Chronicles of Chiron: Excising Arx | Scene 28

I rap lightly on the driver’s window when it’s time for Cleve’s turn at watch. When he joins me outside, I report that all has been quiet. Before I go to sleep myself, though, there are some things I want to discuss with him—without any of the others overhearing us. Stuff I’ve been mulling over out here on my own. “Morgan’s forces are going to be going over Data Haven; there’s no way they can go after the Stepdaughters of Chiron without going past it.” Cleve gives me an uh-huh. He knows the geography better than I do.

“There’s a chance they won’t notice Data Haven,” I admit, “but they probably will. I… I know what you said about that they were always going to do this, regardless of that one factory getting blown up. But I do still feel somewhat responsible for them blaming the Stepdaughters.” The words come out in a rush, not giving Cleve time to object. But he makes no move to; he listens thoughtfully. Or scowlfully. Still kind of nervous about presenting this idea, I go on, “I… want to do what I can to slow them down so that there is time to warn the Stepdaughters of Chiron that this army is coming.”

Cleve nods again, and I continue more confidently, “And I want to warn the Stepdaughters of Chiron about this, which means somebody has to go there. This rover is the only functional vehicle I know of, and you’re the only person I know who knows how to drive.”

“You’re right, that is a problem,” Cleve says. “We need to start training people!”

He’s focused on readiness, but that’s not what I need settled. “I have two questions for you,” I tell him. “One, will you help me try to convince Data Haven to contribute to slowing down Morgan’s Planetary Security Force? And two, will you go with me to the Stepdaughters of Chiron to warn them about this?”

“Yes,” he replies quickly and firmly.

“To both of those questions?”

“Yes. I don’t think Data Haven’s going to need convincing. We don’t want to be found.” He feels more a part of Data Haven than I do. His old buddy Roze is there. Meanwhile, my main point of contact, Marina, is an outsider herself.

“I don’t know, there could be people there who just want to bury their heads further in the sand,” I point out. “There isn’t clear leadership there.” 

“The question is just whether people have resources to help or not,” Cleve says.

“And if they’re willing to use them.”

Cleve gives a swift nod. “Yeah. And if they’re not, then we’ll figure something out. It’s a harsh land, full of unexpected dangers.”

“And opportunities,” I add. I let out a long breath, relieved that I have Cleve on my side for what could be some tense negotiations. “And you’re willing to help me get to the Stepdaughters of Chiron?”

“Yeah, but I don’t own the rover. I can’t speak to what Tenoch will want,” he replies, tempering my expectations. “But I think we can probably find something that they can use,” he adds. “I’m willing to make that trade.”

Much relieved, I update him on the rest of our anti-Morgan progress. “Fritz, in the dome, I gave him the ledger that we found about the wolf beetle fighting ring.”

“Who’s Fritz?”

“Oh!” Right. Unlike me, Cleve has not been thinking about this man for the past three hours. “He was the one following us—which he was doing because he was worried that Louisa was going to get us in trouble. That doesn’t surprise me, because Louisa’s band has taken some perhaps more extreme actions against Morgan than others have.”

“So he’s just a do-gooder? Just worrying about who she’s conspiring with?” Cleve asks, trying to make sense of this while lacking all the context I’ve already internalized.

“No, he’s an organizer against Morgan. Corazon met him under the name Morris. He works to get people out of the dome and to Data Haven.”

“And he knew who you were?” Cleve asks, surprised.

“We had met earlier in the day. I think you might have been off shopping then. Anyway, he was worried that I was getting tangled up with the wrong crowd.”

“Okay,” Cleve says, satisfied that we’re not widely known in the domes.

“I gave him the ledger because he might be able to use it as leverage.”

I thought we were on the same page by now, but Cleve surprises me with a sudden question. “Is that the guy you kissed?”

He kissed me,” I clarify, a blush rising to my cheeks.

“Okay, so same guy. The hat, right?”

“Yeah, the hat,” I echo wistfully. I don’t really think I can pull one off, but Fritz’s hair has the necessary spring to hold a fedora at just the perfect angle. “The stylish hat.” Whose wearer I have no idea when I’ll ever see again. 

Having hammered down who we’re talking about, Cleve is all business. “So he has concerns about Louisa?”

“He knows what kind of trouble her group stirs up. He was worried that maybe I didn’t. I think, from what we’ve heard from her, that she’s inclined to use violence to solve problems that maybe there are other ways to solve.” Cleve agrees with me there. “He—Morris, Fritz, whichever—he’s essentially a union organizer. He wants to make life better for people in Morgan domes, but for those who can’t stay, he arranges for them to reach Data Haven.”

“Okay, so he knows Corazon… Does he know Roze? Does he have messages for us to take back or anything?”

“Yes, he does know Roze. The main thing, when I asked him about messages, was that he’s interested in doing some sort of network disruption, which Data Haven would have the people with the skills to accomplish. That was the only information he wanted me to take back in that direction for now. I asked him to see what he could do about decreasing popular support of the Planetary Security Force on the dome side, and he said he would. That’s why I gave him the ledger, as evidence that Morgan is involved in something that would tarnish his reputation.”


I suddenly realize there was another thing I could have told Fritz about. “Something else that might tarnish Morgan’s reputation is circumstantial evidence that he was involved in the death of the captain of the original ship. But that evidence is all with Roze.”


“So that’s where things stand in the dome right now. We do have an ally of sorts there now who already knows and works with Data Haven.”

“Okay. I don’t completely know if we can trust Louisa,” Cleve says. Fritz’s worries about her seem to be the most important thing to Cleve of everything I’ve shared.

“What are your concerns regarding Louisa?” I ask him. Maybe something happened while I was separated from the group.

“We just don’t know her,” he says. “I don’t know what her agenda is. So she’s going to take a watch, but not by herself.”

“You’re going to stay up the whole time?”

“Mm-hmm. I’m counting on the wolf beetles to alert us to anything coming up,” he says. “Hopefully they’re like dogs.”

They’ve been sleeping the whole time I’ve been on watch, so I don’t know how helpful they’ll be. And Cleve’s our only driver. I don’t think it’s wise for him to be navigating the wilds with an overloaded vehicle and just three hours of sleep. “You’re giving her the very last watch, right? So why don’t you go back to sleep for another couple hours then?”

“Okay. Are you all right?”

“Yeah,” I assure Cleve. I can manage a few more hours of wakefulness. The day was rough, but I’m feeling much better now. 

“No, I mean from,” Cleve waves his hand back toward the dome. “He didn’t force a kiss on you, did he?”

That elicits a surprised chuckle from me at how badly I’ve misread Cleve again. I’m at a loss for words for a moment, and when I do speak, it’s far from the calm, collected salesperson I’ve been trained to be. “I appreciate your concern,” I tell Cleve. “I was, um, startled. Uh, but I’m fine. He’s… nice. Um… but…” I look away from Cleve, down toward the glowing dome. “But this is not the time or the place for this,” I say, schooling my features as I turn back to Cleve. “You need to drive tomorrow, so let me stay up a little later. Louisa doesn’t need to know we’ve finagled with the schedules.”

“All right. Sounds like a deal,” Cleve says with a swift nod. He returns to the rover, and I return to thoughts of Fritz.