Chronicles of Chiron: Excising Arx | Scene 29

Cleve is not sure he trusts Louisa yet. Staying up to keep an eye on her keeping an eye on the camp means he’ll be driving tired in the morning, though. That’s not great—it could get them all killed—but going to sleep means opening the door to betrayal. Louisa could run off with the data drives. Or worse, turn the Data Haven folks in. This is what is on his mind when the rover door creaks open a couple hours before the suns are due up and Louisa reports for duty.

He shares with her everything he’s noticed in the past hour. It hasn’t been much. Mariah and the wolf beetles remain asleep outside the rover, and there have been no disturbances. Still, Cleve advises Louisa on what to pay attention to, what sightlines to watch, and so forth. She has stood watch for her band in the past, but the potential threats inside the dome are different from those out here. For all that she’s pro-Chiron, Louisa has spent very little time outside the domes in nature. She needs to be educated about the risk of craws stealing important equipment from the trunk, for example.

“So can I take your rifle then? Just to make sure we stay safe in case anything happens?” Louisa asks when Cleve is done delivering advice.

“Do you have combat skills?” he asks her. She seemed eager for a fight in the dome, but if she was planning to sic a wolf beetle on the Planetary Security Force, then she must not have a gun on her.

“I know how to shoot a pistol,” Louisa tells him. “I can shoot a gun.”

Cleve shakes his head. “No, the rifle is best with me. Wake me up if anything happens.”

Louisa looks taken aback. “Do you not trust me, Cleve?”

“Honestly, I don’t know you that well.”

“But what about all the scrapes we went through together today? I saved you on the street when the repo squad was coming for you! We snuck by that Planetary Security Force gang! I helped you liberate these wolf beetles!”

“I still don’t know you,” Cleve insists.

“Well, what do you want to know? I’m an open book,” she says, throwing her arms out wide, tone combative.

“What can you possibly tell me that would make me hand my gun to you?” Cleve replies. Louisa’s not acting suspiciously, but she’s too overeager by far. “The rifle stays with me or I can take the watch,” he tells her levelly.

“Let me borrow your knife then, at least. And on this trip to Data Haven, you have to show me how to use that rifle,” she counters. If her inexperience is the problem here, she wants to rectify that. “What if you get injured?”

“Agreed,” Cleve says. She’s made some good points. Just like Cleve should not be the only one on the mission who knows how to drive, he should not be the only one who knows how to operate a rifle. If he’s taken down, the rest of the group will be in serious trouble. He hands over his knife, and the first thing that Louisa does with it is hold it up to look at her eyes in its reflective surface. That doesn’t instill confidence in Cleve. “Just wake us up, wake up everybody, if there’s trouble. That’s the point,” he tells Louisa.

“Well, you’ve already woken me up,” Mariah grumbles at them from across the camp where his bedroll is laid out next to the wolf beetles.

“See, it’s easy,” Cleve says, stifling an amused grin, but dropping his voice.

“I can handle it,” Louisa assures him.

Cleve leaves her to her watch then. Before he returns to the rover, though, he scouts around the area, on the lookout for any Earth plants with stimulant properties. Just something to take the edge off the fatigue he feels from getting less sleep than he needs. All he manages to find is a craw nest. It’s closer to the water, dug into the looser soil near the dunes. What catches his eye first is bits and pieces of reflective metal, beads, and rock in two parallel lines. They lead up to a hole, as if lining a runway. As Cleve gets close, a craw briefly scuttles out, but seeing no threats, it calmly returns inside.

Cleve returns to the rover empty handed. He advises Louisa, “Keep an eye out for craws coming from that direction. We know they like to steal things. Or trade. I’m not clear on that.”

Louisa pulls out the zine Mariah gave her and flips to the relevant entry. She’s never seen a craw herself, but there’s a picture of one here, along with some notes Mariah wrote in about them being as smart as some birds. Not that Louisa has ever seen a bird, either.