The team arrives back at the Institute with the monkey corpses mid-afternoon, and moves the specimens up to the Ebola suite. Nancy Jaax finds a member of her staffed named Lieutenant Colonel Ron Trotter and tells him to put on a spacesuit so that they can go into the hot zone together. Nancy locks away her engagement ring and wedding band, puts on a scrub suit, enters a security code, and meets Trotter in the Level 3 area. Together they put on gloves and spacesuits and head to an airlock that leads to the outside world, where the monkey corpses are being kept. Back in Level 4, Nancy calms herself and begins the decontamination cycle. Afterwards she and Trotter place the bags in the refrigerator room, before taking one into the necropsy room, adding another pair of gloves, and inventorying their tools. At last they take the monkey out of the bag, and Nancy notes that its eyes are normal, rather than red or clouded.
The immense precautions taken by Ron Trotter and Nancy are contrasted with the lax conditions back at the monkey house. It is also notable that despite Nancy’s wealth of experience working in a spacesuit, she still feels nervous and apprehensive every time that she puts one on. Especially since her last “near miss,” she knows how easily the protection of her suit and gloves could become useless. Her fear is heightened, of course, by the fact that she’s not doing research now, but rather is investigating the potential outbreak of a deadly virus. Despite all these factors, her ability to calm herself shows her experience, skill, and bravery.
Preston takes a moment to note that when most organisms die, they are never able to come back to life. Viruses, however, can “go dead” only to reawaken when they come into contact with living cells. Therefore, although the virus within the monkey is currently dormant, it could come alive once again if it touched living cells (such as Nancy’s cells).
Preston takes a moment to once again highlight the power of viruses, and to remind us how easily someone could be infected at any time. Although Nancy and Ron have taken every precaution available, they are still putting their lives in danger.
Nancy cuts into the monkey’s abdomen. Although the spleen is hard and enlarged, the monkey has no lesions, nor does it appear to have bled excessively. She does find bleeding spots between the stomach and small intestines, but simian hemorrhagic fever could also have caused this, so Nancy is unable to confirm the presence of Ebola. Next she cuts wedges of liver out of the monkey and presses them onto slides in order to study them later. She works slowly, rinsing her gloves multiple times in decontaminant, and changes the gloves often. As she works, Nancy wonders whether the monkey has Ebola at all, and contemplates the complexity of nature.
The mystery of the illness in the monkey house only deepens in this passage. By now the readers, like Nancy, are familiar enough with the symptoms of Ebola to realize that this monkey is not displaying many of them. Both Preston and Nancy note that nature is a complex and mysterious force, and often works in ways that humans simply cannot understand.