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Snippet #2817667

located in Fort Kate, a part of Impending Pursuit, one of the many universes on RPG.

Fort Kate

Fort Kate, a forty fort

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ljilja
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Monarch Superprocessor

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Cloistered from the jealous eyes of skybound humanity, deep beneath the Adriatic Sea, lay the gargantuan Monarch Superprocessor and unfathomable riches within. Neither day nor night held any meaning here―the sun's jurisdiction ended a thousand leagues above, supplanted by an insatiable hunger for earth's bounty.

Ljilja, a sanguine girl with hair and eyes as blue as the sea, was but one of many tasked with slaking the colossal beast with ore―an assignment which last year claimed the life of her father. Yet she toiled undeterred as the remainder of the world gave ear to a call to arms: the drawing of the contestants for the 100th Game of Pursuit.



Clawing away at an undersea mineral vein, young Ljilja carved out hunks of glimmering ore with each swipe of a massive four-armed mining apparatus. Each limb was roughly as large as she was, yet she wielded them fluently as extensions of her own body.

"He's from the tundra," an attentive female voice proclaimed from Ljilja's communicator. "They seem pretty excited about him."

"Come on, tundra?" Ljilja answered. "Everything is fluffy and soft over there."

CHUNK, rattle-rattle-rattle.

"He won't last..." CHUNK, rattle-rattle. "...two weeks!" CHUNK-CHUNK, rattle-rattle-rattle.

One after the other, Ljilja thrust mighty metal palms into the rock face, steadily tearing it apart as she spoke.

"Yeah, well, people like that have a tendency to surprise you. Oh, hang on, they're reading off the next ID. One-six-two..." she began as usual, but stopped short of reading the whole number.

Suddenly, for the first time since Ljilja started her shift, the girl on the other side fell speechless.

"Talk to me, Sonja. Anyone interesting? Anyone we know?"

The pause continued, leaving an eerie silence in its wake.

"Sonja?" she repeated.

At last, a response.

"Why didn't you tell me?" Sonja hissed.

Ljilja was stunned at the harshness of those words. She answered instinctively.

"Tell you what? We tell each other everything."

"Apparently not," came Sonja's scathing reply. Before Ljilja could muster a response, the commlink was interrupted by an announcement.

"ID #1624163-0, report to the surface immediately. A shuttle is waiting for you."

Instantly, her chest felt as heavy as her mining equipment. She had submitted her ID for entry into the Games. And by the sound of it, she had just been selected.

Now trembling like a leaf in the wind, she fumbled with the communicator in a desperate attempt to try to explain herself to Sonja―the girl who was her anchor when she was most lost. But as she read the words on her communicator screen, a chill crept through her core:

This contact is ignoring you.



Fort Kate - Surface

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Lumbering forward with each step, Ljilja's body slumped with anxiety. The motion of her slim legs on the rocky shores of Fort Kate was perfunctory―four Longjack mining arms alternated their fists upon the ground in a ballet of metal that kept her upright and moving ahead.

Ordinarily, she would be glad that her workday had ended early. But not today.

She trailed the path to the shuttlepad with naught on her but her work gear and pack. A change of clothes, some basic supplies and toiletries, and a little bit of food was all that she had stored on her person. Apart from that, she had only her mining suit and Longjacks with her.

Before her was the departure pad, a flat, cordoned-off zone near the top of the mountain settlement she called home. Around it, security fencing and armed guards prevented mutants from passing unauthorized. In the center was a polished white aircraft no doubt valued many times in excess of her own life.

One of the guards, seeing Ljilja approach, motioned for aid. Some of the maintenance personnel joined to meet her at the gate. Ljilja expected them to confiscate her mining equipment, but as she stepped out of the Longjack harness, she saw the personnel begin carrying it to the shuttle. Ljilja looked about in confusion, then peered up to the guard before her. She could not see beyond his helmet, but she recognized his voice.

"Be safe, bubica," he said, and, noticing the puffiness of her eyes, knelt down to wrap his arms around her in a warm embrace.

"I'll try, Valentin," Ljilja answered, giving way to sobs for the second time this day. A friend of her father's before his passing, Valentin and many others saw her as one of their own. She felt confident entrusting him with one last request.

"C-can you...tell Sonja goodbye...? She doesn't want to listen to me," she pleaded, her voice quiet as a whisper.

"She will hear," the man assured her. "Go now," he urged, "and don't look back."

He let her go with a pat on the back. Procedure demanded he check her ID, but they would do that on arrival―he knew Ljilja well enough to be beyond that.

As she was escorted to the shuttlecraft, the guards and maintenance workers crowded around her. The announcement of her acceptance into the Games had turned her into an instant celebrity, and she struggled to filter out the noise of her people chattering and cheering. Overwhelmed, she wordlessly boarded and took a seat, buckling in for the ride.

And as the vehicle rose from the pad to the skies, Ljilja was left for a moment with her thoughts. Thoughts of Sonja, of Valentin, of her late father, of her extant family, of all the resident Katonians that would swell with pride or wince with disgust as they watched her on their holoscreens. The craft rose higher and higher―this would be her last chance to see her home for a long time, perhaps ever.

So she peered out the window at the mountain below, watching it shrink and shrink beneath her until it disappeared beneath the clouds. And when it was gone, she settled back in her seat, staring blankly ahead, her mouth slightly agape as the reality of her situation sank in.

I'm not coming back, am I?