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Impending Pursuit

Fort Kate

20 INK

a part of Impending Pursuit, by The_Queen.

Fort Kate, a forty fort

The_Queen holds sovereignty over Fort Kate, giving them the ability to make limited changes.

334 readers have been here.

Setting

A very nice fort.
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Fort Kate

Fort Kate, a forty fort

Minimap

Fort Kate is a part of Impending Pursuit.


Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ljilja
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1.00 INK

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?

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ljilja
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The Skies Between

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Musical Accompaniment




Effortlessly the craft soared through the air, past the haze of polluted skies, up beyond the highest clouds, making hardly a sound to show for it but the droning of wind past sleek airfoils. Shielded from the elements outside, Ljilja beheld a once-in-a-lifetime new perspective. Long had she wondered what sights the sea birds saw―now she could witness it for herself. She pressed herself closer to the cool glass, eyes growing wide as saucers as she witnessed the raw beauty of the night sky at altitude. Gone were the rocky shores of home, replaced with ethereal mounds of fluff that formed hills and valleys beneath her. They caught the moonlight at angles, glimmering and glowing in the dark, while from above the star-specked canvas shone like mottled platinum ore.

I never knew the sky could look like this, she thought to herself. But the beauty through its awe was masking the pressure building deep inside her head.

The craft abruptly lurched, jostling Ljilja from the window and thrusting her into her seat. A pit formed in her stomach. She clung to her seatbelt and tried to gulp down her nausea to no avail. Her body was strained by an unseen force forcing its way out, building and building and building...

Ljilja yelped in horror as she felt her ears abruptly pop. Her body froze. She felt at the sides of her head, checking for blood, fearing the worst. She started to writhe in her seat, tugging at her belt for freedom. Panting grew to hyperventilating, and no sooner had she gotten her harness off than she bolted, desperate for escape. Feeling certain that death was near, she scrambled down the aisle to try and reach the back of the nearly empty craft for any sort of respite from this suffering. She spied the emergency exit, and every fiber of her being urged her to reach forth and grab its bright red handle.

But before she could, another set of hands appeared. They grabbed her by the shoulders, pushed her to the wall, held her steady. Ljilja could not see who was restraining her―her gaze had long since become clouded with tears, and her mind was in a hysteria too thick to reason through.

"Let me go!" Ljilja demanded, but all the wriggling in the world wouldn't free her; she lacked the strength to fight back without her Longjacks.

"Come on, little fish, we can't have you out of the game this early," spoke a male voice from just before her. "Deep breaths. Try it."

She heaved and gasped for air.

"Okay, look at me," he continued. "Just stare. Come back to the real world."

Her eyes struggled to focus on the blur before her, but with effort, she made out his features. Fluffy white hair, sharp chin, red eyes―red eyes?

"Yes, the eyes, fine, just focus on me."

Ljilja complied. Her eyes locked to his. And, gradually, her panic subsided. When it became clear she wasn't about to try jumping out the nearest exit, she was released.

"Better, little fish?" he inquired.

"It hurts so much..." Ljilja answered, instinctively clutching at her head for relief.

"It'll get better once we touch down," he assured her before taking a step back to give her some space.

With labored breaths, Ljilja's fingers intertwined themselves with her aqua locks to pull at her hair. She leant herself upon the wall and groaned in agony.

"Who are you...? What's wrong with me...?" Ljilja pleaded.

"You're a sea creature. You're not built for the sky. Just sit tight, it won't be much longer. Oh, and the name's Jaden."

"Ljilja...nice to meet you," she whimpered in reply before sliding down against the surface of the wall and curling up into a ball on the floor. She flinched and cried out at another popping of her ears, then wrapped her arms around herself and squeezed her knees tight to her chest.

It would be hours before they arrived.