Chronicles of Chiron: Excising Arx | Scene 7

A battering ram crashes through a panel of the door to the rundown rowhouse. As it pulls back out again, we can see that the wielders are in repo squad polos and caps. “Freeze, or you’ll accrue more debt!” their leader shouts.

Although Cleve mutters, “We’re all going to die,” in response, he reacts quickly. The bag of chili powder is already out in his hand, and he flings it right in the face of the man now leaning towards the opening in the door.

My response is more instinctive. We need cover to get out of here. There’s already so much dust in here, if I could just coax a bit of a miasma fog, that could give us the screen we need to exit out the back. I don’t really think these repo squad associates will open fire, not based on what we saw with Yushi. But they do carry pistols, and they might consider Louisa’s group of activists to be dangerous criminals. I reach out, drawing on whatever I can in this filtered environment. ¡Vaya! Do I really overdo it!

Everything plant-based around me bursts forth with life. Splinters of busted door wood start branching, and even the now discarded bowl of shroomnuts erupts with sprouts. Soon xenofungus begins to crop up here and there around the front of the room. Where is that coming from? A twinge in my leg and tingling in my eyes answers that question immediately—it’s coming from me. The Progenitor device on my lapel is helping me gather and transmit, but some of the fine threads twist and bend with the effort required.

Within moments, the air is full of the smell of newly opened flowers, along with pollen and spores. The growth spreads in all directions. I can feel what’s happening outside, the wood out there bursting to life as well. Anything recognizable as a door is long gone now. A bramble of branches and tendrils crowd the doorframe, making it harder for the repo squad to claw their way through.

Over the creaking and groaning, we hear the click of safeties coming off pistols. “Stop accruing more debt,” the voice calls again, but we can no longer see anything on the other side. I hear someone else groaning about their eyes burning, and another person marvels, “What was in that powder?!”

Inside, everyone is silent. There is no hiding that something—well, not exactly unnatural, but at least unexpected, has happened. This is a bit more than I anticipated. Louisa is the first to snap out of stunned silence. Through the haze now filling the room, I see her point to the rear of the room. “The back ladder! We can go up and get out.”

“Takuto, go!” Cleve orders, grabbing the teen’s backpack strap and physically propelling him toward the back of the room. The former soldier easily steps into the command role, pointing to one teen after another and getting them in line. “Knife, you next! Radio, ladder! Louisa, ladder!” I back up slowly, unsure of how long this thicket will hold together if I take my attention off of it. I finally have to, as I need to scramble up the ladder and out of here. Cleve does one quick sweep of the room to make sure all the teenagers are safe and then clambers up behind me. I can hear the repo squad barging into the room below as we pull up the ladder. Louisa kicks the hatch shut, and we shoulder a large piece of furniture on top of it.

Louisa takes charge, leading us through a confusing warren of hallways, attics, and the like. We emerge into a different alley several blocks down from the former safehouse. At the end, turnstiles lead back to a new section of the swanky boulevard. “We need to be quick about getting your agent out,” Louisa tells us. “They don’t like losing.”

“No kidding,” Cleve mutters.

I lean against a filthy brick wall, catching my breath as much as I can, given that this filtered air is lacking something I’m confident now that I actually need. My lungs have more than learned to deal with miasma, they’ve come to rely on it. That blast of fungicide gas was a while ago, and the air still feels thin to me. I scrub my face with a hand and take a few breaths. When I open my eyes again, I can feel they’ve settled back into plain gray. “Time for us to go to the medical center,” I agree, transferring my weight from the wall to my cane.

Takuto hands Louisa a data stick with the virus and its payload. She exchanges a few words with her colleagues and entrusts them with the Stepdaughters of Chiron task. Some pay close attention to her, but others are eying me. Before they disperse, I neaten myself up and address the group. “I don’t want that talked about. Whatever you think you saw happen in there… it was a collapsed doorframe and a lot of dust in a crappy old tenement. Don’t spread what you actually did see. This is the story of what you saw. Hold to it.”

“This is what happened, understood?” Cleve chimes in, his words sounding more like an order, whereas mine were practically a plea.

“That was so cool!” breathes out the teenager who was working on a radio earlier.

“That places you at the scene if you talk about it,” Cleve warns them.

The teens all slowly come into line, nodding in agreement. You’d think I’d be happy, but no, the blood drains from my face when Knife says, “Yeah, we’ll keep the Stepdaughters of Chiron supersoldier secret.” ¡Dios mío! I was trying to get them to be less violent, and now I’m labeled a supersoldier?! I did not come to Chiron to fight a war. 

“Supersoldier-superhacker,” Radio corrects. I shake my head in despair.

“What’s your Stepdaughters of Chiron code name?” another one, Snacker, pesters me.

“I’m not even in the Stepdaughters of Chiron officially!” I grind out at him.

“We’re not cleared yet, guys!” Knife says, admonishing him. “We’re not allowed to know.” In a conspiratorial whisper, she leans in and tells me, “We’ll keep it secret, don’t worry.”

They scatter. ¡Ay! What a day this is turning out to be. I cannot get to the medical center fast enough.