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Small Flowers will be the twentieth episode in The Adventures of Meteor Mags and Patches. In July, I posted a preview of Part 1. Part 2 takes us to the reconstruction of Ceres, and it concludes with the following concert scene that unites Mags onstage with her old friend Alonso and the freakish, inter-species band he formed with Mags’ telepathic space octopuses and a tribe of former Soviet space monkeys. Here is the current draft, subject to revision before the story is published.

Meteor Mags strolled on stage in nothing but tattoos and her great-gramma’s ring, and her favorite pair of polarized glasses. The deafening greeting sounded to her like thunderstorms and ocean waves that broke on her cliffs without eroding a grain of stone.

She dripped sweat along every visible curve. Her skin glistened in the stage lights. She snatched a white Iceman from a stand and gave the guitar a cursory tune-up, arching one eyebrow at Alonso.

He shouted to her.

The crowd drowned his voice.

She heard him anyway. Mags heard him in her head, and the octopuses were in her head, and she was one with Karpov and Shades and all the macaques onstage who stood poised with the wooden rods they used as drumsticks. The crowd was in her mind, and her mind included everyone on Ceres.

She adjusted the guitar strap and gripped the mic. “Oi, Ceres! How the fuck are ya? Who wants to start a revolution?”

Mags laughed at the response. “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Listen up, dillrods. When I was here with the Psycho 78s back in ’27—”

She paused for applause, long enough to light up. “I said, the last time I was here, the man tried to shut us down. But you took to the streets and started a fire they will never extinguish. You fuckin’ tore shit up! Yeah!”

She let the cheering go on for a bit. “Tonight, I want you to think about something a lot harder than tearing shit down. I want you to think about putting this asteroid back together. Putting our lives back together. We made a great start the last couple of months, but we’ve got a lot to do. Are you up for it?

“I thought so. As for the mining corporations trying to take over? The politicians selling your rights? The scumbags who want to stop the music? Send this song out to them. I know you know the words.”

On the downstroke of her pick, the band launched into Down on Me by the Hoodoo Gurus. Mags had not rehearsed it with Alonso and his menagerie. She felt her babies with her, and she trusted they would get everyone sorted.

She was not disappointed. Mags squeezed her pick hand between her thighs at the chorus and yelled, “Down on me!” She replaced the original words with anyone she didn’t like. “Port Authority—down on me! CIC—go down on me!”

The crowd echoed her, but it had begun not being a crowd long before the first chorus.

Few humans experience chromesthesia, the sensation where sounds are translated into light by the mind. But to the octopuses swarming in the tank onstage, nothing was more natural. Every frequency became a color. Every waveform, a shape.

Many.

Bright.

Shapes.

Mags found it amusing, the way the octos and the monkeys and Alonso and everyone in the audience merged into one abstract painting of color and emotion. Maybe she should have been scared when the boundaries dissolved and everyone became a swirling mass of music, feeling, and a million shades of the same idea.

But Mags had been tripping her tits off for decades before most of the people in the crowd were born. She took it all in stride. Kaleidoscopic light show? Check. Sharing her feelings with everyone around her? Check. Alonso knowing how to play any song she could imagine? Oh, hell yes!

Mags threw down some tunes she never bothered to practice with her interspecies freakshow. She led the band without pause through Die Motherfucker Die by Dope, Honey Bucket by the Melvins, and City in Flames by Trans Am.

The macaques worked themselves into a drumming frenzy. Wave after crushing wave of rhythm flowed from their drums, a mathematical complexity grounded in something primal, a groove that thousands felt but few could later explain.

Mags ripped her guitar free from its strap and whipped it into the monitor at her feet.

A crash and a wailing feedback.

She stormed off stage.

When the applause refused to stop, she returned. Mags grabbed an acoustic-electric and waved to the monkeys to stand down. She adjusted a capo and strummed chords the band had not rehearsed, but Alonso was right beside her, harmonizing vocal and guitar parts to one of her old favorites.

Neither cared the octopuses made it possible, taking the music from her mind and imparting it to Alonso as if he had known the song all his life.

Over the instrumental break, Mags held on to the mic. “Hate is fuel. Anger is fuel. To make a better world than what we have right now. But I want you to remember something more important than anger. Love.

“That’s right, you sorry hooligans. Love. I need it. You need it. Ceres needs it. It isn’t enough to tear down all the things we hate. The only things that matter—the only things we truly stand for—are the ones we love. They are what we build. Together.”

She did not look at the man on her right. She knew. “Take it, Lonso!”

Alonso took it like he was running out of a burning warehouse.

Mags closed her eyes and backed up his solo without looking at her guitar, even when she belted out the final verse.