"Say something, I'm giving up on you."
Cynthia Lorenzo, Victor
My fifteen minutes of fame are not over.
The glitz and glam of today revolves around the chutzpah from Three or the delusional – and dead – idiot from Eleven, but once the dust clears up, they'll remember that I am the valiant warrior of Panem. I smile at the picture of myself, adorned in the finest armor, riding off to battle injustice. Of course, the frilly summer dress I've been shoved into destroys such a fantasy. Reapings are a fantastic event, but not a petty one; the premise of a ball that these uniforms create absolutely ruins the occasion.
"Ms. Lorenzo, looking as silly as ever. This stone-walled hell needs a makeover, does it not?" I scoff. Before even my duty to the Capitol, I am the valiant warrior of District Two. Nothing and no one harbors hatred or criticism of my district without dying shortly thereafter.
The speaking bastard before me deserves naught to be the honorable escort of District Two, had it been my choice, I'd have his tongue cut out and hanging on my fireplace, but President Quinn works in mysterious ways. And in those ways, Cadevon Artois is my makeshift commander until I step foot in the Capitol The millisecond the Training Center is in view, the escort is out. I've never needed a reason to be excited to reenter the city, but Cadevon offers plenty had it been required.
Sadly, not all of the honored - even in the Capitol - know their place.
"Mr. Artois, looking as horrid as ever. And if anything needs a makeover, it's - " I gesture cheerfully towards him. "This. Nice nose job, hon. Now we just need to fix…the rest." Cadevon gives me his signature eye-roll before rising, dusting off the nonexistent dust on his ludicrous getup.
"Do call when you have something intelligent to spit out of that nasty excuse of a face, dear. Oh, what a shame it is District Two got stuck with you. Armia and Cobble were doing so well without your presence." He gives his blue locks a shake, smiling. "Oh, and there they are. The Victors of Two." Artois throws a glare in my nodding, nodding toward Armia and Cobble before heading off the stage to prep for his 'glamorous' stage entrance.
"What did that one want?" Armia mutters, massaging her temples. Jon's persecution and lovely execution had put Armia on edge; something that was clear on the aging woman's face.
"To discuss Capitol fashion with moi, the fashion leader," I retort, earning myself a chuckle from Cobble. Armia flashes a hint of a smile. "Do get some intel on what's hot and what's not in the Capitol, you two. And no couch sex!"
Cobble guffaws, and Armia struggles to muster the seriousness to answer. "Oh, how about you get the intel yourself, Cyn? I need a break from him." I quirk an eyebrow; the two practically died from laughter at my request to mentor last year, but now she hands it to me?
"Must be from all that couch sex," Cobble rushes, sensing the doubt in my eyes. A nervous laugh bubbles from Cobble's mouth as he tries to fill the silence.
In fact, there had been…such deeds, but before I can either comment on the Dirty Days or Armia's secession, Cadevon's yelling and barking, barely audible over the cries of the trainees. "Well, we'll do whatever when we come back – and, hey, you could even watch, Cynthia. Chop-chop!"
Cobble hustles me into a seat just quickly enough to catch Cadevon teasing the crowd with hovering over the girls' bowl. "Take who you want, just don't ask questions about her. Not yet." Armia, to my heart, covers her ears to block out the screeches.
"There'll be questions, don't you worry," I return, but neither of us are focused on it right now. We're both looking for our Victors.
Cadevon doesn't make it halfway through the name of some fourteen or fifteen-year old before the crowd parts, letting a fiery-haired girl into the open aisle. "I volunteer," she says. It's more of a statement than the usual assertion, like she's stating her name.
I'm on the verge of acknowledging Cobble's selection of volunteer for her intuition and class until a smaller girl, closer to the stage, squeaks the same two words. The composure of the redhead is lost as she pounces at the girl, taking a swing at her back and slamming her into the concrete. The resonant crack is followed by the cries of the younger girl, who looks thirteen at the oldest, but the redhead pays no mind.
She swings the microphone into her hand, raising the other sky-high. "I am Laela Galis, and District Two, I will bring us to the glory we so rightly deserve!" The response is overwhelming; wolf whistles, screams, and everything in between blares as Laela throws a smirk at Cadevon, who distastefully receives the microphone from Laela.
A small grin blooms on my face. If anyone can irk Cadevon, well, they're good in my books. That creature deserves more than irking, but I'll settle for that much.
"And the boys!" Cadevon declares, deciding against teasing the crowd of feisty, hormonal, and obviously ferocious teenagers before him. Cadevon doesn't get the time to speak before the chosen volunteer is halfway up the stage.
Unlike Laela, he does not break composure. Hell, he doesn't have it to begin with.
"Move it, bitch," he sneers, shoving Laela slightly as he snatches the microphone out of Cadevon's hands. Laela scowls with an interesting mix of admiration and disgust, one that mirrors the look on my face, undoubtedly. Audacious, I'll give him that.
"You haven't - "
"Yeah, yeah, I volunteer, happy, dipshit?" The gleam in his eyes depicts emotions of not anger or bloodlust, but one of rough edges, masked by irritation. Audacious and interesting. "Xander Lutz, your newest volunteer, how special, aren't I? Just like every year." I bite my tongue that lives to beat some respect into him, but I have a while to do that, on the train and in the Capitol.
"So I suppose you want the girl," Armia jokes, jabbing an elbow into Cobble. "Have fun with potty mouth."
"Actually, I'd like to be the one to clean his mouth with soap, if you don't mind," I ponder aloud. Cobble raises an eyebrow, chuckling.
"Have him! I've got enough sass with this one alone," he responds, nodding to Armia, who punches him with pleasure.
I let the two of them bash each other as I watch Xander and Laela depart. Laela, already draping an arm around the Peacekeeper who escorts her, and Xander, laughing it up with a Peacekeeper.
I smile, if only slightly, before putting on the neutral expression I'm infamous for as I watch them, already convincing the Peacekeepers how original and unique they are.
Manipulative. Cunning. Sly.
Just like myself.
Ari Corbin, Educator
"It'll be fine, Ma," Griffin reassures me, massaging my shoulders in a vain attempt to calm me down. "Lucas'll be fine, he's only got one lousy slip in there." The soothing tone in his voice only fuels the angst boiling inside of me, but I contain it with minimal difficulty. One thing pain is good for is learning to shelter yourself, build walls that only protect you from getting hurt again.
"Thank you, Griffin," I sputter, rising too quickly and shoving his arms off me. The hurt look on my son's face tampers with my anguish, but the guilt isn't enough to keep me from pacing and worrying. "I'm better, see? You go, go find Lucas and make sure he's alright," I murmur, tapping my fingers ravenously against my dress. "I'll be ready soon, I promise."
Griffin - nineteen, now, free from the Reaping - relents, calling for Lucas as he bounds up the stairs in search of his younger brother. I harshly grip the wooden frame of the chair beside me, clutching onto it for dear life as I have in times of distress. Only this time, I don't have Oshan to tell me it's going to be okay, I've pushed away Griffin and I've scared the living hell out of Lucas.
I've isolated my grief and pain to myself and my work only.
And for the first time, work is bringing something besides relief from stress. It brings more. During the time when hell seemed easier and safer than reality, my kids were there for me, not Lucas and Griffin, but the kids at school. I'd locked Lucas and Griffin away from me for their own safety and I've tossed the key away ages ago.
No, the so-called 'rabid' children brought me joy when I'd forgotten what joy was, what it felt like, how it made me feel. And even if that was one measly class of hundreds upon hundreds solely in District Five, it does my soul justice to know I've changed them as well.
So as guilty as it makes me feel, I'm not as worried for Lucas as I should be, not in the slightest. The fact that children I've just met this year take precedence to my son haunts my every breathing thought. The logical part of me tells me it's because his odds are so low, but deep down, I know it's because it's the others I'm more worried about.
My kids, all twenty-one of them. The people who pulled me up when I fell down as my husband wasted away our money and our lives. I can't bear the thought of losing even one. Not one of my saviors, anyone but them.
"Ma?" a tentative voice whispers from across the room. I hastily wipe away the tears I hadn't known I had shed before pulling Lucas into a hug. "Ma, why are you crying?"
"I'm fine, Luke, I'm fine, just scared," I murmur into his hair. "For you," I add, paranoia telling me to assure him it's him I'm worried for.
"S'okay, Ma, I'll be okay. And even if I do get reaped, I'll win; I'm strong, see?" He flexes his incredulously minute muscles as I clap along, laughing. I make out Griffin's figure at the door, smiling sadly at our encounter.
"That's right," I say, pulling him into one last hug. "Now let's get you to that Reaping."
Griffin holds the door for a cheerful Lucas and nods at me as I pass him. The walk to the Square is light and bubbly as Lucas explains why he thinks we have stars. "Pretty sure it's because the Sun has like, a bunch of little pieces that rest at night in their own bedrooms before getting back together in the day, right?"
I smile, but it almost feels foreign, to actually talk to my son instead of coming into his bedroom at night and kissing him on the forehead as he snores the night away. Guilt seizes me again for this. Griffin responds instead, not so much as denying Lucas's theories but stating less ridiculous ones. By the time it's time for Lucas to go off, the two are laughing about how the Moon must be the Sun's evil twin.
"Good to see he's still the same boy," I say to my feet as Lucas runs off. Griffin visibly twitches and I know he wants to chew me out for not being there, but he's too sweet to bark at me. He just nods.
Funny thing is, I want him to yell at me, to accuse me for everything I've done wrong, to try to get me to actually go home and live with my family. I guess we truly never see eye to eye. Before long, the mayor gives his two cents and introduces the escort before taking a seat.
I don't bat an eye at the entity that walks up to the stage; nothing fazes me much, to be fair, and a feathery woman isn't much of a start. "Greetings!"
The population of Five, bless their souls, is silent. Feathers, as I've dubbed her since how many ever years the creature has escorted here, takes it as a sign to keep it moving and she's dipping her…talons, right? Yes, she's dipping her talons into the girls' bowl while she makes small talk to the crowd whose only response is silence.
"Well, Five, our girl is… Krynne Harper!"
I gasp, feeling my heart drop to my feet as Krynne, light-hearted, determined, beautiful Krynne is singled out quickly and easily, surrounded by a squadron of Peacekeepers. She kicks out, screeches, and even scores a nasty bite on one's arm. Against my better judgment, I find myself cheering her on. Before long, the rest of District Five. We're proud to have a fighter.
A flare fired into the sky silences the uprising as Krynne is unceremoniously dumped onto the stage, trying to escape to no avail. Her reddened, tear-stained eyes meet mine through the crowd as Feathers goes off to the boys.
Her gaze is shattered, afraid, everything Krynne never was, but as I search, I can feel her in truth, still determined with the fire that drove her and drives her still.
I can only hope it remains that way.
Before I can hope for the boys' safety, Feathers has her hand victoriously holding a slip. Jayce. Karter. Avis. Sullivan. Oker. Kenton.
"Our boy is…Sullivan Durham! Come on down, Sully!"
Sullivan. The ability to breathe is stolen from me as I buckle down to my knees. Griffin's worried words go without notice as Sullivan convulses, tearfully shoving away the Peacekeepers that go for his arm. Choked up, but still as independent as ever, Sullivan meets Krynne at the stage where they hug, far past handshakes.
My vision begins to blur, and I only make out Feathers' words distantly.
"What a wonderful pair! Give it up for Sullivan and Krynne! The odds just weren't in their favor, now were they?"
Icarus Caltier, Escort
Truly, District Nine is an enchanting place. Golden strands of wheat blossom and dance in the eternal, cooling breeze that sweeps the District. Even though Ten is the stockyard of Panem, animals of every sort flock through the field surrounding the square. It's picturesque and perfect to every extent of the word.
Now, if only the people could match such a scene.
I scowl as a child wails in the distance, faint yet painfully clear from my seat on the podium. Insolent idiot! The eloquence and class of the Capitol has rubbed naught against the bristling behemoths doing nothing more than wasting the oxygen of this place. Even at my old age, I have the civility any common man would have, not to mention the brashness of the women.
A migraine blossoms just from thinking about the imbecilic population.
"Icarus," a warm feminine voice begins.
"Now, missy, you shall refer to me as - "
"Icarus, since it's what you've always told me to call you." I quirk an eyebrow, ready to slap some sense into this whore before I recognize the innocent grin plastered onto her peachy cheeks.
"Arly, my dear, forgive me," I say, rising into a hug with the only courteous being born and raised in this hellhole. "How are you and Orson holding up what with all the drama in the Capitol as of late?"
"We're fine," Arly assures, brushing her hair like my daughter would. "We try not to associate ourselves with drama unless the situation calls for us specifically. And I try not to associate myself with him," she adds with a smirk.
"There's my girl," I coo, tousling her hair playfully. "Say, where is Marshall? With which poor girl is he assaulting now?"
"Icarus," Arly says, a warning tone in her voice. "Play - "
"Nice, yes, sweetheart, I've heard it before." The pair of us laugh, on the verge of reminiscing to the point where it could almost redeem Nine for being the house of animals it is. Almost.
"Speak of the devil," I mutter, ushering Arly to the side as Orson Marshall, consecutive Victor to Arly, grins at me, painfully sweet a smile.
" - And he doth appear. Giovanni Torriano, 1666. Oh, but must've known that, you old bag of bones, didn't you?"
"Of course I did," I return, indignant.
"Good to hear," Orson says, smirking. "Oh, when you get to hell, make sure you book me a room. I would do it myself, but you'll be there so much earlier; you could get me a nice room with windows and all that."
I bite my tongue as Orson heads off, Arly chastising him in tow. Good. Let the girl teach the buffoon a thing or two. The prospect of getting him out of the Capitol forever makes me actually approve interacting with one of the heathens getting reaped if it means getting another Victor.
But of course, it's not like any of the imbeciles could actually win.
I don't bother shaking the thought away; the truth is only going to make me reasonable and honest and that's the truth. Nine has nothing on the likes of One, Two, Four. Hell, even Seven is far superior. I'm not granted the time to continue badmouthing Nine in my head, however; the mayor, always to the point and concise, wraps up his speech in record time, introducing me to lackluster applause.
Not surprising. I wouldn't be shocked if the pack of buffoons don't even know how to clap.
"Before we begin," I announce profoundly, "may I condemn the lot of you for the disgusting condition the people this town houses." The outcries and barks go unnoticed to my ear as saunter to the girls' bowl. Let them bark, let them call for murder, repeal; at the end of the day, I am the one with the power in my hands. My hand dips into the bowl, clutching a handful and I fling them at the enraged crowd, watching the children frantically search the names for theirs.
Like the pathetic vermin they are, they rely on me and my mercy.
Finally, one slip feels right; it has an aura of pain that this district so rightly deserves. I fish it out, unfolding it hastily as I snatch the microphone off the podium. "Briar Thompson!"
The hysterical group of children at the front parts for a tiny little girl. Of course, the district, as pathetic as it is, offers me nothing more than a toddler. I am not a babysitter! "You will die, you slimy bitch!" I hiss just loud enough for her to hear, finger accusingly curved towards Briar's shivering frame, as if it was winter in the Capitol and not summer in this hellhole.
Her sobs continue to irritate me through my journey to the boys' bowl, filled to the rim with heathens and ne'er-do-wells that await punishment for their voracious actions.
Now, I do not waste time in selecting the chosen idiot; the first slip speaks of a grim life ready to be made worse, tenfold. "Chandler Kennewick!"
Again, the sea of pre-teens at the front opens for a young boy with dark skin and piercing eyes. Never have I seen a imbecile – especially one of such a young age – not burst into tears after being Reaped, but my respect requires more than the ability not to cry at the honor of a shot at redemption in the Games.
"Shake hands," I hiss, roughly yanking Chandler up the remainder of the stairs as he ascends into a sloppy handshake with Briar, who continues to sniffle and choke for air. Once again, outcries of injustice and mishandling of children are barked; can you believe that? That these hooligans, holding their own children captive, accuse me of wrongdoing?
It doesn't amount to much anyway; my attention does not waver for these mongrels.
A mutt, no matter how savage, will bow to its master.
Clark Ginnas, Peacekeeper
"Gina, be a good girl and fetch Auntie Beaurecross a glass of water, won't you?" I ask with the high-pitched, child-speaking voice I've acquired against my will after spending so much time with the little one. Gina squeaks, pumping her arms through the Square to the nearest market.
"She's precious," Holland says, adoration clear in her eyes. A hint of warning flickers in her expression; she knows better than to get attached to anyone, but I suppose a five-year old wouldn't be the worst person to trust. Even I've relented, letting her sit in on our last meeting last week.
The two of us stroll carefully through the streets, eyeing for the telltale mechanical whir of a peeping camera. No such noise intrudes our conversation, but neither of us concedes until we're clear of town. "The next shipment of Capitol supplies should roll in next week."
"I trust you to divvy it up well," Holland comments authoritatively. "Do as much as you can whilst the Games continue; the Capitol's attention won't be on here while the kids are bashing each other's skulls in."
"I do hope you censor yourself in front of my niece when I'm not there," I jest, gaining a half-grin from Holland.
"I try, but I promise nothing."
"Reassuring, maybe she'll grow up to be a dimwit like you!" This earns me a punch, and I rub the to-be bruise, pouting. "No need to be hurtful."
"Aw, did I hurt the dimmer dimwit's feelings?"
The two of us share a laugh, which, after the hell we've been through the past few years, is a blessing in and of itself. This is why, against all odds, I'm grateful that I was selected to work with Holland, for she's serious and solemn when it's called for, and doesn't have a stick up her ass when it's not needed.
Eventually, we go back to business, plotting out the future of Twelve as something more than a roach under the Capitol's hell, but it's grim at best. Everything is grim when the enemy's armory is larger than your army.
But it's not all about the numbers we have right now; it's about building something strong enough to mean something tomorrow, the next day, the next decade. It's about making something that won't be roadkill, even if it means sacrificing ourselves.
So as hopeless as it feels, we keep trying. Holland and I - as well as a handful of others trustworthy enough not to turn us in for a quick buck - are all in this together.
The whistles of the rest of the Peacekeepers go off, signaling the beginning of the Reaping. "Duty calls," we mutter in unison, grinning afterwards.
"Seeing as I won't see you 'til afterwards, do try not to get persecuted while I'm out," Holland teases, twisting her bracelets around her wrist.
"I could say the same for you," I return, grinning. Holland gives a quick nod before heading out to the stage, with me following closely behind.
The precession is quick and painless, as Holland had suggested to Mayor Canary. The Treaty of Treason is sped through and he even leaves out the mention of Holland herself, a touch of my own. Why draw attention to the face of change when it isn't necessary?
Unfortunately, the chirpy escort, whatever her name is, didn't get the memo. Squealing and taking her good ol' damn time, she squeals over how 'adorable' the Mayor is before preceding to run through the crowd, tugging ears and blowing kisses like some overrated rock star.
The Capitol has hit a new low.
"Hello Tw-Twelve," she squeaks, gasping from the fatigue of running about twenty yards, if I'm to be fair. "Let's get started, yeah!"
Skipping to the bowl, Little Miss Bubbly daintily plucks a strip from the top of the pile and, like a child on its birthday, she squeals excitably. "Memrie Delano, gals, make a move!"
My line of sight picks up a girl buckling to her knees before quickly rising, shouldering away the hand of a boy with a polite smile. The Peacekeepers that rush her are surprised as she crooks her arm into the first one's, as if she's being escorted down her marriage aisle instead of being dragged to her impending death.
Holland purses her lips as the girl with the weak smile – Memrie, I assume - stumbles, fumbling to hold onto the impressive composure she's held. A very select few of District Twelve can even make it five feet without bursting into tears or trying to flee against their better judgment.
Little Miss Bubbly clasps Memrie's hands in hers and continues babbling away, nearly forgetting the other half of her job. Eventually, she perks up, hopping to her place at the boys' bowl and stirring it as if she controls the ability and skill level of her tribute.
However, my attention is set on Memrie, who sobs into her hands the second the cameras divert from her. The shoulder-less dress doesn't do her all that good in drying her tears, but she makes it work, stifling her sobs and tears before the cameras refocus on her with her skin.
"Kyung Jiang! Exotic!"
The boy, appearing to be fifteen or sixteen, shows no sign of resistance or even fear, aside from the tears welling in his eyes. The aura around him was not afraid, but forlorn. It's like he would have volunteered for this if he hadn't been Reaped. I know these kids all too well. My own brother was one.
One of the kids who see the Games as an escape.
I grit my teeth as Kyung ascends the stage, shaking hands with Memrie, both of their broken smiles matching at heart. These are the kids that I fight for, the ones who've lost it all to the Games or the Capitol as a whole. These are the kids I'm willing to sacrifice myself for.
But I will not act on impulse like so many of the ones I held dear did in years past. Until an army is willing to sacrifice itself for the revolt I have plotted, I must wait.
Even though everything inside me tells me to do something, to fight something for the lost causes.
A/N: And there are the first four districts: Two, Five, Nine, and Twelve! The order was randomized (to a certain extent), so it doesn't insinuate anything about placings.
Which of these eight stood out to you?
~just wanted to throw it out there that although it is holiday, drumline camp and summer school don't really change my schedule all that much. Actually, when summer school starts, it'll get worse ;_; ~
Until next time!