Author's note: I have been trying to find a way to update this for months. I wanted to tell the rest of Satin's story, but ideas came to me in a very scattered fashion. I finally came up with the rest of it and hope you enjoy what remains.
There was only one person in that launch room who treated me as if I still stood a chance of surviving. The mentor and escort from District 8 weren't allowed to come, so I had no idea what their last words of wisdom were to Silk. Instead, her stylist was the one who clutched my hand and muttered advice that I would forget as soon as the Games began. He fixed my hair and loosened the ribbon around my neck, maybe hoping that having my token hang a little more loosely would let him forget that my sister had worn a different choker the night before.
And then, when the time finally came, he embraced me like a long-lost sister. I never even got to ask his name, but he pulled back and gave me one final order: "Hold the high ground."
I nodded mutely and he held my hand all the way to the tube that would bring me to the surface. When I let go, he didn't turn away, but paid as much attention to me as he would have paid to Silk. I kept my eyes turned towards him because I was sure that he was the only friend I would have since leaving District 8.
And then the gong sounded. I instinctively bolted for the first thing within reach and found a vacuum-sealed pack. I had no time for a strategy, but I knew I had to get some kind of food and some kind of weapon and then I could worry about outrunning the rest of the competition.
A cloth backpack was ten paces closer to the cornucopia and I only chased it because I saw an apple peeking out of it. That went clumsily over one arm and I stopped to adjust it so I could have that arm free.
A weight slammed into me from behind and I rolled as I fell, letting the backpack slide off my arm so it was between me and the ground. My attacker rolled me over effortlessly so my prize was no longer covered and I kicked up in the only defense move that I really knew. My instep connected with his groin and he rocked back. It wouldn't save me, but it would stall him and maybe that would make a difference.
Five paces further in, I found the kind of knife that I had seen the fishmonger use for cleaning. I grabbed it and spun on my heel, at last ready to find cover.
Instead, I was knocked to the ground once more. The weight was familiar and this time, the tall boy from District 3 wasn't about to give me a chance to fight back. His hands locked around my throat, crushing inwards so that black spots began flickering across my vision within seconds. My neck muscles strained, trying to drive his hands away from my windpipe, but his grip didn't slacken. My hands scrabbled at his arms, but I couldn't scratch him hard enough to do any damage. My hands fell limp to my sides.
My right hand landed on the knife that had fallen from my fingers as soon as I hit the ground a second time. I jammed it upwards into the underside of his arm. As soon as it drove in, I dragged the blade to the side, determined to do some damage even if I couldn't fend him off.
And then everything went black.
The cannons woke me. One…Two…Three…
Ten fired, but I wasn't the reason for one of those shots. Sucking in great lungfuls of air seemed almost impossible, since I could still feel the crush of 3's hands against my neck, but with each breath, it got a little easier. I coughed because my throat couldn't handle what I was trying to do in order to survive. I took shallow, less irritating breaths and the coughs subsided. After maybe five more breaths, I opened my eyes.
I immediately stopped breathing again.
The hovercraft blocked out any sun that might have been shining overhead and the large metal claw was the one that always descended to carelessly pick up the corpses of the downed tributes.
I wanted to bat it away, to scream at the Gamemakers that it wasn't my time. I wasn't out yet. I could still fight for their entertainment. I couldn't even scream, much less plead for mercy.
On the other hand, if they took me out now, my mother wouldn't lose another daughter. I wouldn't win the food for my District, but I could come home and find another way to help them.
But the claw bypassed me and closed around someone else. I heard the points scrape across the ground and then creak slightly as they lifted another tribute into the air. I recognized the boy from District 3, his shirt drenched in blood.
He was my first kill and the others at the cornucopia had assumed that I was his. Someone had been sloppy and not bothered to check if I had a pulse. Both of us had stopped moving and there were other things to worry about.
He was my first kill and I hadn't even been awake for it.
The moment that the hovercraft left, I rolled onto my side. The backpack was gone, but the knife and the vacuum-sealed pack had been trapped under 3 when he died. Still scattered around the cornucopia were the supplies that were too small or too useless to be worth the bloodbath.
The miracle, if it could be called that, was that I was left alone in this wasteland of plenty. I had no idea what waited for me in the forest to my left or the hills that began in the other direction, but I had one more chance than the rest of them to supply myself.
I made it to my feet and collected my two previous prizes. The knife went beneath my belt and I shoved the pack down my jacket front. A quick look around showed that there was an empty plastic sac that must have held something before its contents were perhaps dislodged by a careless kick. I snagged it with my right hand and began running, crouching low to the ground so I was a smaller target. I knew little to nothing about self-defense, but I had played tag as a child and it was a start.
I scavenged whatever was on the ground, not checking to see if it was trampled or ripped open. Everything I could reach in that first minute on my feet went into the bag, and then I turned and did what Silk's stylist had commanded.
I ran for the high ground.
Night was too slow in coming. The heat of the day sucked all the moisture from my mouth and skin so that I could only make it maybe half a mile into the hills before I had to find a resting place for the night. There were no footpaths or trails blazed for my convenience and I was too exhausted to move quietly. I was only concerned with staying upright for most of my travel time.
It was amazing that I could hear anything over the twigs snapping and the branches rustling in my wake, but I stopped short as I crested the hill and heard voices. My reflexes were too slow, though, so I couldn't hope for stealth. I blundered into the glade and found myself face to face with Felt, the girl from District 3 and the tributes from District 6.
"We had a deal," the girl from 6 said before I could make a single move.
I instinctively raised the knife and Felt lunged towards me, knocking my arm aside with such force that the knife fell again from my nerveless fingers.
"You don't want to do that," he informed me.
"So, what, you forgot about your allies?" the girl from District 3 demanded. "Marcus was on your side."
She must have meant my kill. I sank to my knees, too drained to fight back and hoping that Felt would take pity on me before she gave in to the urge to throttle me as Marcus had.
"Marcus almost broke my neck." I wheezed. "I forgot whose side he was supposed to be on."
Her eyes flashed, but the boy from 6 put out a restraining arm. "Have some water," he said as some kind of peace offering.
He probably meant for me to take a sip from the bottle that he offered, but I drank until my mouth overflowed and the water triggered my gag reflex. I stopped then so it wouldn't come up again, but handed the bottle back with maybe half an inch left in the bottom.
"I'll show you mine if you show me yours," he offered.
I dropped the plastic bag at Felt's feet, but he first seized my arm, leading me to the base of a tree so it could prop me up. From my comfortable position there, I saw the tributes extract my meager offerings. Now that I looked at it, most of it wasn't food, just medical supplies packaged to look like something else. There was a bag of smoked meat and three apples, but my foraging for food had ensured that I wouldn't get an infection while I starved to death.
"Good thing you found us," Felt said.
I didn't argue, only took the piece of meat that he extended to me. It revived me a lot more than the water had, even if the spices burned down my throat.
"What else?" the girl from 6 asked. "If you share what's down your shirt, we'll let you stay around."
"HEY." Felt's voice was harsh and loud in the still of the glade. "She's from my district and she didn't have to give up her food. We let her stay around no matter what."
That promise wouldn't mean much in a day or maybe even hours, but it made me immensely grateful for the time being. In a show of good faith, I removed the pack.
"Extra blankets," the boy from 6 grunted. "I think I like you after all."
I had the absurd impulse to laugh, but at that moment, the anthem began blaring. Felt and the others stood to get a better view. Districts 1 and 2 had no casualties, so Marcus was the first one broadcast for the 53rd Hunger Games. I saw his girl turn away and busy herself by redistributing the food with trembling hands.
I didn't know any of the names of the other people who had died in the bloodbath and only vaguely recognized their faces. The last tribute of the night, though, stared down at me with familiar eyes.
"What the hell?"
My own face appeared in the sky and for a moment, Felt slapped me on the back to congratulate me on my excellent trick. But then the name of Silk Forsythe appeared under the picture.
"Attention, tributes of the 53rd Hunger Games," Claudius Templesmith boomed. "There has been a change in lineup. Due to the premature death of Silk Forsythe, you are now privileged to be joined by District 8's newest tribute, our own Satin Forsythe."
The anthem blared again as if there was something to celebrate and the broadcast ended. I didn't think that anyone in that glade had paid attention since Claudius started speaking.
"I didn't know about the alliance," I blurted out. "I never made it. I don't know any of your names. I don't know why Silk got a 9 from the Gamemakers."
The girl from 3 sank into a crouch and reached out with a hand to clutch mine. "What did they mean by premature…"
"She hung herself last night," I said in little more than a whisper. "Game rules say the next of kin has to take her place."
Her hand stayed on top of mine and she turned so that the eyes which had accused me earlier were looking directly into mine. "Silk showed me compassion when I couldn't fight off so much as a rabbit during training," she said quietly. "My name is Sparks and I remain your ally."
Without prompting, the boy from 6 added his hand to the pile. "She taught us what fabrics could keep us alive," he said. "She was smart and she was unafraid to make friends. I'm Alec and this is Sarah. We remain your allies."
Felt's large hand finished off the pile. "You're my District," he said simply. "I might remain your ally longer than the rest."
It took me several long moments for my breathing to steady and my hands to stop shaking. I looked at each of them in turn, accepting the offer in silence because I couldn't find the words to thank them.
"I'm Satin Forsythe," I said at last. "I have never been as brave as my sister and I have no idea what I'm doing here."
"None of us do," Alec said with a shaky chuckle. "That's what the alliances are for."
Until it got down to the final few, this was the closest thing I would have to a group of friends. I extracted one hand and placed it on top.
"I remain your ally."