A/N: A couple of things. First, since this series will have a 'Narrator' I'm not gonna be posting A/N's after this first introductory one. Long story short, this is a sort of anthology series combined with some partial syot elements. More info on the series and subbing is on my profile, along with a blog you're free to check out before reading if you like putting a face to characters. Without further ado, here's the story:

Year ?
After The Fall

The Hunger Games. Gladiatorial combat. Tradition. Panem's hottest reality show. A spectacle, a punishment, a mirror, a blight. Twenty-three deaths, sometimes more or less, sometimes children or adults, Capitolites or rebels or criminals but most often teenagers from the districts, guilty of nothing so severe as to earn their fate. Yet twenty-three is a small number when speaking in terms of nations. For every teen that bled to death in an arena, hundreds, thousands more children went to sleep hungry and never awoke. Even stacked up over the centuries, the numbers never became so large as to be all that notable. So what is it that makes The Hunger Games the central crime, the cardinal sin of a nation beholden to so many travesties, genocides, and butcheries?

It was the volume, the loudness. We all know of the hardship and horror that exists in every day, yet we allow ourselves to bury our heads in the sand and not view the suffering that permeates the world. The Hunger Games forces us out of the sand and shouts at us from the rooftops: this is your world. This is your reality. Watch this happen. Watch us do this, and so dress this horror up that we begin to trick ourselves, and perhaps even you too, that this is what the name so boldly suggests: a game.

But no amount of makeup can hide the monster that lurks beneath. Dive beyond the parades, the interviews, the parties and gambling and sponsorship and victor talents, and throughout every era of the games, from colosseum to odyssey, The Hunger Games become so very simple. It does not need a history book or essay or paragraph or even a string of adjectives to describe.

It is blood.

The Hunger Games were our offering when the circuses no longer satisfied our desires, and we became a nation of Panem et Sanguine.

Year 100:
The Dream.

"We have to get bigger."

"Is this not big enough?" Leda chuckled. The glass skyway looked over the heart of the Capitol, the central plaza alive with color and high-rising skyscrapers. The city was all glamour and glitz, excess and ecstasy. But Taliyah Aurelius didn't see strength in the size and the beauty, she saw fragility. How hard would one need to blow to knock one of those towering buildings over? Her city was an array of dominos, made of papier-mâché.

Dorian Flavius was of a different mind. "Our tallest buildings don't touch the heavens yet, so I'd agree with Taliyah."

Leda rolled her eyes. "Is that it, sister? Does your penthouse suite not satisfy you lest you wake to clouds forming outside your windows?"

"No. My apartment is plenty tall, thank you," she said. "I said bigger, not taller."

"What's the difference?" Dorian asked.

"If I stand on my tip-toes, stretch myself as tall as I can, am I now larger? More fearsome and strong?"

"Depends on the occasion," Dorian mused lightly.

"The problem," Taliyah continued, unperturbed, "is that we have been standing on our tip-toes for decades now. And every year we stretch ourselves taller and taller, convincing ourselves that we are growing, when in reality we have remained exactly the same. Miracle after miracle saved us from destruction during the Mockingjay Rebellion, and a dozen minor incursions since then. How much longer until our well of miracles runs dry? How long until we drop from our toes, and the districts, Thirteen, and whoever else is out there beyond our borders, see just how small we truly are?"

"And so what exactly do you suggest?" Dorian asked sharply.

"Something daring."

The trio exited the skyway, the sliding metal doors trapping them in momentary darkness as they entered the room, before blue-tinged lights flooded the room in a faint glow. Unlike the other Capitol buildings, the top floor of the Aurelius sky-rise was boxed in by metallic walls and ceilings in favor of glass windows and skyboxes. Scientific instruments scattered the room messily, while tablets and screens showcased various complex equations and data.

"Lovely working conditions, quite cheery," Dorian quipped.

"You mustn't be spending too much time here, Tali," Leda said in a motherly tone. "Even a Head Gamemaker needs sunlight and fresh air."

"I take my vitamins," Taliyah said drolly. "And the working situation isn't for comfort or appearances, the walls are a special alloy, radiation proof and strong enough to contain a nuclear blast. Some of the projects I've been working on. . ." Taliyah shook her head. "Well, to be honest, I never expected half of them to pan out."

Dorian laughed. "So you've been building nukes that you thought would probably explode, but instead of just, not making them, you locked yourself in with them even tighter. Head Gamemakers have a dizzying approach to reality, don't they?"

"I'm not building nukes, or any sort of crude weapon. I'm not here to create vehicles for war or draft up more ways for us to destroy one another. I'm here to create. To solve. . . everything." She walked up to a computer and tapped away at it, a large holographic display appearing in the middle of the room. "There were inherent risks with some of those projects, yes, and I wanted to contain the fallout of those risks. But there was no fallout. I've succeeded." She looked to Leda, a small smile slipping into place. "Ad melius cras, huh dear sister?"

Panem's president didn't respond, slowly circling the holograph, her hand running across the maps and designs. "What is all of this?" she finally asked, her voice hollow.

"Ad melius cras. A better tomorrow."

Dorian hummed curiously. "I thought you said you weren't creating weapons."

"They aren't. They're tools. Some of them crude, yes, but they're necessary. These are stepping stones, safety nets, building blocks."

"I've never known stones or nets that so easily kill."

"You don't study enough history, then. All tools are weapons, all weapons are tools. We turned the splitting of atoms into both destructive weapons and bountiful energy, gunpowder into efficient tools of murder and frivolous, colorful explosions of celebration. We decide how we want to use these tools. And if we use them right, well, maybe we can finally start to build again."

"I don't like this Taliyah," Leda said quietly. She turned away from the display, and stepped to her sister, an uneasiness in her step. "But if you say that this can be something good, something that will help us stop bleeding and start to heal. . . ."

Taliyah placed a hand on her shoulder, and smiled sadly. "It will."

Leda smiled back, her voice quiet and gentle. "Okay, I trust you." She stepped back, her voice once again presidential, clear and dignified and oozing unchallenged authority. "Dorian, redirect your resources to development of Taliyah's projects. I want working prototypes ready in nine months."

Dorian shrugged. "It can be done, but the cost will be steep. Any reason for the rush?"

"The world should be shown what we've made. I can think of only one platform suitable for showcasing such a display."

Taliyah nodded her head to the two of them. "It'll be ready. Ad melius cras."

Dorian exited the room, already on the phone, the dream falling into motion. Leda made to follow, but stopped at the door, and turned back to Taliyah. "Ad melius cras," she echoed, shaking her head. "I certainly hope so."

In Panem's story, there are many different roles that have been played. There have been conquerors, dictators, turncoats, puppets, and very rarely: heroes.

Taliyah Aurelius was a visionary. That rare blend of brain, heart, a dream, and the power to enact that dream. She could have been a hero, or a savior, or a saint. She saw a country that was on the verge of breaking, and feared the monster she knew was lurking in the shadows, waiting to tear the world apart. And she lived, and dreamed, and built, and fought, and died, and did it all in an attempt to hold it all together.

What a shame, then, that throughout it all, she never once realized that she was the monster she so feared.