Chronicles of Chiron: Excising Arx | Scene 9

My first instinct is to put Louisa, as the one who knows the dome best, on lookout duty at the medical center. But unlike for jobs I did back on Earth, we don’t have cell phones, so there’s no good way to signal each other. Louisa’s used to operating under these conditions, though, and tells us she’ll do a wolf beetle howl at the first sign of trouble.

The Hospital for Experimental Miasma Treatment is only two stories high, nestled as it is against a downslope of the overhead dome. It’s clinic-sized, with room for only a couple dozen patients. Hospital is in the name, but Louisa tells us no general purpose treatments are done here. There are two possible plays I see. One, we go in and ask to visit Arx. Or two, we say we’re interested in signing up for treatment, but we’d like a tour of the clinic first. We could do that all together, hoping to be able to hustle Arx out. Or we could send just one person in and have them signal once they’ve identified Arx’s whereabouts. Then the outside group does a break-in for the rescue while people inside are distracted or else in the middle of the night. I workshop all this out loud with my companions.

Cleve offers his assessment. “The less we’re seen together, the less we’re put together as a group. Going in by yourself is better. The repo squad here in the dome has gotten a good look at me a couple of times, in that shop and then in Louisa’s place before I went up the ladder.” I nod in agreement, fine with going in by myself.

“Hey, I want to go inside too!” Takuto objects.

I think that is a bad idea. There’s no way he’ll be able to maintain his cool once he sets eyes on Arx. More of a wildcard is how Arx would react. I don’t know how one-sided this relationship is. “Takuto, there are multiple sides to this building, and we’ll need people watching all three in order to be sure someone gets the signal,” I say, trying an argument that sounds reasonable to me.

“Arx doesn’t know you.”

“I agree.” That was, after all, one of my arguments for bringing Takuto along on this trip.

“I think it would really help them if there’s someone they know vouching for this plan,” he continues.

“You only need to be present for the extraction,” Cleve tells Takuto, “not for the tour. But you’ll be instrumental in that.”

“We can’t alert anyone that you two know each other before then,” I add. “I don’t know if I’ll have an opportunity to let Arx know that a rescue is imminent, but if I do, I can let them know you’re here. Is there some sort of passphrase you can tell me that Arx would recognize? What’s a ‘thing’ that you two have together?”

Takuto produces one of his most treasured objects, part of an old circuit board. “Give them this,” he tells me. I slip it into the pocket of my blazer.

“You need to be patient,” Cleve reminds him. “We have a plan, but if we go too fast, this could fail. We just need to follow through. We’re almost there.”

“We’ve already been a little sloppy today, and you’ve seen how badly that’s gone,” I throw in.

“I had to shave!” Cleve says, introducing a bit of levity to the discussion.

Takuto backs down. “Yes, you’re right, you’re right. It’s a good plan, Mr. Cleve, Mariah.”

With that matter settled, I tell them all that they should case the joint while I’m inside because there might be electronic locks that Takuto can hack. “Or maybe you can somehow hack in and fix the debt,” Cleve suggests. “Make it so that it only costs fifty credits, ‘cause that’s what we have!”

Cleve chuckles, but Takuto perks up, taking the idea seriously. “Maybe,” Takuto says, drawing the word out thoughtfully. “It’s very difficult to manipulate monetary values. Roze programmed that. But changing it to fifty instead of zero… that might work. Setting it to zero would trigger a whole lot more checks. If I set it to fifty, that just makes it look like somebody paid it down some.”

“Or, you know, hack the locks,” Cleve says, not pressing too hard for his idea.

“Ah, Arx was good at picking locks,” Takuto says wistfully. “Arx was good at sneaking around… Arx was good at so many things.”

“Arx is probably still good at those things,” Cleve says encouragingly.

“You’re right, you’re right. Arx still is. Arx is right here!”

It’s getting late in the afternoon now, and we can’t spend any more time on planning. I need to show up at the clinic entrance at a reasonable hour. I leave outside matters in Cleve’s hands and head inside with his fifty credit chit. If they manage to adjust the debt, I can pay it off. If not, maybe I can bribe someone.