Chronicles of Chiron: The Cryopod Caper | Scene 5

The opening legs of the trip are fairly smooth, terrain-wise. The lowlands near Data Haven have shorter plants that bend easily beneath the rover’s rugged tires. Once we start the climb to Miasma Pass, though, the groundcover thickens. The pass itself is full of xenofungus that tripped me up on our first crossing. Cleve drives slowly; miasma could roll through with little notice, plummeting visibility.

I have no responsibilities in the rover, nothing that needs my attention. I am free to concentrate on everything outside, trying to connect with the plants and will them out of our way. “I’m going to try to clear some of the foliage. Or at least move it a little bit as you drive,” I tell Cleve.

“You can do that from inside?” he asks. “We’re not strapping anybody to the top!”

“Well, I can try,” I say, and that’s what I do. It’s difficult; I have little control over the plants and can barely feel how they are responding to me. Aside from the fact that we’re moving relative to them, they’re also muffled, like there’s a barrier between us. And perhaps there is: the air filters. Just like inside Data Haven. It’s harder to work through the medium of miasma when I’m the only source of it around. When I try to use it, it’s like trying to talk when you’re thirsty. Your tongue is too dry to form words easily. Yeah, the closest I can express to how I feel right now is parched. Which is a weird thing, since I’m quite hydrated but at the same time I feel thirsty. I guess my brain only has so many ways to process these new sensations and is using familiar old ones for new meanings. Like the potent smells of the briar beast control chemicals.

The rover gets scraped up as we drive through the pass. That’s not such a horrible outcome; Cleve did want it to look like a wreck. He’s a bit of a nervous wreck himself, knuckles white from how tightly he grips the steering wheel as we plow through a miasma cloud. He mutters about driving off a cliff and dying. Takuto holds his breath reflexively, even though we’re safe inside a filtered vehicle.

And me… I actually feel… better. The sense of thirst decreases, though it does not go away completely. There’s a conflicting emotional response within me. On the one hand, having miasma so nearby is reassuring. I know that if I stepped outside the vehicle, pushing xenofungus out of our route would be so much easier. But on the other hand, seeing how afraid Takuto is—though he’s doing a good job trying to hide it—is jarring. We have such different reactions, and both for good reasons. It’s something to mull over. As excited as I am about my abilities and what my biochemistry might mean for humanity and this world, there are very real reasons for caution. Takuto’s month in a hospital bed and Marina’s lost sibling are just two in a long list, I’m sure.

There are other sensations as well. I feel my eyes light up when we’re in the thickest stretch of miasma. And I hear clanging. There’s no response from my companions, which leads me to believe this is not real sound, just my brain’s interpretation of other signals. Bits and pieces of information come in from across the landscape, passed by pheromones or other volatile chemicals or—I don’t know—some part of the electromagnetic spectrum we don’t normally interact with? I have no idea. What I do know is that I’m getting information about what I’ve been worrying about, which is our crash site.

I have not said anything to anyone about the dream—or hallucination? or vision?—I had about it. Not without concrete evidence. It’s one thing to manipulate miasma into moving fungus or soothing away injuries. It’s another to claim that the planet is speaking to me. But I believe that the dream means the ground and the fungus around our cryobeds are getting torn up somehow. There was fire and smoke in the dream, and I don’t know how literal I’m supposed to take that. Maybe there’s pollution from industry or acid burns from fungicide. Or we might be about to encounter freshly burned forest. 

What I hear now, in this “miasma-vision” mode, is a metallic clanging. (I know that’s mixing metaphors, but it’s all getting jumbled up in my brain, anyway.) The sound is too violently jarring to be a bell. It reminds me of a time I was walking past a construction site, and a dump truck righted itself too quickly. The top-hinged tailgate suddenly smashed into the body, startling all the nearby workers. The sound I’m detecting now is like that, but also very repetitive and fast. However, if I switch my focus to my companions and the rover around me, I hear none of it. We’re driving slowly through the area, so I have plenty of time to experiment with listening. The clanging sounds persist for twenty minutes at a time, break for a similar length, then the cycle repeats. I don’t know exactly what to make of this, but it can’t be good.