Chronicles of Chiron: Network Node | Scene 11

Although startled, Cleve acts quickly, catching Mariah when he collapses. On the other side of the fire, Corazon leaps to her feet in alarm. “Oh my gosh, is he okay?” She dashes around the fire to help Cleve lay Mariah out on the ground.

Cleve’s brow is furrowed in concern. “That’s the leg he got bit by the wolf beetle on,” he reminds her, nodding at the limb Mariah grabbed before passing out. 

While Cleve fetches the first aid kit and a flashlight, Corazon works Mariah out of his blazer. Although his leg seemed to pain him, the most obvious problem is the burns from the fungicide she sprayed him with. They don’t look great, but at least they’re not life-threatening. Strangely, though, they seem to have spread further than the chemicals could have reached, traveling up his forearm under his sleeve and down onto his collarbone beneath his shirt. When she shot him, only his hand and neck were exposed. 

“Breathing sounds labored,” Cleve reports after his own examination. Cor suggests putting back on the breathing masks that they all removed when they emerged from the miasma. “Is this a common thing with miasma?” Cleve asks her.

Cor shrugs. “I mean, sure, miasma causes breathing problems in people.”

“Well, yeah, I guess the breathing. But the passing out? He also passed out on the way to Data Haven after we ran through miasma. I’m not quite sure what to do, so I don’t want to overdo it.”

“Cleaner air might help,” Cor says, not sounding terribly confident herself. “Maybe the miasma is worse here than it looks by eye.”

“Good point,” Cleve acknowledges. Even though the masks are a bit annoying to wear, they put theirs back on for now and secure Mariah’s.

The burns are a more straightforward problem in Cleve’s eyes. When he brings her attention back to them, Corazon groans, “Ugh, I feel awful. I can’t believe I sprayed him! I was hallucinating! I thought he was someone else.”

“What’s in that fungicide?”

“A whole bunch of chemicals that are supposed to sort of kill xenofungus. At least get it out of the way. For a little while. You know, burn through it.”

“I guess we’d better get this washed off. Probably should have attended to that sooner,” Cleve says. He spent some time in Data Haven familiarizing himself with the contents of the first aid kit. The burns, at least, are something he knows how to handle. He loosens Mariah’s shirt more and begins washing the affected areas on his neck and chest. Cor follows his lead, cleaning Mariah’s right hand and forearm. Then they go through the entire jar of burn cream, applying it liberally.

As they work, they discuss possible approaches to dealing with Mariah’s breathing. If it’s just a matter of too many spores in his lungs, maybe there’s something they can do to draw them out before they cause too much damage. Cor suggests looking around to see if there are any bluebells growing in the area. “It’s a miasmic attractor,” she explains. “People usually stay away from it because it tends to be in high miasma areas. No one wants that around. But right now… it could be useful.”

“I think he’s a miasmic attractor,” Cleve mutters.

Cor laughs. “Based on how he was glowing before, yeah.” She gets to her feet. “I’ll get the lights going to help you search.” She heads to the robot that Mariah disabled. Its electronics are more damaged, so she is less likely to fully activate it when powering up its light array. It might eventually be necessary to turn one of the robots on completely, especially if they have to carry Mariah out of here, but they’re not at that point yet. She crouches down next to the robot and slips on her shades to protect her from the bright light she is anticipating.

“We could cover it,” Cleve suggests. “So that it doesn’t alert everybody to where we are.” Those words come out too slow for Hypercor, though. Just as they leave Cleve’s mouth, a blast of light flashes upward from the robot’s canted head. Cor gets an eyeful when she jerks the head down to direct its beam at the ground. She’s a little unsteady herself as she makes the quick move. That reminds Cleve that she’s coming down off her miasma-blocking drug. She could probably use a good rest. “Keep watch,” he tells her. Then he goes hunting for bluebells.

Not far down the hill, Cleve finds a small and solitary vibrant blue mushroom. He gets a faceful of spores when he slices through the stem with his hunting knife. After a brief coughing fit, he feels fine, though. And he certainly doesn’t pass out as he straightens up and follows the robot light back to camp. “Is this the one?” he asks, still uncertain in this alien environment. Cor gives him the go-ahead, and he spends the next hour preparing it, boiling it down and then combining it with some of the cosmoline he now keeps in his kit. He had thought to use that to treat his gun for miasma, not one of his team. When all is said and done, he has a vibrant blue ointment that he smears across Mariah’s chest—being sure to keep away from the burns—and on the inside of his breathing mask. He hopes that an overnight treatment will be sufficient.

They’ve done everything they can for Mariah now. Cleve suggests they take watches overnight to guard against danger, given how the robot’s light flashed upwards a few times while Cor was adjusting it. He’s not worried enough to move camp though. It’s been a really long day, one teammate is down, another is exhausted, and there are two robots to haul. Relocating is just not an option under these circumstances.

Cleve takes first watch to let Cor get some much-needed rest. It passes peacefully and unremarkably, except for some twitching from Mariah. Could be pain, could be a bad dream. Whatever it is, it isn’t enough to wake him. Cleve frowns, worried. Without knowing what is wrong with him, there’s nothing to be done about this. I hope we didn’t kill him, Cleve thinks grimly.