Chronicles of Chiron: Whatever It Takes | Scene 4

Since Jes is amenable to receiving help, we head outside while the mushroom chili simmers. Cleve gets the tools out of the rover and sets to work with Jes, chatting about tractors and farms all the while. Jes was apprenticed to older farmers, but they were planetfallers. It was hard for them to adapt their methods to such a new environment. Jes appreciates the things they taught him, but it wasn’t everything he needed to learn. He and Stef have had to figure out a lot on their own. 

Tractors, though, work the same on both planets, so at least his education in that area has served him well. When asked about his own knowledge of farming, Cleve shares that his father back on Earth was a farmer. It’s a true statement, but one that nicely sidesteps our unique situation of oversleeping.

Jes and Stef have been trying to take the plants with the most utility—food, construction materials, and so on—and get them to grow together synergistically. The companion planting technique involves some to provide shade, others to fix nitrogen in the soil, others to hold moisture, and so on. The farm is farther out from the main settlement than Jes would prefer to be, but this is where some of those types of plants were already growing, and they don’t want to upset the local environment more than they have to. “It’s as much gardening as it is farming,” he says philosophically. “Cultivating that which is already there, encouraging it. And trying to ward off things that we call pests—but really, they’re just trying to eat, too. But if we help it all thrive, then there’ll be more food, plenty enough for us, for the wolf beetles, for even the craws.” The outer edges of the farm are sacrificial plots, there to bribe the local wildlife with treats. 

Just like we need to bribe the craws.

I have no desire to get greasy like Cleve and Jes are, dealing with that tractor. Instead of getting in their way, I turn my attention toward improving human-craw relations on this farm. Bim has followed us outside—Marina and Stef stayed at the table talking about plants and fungus—and I enlist his aid. When I was his age, I had a stash of random treasures I’d found while off exploring the city on my own. With a little coaxing, he shows his own to me. I evaluate them based on what I think Bluebell would like, and we discuss what Bim is willing to give up. There are a few promising items here, shiny stones, weirdly interesting fungus sticks, bits of wire, some vines Bim has woven together. I’m excited to see that last one, as I think it has a lot of potential. I tell him about how Shroomnuts offered us something similar. I’m surprised to see an old coin in the pile. Someone must have brought that aboard Unity as a keepsake, because most transactions were completely electronic by the time the ship left Earth. Hard currency was a rare sight.

Movement, light, flashes, craws like all those things. “Oh, you know what? I’d bet they’d really like a pinwheel,” I tell Bim. He looks at me, confused by the word. “It’s like a stick with a pin that holds folded paper to it. And you can spin it,” I explain. His eyes brighten with comprehension. Turns out he’s seen them in the Garden of Chiron, but he doesn’t have any. He wanted to get one when they were in town for Planetfall day, but it didn’t happen.

Well, it happens today. With the materials he has here, and some paper from my sketchbook, we build one ourselves. When I see how well it spins, I decide to add some flare to it, drawing a simplified craw glyph on each of the four fins. The legs are in slightly different positions in each drawing, such that when the pinwheel spins fast enough, it looks like the craw is running. Bim is highly entertained—for about two minutes. Then he’s over it, and we’re free to use it in our craw negotiations.

“Now we just have to find a craw, and see what we can get!” Bim says excitedly. He tells me that craws have taken things from around the shed, though they haven’t figured out how to get through its locks yet. 

Outside the shed sounds like a good place for our project. We stick the pinwheel in the ground there and lay out the treasures that Bim has agreed to part with. I arrange them in two rows, in the sort of runway style I observed at a craw den. “We’ll check on this tomorrow, and we’ll see whether the craws have agreed to treat with us,” I tell him.

“How do we know that they’re going to give us anything?” he asks.

I’m a little affronted at that question, on behalf of the craws. “Of course they will! That’s how trades work.”

“But they just take our tools. We haven’t really gotten much from them,” he argues.

“They don’t know what you’re willing to exchange. This will show them that you have things that you’re happy to give them. It’s possible that they’ve left you things, and you haven’t even noticed! We got some things that we hadn’t realized had been left for us.”

Bim doesn’t seem fully convinced. “Why don’t you put something in, too,” he suggests. I need skin in the game.

What do I have that craws would like? I’m sure they’d be entertained by the fine wires of my boutonniere, but that is definitely not going on the bargaining table. Ah, I know. I stride over to the open door to the farmhouse. “Hey, Marina, do you have any foil left over from your gum?”

“Uh, yeah? Sure?” she replies. She’s nervously fiddling with a piece right now as she reviews her research notes. She pops the gum in her mouth and hands me the wrapper. 

I present it to Bim, and he smoothes the square out. Then he begins a series of careful folds, far more delicate than my larger fingers could achieve. The end result is a tiny silver craw. “Aw, sweet! I cannot do that level of origami,” I compliment him.

“Well, you helped make the pinwheel, so I helped with this!” He sets it down with the other materials. “Is this too much? Will they be able to carry it all? Well, I guess they’ll just take what they want and leave what they don’t. This seems like a weird way to trade.”

“My grandfather told me about where he grew up. People would set farm stalls out in front of their houses with the things they had grown in a box. And then anyone who was walking down the road could put money in the box and take whatever food they wanted,” I share.

“Oh! That’s cool!” Bim decides we need to leave a box alongside the pinwheel for the craws to use. He makes a little flag with a person drawn on it and sticks it in the ground next to the box. This setup is adorable. Come sample our fine wares, craws, at Bim and Mariah’s Shiny Emporium!