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Small Flowers will be the twentieth episode in The Adventures of Meteor Mags and Patches. I’ve posted previews of Part 1 and Part 2. Part 3 advances a major sub-plot about the free-energy technology Mags and her friend Slim invented, and Mags’ desire to bring the interplanetary corporations to their knees by distributing free power throughout the solar system. This current draft, according to my workshop group, needs updated with some physical description of the device in question, but I am saving that for my final revisions. It’s a fun couple of scenes anyway, and the first scene is written in Mags’ voice.

Part Three: Reenergize

January 2030. From the Letters of Meteor Mags.

If you ask Shondra, she’ll insist I dropped by Mars just to see her. But as much as I love that little sneak, she had some things I needed, and I don’t mean those kinds of things. I mean the prototype for my energy system.

Shondra had her crews working on it day and night for a month. At the same time, she tried to reverse engineer the K Drive, the stealth system my guys pulled from Kaufman’s ship for the Bêlit. I wanted a copy for the Hyades first. And if it passed muster, then as many of the damn things as I could get my hands on. When you make a living stealing stuff, an invisible pirate fleet sounds too good to pass up.

Shondra said she tested her K Drive on some cargo ships the size of the Hyades, and she had it all crated up with installation instructions. I looked them over and figured Lonso could handle it. He’s pretty amazing.

Shondra looked pretty amazing, too, in her white coveralls, striking a pose by the crates. I let her kiss and pet me way longer than I should have.

Then she explained the problem with the energy system. Her crews hadn’t tested it all. They couldn’t on Mars. That would draw too much attention. And they hadn’t any time to take it to a deserted asteroid.

I told her not to worry. I had just the asteroid for the job.

Vesta.

Shondra showed a genuine look of concern, and that was touching. She’s got a good heart, even if I don’t entirely trust her mind. She practically begged me to find another test site, and not to turn on the system myself.

But I checked the blueprints and the parts, and it was built just the way Slim said it should be. If I can’t trust Slim, who the hell can I trust?

Goddess, I miss him.

Frankly, this thing scares me a lot less than the K Drive, which is basically made of electronics that shouldn’t even exist. But the energy system is basic. We made two rods out of a new element called “ryderium” after my old pal Ryder, goddess rest his soul.

Once we place one rod each at two opposing poles on the planetoid, a tiny generator kickstarts a wave that bounces back and forth between the rods. All anyone needs to draw power is their own rod in the ground. The SlimRod comes with a converter to turn the wave into standard current. The converter tech is simple and open-source. Anyone can build one with basic tools and the right gauge wire.

The prototype is crated up in my armory. Shondra said it’ll either light up Vesta like a motherfucker or blow us all to bits.

Me at least. Patches should be fine.

That’s why she gets to turn it on.

January 2030. Vesta 4.

“Everything’s hooked up,” said Donny. “At least, anything that looks like it works.” He and Fuzzlow had spent hours reconnecting electronic systems in Mags’ old private hangar to the new energy converter.

The open door to the hangar revealed the darkness inside. Though the interior was as black as the inside of a coffin, the smuggler’s feline eyes picked up details in the starlight from her spot outside the building. At her feet, a rod in the ground. In her arms, her best friend.

“Good,” she said. “You two take the ship into orbit and wait for us to call.”

“Mags,” said Fuzzlow. “Come with us to a safe distance. Please. Patches can handle this on her own.”

Mags stood her ground. “Patches and I are in this together. End of discussion. But if I die, bury me in my leather pants and my favorite black bra. And those black heels with the straps on them.”

For all Fuzzlow knew, she might be talking about any one of a hundred pairs of shoes. “You bet,” he said. “If we find anything left of you.”

“Close enough,” said Mags. “Now get going. Fair winds.”

What Mags felt when the ship lifted away from the asteroid and became a speck in a sky filled a billion specks wasn’t loneliness, but it was close. “It’s just you and me, Patches. Are you ready?” She knelt and poured the fluffy calico out of her arms onto the rocky Vestan surface. “Do the honors.”

Patches said something only Mags could understand. She stood on her hind legs and wrapped her forepaws over the generator switch. She peered over her shoulder and mewed. Her whiskers twitched in the stillness.

“I know. It’s either the dawn of a new age, or the end of an era. Don’t keep me in suspense.”

Patches gripped the switch and, with all her strength, pulled it toward the ground.

Only the echo of the switch clicking into place filled the silence. Regolith floated across the asteroid. The stony crags and hills made no comment.

Mags held herself erect and refused to believe nothing had happened. Then she knelt and picked up Patches. “You did great, dear. Just give it a second.”

While they cuddled, a low hum arose, like an electric bass note sustained and oscillating all around them.

“Here it comes, baby!”

A forceful clunk from inside the hangar answered her. One by one and then in clusters, lights came on inside. Computer systems re-booted and added their glow to the display. A radio kicked on and started blasting Detroit punk.

“It works!” Mags’ shout tumbled into laughter. “A-hahahaha! It works!” She cradled Patches with one arm and pulled a joint from a pouch at her waist. She held one end against the SlimRod until the tip smoldered and turned a bright red. Mags puffed. “The rods get a little hotter than expected. But this will do just fine.”

She carried Patches to the hangar’s entrance and gloried in the brightness she had reclaimed from dark. “This wouldn’t be possible without Slim.” She lifted her eyes to the stars. “I love you, buddy. Always will. Good job.” To Patches, she said, “Now let’s see what happens when we make a whole lot more.”