A proper airlock protects Tenoch’s garage from Chiron’s atmosphere. After it cycles through its procedures, they lead their guests into the workspace itself. It is another repurposed part of Unity, not a purpose-designed machine shop. The tools and materials here have accumulated over time, and the space lacks some basics. There’s no drill press, no two-post lift for vehicles.
Cleve grew up on a farm with trucks, quad bikes, and tractors, but the vehicle up on jacks in the center of the workshop looks nothing like those. It has the rugged undercarriage and all-terrain tires of a jeep, but a sleek body shaped more like a sedan. There is a disappointing lack of cargo space, no flatbed in back and not much of a rooftop rack due to the solar panel mount. There’s not even a hitch for towing. The cabin does, however, have room for four people and is fully enclosed to protect them from the elements, including a sophisticated air filtration system. The rover bears the Unity Project logo. “Somehow ‘jeep-like device’ makes more sense now,” Cleve mutters.
“I have been restoring this, but I was missing critical components,” Tenoch says as they step over to a side bench and collect a pair of wrenches. “Critical components that need to come from one of these bots.” They hand one wrench to Cor and another to Cleve so that they can begin opening up the broken robot.
“What are you thinking to do with this thing?” Cleve asks Tenoch, nodding over at the rover as the group extracts robot drive systems and transfers them to a worktable.
“Get it running.”
“It will be running.”
Tenoch looks at Cleve, thinking over the vague question for a moment. “And then we have a working rover,” they finally answer.
“Do you have somewhere you want to go in particular?” Cleve asks.
“No,” Tenoch responds. A functional rover is a goal in and of itself.
“It’d be great for getting in contact with other people,” Cor offers. “It’s hard to get between settlements.”
“Be good for scouting, if there was something in particular you were looking for,” Cleve observes.
“Do you have a place you want to go?” Tenoch asks.
“Actually, the place we landed still has some equipment,” Cleve answers, excitement creeping into his voice. This vehicle would make a salvage operation a real possibility. At Tenoch’s prompting, he lists off all the potentially useful materials in that crashed utility module. They lean in, listening closely, making a mental note of everything he says. “Excavation equipment might help,” Cleve concludes. “It was under a wolf beetle nest. Which then collapsed. So I don’t know how much of it is intact. But there may still be things there useful to the colony.”
“Mmmmm. Yes. That would be useful,” Tenoch says. “I would love to take a look at some of that equipment.” They cross their garage and begin yanking at large pieces of canvas.
“Morgan’s mining crew had their eye on that whole hillside area,” Cor reminds Cleve.
“Might have to hurry then,” Cleve murmurs.
“If you’re planning to do something there, you should be ready to do everything you want. You shouldn’t go, risk discovery, and not have what you need to accomplish your goals. Morgan Prospecting won’t give you a second chance,” she warns, grinding her teeth in anger. They do not have the luxury of simply driving over to the crash site ahead of time to evaluate excavation needs. It is over a day away, even with a vehicle. Having the rover will be safer for travelers, but it’s still slow. There are no roads, after all.
The last piece of canvas slides to the ground, revealing the articulated arm and clawed scoop of a backhoe. While it might be possible to mount it on the functional robot, that would create the problem of transporting the excavator-bot to the dig site. It would be too large to fit inside the rover, too unwieldy for the rover to drag offroad, and too heavy to strap to the roof. Better instead, everyone decides, is to weld the backhoe to the rover itself. The vehicle’s handling will be worse, but that will leave space inside for people and recovered goods.
Before they do that, though, there is the matter of having a functional rover. Under Tenoch’s guidance, Cor and Cleve finish dismantling one Morgan Autonomous Security-Tron. A few key pieces from that complete the engine and the drive. The vehicle is certainly not in factory-condition, and the steering may be sluggish to respond at times. But at least the rover is operational.
Having done some offroading during his military time, Cleve drives the rover back to Data Haven. It doesn’t handle as well as a humvee, that’s for sure. As he puts the vehicle in park near Data Haven’s elevator, he apologizes to his passengers for the rough ride. “I could’ve done better,” he says simply. The pickup is a little strange, and the whole vehicle feels a bit off-balance due to the backhoe.
Tenoch, in the backseat next to the functional robot, spent the whole ride monitoring readouts and has no criticism for Cleve’s work. As for Cor, she has never ridden in a vehicle before, so she has nothing to compare the experience to. “You did great, Cleve,” she assures him.