• Styles Yugen

Steel Magnolias


Magnolias are beautiful. They stand tall, bloom violent pink flowers, and smell like a fresh LifeSup unit. They’re an ancient genus with roots all across mother Earth. If you’re lucky nowadays, you’ll sometimes catch sight of a potted one in a station. Sad and sorry an excuse it is for the real thing, it’s still a magnolia.


And just like the magnolia, people can be beautiful. They’re willing to stand up for what they believe in and put themselves in harm’s way. Their bravery is made of steel, unlike the cowards that oppose them.


People may not always smell like a fresh LifeSup, but the sentiment is the same--note that I do not condone going around smelling strangers, it’s liable to get you shot. I do condone smelling magnolias, however, and it was this venture exactly that got me so catastrophically lost I was swept away by an ill fated riot in a violently active protest zone. It was the greatest introduction to a planet I’ve ever had.


Flames.


Arson.


Unconditional surrender?


They gave themselves up without a fight, contrary to all the mainstream fake news I’d seen on the planet during my brief foray. It all went down at Falcon 7, which for those of you who don’t know, is an undersea residential zone on Vερό. Amidst the highrises under that spine tingling dome there were all the hallmarks of blue collar people struggling to live: police, censorship, and a funny smell. Reminded me of mold, really. But most importantly, a lab owned by Athenian Heavy Cybernetics.


Protesters gathered at the place to make a statement, hence the riot.


Then it torched itself to keep its data secure, hence the fire.


Odd location aside for such a lab, nothing on the mainstream outlets peeped as to the reason for such a gathering.


I found my answers by looking into the classifieds, those advertisements your spouse has nightmares about, and making a call. Her name wasn’t important, only that she was a Hot New Single in my area!™


She was just as the advert claimed, a biologist, actress, philanthropist, escapist, soubrette, and champion extraordinaire. We hit it off right away, and it wasn’t long before she drank me under the table--purple ceiling notwithstanding.


The lab at Falcon 7 was just the latest in a long string of similar events. Athenian Cybernetics was taking people off the street, making them disappear into some perverted version of the Cybersphere. Debtors. The poor. Anyone unlucky enough to be caught in their clutches was as good as gone. But not my Hot New Single, she escaped from that place. I doubt I have the money to buy enough drink to get her to spill the beans on how, but her information was good.


Good enough to act on.


Good enough for people to get angry about.


Good enough to sink Athenian Heavy Cybernetics to the bottom of the abyss.


Just remember to stop and smell the magnolias along the way, especially if they’re made of steel.


Styles Yugen, signing off.


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Science Fiction and the pursuit of escapism, 2020.