“It’s not like moons here pop in and out of the sky—I assume. Someone here has to know at least for the next week,” Cleve says as we leave Takuto’s bedside. We go to the main scientist around here, Dr. Citali, even though astronomy and meteorology are not her specialties. I start by asking her if she knows anything about the upcoming weather. Cleve and I don’t even know what season it is.
“We’re coming into the wet season. The winds from the sea north of here—” She catches herself, perhaps seeing looks of impatience or confusion on our faces. There’s a sea north of here?
“Practical information is what we’re looking for here,” I tell her. There’s a time and a place for detailed explanations, but we’re heading out as soon as we track down Corazon. Cleve’s got ideas about traveling at odd times of day in order to reduce miasma risks.
Dr. Citali gives a frustrated sigh but reins herself in. “The wet season is what you need to be worrying about,” she says more simply. “That means increased wildlife and miasma activity, so be mindful of that. The rains tend to come in the afternoon. Things can be left extraordinarily wet, so you’ll need to be careful.”
“Does the rain clear the miasma down out of the air?” Cleve asks. “Like it would dust?”
“The rain itself does tamp down the miasma, yes, but the extra wind at this time of year means you could be caught unawares in miasma very quickly.”
I start putting together pieces of what I’ve heard so far. “If miasma is usually lesser at night, and these rains come in the afternoon and reduce it, then the night in the wet season would have even less miasma.”
Dr. Citali nods. “Yes, it’s the best time to go. That’s why they want to get the tap now.”
“So about the moons… what are we predicting for this week?” Cleve asks. Dr. Citali balks at this question, but she does pull up relevant information from the computer and make some estimates. Our trip is slated to take two days, and the night we get there will be the equivalent of half a moon. I suppose that means half the light that Earth’s moon would cast, but I have no idea what that would be. Where I lived, it was never dark enough for the moon to matter. Or even if it was, you couldn’t see enough of the sky through all the buildings to spot it.
Cleve nods at what Dr. Citali says; it’s meaningful to him, at least. He’s surprised that there’s no basic calendar of these forecasts. “Yes, that would probably be helpful, but astronomy isn’t an interest of most of the people in Data Haven, unfortunately,” Dr. Citali says. That makes sense, considering how little these people go outside. “Back in Stepdaughters of Chiron territory, someone definitely keeps track of this. But that’s not the kind of software I just have lying around.” Right, right! Lacking cross-planet communication, she’d only have on her whatever data she physically carried here on some kind of drive.
“Well, my only other question then is what’s the situation with masks? Filters?” Cleve asks. In the initial discussion we had about this job with Roze, Dr. Citali had promised to outfit us. “The less miasma we take on, the more of these missions we can do,” he points out.
Dr. Citali provides us with simple respiratory filters that cover the nose and mouth. “It’s not great, but it’s something,” she tells us. I’m sure it will be better than a handkerchief or gauze bandages.
“Sounds like you can last sixteen years before you have too much of it,” Cleve says, sounding far less concerned now than he did when we faced what I like to think of as Miasma Pass.
“Ah! Sixteen years for a typical person who is spending most of their time under filtered conditions,” Dr. Citali cautions. “For someone who’s going out all the time, it ticks up a whole lot faster unless you have other mitigations in place.” She does not, however, offer us the same shot Corazon will be taking. The risks associated with it are too high. We can’t all be under threat of hallucinations on this job.
“How long do people live here?” Cleve wonders aloud.
“Well, we’ve only been on the planet for thirty years, so it’s hard to say for someone who’s born here how long they’ll live,” Dr. Citali points out. “At least thirty years.”
We take our leave then to go meet up with Corazon. Dr. Citali doesn’t hold me back to go over the preliminary results of my blood test, so I figure I’ll hear about them when I return from the job.
I haven’t seen Corazon for days. She’s been holed up in a room, and the only thing I’ve heard through the door whenever I’ve gone to look for her is cursing. It started off as very frustrated but then turned into more triumphant swearing. I’m glad she’s the one training for the computers side of this job, not me. All I need to do is plug in a data stick once she’s gotten through whatever security is on the network node.
When we go to find her now, since we’re on the verge of heading out, she emerges from the room with a completely new look. That should be helpful if Morgan has any surveillance equipment at the node. I’m sure that’s not the only reason for the change, though. She must’ve been thrilled to ditch her dumpy Morgan Industries Fungus Removal Team jumpsuit for the slick leather jacket she has now. And that’s not all. Her hair is dyed a very artificial red and has been restyled with a side shave.
“I see Roze’s hand in this,” Cleve mutters at the sight.
“Looking sharp, Corazon,” I tell her with a wide smile, happy to see her looking so comfortable.
“Please,” she says, lifting up her new sunglasses, “call me Hypercor.” I chuckle at the new hacker handle, and she adds, “Or just Cor.”
She joins us to go kit up in preparation for a pre-dawn departure. We need to grab rations, ultra-light blankets, that sort of thing. Cleve wants us to get in some distance while it’s still dark and the miasma risks are low. “Roze says I’m a little bit faster than most folks,” Cor says proudly as we pack. Then she admits hurriedly, “Well, uh, mistakes were made. But faster. That’s the important part.”
“Can you work the front door now?” I ask.
“Yes. And now I can appreciate how that works. This wasn’t the kind of education I could get in a Morgan dome. You boys ready to rumble?”
“Let’s hope,” our Eeyore says.
“No time like the present!” I reply.
The next morning, Marina Citali roves the halls of Data Haven, but there is no sign of Mariah Thorne. Roze tells her Cleve’s expedition has already departed, and Marina returns to her lab in disappointment and concern. Once there, she pulls up Mariah’s chart again. Impossible, she thinks, looking at the numbers. If this is what just the preliminary tests show, what will the more detailed analysis reveal?