Worldbuilding Bingo – ‘Verse in Need of a Name, Card 1

To fill a bingo on card one of my Worldbuilding Bingo Card: Oppression & rebellion, road systems, luxuries, calendar.

In my new world for my YA paro-drama, different characters.

Aemula hated going up into the mountains, especially this time of year. The roads were shit, since they didn’t head anywhere “useful”, just up to the isolated villages and the hillfolk who ran them. The rain made everything even worse, until her vehicle was squooshing through mud and chugging along at a pace slightly slower than her walking speed.

They always sent her up after the last of the Spring celebrations were over, so everyone in the hills felt slighted by the government – again. They sent her up with announcements, rulings, and trinkets, and expected her to come back with glowing reports, convinced citizenry, and quality trade goods.

Aemula hated it, but she went up because nobody else in the Remote Territories office could get anything back at all. At least when she talked to the hillfolk, they sent her back still able to file a report. They’d send up old Teb Ghrory from accounting one year and he’d come back missing a hand and four teeth: hunting accident. Everyone in the tiny village of Lakeview stuck to the same story, and Teb hadn’t been talking at the time, so no punishments had been laid down.

Aemula knew why she came back with all her teeth and both hands. Everyone in the Remote Territories office knew, just like they knew why she was working Remote Territories in the first place.

The country was scattered with these little pockets of rural living, places that the Main Office couldn’t quite force out of their homes and couldn’t quite bring into line with the rest of the nation while they were — like the name said — so remote. The hillfolk weren’t Aemula’s people, but it wasn’t like the fisherfolk were any more friendly to outsiders — or any easier to get to.

She had spent weeks with the mechanics at the Main Office, trying to get them to understand what she needed. They were the best possible mechanics that the country could put out. They were well-trained, brilliant, and very skilled. And over ninety percent of their time was spent dealing with the main roads and the Main Office vehicles that traveled them.

The main roads and the back roads might as well have belonged to two different nations. The main roads were smooth, maintained, and all the latest technology went into keeping them clear and easy to travel. The back roads were gravel and old, old asphalt, pitted and potholed, up-kept only enough that a government vehicle could get through if it absolutely needed to. But it needed bigger tires, suspension of some sort, and a system of gears that most Main Office vehicles just never had a use for. Once she’d explained, one of the mechanics had hugged her. It turned out that they really did enjoy a challenge.

It didn’t mean she hated going into the mountains in the wet of early spring any less, but at least she could get up there in relative comfort and — more importantly, even to Aemula — safety. This vehicle wouldn’t roll, it wouldn’t get stuck in exactly the wrong spot, it would not run out of fuel on the top of a mountain, and it was bulletproof and very nearly flame-proof.

The last two might be the most important. Spring visits to the mountains had more than one reason to be awful, and the roads weren’t even the biggest reason. The lowlands and the central towns were in the middle of Daybreak, their celebration of survival and winter’s-past indulgence.

It would be all over the airwaves, it would be on the bulletins, and it would be in the fireworks set off in the lowland cities. Even up in the lowlands, they wouldn’t be able to avoid it.

And instead of sending her up there with spices and new fabric, salt and fresh fruit and rare imported candies, the Main Office would – like they did every year – send Aemula to the mountain people with trinkets. Cheap recycled-metal statues of the Leader. Storybooks for the children telling them all about the glories of the Testing and the wonders that could be found down in the main cities. Honey-candies that any granny could make, impressed with the Main Office seal, with”clever” saying printed on their waxed paper wrappings.

It was no wonder they tended to send Main office agents back missing limbs, missing teeth, or just missing entirely. It was no wonder they liked to steal the Main Office vehicles and then claim that they’d fallen off a cliff somewhere. There were a lot of cliffs around the highlands, after all, and some of them were unmarked and just off the edge of the road.

Aemula gritted her teeth and maneuvered her vehicle around yet another hole in the road. She was only a half-hour or so from the first town on her circuit, and the sky was clear at the moment. She needed to focus on her presentation. She needed to focus on her bright smile and the sarcastic edge, on her fisher-folk drawl she spent most of the year carefully scrubbing away.

“Hey, all youes,” she murmured. “The Main Office, well, you know how it is. They pass out candy and I get to count heads. So let’s get the candy part done and then I can show you what else I managed to bring in.”

The contraband was illegal, by nature. But there were more than a couple reasons the Remote Territories head honchos kept sending her out here to the hillfolk, and it wasn’t just because she could survive the walk out, if her vehicle vanished.

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