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Burning Rings of Fire

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Emer parked his red Porsche in his reserved space at the bottom of the Space Needle, heading for the door as the Gun-Trucks behind him scurried off to the ammo depot. He walked into the lobby, making his way to his office within the building. He opened the door and was greeted with the familiar sight of the opulent working space. A mahogany desk dominated the velvet-floored space as screens behind the chair displayed views from all across the amazingly beautiful city of Seattle. He slipped his leather jacket off, tossing it onto one of the guest chairs opposite his own as he motioned to close the steel-cored bulletproof door.

But the door stopped just short of closing, surprising the fuck out of Emer. The door swung back open, revealing the tall and broad-shouldered Gale Hawthorne. He too worked in the confines of the Space Needle, heading security between his rounds as a paranormal investigator. "Ever heard of knocking?" asked Emer to Gale as the latter stepped inside, successfully closing the door behind him.

In his monotone, poorly-disguised Australian accent completely unlike his supposed Appalachian origins, Gale replied, "We have a big problem."

"Not again," deadpanned Emer, slumping into his chair to smoke a blunt even fatter than he.

"When you went to the David Inn to make a kill..." began Gale, "...did you happen to notice any vehicles missing?"

"We didn't check," Emer said, again in a completely flat voice. "We reduced that building to splinters before she ever had a chance to escape. The gun cameras even got a full frontal look at her five seconds before we fired."

Gale, seemingly nonplussed, replied, "What have I told you about confirming kills, Emer? The people we're after have a way of surviving the unsurvivable. You know that."

"Like whom?" asked Emer, "That fuckin' Battle Royale ripoff?"

"That 'fuckin' Battle Royale ripoff'..." Gale's tranquil strength could visibly be seen falling apart at the seams with pants-shitting fear, "...is Katniss Everdeen."

Meanwhile, in a secluded location in the Applachian Mountains, amidst the pouring rain, a rusty pink Bodhi pulled up to a lone tree. Its engine shut off, and its occupant stepped out to survey the scene before her.

"She was once a friend of mine, in District Twelve. We called her 'Mockingjay'."

From inside the bed of the beaten pickup, Katniss withdrew the Entrenching Tool, originally issued to her back in the Resistance special forces. Turning towards the tree, she eyed up the site, noting the location of a sizable rock laying at the foot of the tree. The tree itself provided some respite from the downpour, but the clay and soil still had turned to mud in these conditions. With a push, she rolled the rock off to one side, exposing a bare patch of dirt and clay underneath that immediately began soaking in the rain.

Emer interrupted his colleague, "You mean, the songbird?"

"She had the singing voice for it," continued Gale, "but her actions proved to be all the song we ever needed."

Katniss stood before the spot, laying the blade of her spade on the spot as the torrent of water soaked what little clothing she had on. The fur on her ears and tail matted down, her hair fraying even as it descended in a single braid down her back. For such a petite, diminutive woman, Katniss could muster a surprisingly frightening war cry - one of her drill instructors had made sure she could. Her scream to the heavens accompanied a mighty swing of the shovel into the clay mud.

"Katniss," continued Gale, "is a woman who's motivated."

Another swing of the shovel took away another chunk of the topsoil.

"...cunning..."

A few more swings, each removing more and more dirt.

"...resourceful." Gale paused. Though realizing no amount of alcohol would cause this particular problem to go away, he figured a drink would at least make the warning easier to give. "She willingly joined The Hunger Games, of course," Gale recalled, "Just to save her little sister's life. I saw her kill three Tributes with an apple."

Katniss continued attacking this spot on the ground with her shovel, expanding the two foot deep pit she'd been digging.

"With a fuckin'..."

Another shovel strike sprayed mud all over her, but Katniss was relentless in her digging efforts.

"...apple."

Having had enough of shoveling, Katniss tossed her Entrenching Tool aside, clawing at the lumps of clay with her bare hands. Only an inch of mud to go before reaching her goal.

"And then, after we won that Rebellion, she wanted to leave. She just wanted to be a normal girl living a normal life."

Katniss continued to scrape the mud away from the wooden object below with her fingers. More and more of its top surface revealed itself as she removed what once had kept this item safe.

"So President Coin made a deal with her - she gave her an impossible task. One that Coin knew Katniss could never pull off."

Finally, Katniss revealed the object she'd been trying to dig up. Measuring three by six foot, the lid of the chest was held shut by three great clasps along its front face.

"The orders Coin gave that day came to be her last." Gale smiled to himself, recalling the moment when that asshole dictator finally met her end.

Unlatching the first two clasps, Katniss paused, sighing to herself. Here she was, in the pouring rain, digging up not only her supplies but parts of her past that Vivian had helped her leave behind. All the pain and grief of her childhood, the grueling war she'd been pressed into serving in, the loss of her family and her friends - relieved temporarily by the love of another. But this was over now...

"And now look what you've done. You and Anita killed her fiancee, and ruined her retirement."

Katniss undid the last of the three clasps, lifting the stout lid to reveal the contents she'd buried two years previous.

"Katniss will come for us. There is little we can do, because there is much she can do. And I will tell you, you...are...fucked."

The chest lay in its dugout, propped open as Katniss stood before it. The various guns and ammo glistened with rainwater as the downpour began to flood the chest. It was at this point that Katniss thanked herself for having the foresight to put the wads of cash in plastic. She hoped that her leather holsters had survived, though...


Katniss was in the process of loading the chest contents into the Bodhi's toolbox when her phone began ringing. Curious, she wiped the mud off her hands and answered.

"Hey, Catnip," began the voice of Gale. "I heard about Vivian. I know you two loved each other dearly - my condolences."

Welp, thought Katniss, listening in, How in the hell did Gale get this number?!

The moment of awkward silence ended with Gale's next line, "Let us recognize that Anita was acting on her own recognizance and not under orders from Emer or any other third party."

Prove it, Katniss considered as a retort, but she held her tongue. You've obviously picked your side. Another moment of awkward silence ensued.

"I implore you, Catnip, put the weapons down and settle this like human-" Katniss hung up wordlessly. Gale stopped his sentence short as the dial tone interrupted him. A defeated look overtook his face as he lowered the handset and returned it to his holster.

Emer, who'd watched the whole exchange, asked, "What did she say?"

Gale replied, "Enough."