Chronicles of Chiron: The Cryopod Caper | Scene 3

I find Cleve by the elevator with his rucksack. He gives me a thoughtful look and then says, “You have paint, right?”

“Yeah… in my bedroom,” I reply, a bit confused.

“Between paint and mushrooms, do you think you could make the rover look beat up? For if we need to hide.” Ah. That does indeed make sense. I guess Chloe didn’t already have anything appropriate. I lead Cleve to my live-in closet so we can load up on paint. “Just the ugly ones,” Cleve suggests, “to make it look like it’s ruined.” I ignore that advice. There are no ugly colors here, just ones appropriate to depictions of the Chiron wilderness—exactly what we’ll need to camouflage the rover.

With arms full of paint, we return to the elevator, where Takuto is waiting for us, backpack secure and fancy laptop clutched to his chest. Datapad++, he calls it. Marina is there with him, providing some last minute medical advice regarding his convalescence. She hands him a small drive holding the xenobotanical data she wants spread in Morgan’s domes on behalf of the Stepdaughters of Chiron. He quickly transfers the information to his datapad and then returns the small device to her. She is somewhat startled to have it so swiftly back in her hands, but I’m pleased, as right off the bat, Takuto is demonstrating how competent he is with his computer.

“Thanks for taking care of me in the infirmary, Dr. Citali,” Takuto tells her. As she leaves, he turns his attention to us. “We’re going to be riding in a vehicle, right? Who’s driving?”

“I am,” Cleve answers, eyeballing Takuto like he’s afraid the kid is going to fall over at any moment. “How are you feeling?”

“I feel great! I am so ready, um, uh.” Takuto’s voice sounds fine—no wheeze to it—but he’s still got that nervous stammer. “Mr. Cleve, I am so ready,” he declares.

“All right,” Cleve says, words trailing off into a sigh.

Takuto looks to me, and I assure him, “You’ll be fine.” My grin disarms him enough that he does not “Mr. Thorne” me. I’ve got barely ten years on him; he can definitely call me Mariah.

On the short elevator ride to the surface, Takuto begins reviewing our objectives. “We’re going to get Arx, we’re going to get your…” He pulls up a file on his datapad. “Get Arx. Cryopod something. Deliver package.”

“And get a multitool,” Cleve tells him. “Add it to the list. Have to get one for Chloe.”

“Multitool for Chloe,” Takuto echoes as he types. “I’m not going to put her name down, in case we get captured,” he says. Then he quickly adds, “But that’s not going to happen.”

“Hopefully not,” I agree.

“No, we’ll probably get killed,” Cleve mutters.

“Hopefully that also will not happen.” This is not the kind of attitude we need to carry us through what lies ahead. “C’mon!” I say brightly. “We’re starting a little adventure together. Let’s be positive!”

“You’re right, you’re right. We’ll probably get ourselves killed.” 

“That’s the spirit, Mr. Cleve,” Takuto says. Cleve’s amended sentiment just earns an eye-roll from me.

When the elevator opens, I get my first look at the vaunted rover. There’s a clunky digging arm cobbled onto the roof of the sedan, along with some solar panels. Since we’re all going to be cooped up inside the small cabin with air filters running, I do not reaffix my boutonniere. The little sprig of xenofungus can have a few more days of undisturbed growth here by the elevator while I’m away. 

Cleve pops the trunk, and we load in the paints and some gear: bedrolls, food, the small briefcase that passes for a toolkit. “So, can you mushroom it?” Cleve asks me. “I mean, they stick real good, right?”

“Onto metal? They have little thorns. That’s why they stick to cloth well. I don’t know about this, though,” I say, running my hand along the smooth exterior of the vehicle. We could maybe twine some around parts like the antenna, but that might get in the way of driving. Such decorations will be better applied when we park at our destination. 

With that sorted, we get in the car. Cleve starts the silent engine, and we slowly roll away from Data Haven. He flicks on the radio—there’s just static, of course. He turns it off, then cracks, “At least we don’t hear siege worm summoning noises.”

I grow reflective. “That raises an interesting point. The Progenitor device you found transmits something that attracts siege worms. It’s got to be something that resonates through the ground, right? Because it’s clearly not going to travel over the air. Unless the Progenitors worked out a way to propagate signals through miasma.”

“What are these Progenitor… things? People?” Takuto asks from the back. Cor and Roze both used the term, but it’s new to him. I guess the Progenitors are not as widely known as I’d come to believe. 

“It’s tech that’s been found on this planet,” I explain, turning in my seat to address him.

“Oh, the weird stuff,” Takuto says. So he does know about it, just not by that name.

“I guess,” I weakly agree. There is plenty here that is weird to Earthlings. “The non-living weird stuff. The manufactured weird stuff.”

“Yeah, the technical name for it is the weird stuff, but I hear the slang term is Progenitor tech,” Cleve jokes. “I’ll show you on our break.”

The rover can only drive so far on a single charge, so our journey is punctuated with pauses for it to rest in the sun. On the first of those, Cleve pulls out the small transmitter he found in the wolf beetle nest and lets Takuto get a look at it. 

“Do not turn it on,” I am quick to tell him. 

“How do you turn it on?” Takuto immediately asks. Then he quickly withdraws the question, not wanting to get in trouble, I imagine. “Uh, sorry, you’re right, you’re right. I won’t turn it on. What’s it for? Is it going to help us rescue Arx?”

Cleve takes this as a teaching moment, explaining everything he knows about what the switches and buttons do. If he’s going to trust Takuto to do this job with us, then it’s in for a penny, in for a pound. I smile as I watch the lesson, remembering Cleve teaching me how to stand watch our first night out on Chiron. “This is how you turn it on. This is how you turn it off. It attracts siege worms, which are large and dangerous.” Takuto has never seen a siege worm, which is no surprise to me. He has, of course, heard about the guy who lost a leg to one. It seems every siege worm conversation we have is destined to end up back at Moby Dick.