A Vivid Note: Hello and welcome to 'the Capitol Games'! For those of you who are thinking 'wait, I don't remember you asking for tributes-?' that's because I did so discreetly via PM in order to keep this a surprise... and to keep this all neat and tidy in terms of reviews, chapters and Terms of Service. Remember friends, breaking guidelines isn't cool, ahahaha.
A big thanks to everyone who gave me permission to use their gorgeous Capitol tributes, and I do hope you enjoy watching their lives unfold (and unravel) through my writing. I can only hope I do your effort justice.
Ah, and bear in mind- this is an alternate universe of the Hunger Games. All of the characters existed but... well I tweaked a bit with Suzanne Collin's books in order to weave my own tale. However I don't want to waste the explanation here, because that would be destroying a perfectly good AU plot point. Also this chapter will introduce no tributes, only the necessary back-story. I'll start posting the 'reapings' soon in order to get to the 'good stuff'.
So, shall we? We have a lot of chapters to barrel through before we get to our glorious games... believe me; I've prepared a SPECTACULAR show for you darling readers.
The Capitol Games
Idola Flickerman; 24 years; Capitol Centre.
I've watched years of my grandfather's tapes in preparation of tonight. Every single wild haircut, booming laugh and twinkling smile he ever flounced and flashed on stage is now embedded deep in my memory, like the man himself is sitting upon my shoulder- showing me how to shine just as brightly as he once did.
Of course in reality he's dead, quite dead, and the only thing nudging against my shoulder is my bubbling assistant Timoleon- pressing the warm paper cup of coffee against my temple. Looking up, I feel a small sense of relief when I see his sparkling amber eyes.
"Five minutes Idola," He trills gleefully. I smile back and take the cup from his hand. It's nice and warm against in my cold fingers. "-anything you need? Aspirin? A quick nip of something for nerves?"
"I wouldn't say no to the... quick nip," I laugh in spite of the tug of nerves currently ailing me. "Then uh- maybe you could run through this script with me?"
"That won't be a problem sweetie,"
Timoleon smiles and gives me a little Caesar-like wink before hurrying off again. In his absence I do my best to fight back the impending stage fright by looking at myself in the mirror and doing my best 'Quarter Quell' smiles, throwing in the occasional wink and fake laughter I had been practicing over and over again for the last fortnight.
Usually they'd never give a job this big to someone with such little experience, the board of Hunger Games organizers, but it was short notice and I was already a crowd favorite because of my lineage. I mean, how much better did it get really; having the granddaughter of Capitol beloved host 'Caesar Flickerman' host the fifth Quarter Quell?
He was retired by the time I was born, but he was always the pinnacle every talk show host in the Capitol aspired to be like- and I was no different. Yeah, okay- I had one leg up on the rest by sharing his last name- but that was really all I had.
Idola Flickerman and Caesar Flickerman... I don't know what else the two of us share in common. I mean, I don't even know his real hair or eye color- he kept changing them all the time after all. Now it's hypocritical to judge that, after all I dye my hair frequently too- but my eyes have always been this color brown. Underneath all those contact lenses of his- were his brown too?
Dear Timoleon is back all too quickly with the comical little bottle of tequila- which I down in two gulps. I'm thankful he came back so quickly- because I was on the verge of getting emotional again- which, for the sake of my make-up stylist, would have been absolutely terrible.
"You look great sweetie," I exhale deeply as Timoleon pats down the vibrant orange hair tied up in elaborate plaits and then coiled into a bun. I've never done my own hair, so I don't know how they get that flared look around the knot. "Okay, so the script?"
"Yes!" I almost forgot. Rustling about in my lap I pull out the short list of points. "First I introduce myself, and then there are the interviews, then... um..."
"The reel." Timoleon reminds me curtly, his grin twinkling. "The highlight reel."
"Right, the highlight reel..." I'm already becoming breathless. I forgot that I had to do so much... "Then I wind down the audience with the Treaty of Reconciliation... and then it's up to the President to finish the night..."
"That's it sweetie." Timoleon wraps his arms around my shoulders from behind- giving me a tight, reassuring squeeze as he rests his chin on my head. "You've got this in the bag."
"Yeah..." I try to smile at our reflection, but my stomach gurgles loudly instead. "Ooh... that nip isn't sitting well."
"Don't worry; it's just working its magic." But Timoleon's smile in the reflection fades. "Okay Idola, we're going to have to get going."
"Wow... already...?" My bundle of nerves has been replaced by a light sensation of flurrying butterflies. "...Okay... okay I can do this. I can do this right? Timoleon-?"
"Yes, yes you can!" Timoleon pulls me up by my arms and pats me on both cheeks, rubbing his hand's warmth into them. "Now you get up there and make that grand pappy of yours proud."
"Yeah... yeah!" I want to sound assertive, but my voice sounds strangled. I confirm that my microphone is pinned properly to my dress front and nod reassuringly. "I can do this! This Quarter Quell is going to be the best damn Quell ever!"
"That's the spirit-!" Timoleon laughs.
Taking his hand in mine, my friend pulls me away from the chair and towards the doorway, smiling eagerly as we cross the threshold into the hallway.
"The best damn Quell- ever!"
Here on the stage I'm blinded by the lights. At first it's hard not to be completely overwhelmed by the sheer number of TV camera crews all directing their attention and lenses at me, but with a healthy combination of glancing at Timoleon for comfort and flashing my pearly whites whenever I begin feel anxious- I manage to make my way through my intro and each of the interviews with aplomb. Already I can feel Caesar's energy coursing through me with every cheer, laugh and cry from the audience.
-but I haven't made it through the woods just yet. Though my guest chair is finally empty of interviewees and I am ultimately left alone on the stage- the huge screen begins to unroll above me as they prepare the highlight reel. My butterflies have long since disappeared, but the feeling of anticipation in the audience is almost thick enough to taste up here.
"-and now," my voice chirps out, amplified throughout the Capitol centre. "As a quick reminder of the glory of the Games, let's cast our eyes back- all- the- way- BACK, as we watch how our favorite game came to this very Quell!"
Okay, shoddy paraphrasing there Idola- but the crowd laps it right up, cheering like maniacs as each of the street lights dims, one by one, until nothing is left shining but the white of the master screen. I'm quickly guided from my place on stage to where Timoleon and the other high ranking media stars are seated as the title credits begin to roll. I shift slightly in my seat, my chest feeling tight as for the few seconds before the reel begins.
First the words 'The Hunger Games' fade into black, before the reel sparks to life with a pair of unknown blue eyes snapping open. All too quickly the very first Hunger Games- which is still one of the many classic favorites- flashes past. Because this is the highlight reel of 124 games- they only show the deaths and triumphs. A girl explodes upon her plate, another chokes out a mouthful of blood- each disappearing before their obscure faces can even be properly recognized.
I can recognize tiny snippets of different games, even though I've only watched the early ones on television specials. The fourth Hunger Games with the monstrous Dante roaring over his fallen ally, hand dripping with blood. The ninth with frail little Glow collapsing, exhausted, into the snow. Then there are the ones I don't recognize, and I'm sure could only be by seriously hardcore fans- like the dark skinned boy clawing his eyes right out, and the teenage girl screaming as the spear flies straight through her shoulder.
My stomach is gurgling again by the time we get to the games anyone can recognize- starting with the second Quarter Quell. I visited that arena as a girl- with its pristine meadows and sparkling waters. It's everyone's favorite arena. But on the reel all you see is the eyeball fall from its bloodied thread from the District 1 girl's socket- as the winner Haymitch Abernathy begins to gurgle like my stomach as he tries to hold his guts in with his shaking hands.
I feel a bit queasy. Timoleon looks at me with a worried expression but I shake my head; silently telling him that I'm okay and to keep watching.
I don't feel okay though. I'm usually okay with the games, but these have been so artfully put together- with the fast paced, action music and the screams of the dying tributes overlapped- it's not like any highlight reel I've seen before. It's much more intense.
It's starting to get to everyone's favorites now, or at least the years when the Hunger Games started to become a cult favorite. There's Johanna raising her axe. Finnick readying the spear- they're drawing closer to the games that everyone's waiting for-
My heart leaps into my throat when I recognize the camera angle of Katniss and Peeta holding the infamous berries. I'm surprised they're showing it, knowing what it had once meant to the Capitol. But no- they're going to show it in all its horrific imagery apparently. The lovers ready themselves- and Peeta raises the berry to his lips and-
-then it's gone. All too soon and they've flitted onto the third Quarter Quell- and my stomach rumbles in what sounds like fury. I can hear the moans of disappointment in the crowd for skipping what was undoubtedly a pinnacle in their favorite moments. While it's not a surprise, it is a little unsatisfying. It was such a great shot...
The pace has quickened. More deaths, faster and faster than before. The fourth Quell almost slashes by as more tributes howl in despair, as more roar in triumph, as more throats split open by the blades' edges, and an almost endless chorus of mines exploding; claiming the most unlucky.
It's the recent games. I'm vaguely aware of the sounds of the Victors seated far behind us. District 2's Mars heaves and up at the sky, bloodied and tired. Sienna Moreno watches in terror as her poison takes effect on her captors. A bear roars as Dalton stares down at his final competitor. Lightning flashes as Antony Cross screams in hysterical laughter up over the corpse heap.
Faster. Faster. It begins to flash and flicker in such a way that all the victors and all the victims begin to blend together into one screaming, dizzying blare.
Dizzying. It's all so dizzying. I feel ill, nauseous- definitely not okay. Suddenly I'm wheezing and holding my stomach as everything starts to get very hazy. Timoleon's hands grab onto my shoulders but I can't feel them. I don't even have the strength to lift my head to watch the screen as the piercing shrieks of so many dead tributes rip apart my brain.
The noise fades away. Everything fades away in the final dizzying blur of shrieks, blades and roars as I'm blinded by the exhaustion.
...waking up. I can taste my lipstick in my mouth. My eyes feel heavy from the make-up that has lightly glued my lids together. My back aches and my legs are cold from the lack of a blanket. I weakly sit up in the bright light of the preparation room- still taking in my surroundings.
What had happened? I gently rub the mascara from the corners of my eyes as I try and think. Had I collapsed in the middle of my show? No... No I remember doing my part... Each interview had been done... I'd fallen down after that... oh my god; I fell down in the highlight reel? Oh god- why did I fall down?
My career is over and it only just started! No one is going to hire a woman to present the Hunger Games when she can't stay upright for a ten minute highlight reel! What would she do after each of the games when they show the entire games in a three hour reel? Oh my god... oh my god...
I need my Timoleon. Heck, I need more nips. Frantic and still quite in a daze, I kick off my high heels and roll out of the armchair- running down the hallway to where the pre-staging area was. The show was bound to be over by now, judging on how long I had slept. This was where everyone would be- where everyone must be-
My hair has come undone, waves of orange fly out behind me as I burst through the door. I'm fully expecting to embarrass myself further, but I don't care. I need my happy Timoleon to tell me there's still hope for my career. That I didn't just screw up the only thing I've ever dreamed of-
But as I skid to a stop and gasp for breath- I find the room is empty.
The buffet lies cold and untouched, which usually by this time would be all but massacred by the heartier patrons. The floor is spotless and unmarked- meaning that there was absolutely no dancing here. Not a shred of life is anywhere. I stammer quietly as I gingerly inspect a chair with my hand. The plastic is ice cold.
No one has come here yet.
I saw the time on the clock in the hallway. It had said it was almost twenty past two. I know it's early in the morning, but the parties here rage on until well into the next afternoon- and this was the fifth Quarter Quell. They had been talking about this party going on for days.
So why...? Why has no one come yet?
I stumble back to the room I had been placed in to recover, collapsing back into the cold embrace of the armchair. Staring at my glum reflection in the mirror just makes me more depressed, so I turn the chair away from it. If there was a TV or something in here I'd happily watch that- even though my stupid fainting spell would definitely be all over the gossip channels by now.
I'm not like my grandfather at all. Tears begin to form in the corners of my eyes as I imagine what he would say to me now. Would he laugh and shake my shoulders like he had done to all those distressed tributes? Or would this be different- and he'd tell me off for being so stupid... so pitiable... so delusional to ever think... I could be like him...
I don't know him. How can I be at all like a man I don't even know? I rub my eyes furiously- not caring at all about the make-up anymore. I've blown my chance to ever be like him. I'm a disgrace of a TV presenter.
Timoleon's voice comes as a shock. I've never wanted him to see me cry, but I'm too surprised to cover my mascara stained cheeks. As the tweedy guy I'd depended on so long slowly walked towards me, I can't help but notice that all the color has rushed from his face. His green star tattoos stick out like thorns against the stunned white canvass of his skin.
"...did you... did you hear...?"
His voice breaks. I swallow as a sob comes up to hurt me.
I knew it. My career is over. That's why he looks so devastated. He's been my best friend in this business and my new role has already ended. I try to smile, but the corners keep twitching downward.
"I-I'm fired aren't I?" My voice is but a hushed whisper. "They... they can't have someone who faints... oh god... T-Timoleon..."
-But Timoleon backs away as I reach out to clasp onto his arm, and surprise takes me again when he starts to slowly shake his head. I let my arms fall back to my sides as the tears slow and my mouth hangs open a little in confusion.
"...T-Then what...?" I don't understand. Timoleon looks as if he is about to cry. "Why are you... what happened...? Did...?"
My friend puts his hands to his face and sinks to the floor, resting his forehead upon his knees. Suddenly a new wave of dread washes over me as I realize that something else has happened. Something completely different.
"...why... why are you crying...?"
I slide out of my chair and onto my knees beside him. Timoleon starts to rock a little as I reach forwards and gently touch his arm. Without fighting against me he lets out a sob and hugs me tightly, freely crying against my dress- not caring about the make-up stains we had previously fought so hard against.
"Id-Idola... they're going to take Capitol... Capitol..." Timoleon stares up at me, his face red and puffy. "The Quell... the Quell says we have to send in... they're asking..."
Confusion fills me. Is the Quell the reason the party room is completely empty? The reason why no one waited with me? The reason why Timoleon is crying? Unconsciously, my grip tightens around my weeping friend's shoulders as he finally chokes out the sentence that has rocked the Capitol, and the sentence that I missed after my fainting spell.
"...this Quarter Quell... they're sending... they're... t-they're..."
I wait for it, but I'm completely unprepared for what's coming as Timoleon screams out what are the most unexpected words the Capitol has ever heard.
"-they're sending Capitol kids!"
Thank you for reading. Have a beautiful day you. xx