Chronicles of Chiron: Defragging Data Haven | Scene 6

My first morning back at Data Haven I go to the medical center to see Takuto. Having spent far too much time all alone in hospital beds myself, I don’t bother asking anyone for permission to be there. It’s been about a week since I last saw Takuto, and he’s still in the same bed, with the same wan skin and listless expression. No one is here to give him company or something to engage his mind. It’s no wonder all he can do is beat himself up for losing Arx.

“Hey… Mariah?” he greets me. 

“Yeah.” I lean my cane against the wall and sit down on the stool beside his bed so he doesn’t have to crane his neck to address me.

“You went to…? Oh! You survived the robots!”

“Yeah, and those robots are not going to be bothering anyone else,” I assure him.

“Oh, thank goodness!” Then he stutters out, “Did you find anything about Arx?” Quickly, though, he withdraws the question. “Sorry, I shouldn’t have asked. That wasn’t your mission.”

“No, no!” He’s got every right to ask about them. “I want to help you find Arx,” I tell him. “We brought back the data from the tap you left, and we brought back the robots. Roze has started working on the data, but what about you? How are you feeling? Are you up to doing computery things?” It seems to me that shouldn’t be too strenuous, and maybe it will improve his mental state to actively work on this problem.

Takuto sits up straight. “Yeah! I can definitely—definitely hack computers!” The words come out amidst gasps. “I… hang on…” He leans forward, trying to pull in air. This small bit of excitement is already wearing him out.

I stand up and put one hand on his back and the other on the front of his chest, easing him back onto his pillows, where he pants with eyes closed. Once in such close proximity with him, I focus my intention on the space between my hands. I’ve pulled miasma gunk out of a robot; maybe I can do the same for his lungs. But it doesn’t work… there’s nothing for me to latch onto. Wrong approach. The problem isn’t that there’s miasma in his system, it’s the decrease in lung capacity that the miasma has already caused. 

Well fine then, maybe I can repair that. After all, Cleve’s bruises weren’t a miasma injury, but I was able to soothe some of them away. I did that using something in the air around me—there were purplish sparkles, I remember. But here in the filtered air of Data Haven, there’s nothing to draw on—nothing but me and whatever stockpile of miasma has soaked in over the past thirty years. I don’t fully understand how any of this works, but I know my lungs are functioning just fine and Takuto’s aren’t. And so my intention is to use mine as a sort of blueprint for what his should be. I can feel a stinging in my right leg—that often seems to accompany this sort of effort—but then also my lungs. My next breath, it’s like there’s barely space for the air to go, and I’m left gasping myself.

Takuto’s eyes dart open. “I can—” He pulls in a sharp, quick inhalation. “I can breathe again!” He sits up quickly, and when he turns to swivel his legs off the side of his bed, the unexpected movement sends me stumbling backward. “I don’t know what you did Mariah, cleared out my sinuses?” He takes a few steps, pleased with the ease of movement. These might very well be the first steps he’s taken in weeks.

My right leg gives out before I can catch my balance. I fall to the floor, medical supplies clattering around me from the side table I’ve hit. My leg hurts, sure, but not so bad as to make me pass out. The real problem is that I just can’t get enough oxygen with the shallow breaths I’m forced to take. It’s like something is squeezing my torso, leaving no room for my lungs to expand.

Takuto takes a few more quick steps, full of hope and wonder for the first time in over a month. “I need to go. I need to find Arx! I need to—oh my gosh! Mariah! Are you okay? What happened?” His words wash over me; I can barely hear them over the pounding in my ears. “Oh no! This is miasma poisoning!” Takuto cries. I feel his hand on my back now, our roles reversed. I keep my eyes scrunched closed as I try to pull myself together. The last thing this afflicted kid needs to see is miasma dancing in them. 

“You didn’t have to go out there, Mariah,” Takuto groans. “C’mon, stay with me, stay with me. We’ll get through this together, right? Together!” He rubs his hand on my back in a circle, and it does help, providing me with a rhythm I can sync my breath to. 

Takuto helps me up, and I gratefully settle into a chair. Once I’ve composed myself, I return to my earlier question, which he has long forgotten. “So, you seem to be feeling better now,” I observe. “Do you want to look through the data yourself to find out what happened to Arx?” He’s got more right to that data than anyone else here, having sacrificed himself to get the tap in place and lost someone he cares about along the way.

“Yes! Yes, of course,” Takuto says.

If he is ready to walk out of this medical center and stop being cut off from everyone else here, trapped in a bed with no accommodations to keep him involved in the community, then I am only too happy to help him. “Then let’s get you to Roze and the data,” I tell him. Takuto fetches my cane for me and stays close by, anxiously monitoring my own short breaths as we leave.