Chronicles of Chiron: The Monsoon Jungle | Scene 11

At first, the Progenitor facility does not seem so bad to Cleve. He’s relieved when the shimmery bug thing in the first room proves itself not immune to bullets. Probably Marina’s going to shoot one of us, is what’s going to happen, he thinks grimly, noting that she wasn’t quick to draw. She doesn’t seem to have any combat instincts at all. It’s true that Mariah’s no soldier either, but at least Cleve has seen him wield a weapon in a fight before.

After some struggle with the door—and a staredown with a demon craw—Cleve finds himself issuing orders and taking what shots he can. It’s just like the old days back in the unit with Roze, except he’s nowhere near as confident of his team here and there’s a sparkling purple haze interfering with the enemy. And, man, these demon craws get in close! Their carapace is too tough to punch through, and there’s no space for Cleve to get his rifle up, so he decides it is time to improvise. A side pocket of his backpack has been home to a sac of wolf beetle acid since the very first day he woke up on Chiron, and now seems like a good time to deploy it. He yanks it out and smashes it into the demon craw right in front of him, but it explodes like a water balloon, getting just as much on his own jacket as it gets on his target.

The demon craw skitters backwards, and Cleve immediately brings his gun up for a shot. No use letting it find cover or, what’d be worse, get reinforcements. As soon as it clatters to the ground, he swings around to assess the remaining threat. His boot skids on the slick floor, straining his calf muscle, but he keeps his footing. The purple shimmers that had been impeding his own attacker are similarly around Mariah, but the guy is pinned to the ground by a giant claw. Cleve takes aim, performing a quick risk/benefit analysis. He’d rather not chance hitting Mariah, but he also doesn’t want the demon craw to kill him. The shot just barely misses; Cleve overcompensated in his anxiety over friendly fire. As he takes another bead on the creature now lurching after a retreating Mariah, Dr. Citali gets her pistol out, but she has no better luck. Cleve’s next careful shot strikes true, and the room goes quiet.

Still in combat mode, Cleve goes on patrol. The demon craw lair seems to be another lab much like the first room. There’s a lot of similar equipment in here, but none of it holds Cleve’s attention for long, as it poses no threat. The first discovery that gives him pause is another large demon craw, but closer examination shows it to be long dead. All that’s left is the exoskeleton, and that is marked with a few holes likely produced by a handgun. Probably Ayumu took this one out before the others got the ranger. All the flesh is gone, perhaps eaten by the demon craws that Cleve himself just dispatched.

As he continues farther back into the room, Cleve sees four tubes similar to the one in the first room but much, much larger. Three of them are broken and empty, but one is not. Floating passively in it is a dormant demon craw. “So that’s how they got in,” Cleve mutters. “They were in the room the whole time.” That changes the situation slightly, as it means he needn’t be on the lookout for the demon craws’ access point. Still, it would be good to know if there are any other exits, particularly since the door his team came in through is closed again. Before he moves on, he shakes his head in disappointment. “These guys didn’t even think to let their friend out! Let them sit there for thirty years…”

Most of the doors Cleve finds lead into ransacked closets. One prominent door on the far back wall is too jammed for him to open. Given its design, he suspects it was the main entrance to the facility. Now it probably leads straight into the ground. Cleve finds no other threats, though he occasionally hears the skittering of small creatures, tiny beetles and centipedes and the like. No demon craws and no killer shimmering bugs. But there’s a constant and annoying hissing noise. He tracks that down to a pressurized tank in the back corner where gas leaks from a fresh bullet hole. Now we know where Dr. Citali’s shot landed, Cleve reflects as he looks around for any indications of what this was for. He finds warning labels, and while he can’t understand most of what they say, the unhappy skull with tusks and a few choice symbols he learned from Takuto suggest that Progenitors needed to be worried about this poison-laced miasma. It may very well be a biological weapon, though from the looks of the piping connecting it to those specimen tubes, it is part of whatever was making demon craws. “Thank goodness it wasn’t flammable,” Cleve mutters.