Chronicles of Chiron: Excising Arx | Scene 15

Under the sound of the miasma alert klaxon, I hear the receptionist’s annoyed sigh. “Not again! This is going to trigger my asthma…”

I’m not sure there’s anything he can do to help, but I immediately start pleading with him. “Please, we need to get out of here. If there’s a miasma breach, then you don’t want healthy people like us—who are not on the accounts roll to be treated—confined to this space. You’ll be liable for treating us if you get us sick.”

Arx gets my drift. “And think of all the paperwork for new patients!” they add.

“I’m very sorry,” the receptionist says, all apologetic, “but we have very strict rules. Because we work with miasma here, we have to lock down and everyone has to stay inside. Ah, I do want to caution you that in fifteen minutes the fungicide will disperse. You might want to cover your mouth and nose during that.”

Oh no. Oh no, not again. Can I really take another blast of that? And what if they use something stronger here than the entrance to the dome did? Corazon’s spray burnt my skin and bleached my clothes. What might this do to my lungs? Or the rest of me? Just how infused with Chiron am I now? This isn’t the way I want to find out. “Is there an out-of-the-way place Arx and I can wait?”

“This is the only exit,” he says. Thinking he’s being helpful, he points out the padded seats. “Wouldn’t you want to wait here so you can leave as soon as we reopen? You can’t go back to Arx’s old room, since they’re no longer a patient here.”

The couple benches lining the wall here are of no use to me at all. Arx can tell I’m concerned and suggests, “We could chill in the hall.” 

That would get us out of this space, but it’s not enough. I need a room with a window. “I don’t want us to be in the way of anyone coming through taking measurements or treating the air,” I say, appealing to the receptionist again.

“Well… there is the sales room. You should be able to use that. But if the orderlies or anyone else needs it, you’ll have to vacate.”

“Okay, great, thank you so much.”

The door labeled Client Consultations is just down the hall. It’s a nice door, setting the appropriate swanky tone for a space designed to lull you into buying whatever is being sold in it. Inside, no surprise, art adorns two of the walls. Another has a video screen showing soothing scenes of Earth. Comfortable office chairs surround a fancy table. On the side is a rack holding brochures and pamphlets. What this room does not have, though, is a window.

I shut the door behind us and ask Arx to tell me everything they know about this facility. “There’s no staff door? No delivery doors? You’ve tried to escape, right?”

As Arx answers, they wander around the room, opening cabinet drawers and poking around. “Oh, I’ve made it to the front door a couple times. Got beat up for it,” they say casually. “There’s no roof access, that’s for sure. We’re right up against the dome. Learned that the hard way. Oh! FungX! Just what I needed!” They show off the syringe they’ve just found. “Fate’s smiling on me!”

“Okay, but hold off on using that for a while,” I caution them. “You seem pretty stable right now. We should conserve that in case you get worse later.”

“Right,” Arx acknowledges, and then they resume sharing what they know of the clinic. “All the windows have bars, except for in the reception area. Can’t fit through them. You got a way to cut through metal? I don’t. There is a basement. I haven’t been able to get down there yet. Got caught right at the door once.” Arx punctuates the description of each escape attempt by indicating bruises associated with it.

The basement seems our best option, and Arx says that door is just at the end of the hall. We wouldn’t have to pass back through reception, but the employee break room is between us and the basement. “Do you know anything about what happens during these alerts?” I ask. “Are people likely to be just relaxing in the breakroom? Or do they gather at muster points? How seriously do the orderlies take it? I imagine Dr. Khan takes it very seriously.”

“I’ve only been through this once. Got hit by the fungicide spray. Definitely not a spa treatment, that. The orderlies were on the prowl, extra vigilant, and they get filter masks,” Arx tells me. They slip the FungX into their plastic bag of belongings and pull out a wallet with a long chain attached. They flip it open to check the contents and are pleased to see a printed out picture of them and Takuto is still inside. They’re arm in arm, and it looks like they were leaning down in front of a webcam for it. There’s no money in the wallet, of course. Arx sets that down on the table and continues going through the bag. They’ve got a multitool, as well. It’s not as elaborate as the one Shu-Fen gave Cleve for Chloe, but some of the tool edges have been filed for better use in picking locks. Handy, that. 

Arx then pulls out their clothes. When they reach down to yank up their scrub top, I spin around to face the door. “We’ve got to be fast,” I tell them. Arx doesn’t dawdle changing, though they do make some wisecracks about the laundry service here. Meanwhile, I share my plan: we head to the basement, since that’s the only place Arx hasn’t explored. It’s our only chance of finding a way out of here. “Maybe it has access to a sewer system?” There could be underground heating tunnels or something. I know nothing of dome infrastructure.

Neither, it seems, does Arx really. “I mean, we gotta look, right?” they say mischievously, nowhere near as worried about the rapidly approaching fungicide blast as I am.

“Lead the way, then,” I welcome them, since this is their territory. “And I don’t want to run into anyone.” I can just imagine how much worse things would get if I set off the miasma detector on some orderly’s belt.

“No problem. Stealthy, I can do,” Arx says with a grin. I catch hold of my cane further down the shaft so that there’s no chance of the tip hitting the ground. Then I follow Arx out in the hallway, fingers trailing along the wall in case I need the support. Arx pauses just before the open door to the break room. We hear the orderlies talking, their voices muffled by respirators. Then there’s the sound of the fridge opening as one of the orderlies puts their snack away so it doesn’t get ruined by the upcoming fungicide spray. Arx peaks around the doorjamb and then slips across the opening, gesturing for me to follow while no one is facing our way. 

I whisper lockpicking advice as Arx works on the basement lock. “Tenoch, nice!” Arx says, recognizing the source. They’ve clearly spent some time together back at Data Haven. Arx makes short work of the lock to the basement; they’ve had practice on the higher-grade version that secures Dr. Khan’s office.