Our next trip out from Data Haven gets started much later in the day than the one to the network node did. There’s a lot of last minute scrambling for supplies to make us as ready as we can be for unearthing our cryopods and then going after Arx. I leave it to Cleve to ask Chloe if she has any camouflaged tarp for hiding the rover. As for me, I return to the research lab that passes as a medical center around here. I’m hoping that Marina has some extra supplies we can use to flesh out Cleve’s first aid kit. There are plenty of dangers out there in the wild, even if we’re traveling by car. And we don’t know what state Arx is going to be in when we find them.
Marina is curating her fungus samples when I locate her. I’m not sure if this is work or a hobby, but she looks happy tending the bluebell. I ask if she has any accelerated healing shots to spare, since Cleve’s kit only has a couple left. Marina is apologetic; her supply is very limited, and she and her nurses don’t have many other options for quick triage of cuts and gashes. She places a hand on my upper arm for a moment, giving me an encouraging squeeze. “But I’ve heard about some of the things you can do, so… they’ll be in good hands.”
I accept the vote of confidence in the spirit it is offered. It is pretty incredible what I was able to do for Takuto’s lungs, but considering how I messed myself up in the process, I’m not sure that’s the best treatment to rely on. “Is there anything you can provide—or just suggest—regarding Arx? They might’ve been exposed to as much miasma as Takuto was. Now, we don’t know what the Morgan medical center has done to them over the last month, but if Arx has a seriously compromised respiratory system, any advice you have for getting them more mobile would be great. What else might come in handy? Asthma inhaler? Some kind of temporary stimulant?”
Marina bites her bottom lip and slips her hands into the pockets of her lab coat. Slowly, she pulls out a foil-wrapped stick of her gum. “This might help calm their nerves. It has a slight menthol effect, so they might breathe a little easier. It’s called Denthol. It’s mostly made with Chiron ingredients.”
This is what I’ve seen Marina chewing, at times almost compulsively. I accept it from her and take a closer look. I get a whiff of it, and something about it is familiar, though the form factor is different. “This seems kind of like Rhum, a drug that was just experimental when Deirdre told me about it back on Earth.”
I don’t mean for my words to be controversial in any respect. I’m just curious if this is a related drug, perhaps different due to thirty years of development or the need to use local materials. But this topic hits a nerve of some kind. Marina quietly pulls out another stick of her gum and starts chewing it. I’m not sure how I’ve upset her, or even if I have. I try to backpedal, not wanting to screw up this relationship so soon. “No big deal,” I say, “I was just curious, since I have some Rhum from Earth.”
Finally her silence breaks. “That’s… surprising. But if it was experimental then, how did you come by it?”
“Huh. Didn’t know she… traded in that.”
“Traded in that? That wording is a little harsh,” I object. This wasn’t some drug deal on a street corner.
“Wasn’t it illegal then?”
“It was still being developed in the lab.” I’ll grant that much. “I don’t know how much it’s been refined over the last thirty years.”
“So illegal for personal, non-research use,” Marina points out, not falling for my attempt to redirect her. But she holds up her hands in a calming gesture and says, “But that doesn’t matter. You said you have some with you? Would you be willing to let me evaluate a sample?”
“Sure,” I agree, wanting to keep her goodwill. I give her my second-to-last strip. If things get really bad, there’s also still a backup in Cleve’s first aid kit.