Chronicles of Chiron: Excising Arx | Scene 10

I stroll through the front doors of the Hospital for Experimental Miasma Treatment. When the receptionist hears the tap of my cane on the tile floor, he looks up from his desk. “Happy Planetfall Day!” I greet him brightly.

“What? Oh, uh, yes! Happy Planetfall Day,” he says in reply. He’s an older fellow, with sagging pink skin and a fringe of white hair. He’s wearing one of those “Kiss me, I’m a planetfaller!” pins. He shakes his head sadly. “I couldn’t even get off. We’ve got to constantly keep this place staffed, you know?” I nod in polite acknowledgement as I step up to his desk. He’s got a basic terminal here, and I position myself for a partial look at the angled screen. “Are you looking to see someone?” he asks. “Or are you looking to get seen yourself? Checking in?”

“Well, I had a personal recommendation to check out Dr. Khan’s work here,” I say breezily.

“Yes, Dr. Khan is in charge of this whole facility. It’s her research that’s helping people recover from miasma,” the receptionist says. “Are you looking to check yourself in? Or check someone else in?” he presses.

“I was wondering if there’s any way to get some sort of informative tour of the facility before, you know, committing to anything.”

He tilts his head at me and clicks his tongue. “You wouldn’t be planning to… oh, get a tour and then steal some of the treatments, now would you?”

I roll with it. Rather than look aghast to be accused of such a thing, I play up desperation. “I’ve heard that it’s really a lot of debt to get treatment. Is it? What kind of account balances have your patients here racked up?” If I play this right, maybe I can get a peak at Arx’s account.

“We understand it’s expensive, but you have to consider that this is your life. We help you to live.” He glances down below the counter, probably checking his talking points for walk-ins. “We help you to breathe again! But here, let me reassure you. I can pull up some of the financial planning information to give you a sense of it.” He swivels his chair and starts typing, but then pauses, looking back at me over his shoulder. “Some people are here paying for treatments, but there are also options to be paid to receive treatments if you qualify. But then you have to agree to receive certain experimental treatments. That’s what some of our patients do.” 

The receptionist resumes typing. “Oh, here’s someone we just got transferred in.” He doesn’t give a name, but I can read it for myself at this angle. Yushi’s checked in! I suppose he did just spend a while investigating a site with thick miasma, the valley where the network node lies. “He’s in for about five hundred credits a treatment,” the receptionist shares. “He does have some insurance that will pay for some of this, which is unusual. I bet he works outdoors. Anyway, he got hit real, real bad. But we’re hopeful that he can make a full recovery, probably as long as he doesn’t go outside anymore.”

I’m not a fan of what the repo squad does, but it was Yushi’s excitement for and interest in the wilderness that motivated his work there. I’d hoped to chip away at his pro-Morgan stance and get him on our side. But now, because of that damn factory explosion, he may never see another native Chiron plant again. He never would have been sent into that miasma pool if not for my actions! I have to say something, in case any of these ruminations have played out across my face. “Oh, so his career could be over,” I observe, subdued. 

“Miasma is very dangerous! Xenofungus is the enemy. I heard the speech today,” the receptionist comments. I resist the urge to argue. This is not the time. Cleve is right. We need to just focus on what we came here to do: get Arx and get out. “Anyway, for a two week cycle of treatment, which should be able to treat most of a bad case and at least get you back up and running, that’s going to run about five hundred credits. If someone older, like myself, needed to be here, then it would take even longer. I’ve received some of these treatments, in fact.”

I wonder how different the approach here is to the techniques the Stepdaughters of Chiron have developed. “How effective are these treatments?” I ask. 

“They’re very effective,” the receptionist insists. “And they’re so very, very safe.” He glances down at his watch. “In fact, it’s time for my medication.” He pulls out a pill bottle and shakes a couple small tablets into his hand. Setting the bottle down on the counter in front of me, he swivels over to his mug. He tosses the pills back, chasing them down with water, and then reconsiders. “Uh, hang on, I need a couple more,” he mumbles to himself, spinning back around. 

He catches me with the pill bottle in hand and snatches it back from me immediately. “Whoa! Hey, um, that’s uh… I need that,” he nervously chokes out. I play it off like I was just reading the FungX label, and fortunately he does not notice the couple tablets I’ve palmed. His possessiveness and anxiety, I’ve seen that combination of mannerisms before. This drug is probably addictive, like Marina’s gum. I wonder grimly whether there’s even anything of medical value in these pills. Is FungX just an addictive placebo to keep the credits changing hands? When did I become such a pessimist? Cleve must be rubbing off on me.

“I’ve got a friend here named Arx,” I tell the receptionist. “Can you tell me what their balance is like?”

“Arx,” he murmurs. “Oh! Right at the top. Whoo-hoo, yeah, Arx is uh… They’re paying off debt by being here. It’s probably going to be a while for them. For most people like that it is. But let me just see how much that was…”