After pulling my resolve, I enter back inside to face Headpeacekeeper Thread. When I arrive, he looks at me impassively.
"Have you reached a decision?"
I nod. "I will carry out your orders."
Peacekeeper Kentwell whistles. "Maybe you have a brain after all!"
Her uncle continues, gesturing to a suit of Special Operations armor. "Equip that, then head out with Peacekeeper Kentwell. She will watch you to prevent you from any unexpected dangers, and will make sure you actually carry out the order.
Remember Peeta, do what is necessary to get home again.
We head out, making our way to the first target. We reach a campfire with three Peacekeepers sitting around it, laughing away. Instead of opening fire, I decide first to listen to what they have to say.
"Ha ha, what a night!", one of them roars, "Did you see how many of those Rebs we got Cnaeus?"
The second Peacekeeper, Cnaeus, snorts. "Sure did Glaucion, sure did! And we got to have our fun with the captives too!"
Glaucion nods. "District 8 girls sure know how to please! Did you see that red-head one? She put up a fight!"
Cnaeus snickers. "I did more than see."
The third Peacekeeper in this group is less pleased. "Guys, how are you laughing?"
Glaucion waves his hand at the third man dismissively. "Aras, are you still squeamish? You're not a virgin anymore, you'll get used to it."
Aras does not seem convinced. "But what if someone talks?! Minervon looked really angry when he saw what we were doing, and swore he'd tell our Commander!"
Cnaeus shakes his head. "Remember when I said I'd 'talk' to him? Well wouldn't you know, during our talk a rebel threw a stolen grenade at him!"
"Really?", Aras asked.
Cnaeus and Glaucion both laugh, and the former answers. "That's what I'll tell the commander, and I doubt she'll notice that I'm short a grenade."
I hear Clove sneak behind me, and she whispers into my ear. "What are you waiting for?"
Yeah, these men have got to die.
"Thinking of how to proceed. I don't want any running", I answer.
"Well, Glaucion's the only one whose armed."
Standing up, I point my assualt rifle at Glaucion and open fire.
"Call for backup!", Aras squeals while Cnaeus scrambles for his rifle against the wall. Before he can reach it, I open fire on him as well. A burst of bullets leaves him dead.
Aras just backs up against a wall and squeals. "P-please don't kill me! Mercy!"
"Well", I ask him, "What about the women you raped? Where was their mercy?"
Aras just blubbers, and seems to wet himself. "Please!"
I shrug, "You're not worth the bullets."
"Oh thank you! Thank yo-"
As he's talking, I drive my rifle's bayonet into his throat. He looks at me for a moment in dull surprise, coughs up some blood, and slumps over dead when I pull my bayonet back out.
Clove looks at them. "Scumbags ...", she mutters.
I clean the blood off my weapon. "That's three down. Where are the next targets."
"I'll lead you to them", Clove says, and starts heading out. I follow close behind.
"So is this what your work entails", I ask her.
Clove nods. "Pretty much, though there's also sabotage, observation, and interrogation."
"Why not retire?", I ask.
Clove laughs. "Where's the fun in that?"
... maybe I should change the subject.
"So how do your parents feel about this career choice?"
Clive laughs again, louder this time. "The're too dead to care, and I say good riddance! Worm food is the only thing those abusive bastards are good for!"
"I'm sorry to hear that."
"Like you'd know!"
"Actually I think I would, because my mother was abusive too."
This actually gives Clove pause. "Well, I hope she's gone too."
I nod. "She is. Last I saw she was arrested. I don't know what her punishment was, and frankly I don't care."
"Hear hear!", Clove says in agreement. "The next target should be coming up shortly."
I grimy nod, ready to take them out.
We spend the rest of the night in this fashion, assassinating those Peacekeepers deemed to have dishonored their uniform. We need to stop a few times to re-stock on munitions, but apart from that the list is completed without any issue. I am of the understanding that more Special Operation Agents will collect these dead enemies and cremate them, so it will be as though their dishonor never tainted the Peacekeepers. Not that it will do anything against the dishonor of the Peacekeepers who follow orders without question; the Hovercraft pilots who bombed District 8 won't be executed or even reprimanded, nor will the Peacekeepers who escort children to their death in the Games.
I still have nagging worries; what if when I return to Thread he kills me to silence me? What if he wants to transfer me to the Special Operations? I am afraid something will happen that keeps me from returning home to Katniss.
But come what may, I must face it.
The sun is rising again when we get back to the Headpeacekeeper's Field Headquarters. Time to see what Thread has in store for me.
I enter inside, and see Thread waiting there for me. "Major Peeta Mellark, I see you have survived your mission. Have you carried it out?"
I nod. "I have done as you have ordered."
"Good. Now, take a seat."
I sit in the chair facing his desk. "Sir, why did you order me to carry this out? Your niece, Peacekeeper Kentwell, could have handled this mission better."
"President Snow has decided to place me in command of District 8 in order to make sure the population is kept in check and restored to productivity. As I can not be Headpeacekeeper of two districts, I need to designate a replacement for myself. The man I had been grooming to be the next Headpeacekeeper died in the battle, as have the two backups I had in mind. You are the next logical choice."
"Sir, are you sure? I'm not even a commander."
"Don't sell yourself short Peeta. You have demonstrated unflinching loyalty to Panem, as well as the ability to think on your feet. You even turned in your own mother for wrongdoing. I wanted you to be the one to kill the unworthy Peacekeepers last night as a final test of your loyalty.A loyal Peacekeeper is always a better choice for leadership than an experienced one. That is why I will be sending my recommendation to President Snow for you to recieve this post. If you do then expect to meet him shortly to renew your Peacekeeper's Oath and to take your Headpeacekeeper's Oath in person. That is all."
Shocked and numb, all I can do is exit the tent and find a quiet place outside to sit down.