Hi everyone! Here's the first chapter of my second SYOT, a sequel to Renaissance Island. It might be helpful if you read it first, as there will be references to events from that story, but it certainly isn't essential.

"Every act of rebellion expresses a nostalgia for innocence and an appeal to the essence of being." –Albert Camus

Miracle Emerson / Victor of the 87th Hunger Games

She's a victor now, but she doesn't feel victorious. She doesn't feel much at all in fact, except for unyielding tiredness, as she lays there in a silent and sterile white room, staring at a photograph on the opposite wall of a humpback whale in mid-flip.

The last thing Miracle remembers is the glimpse of an approaching hovercraft as she fades out of consciousness, the Five girl's spear still stuck in her. The pain is mostly gone when she comes to, but the doctor warns her not to move too much.

"You're still healing from the surgery," he had said. "We don't want anything to get worse."

The silence in the room doesn't last, though. Not long after she wakes up, her mentor Serenity Martell pays her a visit, along with Scarlett Lachance, the soon-to-retire escort for One. After expressing their condolences about Bliss, they congratulate her profusely on her victory.

"Two victors within five years, Mira. That's incredible!" Serenity exclaims.

"What an unbelievable departing gift!" adds Scarlett, who will soon join her husband's energy conglomerate after 20 years as One's escort.

"Who's even replacing you?" Miracle asks.

"They chose Aurelia, the Five escort," replies Scarlett. "Her tribute was runner-up after all."

The two of them then go on to fill Miracle in on a few things, such as how they prepared gifts for her at the feast, only for them to be taken by other tributes, or how the doctor told them that she wouldn't have made it if she pulled that stunt down in the facility.

"And one more thing," Scarlett says. "Head Gamemaker Ellsworth is leaving to join the president's cabinet. He'll be replaced by one of the other gamemakers, a younger guy by the name of Remus Bridgewater. We don't really know what to expect from him, to be honest."

Miracle wonders why she would care about any of this but then remembers – President Greenleaf had passed a new law a few years ago, requiring that a district's tributes be mentored by their most recent victor. It's a rule that makes sense, Miracle admits to herself, as it gives some extra motivation to produce another victor from your district, a sort of pushback against the apathetic addicts or drunkards that are all too common among the outer districts' victors. Not that this applies to her district though, as mentoring is a privilege where she's from. She's sure that there is some trace of disappointment in Serenity now that she'll be out of the limelight.

In theory, the two of them could submit a mentor change request form, to be reviewed by the head gamemaker and the president, which would allow Serenity to remain as a mentor in place of Miracle. These are almost always denied, as Serenity explains, since the Capitol public enjoys seeing the most recent victors on screen again. It's something they've grown used to and now demand.

After exchanging a few more pleasantries, the two of them depart, once again leaving Miracle alone with her thoughts, staring ahead at the only non-white spot on the walls.

She sighs. The cycle goes on as she'll mentor some other kid right out of the academy, eyes brimming with naïveté. She supposes that this is another reason why they make you mentor right away – to remind people that winning the Hunger Games doesn't free you from them.

Still, much has to happen before that. She'll have to endure a grueling victory tour in a few months, along with other "demands" the Capitol makes of her. She hasn't thought much about the latter point until now. Serenity never talked with her about any experiences of that kind, but Miracle suspects that she's been through it. Most victors from One have, it would seem.

Dwelling on these matters has her questioning her entire situation. Besides Isabel, who else would truly miss her if she didn't come back? Her mother would get over it one way or another, and Maxon's still young. She may have escaped the arena, but she'll remain in the Capitol's clutches for quite some time. Is it really worth it?

Yet we don't choose to survive. It's a raw instinct, a driving force that gnaws at you until there's no line you haven't crossed, no principles you haven't abandoned.

And with that, Miracle takes her eyes off the whale, leans her head back into the pillow and closes her eyes, realizing that this is just another beginning.

Domitian Ellsworth / Secretary of the Districts

President Greenleaf was right: Domitian Ellsworth is not a fan of the Hunger Games. He initially signed up for the technical aspects, and because it was paying job like any other. Indeed, much of a Gamemaker's duties rely on carefully designed software and user interfaces, which was his subspecialty upon joining. He gains seniority over the years until Severus Bridgewater disappears one day and he's handpicked by the president to succeed him. He didn't realize back then that being head gamemaker is nothing like being a subordinate gamemaker. The technical challenges disappear, to be replaced by managerial logistics and theatrics. And after three years, Domitian is confident that it doesn't suit him. He's a computer programmer, not an architect of child murder.

Now that job has dragged him into the world of politics, at the president's behest. And of course, what the president wants, the president gets. His old position has gone to his enthusiastic protégé, Remus Bridgewater, now the youngest head gamemaker in history.

Domitian leans back in his leather office chair, admiring the splendid view from his new Capitolia office, which overlooks the Avenue of the Tributes. Secretary of the districts – he likes the way it sounds, a rather grandiose title for a relatively simple job. As was explained to him, each district's mayor reports to an assigned praetor, their counterparts in the Capitol. In turn, each praetor reports to the secretary of the districts, who would brief the president daily.

So far, he oversaw the end of a drug ring takedown in District Six, resulting in dozens of arrests and hundreds of pounds of morphling being seized. Interestingly, they had been tipped off by the male tribute from Six via his escort. Besides that, however, the first few weeks in office have been uneventful for Domitian. Things will be quiet at home too, he imagines, as his wife and daughter are leaving on vacation to Catalina, a resort colony in the Pacific.

The phone rings, startling him as he's about to doze off.

"Yes?" he answers, before getting a chance to see the caller ID.

"Secretary Ellsworth," says an artificially deep voice on the other end. "I'd stay on the line if I were you."

"Who is this?" Domitian demands. "How did you get this number?"

"Never mind that. Listen carefully, we have your wife and daughter. Do not mention this conversation to anyone. As long as you follow our instructions, they will be released without harm."

His heart rate spikes as he thinks about what has happened to them. Did these people take the hovercraft down? Were they somehow abducted in Catalina?

"H-how do I know you have them?" Domitian asks shakily.

"Hear for yourself," the voice replies, followed by a brief cry for help that is unmistakably in his daughter's voice.

The voice continues, "I'm glad we understand each other, Mr. Secretary. You will receive further instructions soon. Know that the next Hunger Games will be the last."

And after a brief pause, the voice ends with one final message:

"Long live the Sparrow."

AN: I hope you enjoyed these POVs from two of our returning characters. This chapter largely focuses on the aftermath of the 87th Games, but the next few prologue chapters will stand on their own to a greater extent. I'm trying to write a better Capitol plotline, since the last one sort of fizzled out as the story went on.

I feel like I learned a lot from my first SYOT in terms of what works well and what doesn't, so I'm hoping to implement some changes and produce a better story.

On my profile, there's also some additional information about the Capitol, which can help you better understand some of the references being made.

Please leave a review with your thoughts on all of this! If you're interested in joining, the rules and submission form are on my profile.