Jun 27, 2019 2:33 AM
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Shell Bell finds Milliways once when she is eighteen. She has been there for two days now, setting up her sign ten minutes out of every waking hour, wiping down tables for her quarters in the staff area, eating buttery potatoes (she has been told that this is a complete nutrient package, for humans). Her wand is holding a bun of hair in place on the back of her head. Her shells are stashed safely in her room; she's budgeting carefully and she'll pay her tab when she leaves.

No one's talked to her due to the sign yet. They don't always. She sets it up anyway, like clockwork, so everyone gets the chance.
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Someone is watching her.

Someone wearing a plain brown cotton dress, who stands like she is ready to bolt or kill something at a moment's notice, even though she is perfectly still and at a casual glance might even look relaxed.

Someone whom Shell Bell might recognize, if she happens to know what the victor of the seventy-first Hunger Games looked like.
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Shell Bell does in fact know what that person looks like. And since Shell Bell was on television herself not long before, albeit for only a minute, she is a little concerned that she will also be recognized. She's never met anyone else from Panem here. Maybe this is an alternate. She shouldn't be so nervous. The District Four tributes from that year weren't even people she knew; the district is big and they lived in other towns.

But why, why is Sherlock Stark watching her?

There's no point in taking down the sign and hoping to gather less attention. Sherlock has already seen it.
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Sherlock comes to stand in front of her table.

"Bell Swan," she observes.

A slight, slight smile turns up one corner of her mouth.

"I am intrigued by the sign."
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"It's there to intrigue," Shell Bell says.

It's not there to intrigue Sherlock, but it is there to intrigue.
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"Is it true?"

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"I think so. I haven't met any others of me. But I've met people who've met some. And two people have erred on the side of calling me Your Majesty rather than trying to figure out if I was a majesty first."

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"An interesting sort of horizontal legacy. The majority of my alternates seem to be male," she says with a hint of distaste, "and renowned for their genius at reasoning from observed facts."

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"Bells - well - most of them are called Bella - seem to need magic to take over anything," Shell Bell volunteers. "So I probably won't. Take over anything. Please don't kill me."

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"I am not going to kill you," says Sherlock. "Unless you present a threat to my brother, but that seems unlikely. What sorts of advice do you tend to give?"

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"People explain their magic systems. Or sometimes their fancy technology. And I ask them questions, and I tell them what I'd try to find out the answers to the questions they can't answer. And then I tell them what I'd do with what they have to get - whatever they want. They have to specify or I don't know what to do with them."

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"Hm," says Sherlock.

"May I sit?"
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Shell Bell nods.

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Sherlock takes a seat.

"I want to overthrow the Capitol," she says, characteristically level. "Advise me."
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"What do you have?" Bella asks instantly. "Anything special?"

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"Myself and my brother," she says. "If you saw our Games, I assume you can extrapolate."

When Sherlock won her Games, it was a brief and bloody surprise. Until the very second they began, she maintained the persona of a clumsy, nonthreatening, utterly useless girl who was in over her head. And then, when the other tributes' belief in her incompetence was well and truly cemented, she turned out to be a brutally efficient killing machine who slaughtered twenty out of her twenty-three competitors in a matter of hours. (The other three died before she got to them.)

Tony, by contrast, charmed the pants off everyone in sight with his easy, friendly manner. And then, much to many people's surprise, he never asked for a single weapon. The gifts that rained down on him started with a screwdriver, and the image of him pressing it to his lips and blowing a kiss to the sky is still iconic. He built his weapons, from whatever scraps he could beg or steal, and by the second day it was clear to everyone that he had cobbled together an unbeatable advantage. He still might have gone down, if the Gamemakers had decided to level the field, but he played the audience with impeccable showmanship. The seventy-second Hunger Games would not have been half as entertaining without him.
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"Yes, but anything I don't know about," Shell Bell says. "Has he got anything cool hidden in his basement? Do you have infiltration abilities that would make you a useful assassin even now that everyone knows you can kill them? Have either of you brought any magic home from Milliways?"

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"He has or could gain access to any technology created in District Three. Our father invented a third of it."

She pauses briefly, then says,

"It is likely that I could assassinate any one chosen target in the Capitol without difficulty. After that, the danger would increase."
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Bell thinks.

"I don't know a lot about how the Capitol works. Fortunately enough, I've never gone there," she says. "Tell me about it."
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"There is no scarcity on the level of basic needs," she says. "Food and clothing and so forth are abundant. At feasts it is a common practice to induce vomiting periodically in order to make room for the foods one has not yet tried. The scale of wealth therefore measures differently. Money is power."

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"There is no scarcity as in it is free or as in everyone makes enough to buy as much of it as they want?"

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"The latter," she says. "But the former is the effect their social habits try to portray. It's considered somewhat vulgar to speak of prices in direct, specific terms. And in fact things considered to be of negligible value are often given away as a display of status—to remind the recipient and observers that the giver need not consider the loss."

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"So someone with - say - a gambling addiction could go from Capitol to poverty. Could be a malcontent, and still have enough resources to move around, go places, hear things," Bella says.

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"In theory, yes," says Sherlock. "I have not witnessed any obvious examples, but my view of Capitol life is not unrestricted."

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"What would be the problem after you assassinated one person? Would you be caught? Just suspected? Ushered home for your own safety?" Bell asks, changing tacks abruptly.

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"It depends on circumstances. But suspicion is likely," she says. "Unfortunately I have had cause to point out to President Snow that I make a better assassin than a prostitute."

Can Bell extrapolate sufficient context from that? Sherlock rather hopes she can.
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