Chronicles of Chiron: Network Node | Scene 19

Cleve does his outdoor thing, picking a route that wastes time for Yushi and gives it to Corazon. At one point he even advises us to be careful as we cross a briar beast trail. Lest Yushi get wind of what Cleve’s really doing, I keep the fellow engaged in conversation. I have ulterior motives too, though. I want to know more about that factory explosion he mentioned. Like, how does he even know about that? Cor implanted the virus a day and a half ago. How could he have gotten here from a Morgan dome so fast? 

“There’s a dome within a day of the network node? Really?” I ask. “When we were out near the network node, we saw glowing domes out way in the distance. Are there smaller domes that are closer? Or do you have vehicles?” The questions come tumbling out of me, and when Yushi looks at me funny, I realize that I’m revealing just how little I know about Morgan’s small society.

“Have you not seen the repo squad trucks? We can’t be walking out here forever, so we get on the trucks at the dome, they drive out a certain distance, and then the teams disperse. You have to have seen this. What dome are you from again?”

“Oh, well, you know, Prospecting… we have our own sub-dome,” I equivocate. I’m pretty sure that’s what Corazon told us. “But never mind that, what’s all this about a problem at a factory?”

“Yeah! A chemical factory blew up! Something happened, and they think it was exiles or dissidents or something.”

“Blew up? What do you mean? Like, exploded?” That is exactly what I did not want to happen. Dr. Citali’s words come back to me. It’s a computer virus, okay? It can’t cause an explosion itself. Only Morgan’s factories can cause explosions if they’re not set up safely.

“Yeah,” Yushi goes on, unaware of my internal conflict. “The factory’s a heaping pile of rubble. They say it almost took down the dome. That’s what I heard on the datalinks.” Ah, so this is not something Yushi personally witnessed. The Morgan propaganda machine has been set spinning. I worked under him in Sales; I know what sort of embellishments he’s capable of generating. It’s hard through this secondhand source to have any clear idea of what really happened. “Yeah, supposedly they’re still trying to figure out how many people are injured,” Yushi continues. “Fungicide production’s going to be offline for a while. Those chemical plants are as safe as they can make them, so this had to have been terrorists. I dunno, do you think,” he leans in, voice low, “do you think it was the Stepdaughters of Chiron?”

I feel ill. It may not be as bad as Yushi has been led to believe, but probably there really were injuries. Hopefully not deaths. Ugh, what am I doing? I told Corazon I didn’t want a rap sheet here, and now I’m a terrorist. I couldn’t have checked the code to know what it was going to do. I had to trust what Dr. Citali told me about it. But no more of these jobs, I resolve. I have different bargaining chips I can use with her from now on: myself. If she’s so keen to have humanity and Chiron coexist, surely what I have discovered I can do is relevant.

I shrug off Yushi’s question and do what I can to build up the common ground between us. “Well, if it takes a while for the fungicide factory to get back online, maybe that will give some of the plants out here a chance to recover wherever they had to be cut back to get a line through.”

Yushi pauses to reflect, looking at the vegetation around us. “Yeah, but people have to live somewhere. We have to make more domes, right? There’s not another way to live out here.”

“But there could be,” I suggest. I’m not comfortable enough with Yushi to invite him to Data Haven or share my Stepdaughters of Chiron flora-zine, but I can at least plant a seed—a spore?—of doubt in his mind that Morgan’s way is the way it has to be. “I want to coexist with these plants,” I add, straightening my boutonniere.

He smiles as he imagines such a future. “That would be really great, if I didn’t have to live in a dome. And if I didn’t have to measure my miasma rating every week to make sure I’m not over my lifetime allotment. Did you used to work in Morgan Biosciences?” I shake my head no. I’m not going to pile another lie on top of my current story. “Huh. Well, I wonder what new things they’ll cook up next. Maybe somebody’s already working on that,” Yushi says pensively, his naivety still firing on all cylinders. He’s still only thinking of the world through his Morgan Industries lens, but I’ve done what I can for now. Maybe someday we won’t be on opposite sides. 

Several hours go by, and Cleve finally gets us to a place from which Yushi can confidently lead his squad the rest of the way to the network node. The lead repo man makes a ceremonial gesture towards me and Cleve, a semi-circular sign of benediction. “You two have been wonderful,” he tells us. “I release you from the temporary debt. Thanks for all your efforts. Look me up when you’re back in the main dome. I hopefully have some vacation in the not-so-distant future. I’ll still be on call, of course, but it could be a fun time! Whelp, I’m on the clock. Gotta get to work. You two have been so helpful!” Then he gives us each a firm handshake. Cleve’s is maybe a little firmer than mine; Yushi might still think he has something to prove to him. I get a clap on the shoulder, too. “Mariah, as always, great talking to you. Good to see a familiar face out here in the wilderness. And Cleve, excellent work leading us here. I’d be happy to have you as a guide any time.” Then, as he is in such a good mood, he tips each of us a small electronic credit chit. 

I thank him for his generosity. These fifty… what? Chiron cents? Morgans? Oh, I think one of the flyers I have calls them energy credits. Anyway, they won’t be redeemable at Data Haven, but they could come in handy if we find ourselves in Morgan territory again. I expect we will. We still don’t know what happened to Arx, but if there are any leads on that in the robots’ memory banks, I will certainly be volunteering to follow up on them.