Day 5: The Corpses and The Survivors.
Rhodos McNamara. District 4.
The Arena meets its reckoning and it is deafening.
Explosions crest over the force-field overhead, beginning from the bottom of the horizon and working up, every new layer screeches a defying scream before it is devoured.
This is the rebellion's awakening.
Rhodos can't believe it. But it is, it's happening...
A hovercraft soars above him, and it sows a row of goosebumps upon his skin.
(He hasn't really believed it before, not really, not until this moment. Not until he stares up overhead at the gleaming warhead of metal, not until the earth shudders and rocks squeal and animals screech, as if an avalanche is about to transform life into death itself.)
"Yes!" Daniel laughs, and it's a holler and a cry at once, a revelry for the Capitol's desolation, a celebration for their desperate salvation.
For the world crushed under the Districts' fingertips, and there is elation to be found in their celebration.
"It's happening!" Ryleigh cries, and her voice is so jubilant amid the screeching roars; of trees toppling, grounds tearing, skies rocking, winds rattling.
The Arena is falling.
(And that's how it should end. Here, with Rhodos McNamara and the Threes heading to their victory, successful in their total rebellion. So ardent their measures; so delightful their ends. No cares that require any of their attendance; there is nothing that matters to any of them, anymore.)
… except for Althea Ivory.
He has his District partner. Rhodos has Althea Ivory and she's left him. Gone in the other direction, away from their destination (their extraction point, that's how Daniel's put it)... and with the Arena shattering before his eyes he doesn't know what'll happen to her, only that the sky and the earth are breaking and…
(... and she might die. Althea Ivory can so easily die in the chaos that pores from rebellion. It doesn't matter how strong, how powerful, how good she is with her spears and her knives. She'll be swept in the rebellion's giddy desecration. She'll be a victim of vultures.)
(And even if she makes it through alive, what'll happen to her then, after the Capitol troops storm the Arena and seize all that remains? Will they put a bullet through her head, will they capture her, what would the Capitol do…?)
"Rhodos!" and he barely hears his name, amidst the groans of a world at its knees. "Are you coming, or what?"
He should be. Sense tells him to: go with the Threes, abandon Althea, chances are she's dead anyway, chances are that whatever you do won't matter anyway, she made her choice, you made your choice, just accept it and don't waste it, don't risk it, just leave and let her die in the heavens of rebellion, just leave and let yourself live in the havens of victory…
(Would you really risk the world for a life?)
… it's risky. Oh, of course it's risky. The person Rhodos was before he'd volunteered wouldn't have ever consider this. He'd bow his head, he'd nod along, he'll follow with the word of his parents and his trainers, he'll let them strip all his passions and desires from his skin, he'll let everything he loves be ripped away from him, his music his life his everything, all of it to the rest of the world's wishes—
He isn't about to let his District partner die.
Not when she can still survive.
Rhodos grips his spear, and stands against the tides of torrential war before him. He turns towards madness and malice and smothers the panic shaking in his chest.
He takes a step. And he's sure he hears his name - "Rhodos!", they're yelling - but he isn't hearing, not above the archaic chaos abound, made of whirling debris and cracking branches and amber trees croaking at their knees.
"Go on without me!" he calls back, above the screeches of the metal engines in the heavens above, above the wails of the world underneath him.
It's a bad idea. It's a stupid idea, and his old self would be screaming at him for even trying, what are you doing, why aren't you doing what they want you to do, please, Rhodos, just—just listen to them, obey, be complaisant, be acquiescent, they're trying to save you, why can't you just—
… listen, behave, be what others want you to be, don't protest, don't think, smile, go along with what others say. Be what they want you to be, listen to your parents, please them, do what they want you to do, suppress your ambitions, your desires, your goals, don't be yourself, don't choose for yourself, don't be anything than their wishes, their will—
For once in his life, Rhodos decides for himself.
Althea Ivory. District 4.
The world descends around her, and the only thing Althea Ivory can do is curse.
She's fighting, sure, but is it a fight if it's futile, is it a fight if it's fruitless— because she's cursing, more than anything, fucking hell fucking hell fucking hell is this really fucking happening right now, and her throat's dry with a laugh, seriously you didn't have to do this now, and she's cursing, fuck you fuck you fuck you all—
It's almost laughable because it's so damn apparent that this isn't the work of any Gamemaker. No, it's rebellion.
(Rebellion. Rebellion that she didn't think would succeed, rebellion that she didn't think would be this grand, rebellion that she didn't think would be real. For all that rose in her mind when rebellion came was the 55th Games, the 55th Games and its ridiculous tragedy and the 55th Games and she'd thought this would be a parody, not this, not whatever this is...)
Althea fucked up. She's stranded amid shrapnel, a dozen knives and a dozen blades driving their way into her skin - a bloodletting - and no matter how much she staggers, no matter how she shields herself with an arm round her neck and an arm over her head, she won't be able to prevent…
… her inevitable end.
Tragic. So tragic, so ironic, because in her search for the Victor's crown, in her search for Kani's arms, she ended up here, needlessly, when she could've followed Rhodos and been guaranteed life.
A hollow laugh tightens in her throat. It winds and rewinds itself again-once-again, through the bleariness of her eyes and the shake of something in her breath, oh, no, of course, why wouldn't it… why wouldn't it end like this…
(I'm sorry, is what she wishes to say, I'm—I'm sorry, Kani, you've warned me about the Games, you didn't want me to lose myself, and I knew you loved me, but I knew you feared, and… you said I could, and I could, I can, I've made it far, but I didn't expect… I could never have foreseen... )
Something bitter rouses her lips, and Althea lets out a shaking laugh. Through the flurry of madness that blitzes her eyes she lets herself see Kani Fairchild, standing against the sandstorms of her Games, and through the chaos she lets herself see a dozen tributes die the same deaths as she, just so she won't be so lonely, and through the blizzard of chaos she sees a figure, in the distance, running, running...
A figure. Her heart leaps, because that—perhaps—
And then they grow closer and closer and then the noise that run undercurrent in the grounds heightens, and Althea sees and she realises that it isn't two feet but four that make the grounds, that it isn't a human but a stampede of nightmarish fiends advancing on her, made of brittle bone and malformed into their grotesque own.
The Gamemakers aren't done with you yet.
A laugh almost strikes her. Because the stampede's so loud and just an earthquake isn't enough to tear her flesh apart, oh, no, they need the scrooges from hell to rip her flesh and break her bones and render her to dust.
Althea gives up.
She gives up because there's nothing else to do. She gives up because she might as well let their grinning jaws sink into her body, might as well let those creatures ravish her like exuberant hyenas. She gives up because there isn't anything she can do, because there isn't anything she can use to get out of here. She gives up because this was her mistake and this is her retribution.
(She gives up, because trying is hopeless. She gives up, because she is purposeless. She gives up, because there isn't a reason for her life here, because even her volunteering was for other people: to show them she isn't weak. Because she must've valued their opinions in sterling and gold to put the value of her being in their fingertips. She gives up because she's going to die.)
All she can do now is wait; wait for their jaws to kiss her neck; for their grins to gleefully trail their way down, as they tear away strips of her skin. Wait for their teeth to mar her with love bites as they rip chunks from her flesh… you're mine, you're dead… I'm your end.
Althea's eyes jerk. And amidst the blitz she sees a person. And there's a yell, and the voice is so strong, so present, so powerful—
It's Rhodos. Rhodos McNamara is struggling towards her, his eyes open and his hand reaching, and he's yelling words, he's gesturing towards her. It's almost incomprehensible, it's almost incoherent, but it doesn't matter, doesn't matter because he's here, it's her and him and he's here (why is he here isn't he supposed to be with the Threes—)
"You came back," she gasps, barely a breath.
Rhodos nods, once, twice, vigorously. She hears him yell "Yes!" through the calamity, amid the tides of rocks and debris and metal that crash round them all, amid the carnal shrieks of the mutts that pound, closer, closer still, not even a foot away, they're so close to them, amid the madness that dances such a gallimaufry in the Arena—
He holds out a hand. Rhodos McNamara holds out his hand to Althea Ivory, and Althea—
Althea takes it.
Kiernan Alcraiz. District 2.
The mutts come.
The mutts come.
The mutts come, and Kiernan Alcraiz hasn't been more terrified.
He doesn't know what those creatures are. They're things that rose from graves to exist in their wear; a jangle of bones, their bones that are so much like human remains, bones that make him stifle a cry for the Gamemakers have meddled with something sacred, robbed the dead's resting places and stolen their bones and bent it all into something else, for their creatures something else…
(... Maeve's body never returned home.)
And he forces his mind away, forces his mind away to physicalphysical physical sensations, but it's no help, Kiernan can't breathe, cause of the madness and the screeches and screams and the dust, the dust, it's too much—
Eyes, eyes up, force them open, you can do it, see—
He yanks his eyes upon, despite how much it stings, despite the sob that coaxes out of his throat at the thousand needles that pound in his sockets. The air ripples a roar above him, and there's a hovercraft, a fucking hovercraft already waiting for their deaths.
He quells the helpless laugh in his chest.
No, stop, don't think, doesn't mean you're dead yet, look, search, see, there has to be a way—
He sees Hera Dalenka. Struggling to fight off the mutt that screeches and bucks and cranes its head down, so intent on devouring her…
"No," he says, a breath out of his throat, and despite the pain his eyes roam around, he needs a weapon a sword a something, but all he has is his dagger, that'll do, that'll do—
One slash against bone. And it does nothing, of course it does nothing, it's fucking bone, and the thing's eyes rivet on him and flare and Kiernan's breaths short, because, because—
(Aren't mutts just so typical of an Alcraiz?)
It slams into him. Kiernan's breath chokes out of his lungs and he opens his mouth and gasps but he isn't getting any air, the force of the blow's still in his lungs, he can't breathe and he's about to die, it's gonna devour him alive—
(—just like how it destroyed Maeve, quashing her madness and her ecstatic-happiness with a breath. That girl that reached for the sky, rent nothing but a glassy-eyed corpse, staring so blankly at the heavens.)
The mutt tosses its great head. Quivers shake in its bones, rapturous, and its rattling chorus is a cacophonous melody to the broken world's medley.
Kiernan Alcraiz expects to die. Yet he does not close his eyes. If he's going to die, then, well, he won't die like he's fucking terrified, he'll look them in the eye, he'll be brave, he'll show them they can't break him.
Yet the mutt looks not at Kiernan Alcraiz, no, they look away, towards—
A girl. Rigid in the rippling world. He hadn't even seen her anywhere before, but she's here, stolid and here in his sister's death-place. Upon her face she wears a petrified mask, immobilised in terror. Devoid of a weapon, devoid of aggression, devoid of anything and everything to defend herself with.
And the mutt advances and the clops ricochet in his ear and Kiernan can't think, can't feel, all he can do's watch in shock and watch her drop and fall and sob and rot—
But then the girl slams into the ground, pushed aside, and then there's a boy, a boy breathing so hard and he's looking straight-on at the creature, bring it on, but he's just as hopeless because he doesn't have a weapon.
Kiernan can only watch and wait as the mutt's socketless eyes gleam, as it lets out a birdlike scream and burrows its grinning jaws into the boy's face. Slick-wet flesh tears away from his scalp and leaves skull. Teeth rankles his eyeballs and leaves hollow sockets of his eyes. Its touch melts his mouth from his jaws and leaves an eerie-toothed grin in its wake. The boy's screams mingle with the creature's cackle as the cannon echoes in the crescendo of madness.
There's another scream. The mutt's eyes rivet on the girl again, with a choke in her breath and a cry in her eyes, and she's yelling, words and sounds and all else incoherent, pain and curses and sobs, and Kiernan can only watch as the mutt turns on her—
(Her cannon still screams into the night.)
And the realisation is hot and heavy as it is sick, no, no, he's going to die here. Because just that one mutt's killed both the Threes left, and there's an army that charges down at them from the rising-red horizon, and he can't…
He can't survive.
(Did they script this end? Did they want it to be just the same as Maeve's—a breathless death sent because she was too wild, too frenzied, because she needed to be reminded that she was still in the Gamemakers' grasp? So he'll die here, too, because he'd finally decided to retort, because fuck them, because he's now seeing who the real enemy is?)
(Did they want him to die here, in Maeve's death-place all the same, another Alcraiz in the grave, because it's poetic, because it's symbolic, because they'd quite like to destroy the Alcraiz family, more than they've already destructed themselves, why won't they just, why don't they just…)
He lets out a breath and he shuts his eyes.
No. No, that isn't happening. He'd already let the Capitol write his tale, when he'd volunteered. He won't let them write it again.
(And if Kiernan Alcraiz dies, then he dies fighting, he dies trying to survive. He dies himself; not as Kiernan Alcraiz, his cuckoo sister's fucked-up brother, not as Kiernan Alcraiz, barely a teenager, not as Kiernan Alcraiz, so weak, so mad, so indignant, so useless, so pathetic, so stupid, so ridiculous, so afraid.)
He is afraid. To say that he isn't afraid of death would be a lie (... one he'd indulged in, far too many times because brittle and scoff and sarcasm can only help decorum when you don't want them to what you really feel.)
He's afraid. But he won't let them just kill another Alcraiz. No, he won't let it happen. They've made a legacy of his sister's rotted corpse. It's not happening again.
(Her voice is so lilt, so full and so giggly in his head. He's chasing her through the golden forests, lit with ember gases and amber flourishes, the world at their disposal, their running breaths pulsing in their hearts. Playing together: never play-pretend.)
(I believe in you, and it is a soft susurration in her lips, you can do it, and it's as bittersweet as it is bitter.)
Kiernan chokes. He chokes back his tears and chokes back a breath and levels his eyes at the burning world.
He'll survive. He'll survive for his sister. For Maeve Alcraiz.
And the shrieks of the hovercraft are increasing and the winds are going madder and the mutts are coming faster, and he steels himself, he prepares. Kiernan Alcraiz looks ahead at the cresting masses of roaring creatures forged in pain and ghosts, and he prepares for this final fight, for this final end.
But then he's pushed aside, and he's knocked behind. And dimly his mind flickers, half a laugh ready in his breath, wow, they came fast, didn't even—didn't even stand a fucking chance—
He opens his eyes. But it is not a mutt that stares back at him.
He sees Hera Dalenka's back. She has a sword in her hand and she watches the waves of mutts rise and fall and gallop and screech, like doomsday, arriving.
She turns around, and a sad smile twinges her lips.
"... H-hera?" he barely manages to get out of his throat. "W-what…"
Her eyes glimmer.
"I'll take this," she says, softly. Her head lifts, and she nods to the hovercraft above, and that's when Kiernan Alcraiz first sees the ladder, dangling and swaying to the winds of madness that wrap this chaos in its grasp.
"Go. Save yourself."
Hera Dalenka. District 2.
She holds her sword tight.
(That is what they've always taught her to do, in the Academy. Hera, hold still. Hera, keep the blade straight. Yes, grip the handle. No, not like that. You won't be able to kill like that.)
There is something about a sword that she appreciates. It is strong, for one, so boundlessly powerful; she is proficient at wielding a blade, and anyone who is proficient at anything would come to love the arts of their craft themselves. A sword is heavy, and it reminds her of the weight she bears on her hands.
(Since the Games, the sword's weight becomes weight that entails taking a life. Her blade is soaked in blood, and every time she touches the handle, she remembers. Even if it isn't truly needed, really; she sees the dead well enough in her head.)
And the weight of a sword is real. It isn't fantastical, like drugs that would catapult her so high that she reaches beyond the heavens. It's real when it grounds her in misery, always in the aftermath of her high, when she returns back to the Academy and training, as she holsters a sword in her hand and smears a plastic smile on her lips.
But it also brings her life. It gives her life when she slashes and hits and succeeds, and her parents marvel by, and the trainer's eyes go wide, and she feels a perfect smile draw across her lips. It's a dance and it's a stab and it's a flurry, and she feels the thrum of energy in her fingers, of control, of power, of a grounding. And if Hera closes her eyes and thinks and dreams, then she'll be back in the training centre and she'll be slicing bodies, but it's different, because she won't be decapitating dreams, won't be killing delights, won't be murdering desires, and she's…
… she's alive.
There is no need to hold back here. Hera Dalenka is in an arena of madness, and she does not need to stop. For she is not murdering children, she is not murdering lives, all that towers before her is bone and laughter and lies and she does not need to atone for that. The Gamemakers' contrivances do not deserve reverence.
(And there is a shrill in her veins, a feeling that she'd felt when she was no more than eight, nine, still bright-eyed and unknowing of the world. When she was still a mere child, only a dim understanding of what the Hunger Games truly meant in her brain, who all too enjoyed the feeling of training and the fun it gave there.)
And it is that feeling that surges and wraps and squeezes her veins, that pores through bone and trills in her chest. It is joyous, it is euphoric, and it is a feeling she controls, with every one more hack through bone and every one more mutt that convulses to the ground.
Two, four, five, and Hera lets her instincts take over.
(This is what she is: a perfect Career, a killing machine, a winning smile on her lips and a body that is flawless. And such a figure was synonymous with the crown.)
(Yet: the crown was not synonymous with desire, and Hera has never really wanted the crown.)
She tosses a look back. Kiernan Alcraiz ascends up the ladder. He's struggling, of course, in the wild winds and the virulent chaos, who wouldn't. But he's making it up, rung-by-rung, and that's enough, as long as he keeps climbing up, that's enough—
A mutt leaps for the ladder.
Hera bites back a scream. It tangles its hooves with the rungs, and the entire ladder shudders, so violently. Kiernan yells.
She runs, and she hacks at the creature, and it feels like forever until its grasp loosens on the rungs, until it falls down onto the ground, in a spillage of bone and cartilage and dust. Hera looks up, her heart in her throat, and hopes, please, please—
Kiernan clings on. He's still there, he hasn't fallen, and Hera lets a quiet breath out.
But there is no reprieve, not yet.
There are figures, she makes out, that grapple through the flurry of limbs and ligaments that engulf the Arena. She sees Rhodos McNamara and Althea Ivory, fighting in the distance. And Hera decapitates skulls from spines and she makes a path, even as their bites sink into her ribs, even as they try to claim her.
"Go!" she cries, after she carves a road from the cluster of creatures. Rhodos looks at her, and his eyes are so frenzied, and she's not sure if he recognises her, at first, but then he nods. Althea Ivory is more taut, but she looks at her, respect ingrained in her face.
They go. Up the ladder and up into the hovercraft.
(She hopes Kiernan hasn't fallen.)
Hera stands at the bottom of the ladder. All of the mutts encroach on her, and she should go, she needs to, if she wants to live.
But she sees a lone figure. Eight, she thinks, that fights her way through the madness. Hera should leave her behind, should save herself, and yet…
Two more mutts surge at her from right and left. Hera ducks down, rolls through the gaping hole left in the centre, and they crash into one another. Her sword-arm is so fluid when she decapitates both their heads, because fuck, maybe she couldn't save the Threes, but at least she can help Eight here, maybe.
But exhaustion clings to her in beads and weighs her down in its wear. Hera may be a Career, but she isn't inhuman. She's… tired.
She still has the vial.
… maybe for adrenaline. She should. She's drenched in sweat, she's panting, her limbs are screaming, it hasn't been more excruciating. She should.
She lifts, and she's about to rip off the cap, she's about to let it all in her body, its parasites and its pervasiveness, but she needs it—
A mutt rears.
She slams the vial down on the ground. It shatters, a dozen stars sprawling across dirt. Hera grabs a shard and digs it into the creature's eye socket. It screeches, and the glass crushes between her fingers, and pours, like little diamond pieces into black oblivion. The mutt shrieks, as if blinded, and it tosses its head and lets out a whine and goes down on its knees—
She raises her blade from the ground. One swing and its skull cracks on the dirt ground, tinged with a coppery red. In the corner of her eyes, she sees Eight girl run.
Hera lifts her blade and she attacks. She fells creature after creature and she doesn't stop, even though she knows they're coming en masse, even though she knows that they're irreverent, immortal, even though she knows they won't stop anytime.
(This is the truth, here: Hera Dalenka does not have time. She's practically drowning in this crazed abundance of mutts. But the rest of them and their escape is on the back of her mind, and that's all she needs, cares for, now. For them, for Rhodos for Althea for Kiernan, for them, for their survival.)
(… and, if she lets herself think, maybe this is retribution. Maybe this redemption for her wrongs. If she saves a life, or two, maybe it'll make up for the lives she's taken. And perhaps that is true, yet it is also not: nothing can replace the dead.)
But for the first time, in who knows how long…
Hera's in control.
(Of herself of her life of her destiny, of her desires of her wants, of her choices and of her fate. She is no longer submerged in the clouds; she is no longer victim to the decisions of her parents, to the whims of the Arena. She is herself. Hera Dalenka is wholly herself.)
And a smile is on her lips, even as the mutts rip. She reaches for the ladder, even as her vision dims, even though she knows it isn't enough. Her hands grasp the rungs, even as their jaws enclose on her arms. And the smile remains, even as her last fingers leave the ladder, even as the mutts drag her by her skin and spine, even as she thuds to the ground.
(... I made a choice. I—I helped.)
Hera goes down with the Arena that collapses inward on itself. Hera goes down with mutts that gorge on her, that guzzle her and gobble her and gluttonize her, yet all she feels is the bitter smile by her lips.
(Wasn't so… wasn't so voiceless, after all.)
Madison Saros. Hovercraft.
She is alive.
(Beyond measure. She should not be alive. After all: Brynn is dead. Scott is dead. Maeve is dead. Madison Saros had killed herself.)
Madison Saros should not be alive.
(She isn't sure why she's brought here. No, she knows: Cynane's taken one look at her on the hospital bed, and her lips curled. "Take her," she said, to the two troops assisting her. "She'll be our asset.")
And they haul the survivors from the Arena. But it is not just a Arena. It is their Arena.
(Where all had perished. Where Maeve was razed by a mutt. Where Scott had been stabbed by a spear. Where Jordyn was killed in an explosion. Where Madison broke apart.)
She watches them arrive. Body after body. Emerging from the ashes and the golden flecks. Upon ladders and steel. Like corpses brought-alive.
They're uncertain. Unsteady. Helped onto the craft by troops. Josiah and Lindsay. They're two she'd met, after she woke up from her catatonic slumber.
("Are you okay… can you hear me?")
("Say your name.")
("Look at me, please.")
And of course: when the survivors' eyes rivet onto her, they freeze. As if they've seen a ghost.
(... not wrong.)
Weariness presses down on her back. She isn't sure why she's here. She still hasn't yet… recovered.
(She knows why she's here. Jordyn had asked for her. Jordyn Moriau, the girl that died in the Games, the girl that desired so much of her life. That girl whose eyes never left the wires in the pipe-bomb for long. Madison's never expected to see another survivor.)
(And she's here, taut, tense, and they're together, but not quite with each other, not quite reunited.)
She tilts her head. She observes the other survivors instead. Those now in the hovercraft. They're strangers, not quite. For she knows a little too much about them. For they know a little too much about her.
"I know you," says a Career.
(They've all seen her. Broken-down. Beaten. So exhausted. Death-seeking, death-sent...)
Madison's lips twinge at Althea Ivory. "I know."
She wonders what they see. She's tired, yes. She is worn-down, yes. She is in purgatory, she is in-between, she is not quite anywhere. She is almost a revenant.
She wonders what they see.
They shift. Uncomfortable, uncertain. Like waves. Transient, tentative. Madison doesn't blame them. It is, after all, new.
(When has rebellion ever succeeded?)
It is a child. Barely a teen, that speaks. Her name rasps against his throat. Just one glance at his blond-angelic hair, slit with dirt, and his eyes, rocking in seas, tell her all she needs to know.
"Yes," she says, softly, to the last Alcraiz left. "That's me."
(And she looks away. Because if she does look at him. Then she'll see too much blue.)
They're quiet once again. She doesn't blame them. She listens to the whirrs of the hovercraft and the frizzes of radio-comms and she lets herself be awash in all. Because her head pounds still, her eyes are a blear still, and her heart beats still, despite...
(... being broken by the night.)
Madison listens to the whirrs of the hovercraft. She does not speak.
"... completely down, set course for coordinates C, five-oh-twelve, leading to Thirteen..."
"... accept the command, turn way, go..."
"... survivors extracted..."
"... more commands to commence. Reporting from the headquarters, this is officer Gore… fzzt."
"What—what's this for?"
Pause. She looks up to Rhodos McNamara. He gazes between the panels, and the stations, and the people, and to their leader.
Assuredness rests in Cynane's poise and her crossed arms. Amusement presses at her lips.
"Is that even a question? This is the revolution, child. We're heading to our destination. Where we began our operations."
"We're the Vultures," Jordyn supplies.
"And we're tributes."
"No," Cynane says, with ease. "Not all of you."
No, indeed. Not all of them.
"... not Three, not Five, not Six, not Eight, not Nine." Rhodos looks up at Cynane. "They were your rebels, weren't they?"
Cynane's lips part. "Yes. They that are told to survive," she says, and her words are tight. "They were our forces. Our source of information. So we could replicate what happened last Games, with the momentary destruction of the force-field."
"You were here to save them."
Cynane cocks her head at Rhodos. "Yes. None of you were meant to live. None of you Careers were."
Terseness stays in the hovercraft. It is awkward as it is uncomfortable. It's tangled in the air, between the remaining Careers and the rebel forces themselves.
Until Sadie Rendevez lets out a laugh.
"Of course," she says, far too easily, and it's like she shrugs off a tide with her shoulders. "Course it's the fuckin' Careers you save still. Couldn't have saved Ry. Couldn't have saved Dan. Couldn't have saved Fasc, couldn't have saved Herman, couldn't 'ave saved fuckin' Vic, gods alive, but you save them. Yknow, the very people that killed our people."
Sadie doesn't say another word. But she twists her head sideways, and she clenches her arms across her chest, and there's a bowed grin by her lips, quite wretched.
"Fine. What now?"
What now, indeed.
(That is a question she'd asked herself, after she woke to the beeps. After she inhaled and her breaths suffocated her lungs and she realised she wasn't as dead as she thought she was. After she realised that everybody she'd ever known was dead, Brynn, too ruminative, Jordyn, too ambitious, Scott, too kind, Maeve, too unfettered. After she woke so alone to her friends all but whittled bone, after she was left so shattered in her stagnant laughter, after she was left so desperate for a respite.)
They're all watching her.
Madison Saros. Weary. Tired. Barely alive.
(They want an answer from her. They want her to call a rallying cry. They want her to say that they'll survive. Tell them that they'll thrive, that they'll revive lives, that they'll avenge those that died in suicide, those that made their sacrifices, those that met their demises.)
Her smile is so bitter. Her throat is so scorched. Her words are entirely too caustic.
(She's tired of delusions. Tired of grandiose illusions. And yes, perhaps they need deserved retribution, perhaps they need absolution, perhaps they need a thousand executions. But they're still dead.)
Her words taste entirely too bitter.
"... I don't know. Who's ready for a revolution, then?"
FIN. PART 2.
7th Place. Daniel Danes. D3M. [Killed by mutts.]
6th Place. Ryleigh Retovan. D3F. [Killed by mutts.]
5th Place. Hera Dalenka. D2F. [Killed by mutts.]
4th Place. Not found.
3rd Place. Not found.
2nd Place. Not found.
1st Place. Not found.
A/N. I can't really believe we're here. Stay with me, you all… this is going to be long.
I didn't really know what I was expecting when I began TTATTS. I received a meagre six submissions. All but one submitter stayed with me till the end (love you, Joseph). Of course, I was hoping for some readers, and my biggest hope was for readers to dip their toes into my verse, starting with TTABBTN. But it almost felt impossible at the time, and I was somewhat discouraged. After all, when you receive barely any interest in your fic, and have your submitters disappear one by one, it's hard to imagine that anything would come to fruition out of it.
I certainly wasn't expecting the outpouring of love which I'd received. Not the love for TTABBTN. Haiden, Linds, and Logan amongst my most vocal supporters; for Madeve, sharing headcanons, even reading and taking the time to care about the little oneshots of them that I'd post from time to time on my channel. And this goes without mentioning its many readers, either: Bradi, Joseph, Charlie, Slytherin, Silver, Ben, Bree, with Fox being the most recent one (it was genuinely such a joy to listen to you read TTABBTN on vc.) I'm sure many others too, of course, that are yet to let their presence be known to me (drop a hi in the reviews!)
And certainly not the love for TTATTS, either. Joseph and Linds, for being there for me always… in reviews, where you guys scream at me, for every single TTATTS VC that's ever happened where you guys scream at me in real time. For how you both eternally keep hyping this fic and this verse up, and for giving me such an endless amount of love that I am so, so, incredibly appreciative of.
Thank you to Haiden, my friend. Thank you so much for helping me beta this fic and helping shape this fic into what it is. Thank you for giving this verse, my tributes, Madeve and my kids so much care and love. Talking to you about headcanons and fics and just everything has given me so much joy. Thank you for sharing and chatting and hyping up DISRverse so much. You always give me so much encouragement and feedback, without fail, you always give me advice and you're always there to support me even when I am down, and for that I am so blessed, and so appreciative of. I can't quite put it into words. I honestly don't know where I'd be without you, and I'm so, so happy that the stars aligned and we got to meet each other.
Slytherin, who didn't need to read, but you still kept up with this fic, and let me know through your stunning reviews that never fail to make me smile. Bradi, the queen of Verses, who made the beautiful cover, and catches up and leaves the best reviews (sometimes drunk, on brand, in the best way) on every single chapter, without fail. Your reviews make me grin so much, and I couldn't have asked for a better queen.
Twist, who read the entirety of my verse, myself not even realising it until yesterday. Fox, who is attempting to catch up for the finale, and in that I am honestly beyond blessed. Poppy, who is speedreading my verse to no end and I love that so much… thank you, honestly, you make me so damn happy. Ella, Silver, Opti, and all of you that want to read after it is complete— thank you, truly. You are wonderful.
Thank you to Joseph, for submitting Rhodos McNamara, and giving me a sweet kid to level out the angst that the rest of the cast had. Thank you to Linds, for adopting Kiernan Alcraiz, who direly needed a caring mother. Thank you to Slytherin, for adopting Sadie Rendevez, who definitely has a lot of issues to sort through. Thank you to Haiden, for adopting Hera, and caring about her so.
(If I'm missing anyone, I swear, I will cry… I didn't mean it, and I love you, too. Blame my sleep-deprived brain for that.)
And the fic.
Hera Dalenka. How do I even begin? When I received your form, I saw so much potential for the directions which you could go. You were a perfect Career, confined to that role, because it was what your parents wanted from you. Yet you were a people-pleaser, willing to do what others wanted, because they were in your best interests - weren't they? Your reprieve from your unconscious confinement was drugs, yet that itself was another cage for you. You'd deteriorated through the Games, but in your deterioration, you had also worn down the bars of your cage, till it was merely rubble around you. You picked yourself back up. But your caring and kind nature meant that the wellbeing of others took precedence over yourself. This, however, was twisted by the added guilt of the dead in the Games, which attrited on you, and meant that you disregarded yourself. You felt like you wronged so many. In the end, you sacrificed yourself for the survival of others. I hesitate to use the word 'sacrificed', however, for that implies that killing yourself is a good thing. Whilst you may have been free from your cages, you failed to understand that the Games were a no-win situation. The deaths of kids, while at your hands, was ultimately ordained by the Gamemakers. Although you renounced the Capitol, your slate still felt so stained, and you struggled so heavily with your guilt that it dragged you to your death. You were this story's true tragedy.
A small mention goes to Ryleigh and Daniel. Their dynamic was genuinely one which I liked writing a lot: they were both so sweet, and deserved a lot better than a death by mutts. However, rest assured that this will not be the last mentions of them. If you know my verse (and since you're here, you probably know well), little does death go without repercussions.
Onto the survivors.
We've actually ended up with a lot more survivors than I thought. Initially, it was just Rhodos. Then Kiernan came along. And Althea joined the ride. And Sadie, too… I'll talk a bit about them below.
Rhodos McNamara. I must say: from the moment I received your form, I had known what I wanted to do with you, in the Games. You were my chosen (initially sole) survivor. At first, you were too complaisant, too willing to let people make choices for you, too willing to give up your own identity if it pleased others. In the beginning, it would have spelt your downfall: you would please and please and please until there was nothing left of you except a husk of yourself. But things changed, ever since Nine girl slit her own throat in the bloodbath, which threw you into a spiral. And you started to strike out on your own, after the earthquake: you started to become a bit more yourself with the rebellion, but you were inhibited, still; still under the rebellion's word. But you are here now, because you chose. Because you chose to save Althea, despite how the world was (literally) telling you otherwise. And you succeeded; you were rewarded for it. You began to become yourself, and for that, I am so glad. Joseph, congrats on your kid's survival, and I hope the suffering was worth it. He was the one that grew the most throughout this Games.
Kiernan, where do I start?
In all my drafts, you've died in every single one. Except for this one.
There were various ways which you could go: some of which include being actually killed by the earthquake and acting as a catalyst for Chrys's turning point, being murdered by Sadie Rendevez (D8F) at the point of his breakdown (… I even have a scene for that…), getting murdered by Dior, and so on…
… but none of them measured up to your survival. Unlike Rhodos, who I knew I wanted to survive upon receiving his form, your arc was something that was ever-evolving. You scorned your sister, because you were suffering in your love for her, because you were suffering in her abandonment of you, because you had so much pain and you didn't know where to let that go. Your only coping mechanism was lashing out. But under Chrys, and under Hera, and ironically, in your sister's death-place, you had grown. You started to confront your own feelings, instead of suppressing them upon layers and layers of anger. And eventually, the stars aligned, and well, I had ideas of what I wanted to do with you after the games. I'm not quite finished with your arc yet, Kiernan Alcraiz. Lindsay, congratulations to your survivor, I'm sure you're proud of your son.
Althea Ivory. You were a bit of an anomaly, to me, at first, because… well, you would have made a perfect Victor. You wanted to prove yourself, yet you realised mid-Games how much this inhibited you. You 'rose like a phoenix', as Slytherin had aptly put it. If this were a normal Games, you would have taken the crown, hands-down. But, unfortunately for you, this wasn't quite a normal Games… and so, driven by your ambition, you were blinded to other alternatives. But this did not end in your death; because you had grown. Instead of renouncing connection to others, like Dior did, you embraced it. You forged a friendship with Rhodos, throughout the Games, despite your cold exterior. And that was what led to your survival. I'm glad you're among the survivors, and I have ideas for what I want to do with you, after the Games.
Sadie Rendevez. I'd always loved this bitch, and I kind of wish that I'd given her some POVs in TTATTS because she did have a significant arc and role which I'd wanted her to play (... she's been mentioned 51 times in my planning docs). Unfortunately, most of my plans didn't truly come into fruition (… and probably better for that, because Kiernan's life (death) had hinged on those plans coming into fruition). However, it would've just been a waste to let the daughter of rebellion go without exploration, and so she'll play a bigger role in the fic after. Hopefully, then, we'll get some more insights into her psychology and her experiences in these Games! Slytherin, I honestly appreciate your undying support for her so much. You're amazing!
Of course, I can't go without mentioning my two loves. #SarosandMoriauSupremacy. Won't be the last time we see either of them, of course, and I eternally miss Madeve so you'd just have to expect Madeve AU content soon.
Now that I've mentioned my loves, I can't go without mentioning my family, Lindsis and Broseph. Joseph and Linds asked for a cameo in case of escape, so… here we are. Congrats, guys. You officially exist in the DISR-verse now.
Finally. I'm taking a momentary break from the DISRverse, to recalibrate, and to see what I want to do going forward in this verse. This means that I won't be writing verse content for a while, I think. No Rest For The Dead will be coming sometime to you in 2021: hopefully we'll see a more concrete date soon. But for now, I need to consolidate my ideas (… which, admittedly, are a bit sparse and few for now, so…). If anyone has any further questions, I'm always present in my channel.
Thank you for reading. Thank you for your feedback. Thank you for giving me a chance.
(TL;DR: You are amazing. Thank you to you all for making me loved and welcome. You are the best; and if you're here? I am eternally grateful, and eternally blessed. Love you.)