Isaac Lawson

Snowy day on Smyrnia, said my q-aug.

I did not know there were non-snowy days on this world. In a way, I considered it a good sign. Smyrnia's twin, Silesia, was equally harsh and cold, except it never snowed because there was no hydrosphere to speak of aside from the massive ice caps running from the pole to the equator. Snow meant Smyrnia was a living, breathing planet. Well, most of the year it was in a deep coma, but at least it wasn't dead.

The external temperature hovered around two degrees above zero at ground level, which was almost tropical. I had left the oppressing architecture of the Tsiolkovski Insititute to read a few pages on a bench by the tramway station. It wasn't much about literature (I don't even remember which book I was reading), it was about taking a peek outside before the inevitable arrival of winter storms. My drone didn't look convinced by my attempt at saying hello to the outside world. It kept beeping while standing on the bench, periodically heating up to remove the build-up of snow on its spider legs. It probably hated me at this very moment, albeit it was way too polite to admit it.

I was an Earthling and on Smyrnia it meant that, for all intents and purposes, I was at best a foreigner, at worst a traitor. Very few people at Tsiolkovski knew I was a USRE citizen; most thought I came from Laniakea, which was not an illusion I was eager to dispel. The USRE and Smyrnia did not entertain a very good relationship -- understatement of the century, that one. For a few decades, Smyrnia had been a USRE colony (sorry, "nominally independent settlement zone") before the emergence of the meta-queen's holdings. The revolution had not been violent and in truth, I don't think the USRE really cared about the planet in any meaningful way, yet the locals did not particularly appreciate the white and blue flag, or the hammer and sickle. And while the Tsiolkovski campus was a relatively safe area, the rest of the planet didn't abide by its rules. Welcome to the Smyrnian Bubble, they said, a land of opportunities awaits...and a lawless, fractured border full of strange political experimentations, many of which should have had not seen the light of the day.

A pseudoseagull screaked in the wind. I raised my gaze away from the book and noticed the middle-aged Irenian who had hopped off from the tramway and was now walking towards the Tsiolkovski campus, followed by a dead-eyed drone. Oh, I thought. She's going to meet the snow octopus and she already looks exhausted enough.

Naturally, I warned her. I don't know why she then decided to spend a whole hour sitting next to me on that bench, under the snow. I didn't say anything. Didn't feel like there was anything to say. I distinctly remember how she spent most of this hour looking at the world around her, taking little notes on her q-aug. "Taking the lay of the land" she called it -- she was already a geographer, she just didn't know it. Years later, we'd end up drawing the first map of the Pale Path together.

I don't think fate exists, but I can't deny the universe can be rather poetic, at times.

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