The Plastic City

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On a sleepy street in the heart of Edinburgh, there lies a tea house that has been in business for over 100 years, despite the sign on the door always proclaiming it closed. It provides a haven for a specific type of traveler: one who journeys, not from place to place, but through time.

Normally, this tea house was well removed from modern technology; this made the sound of a cellphone going off all the more unusual. Lills rummaged through her bag, apologizing repeatedly as she searched for the source of the shrill ringing sound that had been going off incessantly for the last two minutes. Everyone else in the tea room was trying their best to be patient, but the unrelentingness of it was starting to try even Imlach's patience.

Finally, Lills located her dinky old flip phone and answered the call. Everyone let out a sigh of relief as she slipped into the back room.

"Aoto?" she asked.

"Lills, how are you?" The man asked, out of breath yet still carefree as ever. You would think that she had called him five times, not the other way around.

"Fine. I was trying to enjoy a cup of tea-" there was a loud shout from Aoto's end, followed by a loud thud.

"Are you in trouble? Do you need help?" Lills asked, her voice going up an octave.

"No, I'm never in trouble. What you're hearing is me helping Shoma with his volleyball drills. You'd think he'd go easy on me, considering that I'm got a ¥78,800 phone in one hand, but apparently not. Shō ga nai- it can't be helped." There was another series of shouts. Lills could now hear the squeak of sneakers over the phone.

"What can I do you for, then? Do you need to borrow one of my books?" Lills asked.

"No, I was just wondering if you got Veer's transmission," Aoto said.

"No, sorry, I haven't been at my flat all day," Lills said. "I've been working at the tea house."

"No worries. He wants us to meet him at the Butterfly Corps headquarters," Aoto said. "Apparently there's an issue- something to do with that story he never got to tell us last week. I'll message Imlach the time, date, and year. He can pass it onto you."

"Thanks, I'll be there," Lills said.

"Anyti- Kora! Amarini mo ōku no chikara! Anata wa hotondo watashi no te kara sore o nokku! -please excuse me, I have to go before my brother makes me drop my phone. Goodbye, and thank you."

Lillian flipped her phone closed and returned to the main room. Imlach appeared with a piece of paper and a fresh cup of earl grey. She shoved her belongings into her backpack and adjusted her watch according to the information on the slip. Lills paused to take a sip of tea before pressing the red button on her watch.

***

Butterfly Corps Headquarters
Neo Seoul, Mars
August 2127

Mars always fascinated Lills. People had traveled millions of miles just to colonize in what was essentially a somehow less-livable Arizona. Still, there was something beautiful about the contrast between the off-white skyscrapers of Neo Seoul and the red wasteland that surrounded them. And the personality and history of the city was really fascinating.

The buildings of Neo Seoul were arching, angular, and irregular, so that the buildings looked more like an inverted version of the Antelope Canyon than proper skyscrapers. This was intentional. The builders had wanted it to feel more like a National Park than a metropolis. To add to this feel, they had also included multi-story public greenhouses throughout the city. It was so slick and clean, to the point of feeling a bit unnatural. There was a reason why on Earth, Neo Seoul had earned the nickname "The Plastic City" (well, that and the rampant amount of plastic surgery).

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