Chronicles of Chiron: Network Node | Scene 13

I wake up to the sound of a quiet conversation between Cleve and Cor. It looks like she’s just finished applying some ointment to the bruises on his arms. Right… I passed out while trying to do something about them. Cleve is telling her they should have been treated sooner, but it’s said in an instructional tone, not a critical one. 

Cor takes the learning experience in stride. “Ah, okay. They don’t teach this stuff in Morgan domes. At least, I never learned it.” When I push myself up to sitting, she notices I’m awake. “Mariah, how’re you feeling?”

“Ah, okay,” I answer slowly, still shaking off the dream—vision?—of our crash site. I do actually feel pretty good. My leg is only aching a little bit, and the fungicide burns don’t hurt at all. My face is a little uncomfortable, though, as it seems I’ve slept in a respirator. I remember having taken it off last night, though. “Do we still need to be wearing these?” I ask, pointing at it. Neither Cleve nor Cor is.

“Um… ah… I’m not really sure,” Cleve says. “You passed out again, so… But I guess that might be enough time for the treatment to have worked. How do your lungs feel?”

“My lungs feel fine.” I take the mask off and see that the inside is now blue for some reason. “Yeah, I don’t think that’s why I passed out,” I add.

“Were you dizzy?”

“No, I was in pain.” Cleve looks at me blankly, so I flesh out my answer. “Have you ever been in so much pain that you just can’t process it?”

“Not in a situation where I had to process it,” Cleve says. “Usually the adrenaline’s pumping.”

“Like, physical pain?” Cor asks.

“Yeah, physical pain,” I clarify.

“Oh. Not physically, no,” she says. I file that information away for later. She must have been through something really rough to have blacked out from trauma.

“Well, it hurt a lot.”

“Does it still hurt?” Cor asks, concerned.


“Your lungs?” Cleve presses.

“No,” I say, exasperated. “Not my lungs. My lungs are fine, as far as I can tell.” I start to take a deep breath to prove this, and in the process I glance down at my chest to watch the rise and fall. “Ugh! I’ve got all this gunk on me!” I exclaim, shocked. My shirt is undone several buttons further than I normally wear it, and all across my pecs is some kind of vibrant blue ooze. Just like the color inside my respirator, come to think of it. I pull out my handkerchief and rub it across my lower face. It comes away covered with the same stuff. Health issues forgotten, I yank over my satchel and rummage through it for my shaving kit so I can examine myself in the mirror.

“Okay, good, it worked!” Cor says brightly, satisfied that I can breathe just fine. I barely hear her. The mirror shows that my shirt collar is totally ruined but not from the blue stain. It looks like it’s been splashed with bleach. ¡Ay! that must be from the fungicide. My blazer is lying next to me, and I see that its right sleeve and collar are similarly marred. The splotches look like some kind of crazy tie dye. “Good to see you’re back to normal, Mariah!” Cor adds when I groan in misery.

“So, the pain…?” Cleve prompts me. He drops his voice to a whisper. “From the burns?” He doesn’t want to make Corazon feel bad for hurting me and ruining my outfit.

“You want some fried shroomnuts?” she offers in consolation, trying to pass me some breakfast. I wave her away, dealing with the priority of my appearance. The blue stuff wipes clean off my chest, so at least there’s that. There’s some other ointment on my neck and the back of my right hand, but that’s barely noticeable, having mostly been absorbed into the fungicide burns as it healed them. My skin in those areas shows only the slightest reddening. That’s good. It means I should be able to shave my neck without irritation.

“Do you have health issues?” Cleve prods. “Is this an existing problem or new since getting here? Em! Focus!”

Annoyed, I look up over my mirror at Cleve. “My name is Mariah,” I snap. “If that’s a problem for you, call me Thorne.” Is my first name too feminine for Cleve? I thought I left such attitudes behind in the schoolyard.

“Very well, fair enough,” Cleve says, taking no offense. He’s got my attention now, which is what he wanted.

I drop my hands in my lap, letting my mirror and handkerchief rest there as I sort out what to say. “I don’t know if it is a new problem or an old problem being exacerbated,” I tell him. “I suffered a leg injury as a child that was… very bad. To the level of passing out from pain. So that’s a thing I’ve done before,” I share. “Around the fire last night… it hurt even worse than that. That’s an old injury, but something new seems to be happening here and it seems to be aggravating that.” Cleve is silent, just staring at me. I fish around for more to add. “So that’s what hurt, and that’s why I passed out. I don’t think it’s anything you need to be tactically worried about.” Nothing, no response, just his usual scowl. “I can manage it better… if it’s a problem…” Desperation is starting to leak into my voice. I know maybe a dozen people on this planet, and if the one I’ve known the longest wants nothing to do with me, where does that leave me? Can I fit in anywhere here? “Does this mean you won’t work with me anymore?”

Cleve’s impassive face finally cracks, and I see relief there: my health issues are not his fault. “Hey, no man left behind,” he says encouragingly. “Face up or face down. No need to worry, you’re a useful part of the team. But this is something to talk to the doc about, I guess, if it’s worse here. We don’t want you to fall and miasma-drown.”

“Yes, yes, I totally intend to see her. Although…” I look to Cor. “You said to be careful who I tell about this stuff.” I wiggle my fingers, not causing any purple sparkles, but evoking the memories of last night. “Did you have much interaction with Dr. Citali this past week in Data Haven?”

“No, I just picked up the miasma blocker from her. I don’t have any special insight on her,” she says with a shrug.

“But look,” Cleve says, commanding my attention, “if you feel like you’re getting close to your limit, you’ve got to say something, all right? Nobody’s going to judge you for it.”

I nod. “Whatever was going on last night with the purple lights, that’s what overtaxed me. And I have a better understanding of that now. So I hope that’s not going to happen again.”

“We did do a lot of robot dragging, too,” Cleve points out. I chuckle at the out he is giving me, but I don’t need to save face here. I’m confident I overreached myself last night.