Chronicles of Chiron: Defragging Data Haven | Scene 5

Cleve wakes up before first light to the buzzing of an alarm set to vibrate. It’s an old habit from missions out in the open where loud sounds could give away his position to the enemy or to prey. Today’s prey is bush bugs, and Chloe’s already at the elevator when he reaches it. Her outfit is an unusual camouflage of reds and greens, but on this planet it makes perfect sense. She looks Cleve up and down and gives a swift nod. “You have your rifle. Good.” Then she reminds him, “We need to be fast. Speed is key. We can’t wait hours for prey to come. The air itself is toxic, remember?”

“Fair,” Cleve acknowledges. “Traps?”

“If you want to try to set up a trap line, you could,” Chloe says, but her tone expresses little confidence in the idea.

“Then you could just go, check the traps, and be done,” Cleve explains. It’s a style of hunting that would limit personal exposure to the elements.

“Do you have a trap set on hand?”

Cleve did pack one back on Earth, but it has since disappeared like so much of his other gear. “Yeah, I had one when I started this trip, but I lost it.”

When the elevator reaches the surface and opens to the Chiron pre-dawn, a tangle of knotted rope and thin wires sits in the clearing. “Is this a joke?” Chloe demands, annoyed.

Cleve picks through the pile. It definitely looks like his. “No,” he says gruffly. “I haven’t seen this since I woke up. Who would play a joke like that?”

Chloe is taken aback by his manner. “Fine,” she snaps back. “Carry the trap yourself. We’ll see who gets the most bush bugs.”

“Fair,” Cleve says shortly. Let her be like that if she wants.

Chloe’s eyes narrow. “Well, good luck.” She picks a direction and marches off, leaving Cleve to figure out bush bug snaring on his own. Cleve isn’t the sentimental type; he lets her go and stalks off in a different direction. Any chance of cooperation between Data Haven’s only two survivalists evaporates.

Cleve was not really prepared to conduct this hunt all on his own; he has never seen a living bush bug and doesn’t even know what they eat. He starts from basics, looking for tracks that fit the creature he saw in a drawing and on a plate. He needs to learn this new bushcraft if he’s going to be of any use to the fledgling colony. The morning is trying, and he gets scratched up by thorns while passing through a xenofungus thicket. His luck holds out as far as miasma goes, though, as the air remains clear. He lays out his traps around what he suspects to be a bush bug nest. Without knowing what they eat, he can’t bait the traps well, but he can at least position them where the bugs might travel. These are to restrain, not kill. If he can catch a couple of them alive, he can try his hand at some insect husbandry. Then he really will need to know what they eat. It would solve multiple problems if that turns out to be xenofungus. He’ll need to consult an expert when he gets back to Data Haven. Probably should have done that before today’s hunt, he reflects glumly, disappointed in himself.

Cleve spends a while hiding near his snares, wondering about what Earth livestock could digest xenofungus. Probably sheep. Almost certainly goats. During this time, he hears some gunshots off in the distance from Chloe’s less stealthy hunting. After a couple watchful but fruitless hours, he decides he would be better served just checking the trap tomorrow. He has no idea what he’ll end up catching. Hopefully something edible. Watch it be wolf beetles, and then Cor will want my head, he thinks ruefully.

When he returns to Data Haven, there’s a terse note for him at the elevator. Chloe got back an hour ago with a bush bug. “Let’s compare. –C,” the message ends. Cleve stuffs the paper in his bag and heads inside.

He finds Chloe not far from the entrance. “Empty-handed,” she observes.

“Traps set,” he replies.

“Is it going to be sprung by dinner time?” Chloe baits him.

“How do you think traps work?” Cleve snaps back. “You know this concept, right?”

Chloe leaves those questions of her competency unaddressed. “Well, let’s hope it worked. How did you find bush bugs?”

“I followed their sign.”

Chloe starts down the corridor, but then pauses and volunteers, “They don’t like xenofungus.” She resumes walking. 

Cleve realizes Chloe has tried trapping before and with some of the approaches he considered. That would have been good to know earlier, if he hadn’t ticked her off. He does not care about being liked, but he does care about making this colony more viable and learning what he needs to know to succeed in this new type of wilderness. “Hey!” he calls after her. Chloe stops again, and he tenders an apology. “Yeah, sorry for my tone earlier. I was being a jerk.”

“Little bit, yup,” she agrees. Then she continues, now encouraging instead of critical, “Check your trap tomorrow?” She gives a slight tip of the head to invite him to accompany her down the hall.

“Yeah, tomorrow. We’ll see what I catch.”

“And I can show you a better hunting spot, maybe.” They enter her chilly workroom, and she starts preparing the bush bug she caught today. Refrigeration units line the walls here, some of which she has to share with scientific experiments and low-temperature machinery. “Any thoughts on processing bug fur?” she asks. 

Cleve takes his first close look at a freshly killed bush bug. The fur grows out of the chitin. If shaved off, it could be used for padding of some kind. That’s what they did with inferior wool back on his family farm, stuffed it into pillows. He asks Chloe what she’s done with the chitin. It looks like it could have a lot of uses if it can be reshaped. Mainly she’s crafted it into bowls and pots, but also armor inserts. She raps her shoulder, and he hears a clack that indicates she’s got some reinforcement sewn into her camo.

Cleve considers the fur a while longer and then suggests using it in air filters, which Data Haven will need more of eventually. That need isn’t as pressing as the food supply, but it is a real concern. “That’s a good idea, actually,” Chloe acknowledges. “I haven’t found bush bugs dead from miasma, so maybe they naturally do some filtering.”

Thinking again about his family’s livestock, Cleve suddenly asks, “Really? You’ve never seen a sheep or a rabbit?”

“I was born on this planet. Where would I see a sheep? I’ve seen a picture, yes.”

“Oh! So you know what they are.”

“I’m vaguely aware, but…” She shrugs. That’s not enough to be of any real use. “And you, you’ve seen a picture of a bush bug. Well, and a corpse,” she adds, looking down at her catch. Such limited knowledge hasn’t gotten him far.

“And I’ve tasted one! So what do they eat?” With that, Cleve segues the conversation to practical aspects of bush bug husbandry. It’s a productive conversation, though Chloe has her doubts about being able to successfully contain a herd. Bush bugs climb and crawl and dig, and they can squeeze into smaller spaces than one might expect. There’s also the matter of whether they will reproduce in captivity. But it’s an idea worth exploring.