Athena-1, a research space station owned by gene manipulation company Energyne, is destroyed after a laboratory rat mutates and wreaks havoc. A crew member, Dr. Kerry Atkins, is ordered to retrieve research canisters containing a pathogen by CEO Claire Wyden. Atkins is able to flee in the escape pod, but it disintegrates upon reentry, killing her and leaving a trail of debris across the United States, including the Everglades, where a canister is consumed by an American crocodile, and a forest in Wyoming, where a gray wolf is exposed to the pathogen. Primatologist Davis Okoye, a former US Army Special Forces soldier and member of an anti-poaching unit, is a primatologist in a San Diego wildlife preserve. He befriends a rare albino gorilla named George, whom he saved from poachers. One night, as Davis drives home from work, one of the canisters crash lands in George's habitat. George is exposed to the pathogen when he checks it out.