Chronicles of Chiron: The Cryopod Caper | Scene 12

A door to Cleve’s right slides open with a rusty grind. Who knows how long it’s been sealed. Cleve raises his rifle, I shine my flashlight in, and we peer inside together. The room is a twelve foot cube. There’s a huge bed along one side, far larger than a human would need and uncomfortably high off the floor. Ten feet long, six feet wide, it has a thin mattress and pillow. The air inside is stale; this room has been sealed for a long time.

“Toilet, I guess?” Cleve says, nodding at a drain in one corner. Other than that, the room is sparse. I take a look at the pillow—textiles are a technology so maybe Shu-Fen will want it. Cleve pokes around the other corner and produces a block that he suspects is soap. Using his knife, he peels off a shaving, wraps it up, and stashes it in his backpack for Roze. A moment later, I hear him growl, “I thought it was soap! Stupid!”

Oversized pillow stuffed under one arm, I step over with the flashlight and shine it on the hands that Cleve is frustratingly shaking out. There are splotches of bright red on his finger pads and palms. Whatever that caustic material is, be it soap, food, or some torture device, it is not great for human skin. Cleve confirms how itchy the rash feels. “Can I try to do something about it?” I ask.

“Uh, sure,” Cleve says.

I’m hesitant to touch his skin, not wanting to suffer the same fate, so I simply hover my hand over his and try to will the inflammation down, like how I treated his bruises. There’s not much miasma to work with down here. We’re not in a filtered environment like Data Haven or the rover, but there are no plants or fungus growing in the area, either. I can’t draw in enough to effect any sort of biological change in Cleve’s injury. I frown and apologetically shake my head. Cleve is blasé about it. He simply brushes his palms off on his pants and continues his inspection of the room.

I remain right where I am for a moment. The focus of my activity, Cleve’s hands, is gone now, but I’m still sensing something. Or… the echo of something. Like ripples in a pond or the chirp of a distant frog. Whatever it is, something down here reacted to me trying to draw upon miasma. Not a pocket of miasma itself, but related to it. Curious, I follow tingles into the hallway and then down to Takuto’s side. Once there, I set down the pillow and start feeling along the edges of the terminal, seeking a spot I can pry open. Takuto looks over his datapad at me, and I answer his unspoken question. “There’s something in here, and I don’t mean data.”

Towards the bottom of the pedestal, I spring open a locker of sorts. It opens easily to my touch, whether because it was unlocked or due to my affinity, I don’t know. I pull out a small device, a long, thin metal rod the size and weight of a simple pencil. I turn it over in my hands, unsure of how to proceed. “Can you interface with this at all, Takuto?”

He knits his brows together, distracted by something on his screen, and then glances over at me while continuing to type. “What’s that thing?”

“It’s… I don’t know.” I try to scrape together what I’ve sensed into something that will have meaning to anyone else. “It’s some sort of device that… can interact with… the local plant life?”

“Be careful!” Cleve calls from down the hall. He’s not paying close attention to what we’re doing, other than that I’ve got alien materials in my hands.

“I don’t see any dataports on it,” Takuto says. I shrug. Maybe there’s some emanation he can detect. I hold the device, studying it with senses new and old. This is definitely the source of the chirps. I can feel it reacting when I think about reaching toward miasma. I… I think it’s a miasmic manipulator. There’s so little to draw on down here, but I keep trying, seeking a stronger response. Suddenly, I feel a sharp twinge in my leg. Something I just did with this rod briefly adjusted the miasma I’m laced with. Okay, wow, a piece of technology with some sort of ability to control—or at least work with—miasma like I can. This is great news. The Progenitors were able to work with the Chiron biome in some way.

“Whoa! Just had a big EM spike. What happened?” Takuto says.

“You detected something? So there must be some sort of wireless connection between this rod and that terminal?” That’s the only explanation I can think of.

Takuto finishes his typing flourish. “Well, I got all the data I think I can get. Why don’t I unplug from the terminal, and we can see if what you’re holding still works. Does there need to be power in the terminal for that to work? Let’s run the experiment.”

“Hey, don’t EMP things erase data?” Cleve calls from down the hall. “You want to protect all that data we recovered, right?”

“An electromagnetic spike,” Takuto clarifies, “not an EMP.”

“Couldn’t that erase data?”

“I mean… if it was tailored correctly and the object wasn’t shielded,” Takuto says, giving Cleve’s worries a sincere consideration. “But that’s not what this was. It was a distinctive spike. It didn’t look like noise or a lightning strike.”

Cleve is right to worry about the data. Shu-Fen has a copy of it, but there’s no reason to jeopardize what we have, since we might have more than what’s on the drives that she pulled. As much as I want to understand this device, it will have to wait for better test conditions. “Nevermind for now, then. I just thought this had emitted a signal and you had detected it. I didn’t think it would be destructive.”

“I don’t know if it would be,” Takuto says. He depowers the terminal and disconnects Datapad++. 

I still feel a tingle, however, which means the rod is still on even though the Progenitor computer is not. Whatever “on” means in this context… I groan, staring down at the device in my hands and completely unsure of what to do about it. I need to keep this. There is so little I understand about what I can do and why.

“I bet Shu-Fen would be interested in that,” Takuto says.

“Yeah,” I say. “Yeah.” I echo the word with much less enthusiasm.

“Are we going to give it to her?”

“We’re going to open another door and see if there’s anything else useful to give to her,” I tell him.

“I’ve got the torture soap,” Cleve offers. 

I don’t know if it was meant as a joke, but I laugh.