Prologue, Part One.
"Every moment was a precious thing, having it in the essence of finality."
—from "Rebecca," Daphne du Maurier
Pandora Quinn, 31
President of Panem
The choice in this day and age seems like a logical one.
Pandora has spent many days listening to the same words from every single person willing to speak to her. Every advisor she could find in that time, every member of every branch. Her family, few as they were. The opinions of her brothers were clear—considering one of them had already gone through a macabre version of the Games themselves, asking was futile.
Even her mother had called. They didn't talk often, these days, and she hadn't spent much time in the matter of opinions.
Almost like she was letting Pandora breathe and make her own decision.
She had never possessed such forethought in the past.
It says many things, though, that everyone wanted to get a word in. They just had to. Even if they wouldn't ultimately influence her decision, they all wanted to be in her ear.
Truth be told Pandora already knew about everyone who didn't want another Games to happen—they weren't the ones whose opinions kept rising up and up. Everyone who clamored for one, however, would be at her throat until the end of time.
When Archeron had handed her the reins it had been reluctant. The people had wanted him out for allowing such atrocities to occur over them yet again, long after the Games had their unofficial ending. Pandora herself had fought so valiantly for the Presidency to ensure that they wouldn't end up in said position yet again, so what had gone so wrong that she was facing it after all this time?
Archeron hadn't been lying when he told her whispers from the rest of the world were starting to leak into their communications. Nations who seemed so content to abandon them after the ashes of the Dark Days were showing their faces yet again, too curious about the games they had played to stay away for any longer. They had no right to ask to see them. They had no right to ask of Panem's past when they had cast them aside.
But they were. That was why Pandora was here, after all.
She wasn't an idiot though. It wasn't just the outsiders who were tempted with the prospect of the Games, come again. The Games ran in the blood of Capitolites as they had for decades; that didn't just go away because a few said it was over. It wasn't just them—pockets of loyalists in One and Two, the steadfast believers of Four. The outliers who took to benefit from it, letting their criminals and scum take the reaping stage and die for it. Everywhere there were people that used the Games, people that had never wanted to let them go.
There's a soft knock on the door, but Pandora doesn't look up. The carefully repeated pattern can only be at the hands of one person. Her brother doesn't bother pulling up a chair beside her own—Evander simply perches on the edge of the desk and looks down at her, chin perched on his hand.
"What?" she asks. Until now she could ignore the exhaustion, but in front of him it was futile.
They had sworn her in only a few short weeks ago, and now she was being tasked with either ruining their country or saving it.
Evander knew she was tired.
"Can I do anything?" he asks.
"Go to sleep," she requests. "You've been working too hard since this all started."
"Anything but that."
"You need rest, too."
"I'm the President."
"And my sister," he says pointedly. "My sister who looks about ready to drop dead at any given moment across the day. I can't very well protect someone who's dead."
Pandora's eyes have been welling up for far too long to be considered normal, but she can't allow herself to cry. "I'm supposed to protect this place. We were supposed to put the Games in the past for good, not... not do this."
Whatever this even was—Pandora didn't yet have an answer. Evander settles a hand on her shoulder, digging a hand into one of the knots at the junction of her neck. If she didn't have him she didn't know what she would do with herself. For so long it had been just the two of them, a father with a bullet hole through his skull and a mother who was more a statue made of ice than human. There were others, now, people who cared about them and who they in return cared about as well, but at the end of the day it always came back to the two of them.
"Riddle me this," Evander says. "Do you have a choice?"
"There's always a choice."
"You're one of the best people I know, and I'm not saying that because you're my sister. What I am saying is that you'll do this right—you'll do these kids right. You can make this an official ending. If you don't do this now, someone else might in the future. And they sure as hell won't do it as good as you."
Could she really send twenty-three more kids to their death? After everything she had seen? Evander had been left unscathed from the Games, as had she, but Soran hadn't been so fortunate growing up in the Districts. Would he hate her for it?
Would they all?
"There will be an uprising," she says softly. "Most everyone in the Districts will burn before they let two kids go again—not like that."
"What if we didn't take them?"
"What if... what if we asked? What if we let them make their own decisions?"
After a moment, the meaning behind his words became clear. It wasn't the worst idea she had ever heard. Given the types she had been present for these past few days, that may be the best it was going to get. She looked up at him—her brother, her confidante, the only person that had had her back since the day they had been old enough to speak to each-other. He would not let her burn alone in this.
"One last time," Evander murmurs. "And then we end it for good."
So many years ago, now, they had been robbed of their proper finale. No victor to show for it. Nothing at all, really, except a crumbled arena and too many survivors to count, scattered to the wind. If Pandora could accept this ending, could the rest of them? She could make the proper calls. Pandora could ensure, with just a few words, that her daughter would grow up in a world almost entirely free of the Games.
They would always bear the scars of it. The horror.
With the ones they already held so close, Pandora was beginning to believe that they could handle a few more.
If Invictus was Oops! I Did It Again, does that make this Hit Me Baby One More Time?
I think so, honestly.
Anyway, welcome to number five, after number four wasn't even supposed to exist! What does that say about this one? No idea, honestly, but I've cooked up some truly terrible ideas and after several long months of deliberation and preparation here she is—finally revealed.
This is the fifth story in an overarching verse, though the previous four don't have to be read to understand this one. I'll do my best to explain anything if you have questions; feel free to reach out to me, if that's the case. For simplicity's sake, this will be a non-traditional roster of twenty-four volunteers. Same rules apply for genders and Districts. The form and other pertinent information can be found on my profile. Please read it. My form is very (read: very) short, so you can take the extra time to read, I think. I'm the type of author who likes wiggle room and creative liberty, so if that's not your jam, feel free to pass on this one. I won't take offense. Feel free to submit more than one, but I'll only be taking one, if any. This is not first come, first serve. As previously mentioned, any and all questions, whether stupid or not, can be PM'd to me or feel free to reach out on Discord.
All in all, have fun. There will be two more prologues to come, and the list will be revealed with the third, but you've got a bit of time. Lastly, remember to stay safe, wear a mask, and that BLM and ACAB—choose not to forget that despite what the media tells you, and if you don't like me saying any of these things respectfully gtfo!
Until next time.