Chronicles of Chiron: Excising Arx | Scene 14

The light outside the barred window is fading when Dr. Bingyi Khan finally arrives. She’s a planetfaller, but one of the younger ones, having come to Chiron as a teenager. Her appearance is at odds with her rumored personality. Until she speaks, she has the matronly look of a friendly grandmother, but from her movements, there’s definitely muscle under that bulk, not plumpness. She’s short, just a little over five feet. Her dark hair is lightly streaked with gray and pulled back into a ponytail. A few scars show pink against her dark brown skin. She’s in a white lab coat and has a clipboard with her. On her belt is the same yellow air quality meter used by Morgan Prospecting. “I understand you are the benefactor, one Stanton, who is paying off this one’s debt?” she says, addressing me.

“Yes, I’m glad to be able to come here and collect Arx. Shu-Fen told me about your work here. It’s quite remarkable.”

“Hmm. Yes, Shu-Fen has inquired about it, perhaps for her own purposes. Eh, we’ll see if we find a place for her here at some point.” She waves that topic away and taps her clipboard. “Now, I don’t track the financials, but according to my records, I had several months worth of experiments still planned for you, Arx,” she says. “But now someone has just paid that off?” Dr. Khan shoots a narrowed-eye glare at me. “And you’re just out of here?”

“I’m cured, doc!” Arx replies with their lopsided grin.

Dr. Khan ignores her patient and steps closer to me. A quiet but obnoxious beeping starts from the device on her belt. She glances down at it, flicks a switch to silence it, and then looks back at me. “You’re a recent entry to the dome, now aren’t you?”

“Yes, but I haven’t registered with the clinic yet,” I say coolly. “I feel quite fine.” Inside, though, I am alarmed. That miasma detector can’t be going off because of me, can it? “I won’t be checking in.”

“Yeah, we’re just checking out!” Arx calls gleefully from the bed. “Let’s blow this popsicle stand!”

Dr. Khan pays no mind to Arx’s snickering behind her. “That’s really peculiar. Sure, you’re dressed nicely, but I don’t understand why someone would use their wealth to help out this person, a known criminal.”

“I didn’t think anyone knew me!” Arx crows.

“Here in the Morgan domes, you don’t have a right to that information,” I tell Dr. Khan. “It’s my own purview what I do with my money, whether it’s to buy nice clothes or to help reform poor lost souls.” I give each of my shirt cuffs a little tug, making sure the right amount is visible past the end of the blazer sleeve. “What I do with my money is my business.”

“What can I say? I got friends,” Arx says. They shrug innocently—only both their hands are free. They must’ve used that scalpel to slice through the leather wrist strap. “Because people like me.” Dr. Khan rounds on Arx, but they do nothing to conceal what they have done to their restraint. “Look, just let me out, lady, okay? Get me out of your hair! I know you love me, but it’s easier to just let me go. If you love something, let it go, right?”

“I know something doesn’t add up here!” Dr. Khan seethes, finally snapping under Arx’s needling. “I know you came in with more debt than he could have paid off.” She throws a glance at me over her shoulder. “You’re not that rich, no way.” Arx snickers, and she turns back to them. “Just, just go! Get out of my hospital. I’ll sell your debt to the repo squad when I get it sorted out; it’s not worth my time. You might get out today, but once I find out what’s gone wrong, it’s just going to get added back to the pile.”

I hustle Arx out of there as quickly as I can, not wanting to give Dr. Khan time to change her mind. We’re heading down the stairs when Arx grows alarmed and pauses on the landing. “What am I going to do without my meds? I don’t have any more. I mean, I like to look on the bright side, but I need that.” They anxiously look back the way we came, frozen with indecision.

¡Ay! Why did I have to give those supplies to Cleve for the first aid kit! “If I can just get you outside, we have stuff that should help you,” I tell them from closer to the ground floor.

That’s sufficient for Arx. Eager to leave, they start to trot down the steps toward me. But they’re out of shape from being penned up so much that it turns into a stumble, and then an outright fall. My cane clatters to the main floor as I catch Arx with both hands. “Whoa… lightheaded…” they mutter.

I don’t want to have to carry Arx out of here. We can’t rush out of the dome if they’re immobile. Arms still wrapped around them, I offer, “We have an experimental treatment I can try on you, if you’re willing.”

“Yeah! Sure! Even better! Bring it on! You know how many experimental treatments I’ve already had?”

We have to go. I need to do this. I close my eyes and direct my intent at the lungs my arms are encircling. Arx doesn’t notice anything unusual, they’re just happy to be able to breathe more easily. I release them and hop the last couple steps down, scooping up my cane to shift some weight off my aching leg. I push the door to the stairwell open, and Arx passes through it. They pause at the reception desk to collect the small bag of their belongings, and that’s when we hear the alarm go off.

Miasma breach! Miasma breach!” An automated message accompanies the klaxons.

Corrugated metal slats slide down outside the glass doors I walked through an hour and a half ago, and narrower ones block the windows, too. We’re trapped. And I have a sinking feeling that—like so many other catastrophes today—it’s my fault.