Chronicles of Chiron: Excising Arx | Scene 5

In the poorly lit tenement room, our rescuer lowers her hood. With it down now, her short spiky hair is fully visible. Though it is lime in front, overall it is mottled with various shades of green and gray. Her high cheekbones are dusted with freckles, and her pale blue eyes are intense. Candlelight glitters in them. I estimate her to be around the same age as Cor and Yushi. She lets out a relieved breath at making it in here unnoticed. And then she says, almost eagerly, “So you’re the Stepdaughters of Chiron, then?” We’re not alone with her; the rest of our audience is about her age, but just as surprised as we are. Like her, they are dressed in muted colors and generic, undecorated clothes, some with cloaks or hoods. A whole bunch of teens, all ready to disappear into a crowd. 

“Not formally, but I have connections,” I answer as smoothly as I can, given this unexpected turn of events. “Would you like a zine?” I pull the pamphlet out of my satchel and offer it to her.

Her face lights up as she accepts it. “A zine!? Oh, yes! Who’s the author?” Marina has made some additional annotations inside it, particularly on mushrooms she’s researched personally, like the acorn star. Those sections are initialed MC, but I don’t volunteer Marina’s name. Our rescuer is too fascinated by the booklet to notice. She reaches the series of blank pages towards the back and reflects, “There’s so much we don’t know. I’m going to put my name on these pages: Louisa!”

“I’m Mariah,” I tell her, leaving the introductions there. Cleve simply wheezes, still trying to recover his breath. Takuto remains silent, watching everything with wide eyes. 

Louisa spends a few more moments studying the zine and then slips it into an inside pocket of her duster. I’m confident Marina will supply me with another when I get back to Data Haven. I hope Louisa gets as much joy out of it as I have. With the zine now put away, Louisa turns her piercing eyes back on me. “We have to make contact with the Stepdaughters. You don’t understand the urgency! With their integrated adaptations to the environment, we can overthrow Morgan, finally free these people, and free this planet!”

So a revolutionary, then. Someone else out to get Morgan, though not for personal reasons like Cor is. Maybe that passion can be redirected to spread the scientific discoveries of the Stepdaughters of Chiron. I glance at the others in the poorly lit room. They have varying levels of interest in the conversation between me and Louisa. One is throwing knives at a well-notched section of wall. Another is fiddling with the innards of a radio but not getting far with it. Others are snacking from a bowl of shroomnuts. And then there’s Takuto, who keeps looking anxiously back at the door we came through. Cleve pulls him off to the side, and I hear him murmur, “We’re going to need allies for this.”

“Okay, okay,” Takuto says, “But… I don’t know how long Arx has.”

“If we rush this, we run the risk of failing,” Cleve cautions.

“Okay, okay. G-g-good point, good point.”

Perhaps I can take some of the pressure off Takuto by handing off Marina’s task to this sympathetic group. “If there’s a message you want to get back to Stepdaughters of Chiron people, I can certainly carry that for you,” I offer. “And, more to your point, I can deliver to you additional Stepdaughters of Chiron data, as well as a virus for distributing it through the Morgan networks. That is one of the reasons we’re here. But there are other reasons as well, and anything that you can do to help us with our other purpose here, we would very much appreciate.”

“What other purpose is there than to overthrow Morgan Industries?” Louisa asks incredulously.

“We need to get out somebody that they caught.” I allow Louisa to draw the conclusion that Arx is also a Stepdaughters of Chiron agent. Are they? I have no idea. But framing it this way should get us more aid.

“You’ll take me back with you,” Louisa demands in response. She’s not willing to trust a message to someone else, not when she’s confident of her own abilities. I wouldn’t be able to convey her level of passion for this revolution the way she herself can. 

I mull this over. She’s quite self-assured and confident, and she’s driven to take down Morgan Industries. I think those are things that Data Haven could possibly work with. But I’m still worried about exposure. “I’m willing to take you to an intermediate location where I can broker a meeting, but I’m not willing to expose anybody, on either side,” I tell her.

That deal works. We’ll give Louisa’s group the information and the virus, which they will quite eagerly disseminate, and we’ll take Louisa with us.