Her heels left indents in the red velvet carpet, her eyes scanning the dark mahogany walls as she examined one of the only places in the world that could discomfit her. The rest of the building had a rather upbeat atmosphere, but the farther you traveled inward, the more you realized the truth of this place. This small hallway and handful of isolated offices were the only parts of the building that truly reflected its nature.

It was quiet, almost off puttingly so, and she felt the need to keep her steps as silent as possible to not disrupt it. She tried to keep her eyes looking straight forward at her destination, the grand door at the end of the hall that contained the nation's most powerful figure.

Her annual visits to the President were a cause of great anxiety to her; which was saying something, because she prized herself in being able to stay calm and collected, or at least appear so. It was apart of her job, and she took great pride in it. She had some to dread these meetings, but she attempted to compose herself before entering the most fearsome room.

The office was in the shape of a circle, the wall opposite her made entirely of windows. It was evening, and a sliver of moonlight made its way inside, but for the most part, it was dark. Sitting behind the desk large enough to nearly span the room, was the figure that could fill her both with fear and admiration. The nametag on its front read President Cornelius Snow.

"Hello, Mr. President," she said, raising her voice a decibel higher than it usually was.

The man glanced up from his paperwork and gave her venomous smile.

"Hello, Miss. Presque," he said. He nodded at a high-backed chair in front of his desk. "Sit."

She obeyed and crossed her legs in front of her, clasping her hands together. She purposely avoided gazing around the room that was lavishly decorated but draped in shadow, eerie and unwelcoming.

"Let's get right down to business," Snow said softly, adjusting a vase of roses to his right. Miss Presque caught of whiff of highly enhanced rose scent.

"Yes, sir. I can assure you before we even begin that everything is running as smoothly as possible," she said, probably too quickly.

The President gave no indication that he noticed her discomfort. "That is good to know. As you know, these meetings are really more of a formality than anything. As the country's leader, I should hear directly from you that there are no problems." He said this all very slowly.

"Of course, sir," she said, then was silent again.

Snow smiled. "I assume the escorts have been assigned their districts and the Peacekeepers have been informed of their duties."

"The Peacekeepers have all been taken care of, yes," she said, then with more caution, "However, I am not directly involved with the escorts. Their deadline is next week, and I believe they all like to know their districts at least a month before, so… I would consider it done."

"I understand," Snow said. "But I hope you see the difference between considering it done, and actually having it done."

"Yes, sir," she said. And before he could ask, "All the stylists are accounted for, too, sir. As well as Avoxes needed for the Training Center, and the arena is fully operational."

"I would expect nothing less of the youngest female Gamemaker to grace Panem," Snow smiled. She returned it halfheartedly.

"Now, shall we talk more in depth?"

The season officially began when the Gamemaking Center turned on its lights. The golden lights that shined outside the enormous building in the center of the Capitol first turned on the night before the Reaping, and would continue to do so every evening until the night following the victor's interview with Caesar Flickerman. People from all over the Capitol traveled to see the lights that everyone had been waiting for, to take pictures of themselves with them and mark special life moments; like a baby's first Hunger Games or a first Games as a married couple. The lights also signified when the Hunger Games cafes and themed restaurants opened for business. It was the happiest time of the year, and it showed on the morning of the Reaping when Bellona Presque woke early to get to work.

Evidence that today was Reaping day was everywhere; all the broadcasting networks were playing footage of last year's Reaping and announcing the current most popular bets on who be the Tributes this year. When Bellona's Avox opened the drapes in her living room, she could see the neighbor's decorations, their windows lit up with the words Happy Hunger Games! and May may the odds be ever in your favour!. Bellona lived in what the Capitolites called "Gamemaker Square", a section of the city where current and formerly great Gamemakers lived with their families. It was known that if you couldn't move into the Square when you were hired as a Gamemaker, you probably wouldn't last very long in the job. Due to this, the houses did put their decorations up rather early, but it wasn't an occurrence that only happened in the Square. Hunger Games enthusiasts everywhere had been preparing for this day for weeks, even months. It wasn't called the happiest time of the year for nothing.

Bellona's Avox did her hair nicely, the dark bun atop her head, dyed with bright green streaks going nicely with the green dress she had picked out the night before. It was in the current style of the upper class; with the material bunching out at the waist and hugging her legs. Bellona powdered her face to achieve the unique look she had become known for in the Capitolite public. The jade green of the dress contrasted greatly with pale skin and dark eyes. It played right into the Head Gamemaker persona; a mysterious and powerful leader, yet still connected with nature and the workings of the world.

It was a concept that Bellona could pull off very easily, probably because it was very close to her true self. She had always understood the natural world order; it was the common belief that civilization was somehow superior to more primitive ways of living, but Bellona knew differently. Violence, fear, and death were all parts of society just as much as they always have been. One thing that couldn't be found in nature, however, is war, a special invention made by "civilized" people to explain the thirst for blood that everyone is born with.

If there was one thing that Bellona loved the most about the Hunger Games, it would be the uncensored truth that comes with them each year. They were a time when Panem is free to show its true self.

A limousine showed up at the front door of Bellona's villa without her even having to call for it; the service was expected for all Gamemakers during the season. Bellona left the Avox with orders to clean the lounge and dining room, surely she would be expected to host a party for her co-workers at some point, most likely on one of the two days the Gamemakers had off at this time of year. Well, the training days the Tributes had before their interviews weren't exactly "days off", but they were the closest they could get.

The limo arrived at the Gamemaking Center a mere half an hour later, but it was already late enough for the swarms of paparazzi to be gathering outside. As soon as Bellona set foot outside of the vehicle, reporters and photographers were on her like a predator on its prey. Bellona just smiled at each of them, gracefully sidestepping every attempt to delay her entering the building. Finally one of them asked her a question that she could actually answer.

"Miss Presque, what do you think will make these Games stand out from the rest?"

The rest continued to jabber on, pressing farther in, shouting and all vying for her attention, but they all fell silent when Bellona began to speak. She gave the woman who asked the question a professional smile, and with her best Head Gamemaker voice, said,

"Every Games is unique in their own way. The Tributes make it so, as does the arena, and the wonderful people who all work together to make the Games truly the happiest time of the year."

The reporters were all feverishly writing every word down on their notepads, then started shouting questions again, but Bellona was already disinterested. Her heels today were designed to look like they were made of pure jade straight out of the mines, and they clicked against the marble steps as she ascended up to the entrance.

The swinging door shut behind her, and the atmosphere completely changed. Everyone was moving about in a great hurry in here as well, but no one paid her any attention. They were all absorbed in their own work; last minute preparations for who was driving certain Tributes where, who was responsible for decorating District Two's apartment in the Training Center, because it looked so two years ago. Bellona squeezed her way to a set of secure doors near the front desk. She swiped her ID card and the screen blinked green. The secretary, preoccupied with a phone call, nodded in her direction and the doors slid open.

Here, things were a little less chaotic. Very few people who worked in the Gamemaking Center were actually Gamemakers. This section of the building was where they worked their magic, the only place where Bellona was surrounded by colleagues rather than those she was charged to entertain.

Bellona approached the round table where some Gamemakers were already seated, making sure everything is in order. There wasn't much to do at this point except sit back and watch, but Bellona prided herself in having a hard-working, determined team. She shrugged off her fur jacket and placed her hands on her hips, sighing as she watched the big screen in front of the circular table. Shots of the twelve districts were being shown at different points on the screen. Everything seemed to be in order; the Peacekeepers appeared to be doing their pre-Reaping check for threats. There was always a chance that angry District citizens could try to put an end to the ceremonies.

The screen switched to show scenes from around the Capitol as people celebrated the beginning of the Hunger Games season. It was only seven, so the first reaping was still two hours away, but on Reaping Day, everyone rose early with excitement, their bones rattling in their bodies and blood singing to see what their primal selves desired. The atmosphere during the season was indescribable, incomparable. Bellona closed her eyes and took in a deep breath, smiling wide, just taking in all of it. The low hum of her team in the background, the cheers of the Capitolites on the screen, the elated feeling of creating all of it. She was responsible for this; the one who was gifted enough and enough of a visionary to put this all together. Most Head Gamemakers didn't last but a few years in the position, but Bellona thought that maybe a few weeks of this feeling once a year for three or four years was all that a person needed to be satisfied for the rest of their life.

At that moment, a rerun of Bellona's pre-Games interview with Caesar Flickerman the night before came on the screen. Bellona opened her eyes and smiled even wider at the sight of herself, dressed in a red, flowy gown, talking up her team to Flickerman. Everyone present erupted into applause, most of them smiling in her direction. Bellona could only pick out a few that were faking it. An improvement from last year, when her predecessor had retired and appointed her as his successor with the approval of the president. Many were skeptical that she could handle the job. The average age of the Head Gamemaker was mid-thirties, and Bellona was twenty-five, making her the youngest female Head Gamemaker in Panem's history. To top it all off, there hadn't been many female Head Gamemakers, period. Bellona was the nation's 34th Head Gamemaker, and only ten women before her had taken up the position. But Bellona wasn't very concerned about how some numbers put her in the history books. She wanted to be remembered because of her Games. And, apparently, her colleagues seemed to understand that more now.

Bellona did a little bow and there was some scattered laughter. "You did very well, Miss Presque," a man a few years younger than her said from his seat, smiling.

"Thank you, Livianus," she answered with a light laugh. Livianus reminded her of herself sometimes, except for when he tried to suck up to her. Still, he was a hard worker and definitely had a future in Gamemaking. She always tried to weigh her team's strengths against their weaknesses to form a well-rounded opinion of them. In this line of work, there wasn't any room for bias.

Everyone watched the rest of the interview and clapped again when it was over, the screen switching back to shots of various Districts. Bellona hung her coat on her chair at the head of the table and pressed a button on her console. Immediately, a young girl with silver hair down to her waist, unnaturally pale blue eyes and stark white skin appeared from Bellona's private office. Her unworldly appearance was complete with eyelashes as long as her nose and a light blue tattoo that snaked down the side of her face and arms.

"Yes, Miss Presque?" she asked respectfully, tablet clasped in front of her.

"Is my breakfast ready, Aelia?" Bellona asked, taking a seat and opening up her own screen on the table. She had a message from President Snow making sure that everything was running smoothly. She tapped the button to reply, thinking over possible ways to sound busy but unconcerned.

"It is; I'll grab it for you," Aelia said, hurrying away. Bellona watched her go fondly. She always appreciated people who knew their style. Not just what they could wear, but how they held themselves, the inflections of their voice, and the whole image that they created for themselves. Aelia was certainly someone with these qualities, and she would do well here, even just as Bellona's assistant.

Bellona sighed and glanced around the room proudly, realizing just how well she had done in choosing her team this year. Of course, most of them were hand-me-downs from the Head Gamemaker before her, Seneca Crane. She had been very close to Seneca, and close to the team when she was apart of it. Seneca was a genius and everyone respected him for it. But she knew in her years as Head Gamemaker she would make the team her own. She would make the Games her own. She truly was the most powerful woman in Panem. That no one could deny.

"Miss Presque?"

Bellona turned to see Aelia standing with coffee and cinnamon roll in hand. The frosting was artfully painted so that the bun resembled a flower. Bellona took the breakfast with a curt smile, sitting at her desk and beginning to type out a reply to the President. Aelia hurried back to Bellona's private office, not used very much during the season, to make sure they had everything they needed for the next few weeks. Bellona sent the message to Snow with a genuine smile. By the end of the night, she would have twenty-four lives in the palm of her hand, their destinies hers to decide, their deaths all according to her own design.

Life had never tasted so sweet in her mouth. She bet it tasted even sweeter after fighting for it; for the privilege of life. Soon, one child out of the twenty-four would have the pleasure of knowing.

Welcome to my SYOT! I've been wanting to write one for years, but I've only now got around to it. Truthfully, this fic is somewhat of a writing exercise for me. I'm currently trying to write a novel, but I've been feeling unmotivated and need to start writing on a schedule. I hope writing this fic will help with that, as well as writing using a variety of characters. Since one of the reasons I'm writing this is to get myself to write quicker and more often, I can promise that this SYOT won't be abandoned like so many others. I promise to update even if I think the chapter isn't up to my standards. I don't know if that is comforting to readers or not, but that's just my goal.

With that said, maybe I should explain some things about this AU. In this universe, Gale convinced Katniss to run away with him before the Reaping. They decide to sneak away while everyone is busy with the Reaping, find somewhere to lay low and come back for their families later. Unfortunately, this means Prim is reaped with no one to volunteer for her. Peeta does his best to protect her, but Cato ends up winning the 74th Hunger Games. As such, the rebellion never happens and the Games continue. Sidenote, because the Capitol didn't have to kill Katniss and Peeta to stop the rebellion, the Third Quarter Quell is not reaped from the existing pool of victors, but instead was played without weapons. The tributes had to kills the others with their hands or with makeshift weapons.

Please submit tributes if you would like! There are more details on my page. Everyone can submit up to two tributes. I'm looking forward to reading your submissions. :)