to step out and he looks around as it closes behind him. Spotting Britt, he walks over, nodding a polite greeting. "Heya."

"Morgan kom Skaikru," Britt offers in greeting. Polite enough, but not warm. "I wondered if you'd come," she observes, mouth twisting in a wry smirk that suggests she wouldn't have blamed him if he didn't. She gives a slight jerk of her head to the side, inviting him to walk with her a little bit away so they aren't talking right in front of the gate. "I want to know why you want a living Reaper for your science. And do us both a favor … try not to sound as though you're talking to a simpleton." A pointed arch of her eyebrows there.

Benning is passing by the gate, and notices Britt as she makes her way through the camp outside. She starts to make her way over, curious to see if Morgan has any news on the Reapers that they brought back. She knows based on what was said last night that it's unlikely but the girl does have to satisfy her curiousity.

Morgan nods, moving off to the side. At the question, he gives Britt a considering look though he can't help the way his lips twitch a bit at the addition. "I'll try." he decides. "Though I don't know how successful I'll be since I don't know how much medicine and science your people, and you specifically, know. And I don't mean treating wounds which I know you're very good at." he adds, giving Benning a smile when he spots her coming over. "So I'll start with basics and you can tell me if it's too basic."

Britt offers a nod in greeting to Benning, then returns her attention to Morgan. "Go on," she says, nodding her acceptance of his approach.

Benning gives a nod to Morgan as an encouragement. She also wants to know and is willing to listen. While she is not a healer, she grew up around her father that healed others.

"So. We were told that, for some unknown reasons, some Trikru become Reapers. Which leads to the question, why?" Morgan says, including Benning in the discussion with a look. "There's always an answer to why. Always. We can't always figure out what it is but there always is one. So lets look at what a Reaper is. Bestial. Cannibalistic. Could the cause be mental and or emotional? Some kind of stress or non-physical trauma? Possible. Except it happens to too many of you in exactly the same way for that to really make sense. So we can probably rule that out. That leaves us physical causes."

Britt nods briskly. Not happy, really, but like Benning - she's willing to listen. "Yes. We know it must be some kind of sickness, but not the cause. There are many kinds of sickness," she points out mildly.

"Physical? You mean like the acid fog around the mountain? There is something that we eat or drink that turns us into Reapers?" Benning asks for while she might not be a healer, she knows how to live in the forest. There are some berries that Trikru know not to eat because it brings death. Just like there are some places where the water is fouled and one does not drink or they get sick.

Morgan pauses to see if they're following, nodding at the comment but then pointing to Benning. "Exactly. Not that I'm saying that's what's happening but it's certainly a possibility. The first step in determining a cause is to examine someone affected by it. That's why I brought back the first Reaper for an autopsy." Pause. "That means we cut the body open and examine all of its organs. We look for obvious damage, differences in size and weight, things that are present that should not be. One thing in particular we were looking for was a foreign organism. A parasite. That could certainly explain things. We didn't find one."

"A parasite?" Benning murmurs, thinking of the time a girl in the village had a worm that crawled under her skin and had to have it treated by her father. She gives a nod as he mentions that's not the problem. She is a bit leery about cutting into the dead to look at their parts but then she is not a healer or a doctor. That step seems very invasive…but then the Reaper was dead so it was just something that needed to be removed. She does her best to stay with the story.

"Which we didn't find." Morgan repeats so that's quite clear. "Generally speaking, the major organs in the body were all within tolerances. The heart, lungs, stomach, etc none of them showed outright changes that would account for what happened. When we opened its skull though…" He looks at the two women, in full lecture mode. "The brain is composed of several different parts that formed over the many millions of years that it took us to evolve. Different lobes are focused on different things. Reasoning for instance. Speech. Art. What we saw in the Reaper was that most of its brain was degenerating. Atrophied. All the parts devoted to higher brain functions were affected. Conversely, the brain stem was larger than normal. It's often called the hindbrain or the Reptile Brain. That controls the most basic functions of the body. The automatic ones such as regulating the beating of your heart. It's also where a lot of the more primitive survival instincts can be found, hence its name. Whatever happens to Reapers, it's enhancing our primitive aspects while deadening the reasoning processes."

"So they get a sickness of the mind?" Benning is still following at this point, even though some of the jargon is going over her head. She can relate to the idea that Reapers have a sickness of the mind that stops them from being able to reason, and it makes them more violent, "I have seen animals get bitten by others that are foaming of the mouth and lose their mind. These are very dangerous and have to be put down." She pauses and then asks, "Did the Reapers get bit by something that made them get this brain sickness?" Britt and Benning are standing right outside the gate, talking to Morgan who seems to be giving them a lesson on biology.

Britt has been listening quietly this whole time, a thoughtful frown on her face. When Benning makes a parallel to the rabid animals, she nods. "We know that someone doesn't just wake up one day a Reaper. It happens to those who are taken by Reapers, but not those who fight them. Even those bitten. There have also been some who just never returned, but who knows - perhaps they were taken by Reapers too."

Morgan actually beams at Benning. Excellent student! "Rabies, yes. I've read about that. It's an interesting disease. The effects are certainly similar. But to set aside your question for a moment… So we've discovered why this Reaper acted like it did. We can assume that it's common to them all but that really needs confirmation. Which is why we brought back two more bodies." Another pause to make sure they're both following still but Britt's comment brings him to a full halt. "Wait. Taken by Reapers? Do you mean that the Reapers sometimes raid villages or ambush people outside of them with the specific intention of capturing them and not killing them?"

Benning nods at Britt's words, "Yes, we have seen our warriors bitten by the Reapers but they have not gotten sick from it." So it's not rabies. She doesn't know how Reapers behave outside of her two encounters so she looks to Britt to answer Morgan's question, "I do not know Morgan…I have only fought the Reapers twice and both times all they tried to do was kill."

Britt nods gravely to Morgan. "I don't know that they raid specifically to capture people, but they do take prisoners sometimes. And sometimes there are those who disappear in the forest. Signs of Reapers, but no bodies found." Her mouth tightens there. Benning, at least, may know that to be the fate of Nava, Veks' sister, who was like a niece to Britt. "Some of those taken become Reapers. Others, I presume, become food." But all that is a very uncomfortable subject for her, so she shifts the question back around. "I already knew of your intent to study how the Reapers become such. None of this tells me why you want a living one."

New information! Important information. Moving on. "Getting there." Morgan assures Britt. "You need to understand the scientific method and how it works so you have an idea of how we do things. Not the Skaikru specifically but scientists and doctors. So now we have two more Reapers to compare the first one to. And I specifically brought the most and least bestial of the ones we encountered to see if there's a difference in how much their brains have changed. Looking for physical signs is only one part of an autopsy though. You know that all parts of your body are alive right? Not just as a whole but the flesh, the bone, etc are all alive. Flesh for instance grow new cells which is how wounds heal. The body is made up of cells, much smaller than anyone can see with just their eyes. With a tool, we can look at them and see if there's anything unusual about them. We also take a blood sample and analyze it to see if there's anything unusual in it. But what is unusual? You and me, we're going to be mostly the same since it was only a hundred years ago that we diverged and that's too short a time to make major changes. Except you were down here on the ground subject to lots of radiation and we were in space where out geneticists made deliberate changes. So we need Trikru blood to compare to Reaper blood and see what's different."

Benning is starting to lose her grip on what Morgan is telling them but still understands that he wants to understand how Reapers look different on the inside from when they are Trikru, "I think I might understand. You are trying to understand differences. But what can a live Reaper do that a dead one does not?"

Britt nods as she listens to Morgan. "Yes. You know, Morgan, some of my grandparents were alive at the time of the dark war," she points out flatly. "Our ways are different, but we are not so backward that we have forgotten all knowledge in so short a time." At least, not all of them have.

"Almost there." Morgan tells Benning and nods to Britt. "Yes, a hundred years is not that long. Some of us and some of you might even be related, not that there's a way to tell without genetic testing. So, getting back to the Reapers. When we took blood from the first one and analyzed it, we found something unusual. Something that we think shouldn't be there. But maybe it should be. So we took more blood from other Reapers to see if they all have it in their blood. And we took blood from normal Trikru to see if they have it in their blood. We don't think so but it's possible, because of all those changes. Those samples are being analyzed as we speak. And if it turns out that this thing is not in normal Trikru blood but is in all Reaper blood, that's important. Does it mean that's what's causing Trikru to become Reapers? Not necessarily. We'd need to give it to someone to see what happens and we're obviously not going to do that." he's quick to add. "But what if we can make something to neutralize it in the blood of a live Reaper?" he asks, finally answering the intial question. "It almost certainly won't reverse the damage to the brain. But in a Reaper where the damage isn't very extensive yet, would they calm down and be able to think again, within the limits of the brain damage? And that's what we want a live Reaper for. It might not be too late for those recently changed."

Benning listens quietly as he continues his explanation. When he notes that he found something in the blood, she gets a hopeful look. Their healers can not look at cells nor have equipment to view the body at the level that he's describing. She looks to Britt, "The Skaikru might be able to save those recently turned?" She knows this would be very valuable to the Trikru who have lost many to the mind sickness, "Wold you also know how to prevents…what is causing the mind sickness in Reapers to occur?"

Britt offers another nod to Morgan. Then she asks gravely, "Here is my question for you, though, Morgan kom Skaikru: These are people who have been given over into madness. They have murdered their own. They have become cannibals and committed unspeakable acts of cruelty." The tension on her face is evidence enough of just how horrible the aftermath of some of those acts were. "Even if you could 'cure' them, which still sounds fantastical to me, what makes you think you should? What makes you think they would want you to? Or that they would be accepted back to the clan if you did, after what they've done?"

"Knowing what's in their blood that's causing them to turn into Reapers doesn't tell us how it got there in the first place." Morgan says to Benning. That's an entirely separate question. "It'll take more research." As for Britt's question… It's interesting. "Nothing they've done was their fault. They shouldn't be blamed for what they had no control over. As to whether they would want to be cured, is that for anyone to decide other than them? They could always kill themselves if they found it unbearable but that would be their own decision. But it's also certainly possible that they've yet to kill someone. I would not try to cure one who had been a Reaper a long time. The damage to their brains would be too great. But the ones with the best chance of recovering are also the ones who've been Reapers the least amount of time and so have, logically, also done the fewest unspeakable acts. It is not outside the realm of possibility that we could find one of your people who was taken mere days before and are still changing. They must be camped somewhere."

Benning doesn't know what to say. Both Britt and Morgan have a point. She knows her people would still want the Reaper Cured to pay for his or her crimes against their people. There is nothing in their justice that allows for one to be forgiven for dishonoring themselves and hurting their people. But if Morgan says it is not their fault…she just shakes her head and looks on with sad eyes, "It would not matter if they do not have control. Blood must have blood." They would probably be killed even if they were cured.

Britt gestures towards Benning's point, nodding her agreement. "They are responsible, whether they chose it or not. And anyway, how would you tell the difference? There is no way by looking to see how long they've been a Reaper." Or so Britt believes. She's hardly a Reaper authority here, though she does have a lot of experience. "They mostly keep to the tunnels, when they're not out raiding. But to go there is to court death, or worse. At any rate, you're right… such a decision is not up to me. It should fall to the kruheda or the heda to decide whether such a thing should be allowed." Britt frowns then takes a breath. "But let's say one of them should agree." She sounds doubtful, her tone very much a 'for the sake of argument' sort of thing. "I still think it's madness to bring one back here to your camp. A monster has no place among innocents. But I was thinking…" And probably this is what brought her to seek out Morgan in the first place. "You could hold them elsewhere. Perhaps at the skaigeda. That way, if something did go wrong, fewer would suffer the consequences."

Morgan frowns over at Benning. "Blood must have blood." he agrees. "But… the blood of someone innocent does not do anything to balance the scales. In any case, it is possible to examine the brain of someone living. We should be able to determine how advance the degeneration of their brain is." Pause. "The… tunnels? Which tunnels would those be?" Reaching up, he runs his hand over his hair as he considers the other points. "Just because you know how to do something, that doesn't mean you ever will do it. Refusing to learn to do something guarantees you won't. It is worth finding out if it can be done and with what effect on the Reaper. Then, should we ever come across one of your people who is still in the process of changing, we can cure him before he can do anything he would be killed for. Even if we save only one person ever, isn't that worth the effort?" He shrugs. "We'd need to be able to observe the Reaper through all stages of what was happening to it. We'd need to take samples and use our instruments. We couldn't do that at the ship. We do have restraints though that it would not be able to break and a place to put it that it couldn't escape from."

Benning shakes her head, very uncertain, "You have families here Morgan…innocents that will suffer if you are wrong." She does want to figure a way to help those that have been taken but not at the expense of other lives, "You do not know the strength these Reapers have. It takes many of us just to take one down. And yes, their fight went well the other night but that was because the warriors didn't hestitate to kill." She's runs her fingers through her hair in frustration, knowing if she is in this much conflict it will not be easier with others that have even less tolerance than herself, "Have you talked with Arlin kom Trikru on this?" If he could be swayed then others might agree.

Britt shakes her head in mild disagreement with Morgan's point. "The blood is on their hands, and that makes them very much not innocent. And no, it may not be worth the effort," Britt says flatly. "As Benning says, you cannot guarantee that it would not escape, either here or on the way back. And if we risk five warriors on a hunting party for the chance of taking one alive, who may help you create a cure, which may someday help one who is not too far gone… no, that is very far from an obvious choice. But," and here her tone eases slightly. "The choice is not mine to make. I will speak with the kruheda about it. If those are her wishes, then we will get you a Reaper."

"Arlin. He's the one who punched Grey at Coesbur, while he was carrying the very injured Asher and made him drop him?" Morgan asks. Yes, that's the one. "No." And not likely to. "We have our own warriors Britt." he reminds the woman. "They're perfectly able to keep one extremely strong Reaper confined and kill it if it breaks out. No matter how dangerous they are, they're not bullet proof."

Benning is done arguing on the matter and tells Morgan, "Britt will take this to the kruheda. There is nothing more to be said until decisions have been made." She pauses and then reaches out to touch his shoulder, "Thank you Morgan kom Skaikru for trying to help. Just understand your ways are not ours. And while we wish for there to be a cure to those that have been taken, we must think of those that are with us now." Survival of the fittest. Those that can not keep up get left behind. It is hard this life but it is how they have survived down here.

Britt gives a non-committal hmmf to Morgan's response. "We'll see." She doesn't comment on the matter of Arlin, though there is a slight narrowing of her eyes to that. She nods her support of Benning's words, then says by way of excusing herself. "Good day, Morgan kom Skaikru."

Well, at least they've advanced beyond it being a fairy tale. Morgan nods to them. "Once we know more, we'll be telling Kane who, no doubt, will be wanting to talk to Indra about it so she'll be getting as much information as we know, once we know it. Anything else you need, let me know. Helping each other is pretty much the point to all this."

Benning nods at his words and pats his shoulder, "Yes…allies help each other." She makes a point of saying that because there is still debate on whether or not they are allies. But she does not wish to have any further arguments. This is a good point for her and Britt to leave. She starts to step away and looks to Britt to see if she's coming.

Britt offers a dubious look to Benning at the idea that they're allies, but says nothing. She inclines her head to Morgan neutrally and then starts walking off with Benning.

Yes, they do. Which will hopefully be the end result of it all. As the two head back to the Trikru camp, Morgan turns back to the gate. There's work to do and reports to file.

Benning is silent as they walk away from the main gates of the Skaikru. She waits until they reach the grassy hills, "I do not think them allies Britt…but I do hope that the skaiheada and our heda find an understanding. Not for me of course but for Gideon." Because her errant sister has fallen for one of the Skaikru and if their people go to war then it will tear her sister's loyalties and based on her last actions, Benning has no doubt her sister will choose her mate over her people, "It will make things easier…"

"No, we are not allies," Britt agrees flatly. "But I do hope for peace, same as you. We'll see what the kruheda says." She lets out a sigh, and then slants the younger woman a look. "I think you missed your calling as a warrior, Benning. You've done well against the Reapers." The compliment isn't overly gushy, but a simple statement of fact.

Benning finds herself smiling at the compliment, unable to hide her pleasure at the acknowledge, "I wanted to be one Britt…I very much wanted to follow in my mother's and sister's footsteps but…" She motions to her smaller, weaker form, "I could not keep up as a child. Yes…the bow has always been mine but the other areas…" The more physical ones, "I failed time and time again even though I pushed myself." She looks out on the lake, "It was why my father had me apprentice. He did not see my potential." None of her family has seen her more than the runt, the little one to be protected. Sometimes it bothers Benning, just how others try to protect her like a child.

Britt shakes her head. "Size is not as important as spirit," she declares. "I will not speak ill of your parents, though." But the implication is hopefully obvious in her tone and grim frown that she doesn't really approve of their decision.

"They looked at Gideon and saw their ideal. I was a sickly child and something they tried to protect," Benning does not hate her parents for their overprotectiveness but it has made life more difficult. Now that she is nineteen, has her own craft and own home…or at least she did before the Coesbur was destroyed, "But I grew and practiced and their vision of me did not." It is not something she dwells on much, "So…while I am not a scout or warrior, I will lend my bow and my tracking skills when it is needed and wanted."

Britt nods thoughtfully as they walk along, looking out at the lake. "Well, they are both welcomed. And I don't know… it's not impossible to seek a different path, if someone would take you as Second. You are your own woman now."

"I don't know Britt, I suppose I could if one was willing. The only warrior I've known to accept me for more than what I am is Wren and he already has a Second," Benning tells her, shaking her head as she thinks on what he's gotten himself into, "And it would also mean leaving Starling…and there is peace in me when I craft. A joy that is given when I make the arrows and bows that warriors use. If I could…I would split myself in two so I could go, protect my people and still practice my craft."

"The only one?" Britt challenges mildly, eyebrows arched in amusement. What is she, chopped liver? "But yes, I understand - you've worked hard at your craft, and you are a valuable part of the clan for it."

Benning sees the look and apologizes, "I am sorry Britt, I am not giving you enough credit." She gives her a smile, "And I love creating Britt, more so than destroying our enemies. I do not think my heart would enjoy battle." She is one that seeks peace more than war, "Also, you ride with Arlin kom Trikru and I find that man way too distracting." She gives a laugh, "I would anger you greatly because you would be giving me instruction and I would be staring at him."

Britt shakes her head, her mouth tightening into a sad line as she continues to gaze out at the lake. "I could not take you as Second, Benning, but it is not because you are unworthy." Some of the sadness is evident in her voice, though, and in her eyes when she turns back to Benning. She smirks, though. "Arlin? Well he has that effect on some."

"Yes he does," Benning tells her and there's clear appreciation in her voice, "I am not saying that I would want him to share my fire every night but a night. Or maybe two." She chuckles as she muses about that man's form, "I have a feeling her would be perfect for such a thing." Arlin has not struck her as someone that is seeking a Niron.

The smirk persists. "Well, he's good for that much, at least, to hear him tell it." Britt shakes her head, bemused. "You should ask him, if it suits you. Just don't set your heart on him."

Benning laughs, "I don't have my heart on any man. I have only seen nineteen summers and that is too soon to tie myself to hearth and home." She nods to herself when Britt gives her the encouragement to pursue Arlin for the night, "I think I will." She looks at on the lake again, "If anything, it will show me if his talk is more than just talk."

Britt chuckles softly. Then she gestures back toward the camp, "I'm going to go try and find the kruheda. Good luck with Arlin."

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