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This is the road to ruin.

Splitting pain was not how Larisa liked to start her mornings.

Neither was waking up on the floor after a particularly nasty nightmare.

She groaned, the constant babble of running water dragging her focus back to the land of the living - and away from the eerily creepy stare that had haunted her night. With no screeching alarm or rowdy hollering from the adjoining living spaces Larisa refused to lift her head from the cool yet uncomfortable floor. At least, not until her mortality began to complain. The young woman blindly reached to her side, groping for the soft cotton blankets she knew would have fallen with her. As much as her shoulders would ache later, facing the reality of yesterday's failures was a much more daunting task; the alternative was to ignore it and pretend it never happened with a great amount of unhealthy binging.

Fluffy ears went from bedraggled and bothered to alert and panicked as her grasping hand hit cold water rather than soft cloth. The air caught in her throat, choking her on the sudden lump of terror that sprung up.

This was not her bedroom floor.

This was not her home.

And she was nowhere near russia or even planet earth.

The eerie white smile in her memory made sense now. Larisa balked at the sterile white expanse surrounding her, especially so at the constant flow of water making a rippling pond at her side. The fountain gurgled and surged from the center, with no apparent motor or even a drain to explain the phenomenon. It felt like normal, standard water, nothing inherently exceptional about it. Except that as a strange woman hurried on past without sparing a thought to the girl on the ground, her footsteps made no ripples in the water. A hallucination, clearly. Or perhaps the woman was the fake? Larisa pressed the heel of her palm over her eyes, willing herself back home. To the lab, to the big observatory, anywhere but the strange white expanse.

Larisa barely had the time to attempt processing her predicament, the distraught attempts at explaining it away interrupted by the heavy sound of weighted boots marching in unison. A hand on her shoulder evoked a screech of terror - one she immediately regretted, staring up into a reflective helmet. Soldiers; at least ten, probably more. Each one armed with what looked like rifles. All but one keeping the barrel pointed straight to her head.
The terror in her eyes was not something uncommon it seemed. The man who seemed to be in charge holstered his weapon, holding out his hands in a way that was probably supposed to calm her. The armour had the opposite effect. So did the rest of the gun barrels she had the wonderful vantage point to look up. Slowly, Larisa tried inching out of reach. The… captain maybe? She couldn't tell what rank, or if it even was a he under the mask. Whatever the case, they eased back, motioning for the surrounding soldiers to lower their weapons. Slowly but surely, they fell into line, keeping a suspicious finger on their triggers.

"Miss, we aren't here to hurt you. We're here to help. You're new here, right?"

The man slowly lifted his hands, removing the helmet to show her a weathered face, just as human as her own. Larisa knew seeing his eyes meant nothing, and that she shouldn't trust him while the others still had itchy trigger fingers, but when the captain extended his hand a second time she grasped it with all the force she could muster.

"You'll be okay."
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She found out on the walk back to their home - a place they called "Coruscant", which was ruled by what was colloquially known as "The Empire" - that the captain's last name was Odell. He tried giving her the 'welcome to hell' pep talk, fading into an awkward silence after she refused to answer any questions. He kept a firm hand on her shoulder as they approached a busy gate manned by more soldiers in the same uniform.

Odell gripped her hand in his, placing her palm against a solid black panel. He kept a firm grip as she shied away from the looming and also heavily armed guard watching her. Larisa yelped, trying to pull her hand away as something pricked her finger while the panel scanned her entire handprint. With a heavy sigh, the man relinquished her hand, pulling her closer as she cowered.

"What did that do?"

"It entered you into our system. Now you can come and go as you want." Odell paused to make sure she was really paying attention, pulling her face to look up from her hands. "So long as you don't break any laws, that is. Someone will go over those with you on the other side, help you get settled in."

Larisa's ears drooped, the weight of her new reality was staggering. She clung to Odell's arm with a white-knuckled grip as she processed what he meant. "You're not staying." Her tail, just as much as her ears, made it impossible to hide her terror. Her quivering voice was no help either. "You're just going to go back to patrol now?"

"I have a job to do Kid. Just give the lieutenant here your name and walk through that gate." Odell pointed at the imposing steel archway, easily eight feet taller than her and just as wide. There was nothing behind that gate. Nothing Larisa could see from where she stood, at the least. "Just do as I say, and get it done." The captain handed her what looked like a brochure and pushed her towards the gate. "I'll come check on you when my shift ends."

Larisa glanced between the only known part of her new world, and the gate obscuring Odell's promised safety. She looked back to the Captain one last time, then turned and fled through the gate before she had the chance to convince herself otherwise.

"You'll be okay, kid. I promise."
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